Power: Its Cause, Its Effect

Between the thousands of pages of history, one will see the rise to power of kings and their eventually toppling, either by a social insurrection or an opposing political party, or perhaps the one enemy they never outrun: death. The Russian culture had decided to call their monarchs Czars, the Europeans called theirs Kings, the Egyptians used the term Pharoah. So it is that every culture has a long line of leaders and rulers who have given birth to laws and shaped society and government. So it is also often true that these political figures would have a religious connection as well. It seemed that every culture has its war between the state and the church. In some cases, one would gain control over the other, and sometimes the opposite would occur. Monarchs, by whatever title, were dictators, despots, or unelected leaders. Some may have had representative bodies aid in creating and enforcing legislation, and some leaders were elected themselves, as presidents and chancellors are. Whatever the case, whatever the restrictions or the means of their coming to leadership, every leader has power. By this, they have the ability to enforce restrictions or requirements upon those who they control over. However, as many are already aware of, the idea of power (or government) in this regard is something I consider to be unjust, both on its principle and its practice. The following essay will outline my reasons for this belief, this belief of Anarchism.

The Cause of Power

I imagine that there is little doubt as to the cause of power. By the word power,Power: Its Cause, Its Effect Articles I mean the ability to influence people through force, essentially, physical force and coercion. Power is the result of people supporting one person as a leader. This support can come in various forms. Either through taxes, military duty, moral support (defending/praising them publicly), or any other method, power comes to a leader by the support of others. In the cases of dictators and despots, they remain in power by both popular and military rule, in most cases. A king whose rule is harsh, brutal, and undesirable by a people will have to have a strong military rule. But even with that, there is the possibility of an insurrection, overthrowing the old leader and replacing him with a new one, or possibly without any. The family of Nicholas II, the Russian Czar, was executed by his own military, because of the incredibly negative effect his rule has had on the land. On the other hand, a king whose rule is neither negative nor positive to the general population, will require only some military support and some popular support. I imagine that a ruler who gains enough popular support will only need military support to defend himself against other political opponents.

The understanding our the mechanics of government in our schools and universities seems to be that a person is elected, impeached, repramanded, or otherwise ousted, through a due process. No decision, either judicial or legislative, can be enforced without several parties examining it, and the interested parties having their opinion put in. The American idea of power, it seems, is believed to be the ability to convince judges, legislators, voters, and others that your idea is the right idea. The president, who has (some of) the American people at his feet, has the media outlets directly towards what he will say next, probably commands the most power in this nation under this definition.

However, despite whatever one may believe about the American political infrastructure, all arguments, all debates, the ability to convince, means nothing, without force to back it up. There may be the process of the president vetoing a bill and the congress trying to get 2/3rds vote to override the veto. One may say that the congress cannot enforce the bill until they can override the veto with a 2/3rds vote. There are other similar barriers in different fields, the so-called “checks and balances” of the judicial, legislative, and executive power. The only purpose that it serves is to convince people that the will of the government is the voice of the people. In many cases, officials outrightly violate the government’s structure. So it was when the Supreme Court ruled that the United States had to respect the Cherokee Nation. The president’s response was rather expressive of what I have said, “The Supreme Court has made their decision. Now let them uphold it.” Power means the ability to coerce, to physical force, and in the most brutal form, the ability to murder and kill.

The cause of power, as I have stated, is rather simple. Power is caused by the support of a figure by one mass or group of people, thus making him a political figure. As to why these groups of people defend and promote this one person, this person they desire to be a leader of all, it is based on their thoughts and ideas, essentially their justification. They believe, inherently, that their leader must be the one with the most military power. The reasons why make up their justification.

The greatest argument in defense of government, which has also been used in the defense of increased restrictions, is that of protection. It is believed that without a government, there will be chaos and vice. Order, it is believed, will be completely ameliorated, as nobody will exist to defend the weak and innocent from the cruelty of the powerful and vicious. So it happens that protection becomes the sole goal of government, though other parties and interests would come to be considered. The often quoted Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote, “Government is an evil; it is only the thoughtlessness and vices of men that make it a necessary evil. When all men are good and wise, government will of itself decay.” Expressing a similar idea, Thomas Paine wrote…

For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. [Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, section “Some writers have so confounded society with government.”]

It seems to be uniformly believed among thinkers that though government (or power) ought to be supported, it is a necessary evil. The primary, and sole, goal of government should be protection. What we then find in various political activism and campaigning is a desire to alter this protection in government, whether it is to boost it, decrease it, or (more often than not) aim it at a new sector or remove aim from another sector. For instance, we have the conservatives who typically are opposed to welfare and social programs, believing that protection should be withdrawn from the poor, while the liberals typically believe in sustaining such protection or increasing it. Some believe that military spending of the United States needs to be decreased while others desire to maintain it and may even want to increase it. All of these activists understand the principle role of government as a protector.

With only a little study on the subject, it is not hard to come to the conclusion that it is an evil, however necessary. The most obvious harm it causes is property appropriation, or taxes. Government needing a means to support itself often goes through this rather simple, typical method of taxation. The evil inherent in this is productivity lost. If man were not “needing a lawgiver,” then government would be unnecessary, and so, too, would be taxes. This is only money, though. One of the greater evils of government, sometimes recognized as much as taxation, is that of control. In short, this means the government interfering with the day-to-day life of its citizens. This could mean search and seizures, court trials, tolls, and control in general which interferes with a citizen’s activity. But there is another form of control by the government which is much more detrimental to personal liberty. It is when political campaigners manage to outlaw an activity which is neither harmful to the individual or the society, or legalizing an activity which is. In some cases, this meant outlawing a particular religion, and in other cases, it meant legalizing slavery of a race or class. Since many of these issues are up to debate (whether Capitalism, or class slavery, is just, for example). So it would seem that as the morals of society evolve, so do the laws on its legislation, but this is another question up to debate. The last final evil of government is corruption. Since power exists in the hands of one person, their rule of the people can be bribed or persuaded with the influence of one wealthy person. This could include businessmen who want laxer restrictions on their products or how much they pay workers or it could include powerful lobbying groups which want their ideals to become laws.

Taxation, control, and corruption are the primary evils of an existing government. Though government is an evil, it is recognized as a necessary evil, in that without it, there would be no protector of the innocent.

The Result of Power

The result of power is with its inability to properly communicate the will of the people. There is a very old political idea, that the people of a land ought to be the ones who control that land. What is meant by this, is that they must be in control of the legislation to pass laws. Their interests must be the ones considered in the passing of any and all legislation. As to the method, the best method, of accurately and properly carrying out the interests of the people and the betterment of the collective, there have been various theories. Granted that today, as our history books have reflected and our governments have formed, the idea of a Republic, or representative government (with elected officials) is most preferred among current thinkers. Obviously, this has not always been so. Some argued that the idea of a dictator (whether called a “monarch” or “king” respectively) with absolute power was the best method of safeguarding the interests of the people. Monarchists believed that people were inherently evil, brutal, and cruel, and that only an absolute authority was capable of bringing order — such ideas can be found in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. However, as it can be seen today, such ideas are remarkably antiquated. In some cases, the power is vested in a king, whose absolute authority guarantees order, with a council, whose interests represent those of the people — in theory, anyway. It is popularly believed today, by all nations of the western world, that a representative government (or republic) is the most effective method of preserving the will of the people.

The idea that the people of a region ought to be the ones with control over their lives, a rather old idea, has been one cherished and defended by philosophers and native peoples. It seems that, though they are at no loss for words in exchanging arguments on how a native people control the law, this one idea that they are the ones to control it (or it is their interests to be considered when laws are made) is fairly accepted. Of course there are instances of philosophers or political figures, defending that idea when it came only to their own nation, but abandoning it when it came to the exploitation of a colony. (So it happens, that a man seemingly consistent in ideology, will abandon his morality to exploit the riches of another — though this is not always the case.)

This idea of people in a particular region controlling their lives I shall call autonomy for brevity, though autonomy truly implies a strong Democracy. Though there is a variety of methods that philosophers and political theorists have tried to apply this idea to a system, the justification for it seems to be difficult to find. For some philosophers, they have asserted that the idea of autonomy is the equivalent of justice; a violation of justice, then, would be people not allowed to be controlling their own lives. What can someone offer in defense of this idea of autonomy — what evidence is their to support it? Well, we must understand the various responses that may come from interested parties when it comes to power and autonomy. When a man is not in control of this own life, be it economically or politically or socially or culturally, then he will lose happiness. The primary being who has the ability to control another’s life is the one with power, be it government or military or dictator. When the control over a man’s life is harsh and unjust (that is, without his interests considered), then happiness is at risk, meaning some unfair regulation is put on his liberty, life, or property.

In those instances where a man’s happiness is diminished because of the rule of power, the justification of the ruler’s demands and rules varies. Sometimes it is for his own personal interest. Or it may be that he desires for the people he rules to be something that they are not. He may want this because he feels that he should live among a certain type of people (“refined people”) or that he feels a person is inherently bad (though law-abiding) if they are not of a particular culture. An example of this would be laws requiring that clothing is worn in public at all times — in this case, the laws (whether just or unjust) would be an attack on the liberty of the people. If it so happened that the people desired to be nude at all times, then they would suffer. In some cases, the ruler imposes restrictions upon public liberty because they believe they are protecting the public, or at least assert they are protecting the public. They are either protecting the citizen from himself (such as making it illegal to commit suicide) or they are protecting the citizen from each other (such as making it illegal to possess weapons of mass destruction). As to the justice of the first type of protection, there is little doubt that it is in violation of the principle of autonomy: people making decisions for themselves. A person who desires to live without deep concern for their life at one time, and the opposite another time, should have that right, as it is their own life — and their own liberty, which would be respected in any true autonomist society. As to the second time of restriction, of preventing citizens from harming each other by restricting behavior, the issue itself is deserving of its own paper. I will only say that there have been, in many instances, individuals with power who have used that power to oppress others, either by the folly of their intellect (such as the current drug laws which disallow individuals from happiness) or by their desire to oppress an enemy (such as the censorship laws which prevent Anarchist literature, like the one you’re reading).

When a leader is in power, his unjust rule (to one extent or another) will cause unhappiness and misery to those who are being ruled. Since happiness is a value and by itself, a desirable, one could rather simply conclud

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