I must be short on words, as the greater teachers in this post give many…
Our system of money is called fiat money, or money that is given value by force of law and nothing else. Why does a piece of paper with the number 20 on it buy a toaster at Sears? Because the government tells you it is worth that amount. The value of money declines (inflation) as the supply of money increases. This is why the cost of things has gone up from when your parents were kids to today. Natural monies, on the other hand, hold their value inherently. A gold coin in the late 1800s was worth $20. It could buy you a nice suit. Today, a gold coin can still buy you a nice suit, however, it is worth $2000 now. The number is arbitrary, and defined by the government. But as the number rises, value is stolen from the people, which is wrong whether Kim Jong-Il is doing it (and telling the people they are doing their patriotic duty) or Ben Bernanke is doing it.
Your money means what the government says it means. Consumer confidence is the only thing that keeps your money from being worth less than the paper it is printed on. Today, I wanted to take the time to climb up onto a few giants’ shoulders and explain the why, how, and dangerous what of fiat currency. First, the why. Why does government wish to have the ability to mint money as it sees fit and force value upon the people? Hans Hoppe explains:
Imagine you are in command of the state, defined as an institution that possesses a territorial monopoly of ultimate decision making in every case of conflict, including conflicts involving the state and its agents itself, and, by implication, the right to tax, i.e., to unilaterally determine the price that your subjects must pay you to perform the task of ultimate decision making.
To act under these constraints – or rather, lack of constraints – is what constitutes politics and political action, and it should be clear from the outset that politics, then, by its very nature, always means mischief. Not from your point of view, of course, but mischief from the point of view of those subject to your rule as ultimate judge. Predictably, you will use your position to enrich yourself at other people’s expense.
More specifically, we can predict in particular what your attitude and policy vis-à-vis money and banking will be.
Assume that you rule over a territory that has developed beyond the stage of a primitive barter economy and where a common medium of exchange, i.e., a money, is in use. First off, it is easy to see why you would be particularly interested in money and monetary affairs. As state ruler, you can in principle confiscate whatever you want and provide yourself with an unearned income. But rather than confiscating various producer or consumer goods, you will naturally prefer to confiscate money. Because money, as the most easily and widely saleable and acceptable good of all, allows you the greatest freedom to spend your income as you like, on the greatest variety of goods. First and foremost, then, the taxes you impose on society will be money taxes, whether on property or income. You will want to maximize your money-tax revenues.
In this attempt, however, you will quickly encounter some rather intractable difficulties. Eventually, your attempts to further increase your tax income will encounter resistance in that higher tax rates will not lead to higher but to lower tax revenue. Your income – your spending money – declines, because producers, burdened with increasingly higher tax rates, simply produce less.
In this situation, you only have one other option to further increase or at least maintain your current level of spending: by borrowing such funds. And for that you must go to banks – and hence your special interest also in banks and the banking industry. If you borrow money from banks, these banks will automatically take an active interest in your future well-being. They will want you to stay in business, i.e., they want the state to go on in its exploitation business. And since banks tend to be major players in society, such support is certainly beneficial to you. On the other hand, as a negative, if you borrow money from banks you are not only expected to pay your loan back, but to pay interest on top.
The question, then, that arises for you as the ruler is, How can I free myself of these two constraints, i.e., of tax-resistance in the form of falling tax revenue and of the need to borrow from and pay interest to banks?
It is not too difficult to see what the ultimate solution to your problem is.
You can reach the desired independence of taxpayers and tax payments and of banks, if only you establish yourself first as a territorial monopolist of the production of money. On your territory, only you are permitted to produce money. But that is not sufficient. Because as long as money is a regular good that must be expensively produced, there is nothing in it for you except expenses. More importantly, then, you must use your monopoly position in order to lower the production cost and the quality of money as close as possible to zero. Instead of costly quality money such as gold or silver, you must see to it that worthless pieces of paper that can be produced at practically zero cost will become money. (Normally, no one would accept worthless pieces of paper as payment for anything. Pieces of paper are acceptable as payment only insofar as they are titles to something else, i.e., property titles. In other words then, you must replace pieces of paper that were titles to money with pieces of paper that are titles to nothing.)
Under competitive conditions, i.e., if everyone were free to produce money, a money that can be produced at almost zero cost would be produced up to a quantity where marginal revenue equals marginal cost, and because marginal cost is zero the marginal revenue, i.e., the purchasing power of this money, would be zero as well. Hence, the necessity to monopolize the production of paper money, so as to restrict its supply, in order to avoid hyperinflationary conditions and the disappearance of money from the market altogether (and a flight into “real values”) – and the more so the cheaper the money commodity.
In a way, you have thus accomplished what all alchemists and their sponsors wanted to achieve: you have produced something valuable (money with purchasing power) out of something practically worthless. What an achievement. It costs you practically nothing and you can turn around and buy yourself something really valuable, such as a house or a Mercedes; and you can achieve these wonders not just for yourself but also for your friends and acquaintances, of which you discover that you have all of a sudden far more than you used to have (including many economists, who explain why your monopoly is really good for everyone).
What are the effects? First and foremost, more paper money does not in the slightest affect the quantity or quality of all other, nonmonetary goods. There exist just as many other goods around as before. This immediately refutes the notion – apparently held by most if not all mainstream economists – that “more” money can somehow increase “social wealth.” To believe this, as everyone proposing a so-called easy-money policy as an efficient and “socially responsible” way out of economic troubles apparently does, is to believe in magic: that stones – or rather paper – can be turned into bread.
Rather, what the additional money you printed will affect is twofold. On the one hand, money prices will be higher than they would otherwise be, and the purchasing power per unit of money will be lower. In a word, the result will be inflation. More importantly, however, all the while the greater amount of money does not increase (or decrease) the total amount of presently existing social wealth (the total quantity of all goods in society), it redistributes the existing wealth in favor of you and your friends and acquaintances, i.e., those who get your money first. You and your friends are relatively enriched (own a larger part of the total social wealth) at the expense of impoverishing others (who as a result own less).
The problem, for you and your friends, with this institutional setup is not that it doesn’t work. It works perfectly, always to your own (and your friends’) advantage and always at the expense of others. All you have to do is to avoid hyperinflation. For in that case people would avoid using money and flee into real values, thus robbing you of your magic wand. The problem with your paper-money monopoly, if there is one at all, is only that this fact will be immediately noticed also by others and recognized as the big, criminal rip-off that it indeed is.
But this problem can be overcome, too, if, in addition to monopolizing the production of money, you also set yourself up as a banker and enter the banking business with the establishment of a central bank.
Because you can create paper money out of thin air, you can also create credit out of thin air. In fact, because you can create credit out of nothing (without any savings on your part), you can offer loans at cheaper rates than anyone else, even at an interest rate as low as zero (or even at a negative rate). With this ability, not only is your former dependency on banks and the banking industry eliminated; you can, moreover, make banks dependent on you, and you can forge a permanent alliance and complicity between banks and state. You don’t even have to become involved in the business of investing the credit yourself. That task, and the risk involved in it, you can safely leave to commercial banks. What you, your central bank, need to do is only this: You create credit out of thin air and then loan this money, at below-market interest rates, to commercial banks. Instead of you paying interest to banks, banks now pay interest to you. And the banks in turn loan out your newly created easy credit to their business friends at somewhat higher but still submarket interest rates (to earn from the interest differential). In addition, to make the banks especially keen on working with you, you may permit the banks to create a certain amount of their own new credit (of checkbook money) in addition and on top of the credit that you have created (fractional-reserve banking).
What are the consequences of this monetary policy? To a large extent they are the same as with an easy money policy: First, an easy credit policy is also inflationary. More money is brought into circulation and prices will be higher, and the purchasing power of money lower, than would have been the case otherwise. Second, the credit expansion too has no effect on the quantity or quality of all goods currently in existence. It neither increases nor decreases their amount. More money is just this: more paper. It does not and cannot increase social wealth by one iota. Third, easy credit also engenders a systematic redistribution of social wealth in favor of you, the central bank, and the commercial banks within your cartel. You receive an interest return on money that you have created at practically zero cost out of thin air (instead of on money costly saved out of an existing income), and so do the banks, who earn additional interest on your costless money loans. Both you and your banker friends thereby appropriate an “unearned income.” You and the banks are enriched at the expense of all “real” money savers (who receive a lower interest return than they otherwise would, i.e., without the injection of your and the banks’ cheap credit into the credit market).
On the other hand, there also exists a fundamental difference between an easy, print-and-spend money policy and an easy, print-and-loan credit policy.
First off, an easy credit policy alters the production structure – what is produced and by whom – in a highly significant way.
You, the chief of the central bank, can create credit out of thin air. You do not have to first save money out of your money income, i.e., cut your own expenses, and thus abstain from buying certain nonmoney goods (as every normal person must, if he extends credit to someone). You only have to turn on the printing press and can thus undercut any interest rate demanded of borrowers by savers elsewhere in the market. Granting credit does not involve any sacrifice on your part (which is why this institution is so “nice”). If things then go well, you will be paid a positive-interest return on your paper investment, and if they don’t go well – well, as the monopoly producer of money, you can always make up losses more easily than anyone else: by covering your losses with even more printed paper.
Without costs and no genuine, personal risk of losses, then, you can grant credit essentially indiscriminately, to everyone and for any purpose, without concern for the creditworthiness of the debtor or the soundness of his business plan. Because of your “easy” credit, certain people (in particular investment bankers) who otherwise would not be deemed sufficiently creditworthy, and certain projects (in particular of banks and their main clients) that would not be considered profitable but wasteful or too risky instead do get credit and do get funded.
Essentially, the same applies to the commercial banks within your banking cartel. Because of their special relationship to you, as the first recipients of your costless low-interest paper-money credit, the banks, too, can offer loans to prospective lenders at interest rates below market interest rates – and if things go well for them they go well; and if they don’t, they can rely on you, as the monopolistic producer of money, to bail them out in the same way as you bail yourself out of any financial trouble: by more paper money. Accordingly, the banks too will be less discriminating in the selection of their clients and their business plans and more prone to funding the “wrong” people and the “wrong” projects.
And there is a second significant difference between a print-and-spend and a print-and-loan policy and this difference explains why the income and wealth redistribution in your and your banker friends’ favor that is set in motion by easy credit takes the specific form of a temporal – boom-bust – cycle, i.e., of an initial phase of seeming general prosperity (of expected increases in future incomes and wealth) followed by a phase of widespread impoverishment (when the prosperity of the boom period is revealed as a widespread illusion).
This boom-bust feature is the logical – and physically necessary – consequence of credit created out of thin air, of credit unbacked by savings, of fiduciary credit (or however else you may call it) and of the fact that every investment takes time and only shows later on, at some time in the future, whether it is successful or not.
The reason for the business cycle is as elementary as it is fundamental. Robinson Crusoe can give a loan of fish (which he has not consumed) to Friday. Friday can convert these savings into a fishing net (he can eat the fish while constructing the net), and with the help of the net, then, Friday, in principle, is capable of repaying his loan to Robinson, plus interest, and still earn a profit of additional fish for himself. But this is physically impossible if Robinson’s loan is only a paper note, denominated in fish, but unbacked by real-fish savings, i.e., if Robinson has no fish because he has consumed them all.
Then, and necessarily so, Friday must fail in his investment endeavor. In a simple barter economy, of course, this becomes immediately apparent. Friday will not accept Robinson’s paper credit in the first place (but only real, commodity credit), and because of this, the boom-bust cycle will not get started. But in a complex monetary economy, the fact that credit was created out of thin air is not noticeable: every credit note looks like any other, and because of this the notes are accepted by the takers of credit.
This does not change the fundamental fact of reality that nothing can be produced out of nothing and that investment projects undertaken without any real funding whatsoever (by savings) must fail, but it explains why a boom – an increased level of investment accompanied by the expectation of higher future income and wealth – can get started (Friday does accept the note instead of immediately refusing it). And it explains why it then takes a while until the physical reality reasserts itself and reveals such expectations as illusory.
But what’s a little crisis to you? Even if your path to riches is through repeated crises, brought about by your paper-money regime and central-bank policies, from your point of view – from the viewpoint as the head of state and chief of the central bank – this form of print-and-loan wealth redistribution in your own and your banker friends’ favor, while less immediate than that achieved with a simple print-and-spend policy, is still much preferable, because it is far more difficult to see through and recognize for what it is. Rather than coming across as a plain fraud and parasite, in pursuing an easy-credit policy you can even pretend that you are engaged in the selfless task of “investing in the future” (rather than spending on present frivolities) and “healing” economic crises (rather than causing them) . . . .
You have no doubt heard the right-of-center political talking heads claiming we have “socialism” in this country. In a strict sense, where socialism means government control of the means of production, this is not fully true [yet]. In a colloquial sense, it is of course true that we are socialist, as the “greater good” of society is an end worth any means to the state today (as strange a meaning as the term “greater good” has come to hold, with actions such as bailouts that privatize profits and socialize losses being for the good of everyone – even while at their expense). But moving in essence back toward the original definition, one could make a strong argument that we do indeed have traditional socialist democracy in the United States. This is true because when the government fully controls the money of an economy, it controls the wealth of the economy. One need not own the means of production when it owns the means of financing the means of production and it can choose winners and losers based on its own arbitrary criteria that have little to do with competition, efficiency, or virtue – those qualities by which one is rewarded in the free market with continued business. One need not own the means of production when property law means very little, taxation becomes more burdensome than the facts of history have ever held it to be, and where the human right of property ownership is increasingly viewed as a positive right instead of a right inseparable from the humanity of a person (as if the government letting you keep a certain percent of your money is the government giving you a break or subsidy and you can thank them for their benevolent gift). Little more of a definition is needed to explain that socialism has come to America with a creeping and silent destructive efficiency. We are not only all Keynesians now. We are socialists as well.
Again, I cite Hoppe, this time a speech given in Zurich, where he takes the time to attempt to explain how a private rational actor behaves in the marketplace and then under a government which relegates property law to the status of an artifact of pre-central-bank history:
Let me begin with a brief description of what a capitalist-entrepreneur does, and then explain how the job of the capitalist-entrepreneur is changed under statist conditions.
What the capitalist does is this: He saves (or borrows saved funds), hires labor, buys or rents capital goods and land, and he buys raw materials. Then he proceeds to produce his product or service, whatever it may be, and he hopes that he will make a profit.
Profits are defined simply as an excess of sales revenue over the costs of production. The costs of production, however, do not determine the revenue. Otherwise, if the cost of production would determine price and revenue, everyone could be a capitalist. No one would ever fail. Rather: It is anticipated prices and revenues that determine what production costs the capitalist can possibly afford.
The capitalist does not know what the future prices will be or what quantity of his product will be bought at such prices. This depends on the consumers, and the capitalist has no control over them. The capitalist must speculate what the future demand for his products will be, and he can go wrong in his speculation, in which case he does not make profits but will incur losses instead.
To risk your own money in anticipation of an uncertain future demand is obviously a difficult task. Great profits may await you, but also total financial ruin. Few people are willing to take this risk, and even fewer are good at it and stay in business for a lengthy time.
In fact, there is even more to be said about the difficulty of being a capitalist.
Every capitalist stands in permanent competition with every other one for the invariably limited amounts of money to be spent on their goods and services by consumers. Every product competes with every other product. Whenever consumers spend more (or less) on one thing, they must spend less (or more) on another. Even if a capitalist has produced a successful product and earned a profit, there is nothing that guarantees that this will go on. Other businessmen can imitate his product, produce it more cheaply, underbid his price and outcompete him. To prevent this, every capitalist must thus continuously strive to lower his production costs. Yet even trying to produce whatever you produce ever more cheaply is not enough.
The set of products offered by various capitalists is in constant flux, and so is the evaluation of these products by consumers. Continuously new or improved products are offered on the market and consumer tastes constantly change. Nothing remains constant. The uncertainty of the future facing every capitalist never disappears. There is always the lure of profits but also the threat of losses. Again, then: it is very difficult to be continuously successful as a businessman and not to sink back to the rank of an employee.
In all of this there is only one thing that the businessman can count on and take for granted, and that is his real, physical property – and even that is not safe, as we will see.
His real property comes in two forms. First, there are the physical resources, the means of production, including labor services, that the capitalist has bought or rented for some time and that he combines in order to produce whatever he produces. The value of all of these items is variable, as already explained. It depends ultimately on consumer evaluations. What is stable about them is only their physical character and capability. But without this physical stability of his productive property the capitalist could not produce what he produces.
Second: Besides his productive property, the capitalist can count on his ownership of real money. Money is neither a consumer good, nor is it a producer good. It is the common medium of exchange. As such it is the most easily and widely sold good. And it is used as the unit of account. In order to calculate profit and loss, the capitalist needs recourse to money. The input factors and the output, his products to be produced, are incommensurable, like apples and oranges. They are made commensurable only insofar as they can all be expressed in terms of money. Without money, economic calculation is impossible, as Ludwig von Mises above all has explained. The value of money, too, is variable, like the value of everything else. But money, too, has physical characteristics. It is commodity money, such as gold or silver, and money profits are reflected in an increase in the supply of this commodity, gold or silver, at the disposal of the capitalist.
What can be said, then, about both the capitalist’s means of production and his money, is this: their physical characteristics do not determine their value, but without their physics, they would have no value at all, and changes in the physical quality and quantity of his property do affect the value of his property, whatever other factors (such as changing consumer evaluations) may affect the value of his property also.
Now let me introduce the State and see how it affects the business of the capitalist.
The State is conventionally defined as an institution that possesses a territorial monopoly of ultimate decision-making in every case of conflict, including conflicts involving the state and its agents itself, and, by implication, the right to tax, i.e., to unilaterally determine the price that its subjects must pay to perform the task of ultimate decision-making.
To act under these constraints – or rather, lack of constraints – is what constitutes politics and political action, and it should be clear from the outset that politics, then, by its very nature, always means mischief.
More specifically, we can make two interrelated predictions as to the effect of a state on the business of business. First, and most fundamentally, under statist conditions real property will become what may be called fiat property. And secondly and more specifically, real money will be turned into fiat money.
First: With the state being the ultimate arbiter in every case of conflict including those in which it is involved itself, the state has essentially become the ultimate owner of all property. In principle, it can provoke a conflict with a businessman and then decide against him by expropriating him and making itself (or someone of its liking) the owner of the businessman’s physical property. Or else, if it doesn’t want to go as far, it can pass legislation or regulations that involve only a partial expropriation. It can restrict the uses that the businessman can make of his physical property. Certain things the businessman is no longer permitted to do with his property. The state cannot increase the quality and quantity of real property. But it can redistribute it as it sees fit. It can reduce the real property at the disposal of businessmen or it can limit the range of control that they are allowed over their property; and it can thereby increase its own property (or that of its allies) and increase its own range of control over existing physical things. The businessmen’s property, then, is their property in name only. It is granted to them by the state, and it exists only as long as the state does not decide otherwise. Constantly, a Damocles sword is hanging over the heads of businessmen. The execution of their business plans is based on their assumption of the existence, at their disposal, of certain physical resources and their physical capabilities, and all of their value-speculations are based on this physical basis being given. But these assumptions about the physical basis can be rendered incorrect at any time – and their value-calculations vitiated as well – if only the state decides to change its current legislation aand regulations.
The existence of a state, then, heightens the uncertainty facing the businessman. It makes the future less certain than would be the case otherwise. Realizing this, many people who might otherwise become businessmen will not become businessmen at all. And many businessmen will see their business plans spoiled. Not because they did not correctly anticipate future consumer demand, but because the physical basis, on which their plan was based, was altered by some unexpected and unanticipated change in state laws and regulations.
Second: Rather than meddling with a businessman’s productive capital through confiscation and regulation, however, the state prefers to meddle with money. Because money is the most easily and widely saleable good, it allows the state operators the greatest freedom to spend their income as they like. Hence the state’s preference for money-taxes, i.e., for confiscating money income and money profits. Real money becomes subject to confiscation and changing rates of confiscation. This is the first sense, in which money becomes fiat money under statist conditions. People own their money only insofar as the state allows them to keep it.
But there is also a second, even more perfidious way, in which money becomes fiat money under statist conditions.
States everywhere have discovered an even smoother way of enriching themselves at the expense of productive people: by monopolizing the production of money and replacing real, commodity money and commodity credit with genuine fiat money and fiat or fiduciary credit.
On its territory, per legislation, only the state is permitted to produce money. But that is not sufficient. Because as long as money is a real good, i.e., a commodity that must be costly produced, there is nothing in it for the state except expenses. More importantly, then, the state must use its monopoly position in order to lower the production cost and the quality of money as close as possible to zero. Instead of costly quality money such as gold or silver, the state must see to it that worthless pieces of paper, which can be produced at practically zero cost, will become money.
Under competitive conditions, i.e., if everyone is free to produce money, a money that can be produced at zero cost would be produced up to a quantity where marginal revenue equals marginal cost, and since marginal cost is zero the marginal revenue, i.e., the purchasing power of this money, would be zero as well. Hence, the necessity to monopolize the production of paper money, so as to be able to restrict its supply, in order to avoid hyperinflationary conditions and the disappearance of money from the market altogether (and a flight into “real values”) – and the more so the cheaper the money-commodity.
Having monopolized the production of money and reduced its production cost and quality to virtually zero, the state has made a marvelous accomplishment. It costs almost nothing to print money and one can turn around and buy oneself something really valuable, such as a house or a Mercedes.
What are the effects of such fiat money, and in particular what are the effects for the business of business? First and in general: more paper money does not in the slightest affect the quantity or quality of all other, non-monetary goods. Rather, what the additional money does is twofold. On the one hand, money prices will be higher than they would otherwise be and the purchasing power per unit of money will be lower. And secondly, with the injection of additional paper money existing wealth will be redistributed in favor of those receiving and spending the new money first and at the expense of those receiving and spending it later or last.
And specifically regarding capitalists, then, paper money adds another dose of uncertainty to his business. If and as long as money is a commodity, such as gold or silver, it may not be exactly “easy” to predict the future supply and purchasing power of money. However, based on information about current production costs and industry profits it is very well possible to come up with a realistic estimate. In any case, the task is not pure guesswork. And while it is conceivable that with gold or silver as money nominal money profits may not always equal “real” profits, it is at least impossible that a nominal profit should ever amount to nothing at all. There is always something left: quantities of gold or silver.
In distinct contrast: With paper money, the production of which is unconstrained by any kind of natural (physical) limitations (scarcity) but dependent solely on subjective whim and will, the prediction of the future money supply and purchasing power does become guesswork. What will the money printers do? And it is not just conceivable, but a very real possibility, that nominal money profits turn out to represent literally nothing but bundles of worthless paper.
Moreover, hand in hand with fiat money comes fiat or fiduciary credit, and this creates still more uncertainty.
If the state can create money out of thin air it also can create money credit out of thin air. And because it can create credit out of thin air, i.e., without any previous savings on its part, it can offer cheaper loans than anyone else, at below-market rates of interest, even at rates as low as zero. The interest rate is thus distorted and falsified, and the volume of investment will become divorced from the volume of savings. Systematic mal-investment is thus generated, i.e., investment un-backed by savings. An unsustainable investment boom is set in motion, necessarily followed by a bust, revealing large-scale clusters of entrepreneurial errors.
Last but not least, under statist conditions, i.e., under a regime of fiat property and fiat money, the character of businessmen and of doing business is changed, and this change introduces another hazard into the world.
Absent a state it is consumers that determine what will be produced, in what quality and quantity, and who among businessmen will succeed or fail. With the state, the situation facing businessmen becomes entirely different. It is now the state and its operators, not consumers, who ultimately decide who will succeed or fail. The state can keep any businessman alive in subsidizing him or bailing him out; or else it can ruin anyone by deciding to investigate him and find him in violation of state laws and regulations.
Moreover, the state is flush with taxes and fiat money and can spend more money than anyone else. It can make any businessman rich (or not). And the state and its operators have a different spending behavior than normal consumers. They do not spend their own money, but other people’s money, and in most cases not for their own, personal purposes, but for those of some anonymous third parties. Accordingly, they are frivolous and wasteful in their spending. Neither the price nor the quality of what they buy is of great concern to them.
In addition, the state can go into business itself. And because it doesn’t have to make profits and avoid losses, as it can always supplement its earnings through taxes or made-up money, it can always outcompete any private producer of the same or similar goods or services.
And finally, by virtue of its ability to legislate, to make laws, the state can grant exclusive privileges to some businesses, insulating or shielding them from competition, and by the same token partially expropriate and disadvantage other businesses.
In this environment, it is imperative for every businessman to pay constant and close attention to politics. In order to stay alive and possibly prosper, he must spend time and effort to concern himself with matters that have nothing to do with satisfying consumers, but with power politics. And based on his understanding of the nature of the state and of politics, then, he must make a choice: a moral choice.
He can either join in and become a part of the vast criminal enterprise that is the State. He can bribe politicians, political parties or public officials, whether with cash or in-kind (including promises of future employment in the “private” sector as “board-members,” “advisors” or “consultants”), in order to gain for himself economic advantages at the expense of other businesses. That is, he can pay bribes to secure state contracts or subsidies for himself and at the exclusion of others. Or he can pay bribes for the passing or maintenance of legislation that secures him and his business legal privileges and monopoly profits (and capital gains) while partially expropriating and thus screwing his competitors. – Needless to say, countless businessmen have chosen this path. In particular big banking and big industry have thus become intricately involved in the state, and many a wealthy businessman has made his fortune more on account of his political skills than his abilities as a consumer-serving economic entrepreneur.
Or else: a businessman can choose the honorable but at the same time also the most difficult path. This businessman is aware of the nature of the state. He knows that the state and its operators are out to get him and bully him, to confiscate his property and money and, even worse, that they are arrogant, self-righteous, haughty, and full of themselves. Based on such understanding, this very different breed of businessman then tries his best to anticipate and adjust to the state’s every evil move. But he does not join the gang. He does not pay bribes to secure contracts or privileges from the state. Instead, he tries as well as he can to defend whatever is still left of his property and property rights and make as large profits as possible in doing so.