Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Limits Of Power

by Thomas Sowell - April 20th, 2010 - National Review Online

When, many years ago, I first began to study the history of slavery around the world, one of the oddities that puzzled me was the practice of paying certain slaves, which existed in ancient Rome and in America’s antebellum South, among other places.

In both places, slave owners or their overseers whipped slaves to force them to work, and in neither place was whipping a slave literally to death likely to bring any serious consequences.

There could hardly be a greater power of one human being over another than the arbitrary power of life and death. Why then was it necessary to pay certain slaves? At the very least, it suggested that there were limits to what could be accomplished by power.

Very interesting question, what are the limits to power?

I was very intrigued back in the 80s when the totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union lost control of their ability to intimidate the people under their control. The ethnic enclaves had always hated the Russians and when the time came they were able to throw off their persecutors. What was more surprising was that in the process the Russians threw over communism as well.

It took a lot of generations (and a lot of people paid with their freedom and their lives) to make this happen, but it does suggest that even if America becomes a tyranny it cannot be said to be "forever".