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Friday, January 7, 2011

What is the Nature of Consent?

By Michael Richards

The primary end of an individual in economics is utility (otherwise known as satisfaction). Economics primary goal of study is how individuals attempt to use means to achieve their ends. The political actor instead focuses on how to obtain the consent of other individuals so that they may fulfill those ends in what they perceive to be a more preferable manner.

As David Grzybouski mentioned in his work, Hello There and What is Economics?, political science is basically applied economics. To add to David's comment, I would like to say that politics is how individuals interact with one another, developing rules and customs to fulfill their economic wants in a manner that they deem most preferable. The primary end of individuals in political action is the consent of other individuals to help better achieve one's own interest or goals.

Consent can be defined as an agreement between two or more individuals not to hinder each other in the attainment of their ends. This definition of consent is only the most basic concept of what consent looks like among an organization of interacting individuals. Consent takes on two primary characteristics: cooperation and neutrality.

Neutrality means simply that an actor or group choose not to act in any way to hinder or support another actor or group. An individual may or may or may not agree with the actions of another but is still considered neutral unless he chooses to act. A common expression of this idea is simply “to live and let live”.

Cooperation differs from neutrality in that an individual acts to fulfill the ends of another actor because he supports those ends for any number of reasons to fulfill his own interest or goals. Cooperation takes on two characteristics; exchange and partnership. It is from these two actions all organizations are built. Organizations are either made up of individuals performing one of these two actions or both. It does not matter whether that organization is small (family) or large (society), it must contain at least one of these two characteristics, if not both to be considered an organization.

Exchange occurs when two or more individuals trade something they have with each other in the hopes of obtaining something that they desire more . Let's say John decides to buy a soda for one dollar from a shop keeper. The reason that this exchange took place is because John desires the soda more than his dollar and the shop keeper desires the dollar more than the soda. One common mistake made by some individuals is that there was an exchange because John values the soda equally to his dollar. However. John can never have valued that soda equally with his dollar. If he kept the dollar then that means he must value the dollar more than the soda. Further to purchase the soda means that he values the soda more than the dollar. The same goes for the shop keeper in taking the dollar for the soda. Individuals do not value things equally but instead rank things based on their own subjective value scale. Therefore, by exchanging goods and services, people cooperate with one another by fulfilling another person's or group's goals for them in exchange for them fulfilling their own goals.

Partnerships are different in that instead of exchanging to fulfill each other's different wants through exchange, individuals pool their resources in the hopes of achieving what they want. Take for example a bridge club. Now in order to have a proper club, the members need a certain number of players, cards to play, knowledge of the rules, and a table to play on. Now the members do not exchange ownership of their resources but instead pool together their items so that other members will be free to use them. One person may bring the deck of cards, while another may bring members, and another may bring the table and chairs. The resources are all pooled together to fulfill the end goal of playing bridge with friends.

Both of these systems are key in forming a much larger and more complex organizational network . Let's take a corporation as an example of how both simultaneously play a key role in organizations. The corporation goes out and hires workers by exchanging wages for their labor. Meanwhile, members pool their resources (money) so that an appointed person can take that money and make the corporation prosper so that they may profit from their investment. The first example is a form of exchange, while the second example is a form of partnership.

Note* After discussing conflict, I will begin to discuss how this all plays out in the rule making process and how actors decide how rules are to be enforce either voluntarily or through coercion. I will also explain how both differ within an organizational framework based on Klein's study of organizational theory, Hoppe's study of political organization and Hayek's knowledge problem. This, I hope, will shed some new light on the anarcho-captialist v. limited government debate and show how a society will function in making laws with and in the absence of the state so readers can compare how laws will be made and how those laws will be enforced within the two organizational systems. Also, don't be afraid to critique this work as your critiques help me in the learning process. The goal of this blog is not to be correct but seek correction.

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What is the Nature of Consent? by Michael Richards is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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