Politics: The Corruption Curve

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” (Lord Acton)

We all like to think of ourselves as kind, honest, and benevolent. In our hearts, we are convinced that should we ever attain personal power, whether through building our own business, rising to the corporate executive office, becoming extraordinarily influential in our area of expertise, or in winning public office, we will continue to be honest and ethical, incorruptible to the end.

The action of wielding power varies greatly with the individual involved and the extent of power obtained. We are all familiar with the petty tyrant at work who rules a tiny business empire with greed and self-indulgence, bullying underlings without any sense of fairness or mercy. We have seen the research scientists who have forged a reputation over a lifetime fall into disgrace through subverting results to support their theories and their sponsors.

As the extent of power increases, we see the Enron and Lincoln Savings brand of tableaux unfold. Not only does that same greed and self-indulgence hold sway, but the concept of being above the law arises and accountability and trust are jettisoned from the boardroom. The more esoteric the lifestyle becomes, the greater the disconnect between the powerful and the rest of the world. Those who lack power are to be cheated, manipulated, and drained of their possessions ñ surely only just desserts for their failure to rise to the top.

In a world where hereditary monarchies are an anachronism, the most absolute power lies in the political sphere whether wielded by a military-backed dictator or by those who have been so repeatedly elected to office that they no longer see themselves as public representatives but as entitled oligarchs of a system they control.

The presumptuous ambition of one man, Julius Caesar, led to the destruction of a republic that had guided Rome to the heights of civilization. The empire he created held the seeds of its own destruction in its descent into the unrestrained autocracies of a string of less than illustrious rulers who wielded their absolute power with caprice and personal whim.

The framers of the Constitution had a vision of a government where no such unconstrained power could arise because of the checks and balances inherent in the system they devised. No one could be above the law because the rule of law was paramount. The advise and consent required from different branches of government ensured that a multitude of voices and philosophical ideas were involved in any major decision.

But those who drove the development of our constitutional law were giants in their own right. Washingtonís refusal to accept the title of king, advocated by several of his supporters, signaled his rejection of too much power concentrated in one individual. His peers ñ Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Madison, and many more ñ followed the same course: divide power to ensure that the needs of the many can be met through a myriad of representative voices.

Over the centuries, the checks and balances they built have kept the ship of state afloat. Occasionally listing to port or starboard, the sheer multiplicity of participants in the political process have been repetitively able to pull it back to an upright middle course. Certainly, there have been many dark periods of corruption and incompetence. We face such a darkness now: individuals in office for too long, with too much power within their grasping fingers; too many officials who have forgotten that they are public servants, developing a mindset of entitlement and the conviction that they know, better than anyone else, what is good for the public who, after all, elected them.

Only the rule of law, so carefully crafted more than 200 years ago, can keep them in check. The lawful prosecution of a congressman accepting millions of dollars in bribes, of a congressional leader who used election money as he saw fit rather than as the law required, and administration officials who destroyed a womanís career and jeopardized the lives of covert operatives all over the world, restores balance in a world rife with corruption, greed, and overweening pride.

Ongoing investigations into the honesty of leaders in evoking the need for military intervention and the rising voice of dissent against financial favors for the rich and powerful at the cost of cutting services to the powerless poor, offer a glimmer of hope that the corruption will be curbed and the hubris of our leaders punctured and exposed.

The embattled defendants cry foul, claiming that the only transgression is the political ambition of their critics. They have moved so far beyond the pale of the common citizen that their own corruption and misdeeds seem entirely ordinary and acceptable to them.

Happily, unlike the impotent rubber-stamp Roman senators, we can face our would-be Caesars without threat of bodily harm and we can cast them out of their cozy nest with the most powerful weapon ever devised: the ballot box.

No Matter What America Does The Rest Of The World Will Never Like Us

Americans need to get used to the idea that, no matter what The United States Of America does, the rest of the world will never like us.

Ours is a unique society. We are made up of people from almost every other nationality in the world. We were originaly formed by immigrants seeking religious and other freedoms. Our ethics and moral codes were formed mainly from Judeo-Christian ideals, ie: The Old And New Testaments, The Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Our form of government is mainly secular but our way of living, our body of law and our way of thinking is, for the most part, Judeo-Christian.

Ours is not an insular society. All Americans, with the possible exception of Native American Indians, are decended from immigrants. These immigrants have come from all over the world. These immigrants brought, with them, differing ideas, customs and ways of doing things. Many of these ideas, customs and ways of doing things have been melded into our way of life. The foregoing has made us completely different than any other country in the world and people, due to the nature of humans, don’t always like other people who are different.

Ours is a wealthy country, not only in resources and land but also in our varied citizenry and our freedoms. This makes other people jealous or envious. They don’t have what we have, so they say that they don’t like us or that they hate us. Some of those same people, however, can’t wait to immigrate to this country, in order to have what we have.

Our people, for the most part, are loving, caring and generous. This may very well be one of our biggest problems. We want to give to and help others. Many people think of our giving and help as pure interference while others feel that no one would give or help without expecting something in return. No other country in the world is guided by Judeo-Christain principles so no other country in the world thinks or believes as we do. We can’t understand how they think and they can’t understand how we think.

We deal with other countries and their people as we deal with each other. We don’t understand that, in most parts of the world, fear and hatered are more powerful than love, greed and envy are more powerful than kindness and generosity, wanting to win is more powerful than a sense of fair play and that all of the foregoing are considered by many people to be weaknesses.

When France helped us during the Revolutionary War, the facts that the were already at war with England in the Caribbean, that we had to pay them for their help and that they did not come to our assistance untill they were sure that we had already won the war, did not stop us from being grateful. When During the Civil War and The War of 1812 a few French helped the Union, again for pay and again after they believed that the Union had won or would win the war, we were grateful. We we helped the French during their Civil War and in the First and Second World Wars, a few French were grateful but many more hated us. After all, we had humiliated them by helping them. We had shown them that they could not succeed with out our assistance. When the French believed that, Saddam Hussein did have weapons of mass destruction and was a threat to the world, they refused to help us or to join with us because their profits were more important than the live’s of others. They believed that they were safe because they were trading partners with Hussein. In addition, they feel that we have too much power so, they oppose us every chance they get (Don’t tell me about Desert Storm, the French did and contributed very little. The main thing they did was to help talk us out of going into Bagdad and ending the problem in Iraq, thereby saving their trading partner Saddam Hussein.). On the other hand, they want our money from tourism and trade so they invite our citizens to visit and to buy their goods. The French do not do anything unless it is in their own best intrest (By the way, I hate to admit this, but I have been told that, much to my regret, I am part French.). I know that the foregoing paragraph makes it sound as if I am a biggot. I am not a biggot, I just do not like being used, abused and lied to and I feel that that is what has been happening ever since the French Indian War or as it is also called, The Seven Years War, which took place before we were even a country.

Russia hates us for causing the breakup of the Soviet Union. The governments of Russia, Mainland China, North Korea, most Moslim countries, many African countries, some Central and South American countries and certain other countries hate us because they are afraid that their citizens might try to emulate us and rise up and take away their power over those citizens. Additionally, most Moslim countries hate us because our country does not follow Islam, ‘the one true religion’. According to them we are Satanists for not following the ‘one true God’. Since all of these governments control, in large part, the information sources in those countries, the majority of the people of those countries believe the lies and propaganda that are reported about us. Notice, however, how when many, not all, of those citizens make it into this country, they learn about us and they become, not only good citizens but, assets to our country. Some of our most contributing citizens came from countries that hated or fought against us at one time or another.

People that can recieve or hear news about our country, listen to our loudest and most strident voices. Voices from people like Howard Dean, Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Al Sharpton, etc.. Since many people, in other countries, don’t understand the true meaning of freedom of speech, they think that these people are speaking for all of us. They think that all of us hate President Bush, they think that our country is filled with prejudice and hatred, they think that crime is out of controll and they think that every one of us carries guns and shoot each other for no reason, they think that we all feel that the war in Iraq is immoral or already lost, they think that all Republicans and most whites hate minorities and all non Jewish or Christian religions.

These people in other countries don’t understand that the voices that they are hearing come from a very loud and vocal minority of hard line left wing zealots and that those voices do not speak for all of us. These people also hear from a few loud and vocal far right wing zealots, however the right wing zealots are not celebrities so these people don’t pay as much attention to them. What the people in other countries don’t understand is that the majority of people in this country are moderate to slightly left or right wing and don’t really agree with either the far left or the far right. The majority of people in this country are hard working, kind, caring and generous people. However, moderate views are not exciting and therefore do not sell a lot of newspapers or garner a lot of television viewers, so moderate views do not get much coverage here or in any of the free or fairly free foriegn press.

Finally, most of the people in the world don’t like each other, many Chinese consider anyone not Chinese to be a barbarian and less than human, Indians and Pakastanis hate each other, Russia and all of the old Soviet Union members fight or feud with each other, many Muslims hate Jews and Christians, most Arab countries seem to hate Isreal, Muslim sects hate and kill each other, the French think that everyone else is beneath them, some Irish hate the British, in Ireland Catholics and Protestants fight each other, many Chinese and Koreans hate the Japanese and many Japanese hate the Chinese and the Koreans, Africans hate and kill other Africans, Argentines feel superior to citizens of other South American contries, etc, etc.. If so many people in the world hate or dislike each other, how can we expect them to like or love us?

Isn’t it about time that we quite worrying about being liked and instead started worrying about being respected or even a little feared. Fear usually generates a certain amount of respect. I’m not suggesting that we become another Soviet Union or a China. I am saying that perhaps we should stop worrying what the world thinks of us and instead stand up for ourselves. Use our financial clout, sacrifice a little, or a lot by not buying oil and goods from our enemies, cancell free trade agreements with our detractors, etc.. Sure many things will cost us more, but aren’t our way of life and our dignity worth something. And, if we do need to use military force, maybe we should use it without first trying to get everyone else’s permission. Help from countries like France, Germany, Russia and China would cost us more than it would help us. Help from the United Nations always seems to cost us more, in money and problems, than it helps us. There are a few countries, Australia, England, Israel, Taipei and a few others that usually stick by us, however, we may not always be able to count on them. Even now many people in England are trying to have Tony Blair removed from office and if we don’t start doing a better job of helping our friend and ally Israel, they may, someday, cease to exist.