Thoughts on the myth of the power of the U.S. President – government stagnation, the “tyranny of blame”, and other things

In a recent conversation I made an interesting statement:

“I get a kick out of the power people think the President has.  They think the President can make all these changes, as if he can wave a wand and all the problems will be solved.  In actuality, the President doesn’t have that type of power.  This is because this government does not allow for one single person to be ‘in charge’.”

We must remember that the government of the U.S. is “designed”, so to speak, so that one person cannot be in control.  As a result, the President can’t have that much power.  Therefore, to think that the President can make wide-sweeping changes is unrealistic and impractical.  Not allowing one person to have control is, of course, to prevent the so-called “tyrant” from appearing.  The theory is that, by having assemblies and ‘voting’, we can prevent any single person from taking control.  This, really, is the whole idea of democracy.  The problem is that, in the real world, things don’t happen like this.  In actuality, it creates a system that has a tendency to stagnate.  That is to say, a situation is created where “a lot is said but nothing is done”.  This is primarily because this government theory creates situations such as:

  • It becomes an endless arguing  of people.  Of course, the theory is that this arguing will help make a decision but it often does not.  In fact, it often promotes stagnation and indecision (also see my article “Thoughts on King Charles I and his refusal to deal with Parliament – the problem with decision making assemblies“).
  • Its hard for decisions to be made.  The arguing tends to often make it difficult to make a final decision.
  • There’s no one in power to make the final decision.  Since no one is in power (and can’t be) there is often no one to make the final decision.  In fact, I tend to believe that many decisions never happen because of the absence of someone to make the final decision.
  • There is a tendency for factions to control and dictate things.  The absence of anyone in power creates something like a power vacuum which tends to promote, in an assembly, the creation of ‘factions’ (such as liberals, special interest groups, etc.).  These end up taking the place of a person in charge and, in some case, end up controlling the assembly.  In this way, these ‘factions’ can turn into a new form of tyranny.  Often, though, their decision only affects their specific group.  In other words, ‘factions’ seldom really benefit, or are directed, to the people as a whole.  In this way, they can be counter-productive as a whole helping to promote stagnation.

These conditions predispose a government to stagnation, despite what their “formal political theory” says its supposed to do.

Typically, a “formal political theory” is very idealistic and sounds great.  But very seldom do real world situation resemble it.  This is because they are generally created in the context of abstract thought, not in what actually happens in the real world.  Because of this, “formal political theory” tends to be a matter of “trying to fit things into a pre-established model”.  As a result, there is often a lot of effort trying to “force” things into this model.  In addition, when it doesn’t fit into the model its often ignored or noticed as the tendency is to see it only from the “formal political theory” point of view.   This makes it so that they often do not see the failings of their system.

Its because of things like this that the U.S. government is becoming a stagnating system:  its own government theory is of a nature that promotes and predisposes it to a stagnating situation.  I can see a number of effects of this stagnation:

  • The waste caused by the stagnation of the U.S. government is probably into the billions of dollars a year.  I sometimes think that if the prevalence of money in the U.S. contributes to this.  If the U.S. had to watch every cent then it would probably force this government to be more effective.
  • Many abuses continue to exist unchecked.  Being stagnate and remaining in indecision, nothing is done about things.
  • There’s an absence of improving things and systems.
  • Nothing is done about matters that need immediate attention.
  • The only thing that seems to “get done” is a result of the ‘factions’ (such as special interest groups).
  • The government seems to neglect its own people.  For example, they spend billions on other countries but very little to improve their own people.  This, often, is a result of ‘factions’, again showing their power in this government.
  • The overall welfare of the country is neglected.  This is because the political system, which is supposed to do this, is stagnating.

To me, the U.S. seems very ineffective as an active working government . . . but it seems to be saved by its money which gives the illusion that everything is OK.  In this way, there is, it seems to me, very little “drive” to make an effective government in the U.S.  Not only that, even if it wanted to, the fact that a person can’t be ‘in charge’ would prevent any organization to make that happen.  So we see that not only does the ‘no one in charge’ government theory lead to stagnation but it also leads to an inability to solve its own problems. 

Of course, this tendency to stagnation, and the inability to solve its own problems, was not intended.  People didn’t plan for this to happen.  It just is the ultimate result of taking this point of view.  As I said above, this point of view predisposes a country to these things as an ‘inherent evil’ in the theory.

In addition to these problems, there seems to be an illusion when ‘no one is in charge’.  Basically, there is no one to blame.  This makes it so that there is no one to get mad with.  I’ve often stated that part of the idea of the tyrant, and why its so appealing to people, is not necessarily because they are tyrants but, rather, it gives people someone to blame.  As a result, there’s a target to direct ones bad feelings toward.  In many cases, this can create a worse condition than the actual tyranny (look at many political events in English history).  This is because it brings up horrible and terrible feelings.  One could say that, in these cases, its the horrible and terrible feelings that are the “real tyranny”. 

So we see that the blaming of the person ‘in charge’ entails this process:

  1. A conflict.
  2. The bad feelings the conflict causes.
  3. A target.
  4. The blaming of the target.

When the target is missing, there’s nothing for the bad feelings to be manifested toward.  As a result, the bad feelings tend to not be that intense.  In other words, a target makes the bad feelings more intense.  To go even further, a human face makes it even more more intense.  The absence of a target to blame tends to make it seem “mild”.  I’ve often felt that this is part of the illusion of how assemblies, or democracies, seem to be ‘calm’ even though there are abuses and injustice going on . . . being an assembly, there’s no one to blame.  We could speak of this phenomena as the ‘tyranny of blame’.  In other words, the fact that there is someone to blame, and direct ones bad feelings toward, intensifies the bad feelings and creates the “tyranny”.  

Naturally, because the President is ‘in charge’ he often becomes a target for any bad feelings associated with government regardless of whether he is responsible or not . . . it doesn’t matter.  More than once have I said that the President is nothing but “someone to blame”.  Of course, this blame contributes to the illusion of the Presidents power:  because we can blame him he becomes the blame.  This is just another example of the close relationship between these things:

  • Bad feelings.
  • The person ‘in charge’.
  • Blame.

These create a very intense and delicate association.  It is nothing to look at lightly . . . many people have died as a result of this.  In many cultures, it hits very deep.  In some cases, it hits to the core of a person.  In general, it seems that the more stronger the sense of a culture, or a people, the more deeper the association is.  This is because the person ‘in charge’ represents that culture or people.  As a result, a conflict in this association creates deep inner conflict.  This creates the formation of particular feelings and attitudes toward the person ‘in charge’.  Generally, it is nothing but the villainizing of the person ‘in charge’ (who is often called a “tyrant”).  In other words, its more a reflection of intense and deep feelings more than any actual abuse that actually happens.

What all this suggests is that there may be more what is often called “tyranny” than is supposed.  Normally, its viewed as “the populace is oppressed by the tyrant”.  This other aspect seems to be saying that “the tyrant is created by the people because of deep inner feelings”.  In other words, the “tyrant” has two forms:

  1. A person who actually oppresses the populace.
  2. A person who is blamed by the populace (the “tyranny of blame”)

No doubt, there is an association between these two to the point that they may even blend together.  My observation is that both do, in fact, exist in a society.  The later, I think, is far more prevalent than it may, at first, seem.  In fact, I tend to feel that, in the U.S. and Britain, the “tyranny of blame” runs rampant and has become a major element in politics.  It seems to cast its shadow or it all.

The depth of these feelings, and why they can get so horrible and terrible, reveal many aspects to attitudes surrounding the person ‘in charge’:

  • The image of a “protecting parent”.
  • The bond of a people (much like a family).
  • The maintenance of what’s “right”.
  • The welfare of all of us.
  • A sense of security.

In other words, the person ‘in charge’ has, attached to him, many feelings unrelated to politics and the situation of life.  In fact, they may have more feelings attached to them than any other person in society, even ones parents or family.  Its not uncommon that the person ‘in charge’ can take on a quality of being Holy or Sacred, almost God-like.  That fact is nothing to look at lightly . . . it shows the depths of these feelings.  The image of the King is one such person who had such deep feelings, even down to today (see my article “Thoughts on the stages of kingship“).  What this means is that politics is actually more closely associated with these basic deep human feelings than politics and situation.  In this way, there is a blurring between politics and these deep human feelings to the point that you can’t tell the difference. 

Overall, then, we see a tendency to overvalue and overemphasis the importance, power, and influence of the person ‘in charge’ (such as the President) and are quick to blame them for problems.  This is because of the deep human feelings that are associated with them and which they, in a sense, represent.  In actuality, this is what concerns us, not politics. 

This is one of the reasons why I would never want to be in politics as I very well know that I will be associated with these deep human feelings and possibly become a victim of them (as I’m sure I would not do a good job in politics).  I’ve often felt that anyone going into politics should be aware of this fact and reflect on it.


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Britain and British things, Government and politics, Historical stuff, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis, The U.S. and American society and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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