Unlimited Power and Absolute Corruption

Power is a familiar topic with conservative writers and thinkers. In 1944, Ludwig von Mises published his book, Bureaucracy, which may very well be considered the authoritative work on the (in)effectiveness of centralized power. Mises wrote:

The bureaucrat is not free to aim at improvement. He is bound to obey rules and regulations established by a superior body. He has no right to embark upon innovations if his superiors do not approve of them. His duty and his virtue is to be obedient.

Mises here echoes a similar sentiment expressed by G.K. Chesterton, written nearly half a century earlier: “I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” Russian author Leo Tolstoy would agree:

From the day when the first members of councils placed exterior authority higher than interior, that is to say, recognized the decisions of men united in councils as more important and more sacred than reason and conscience: on that day began lies that caused the loss of millions of human beings and which continue their unhappy work to the present day.

One of the grand designs of the United States Constitution was its insistence on decentralized power. Rather than allowing the feudal mindset to inform their political thinking, America’s founders chose a republican approach, meaning government by representation, with law being the great equalizer (see Exodus 18). They well understood that unlimited power has corrupting effects on both the righteous and the wicked. Edmund Opitz observed: “No one can read our Constitution without concluding that the people who wrote it wanted their government severely limited; the words ‘no’ and ‘not’ employed in restraint of governmental power occur 24 times in the first seven articles of the Constitution and 22 more times in the Bill of Rights.” 19th century writer Caleb C. Colton summarized it well: “Power will intoxicate the best hearts, as wines the strongest heads. No man is wise enough, nor good enough, to be trusted with unlimited power.” Colton was merely affirming what the American people had already ratified.

What modern conservatives often miss though, is that this mistrust of power was in general, and not only in the hands of those who are ideologically opposed to us. Lord Acton is famous for his quotation, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” but it should be pointed out that Acton wasn’t only aiming his words at his enemies. What we would vehemently deny to liberals, we are often more than willing to give to those who espouse some variation of conservatism. Edmund Opitz is clear in his warning: “Never advocate any more power for your best friends, than you would willingly see wielded by your worst enemies.” If absolute power corrupts, then we should be diligent to not allow it to be possessed by anyone, whether ally or opponent.







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  • http://www.thechristiansolution.com/ The Christian Solution

    The main safeguard our Founders put into insuring that the Federal government would not consolidate power was the United States Senate. The States, appointing the Senators, would provide the greedy checks and balances to keep power to themselves and away from the central government unless absolutely necessary.

    The Founders knew State control over the Senate to be so critical to the operation of the Constitution that it was the one and only thing the Constitution does NOT allowed to be Amended.

    And yet we have the 17th Amendment removing all States from control of the Senate.

    How is that Constitutional?

  • Gil Jones

    “Power, true power, is parity of force and wisdom.” Force is finite ‘quantity’ subject to decay. Wisdom is infinite ‘quality’ subject to lies. The Constitution is more about a quality establishing a quantity, i.e. wisdom assuring its quality with force backup. The Founder’s wisdom set up parity’s pendulum with the Constitution & The Bill of Rights.

    In 1913 we see wisdom’s deficit with the advent of the Fed Reserve, IRS, and the 17th amendment. Force won that day with subterfuge & skullduggery while a populace slumbered for lack of knowledge. Progressive liberalism, and its covert campaign of lies, still enjoys its ride on the pendulum but is starting to become frantic sensing its swing.

    100yrs later, as chattels of force, we find ourselves reasserting wisdom within the Internet. Out of recent events emerges two allies of wisdom, i.e. the 2nd amendment, and the internet. Purveyors of force, a minority not known for their courage, won’t cross these two lines in the sand. They pass laws sheriffs won’t enforce. Wait’em out let’em decay. …Semper Fi

  • marineh2ominer

    I agree wholeheartedly , the ONLY solution is to reduce the size and scope of the government at ALL levels irregardless of who or what party is in power , reduction to the size permitted by the United States constitution would suffice .

  • http://www.facebook.com/simon.bennettodlum Simon Bennett-Odlum

    It is important to realize without equivocation that We, The People, have completely lost control of our government, and therefor it has become time to fight back, since the Fourth Estate, I.e. The Media, clearly has zero interest in doing it for us. That means that The Media is not doing its’ job

    First, I suggest a complete boycott of all of those Media outlets that are walking in lockstep with the govern ment propaganda machine do not buy their magazines and news papers, go not watch any of the “alphabet ” TV outlets, even boycot their stupid shows, reality, humor, news, what ever. Dry up their cash flow.

    The, let We, The People, take to the billllboards, where we can express our discontent at the corruption, privacy invasions, threats of disappearance for dissenters, “buddy law making by lobbyists”, insane government growth and idiotic fiscal irresponsibility, loss of our Moral Compass, Ethicss, Integrity, Honesty, religion, particularly in schools, and just plain decency. How about actually encouraging Americans to find a job and become financially independent? How about THAT for an original twenty first century idea? Huh?

    Put enough of that stuff out there, where passing motorists, by their tens of thousands, every day, will see the messages. So will the media, and so, too will the politicians. Now imagine there being a couple hundred of these billboards, strategically placed, all over the country, and the impact that they will have, for We, The People, will be making ourselves heard at last.

    Who knows, we just might start a quiet, but successful, revolution that would get the US of A back on the right track.

    I, for one, have heard enough BS from the left to fertilize the Sahara!