Power Dynamics and Optimism

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Power — the ability to impose one’s will on another, to coerce them or force them to do something against their free choice — such power has a good side and a bad side. The good side is that we may use power to defend ourselves against unwarranted crimes and invasions of our lives, liberty, and property. The bad side occurs when power instigates the unwarranted crimes and intrusions of said life, liberty, and property.

This article is about the bad power, which I call, for simplicity, simply power. This does no great violation to the concept since 99 percent of what states and governments do is exercise the bad power. This we take for granted, the arguments for this position being well-known and the demonstrations of power’s evils being seen every moment of every day. These evils are no more absent than the sun’s rays on the earth, but they take great care in cloaking their presence. They would be clear to great masses of people except that the blind cannot see what is before their eyes. They may even already be clear to other great numbers of people, who search for the means to fend off the continual crimes and invasions of their lives. The bad power has corralled us, and great numbers of people have corralled themselves.

Let us understand and expose the nature of this power, it being such an evil. The widespread defrocking of this temporal deity we know as our government, our democracy, our flag, our national center, is no easy task; going on now for some centuries without yet having taught mankind to renew his social life without it. The beast claims center stage during our days. It has formidable wiles and ways to cover up its evil nature and its ceaseless comings and goings. But there is certainty that it will fall from the throne that it claims, because it does not possess that throne. Its undoing is sure. The evil will be unmasked. Scales will fall from the eyes. The evil will fall from its false perch.

In an earlier article on power dynamics, I argued for four theorems concerning politics, defined as the socially-approved use of aggressive (bad) power:

  1. Politics leads to theft. Politics is theft.
  2. Politics nurtures the growth of power.
  3. Politics begets competition for power.
  4. Politics nurtures centralization of power.

To these will be here added the following theorems:

  1. Power is demanded and supplied.
  2. Power is rationalized.
  3. Power corrupts.
  4. Power ensconces itself.
  5. Power destroys.
  6. Power oversteps.
  7. Power declines and falls.
  8. Power is falsehood.

Several of these, maybe all of them, are already known. If so, let us clarify them, simplify them, restate them, emphasize them, make them so easy to see that they become undeniable and present in the consciousness. This is, of course, a task I cannot fulfill.

Power is demanded and supplied. This scarcely requires proof. Why would we see power in place if we (or at least many of us) did not ask for it and want it? Do we not support its position in society? Has it not been supplied to us? Do we not observe it being wielded (supplied) daily? We (many of us) not only provide tacit consent to an apparatus of power — and remember I mean the bad power — we want it. We demand it, each for our own ends. We think this socially evil thing a good thing for us personally, and whether or not the overall effect is to ruin our brothers makes no difference in our calculations; and if it ruins ourselves, we seem not to notice or care.

The sources of the demand for a political power structure are innumerable. There are narrow interests which directly gain while imposing losses on others. But the mass support presents a more interesting psychological problem. Why do great numbers of common people support and demand that their society have power at its core? Why do they want an evil to rule their lives? What strands of psychology and/or human failing lie at the root of this demand? Greed, fear, ignorance, impatience, dependence, confusion, mistrust, error, worship, kinship, ideology, superstition, apathy, weakness, self-delusion, and sin — aren’t those enough to prove the point? We demand that power rule.

The other side of the equation is no less compelling. What is demanded is supplied, not always by plebiscites and pretty beginnings; often enough it has been supplied through wile, subterfuge, brute force, conquest, assassination, intermarriage, blackmail, favors, and bribery. But in the end it has been supplied. We see the results.

Power is rationalized. Again, this scarcely requires proof. The supporters of power pervade society at every rank and station, top to bottom. The rulers and the ruled alike heap praise on the power-apparatus, glorify it, seek its expansion, and stand ready to thwart every effort to diminish it or even seriously criticize it. The politicians, the press, the educators, the scientists, the aged, the poor, the middle class, the industrialists — where do we not find a group implicitly and explicitly promoting power and its extensions? And since (aggressive) power is unjust, where do we not see false rationalizations, trying to say this is good which we know to be evil?

Power corrupts, as Lord Acton long ago pointed out. It corrupts not only those wielding the power, who view themselves as demi-gods anointed above all others to bring light to the world; but also those who are ruled and society at large. Society is turned to violent means, to abandonment of justice and true faith, to ungodliness, to dishonesty, to love of domination, to immoral ways, to rot and decay, and toward barrenness of spirit, art, and civilization. Corruption afflicts every sphere of life when power becomes the ruling principle of a society.

Power ensconces itself. Is there anything more obvious? How many laws does the U.S. now have? How many arbitrary and unjust laws? How many lawyers? How many paid shills for the state? How many textbooks teaching the state religion? How great are the ties that bind state and local governments to the national government? How great are the ties that bind millions of Americans to taxes and payments? Power seeks to make itself indispensable. It fixes itself firmly upon everyone. Shaking loose seems an impossibility, although it is not. We bind ourselves, and we can unbind ourselves; but not without recognizing the evil for what it is and renouncing it in our hearts and minds thoroughly and firmly.

Power destroys. If this were self-evident or evident, power would not have the sway it does. Assessing what might have been and what is causing mayhem now, especially in a complex social context, is difficult. Most of us simply do not know the damage that is being done, even though it is vast. Maybe we don’t want to believe the truth of this unnecessary damage. The damage has been most clear when empires and states approach their denouement. When all that has preceded resolves itself into a final death spiral, the preceding damage and destruction become completely evident. The terrible living conditions in all the Communist countries are but amplifications of the negatives imposed by every soft Communist government, that is, every democracy like ours or every social democracy. As we sicken and turn ashen with doses of thallium that will eventually prove fatal, should we not look at those societies that have already died by ingesting the same poison?

The power-rationalizers protest that we are not the same, we are better, and we know better. We, after all, are building democracy. They built totalitarian societies. What evasions and lies will power-rationalizers not make use of? Does it make any difference if power is expressed through a Politburo or through a legislature, through a Stalin or through a president, through an NKVD or an IRS, through one-party rule or through 50.1 percent of those voting for two-party rule? Power is power, and power destroys.

Power oversteps. Since power expands and has as its objective more power, ultimately all possible power, it eventually oversteps. It goes too far. It adds one tax too many. It speaks one lie too many. It borrows one dollar too many. It inflates the money supply one demand deposit too many. It demands one new power too many. It makes one war too many.

Power becomes more audacious and more open. Its bare force makes itself evident, and this makes clear its injustice. It destroys more and more openly, unable to conceal itself. Its selfishness and decay, its emptiness and cruelty become more and more visible.

And this process leads in one direction: Power declines and falls. Power is life-killing, and life rebels against power. This process of power declining may be slow, very slow. It may be uneven. There may be times when power seems to have the upper hand. Centuries may pass when power seems to be victorious. But power declines and falls. That decline is inexorable. It must happen because power kills. The life on earth and its progress testify to the fact that life is winning and will win the longest of wars against the most evil of foes.

The victory of life over power will happen. It is assured because power is falsehood. Power misrepresents itself as consistent with human flourishing while it destroys life. Power is therefore a contradiction. It is unfitted to human existence. Its rationales are all false. They all contradict living and life. Power arises whenever mankind adheres to a falsehood. But life resists falsehood. The two are incompatible.

The truths of life have been revealed to us, and they await our acceptance. We do not yet know them and accept them, but we will or else we will die. This is why power ultimately will decline and fall.

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.

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