Moral Suasion

From The Paris Review:

I am not sure I will ever agree with the viability of the political trajectory traced in Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future; I don’t think we are going to survive by successfully convincing an administrative class—through science or terror or moral suasion—to administer the world better until climate collapse is averted. But so what? You don’t read books because they say what you already believe. You read books because they take the problem seriously, take the world seriously, don’t counterfeit the dimensions of the predicament. Or, those are at least some reasons to read books, and The Ministry for the Future is one of very few that satisfy those imperatives for me. Interestingly, his books, including this one, are often classified as “Hard SF,” meaning they are based in careful and arguably wonky extensions of hard science. Yes and no. Certainly they take science very seriously, and Robinson is wildly erudite and engaged in such matters. But Robinson’s books have over the last decade increasingly understood that the underlying problem is not science, and therefore has no scientific solution; it lies in political economy, and a sustained change that might preserve the possibility of human flourishing has to happen there. I think that should complicate the categories a little. In any regard, the book is real thinking and real invention, operating at the scale of the whole, which is really the place to be these days.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

PG notes that, over the span of history, it has always been a bad idea to give control over a large group of people to a small privileged class.

Moral suasion works only on those who invariably honor the morals being used to persuade under all circumstances.

Human nature tends to lead to individuals in the privileged class finding ways to garner more and more power for themselves.

The first dictator may begin as an effective and highly-admirable individual, perhaps even for the rest of her/his life. But the first dictator may also change once he/she’s in power and is surrounded by some conscientious helpers and, invariably, some sycophants. Like bears to honey, sycophants are attracted to power.

Even if the dictator starts out by winning a democratically-run election, you see the one election, one leader, one time unless there are substantial legal, social and cultural restraints on that leader’s power and time in office.

Even if the first dictator runs the country very nicely, there is always going to be a second dictator who will be unlike the first in some ways.

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.

John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton