Power corrupts… perhaps the inverse?

Interesting quote from David Brin:

It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.

Now let’s put that in the light of what has been continually pushed by The Idealist.  He says (and quotes scripture [D&C 121:39]) that (paraphrasing) anyone who acquires power will become corrupt.  I don’t really doubt this, but the scripture also indicates that it is “the nature and disposition” of man to become corrupt.  Not that all will. When we put this in a political light, we see that this concept can be and is very true with a majority (greater than 50%) of our politicians.

Now let’s throw into the mix what David Brin has said.  Not that he speaks scripture at all, but it is a profound statement.  So taking both these quotes in a political light, are all politicians corrupt?  Or can we believe that there are good people that exist in Washington?

Personally, I have to believe in the latter.

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4 Responses

  1. Mike W. says:

    You’re right. There is at least one politician who hasn’t been corrupted by power, but was already corruptible and then had power…but I can’t think of his name right now, can you?;-)

    Dan, I don’t think that I ever said that every politician is corrupt. What I have said is that because government involves power and that those who receive that power from the people are very likely (which is what I think “nature and disposition of almost all men” means) to be influenced by that power to the point that they don’t think the rules apply to them and that they can pretty much do what they want. Are there exceptions? Sure, but I would argue that human political history demonstrates that they are few and far between. Thank goodness that there was a critical mass of these exceptions at the outset of the U.S. allowing freedom to be established. Remember that they, however, established certain safeguards that have been ignored in order to keep each other and those who would be corrupted (for they knew those would eventually regain the critical mass) in check.

    I also agree that there are “good people that exist in Washington”, Dan. It’s just that we humans are weak and whether we seek power because we are corruptible or we become corrupt after being given “a little authority, as they suppose,” we are likely to become influenced by that power. “Duke” Cunningham, by all accounts, was a pretty good guy. Then he went to Washington, got hooked up with Defense contractions, and started taking extra gifts to channel bids their way.

    So I agree with you. However, I think the more important question than whether or not there are good people in Washington is whether thirst for power (whether it’s inate or learned) is being checked. I would argue it is not.

  2. Reluctant says:

    Ok… that all makes sense. I was really just posing a question and wanting feelings.

    So we’ve talked about this pretty frequently and you keep saying that we need to jealously guard our liberties, but how do we do that? Most would say that we elect those whom we trust and we feel will do the guarding for us. But with your above statements, you say that there are few that are (or will) not (be) affected by corruption.

    So what do we do?

  3. Mike W. says:

    This isn’t my serious answer, but I couldn’t not pass this quote on and I think it fits here:

    H.L. Mencken (our favorite sarcastic, arrogant American political critic) stated:

    “Politicians seldom if ever get [into public office] by merit alone, at least in democratic states. Sometimes, to be sure, it happens, but only by a kind of miracle. They are chosen normally for quite different reasons, the chief of which is simply their power to impress and enchant the intellectually underprivileged….Will any of them venture to tell the plain truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the situation of the country, foreign or domestic? Will any of them refrain from promises that he knows he can’t fulfill – that no human being could fulfill? Will any of them utter a word, however obvious, that will alarm or alienate any of the huge pack of morons who cluster at the public trough, wallowing in the pap that grows thinner and thinner, hoping against hope? Answer: may be for a few weeks at the start…. But not after the issue is fairly joined, and the struggle is on in earnest…. They will all promise every man, woman and child in the country whatever he, she or it wants. They’ll all be roving the land looking for chances to make the rich poor, to remedy the irremediable, to succor the unsuccorable, to unscramble the unscrambleable, to dephlogisticate the undephlogisticable. They will all be curing warts by saying words over them, and paying off the national debt with money no one will have to earn. When one of them demonstrates that twice two is five, another will prove that it is six, six and a half, ten, twenty, n. In brief, they will divest themselves from their character as sensible, candid and truthful men, and simply become candidates for office, bent only on collaring votes. They will all know by then, even supposing that some of them don’t know it now, that votes are collared under democracy, not by talking sense but by talking nonsense, and they will apply themselves to the job with a hearty yo-heave-ho. Most of them, before the uproar is over, will actually convince themselves. The winner will be whoever promises the most with the least probability of delivering anything.”

    The fundamental problem is we want leaders that will tell us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear. Hopefully I will have a post up soon regarding Socrates/Plato’s take on this idea.

    This is the problem I have with government solving problems, which it has never been known to have done as quoted Thoreau here: http://www.theidealist.us/2007/01/10/though-on-government-from-henry-david-thoreau/

  4. Dave W. says:

    Dan, what we have to do is fulfill the implications of being a “democracy,” or a state ruled by the people. We have become very comfortable in our “republic” as long as things don’t get too bad or adversely affect us personally. But in order to keep our representatives in check, we need to be involved, calling and writing to them regularly. It’s kind of intimidating, but it needs to be done to keep them on task. We are their bosses; and what would you do if your boss were afraid of you? We need to make it clear that someone is out here aware of what they’re doing and that we’re not happy with it (or that we are happy with it if applicable).

    It’s the old human tendency to want credit (e.g., remuneration) and power but not responsibility and certainly not accountability.

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