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Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Laws of Power (8)

My son Alton and I are reading Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power and sharing our responses to the readings.

Robert Greene’s 8th law of power is:  Make Other People Come to You—Use Bait if Necessary.  When you force the other person to act, you are the one in control.  It is always better to make your opponent come to you, abandoning his own plans in the process.  Lure him with fabulous gains—then attack.  You hold the cards.

Greene began his discussion using European kings and emperors as examples.  I come from America where very few politicians in my experience have ever been elected to dog catcher much less congressman or President by waiting for the public to come to them.  They always must campaign hard for the people’s vote.  Likely a person who is waiting to be acclaimed into an office by popular demand will be waiting outside of power forever.  In the states we admire go-getters with a frankly enunciated agenda.  We don’t much trust people with hidden agendas and ulterior motives.  The politician must sell themselves—they are the product.  But on a much grander scale in terms of volume is advertising for everyday products and services.  It would be a strange marketing plan indeed to sit back and wait for the public to beat in your door.  It is very difficult to be in control through this strategy in a competitive market economy.  Individuals seldom find employment waiting for jobs to come to them.  Even oligopolies succumb sooner or later to competition even if it is international.  And in courtship and marriage do we sit back and wait for the perfect match to come to us?  No, both partners proactively try to make their dreams come true.

I am a little put off by Greene’s approach that seeks to put one side or the other in control—it’s either me or thee in control, but not both of us.  No doubt the need for control is universal.  All human beings seek to have a sense of control over their lives and environment.  This condition is necessary for happiness. Since this is so, it behooves anyone who wants to achieve success in human relations to develop strategies that allow shared control.  In this regard, life can’t successfully be a zero-sum game.  Once again, Greene with his focus on myopic self-interest misses the essence of human nature.

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