Power Corrupts
by Paul Hazelden


•   Introduction
•   Details
    The process of corruption


Experience suggests that Lord Acton was right. "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." (1)

People with power may start off with good intentions, wanting to use their powers for the good of others, but usually they end up using it for their own benefit. The more power people have, the more pronounced is this tendency.

But we cannot avoid power. So we need to understand how and why power tends to corrupt, so we can do our best to avoid this danger.


  The process of corruption

Power tends to corrupt

I seek to do good things.

The things I do are for the greater good.

Sometimes you have to balance the good which is done against the occasional harm which is needed to achieve that good.

The harm I do is all for the greater good, and is therefore justified.

anything which harms or distracts me harms the organisation or nation


power tends to produce paranoia

I am identified with the organisation

disloyalty is treason

I need to know who can be trusted, so I need to know things they don't know I know

It's all for the greater good.

It takes a brave person to disagree with the person in power.


Good intentions do not protect you from the corruption caused by power.


The fact of someone having power tends to produce corruption within the organisation.


Note 1. The quotation is from a letter from John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834-1902) to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887.



Copyright © 2014 Paul Hazelden
http://hazelden.org.uk/gr02/art_gr057_power_corrupts.htm was last updated 21 July 2014
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