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Where does power lie in our government?

February 16, 2011

So if we think about the game of politics, we must break it down to its most bare of fundamentals, and the primacy of all politics is the gaining of power.  In my opinion, there are two methods by which to gain this power, either giving something to people, or taking something away.

The Power of the Gift

Giving, or promising to give, is the weaker of the two choices.  Everyone likes to receive stuff, or be given new “rights” and privileges from their government, but something never had is not as enticing as losing something already obtained.

The power to give only works when coupled with the greater power of denial, but it is a strong power nonetheless – it gets people elected.  When your campaigning politician promises to build the new dam, or increase school spending, or whatever other lie they are spewing at the time, they are banking on your desire to have something – especially the infantile desire to have something paid for by someone else.  And this is where it can get very fuzzy.

Because this power has no appeal to the masses if what is promised is an intangible, or at least not something related to a thing we have already experienced or possessed.  For example, high speed rail is a non-starter as a campaign promise because the majority of us have never been on a train, and see no value in that gift from our benefactor.  Conversely, especially in our economic climate, a job is very valuable as a gift even though the efficacy of the politician to provide such gratis is much in question.

All these issues regarding the power of the gift are moot once the politician is elected, because he is immediately promoted to the much more influential position of being able to deny.  The power of the gift is for electioneering only.

The Power to Deny

Denial of rights or privileges is where all our politicians and government hold sway over us.  Higher taxes deny us our money.  More regulations deny us the freedom to do whatever is regulated.  More criminal laws deny us whatever was criminalized.

You see the power to deny stems from the fact that all of us are already enjoying the activity that the government is looking to soon deny us, and we don’t want to lose that freedom.  More than enough examples abound, but lets just say the majority of legislation enacted through federal, state and local governments are restricting activity rather than inflating it.  For an example, lets look at Obama care.

Despite the talking heads telling us of all the great things to come out of Obama care, the power of denial is strong in this bill.  Higher taxes denies us our money, restrictive regulations deny us our choice, criminalizing compliance could possibly deny us our physical liberty.  If you look at who opposes this monstrosity, you will see it is only people that will be effected by these denials, obviously.  Thus, the supporters must generally only be effected by the gifts the program grants, and as polls show, the opposition to Obama care outweighs support by a large margin.

So how come it is not being repealed?  Because the gift has already been granted, it has passed already.  Look at it from a liberal politician’s perspective.  he has already put the carrot in front of his constituent’s face, now he has much more power because he has it in his choice to remove that carrot.  He has granted the gift, now he has to choose to deny it or not.  That choice is where his power lies.

Recent debate from the liberals regarding the repeal of Obama care always focuses on the up-front feel good “gifts” that the bill granted, for example coverage of children until 26.  They purposefully shy away from the taxes and fines and other undesirable issues in the bill not because they are undesirable, but because the carrots are what keep people interested.  If he can frame the debate under the umbrella of “denial of services” then he has the power to influence people.  Conversely, the conservatives are left with the weaker choice of debating from the “granting of gifts” side of the argument, the weaker side.  The gifts the conservatives will grant would of course be lower taxes, less regulation and de-criminalization, as repealing the bill would accomplish all those objectives.  But those are “gifts”, and thus are not so influencing to the masses in general.

This is the reason Obama care was passed by any means necessary.  Once the liberals could get the gifts granted, they knew their power would be increased while the conservative’s power would be decreased.

And that is the key to the debate on any legislative issue, who is trying to do what?  The gifts granted by a bill are almost always a red-herring, one must look further into the future to see what power would be gained by being able to deny those gifts at a later date.  For example, look to the Bush tax cuts.  Because of the sunset dates the liberals demanded be put into it, they were thrust into the enviable position of being the determining factor on whether the government would deny us the “gift” of lower taxes that we have all become accustomed to.

The Power to Grant Favors

The power to deny is primarily a way of gaining power in government, but it is used universally by everyone.  Look to organizations as an example.  The Bar Association will do.  Through their rules and laws, they require certain things for an attorney to practice in court.  They must pass an exam, they must uphold a certain level of ethics (no kidding), and if they do not do those things, they are denied the privilege of practicing the profession the lawyer has spent years training for.

Or, a neighborhood association.  If one were to look at their rules and regulations, you would see a plethora of things you can’t do, and much fewer things you can.  What color your house must be painted, whether you can fly a flag and how it must be flown, whether you can build a deck or a fence and how it must look.  These are all denials of activities we otherwise would be able to do, and that is how they hold sway over us.  Because with the power to deny, comes also the power to overlook, or to grant a favor.  Oh boy, now you are talking real power.

Let’s again look back to Obama care.  How much future influence do you think Obama is gaining through the waivers he is granting to the companies seeking relief from this utter failure of legislation?  The waiver is not a gift though, you must look at it correctly.  Obama is not gaining power by granting the waiver, that is too easy.  He is gaining power because he holds in his hands the ability to “deny” a company that waiver.  Companies aren’t stupid, they don’t line-up to kiss the butt of the President if they don’t have to.  If they are asking for a waiver, they truly need it.  And they are willing to do a lot of thing to get that waiver from King Obama.

Unfortunately, these powers are facts of life.  There is nothing much we can do to restrict the government from using them against us, except for electing ethical and honorable people to begin with.  Alas, most people who seek election fall far short from either of those qualifications.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2011 9:08 pm

    Fleece, welcome back. I was worried about you.

    Buying favors, selling favors. It has to change or we are doomed.

    • February 16, 2011 9:50 pm

      Sorry for the absence, Real Life caught up with me for a bit. =)

  2. February 16, 2011 9:36 pm

    I was worried about you also, I am glad you are back! What a great return post! It is time for the American people to look inwards and ask themselves what they expect out of their government. As for me–and I hope a growing number of Americans–al I want is to be left alone to care for myself.

    • February 16, 2011 9:50 pm

      Real Life was poking its ugly head in my writing schedule, sorry my friend. As for the government, they can most definitely leave me alone. =)

  3. LD Jackson permalink
    February 17, 2011 6:28 am

    Great post, Colin. Glad to see you back.

    I think this ties in perfect with my post from yesterday. The American people need to go to the voting booth and vote responsibly, instead of voting for the politician who promises them the most “goodies”. If they would do that, it would take the power of the government and put it where it really belongs, in the hands of the people.

  4. February 17, 2011 6:42 am

    Great post Colin. I was a bit worried about you. I think there is always going to be a large segment of our society that will look for the goodies and freebies because that is all they know. I see this all the time. They have gone form generation to generation working the system to squeeze as much out of us…er I mean the system. As for me and changing this mindset of dependency to one of independence will be a tough road to travel.

  5. JustFacts permalink
    February 17, 2011 8:36 am

    Welcome back. We can’t afford to lose your voice. There aren’t enough of us to start with.

    Great post. It really rankles me everytime I hear someone (or a politician) say, the “government” is paying for something, or the “government” is going to make “big Business” pay for something, because it’s not right for the “public” to pay for it. What an obsurdity. Who actually pays for anything? Of course, it is “us”, the taxpayer or consumer. When “government” expends funds to pay for a dam, highway, Obamacare, whatever, it is “our” money that gets spent. When “government” adds taxes to “big Business”, who ends up paying the taxes in the form of higher product prices? Us. When “government” requires that the oil companies pay for the inspections of drilling operations, who pays for the costs of those inspections? Of course, it is “us” in the form of higher gas prices.

    Why is it such a mystery to the public where the buck stops? Government does not “pay” for anything. WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT. The public “pays” for everything – corporate taxes, corporate fees, corporate campaign contributions – that all comes from the cost of the products or services that the corporation receives. I love it when I hear people say, “We’re going to sock it to those rich guys that own that stock,” not knowing that their 401-Ks and mutual funds, and bank interest, and every other form of investment that they are involved in, qualifies “them” as rich guys.

    It is high time that the public retakes responsibility for our “government” and quit playing the part of naive sheep, following the lead ram with the bell around his neck. Everytime I hear a politician speak, all I can think of is the tinkle of the bell.

  6. mattross1968 permalink
    February 17, 2011 9:10 pm

    Welcome back sir. We were concerned.

    This is a simply excellent post. I may be linking it in the next few days.

  7. February 19, 2011 1:38 am

    Welcome back. So much of Liberal government is brandishing the stick or, more aptly, telling your special interests to use their sticks (Big Union for example).

  8. February 21, 2011 8:15 pm

    Thought for a while you’d become a FEMA internee, Fleece. Hell, your posts weren’t that incendiary. Well, maybe just a few. And this one could be classified as irritating by the Big Cheese and all his odiferous little cheeses. Then there was last month’s output…hey, now that I think about it, you’re on their lists, buddy!

  9. February 23, 2011 9:25 pm

    All of the power lies in our government.

    I don’t trust a one of them.

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