June 8, 2022•403 words
Who doesn't know the phrase "absolute power corrupts absolutely"? What a simple indictment against concentrated power right? I'll let you be the judge.
For one, the quote originates with Lord Acton in 1887 in Britain . How could he have experienced the "absolute corruption" he describes? Britain is a fairly liberal country, with a parliament at that time and various first-of-its-kind power restrictions such as the Magna Carta. Thus he couldn't have observed any of this corruption he speaks of. Also note that Great Britain has been around since the 920s because the UK formed out of a merger involving England . Hence the tyranny the American Revolution was against was when the UK was very old. Hence, I propose that longevity is the greatest corrupting force, no matter the system. If we look at a list of longest lasting empires 3, a decent number of them (at least 5 based on a sample of 8 had kings, emperors, or dynasties). If this concentration of power corrupted them, then how did they last so long? I seriously doubt that democratic nations like the US will can compete in longevity with the 1,480 years of the Roman empire (with its emperors).
This isn't to say that power can corrupt: the Stanford prison experiment certainly is evidence of this. It is just that the phrase really shouldn't be so used as an argument against concentrated power. As an aside, I think that the solution to corruption is a more anarchic system. I believe longevity to be the most corrupting force because it leads to leaders who unalign with the original ideology on formation, more conservative policies, power entrenchment, and decadence as mistakes are, inevitably, made. A possible solution is to overthrow/renew the government on a regular basis. Perhaps we could have a fixed interval, or make it easy to overthrow those in power. This is why I think that ideas of nationalism are very stupid, because if the nation falls, we can form a better one in its place. Thus Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers really should be commended for exposing the badness in the system as it helps us know whether now is a good time to rebel and overthrow. Even for nationalists, it would be good because by criticizing and exposing the weaknesses of our nation, we know what we need to improve.