Framing The Question
My question is how people in a free society arrange for security and justice. I consider this a baseline concern everyone must deal with, even though many people take these issues for granted. The tools of this inquiry are found in the study of political economy. The study of political economy consists of two elements: politics and economics.
Politics is the application of coercive power within interpersonal groups and is an organic result of human interaction in social settings. Economics derives from the ancient Greek term for household management and deals with the efficient application of finite resources to satisfy human desires.
Both politics and economics are concerned with achieving goals and inevitably involve the application of resources. Politics is the social orchestration of multiple human wills while economics is the mobilization of material things, both of which are oriented on goal achievement. Both politics and economics exist within the realm of human action; that is, people acting to improve their condition.
Politics is also inescapably concerned with how material resources are used in application, even if it involves the mere use of human bodies or voices. Politics cannot exist without economic resources. Further, all human action takes place over time which is also a finite resource for the people involved.
While politics cannot exist without economics, economics can and often do occur without political coercion.
Coercion or Cooperation?
The sociologist Franz Oppenheimer noted how attaining goals can only be done in one of two ways: either through the use of coercion or through cooperation. The coercive means are known as political, while the cooperative means are termed economic.
Most human interactions occur without the use of force and are often free of any social pressure. This has become increasingly true since the evolution of widespread industry and trade. People have realized that greater living standards are possible through cooperation and exchange rather than through subjugation and conquest.
Still, there exists in every society those that choose to live by the political means of coercion and force rather instead of working to find mutually satisfying accord with their associates. For this reason alone people must be ready to apply political coercion to prevent encroachments from anti-social actors, even if such political action is preemptive.
In this way, politics and economics emerge through what the Buddhists call “dependent arising”. That is: since the preponderance of economic activity occurs within social interactions, there is a political element within economics. Simultaneously, since politics involves the use of or coercive control over finite resources, an economic component always exists within all political activity.
The involvement of politics with economics, and vice-versa, is not considered in terms of absolutes but always in degrees. Further, these two variables are in constant flux relative to one another. In the real world political control through legislation, regulation, and enforcement activity is ever evolving and being applied on a case by case basis.
Similarly, economic activity is constantly changing based on consumer preferences, technological capabilities, and entrepreneurial initiatives. Neither variable can be held constant since society does not interact under lab conditions or in isolation. Both politics and economics are iterative processes.
Freedom and Security
A free society is defined as an aggregate body of individuals that share a common affinity with one another and exercise unremitting control over their justly held material resources. Securing people and their property is the sole end of justice. Prosperity and peace are the natural byproducts of a secure environment in which people can securely enjoy their property.
The specifics of why this is true, and how to most effectively achieve it, is what my approach to political economy is all about.