Is the modern political economy a zero-sum game?

In Part III of Juggernaut, I show how the use of government as a wealth-transferring system necessarily exasperates competition in the economy and creates what can best be described as a zero-sum game. The zero-sum game is, as it would seem from Game Theory, a condition where one can only gain at the expense of others. Since government is a mere wealth-transferring mechanism, it is only capable of this zero-sum kind of system.

A recent essay in Public Discourse explains what the ultimate consequence is of this condition: When people can only gain at the expense of others, the ruling regime necessarily dictates what the people should and can do. Using an illustration from the popular series The Hunger Games, the writer shows how we are not that far from this condition today.

(Public Discourse) The people in the Capitol are not just bullies; they are totalitarians.

The bully comes in all shapes and sizes, from the playground variety that hits you and takes your lunch to the mobster who “allows” your store to operate as long as you send in the “insurance money.” His basic goal is to make people serve him—and more importantly, to do so in a way that everyone knows who the boss is. Typically, though not always, the bully does not much care what you do the rest of the time, as long as, when he approaches, you cringe and give him what he wants.

The totalitarian is a slightly different animal. He is a bully, for sure, but the totalitarian impulse goes beyond bullying. It is not enough to crush his opponents, to force them to accept the fact that they are under the yoke, to put up with indignities to their persons perpetrated on them by the bully and his cronies. To be successful, the totalitarian must make the opponent participate in the indignities. The tribal thug will force his subjects to cut off their friends’ ears in order to protect themselves. The powerful regime will count on citizens to turn in a relative who says something the regime does not care to hear—and then send them a bill for the bullets used to execute him. In the end, there will be a parade, where everyone is forced to line the streets, wave flags, and cheer. Those who refuse to do so are removed, quietly or with great show, as a lesson to the rest: you must not only accept what you abhor. You must do what you abhor, and celebrate what you abhor. Difference cannot abide.

This entry was posted in Closed System, Competition, Complexity, Economic Theory, Free Land, Free Market, Frontier Thesis, Game Theory, Health Care, Interdependency, Keynesianism, Marxism, Motivation, Perpetuity, Political Theory, Public Choice Theory, Systems Theory, Welfare Statism, Zero-sum. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Is the modern political economy a zero-sum game?

  1. Patrick says:

    With no intention of spamming, I would like to suggest this reading on basic economics and why a free economy is not a zero-sum game.

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