Unfortunately for those of us wanting to understand how we counter the dynamic force of money, power is much harder to describe than wealth. The goal of wanting stuff is simple enough and relentlessly promoted in our daily lives. It is also hard to get away from, as money permeates most of our activities in one way or the other. So the ability to get something is a vital component of life, but it is not the whole story. Life (and the organism) marches on, not only from a drive to consume, but also with a Nietzschian “will to power,” a craving to actively participate in controlling our environment. Everyone essentially wants to “make a difference.” More than anything else, success is due to creativity, artistic expression, innovation and restlessness. We are all born with a varying amount of this drive to shape our environment, and it takes a massive amount of energy to destroy this natural urge. There is little more tragic than unemployed people, isolated, unknown, ignored, or for some other reason having no idea what to do with themselves. It would seem that much deeper than our fear of death is a fear of never having “lived” a full life, never having made an imprint on the world. (As we’ll soon see, a big problem with corruption is that it does exactly this to people with no money.)
Socially, power is exercised through government and its institutions. Because people will do something and, if they are not regulated, will descend into chaos and anarchy, which are not conducive to a functioning society, we create government bodies and laws to specify what is and is not allowed.
In order to understand the next aspect of power, let’s take a quick look backward at wealth. When we look at some of capitalism’s main principles – like private property, legal tender, contracts and wage labor – we see that these are, in fact, restrictive policies. One would think that in order to facilitate consumption we’d just make everything free, allow everything to be traded for anything, allow counterfeiting, allow people to break contracts if they couldn’t get what they wanted, etc. – but the truth is that we are able to collectively consume more by limiting consumption. Because the farmer makes us pay for the apple off his tree, there are more apples to go around for everybody. This same reversal happens with power too. The laws of our governments are usually phrased in negative terms: they tell us we cannot do this and we cannot do that. Government prohibits certain kinds of activity because it deems these dangerous to society. The more defined, secular and enforced these laws are, the more we know what is and isn’t allowed – and the more freedom there is overall. It is the beauty of human coexistence that by agreeing on laws we all have more freedom. Power represents the ability both to act and to exert control over our actions, and it is this combination that enables us to grow and prosper on this planet.Click here for reuse options!
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