Monday, May 18, 2009

The Sub-Culture of Power Seekers

Lord Acton

“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

“Remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that.”
-Lord Acton

Lord Acton lived over a century ago, but that amazing man was right then and he is right now. But why was he right? What is it about centralized power that leads to corruption? The question is an important one because our society has shifted from one in which political power was dispersed to one in which more and more decisions are made for us in a distant capital.

One problem with centralized power is that it attracts the kind of personality which enjoys exercising it. What I mean by that is that most of us have attachments to friends, family, and the places where we grew up. These emotional bonds are stronger than any desire to want to go to Washington and serve as a staffer for some Congressman just so we can walk in the corridors of power.

But not everybody feels that way. Some people so enjoy walking those corridors of power that they are willing to leave family and friends behind just to get close to the central location where the power is. And those are the kind of personalities that are increasingly flocking to Washington and making up our government. I am not at all sure that the type of person who so badly desires power over others is the type of person who ought to have it.

Of course I don’t mean to over generalize and challenge the motives of every person who goes off to the centers of power in an effort to acquire more of it. No doubt they believe their intentions are good. It is an easy thing for a person to convince themselves of the goodness of their own intentions. That is why founding father Daniel Webster warned, “Good intentions will always be pleaded for any assumption of power. The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”

At any rate, once people of this peculiar personality type flock to the Capitol they meet others like themselves, and form their own little sub culture with its own morals and viewpoints. In other words, they feed off of each other. Just like in Hollywood, when you have a bunch of people who are willing to leave home, friends and family to seek the spotlight, you are going to have a subculture that thinks, values, and lives differently than the rest of us. They are going to feed off of each other’s weirdness.

When a small group in a central location has a lot of power, there is going to be an increasing tendency to see themselves as some kind of “elite” or “cream of the crop” and relate better to one another than to the folks back home. This is especially true if they are surrounded by people flattering them in order to obtain favors from the public treasury. Eventually, they will look down on the people that they originally came to “serve”. They can begin to think, “All the folks back home do is complain, while these lobbyists are so nice to me!”

The Founder’s solution for this was that power be divided and decentralized. Once we have had enough of the power-trippers, maybe we will return to that idea.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats why Lord Acton was for the CSA and not the USA during the Civil War

3:34 PM, May 18, 2009  

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