"Will the real oligarchs please stand up," by Nicholas Strakon, part seven.
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TOC for Strakon's article

The wielding

I can devote no more space to "trying cases" with Karp, although I leave many of his arguments unanswered and many examples unaddressed. It is time to move to a more theoretical level.

Karp and I agree completely on the nature (if not the desirability) of power; to put it as bluntly as I can, power resides not in money but in guns. However, there is an unexpectedly slippery question that Karp fails to get a firm hold on: Who ultimately wields the guns?

It will not do to answer, as Karp does, that the people who wield the guns are the people who, ostensibly, have the guns — that is, politicians. If we are being that literal, let us be wholly literal. And let us recognize that politicians have no more guns than Wall Street tycoons. The guns are in the physical possession of individual soldiers and police agents. Yet we know that the flow of power is reversed at that level: heavily armed soldiers and policemen obey soft people in suits — politicians and bureaucrats — who have no guns. [18]

Why do they obey? Because of factors both psychic (a belief in legitimacy, misguided idealism, a desire to strut about in fancy uniforms, the pleasure of pushing people around) and economic (a desire for income). I see no logical problem with assuming that politicians and bureaucrats obey their (unofficial) superiors outside the official regime for reasons of their own.

Rulership relies on obedience. To understand rulership one must at least recognize (if not solve) the mystery of obedience. Once we understand that physical power can reside in the regime and simultaneously be wielded at the ultimate behest of extra-regime figures, then the problems with Karp's analysis that I have examined in the sections above disappear.

To the next part: "Power to which people?"

Posted June 8, 2002

Posted in 2002 by WTM Enterprises.

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