Thursday, 22 September 2005

The dollar and the gun

Our elected representatives are now doing the dance of political power--that's rather like Salomé's dance of the seven veils, except that the politicians to a man and a woman are hamkering to go all the way. Let's have a brief look at exactly what sort of power these people are after.

"People Have the Power," sings Patti Smith. "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun," declared Mao Tse-Tung. Smith is an artist; Mao was a thug and a realist. He got it right. There's a lot of misunderstanding about the nature of power, and particularly widespread confusion about the important distinction between economic power and political power. The distinction is this: Economic power comes from production and trade, "the ability to produce material values and offer them for trade"; by contrast, political power comes from the barrel of a gun.

George Carlin once suggested the keys to America are the cross, the brew, the dollar and the gun. Economic and political power are represented by the last two: the dollar and the gun respectively. Confusion between what distinguishes them leads to the gun sometimes being put in the service of the dollar, and occasionally the dollar seeking to buy the gun, but the distinction remains. (Harry Binswanger defines the two in an excerpt here.)
"'Political power' refers to the power of the government. The special nature of that power is what differentiates government from all other social institutions. That which makes government government, its essential attribute, is its monopoly on the use of physical force. Only a government can make laws—i.e., rules of social conduct backed up by physical force. ...The penalty for breaking the law is fines, imprisonment, and ultimately, death. The symbol of political power is a gun. [Read on here.]
That's the sort of power our politicians are dancing for now. Attractive, isn't it.

1 comment:

  1. Exactly why the more dicatatorial govamints don't like their citizens owning guns....


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