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The love of power vs. the power of love

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When real love is the motivator, people deal with each other peacefully. We use force only in self-defense. We respect one another'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. "Live and let live," as Americans used to say with more frequency than they do today.

When we initiate force (that is to say, when self-defense is not an issue), it's usually because we want something without having to ask the owner's permission for it. The 19th-century American social commentator William Graham Sumner lamented the prevalence of the less noble motivators when he wrote, "All history is only one long story to this effect: Men have struggled for power over their fellow men in order that they might win the joys of earth at the expense of others, and might shift the burdens of life from their own shoulders upon those of others."

Adults necessarily exert great power over infants, whose very existence requires nearly constant attention, tempered by a strong and instinctive affection. By adolescence, the adult role is reduced to general supervision as the child makes more of his own choices and decisions. The child eventually becomes an adult empowered to live his life as he chooses and bear all the attendant risks and responsibilities.

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