Sunday, September 28, 2008

Power and Money

A man has only as much power as other men are willing to give to him. Seems obvious, right? But how many people actually think of that and put it into practice?

Here's an interesting thought experiment. The richest man in the world goes to a small town on a road trip. We'll call him Bill. Before he arrives, the whole town is abuzz about his arrival and they learn that Bill has been pushing legislation that is contrary to the interests of the town.

When Bill arrives, he checks into a hotel. He talks to the clerk and asks about a room. The clerk looks and says, "Sure we have a room for you." Bill gives the clerk his name and hands him a credit card. Suddenly, the clerk announces that there is no longer a room available, and returns the card.

Bill is surprised and suspicious. So he leaves to try another hotel. When he gets there, he encounters the same result. A room is available until he introduces himself. He repeats this until he begins to become hungry.

He heads to a local restaurant to eat. But the restaurant knows who he is. He gets a seat, sure enough and the waitress comes to him to take his order. When he finishes giving his order, the waitress asks for his credit card. Bill is surprised by this, but he complies. She comes back to say they're out of food and that he will have to eat somewhere else.

Bill repeats this a second, and a third time. He sees that he needs gas. He worries that something isn't right so instead of trying to use the ATM directly, he goes to the little snack shop to pay there. He is instantly recognized by the proprietor as word has gotten around. While other people are filling up their tanks, the proprietor announces that "We're out of gas, sorry."

Bill confronts the proprietor with this crazy-making reality. "Excuse me, but people are still pumping! I'll give you cash!"

"No you won't!" says the proprietor. Bill is flabbergasted as the proprietor points to a sign above the door. It says, "We reserver the right to refuse service to anyone".

Bill is stuck. No food, no room, no gas. Bill gets really worried when he discovers, after a few phone calls, that this isn't the only town. It's worldwide.

This is the worst possible result of the social contract. When we refuse to acknowledge a man's power by refusing his money.

When we look to our leaders and wonder why they do what they do to the rest of us, we must also look to ourselves and wonder "Did we ask for this? Did we somehow give them permission to do this?" The most probable answer is, "yes."

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