This 2-part article focuses on government, but also applies to those who want to be effective leaders.
The Love of Power vs. the Power of Love
By Lawrence W. Reed
Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly cited
“We look forward to the time when the power of love will replace the love of power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.”
So declared British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone more than a century ago. His audience responded then the same way audiences would today — with nodding approval. But today’s world seethes with hypocrisy. Though we say we prefer love over power, the way we behave in the political corner of our lives testifies all too often to the contrary. Gladstone knew that love and power are two very different things, often at odds with each other. Love is about affection and respect; power is about control.
When real love is the motivator, people deal with each other peacefully. We use force only in self-defense. We respect each other’s rights and differences. Tolerance and cooperation govern our interactions.
Suppose we want to influence or change the behavior of another adult, or want to give him something we think he should have. This person has done us no harm and is in full command of his faculties. Love requires that we reason with him, entice him with an attractive offer or otherwise engage him on a totally voluntary basis. He is free to accept or reject our overtures. If we don’t get our way, we don’t hire somebody to use force against him. We “live and let live.”
A mature, responsible adult neither seeks undue power over other adults nor wishes to see others subjected to anyone’s controlling schemes and fantasies. This is the rationale for limiting the force of government in our lives. In a free society, the power of love governs our behavior instead of the love of power.