Game Theory and The Presidency

A Conversation with Lewis Harrison, the Creator of Lewis Harrison’s Applied Game Theory


Foundational Principle for this Conversation: To explore how the effective use of power in the executive branch of government can bring greater love, wealth, and freedom into our culture.

Definition: Power – When applied to human activities it is the conscious ability to harness internal or external activities so that the entity in possession of this power (be it a person, corporation, government, religion, media organization, etc) can change, either directly or indirectly, another entity’s thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.



STUDENT: How is power different than influence?

LEWIS: Many people see them as the same. The way I see it is, power is something you exert. It is an an intention. Influence is something that can happen without you realizing it. There is no intent. For example, you decide to get the same flavor ice cream as a friend (influence) vs. them telling you to get the same flavor (power). This is a distinction of the definition within the LHAGT, it may not be aligned with the traditional definitions (See Conversation on Language).



STUDENT: Please clarify this distinction.

LEWIS: Influence is simply what happens when two or more entities enter a common space. True power has a focused potential and a vision. I have a good friend. Through our friendship I am able to influence his ideas, beliefs, and behaviors but there is no way I can make him respond. Thus, I have great influence but little or no power over him.



In the American political system, the House of Congress has tremendous influence as does the President over what will become law. But in the end it is the Supreme Court that not only has the influence but the power to say that something is unconstitutional. Of course in the bigger picture, the President and the two houses of congress get to decide who will sit on the court.



STUDENT: Which is more important, influence or power?

LEWIS: Each has its own unique costs and benefits.



STUDENT: Why is power so important?

LEWIS: It all depends on an individual’s motivation. For some, power is a way to draw in love and freedom while serving others. For others, there is a pseudo-peak experience that comes with anything related to the acquisition of power or money, especially if the process involves some danger or risk-taking (See the Conversation on Pseudo Peak Experience).



STUDENT: How does an individual obtain power?

LEWIS: Power can be obtained in many ways. The use of influence and consensus within a group is the easiest and most skillful approach but when this does not get the desired result, agitation may be a valuable tool as well.



STUDENT: Agitation?

LEWIS: There is always a dance between normalcy and agitation. Most individuals feel safe in a calm “normal” environment. The individual who can maintain that or effectively disrupt that will often be given power. Sometimes, in a large city an ambulance may attempt to move through heavy traffic with great difficulty (agitation). Suddenly, a pedestrian will enter a cross walk and begin directing traffic. Many of the cars will follow his/her direction as the ambulance moves more easily through the grid-lock (return to normalcy).



STUDENT: Power has so many elements. We are all familiar with obvious forms of power such as brute force, financial power, and intellectual and emotional manipulation. Can you explore other types of power?

LEWIS: The type of power that I find most interesting is the one where you get someone to do what you want them to do for their own benefit and there is virtually no effort on your part to make it happen.



STUDENT: I have never heard of anything like this before.

LEWIS: It is rare. In such a situation a person might give you power, be grateful to do so and even believe that you are doing them a favor by letting them give you this power. They might even pay you to take this power. It is rare to see this happen but it does.



STUDENT: Can you give me an example of this?

LEWIS: It happens in dictatorships (such as, Hitler or Mussolini) where the person who is in power has improved on what was a very bad political situation. It also happens in hierarchical religious organizations (See the Conversation on Hierarchical Behavior). For example, the Mormons are required to give 10% of their income to the church, and they feel good about doing so.



STUDENT: What is another form of power?

LEWIS: The power of using an aggressors own energy to feed your power.



STUDENT: Can you give me an example of this?

LEWIS: This is exemplified in the compassionate martial art known as Akido, translated as “the Way of unifying (with) Qi” or as “the Way of Harmonious Spirit.” Akido was created by a Japanese teacher named Morihei UeshiibLEWIS: It was his vision to create a spiritual, philosophical, and self defense system where an individual could defend him or herself while also protecting the attacker from injury. Ueshiiba’s system did this by allowing the defender to connect physically and energetically to the motion of the attacker and redirect the force of the attack. This allows the defender to disarm the attacker with little or no actual violence towards the attacker. Akido is not simply a marital art. Ueshiiba created it as an expression of his personal philosophy of universal peace and reconciliation strongly based on Taoist ideas (See the Conversation on Lao Tsu, The Conversation on Chuang Tsu, and the Conversation on The Law of Attraction).



STUDENT: Are you saying that a skilled practitioner of Akido can take an attacker’s momentum, integrate it and use it as needed?

LEWIS: Yes. Morihei Ueshiiba declared: “To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace.”



STUDENT: Is there a practical application for these ideas?

LEWIS: Most certainly. A person who has mastered Akido will often be skilled at all forms of conflict resolution including the skill used by professionally trained mediators.



STUDENT: So they gain power and then surrender it unless it is truly needed?

LEWIS: That is correct.



STUDENT: Is it easy to learn this technique?

LEWIS: Yes and no. There is no one Akido technique. There are many different styles, with a broad range of emphasis and interpretation. What they all have in common is concern for the well-being of the attacker. When we become skilled in the use of power it is best to employ skills that disarm others that would do us harm while minimizing any long term harm that might come to them.



STUDENT: Why is this important?

LEWIS: Compassion is an important element in the expression of power. Applying the philosophy behind Akido is how we become powerful while at the same time remaining compassionate. This is the greatest level of power because it naturally breeds respect towards us from others (See the Conversation on Compassion).



STUDENT: What is the dark side of power?

LEWIS: A person with great material power can easily develop a dangerously inflated sense of his or her own importance.



STUDENT: How would a person with great material power know who was loyal to them and who was only interested in being near “power?”

LEWIS: It is very difficult. A person with this level of power might have followers who seem slavishly loyal and later learn that this loyalty always came with an expectation that there would be a reward for any sacrifices that might be made.



STUDENT: Politicians wield great power and yet the people they are supposed to serve are often wary, even skeptical of them. Why is this?

LEWIS: These individuals often have access to power that is supposed to serve the public. Sadly, the way the political process evolves causes a gap between the politician and his or her public behavior.



STUDENT: Why is this?

LEWIS: More often than not a politician must deal with power struggles, ideological battles, and rivalries (See the Conversation on Hierarchical Thinking and the Conversation on Competition).



STUDENT: Where does moral behavior connect to power?

LEWIS: It all depends upon the intention of the person with this power (See the Conversation on Actualized Intention). Power hungry individuals are seldom influenced by “moral arguments.” Aggressive personalities are seldom swayed by diplomacy. In fact diplomatic offerings will often stimulate such an individual to greater aggression and immoral behavior.



STUDENT: You mentioned ideological battles. Where does morality fit in relation to power and ideological positions?

LEWIS: There is a thin line between a person with an ideological position about something and an ideological fanatic. The former has an interest in inquiry and ideas (See the Conversation on Answering the Question). Ideological fanatics define what they believe to be moral through their ideology. Thus they aren’t concerned with group disapproval nor are they affected, or care that what they aim for is primitive, immoderate, or unrefined.



STUDENT: Interestingly there has been much discussion recently (2010) about the moral “melt-down” among bankers and financiers that led to the recent financial collapse. There has always been an ironic cliché used dismissively among many economists and stock traders. It is the idea that morality is determined by those who have wealth and the power that wealth can bring. For such an individual, the theme goes—the only moral precepts are those rules that allow those of great power and wealth to hold onto or increase that power and wealth.



STUDENT: Is there some diplomatic way of dealing with a power wielding ideologue?

LEWIS: Possibly for a short while. Most ideologues must behave aggressively in order to spread their ideology. This aggressive approach may be cloaked in a passive persona (such as Osama Ben Laden, the terrorist leader) but their actions ultimately manifest aggressively. Such a personality seldom responds to diplomacy and if they ever do respond to diplomacy it is diplomacy backed by the possibility of a forcible response to their aggressive behavior.



STUDENT: Are there some who will not respond to diplomacy no matter how extreme the consequences?

LEWIS: If they are messianic in their ideology or morally depraved they may not respond to any form of diplomacy, whether morally based or backed by the possibility of a forcible response.



STUDENT: Can you speak of the type of power that is wielded destructively?

LEWIS: I call this “The pathological expression of power.” This type of power manifests in an extreme need to control the immediate environment. This reflects in a willingness to aggressively cross other people’s boundaries, whatever the cost to others may be, in order to maintain or expand control and maintain an extreme adherence to illogical irrational and ultimately destructive beliefs.



STUDENT: How does one respond to this?

LEWIS: There is no easy answer. On the one hand the extraordinary individual wishes to avoid violence and yet they, more than anyone realizes that it is seldom beneficial to be irresolute or to delay in the face of aggression. The dilemma even for the wisdom sage is how to respond.



STUDENT: Obviously the desire for power and the use of it to control people and things is what defines much of what goes on in the world. Why is power so often misused and abused?

LEWIS: The misuse of power comes from three key misunderstanding about life:


1. That we are disconnected, unrelated, and separate from other creatures.

2. That we are the center of the universe and that what we do to serve ourselves to the detriment of others is free of consequences to ourselves.

3. That this world is real and that we can actually own it.




STUDENT: How would a person with very little power achieve greater power?

LEWIS: There are many ways to do this. In a Zero Sum Game especially one where you are competing in a hierarchy one must, “punch up not down.” What that means is to gain more power you must take on and successfully influence bigger foes rather than influencing weaker or smaller ones. The biblical story of David and Goliath is a perfect example of this. Smaller David was able to conquer the much larger and more powerful Goliath. This conquest gave David and his people, the Israelites more power and influence. To learn more about these concepts, see the following: the Conversation on Game Theory, the Conversation on Hierarchical Thinking, and the Conversation on Competition.



STUDENT: Is there a way to avoid this “punching up not down” approach and still gain power?

LEWIS: Yes. One must understand the difference between wants and needs and the concept of We Wei – the action that has no action (See the Conversation on The Law of Attraction).

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