6.1.3 The Extent of Political Control

The extent of political control of governance varies in each dimension of power, but it affects all kinds of power to some extent

The importance of politicians can be judged by how much control they have in other dimensions of power:

●  Politicians control many aspects of the economy, including regulation and macroeconomic management, affecting how markets operate (3.1.2).  Some of their decisions may be taken purely for political effect.  They must defer to the needs of businesses, though, as that is the source of wealth in the economy.  And they are inevitably subject to economic pressures from the rest of the world.

●  The government is also an actor in the economy, spending public money (3.2.3) on services and benefits for the population.  And its employees are earning money in the same way as workers in the private sector.  It must raise taxes to pay for its spending, though, and an excessive tax burden is a drag on the economy (

●  Politicians represent people in negotiations on human rights (, giving them a major role in how moral influence is exerted.  In theory they could also try to use their status as figures of authority to exert moral influence (4.3.1), though this is unlikely to work in practice as they are often not trusted.

●  The extent of political control over the law varies widely.  In most countries, the legislature is composed of national politicians (e.g. the British Parliament or the American Congress) who have some degree of independence from the government or executive under a separation of powers (5.2.8).  Religious leaders can have significant influence over the lawmakers, though, and in a theocracy they have complete control.

●  If governments use military force against other countries without the express agreement of the UN Security Council, they are exercising Ungoverned Power on behalf of the people, as described in the next chapter (7).

People have some influence on the way they are governed in those aspects of power which are under political control.   That influence is exerted through the mechanisms by which politicians are appointed and influenced – which is the subject of the rest of this chapter.


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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/613a.htm.