One of the most interesting and fundamental questions of ethics and politics is the monetization of political power.
By monetization of political power, I mean, generally, translating threats of violence into income or other benefits, usually through the political system, which lends to it a respectability. This process is often very complex but, ultimately, that's what it boils down to.
Many, though not all, arguments for government coercion rest on an implicit, and sometimes explicit, claim legitimacy of such monetization. The simplest form of this argument is that whatever a majority decide in a democracy is good and right.
This is where the term "power broker" comes from. To be a successful politician you must be able to connect political power with valued outcomes. This has been true since the days of Greece and Rome across a variety of political systems.
The interesting thing is that it would seem that politicians who eschew such power politics in favor of a principled or constitutional approach put themselves at a distinct disadvantage compared to those who have no such scruples. Which is one reason why libertarians are always sitting in the peanut gallery of the halls of power.
This came to mind recently when I read a discussion that sought to distinguish sound, private investment with crony government investment. The argument was, essentialy, that people do not get credit from banks, they come to banks with their credit (their reputation, their collateral, their sound plans, etc.) and they exchange that non-monetary credit for cash with which to expand their business, buy a home, or whatever. By contrast, when the government doles out stimulus funds or other largesse, it gives to those who are undeserving and, hence who are unlikely to be good credit risks.
But that analysis obviously ignores the credit that one acrues by the ability to threaten violence. If you take that into account, then government grants are make sense in the same way that government loans do and the payback is not cash returned but reelection.
Monetizing Political Power
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