Saturday, April 11, 2009

Five Ways of Power

I am using power analogously to its use in physics; instead of power is the ability to do work, I am using it more generically as power is the ability to get work done.
In that sense, the title could just as easily have been:

The Five General Means of Getting Things Done

Love or Shared Purposes: People work for (with) another party for goals they both share. Political parties and families are common examples. For more on this Way, see David D. Friedman's chapter "Love Is Not Enough" in The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism.

Politico-Criminal Power or Coercion: People are forced to produce work for another party through violence or the threat of violence. People tend to resist or slack-off, so although this can be effective, it is inherently limited unless combined with fraud (legitimacy).

Politico-Religious Power or Fraud: People are tricked into doing work for another party's benefit. This is probably the most effective over the short term, but once people start seeing through the trickery they start ignoring the "message". Unless it is combined with force (police powers).

Economic Power or Trade: People are paid, through a fair exchange, to do something for another party's benefit. Though also for their own, through the payment they receive. This is the best long term, and often short term, way of dealing with people. The biggest advantage is a free economy's ability to harness the power of specialization to increase productivity. The only real weakness is in transaction costs, and they are less of a problem than the analogous costs in any of the previously mentioned Ways.

Personal Power: Do it yourself without depending on another party. This is the ground state. Most people can only do a limited amount for themselves, and for a whole society, depending on an economy mostly limited to what they can do would result in a very poor Paleolithic technology and standard of living. In a modern economy, though, a person who because of high-functioning autism (Aspies) or because they are "going Galt", can live far beyond what others would expect if they develop their own abilities sufficiently and invest a minimum of economic work to buy the necessary tools and supplies.

In Machinery of Freedom, especially the chapter "Love Is Not Enough", David Friedman writes specifically about dealing with others, so he doesn't mention Personal Power, and he conflates Coercion and Fraud, but even though they are often together in the real world, there are sufficiently different that they should be treated separately.

No comments:

Post a Comment