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Why Knowledge Is Power

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“Illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts, which history exhibiteth, that, possessed thereby of the experience of other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes.”Thomas Jefferson, 1779

People always have been and they always will be stupid victims of deceit and self-deception in politics.

Vladamir Lenin

Anytime I give a talk on the Constitution, I always reiterate the phrase, “Knowledge is power“. I’ve never really known where the phrase comes from, but its veracity is hard to contradict.

There are multiple “origin” stories for the phrase. Some say Sir Francis Bacon was the first to say it–or some derivation of it–while others say it was Shakespeare in Henry VI, and others contend that Thomas Jefferson made it relevant by using it many times throughout his career. Regardless from whose mind the “phrase” originated, the principle has always been true.

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The individual who knows and understands how to plant and grow a garden in a community where such knowledge is scarce has power in this society. The individual who understands the intricacies of how the human body works in a community where such knowledge is scare has power in this society. Knowledge is itself a precious and rare commodity. In fact, the less an individual knows about a certain subject, the more willing they are to rely on the knowledge of others, inherently putting themselves in a position of powerlessness.

Let’s look at the bigger picture. Research shows that the more knowledgeable someone is about anything the less influence the media, or anyone for that matter, has on that individual’s opinions. In terms of political candidates, the more people know about a candidate the less the media is able to manipulate their opinions and preferences about the candidates.

“Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of the day.”
Thomas Jefferson, Letter to P. S. du Pont de Nemours, April 24, 1816

An example I give to my students goes something like the following: if you were a doctor and very knowledgeable about COVID, the vaccine, masking and sickness in general, would you be heavily influenced by the media and politicians about the pandemic?

They all immediately laugh and say NO.

And why not? Because knowledge truly IS power. If you’re knowledgeable in a certain field, you have power over others who lack knowledge in that field; therefore, you cannot be manipulated.

What am I getting here though? Should we all have doctorates in every field there is?

No. Of course not. It’s impractical, improbable and undesirable for everyone to know everything. Society works because individuals are born with different passions, talents and ways to contribute to society. We have to acknowledge that we truly are powerless in most areas. Every time we walk into a building, we’re trusting the knowledge of the engineers, builders and everyone else involved in making that building stand and not collapse on us. The same goes for every surgery, accounting issue, banking issue, legal issue, psychological issue and so on and so forth.

So, I’m sure you know what I’m getting at.

Someone today asked me, what can we do about all that is wrong about our government today? What can we do about all the unconstitutional behavior and abuse?

strict female teacher with book pointing at scribbled blackboard
“It is favourable to liberty. Freedom can exist only in the society of knowledge. Without learning, men are incapable of knowing their rights, and where learning is confined to a few people, liberty can be neither equal nor universal.”
Benjamin Rush, Essay, 1786

I sound like a broken record, but I truly believe the answer is simple: knowledge.

No, not knowledge in general, but relevant, foundational, basic, knowledge of American government and theory.

Truly, in this country, there is one realm of knowledge in which everyone should invest themselves because everyone has a stake in this realm of knowledge and everyone has a say in this realm.

Think about it. How many of us form opinions, argue, fight and debate with each other–as if we’re experts–about cancer research or the best counseling methods for people displaying bipolar disorder symptoms?

black and white books education facts

My guess is, few to none–unless we really are experts. And why don’t we? Because we know that we lack the knowledge necessary to form proper opinions about these subjects, not to mention, we have no influence or control over the way doctors and researchers handle cancer research or psychological counseling. We lack both knowledge and influence and we have no stake in the issues.

Now think about how we form opinions, argue, fight and debate with each other about government every single day as if we truly are experts. We all know the best solutions and think anyone who disagrees with us is a fool. And we all have a stake in the matter because we’re all affected by how government behaves. Furthermore, in America, we’re not only affected by how government behaves but we also have the opportunity and responsibility of influencing how that government behaves. It’s comical really to sit back and watch everyone argue and fight about this one field of information as if we are experts…when we wouldn’t dare do so in any other field.

“A diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”
James Madison to George Thompson, 1825

Remember, in our society, “we the people” are the literal employers of our government. We’re the boss. We created government to do a job for us and we gave them a job description to define and confine their power in this “job”. The big why questions about government were the most important parts of the debate when creating the government. What’s the government supposed to do and why? That way, it can’t just “do whatever” whenever, simply because it wants to or because the people demanded it.

“It is an object of vast magnitude that systems of education should be adopted and pursued which may not only diffuse a knowledge of the sciences but may implant in the minds of the American youth the principles of virtue and of liberty and inspire them with just and liberal ideas of government and with an inviolable attachment to their own country.”
Noah Webster, On the Education of Youth in America

So, our entire political system was created upon the weighty assumption that the people, the employers of government, would take the responsibility upon themselves to be the experts in government so that they could effectively employ government. No, the people can’t be experts in everything but they can pursue their own ambitions while also adopting the responsibility of protecting liberty by harnessing, protecting, growing, and perpetuating knowledge of that government.

Government, on the other hand, hopes that the people embrace apathy instead of responsibility and ignorance rather than knowledge. Without a standard baseline foundation of knowledge about the U.S. government, why it exists, how it was created, what its job description says and why it says what it says, Americans are just as powerless against government as an individual with cancer and no doctor. Government, on the other hand, gets to manipulate, push, pull and syphon power by the second.

brown and black wooden chairs inside room
“On education all our lives depend. And few to that, too few, with care attend.”
Benjamin Franklin Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1748

Politicians knows that all they have to do is itch the ears of their partisan zealots with emotional talking points that have no substance and no basis in reality–not to mention, no relevance to their actual job description, The Constitution. They stroke the egos of the clueless masses who debate and argue about these government topics as if they truly know what they’re talking about. Politicians get to exert their power because they have knowledge that we don’t. And we’re ok with that. We’d rather pretend like we’re the experts, with our strong opinions, signs, rallies and marches, then actually be the experts. All a politician has to do is tell us what we want to hear and we feel validated, smart, and justified…all the while, we truly have no idea why we believe what we believe or what government is supposed to do or what the Constitution actually says about what we say we believe.

Knowledge truly is power, friends.

“Every child in America should be acquainted with his own country. He should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country.”
Noah Webster, On the Education of Youth in America, 1788

What if, instead of buying the fluff, we actually became the experts in the Constitution, in the theoretical foundations for our government, and in the way our government works, and we refused to let our representatives, federal and local, get away with substance-less fluff? What if we required them to know what the Constitution says and how they plan to protect, defend and follow it? What if we called them out every time they try to get away with platitudes and talking points?

black and gray desk globe

The next time an ad airs saying, “Such and such candidate loves Putin…” or “Such and such candidate refuses to help the elderly…” we should immediately, with knowledge, strip such statements down to their roots. What does “loving Putin” have to do with the specific job of the individual running? If it’s a state or local position, such a smear is pointless. Even federally, where does that fit into the job of a Senator or House member? Further, are we experts on these international events? NO. We must therefore rely on the limited knowledge we do have regarding our representative’s job description, and likely they’d rather us focus on this emotional “talking point” than address whether they themselves know the Constitution. What about the elderly? Is that government’s job? How has this candidate “refused” to help? Perhaps it’s a federal candidate who refused to allow the federal government do something it was not Constitutionally empowered to do, thereby protecting us from arbitrary power.

Friends, knowledge is power. If we’re ever going to be effective employers of government, we must take OUR job seriously. This is one realm in which we cannot simply “trust” the experts. Friends, we’re supposed to be the experts.

This is why I write this blog. This is why I teach.

People always have been and they always will be stupid victims of deceit and self-deception in politics.

Vladamir Lenin

It’s high time we stop proving Lenin right.

The Liberty Belle

3 thoughts on “Why Knowledge Is Power”

  1. What if the issues in a specific type or office of government one is knowledgeable and at every issue raised it is government / judiciary or the, press shutting your knowledge down , via illegally keeping one from meetings that are to be open meetings , cancellation and illegal censures , so it is my opinion going back to one of your past blogs Federalist 51?? “”Let’s debate what is real to debate “” if one is even allowed to debate or speak. Thanks for another good piece of work .

  2. Pingback: Why Knowledge Is Power – The Liberty Belle –

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