Letting Go of the Desire to Rule


Thinking about the anti-Trump riots I recalled something a wise man (me) once said:

The driver of hypocrisy and self-delusion is the lust for power, and political power is not about doing good – that too is a lie – but the power to punish and destroy, and hopefully get rich along the way.

Lust for power is the unspoken (and sometimes spoken) belief that our side has the right to humiliate the other side and exact rents from them by virtue of our education, class, moral superiority, race, or (nowadays) our historical and quite possibly fictitious victimhood.

I thought I had let go of the desire to rule but today I found myself thinking that it would be great to get a few more Constitutionalist judges on the Supreme Court, and now that there is a Republican Majority…

Stop, David. Just stop. Your side didn’t win, remember? You didn’t vote.

What does the new government achieve for me? Pretty much nothing. If I am lucky there are enough wise men in both parties that might engage in some prudent economic deregulation and work to stabilize the frayed global order, giving me a fractionally larger percentage of opportunities to make money. The forces of social decline however continue apace. Not even an ideal political party, and certainly not the ones we have, can throw the centrifugal forces of modernity into reverse. This whole last election cycle is a sign of the decline. I (you, we) either build my life and community in my concrete circumstances or I just give into the universal process of becoming more isolated, more materialistic, more incapable of happiness.

Conservatism used to mean mistrusting the capacity of human reason to create order. It meant preferring stability to revolution, custom to theory, organic to systemic. That is why conservatism prefers limited government, leaving well enough alone, and choosing the devil we know.

A healthy conservatism implies embracing a degree of powerlessness because powerlessness is our true condition. Power is an illusion: that, if anything, is the lesson behind the meltdown of both political parties. The combined brainpower of all the Professional Geniuses of the Republican and Democratic parties could not avert the chaos.

For As Scripture Says:

The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples.

(I pulled a Protestant/Atheist apologetics trick there, Googling Bible verses by key words to make me look smart!)

The only way to put politics into perspective is to reject it.



  1. It was all going so well, David Patrick- so why the verse? 😛

    1. Whoops. Good guess on the middle name but not quite.

      1. There aren’t that many choices- so the P will be Peter. Unless you’re half African in which case you could be David P-click-click.

      2. Correct. P-Click-Click. Not a big deal, my first name was on the About page until a year ago or so, it was really the middle one I’m ashamed of.
        Though to answer the other question, the growing conviction I have about the illusory nature of power is based on my reading of the New Testament, specifically the passion narratives, so a Bible verse was not out of place there.

      3. I knew it! Is it true dolphins understand this click click language ?

      4. Different dialect but yeah, we can understand each other. The problem is they are such a bore “Can I have some more fish? More fish? More fish?” I always just shrug and say I don’t understand.

  2. Lucretius · · Reply

    What are your views regarding participation in local government?

    Christi pax.

    1. I’ve nothing against participation in any government, though local government should be more important if you take the doctrine of subsidiarity seriously. It is a matter of motive, and our motives are usually not very clear to ourselves. Mass democracy is probably more apt to create the sort of lust for power I’m describing, but small down democracy can be brutal, horrible even, since you are neighbors with the people you are bullying.

      1. Okay, I see. Thank you for your response.

        Christi pax.

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