Οικονομια (oikonomia) is a Greek word meaning “the rule of a household.” This referred first and foremost to the management of the wealth and property of a ancient Greek family. This is where we get the word “economy.”
Of course, it did not stop there, for it is not only families that have wealth and property; states do as well. If a state is ruled by a monarch, the royal treasury belongs to the king and his family, as does the responsibility to care for the needs of the people from said treasury. In modern nation-states where the government is typically representative, the treasury does not belong to one man and his family, but to all families within the state, though it is only through representatives that these families exercise their responsibility to the needs of the people.
Every nation has an economy bolstered by production and trade. The labour of the people is the backbone of the economy for as we know, where there is no work, there is entropy. However, modern times have seen economies that use speculation, printing of money, and bureaucratic services to make the money move (which is apparently the sign of a healthy economy.) However, not even these economies can escape the unavoidable dependence on labour and production.
As technology develops and global connectivity grows, the markets, both labour and speculative, grow too. No longer are the major speculators and major corporations dependent on local production and trade because global communication and transportation has made it possible to find labour anywhere and move products and communicate services over vast distances.
We have all experienced this. We would generally, however, prefer to talk to those offering services to us in person and know who it is who is working for us and that they are not being treated badly. We would also prefer to work close to home ourselves and not have to uproot our families and move because our employer has decided to move. However, we don’t always get what we want.
This open, constantly moving economy has consequences. The idea is that a larger economy will result in more available wealth to be moved around. And of course it does, but it also means that that wealth can be moved almost anywhere in the world with no major loss. If the wealth of our family is tied to a job dependent on a state and national economy that answers to national and international corporations, those corporations are essentially in charge of the treasury of nation and state and are therefore responsible for the people. However, these corporations can find labour and conduct services anywhere and are not dependent on local markets for clientele. This means that the providers of services and products have no incentive to stay in one place or another. Because of this, they hold the people hostage insofar as they have the power to threaten evacuation for any reason.
Recently, we have seen major corporations, providers of jobs and services, threaten to boycott states (and thus to dramatically damage their economies) because of social and political values held by the people of the state. The ability of the people to maintain traditions, customs, and values is compromised by their dependence on a fickle and disinterested master. Globalization has taken proper political and social agency from the members of communities and given it to a small group of men and women disconnected from any of the communities they supposedly serve.
Not only is this completely antithetical to the idea of popular sovereignty so dear to the American people, more importantly it is anti-human. If our political and social agency is taken away, our participation in truly human flourishing is diminished. This can only result in tyranny and abuse. A diminished humanity is just one step toward dehumanization and ultimately dehumanization leads to slavery, torture, and death.
When, however, the providers of labour and services are local and production serves local needs first, our values and traditions are developed and maintained, unhindered by fear of outside reprisal and the threat of dehumanization. Our economies should truly be “rule of a household” with all the responsibility that entails.