Thursday, July 21, 2011

Power Struggle

Al Gore recently wrote a piece in the Rolling Stones about politics and climate change. He urges:

Finally, and above all, don't give up on the political system. Even though it is rigged by special interests, it is not so far gone that candidates and elected officials don't have to pay attention to persistent, engaged and committed individuals. President Franklin Roosevelt once told civil rights leaders who were pressing him for change that he agreed with them about the need for greater equality for black Americans. Then, as the story goes, he added with a wry smile, "Now go out and make me do it."

This is not naive; trust me on this. It may take more individual voters to beat the Polluters and Ideologues now than it once did — when special-interest money was less dominant. But when enough people speak this way to candidates, and convince them that they are dead serious about it, change will happen — both in Congress and in the White House. As the great abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass once observed, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will."

I really like the quote by Frederick Douglass. It really also applied to money. The kinds of people who typically end up with a lot of money or power are ruthless. That's how they got where they are. It is self-selection. I often feel that the majority of Americans are too trusting of these people, believing them to be fair-minded and deserving of their power or wealth. To me, it's not about "deserving" it or not. Ruthless people don't think about what is fair. They think about what is the most they can get. In my view, when it comes to money or power, the only difference between earning it and taking it is that when you "earn" it, people give it to you voluntarily. If the average American employee wants a bigger cut of the profits or for wealthy Americans to pay a bigger share of the taxes, they just need to demand it. We don't need to shy away from demands for fear of economic repercussions. Do Americans really think that those at the top worry about the national economy when they decide on their bonuses?

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