Monday, August 16, 2010

Quote of the Day

"The main weakness of brute force or violence . . . is its sheer inflexibility. It can only be used to punish. It is, in short, low-quality power.
"Wealth, by contrast, is a far better tool of power . . . Wealth can be used in either a positive or negative way. It is, therefore, much more flexible than force. Wealth yields medium-quality power.
"The highest-quality power, however, comes from the application of knowledge . . . High-quality power is not simply clout. Not merely the ability to get one's way, to make others do what you want, though they might prefer otherwise. High quality imnplies much more. It implies efficiency -- using up the fewest power resources to achieve a goal .. so as to avoid wasting force or wealth altogether." -- Alvin Toffler

I suspect there's both a certain amount of wishful thinking in Toffler's sentiment and also some power porn. It is hardly surprising for a person like Toffler (or me, and probably you), who deals in knowledge rather than brute force of wealth -- an intellectual, if you will -- to prefer to believe that the power that comes from knowledge is of higher quality than the power from other sources. It would be unlikely to hold up in a battle of brute with tire iron vs. intellectual dispensing or using knowledge. If one questions whether power over others is usually a good thing, or that using power "efficiently" is desirable, the whole discussion becomes rather moot. I have nothing against trying to persuade others of one's convictions or beliefs, but things get dicey when persuasion morphs into power. If the ideal society arises when I have 100% control over my own actions and possessions and 0% over yours, conflating persuasion with power is problematic. One wonders whether Toffler is little more than a court intellectual, dancing attendance on those with real power.

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