Power and Its Possessors: A Look at How We Delegate Authority

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, March 16th, 2016 at 8:52 PM
Power and Its Possessors: A Look at How We Delegate Authority by Emma Giering

I think the next thing we can look at in this series will be on the topic of power and its possessors. Perhaps the first thing we must ask ourselves regarding this topic is this: Can social order be maintained without power? In some regards, many would argue yes, particularly anarchists. Anarchists operate under the premise that without a centralized government, the individual is then privy to absolute freedom, often regarded by anarchists as the political ideal.

While anarchy was originally supposed to simply be a synonym for a lack of leadership, in 1840, a man named Pierre-Joseph Proudhon re-adopted the term in his selfwritten manifesto called “What is Property?” Proudhon’s depiction of anarchy referred to a new political system that advocated “stateless societies based on voluntary associations.” With this new definition, the problem then becomes, what are “voluntary associations” and what do they encompass?

Voluntary associations, as defined in the manifesto, are groups of individuals who enter into an agreement as an organization to accomplish a purpose. A perfect present day example of such a group would be a union. While unions are wonderful, they are often met by opposition from other parties who have a vested interest in making sure that unions are suppressed so as to squelch collective bargaining — a key feature of labor unions.

Imagine for a moment if we didn’t have a government to oversee unions and their opposition. Imagine if social programs like social security and Medicaid were eradicated, along with the government should anarchism catch on as a method to approach politics. The roads we drive on, the schools we send our children to and the national parks we vacation in would have no oversight, no regulation. These entities would be subjected to the will of whoever came into power and there would likely be no regulation to make sure our roads were being built economically, that schools were being held to similar standards, and national parks weren’t being forested for personal profit.

Perhaps the reader will remember our last discussion of human essence. We talked about mankind being estranged in essence, or that humans are less likely to think and act on behalf of the greater collective. Rather, they are likely to serve their own interests or that of those who are close to them, like relatives. If humans were incapable of conflict, if they were naturally inclined to work for the collective good of their neighbors, then systems like anarchy would be an excellent choice. The concept of a centralized government would be needless if mankind understood the long-term benefits of caring for one another as brothers and sisters. However, one need to look no further than the instances of rush hour traffic or even our own political climate to see how cutthroat and brutal existence can be.

The question then, if we determine that some form of government is necessary, is who should rule? Our most common response is “someone who is qualified.” What makes someone qualified though? In terms of politics, our consensus seems rational: someone who has a background in higher education law and legal studies, someone who has worked in public relations, someone who is articulate, confident and decorated. In American politics, this is almost always synonymous with older, white males. In fact, our current Congress is 80 percent white, 80 percent male and 92 percent Christian. If Congress accurately reflected our nation on the basis of race, according to news site The Daily Beast, about 63 percent would be white, not 80 percent. Blacks would hold about 13 percent of the seats and Latinos 17 percent.

Setting race, ethnicity and religion aside, the most glaring underrepresentation in Congress of any group is women. The current Congress has more women than ever before at 19 percent of the House and 20 percent of the Senate. However, when you consider that 51 percent of America is female, it makes the “diversity gains” in Congress seem laughable. This, of course, doesn’t even address the statistic that while 19 percent of the House is female, just one woman will get to chair one of its 20 committees. When we ask ourselves who should rule, we assume that the answer is based solely on qualifications. It’s hard to refute the evidence that our nation’s demographics are not being represented by the men we continue to allow offices, mostly to misinformation and our own apathy. The truth is, to govern, to legislate, to be a public servant, doesn’t require a law degree, and it certainly shouldn’t be an insider scheme. Anyone who is open to the advice of experts, to the resounding voice of the majority and to the concept of transparent debate should have an equal opportunity to lead. Our centralized government as is may not be affording such opportunities, but it is a part of our constitutional framework and should not be discarded due to dishonest representation.

And while the general populace is most likely to induce change through elected representatives who truly do work on their behalf, that does not mean that the elected officials should be granted uncontested power. It is not good for a single person to have centralized power, but a system that has power gradually given on the volition of its citizens generally provides the most in terms of social and cultural endowments. If you cannot trust your own government, what good is it to continue pledging allegiance to your flag or fighting in its military?

Obedience to the government is only necessary so long as it doesn’t legally, physically and emotionally impede on rights secured in our Constitution. Consider the “Obama wants to take your guns,” rhetoric employed by the hysteric right-wing. President Obama has drafted no legislation aimed at keeping guns unavailable to those of the public who are eligible. In the wake of domestic terror attacks such as the shootings of Planned Parenthood and the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, heavily enforced background check legislation was drawn to no avail thanks to the fear-mongering of the NRA. Here we have a perfect example of a centralized government responding with its power to a credible threat our nation faces, and the consequent inaccurate invocation of 2nd amendment rights to stymie an otherwise rational solution to a problem. The most rational of the American public, nearly 80 percent, complied with governmental action. We were obedient, but not sheep, as all the best citizens in democracies are.

Emma Giering is the Voices Editor for The Spectator and she can be reached at voices.spectator@gmail.com.

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