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The 'Economic Means' vs. the 'Political Means': Franz Oppenheimer Makes a Key Political-Capitalism Distinction

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- June 14, 2011

[Editor Note: With T. Boone Pickens (et al.) trying to get natural gas vehicles off the ground with a $80,000 per vehicle special tax break, it is worth examining the origins of the political means versus the economic means to business (profit/loss) success. All roads lead to Franz Oppenheimer (1864–1943), a German sociologist/political scientist who saw capitalism’s business leaders at work.]

“I propose in the following discussion to call one’s own labor, and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the ‘economic means’ for the satisfaction of needs, while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the ‘political means’.”

– Franz Oppenheimer, The State. New York: Free Life Editions, 1908 (1975), pp. 24-25 (full quotation at end of blog).

MasterResource sharply distinguishes between enterprise that is motivated by and dependent upon consumer demand in a free market, and profit-seeking that is abetted by special government favor (SGF).…