Everybody's Got One
A blog. An opinion. An elimination orifice. A dream. An agenda. A past. A hidden talent. A conceptual filter. A cross. A charism (often the same). A task. A wound. A destiny. A lost love. A blind spot. A bad habit. A secret. A passion. A soul ... okay, maybe not everybody ...
Thursday, February 26, 2004


Porphyrogenitus on power redistribution:
Power, unlike wealth, is not an ever-expanding pie. Any system demanding a large-scale redistribution of wealth in an effort to make and then to keep things more equal than they would otherwise be also involves a redistribution of power. But the power is not redistributed from the wealthy few to the many, as people often claim and sincerely want. It is redistributed from the citizenry to the institution(s) conducting the redistributing, and those who run them. ... This road leads not to equalization of power in a flourishing civic society, but to centralization of power and societies riven by conflict.
Two observations: First, as power centralizes, there will be claims that The Powerful in imperfectly-redistributed spheres are an increasing threat, to be counterbalanced with further centralization. Today, large corporations control a lesser share of the economy than they did fifty years ago - but the complaint is that their influence (and profits) are Never Larger. Social pressure to conform is a fraction of what it was pre-60's - but the chilling specter of intolerance and suppression looms ever nearer. News and information sources have proliferated beyond the ability of anyone with an actual life to keep up - but Media Consolidation must be stopped before it goes any further.

Second, over time the goal of redistributing wealth becomes little more than a pretext for the continuing centralization of power in the hands of those qualified to exercise it: judges, regulators, policy advocates, community organizers, public interest activists - whose power is safely insulated from the ballot box. Power to the people invariably becomes power for the people - who no longer need be consulted about the details - and imperceptibly power over.

This is why I see the glass half full in SCOTUS' Locke v Davey decision allowing Washington state to continue discriminating against theology students: it shows a deference to the expressed will of the people that is sadly uncharacteristic of today's judiciary. This is bad public policy, but good law; vastly preferable to the all-too-common reverse, eg. Roe v Wade. Bad policy can be undone as early as the next election, but bad legal precedents live on for a generation or two at minimum.

One thing power and wealth do have in common is that the focus on inequality co-opts and diverts attention from the greater issue of insufficiency. It doesn't fundamentally matter whether you have as much as your neighbors, but whether what you have is enough. Do you have food, shelter, health care, safety, security, opportunity? If not, let's fix that; if so, lighten up.
Similarly with power. Do you make your own choices in life, bearing costs and reaping rewards, or do you act at the sufferance of your employer, your HMO, your landlord, your creditors, your caseworker, the police, the street? That's the measure that matters, and doesn't get discussed.

posted by Kelly | 1:14 PM link