Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, Fox News Contributor and founder of www.livingthetruth.com.
By Keith Ablow, MD
Back in 1789, scientist Antoine Lavoisier developed the law of “conservation of matter.” In short, this law of physics, which has stood the test of time, asserts that substances change form during chemical reactions, they don’t just plain vanish. As a fire burns, for instance, the wood doesn’t disappear into thin air; it changes into the byproducts of combustion, including particulate matter and carbon monoxide. Not an iota of matter is utterly destroyed for all time—ever.
As a psychiatrist who has studied human behavior for the past twenty years, I believe that there is a corresponding law that governs human behavior. I call it the law of “conservation of power.” This law, as I propose it, maintains that power in the world is irreducible, as well. Decisions or developments on the world stage can rearrange it or change its form, but no decision or event can just get rid of it. You can’t make it go away.
Using this law, we can then understand many events in the world as the equivalent of chemical reactions that rearrange or redistribute power, while the absolute quantity of power on earth stays constant. Natural disasters and epidemics can do this when they undermine the economic and military infrastructure of a country and weaken it. The power that country possessed doesn’t vanish into thin air. It is redistributed to that country’s neighbors, allies or enemies. Similarly, when countries suffer market reversals that erode their economic wellbeing, the power they could wield in the world doesn’t disappear; it is absorbed by other nations. War, of course, destroys buildings and roads and lives, but it destroys not a virtual molecule of power. All power is absolutely preserved; it is always simply a question of who possesses it.
The same “conservation of power” is true in families, of course. When a parent passes away, it is often the oldest sibling who absorbs some of the power left behind, becoming a “parental figure” to the younger children. When a husband or wife suffers a stroke and can’t be the economic power center of the family, it might be left to that person’s spouse to assume the mantel. Regardless, someone has to. Otherwise, multiple family members, including the children, may well vie for power, with ensuing chaos.
The law of “conservation of power” is particularly timely now as the President steps away from the idea that Americans should have the power, for example, to decide how to spend their net income after taxes. Health care reform includes the requirement that we purchase health insurance or be fined for not purchasing it. This absolutely takes away some of the economic decision-making (i.e. power) of each citizen. And that individual quantum of power, multiplied by the approximately 307,000,000 U.S. citizens alive today, hasn’t been destroyed. It has been redistributed to the federal government.
The law of “conservation of power” is also worth pondering as the President, apparently wary that we not lord over other nations or cultures, shuns the notion of America being the world’s policeman or, worse, a bully on the planet and begins not only to seek international consensus to direct our decisions, but to unilaterally disarm. This “chemical reaction” in the crucible of history destroys not an iota of power, but merely redistributes it. There are many nations and other entities thirsty to absorb it, including Russia and China and Iran.
Releasing power in an uncertain world has the same effect as the sudden departure of a parent from a family. It risks redistributing that power to an unknown and unreliable stepparent who arrives on the scene. It risks redistributing that power to a hostile and destructive teen with little regard for the other members of the family. But it also risks chaos, as multiple individuals vie for the authority that has been relinquished.
I will be thinking about the law of conservation of power if we step back and allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. I will be thinking about the law of conservation of power as we dilute our powerful alliance with Israel. I will be thinking about the law of conservation of power if our President again apologizes for holding too much sway over world events and the destinies of other nations. And I will absolutely be thinking about the law of conservation of power if a terrorist group comes to possess a weapon of mass destruction and uses it.
We are free to walk away from power. But power never disappears. It only changes form and is redistributed.
KeKeith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, Fox News Contributor and founder of www.livingthetruth.com.