Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Simple (but resilient) Definition of Power

I'm 100% sure this has been thought of elsewhere, and I'm not claiming anything profound - I'm just pinning this up here to clarify my own thoughts.

Power over someone is simply the ability to restrict their choices.


sagenz said...

never seen that before. definitely sound to an occams razor sharpness.

tell me again why you are a statist rather than a libertarian?

Terence said...

Thanks Sage.

I'm a statist because:

1. There are lots of other means - above and beyond the state - for people to exercise power over other people. In some instances the state is required as a countervailing force (and arbitor (sp?)).

2. Because there are many things that the collective can do to increase the choices available to the individual. (I'm borrowing from Sen here) Including education, health care etc.

sagenz said...

surely adequate constraints on power make you a classic liberal.

I have no problem with the state as the only regulator. It is when they decide to constrain choices for no reason other than their own ideology that there is an issue

Would you support education vouchers as a simple example.

Terence said...

hi sage,

just as aside - the political philosophy i currently adhere to is utilitarianism (and, in particular, some sort of quasi-negative, rule of thumb based, utilitarianism). it's a troubled belief and the subject for another post, but I wanted to raise it here simply to make the point that a discussion of choice won't get us all the way to my voting preferences.

above and beyond this though, even when I start thinking like a liberal, rather than a utilitarian, what appears to differentiate me from most classical-liberals (or people who call themselves such in New Zealand, in the present day) is (a) a belief that Mill's Maxim actually could justify a heck of a lot of intervention; (b) that the current distribution of wealth has not been derived through a fair process from previous distributions. I flesh out these points much more in my posts on libertarianism below; and (c) a beleif that positive freedoms matter.

A discussion on school vouchers would require more time than I can salvage from the remains of my lunch break. however, I'll just say one thing not. Choice between different schools, as would be facilitated by vouchers, is probably, taken on its own a good thing. However, [critical point] an effective school system is essential to maximising the choices we get to enjoy later in life. This far outweighs the intrinsic value in allowing parents to choose their kids' schools [/critic point]. Of course it's possible that the type of choice facilitated by school vouchers might actually improve the quality of education that our children receive (and therefore the choices they get thoughout their lives). But for a variety of reasons, I think this is unlikely.

I suspect that it is this last point only where we disagree?????

thanks for taking the time to engage on this. I'll try and reply to your 'herceptin dilemma' too over the next few weeks.

Terence said...

doh! not:

"I'll just say one thing not"

but rather

"I'll just say one thing now"