May 5th, 2014 // 11:42 am @ Oliver DeMille
Power and Obedience
“Force alone can establish power, habit alone can keep it in being…”
But one more thing is needed to have absolute power: credit. (This is Jouvenel’s word, meaning “recognition” or “validation” – not lending.)
This means that any government wanting great power must come up with some way to openly reward people who obey its commands.
In short, any entity trying to control obedience must find a way to use force, to maintain a habit of obedience among the people, and to give credit and recognition to the most obedient.
This makes obedience popular and lucrative, and disobedience dangerous and unpopular.
To gain the obedience of the masses, Jouvenel taught, a government must first convince the people that they should obey. Then it must show them that they will hurt if they don’t obey, and be rewarded if they do.
Part I: Six Bad Types and One Good Type of Government
There are seven main ways to persuade the people that they really should follow a government, and six of them have been used multiple times in history to increase the power and force of bad governments. Freedom is decreased any time the people believe any of these six:
- The Divine Right of Kings (“God made me your ruler, and your eternal salvation depends on obeying me and my agents.”)
- Majority Rules (“If most of the people vote for it, the rest should follow, even if the vote is evil or ridiculous, because we are all part of the whole and must follow the majority decision.”)
- Benefits to the People (“If you vote for me, I’ll make sure you get more of x and less of y.”)
- The Need for Order and Security (“If the government doesn’t have the power to protect you, bad people will hurt you; so give us more power—we promise, we’ll never, ever abuse it. Just trust us.”)
- The Pure Force Doctrine (“If you don’t obey us, here is what we’ll do to your parents, spouse, children, reputation, body, and possessions…”)
- The Invisible Government/or/A combined Pure Force and Order and Security system on Steroids (“A few of us will know the secrets and make the decisions so that the rest of you can relax and enjoy life. Trust us, because though historical governments have abused power, we never will.”)
Any government or politician arguing any of these six dangerous doctrines should immediately set off a warning bell to every citizen.
Exactly none have ever maintained their trust; all have been abusive of their power and their people.
Moreover, all six of these arguments are fallacies; none are a true reason for giving power or obedience to a government.
The Seventh Form: You
The solution to all of these is the 7th form of government: The Informed Citizen. This is the doctrine of regular people 1) having the vote to determine who will lead them, and who will not lead them, and also 2) having the wisdom to keep a close eye on everything government does and keeping it in line if this is ever needed.
Without the second part of this—regular people closely watching government and keeping it checked—all governments end up as one of the six bad types. In all six, freedom is eventually lost. In fact, all six types eventually turn into The Pure Force style of government.
But don’t just take my word for it; do the math: There is no exception to this in history.
By the way, the worst type of government system is The Invisible Government. In this model, the government operates largely in secret, exerting Pure Force whenever and however it wants without effective media or citizen oversight.
In fact, many people living in an Invisible Government system don’t even realize that Pure Force is happening every day – until they’re the ones on the receiving end of power abuse. And under an Invisible Government, such “complainers” are often branded as paranoid or rebellious non-conformists who are rocking the boat for everyone else, who prefer to enjoy the “security” and “prosperity” the uber-powerful government provides. (The big party poopers. Why can’t they just get back in line and enjoy the gettin’ while the gettin’s good??)
The only way to stop the six bad kinds of government—including eventually becoming a Pure Force government—is The Informed Citizen society. Without this, no nation can last.
The American founding generation, and the American framers, established an Informed Citizen model. It wasn’t perfect, and because of slavery it never fully flourished until after the Civil War. Once slavery was abolished, the Informed Citizen system began to deepen and expand.
By 1945, the United States, with less than 6% of the world’s population, was producing over half of the globe’s goods and services.
Turns out that freedom works.
But freedom only lasts when The Informed Citizen stays strong and active.
Are you such a citizen?
Part II: How to Know Which System Your Government is Following
Today we live under an Invisible Government model (with Pure Force steadily increasing in power) where a few power elites are expected to know the secrets and make the big decisions so the rest of us can just live our lives.
If this trend continues, the entire freedom system of the United States will experience further decline. (Are those just words, words, words to you? I sincerely hope not. Ponder for a moment what that means for your children, and your children’s children.)
If this trend continues, the entire freedom system of the United States will experience further decline.
The way to determine which system your government uses is simple: How does your government and nation treat the weakest, most vulnerable, least powerful among you, les miserables; and, how does it treat your enemies?
As Jouvenel said, expansionism is part of the character of a nation seeking more power.
By these measures, Rome was powerful but it wasn’t great. Slaves, women and children were chattel, literally owned by their masters. Enemy cities were leveled, the inhabitants tortured and killed or sold into slavery.
The ground was salted so nothing could grow for generations to come.
Likewise, the British Empire was powerful but cruel. The lower classes were frequently treated like slaves (read Dickens, for example), the wealthy were often aloof and domineering, and the people in foreign colonies such as those in India and Africa were consistently exploited and mistreated.
Money and power were used to manipulate nearly every transaction and relationship.
In contrast, once slavery was abolished in the United States, America stood for the principle of freedom to millions around the world.
It raised a Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor that invited all the poor and mistreated from around the world to immigrate to our shores and join us in freedom.
It fought for European and Asian freedom and asked for no colonies or tributes in return.
During this era, America genuinely aspired to live up to the ideals of an Informed Citizen system.
This focus has changed in recent times. How do we now treat the poor or struggling immigrant yearning to be free? The unborn baby? The captured enemy? We exclude, we terminate, we torture.
Yet because the regular citizen does not hold the torturer’s knife we are able to (falsely) claim a semblance of morality. We comfort ourselves in plausible deniability.
This is precisely how Invisible Government works.
But when our government agents torture in the name of our protection and freedom, they act in our name.
This means we bear responsibility—unless we attempt to decry and end such behaviors.
When they came for the unborn babies, we turn a tearful eye. But it kept happening—to millions.
When they came for the captured enemy we turned a blind eye to torture. We played Javert, thinking the government knew best. But even if this were true, when we allow our government to torture it will eventually turn such measures on us.
This is a law of history.
When they come for the weary immigrant, who risks his life just to send a few dollars home to feed his child like a modern Jean Valjean, we frown in disgust and send him on his way. An Abraham, a Jesus, the Bishop in Les Miserables would have thrown open their arms and proffered (personal) resources of sustenance, hospitality and welcome.
Too few of us follow their example.
We stand at a crossroads in modern America. On the one hand, we are quickly headed toward overwhelming Invisible Government that spies on us, expands its controls over us, and every day increases its tentacles of force.
On the other, we can be Informed and Active Citizens.
These are the two choices.
“The face of power changes,
but not its nature.”
—Bertrand de Jouvenel
(See FreedomShift, by Oliver DeMille, for more commentary on and solutions to these trends.)