There are people who want to control your lives.
This is no surprise. You interact with them to some degree every day, and they already do control your lives to a frightening degree. You’ve probably been warned many times about how dangerous it can be to let these people and organisations have any power over you.
You might wonder whether it’s really so bad. After all, the power these people possess wasn’t simply stolen. It’s not the result of some military coup. It’s been earned legally, and granted to them in effect by a sizeable chunk of the population. They wouldn’t be in the position of authority and national prominence they are if people hadn’t rationally elected to put them there – if society as a whole hadn’t chosen to allow them to control the things they do.
It’s a tempting argument. But I don’t think you should be convinced.
If everyone acted completely rationally and knew exactly what they were supporting, every time they took any action which affected the world, then maybe it’d be okay – but, speaking for myself, I’m not that smart and I’m not paying that much attention. And when power accumulates, then it becomes the main interest of the powerful to protect that power. If that means obstructing our already feeble ability to get an accurate understanding of how they operate, so that we’re less able to make rational decisions which might not favour them, then they’ll have a strong motivation to do that.
And they’re going to be motivated that way, even if they enter this arena with the best of intentions, and believe they can do much good for everyone once they have the authority and disproportionate influence. Even if they’re attempting to act unselfishly, they’ll end up protecting their privileged position and justifying it with claims that it’s best for everyone. That’s just how power works.
In theory, the general population should be able to keep this power in check. It’s our decisions to support these people which are the source of their power, and if we all withdrew that support because we disapproved of the power they wielded, they’d crumble. So, in principle, those who remain powerful do so because they’re earning it, because they’ve risen to the top of a meritocracy, because they’re the best people for the job and our continued actions prove that.
But if it’s easier to have laws changed in their favour… to divert people’s anger and hostility toward others… to exercise some of their considerable power spreading propaganda, persuading us that allowing them to continue exerting their power is a moral necessity, and that curtailing it in favour of a more egalitarian system would be an unacceptable breach of everyone’s freedoms…
If doing all that is easier than actually being the best people for the job, and if actually providing a truly optimal service which benefits us all is more trouble for them than simply convincing us that’s what they’re doing…
… then maybe that’s what they’ll do.
Okay, enough melodrama. Quick question: Am I talking about governments or corporations?