• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
You are here:
The state in the free economy (Part One): A state for all or a state for a few? PDF Print E-mail
The Labour Movement-Economy


The central problem about contemporary approaches to the economy is the freedom of the economy as to the state. Here we must pose two questions of semantics:
(1) What do we mean by the term 'economy'?
(2) What do we mean by the non-involvement of the state?


Let us deal with the term 'economy'. In very simple language, we could say that the economy is that part of life where man makes use of the means available in order to be able to survive and to satisfy his desires.

The key words are 'the means', 'survival', and 'desires'. We shall not concern ourselves with the means. But survival and desire are the concepts which concern man himself as a psycho-biological being. 'Survival', in the first phase, concerns his physical conservation – health. But in the modern world it must also concern the way of living, which should be proportional to the level of civilisation of the age. When we say level of 'civilisation' we do not mean comforts of every description, but fundamental evolutionary needs, such as education and healthy living. Survival of this kind constitutes the true need. 'Desire', on the other hand, is a fundamental determinant of the economy much more than man is disposed to accept, but without being a real need, although it leads man to feel a pressing need for its satisfaction. In addition, desire is so attached to material goods and so greedy that it, inevitably, makes the economy an extremely difficult area to manage.

In reality, the term 'economy' could be applied in a broad sense to all fields of human endeavour, such as, for example, politics or the relations between the different religions, nations, and elsewhere, because power or superiority of every kind is always in a state of shortage (that is, not everyone can have it), since it is objectified, and for this reason there is competition for its acquisition. In other words, the field of the economy involves any 'needs' (reasonable or unreasonable) and has as its characteristics the insufficiency of the thing desired, a lack of freedom, and the binding of man to forms of every type; therefore, he is dependent even when he possesses the power, so that he can ignore others and their needs.

In this broader sense we live constantly in a world of economy, but not only in the Marxist sense, which is a small part of the whole of the concept of the economy.

Thus there is a further reason for the disputed meaning of 'freedom' in the economy to be called into question by the world in its present state, over and above the self-evident purely economic reasons, when, moreover, economic freedom in a narrow sense is used for the acquisition of power, which is another side of their very close connection. 'Freedom' of the economy must be elucidated correctly for one to be able to understand the distortion of concepts and the need for a more correct approach to them. Normally, human beings are terribly inert or immature in the conceptual processing of data, and for that reason they have surrendered themselves too much to the politicians to think about them (even though they don't trust them).

This immaturity was very aptly defined by Kant in his Essays ('What is Enlightenment?'). "Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. [ ... ]

"Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a proportion of men, long after nature has released them from alien guidance, nonetheless gladly remain in lifelong immaturity, and why it is so easy for others to establish themselves as their guardians. [ ... ]

"Thus, it is difficult for any individual man to work himself out of the immaturity that has all but become his nature. He has even become fond of this state and for the time being is actually incapable of using his own understanding, for no one has ever allowed him to attempt it. Rules and formulas, those mechanical aids to the rational use, or rather misuse, of his natural gifts, are the shackles of a permanent immaturity. [ ... ]"

Today, of course, in spite of attempts at manipulation, man is much freer to choose than he was in the time of Kant – and, consequently, his responsibility is much greater.

What is then, rationally, the nature of the freedom of the economy? We should note, to start with, that we are not talking about ontological or spiritual freedom, which is a relatively inaccessible concept. We are talking about an accessible and practicable freedom – one, moreover, which is often opposed to the spiritual kind. First of all, freedom in human fields of action cannot be unlimited, because it is in short supply, like everything in human life, and so cannot be unlimited. This is the case because this freedom concerns the world of phenomena or forms, which are always subject to limitation.

Consequently, at this point the following questions necessarily arise as to the definition of the nature of this freedom:
(a) Should this freedom obey a system of values, or not?
(b) How does the economy, as power and authority, influence the economic, political, and social field?
(c) What should be the objective of freedom? The greatest good of the greatest number of people, or the snatching of some kind of power by those more capable of this kind of grabbing?
(d) What does the capacity for enrichment mean, and how are we to accept it as a criterion for the exercise of such freedom, if we decided as a society to set such a criterion? What is to happen with the criteria for other capacities? Are we to ignore the Nietzschean logic, or are we to include it?
(e) Is there a real freedom or even competition in inequality of powers, or could it be that the battle of competition has been for many lost from the start?
(f) What exactly does the constitution protect as freedom? Man as a social entity, or man as a wielder of power? And what is the relation between this kind of freedom and equality?
(g) What is the influence of the 'free' economy on democracy? How can this freedom be combined with democracy?
(h) What is the purpose of the state? Is it power only, or governance which also includes welfare? What is the position of the present-day state, in which there are private citizens more powerful than itself?

We shall attempt an approach to these questions.

You may also read:

Ioanna Moutsopoulou, Lawyer

Member of the Secretariat of Solon NGO (non-profit)

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Photo from Wikimedia

Creative Commons License
You are free: to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work.  
Under the following conditions: