… is from page 13 of the 2015 English edition (translated from Chinese by Matthew Dale) of Weiying Zhang’s excellent 2010 book, The Logic of the Market:
Under the planned economy, we did not pursue happiness by making others happy. Instead, we pursued happiness by making others unhappy. Our energies were spent fighting for power and gain. We were competing, even competing for life and death, but we were not creating value.
Every expansion of the state incites more people to compete – and to compete more intensely – to possess the power over others that that expansion brings. From each individual’s perspective, it’s better to be in the group that exercises power rather than in the groups against whom the power is exercised. Unlike competition in markets, competition for power wastes material resources and human time and energy (rent-seeking wastes); such competition is never win-win but, rather, win-lose. But also unlike competition in markets, competition for power results in the worst form of inequality – indeed, the only form of inequality that warrants legitimate concern – namely, inequality of power. Those with state power, regardless of how they acquire it, can command those without state power. Those with state power use force to override the choices of those without state power. Those with state power do the choosing; those without state power do the obeying.
Unlike market-enabled differences in monetary incomes and wealth, this species of inequality – inequality of power – is inhumane and destructive, and it results from humans’ most primitive impulses.