Ruminations on power
*It seems to me that virtually all of the disagreements between – and within, political factions are about power, it’s nature and uses, on scales ranging from interaction between individuals to interaction between nations. Further, questions of morality and rights can be broken down into questions of the uses of power.
Questions of “rights” for example, tend to get bogged down in conflicts over the definition of rights.
One extreme defines rights in a purely negative way, the “right” to act in certain ways without interference by any other men.
The other extreme defines rights as positive obligations of men to other men, for example the “right to a job”, i.e. the obligation of someone with a job to give, to give it to you.
*I wonder how many people who speak of a "right to an education" remember that a pedagogue once meant a slave who carried the books of a student to school?
Or that after the Roman conquest of Greece, Greek scholars were sold in Roman markets to be tutors to the children of their conquerors?
*Government is not eloquence, it is not persuasion, it is force. And like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a terrible master."
The position I call "naive libertarianism" recognizes the danger and potential for corruption by power, and reacts by calling for the abolition of organized power.
Right. When does that ever happen?
When George Washington made that eloquent and incredibly perceptive observation, he was not suggesting that we abolish either government or fire.
Power will be used, that is a given. The question is how?
*Also a given, there will always be a most powerful nation or alliance of nations. Of all the nations in the world today, is there another you would prefer it to be?
*"As above so below." I have noticed that relations between nations and groups that act like nations are not so different from relations between individuals, in terms of the uses of power.
I don’t want “parity” with the punk on the corner who mugs little old ladies for his drug money. I want overwhelming superiority. I want him so afraid of me he will soil his pants at the thought of messing with me.
That’s the first goal, two alternatives are tied for second place.
It would fill my heart with gladness were he to repent of his ways and become a useful member of society. Then we could be friends and my life would be richer from knowing that no human being is totally unredeemable.
Failing that, I’d like him dead or incapacitated.
It’s not that I prefer the latter, it’s that it’s the cheaper alternative in the short run. Changing a life requires sustained effort and the cooperation of the one being changed. It can happen – but the smart money’s against it.
"Most men can stand adversity. If you really want to test a man's character - give him power."
*The kind of people I like to associate with, are the kind of people who don't want power over other people. I mean the power to make other people do their will, as opposed to sufficient to make people leave you alone.
Persuasion to obtain freely given cooperation, is time-consuming and often exasperating. But you sleep better at night, and don't have that feeling of having to watch your back quite so much.
But... does this lack of interest in power put free men at an inherent disadvantage with the power lovers?
Is this why we've got the government we've got?