Tuesday 23 April 2024

People versus Power

Humanity is  subject to two great imperatives - the power of love, and the love of power. These are the bookends of our brief earthly existence. This essay explores the nature of power.

Power has many manifestations but  always the same motive - to ensure the will of the powerful prevails. The quest for power is the energy that drives society, but often threatens to destroy it. History is shaped by powerful men, but rarely improved by them. To navigate the treacherous waters of our existence it is important to understand the forces that shape the river in which we float.

Political

The contest for political power is the predominant narrative in the “democratic” west, and in many semi-democratic countries elsewhere. Every 4 years or so these countries hold a hotly contested beauty contest  in which the powerless hordes cast a mostly meaningless vote. Thereafter a small number of power-hungry individuals and groups enjoy a fleeting mantle of legitimacy, until the next charade. Having once gained power, no matter how slim the majority, the winners can (and often do) behave as badly as any tyrant victorious in a war.


Taxation is state sanctioned theft. The state derives its power from taxation. Politicians derive their power from the state. 


Once in power the victors quickly claim the spoils, through corruption, special privileges, nepotism, and so forth. Regulations to favour cronies are passed. Opponents are victimised and prosecuted, Programs favouring the politicians’ particular worldview get implemented. Spending is lavish, moderation despised. And that’s just in the USA, the “home” of democracy.


Political power is wielded by politicians, one of the most despised professions. The only requirement to be a politician is an ability to lie convincingly in public. There are usually no other qualifications required. They may be judged on their record, but the harm is usually done by then.


As  P.J. O’Rourke said, giving money and power to politicians is like giving whiskey and carkeys to teenagers.

Bureaucracy

Bureaucrats are the unelected minions of the political class, rude, arrogant and ignorant. They are as hard to eradicate as cockroaches, and as useful. Their job is to apply the reams of rules and regulations excreted by senates and parliaments. They make individual lives a misery, applying the letter of the law to minor infractions, destroying enterprise, above question and beyond recall. Almost all their jobs could be done better privately, including important ones like policing and nursing.

Financial

Ambitious individuals too intelligent for politics go into finance. The rewards are better, and the ethics less disturbing. Money is power. Everything has a price if you have the means. The power of money arises from greed rather than violence. Surprisingly, it turns out that you can bend people to your will by giving them stuff, as opposed to taking it from them, while making a profit.  While politicians provide the illusion of choice, businessmen actually offer individual consumers a choice, however constrained. And they rely on persuasion rather than force to do this, in a free market.


Stupid people are happy to be told what to do by politicians. Smarter people spend their money to give themselves choices. The smartest people take your  money to avoid having to make choices.


It is widely agreed that the real power in the modern world resides with the banks and investment companies like Black Rock and Vanguard. National governments are beholden to these companies for re-election funding, investment, survival.  


Some billionaires use their funds to influence local politics, like George Soros. And some just seem to come from a different planet, or hope to get to one. 

Religion

Faith means not wanting to know what the truth is. Friedrich Nietzsche.

 

Although their power in the modern world seems to be waning, religions use their power to own both your body and your soul. For 2000 years they have been the seat of both heavenly and worldly power.  They influence the thoughts and behaviour of billions, own vast palaces and real estate, pronounce on all manner of worldly issues, sponsor wars, terrorism and genocide, while serving no obvious useful purpose. Their arrogance is exceeded only by their ignorance. Thank the gods they are optional.

Intellectuals and Professionals

The power of life and death is the ultimate power. Since the decline of tyrants, at least in our western realm, who comes closest to wielding that power nowadays? The scientific experts who proclaim the nature of our world - what we should eat, what we should know, what we should think, what medicines we take, how we travel, how we exist, what gender we should be. Never in history has this protected priestly class wielded such influence over every aspect of the daily life of the masses. These “experts” have brought us Covid, its fatal “cure”, the crazy climate myth, endless wars and their weapons, deadly foods and drinks, universal ill health, trillions in debt, and an absurd woke ideology.


Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts - Richard Feynman

Military

Military power is the most familiar deployment of power. It is also the most honest. Soldiers are very open about the fact that they expect to impose their will upon you by force. No lying words, no appeal to ideologies, no suggestion that this is for your own good. Surrender or die. They expect to be resisted. They expect to inflict harm and suffer losses. Often they are just doing the bidding of some other power broker, obeying evil orders without question, from some misplaced sense of honour and duty.  

The military are more to be pitied than prosecuted.

Fanatics

As Churchill remarked “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” 


They have wielded great power in history, from the crusades and witch trials, to starting the first and second world wars. In our current time they advocate and execute hugely destructive policies such as global warming, covid restrictions, animal rights, peak oil, woke policies. They leverage the other forms of power for their supposedly noble and humanitarian causes, oblivious to the harms that result. They claim political support, scientific expertise, huge funding, and armies of misguided supporters. 


“The problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so certain of themselves, and wiser people are so full of doubts” - Bertrand Russell

Persuasion

One of the most insidious forms of power is persuasion, because it pretends not to be a power. As with all forms of power, persuaders intend to impose their will on others, but not using physical force. Advertisers, women, “nudge“ units, peer pressure, propaganda, all use words and fear and moral posturing to herd us in a desired direction. 

Persuasion often employs appeals to morality, compassion, pity. It is often on behalf of innocent victims, rarely for direct profit. 


When power is not possible, persuasion will be employed.

Individual

No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. Friedrich Nietzsche.


What power does an individual exercise? 

Theoretically individuals should have power over themselves, their lives, their property. They should be free to do as they wish while respecting the equal right of others to do the same. Individuals should not expect or desire power over others.

Ultimately, all power is exercised by some individuals over other individuals. How do individuals protect themselves from the power of others?


  1. By running away

  2. By joining a group for protection

  3. By becoming powerful themselves

  4. By agreeing on a contract with other individuals to define and protect their mutual rights


 It is only in the last 250 years that option 4 has arisen as a viable mechanism, in the Bill of Rights of the United States constitution. In this admirable document the terms of agreement are spelt out clearly as a series of amendments. While there are flaws, this document is the best antidote to the many powers listed above. But it is quite long, subject to endless re-interpretation, and often ignored by the power-hungry.  


It is essential that our western civilised society defines its priorities in a straightforward and simple way accessible to the masses. Is the priority safety, defense, growth, or freedom? What can be best understood and defended and implemented? I believe the number one priority must be the freedom of the individual to live life as desired. I have developed a statement of this priority that is short but powerful.  I call it the Harm-Consent Rule (HCR).


Render no harm without consent, except in self-defense


If such a rule can be agreed and enforced, all of the many power plays listed above would have no justification.  No taxation, no conscription, no corruption, no enforcement of expert opinions. 

Individuals must give their consent to anything that may harm them, or it cannot be done.


This  is how we give power to the people.

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