Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Never-Ending Game of Tug of War

Do you like to play tug of war?  It can certainly be an enjoyable game every once in a while.  How about playing tug of war forever?  Just imagine.  You and everyone you know playing a game of tug of war for the rest of your natural lives.  But this isn't just any game of tug of war.  In this version, everyone is shackled to the rope so you have to either pull or be pulled.  Force your opponent to come to your side or you will be forced to go to their side.  Some people love the game and pull very, very hard.  A lot of other people just relax and, since they are shackled to the rope, just get pulled wherever the rope goes.

A game this big needs referees to make and enforce the rules.  They must be paid for their services.  Since they're the only officiating crew in town, you have to pay a hefty price.  No player is exempt from paying them.  The refs look like they could get violent if anyone refuses.  To gain the upper hand in the game you can try bribing the refs to make things harder for the other side.  The refs love bribes.  In fact they openly ask for them.  A rule change here, a penalty call there - that could help.  Of course, the other side is also bribing the officials so maybe bribes won't help after all.  For extra fun, every two years the refs ask the team that is currently winning which additional shackles they would like everyone to wear.  This game of tug of war just keeps getting better and better.  You might get tired of such a game eventually but this game never quite ends.  Whenever one side gets close to winning, the officials attempt to reorganize the teams or move the center line in order to keep the game going.  

Can you win a game with perpetually changing rules and officials who blatantly take bribes?  Who is actually winning this game?  Since the game never ends (the refs make sure of it) you might be tempted to answer that nobody will ever win.  However, upon closer inspection there is one team that is constantly gaining the advantage in this contest: the officials.  They do everything they can to convince the players that there is no other game in town and that this game is worth playing.  They use all their powers of persuasion to convince everyone that all the rule changes and team realignments are necessary.  They constantly tell each team that the other team is completely corrupt and evil.  They do everything in their power to keep the game going.  Because, in the end, the officials win when we play the game.

The game of tug of war I have just described is being played all over the country.  It is an allegory for our current political system.  Generally speaking there are always two sides (or parties) in politics.  Each side believes they have the answers to society's problems and if they could just force the rest of the population to their side, life would be great.  Every two years or so people vote for their politicians of choice and those politicians spend their time crafting new laws that force people to act in specific ways.  The result is constant warfare with each side taking turns becoming winners or losers.  In this constant state of contention the only clear winners are those in power, whether they are crafting the laws or enforcing them.  The people in government are compensated for their services no matter which political party is currently "winning".  The payment is given by the masses in the form of taxes or lost freedoms.  This political game, this perpetual tug of war, is a futile struggle.  How long can it go on?  It's been going on as long as anyone can remember and it will continue as long as the players believe they can win.

Where are you in this game?  Are you pulling with all your might?  Or are you just relaxing, not caring where you get pulled?  I used to be a puller.  I wanted to completely dominate the other team.  I wanted to pull so hard that the other side would never find their footing again.  I wanted to win the game since I believed it was a game that could be won.  

Fortunately, I began listening to people who were objecting to the entire system.  I started paying more attention to the nature of this game of tug of war.  I began to understand that even if I did win I would still be in chains.  Now, I refuse to pull but I can't stand idle either.  Instead, I spend my time telling anyone who will listen that the game does not have to be played.  The game is rigged.  The game will never end.  You will never win!  

The solution to this pointless game is simple.  I can now see that the referees hold all the keys.  If I weren't shackled to the rope, I would try to get the keys myself.  Instead, I have to convince everyone to stop playing the game; to stop trying to win.  Only then can we cooperate and get the keys together to unlock our shackles.  Only then will we be able to free ourselves.  

Will you see the game for what it really is?  Will you stop pulling the rope?  Will you stop voting for the very chains that oppress you?  Will you help me stop the never-ending game of tug of war?


  1. Love the allegory and analogy of politics and tug of war and how we the people truly lose under party politics, but I am going to point to one statement that you made and argue against it. You stated, " Instead, I have to convince everyone to stop playing the game; to stop trying to win." Isn't your convincing inviting people to another game of tug of war? What can't the 2 big political parties learn to play nice with one another and invite that viable 3rd party to the table so that we the people can have that true representation that we so greatly desire (or should desire). It is known that even in the 1960s and 1970s in the midst of political turmoil that a party divided Congress was able to walk across the aisle and have a conversation and work together to make our society better. Is it this perfect Utopian ideal form of government? Nope, but then again we were never promised perfection yet we continue to demand it.


    1. Jeff,

      Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog. Obviously no analogy is perfect and this is no exception. Sometimes one or both of the two political parties support something that follows the principles of liberty and I’m certainly glad when that happens. In a lot of the instances when the two parties can “walk across the aisle” they are simply compromising on the desired level of state intervention instead of trying to get rid of state intervention.

      You are correct that I am inviting people to participate in a separate struggle, a struggle that has been going on for all of human history. It is the struggle of liberty against tyranny. But in this struggle for freedom, I do not desire to control those who would try to control me. I don’t feel bad encouraging this conflict. I believe liberty is worth fighting for, just as it was during the American Revolution. So basically, I am trying to get people to end the pointless feud and take part in the contest that truly matters.