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What Is Power and Why Should You Care?

By: Tom Chatham

The ability to lead a group or population is either based on respect or fear. The ability to make someone do what you want is the power to coerce them. If a husband wants to buy a SUV and a wife wants a 4 door sedan the husband may coerce his wife by telling her the benefits of the SUV over the sedan. If he is successful, they will end up buying the SUV. If a parent wants their child to rake up all of the leaves in the yard they may offer a monetary reward for doing the job. These are ways to coerce people by subtle means that they may go along with.

When the subtle acts of coercion do not work then the person may resort to more forceful actions. The husband may tell the wife that he is the one paying for the vehicle so he will decide which one to get. This may bring repercussions but if the husbands’ power is greater than the wife’s, he will win the discussion. If the teen refuses to rake the leaves they may be threatened with the loss of the family car for the weekend.

As the need for coercion escalates, the potential for more forceful action will increase with it. When a person wants to coerce a larger group of people, they may resort to using fear as a form of coercion to get their way. When one person can coerce ten people to follow them, and those ten can coerce a hundred by fear to do as they are told, and those hundred can coerce a thousand more, it makes it possible for one to rule many.

If you are one of a group of a million that is coerced to do as you are told by a smaller group, then the person at the top has power over you. This person cannot coerce the larger group all by themselves. They require others to project this power down to you. This is how a government works.

The government at all levels coerces you to get you to do the things they want you to do. The power to coerce is the power to control. They use fear to control the larger group. Fear of getting a speeding ticket, fear of not paying your taxes, fear of not complying at the airport. The government can use fear to force you to act contrary to what you may perceive as being right and just.

This can only happen if those at the lower levels are willing to enforce the will of the government. If the police in a county are reluctant to enforce the laws as directed by the government, the government loses some of its power. If these same police are not only reluctant but directly reject and forbid the enforcement by the government it becomes a much larger problem for the government.

When one group that is coerced frees itself from fear, it can spread to other groups. This can erode the power of a corrupt government and they will eventually lose their control over the people. This is the one thing a corrupt government truly fears. When a population no longer can be controlled by fear the only thing left is actual brute force. This requires the government to have the ability to project overwhelming force.

As the U.S. Military is apt to say, you cannot control the battlespace without boots on the ground. This means the government cannot control individuals unless they have sufficient manpower to control every square foot of territory under their control. This is the Achilles heel of any government. The lack of manpower by the government can make their laws and regulations unenforceable. What does this mean for individuals?

An individual is only free when they have no fear of unjust government force. The more individuals that reject oppressive government force, the less power that a government will have. The less that government is able to project and enforce its will in an area, the more freedom that will be present. It is to the benefit of all free people to ensure that government has a minimal amount of enforcement capability and coercive power in the local community.

Keep in mind that coercion can go both ways. Those most easily coerced are the ones closest to you meaning the enforcers of government at the local level. The people in the capital may not care what you say or do because they are out of your reach to some degree but those at the local level live among you and have to face you every day and you know where they live. You have the opportunity to coerce the local enforcers to your way of thinking.

When all is said and done, it comes down to who these government enforcers are more afraid of, you or the government. Even if these government enforcers will not join you, if they will not enforce the governments will, you have still won. At some point in the future, it will come down to the local populations all across the nation to roll back the governments power. When the population no longer fears the government and the government no longer has the ability to enforce its will nationwide, liberty will prevail.

Those in oppressed nations may see the government forces as too big and powerful to face but you do not have to face them all at one time. It is much easier to defeat small groups one at a time than the whole army at once. This has been proven over and again many times in history. When a problem is huge, break it down into pieces you can handle and keep working on it.

Ultimately, oppression and control is about fear and brute force. This is power. When a person no longer fears either of these things, great changes can occur. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Far better it is to dare mighty things than to take rank with those poor timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat”. One persons’ power is another persons’ fear. True leadership is a matter of collective will through respect for the leader and his abilities. Always remember, coercion goes both ways, so choose your battles wisely.