Power to the People

Monday, January 6th, 2014

I recently cited a long-lost interview with Frank Herbert — but I only cited the third part, not the second:

One of the things I noticed as a reporter — I was a journalist longer than I’ve been on this side of the table — is that in all the marching in the streets in the ’60s, the people who were shouting “Power to the People” didn’t mean power to the people.  They meant “power to me and I’ll tell the people what to do.”  When you questioned them it was confirmed at every turn.

Power to the people will really happen when the people wake up to the fact that you can’t separate economics from politics, when they wake up to their own motivations, what they want, what can be sold to them.  Because the real pitfall of democracy is that it is demagogue-prone.  We like to have people stand up and tell us what we want to hear.  I have conditioned myself so that the minute I hear a politician standing up there saying nice things that sound good to lot of people my alarm signals go off and I say, “Why, you damned son of a bitch, you’re just another damned demagogue.

I don’t think there’s a fucking bit of difference between a bureaucracy that is instituted by a democratic regime, a state; socialist regime, a communist regime or a capitalist regime.  Take a look at us right now.  We have created a bureaucracy in this country which is completely out of the hands of the people.  Your votes do not touch it.  One day when I was working in Washington, D.C. as a speech-writer for a U.S. senator from Oregon, I was at a meeting of the Department of Commerce and a very, very high department official, a lifetime bureaucrat, was talking about another senator, who was giving them some trouble.  And this high bureaucrat called this senator a “transient.” And sure enough, that senator was defeated in the next election.  So he was a transient.  But the bureaucrat was, still there, and he retired on a separate retirement system for the federal bureaucracy.

Spandrell notes that the bureaucracy seems to rule everywhere.

By the way, part one of that Herbert interview is, amusingly, about how good the then-new Dune movie is.


  1. Lucklucky says:

    That is no news for us that know Sir Humphrey Appleby…

  2. Fake Herzog says:

    While the movie is crap, Herbert is right that Lynch had visual flair and considered stylistically there are many elements of that film that hold up even today (I just re-watched it and narratively the film is a total mess — the acting is also very uneven — what the heck is Sting doing in that movie!!!)

  3. Bob Sykes says:

    One of the main goals of the late Nineteenth Century Progressives was to get politics out of legislation by transferring the legislative power to the bureaucracy. So, since Teddy Roosevelt, Congress has been writing very vague laws that give the bureaucrats expansive authority to write the regulations that actually flesh out the laws. The unfireable and unelected bureaucrats have gladly run with the ball.

    One advantage to the elected officials is deniability: They never voted for the regulations.

  4. Doug says:

    And so now do you believe it’s time to “water the tree of liberty”?

Leave a Reply