“Economic power is exercised by means of a positive, by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value; political power is exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman’s tool is values; the bureaucrat’s tool is fear” — Ayn Rand
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In this quote, Ayn Rand is contrasting economic and political power. She argues that in business or the free market, power is exercised through positive means like offering value to others in the form of goods, services or payment in exchange for something.
But political power, as seen through government or bureaucracy, is exercised through negative means like threats, punishment or force against those who do not comply. Where businessmen must attract customers through providing something of value, bureaucrats exert control through fear of consequences like fines, jail time or other penalties.
Rand viewed free market exchange as a positive-sum interaction, while seeing political power as based on a negative threat of force against individuals.