Blog #7: A Problem With Politicians: Power Corrupts

The Immoral Seek Unjustified Power:

Ask anyone, and they’ll likely tell you not to trust a politician. Candidates will say anything to get elected. But why is this? Are politics reserved for the immoral, or does it turn moral people immoral? Is it possible to be a politician and not lie? Do we blame the system or do we blame the people in the system?

Sadly, government positions are ideal for the immoral. To seek power over others is characteristic of the immoral. To gain power outside government, one must first contribute to society. A powerful CEO (with the exclusion of ancestry) must take this position one of two ways. He or she must either create a great business that provides a good or service, or rise through the ranks of an established business by being a valuable employee. Even then, boycotts and lawsuits can defeat a CEO. In government, one only needs connections and/or charisma. These unjustified positions of power over people are disproportionately appealing to the immoral.

The Temptations of Power and Human Nature:

As Lord Acton once said, Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Psychological research shows that people are naturally corrupted by power. The greatest example is the Stanford Prison Experiment by Dr. Zimbardo. This experiment selected numerous college students and assigned them the role of either prisoner or prison guard. Students were told to assume their roles and to create a mock prison experience. Students were informed that the study was entirely a roleplay of a prison. Many student volunteers knew one other. The program was forced to end early after prisoners and prison guards resorted to violence against one another. Prison guards assumed roles of power and viewed the prisoner students as inferior people. We’re shown by the Stanford Prison Experiment that the average person can be corrupted and perform immoral acts when in a position of power.

Another study by Ian Robertson shows us that power is quite literally addictive. The human brain reacts to it in the same manner as cocaine. The brain treats power like a drug, and like all drugs, even the best people will resort to immoral acts to get more.

Power corrupts. Immoral people will seek to become politicians. And political power will corrupt all but those with the strongest willpower.

This blog post is also on Medium.