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Why Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely?

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Thinker13
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Posted 04/01/12 - 11:31 PM:
Subject: Why Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely?
This website provides some information about the origin of this phrase.


"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." You might have encountered it often and might agree with it.

[ If you don't agree, then do let me know about your views]

An excerpt from the website mentioned:

Absolute monarchies are those in which all power is given to or, as is more often the case, taken by, the monarch. Examples of absolute power corrupting are Roman emperors (who declared themselves gods) and Napoleon Bonaparte (who declared himself an emperor).

"Absolute power corrupts absolutely""Absolute power corrupts absolutely" arose as part of a quotation by the expansively named and impressively hirsute John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902). The historian and moralist, who was otherwise known simply as Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887:

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

The text is a favourite of collectors of quotations and is always included in anthologies. If you are looking for the exact "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" wording, then Acton is your man. He didn't invent the idea though; quotations very like it had been uttered by several authors well before 1887. Primary amongst them was another English politician with no shortage of names - William Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham and British Prime Minister from 1766 to 1778, who said something similar in a speech to the UK House of Lords in 1770:

"Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it"

Acton is likely to have taken his lead from the writings of the French republican poet and politician, again a generously titled individual - Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine. An English translation of Lamartine's essay France and England: a Vision of the Future was published in London in 1848 and included this text:

It is not only the slave or serf who is ameliorated in becoming free... the master himself did not gain less in every point of view,... for absolute power corrupts the best natures.

Whether it is Lamartine or his anonymous English translator that can claim to have coined 'absolute power corrupts' we can't be sure, but we can be sure that it wasn't Lord Acton.





My question is: Why power tends to corrupt? Why is it that power has a tendency to make its possessor misuse it?


Please feel free to share any ideas.
henry quirk
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Posted 04/02/12 - 10:21 AM:

"Why power tends to corrupt? Why is it that power has a tendency to make its possessor misuse it?"

A body likes being in control...more power, more control...absolute power means absolute control (god-hood).

Gimme absolute power and let's see what I do with it... wink

Of course, there is no absolute anything, and power tends to carry more chains that liberties since, more often than not, power is 'lent' or stolen and not intrinsic to the user. If lent or stolen, power can be taken back or be stolen (again).

As for 'corruption': one man's profanity is another's sacredness.

It seems those who cry most loudly about 'corruption' are those who cannot foist up their own brand of it first.


Edited by henry quirk on 04/02/12 - 10:53 AM. Reason: expansion
Thinker13
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Posted 04/04/12 - 12:55 AM:

henry quirk wrote:

Thinker13 wrote:
"Why power tends to corrupt? Why is it that power has a tendency to make its possessor misuse it?"


A body likes being in control...more power, more control...absolute power means absolute control (god-hood).



I gather by your reading your recent comments that you're more about 'body' than (I, me, myself) these days. Does this makes your job of expressing yourself easier? nod

What exactly is body?

Body likes to be in control. Why? Is it its inherent nature? Is it similar to mad Fred's 'Will to power?'




henry quirk wrote:

Of course, there is no absolute anything, and power tends to carry more chains that liberties since, more often than not, power is 'lent' or stolen and not intrinsic to the user. If lent or stolen, power can be taken back or be stolen (again).


Very apt. What about 'intrinsic' power? Any examples? It seems that since in order for you to become more and more powerful you need to make others deprived of it, you tend to become corrupt.

henry quirk wrote:


As for 'corruption': one man's profanity is another's sacredness.


How true.


henry quirk wrote:

It seems those who cry most loudly about 'corruption' are those who cannot foist up their own brand of it first.


Not very sure. hmm

JrnymnX
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Posted 04/04/12 - 2:04 PM:

Power doesn't corrupt.

Weakness corrupts.

You might say that power is the opposite of corruption.
Thinker13
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Posted 04/04/12 - 10:41 PM:

JrnymnX wrote:
Power doesn't corrupt.

Weakness corrupts.

You might say that power is the opposite of corruption.



But evidence seems to be highly against it, especially in case of political power. Doesn't it?
JrnymnX
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Posted 04/05/12 - 6:09 AM:

Thinker13 wrote:
But evidence seems to be highly against it, especially in case of political power. Doesn't it?

Yes.
No one pays much attention to the corruption of people before they become powerful. People seeking power through the political arena always try to appear pure and above reproach, and often get elected by appearing 'cleaner' than the next candidate. But their success at appearing 'clean' is usually just a reflection of how well they hide what they fear are their corruptions.
Former Republican rep. Mark Foley was an advocate for 'exploited children' and took a strong stance against child pornography. He resigned from office after it was revealed he was a pervert chasing after young boys.
Appearances can be decieving. The scrutiny that comes with a position of power can reveal much that would have still existed otherwise.
henry quirk
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Posted 04/05/12 - 8:44 AM:

"What exactly is body?"

By 'body' I mean the flesh, from head to toe...the body comprises 'me'...I am 'it'.

#

"What about 'intrinsic' power? Any examples?"

A clean, direct, example: the fist I use to smash someone's face is an expression of 'me' (intrinsic to me). I don't have to borrow or steal power from another to do this.
Thinker13
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Posted 04/06/12 - 10:52 AM:

JrnymnX wrote:

Yes.
No one pays much attention to the corruption of people before they become powerful.


Is it in the nature of power to make its possessor misuse it or it's power which makes everyday corruption of any human look more visible? It should be the other way around. Least powerful people cannot be too corrupt because their corruption is easily caught whereas the most powerful keep on misusing power for enough long or perhaps forever. I don't agree with your proposition that it's because of lack of observation that people with little power seem less corrupt.



Jrnymnx wrote:
People seeking power through the political arena always try to appear pure and above reproach, and often get elected by appearing 'cleaner' than the next candidate. But their success at appearing 'clean' is usually just a reflection of how well they hide what they fear are their corruptions.
Former Republican rep. Mark Foley was an advocate for 'exploited children' and took a strong stance against child pornography. He resigned from office after it was revealed he was a pervert chasing after young boys.
Appearances can be decieving. The scrutiny that comes with a position of power can reveal much that would have still existed otherwise.


Your example seems very convincing, still let me take another example: Adolf Hitler or Genghis Khan butchered millions of people. Had they not been as powerful as they were, do you think that they would have inflicted same amount of pain and suffering?

The answer seems to be no. I saw it coming. You might question what 'corruption' actually is. For sake of this example: For world domination, or for personal gain, if Hitler would have killed 1-2 persons, it would have been 'less corrupted' an act compared to what he did and apparently it was his power which made him capable of killing so many.
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Posted 04/07/12 - 1:37 AM:

Absolute power corrupts absolutely because you lose checks & balancing power. Quite possibly these power-abusing maniacs are quite amiable at home because their wives keep them in check. sticking out tongue

JrnymnX
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Posted 04/07/12 - 8:35 PM:

Thinker13 wrote:
Least powerful people cannot be too corrupt because their corruption is easily caught whereas the most powerful keep on misusing power for enough long or perhaps forever.

I was walking through a local store a while back and saw a grandmotherly and motherly type pushing a baby carriage through the ailses. I looked in past the swadling blankets and saw - not a baby, but groceries. This is a common enough occurrence that I've overheard clerks in another store saying about people pulling the same scam, "We're going to call the cops this time."
Can you imagine someone like Pratibha Patil even attempting this, let alone getting off with a warning the first few times?

Thinker13 wrote:
I don't agree with your proposition that it's because of lack of observation that people with little power seem less corrupt.

Then perhaps you need to spend more time observing the actions of those with little power.
But then again, why would you?

Thinker13 wrote:
Adolf Hitler or Genghis Khan butchered millions of people. Had they not been as powerful as they were, do you think that they would have inflicted same amount of pain and suffering?

Interesting examples of people who had lots of other people killed, but what has that to do with corruption? Ghengis Khan especially. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better example of a person with near absolute power who was less corrupt than Genghis Khan.


Thinker13 wrote:
For world domination, or for personal gain, if Hitler would have killed 1-2 persons, it would have been 'less corrupted' an act compared to what he did and apparently it was his power which made him capable of killing so many.

Absolutely not.
Let's assume that killing a person for personal gain reveals a corruption in a person. It takes the same corruption to kill one as it does to kill 100. The scope of suffering borne by others is irrelevant.
Let's now assume that lying about killing a person also reveals a corruption. A person who killed another and then lied about it would be twice a corrupt as a person who kill 100 others but admitted it.

Thinker13 wrote:
You might question what 'corruption' actually is

I have no doubts about what corruption is. Corruption at its simpliest is a conflict. A conflict between what you do and your moral code.
Let's revisit our friend Gengh Khan. He is claimed to have said, "The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters."
He did this to his enemies.
He lived in harmony with his moral code.
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Posted 04/08/12 - 10:54 PM:

Jrnymnx wrote:


Thinker13 wrote:

Least powerful people cannot be too corrupt because their corruption is easily caught whereas the most powerful keep on misusing power for enough long or perhaps forever.


I was walking through a local store a while back and saw a grandmotherly and motherly type pushing a baby carriage through the ailses. I looked in past the swadling blankets and saw - not a baby, but groceries. This is a common enough occurrence that I've overheard clerks in another store saying about people pulling the same scam, "We're going to call the cops this time."
Can you imagine someone like Pratibha Patil even attempting this, let alone getting off with a warning the first few times?


Example is amusing. First: Pratibha Patil is not enjoying much power. She is dummy, because Indian presidents, unlike USA presidents, are there merely for a show and they don't do much. They are elected, they serve their term and then part away, silently. Prime ministers on the other hand have great power and there has been a history of misuse of such power in India.


One late Prime Minister of India was an example of great abuse of power. He was charged heavily in a scam and even today, people say that the account with biggest sum in Swiss bank is in his name and this black money is enough to let India have tax-free time for at least next 20 years! [ These claims do have some substantiality because a statement officially released on behalf of Swiss bank confirmed it.]

So, this PM would not be found walking in a store, attempting to steal a 'Jhonson and Jhonson's Baby Sahmpoo,' because he can have deals that matter under the table and behind the scenes. No poor man can steal bread from millions of children! You're right, powerful people cannot attempt these small feets, therefore, they attempt big things.



Jrnymnx wrote:

Thinker13 wrote:

I don't agree with your proposition that it's because of lack of observation that people with little power seem less corrupt.


Then perhaps you need to spend more time observing the actions of those with little power.
But then again, why would you?



Not really. I have spent a lot of time observing power hierarchies.


Jrnymnx wrote:

Thinker13 wrote:

Adolf Hitler or Genghis Khan butchered millions of people. Had they not been as powerful as they were, do you think that they would have inflicted same amount of pain and suffering?

Interesting examples of people who had lots of other people killed, but what has that to do with corruption? Ghengis Khan especially. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better example of a person with near absolute power who was less corrupt than Genghis Khan.





Jrnymnx wrote:

[quote=Thinker13]
For world domination, or for personal gain, if Hitler would have killed 1-2 persons, it would have been 'less corrupted' an act compared to what he did and apparently it was his power which made him capable of killing so many.


Absolutely not.
Let's assume that killing a person for personal gain reveals a corruption in a person. It takes the same corruption to kill one as it does to kill 100. The scope of suffering borne by others is irrelevant.
Let's now assume that lying about killing a person also reveals a corruption. A person who killed another and then lied about it would be twice a corrupt as a person who kill 100 others but admitted it.





Thinker13 wrote:

You might question what 'corruption' actually is


I have no doubts about what corruption is. Corruption at its simpliest is a conflict. A conflict between what you do and your moral code.
Let's revisit our friend Gengh Khan. He is claimed to have said, "The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters."
He did this to his enemies.
He lived in harmony with his moral code.



That has everything to do with corruption. I will take it up in next point. Perhaps you and I will be hard pressed to find example of less corrupt person than Ghenghis khan because there wasn't any. There rarely were more powerful people: Perhaps Alexander the great is another example.


I gather now that our contention is on our understanding of 'corruption'. Perhaps you are correct and I need to improve my understanding of corruption. Lets see. In your opinion: If a person does things which are in alignment to his own vision--he is not corrupt?

Please answer this question: If as a supreme monarch of a country, you have great power at your disposal and your vision is to stash money in swiss bank for your next generations and to live as luxuriously as possible, no matter if millions in your country are dying everyday because of starvation; then, since you're acting as per your vision, you're not corrupt?


Yes, you might not be corrupt as per your own evaluation but majority would judge you as 'corrupt.'
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Edited by Thinker13 on 04/10/12 - 11:31 AM
JrnymnX
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Posted 04/12/12 - 5:32 PM:

Thinker13 wrote:
Example is amusing. First: Pratibha Patil is not enjoying much power.

No, but she is grandmotherly.

Thinker13 wrote:
No poor man can steal bread from millions of children!

If I steal a loaf of bread meant to feed two children am I twice as corrupt than if the loaf of bread was meant to only feed one child? Is it the act of stealing that is corrupt, or the harm it does?

Thinker13 wrote:
Not really. I have spent a lot of time observing power hierarchies.

But what about the hoi polloi?
Perhaps, maybe perhaps, this is a cultural thing as India's star is ascending while the stars of the west are declining. Empires in decline are noted for their corruption.

Thinker13 wrote:
That has everything to do with corruption.

Interesting take; war as corruption, but a little outside the scope of this discussion.

Thinker13 wrote:
Perhaps you and I will be hard pressed to find example of less corrupt person than Ghenghis khan because there wasn't any.

Glad we agree on this. Or did you mean to say more instead of less?

Thinker13 wrote:
If a person does things which are in alignment to his own vision--he is not corrupt?

If this were true we wouldn't be having this discussion because it is almost impossible for people not to live aligned with their vision. But people often live out of sync with their professed morals, and this is when they are corrupt.

Thinker13 wrote:
If as a supreme monarch of a country, you have great power at your disposal and your vision is to stash money in swiss bank for your next generations and to live as luxuriously as possible, no matter if millions in your country are dying everyday because of starvation; then, since you're acting as per your vision, you're not corrupt?

I believe you'd be hard pressed to find a monarch still clinging to the tired doctrine of divine right which might allow a moral code that would not conflict with these actions.

Thinker13 wrote:
Yes, you might not be corrupt as per your own evaluation but majority would judge you as 'corrupt.'
Since when does it matter what the majority think?
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Posted 04/12/12 - 11:23 PM:

Jrnymnx wrote:

Thinker13 wrote:

Example is amusing. First: Pratibha Patil is not enjoying much power.


No, but she is grandmotherly.


Hmm that's true and I hope that her grandchildren are thriving but that doesn't have much to do with the matter at hand. You took her example to compare a powerful person with an ordinary person in order to compare degree of corruption. She is not a very powerful person, therefore I dismissed her as an apt example.


Jrnymnx wrote:

Thinker13 wrote:

No poor man can steal bread from millions of children!


If I steal a loaf of bread meant to feed two children am I twice as corrupt than if the loaf of bread was meant to only feed one child? Is it the act of stealing that is corrupt, or the harm it does?


Both are corrupt. The degree of corruption is indeed related to damage it does. I don't want to take example of LAW which follows this pattern, because LAW might not be in alignment with morality. Take a hypothetical scenario: Since a person has stolen a loaf of bread from a children and we have labelled him 'corrupt' ( or say he 'is' 'corrupt', in his own estimationwink he might think that since he is as corrupt as a person who has stolen a million breads, he should keep on stealing breads until he is caught. Something looks wrong. Doesn't it?

jrnymnx wrote:

Thinker13 wrote:

Not really. I have spent a lot of time observing power hierarchies.


But what about the hoi polloi?
Perhaps, maybe perhaps, this is a cultural thing as India's star is ascending while the stars of the west are declining. Empires in decline are noted for their corruption.


None in the hoi polloi could ever enjoy as much power as the elite does and hence the corruption. I don't agree with ascending star thing either. Just observe how many scams have come into notice in last 20 years. You might interpret it two ways: 1. Number of scams in India have risen significantly in recent past. 2. The scams were always there but the rate with which they come to the public notice has gone up significantly, recently.

Jrnymnx wrote:

Thinker13 wrote:

That has everything to do with corruption.


Interesting take; war as corruption, but a little outside the scope of this discussion.


Not war, but rather exercising power to kill, to rape, to rob, to behead, to mutilate and to kill is in the scope of this discussion.

Jrnymnx wrote:

Thinker13 wrote:

Perhaps you and I will be hard pressed to find example of less corrupt person than Ghenghis khan because there wasn't any.


Glad we agree on this. Or did you mean to say more instead of less?


Not a problem. Your proposition was that a person as corrupt and as powerful as Ghanghies Khan is hard to find in History. Your emphasis was on how 'less' corrupt he was, but I stressed that there were very few as powerful people, therefore to compare is not possible.

Jrnymnx wrote:

I have no doubts about what corruption is. Corruption at its simpliest is a conflict. A conflict between what you do and your moral code.
Let's revisit our friend Gengh Khan. He is claimed to have said, "The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters."
He did this to his enemies.


Jrnymnx wrote:
He lived in harmony with his moral code.



Thinker13 wrote:

If a person does things which are in alignment to his own vision--he is not corrupt?


Jrnymnx wrote:
If this were true we wouldn't be having this discussion because it is almost impossible for people not to live aligned with their vision. But people often live out of sync with their professed morals, and this is when they are corrupt.


A. You suggest that Ghenghis Khan lived with his moral code.
B. You suggest that he lived upto what he professed.
C. You suggest that he was not corrupt because he lived upto what his moral code was, and since his moral code was in alignment with what he professed and with what he actually did, he was not corrupt.

I am sorry, but I don't agree. This suggestion of yours simply means that a person is not corrupt if he just professes what he wants to do and this should also be his moral code: This 'professing' something, no matter how wicked, how damaging or unsettling it's for others, is enough, in your opinion to carry out whatever your moral code tells you. If your moral code says that you must rob everyone else and kill every children in the world and you profess the same, what you're is not only a corrupt person but also a psychopath and a sociopath!



Jrnymnx wrote:

Thinker13 wrote:

If as a supreme monarch of a country, you have great power at your disposal and your vision is to stash money in swiss bank for your next generations and to live as luxuriously as possible, no matter if millions in your country are dying everyday because of starvation; then, since you're acting as per your vision, you're not corrupt?


I believe you'd be hard pressed to find a monarch still clinging to the tired doctrine of divine right which might allow a moral code that would not conflict with these actions.


I am afraid that you have not given an unequivocal answer to my question.

Jrnymnx wrote:

Thinker13 wrote:

Yes, you might not be corrupt as per your own evaluation but majority would judge you as 'corrupt.'

Since when does it matter what the majority think?


Very well then. What decides morality is individual's opinion, then? Or is it powerful people? What or who sets the moral standards if it's not the society?
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Posted 04/13/12 - 7:29 PM:

The degree of corruption is indeed related to damage it does

I disagree. When I stole the bread I had no way of knowing if it was going to feed one child or two. The act of stealing is wrong independent of its consequences. Good consequences could conceivably follow my corrupt actions, by your interpretation they could balance such that I would actually be a better person than if I had not stolen the bread.


Take a hypothetical scenario: Since a person has stolen a loaf of bread from a children and we have labelled him 'corrupt' ( or say he 'is' 'corrupt', in his own estimation he might think that since he is as corrupt as a person who has stolen a million breads, he should keep on stealing breads until he is caught. Something looks wrong. Doesn't it?

Yes, something does look wrong, to wit, you hinged you hypothetical on a he might.
He might also have felt so bad after stealing a loaf of bread and being just as corrupt as one who stole a million loaves that he dedicated the remainder of his days to feeding the poor.


None in the hoi polloi could ever enjoy as much power as the elite does and hence the corruption.

A little circular?


Not war, but rather exercising power to kill, to rape, to rob, to behead, to mutilate and to kill is in the scope of this discussion.
War is extraordinary circumstances. Using it in a discussion about corruption is a little disingenuous isn't it?


This suggestion of yours simply means that a person is not corrupt if he just professes what he wants to do and this should also be his moral code:

My suggestion is that a person is not corrupt if they do not viloate their moral code. What they profess is beside the point.


This 'professing' something, no matter how wicked, how damaging or unsettling it's for others...

You're passing judgement on actions without reference or context.


If your moral code says that you must rob everyone else and kill every children in the world and you profess the same, what you're is not only a corrupt person but also a psychopath and a sociopath!

Agreed. But one wouldn't really expect a psychopath or sociopath to play nice with others.


I am afraid that you have not given an unequivocal answer to my question.

That's because you were speaking of someone's vision and not their moral code. People will almost always act in harmony with their vision regardless of whether it is in harmony with their moral code. In your example the monarch is corrupt because they are not acting in harmony with their moral code. (Unless your example is drawn from an historical period where belief in 'divine right' is extant.)


What decides morality is individual's opinion, then?

Ultimately, yes. Although opinion is horrendously overworked in this case.


Or is it powerful people?

Powerful people hold no special ability to decide moarlity.


What or who sets the moral standards if it's not the society?

Those with the power of moral authority set the standards. Such a tragic consequence.
Children, it is worth noting, are quite capable of working out moral standards all by themselves.
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Posted 04/14/12 - 9:59 AM:

Thinker13 wrote:
The degree of corruption is indeed related to damage it does


Jrnymnx wrote:
I disagree. When I stole the bread I had no way of knowing if it was going to feed one child or two. The act of stealing is wrong independent of its consequences.


What about stealing bread from millions of people? Don't you see that there is an evident difference between a thief and a powerful person who is corrupt and indulges into stashing millions of dollars in a bank? Act of stealing or act of killing is not wrong independent of its consequences. Killing is wrong in any case, but it is not equally wrong independent of its consequences. Killing a person is not a very righteous thing but then killing thousands upon thousands is a worse thing because you are inflicting much more suffering.

Jrnymnx wrote:

Good consequences could conceivably follow my corrupt actions, by your interpretation they could balance such that I would actually be a better person than if I had not stolen the bread.


I did not clearly understand the second part of your sentence but as far as first part is concerned: Your intentions matter a lot. Killing one person requires intentions to inflict suffering and killing millions requires thousand times wicked intentions of inflicting much more suffering.

Jrnymnx wrote:

Thinker13 wrote:

Take a hypothetical scenario: Since a person has stolen a loaf of bread from a children and we have labelled him 'corrupt' ( or say he 'is' 'corrupt', in his own estimation he might think that since he is as corrupt as a person who has stolen a million breads, he should keep on stealing breads until he is caught. Something looks wrong. Doesn't it?


Yes, something does look wrong, to wit, you hinged you hypothetical on a he might.
He might also have felt so bad after stealing a loaf of bread and being just as corrupt as one who stole a million loaves that he dedicated the remainder of his days to feeding the poor.


Definitely, this 'might' is wrong. But the motive behind this example is to suggest that you feel that there is no difference between inflicting suffering on one and inflicting it on many in that both of them yield to same degree of being corrupt in your opinion. Corruption is indeed not a measurable quantity but to me it seems just inappropriate that making one person suffer is equivalent to making millions of people suffer!



Jrnymnx wrote:




Thinker13 wrote:


Not really. I have spent a lot of time observing power hierarchies.



Jrnymnx wrote:
But what about the hoi polloi?
Perhaps, maybe perhaps, this is a cultural thing as India's star is ascending while the stars of the west are declining. Empires in decline are noted for their corruption.



Thinker13 wrote:
None in the hoi polloi could ever enjoy as much power as the elite does and hence the corruption. I don't agree with ascending star thing either. Just observe how many scams have come into notice in last 20 years. You might interpret it two ways: 1. Number of scams in India have risen significantly in recent past. 2. The scams were always there but the rate with which they come to the public notice has gone up significantly, recently.



Jrnymnx wrote:
A little circular?


Now what exactly is circular? If your question was "Have you spent enough time observinf hoi polloi as well?" My answer is : Yes, they're part of hierarchies. They're at the base of pyramid. If I misinterpreted your question, would you please rephrase it?

Jrnymnx wrote:

[quote=Thinker13]
Not war, but rather exercising power to kill, to rape, to rob, to behead, to mutilate and to kill is in the scope of this discussion.

War is extraordinary circumstances. Using it in a discussion about corruption is a little disingenuous isn't it?


As far as war has powerful leaders who misuse the power, discussions about wars do fit very well into this discussions. More than that, just in order to ensure that you don't point on contradictions in my statements: Wars, where power is misused by leaders and make many suffer are example of corruption and misuse of power.


Jrnymnx wrote:


I have no doubts about what corruption is. Corruption at its simpliest is a conflict. A conflict between what you do and your moral code.
Let's revisit our friend Gengh Khan. He is claimed to have said, "The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters."
He did this to his enemies.




He lived in harmony with his moral code.





Thinker13 wrote:


If a person does things which are in alignment to his own vision--he is not corrupt?




Jrnymnx wrote:

If this were true we wouldn't be having this discussion because it is almost impossible for people not to live aligned with their vision. But people often live out of sync with their professed morals, and this is when they are corrupt.

[quote=Thinker13]
A. You suggest that Ghenghis Khan lived with his moral code.
B. You suggest that he lived upto what he professed.
C. You suggest that he was not corrupt because he lived upto what his moral code was, and since his moral code was in alignment with what he professed and with what he actually did, he was not corrupt.

I am sorry, but I don't agree. This suggestion of yours simply means that a person is not corrupt if he just professes what he wants to do and this should also be his moral code: This 'professing' something, no matter how wicked, how damaging or unsettling it's for others, is enough, in your opinion to carry out whatever your moral code tells you. If your moral code says that you must rob everyone else and kill every children in the world and you profess the same, what you're is not only a corrupt person but also a psychopath and a sociopath!






This suggestion of yours simply means that a person is not corrupt if he just professes what he wants to do and this should also be his moral code:


Jrnymnx wrote:
My suggestion is that a person is not corrupt if they do not viloate their moral code. What they profess is beside the point.


Is it so? Up-thread in the bold is your statement about 'professed morals'. You did say that 'professed morals' are what play a key role in deciding about corruption in your opinion. Please elucidate about 'moral code' and 'professed morals' and if they're one and the same thing ( This I assume because according to you both of them play role in determining about corruption!)



Jrnymnx wrote:
My suggestion is that a person is not corrupt if they do not viloate their moral code

Jrnymnx wrote:

If your moral code says that you must rob everyone else and kill every children in the world and you profess the same, what you're is not only a corrupt person but also a psychopath and a sociopath!


Jrnymnx wrote:
Agreed. But one wouldn't really expect a psychopath or sociopath to play nice with others.


Then, you agree that a person, even if he acts in alignment with his moral code, could be a corrupt person? Which means that you would contradict your previous statement, quoted above?
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#16 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 04/14/12 - 10:16 AM:

Jrnymnx wrote:


Thinker13 wrote:
I am afraid that you have not given an unequivocal answer to my question.


That's because you were speaking of someone's vision and not their moral code. People will almost always act in harmony with their vision regardless of whether it is in harmony with their moral code. In your example the monarch is corrupt because they are not acting in harmony with their moral code. (Unless your example is drawn from an historical period where belief in 'divine right' is extant.)


Now I understand. Thanks for the explication.



Jrnymnx wrote:

Thinker13 wrote:

What decides morality is individual's opinion, then?


Ultimately, yes. Although opinion is horrendously overworked in this case.


I expected so. But if two of us, or say, many of us are talking about corruption, or about relation of power with corruption; or if we're just enquiring if any relationship between power and corruption exists at all, don't you think that we need certain standards to decide upon this matter? If it's just your opinion, or my opinion, or Ghenghis Khan's opinion, then this discussion is of no use.


Jrnymnx wrote:

Thinker13 wrote:
Or is it powerful people?


Powerful people hold no special ability to decide moarlity.


I agree on this one if we could really prove that there is no connection whatsoever between powerful people and moral authority(as you use it in your next comment). This is so because I don't know exactly what conferres moral authority.


Jrnymnx wrote:

Thinker13 wrote:
What or who sets the moral standards if it's not the society?


Those with the power of moral authority set the standards. Such a tragic consequence.
Children, it is worth noting, are quite capable of working out moral standards all by themselves


Are popes, imams and other priests the one you're mentioning as persons with power of "moral authority?" If not then who are they and what gives them this power?

If yes, then are these popes, imams and other high priests not related to powerful people. By powerful people, I mean those who actually run governments and determine the course of events in history.


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Posted 04/19/12 - 2:49 PM:

I think it's more apt to say that power increases the potential for harmful deeds to be committed. It may result in an increase of guilt. But in my opinion, this is not to say that a person who commits more evil deeds is more corrupt than someone who commits fewer. The matter of opportunity is an important factor. I think this is generally in agreement with what JmX is saying but I wanted to rephrase it in my own words.

When of I think of the verb "to corrupt", I am thinking of something which is undergoing a change in its essential nature. Something that was at one point good but now is bad. Some people may experience a change in their essential nature as a result of increased power. But I definitely do not believe this is true of everyone, nor even a majority per se.

Let us take person A for example, I will call him Pablo. Pablo is a rather malicious sort who would gladly rape, torture, or kill anyone given the opportunity. Thankfully, he is in a position of little power and keeps his impulses in check to keep from going to jail. One day Pablo somehow finds his way into power, he then has more opportunities to commit crimes and does so. Do these additional crimes make him more corrupt? I would say no. They make him more guilty. But his degree of corruption has remained the same. He is still motivated by the same impulses as he was before he had power. The only thing that is different now is the level of opportunity.

Let us take person B now for example. I will call him Antoine. Before he came into power, he valued doing the right thing. He felt empathy for others. He acted with compassion and consideration. He was so loved by his friends, family, and community that they naturally elect him to be mayor or even president. Now that he is confronted with opportunities to exploit others, he avoids these at first but after time becomes accustomed to luxury and freedom and no longer feels as emotionally connected to the people as he once did. His moral values begin to decline. As such, it may be said that he has become corrupted by power.

And this would be my theory as to why power corrupts. The essence of it is that it puts you in a position where there is an obstacle between you and truly being able to empathize with others who are not in power. Not an impossible one to overcome, but a difficult one.
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Posted 04/20/12 - 3:34 AM:

lib wrote:
I think it's more apt to say that power increases the potential for harmful deeds to be committed. It may result in an increase of guilt. But in my opinion, this is not to say that a person who commits more evil deeds is more corrupt than someone who commits fewer. The matter of opportunity is an important factor. I think this is generally in agreement with what JmX is saying but I wanted to rephrase it in my own words.


As you take interest in Karma, what about the Karmic repercussions related to extent of pain inflicted upon others? What exactly is corruption in your opinion?


lib wrote:

When of I think of the verb "to corrupt", I am thinking of something which is undergoing a change in its essential nature. Something that was at one point good but now is bad. Some people may experience a change in their essential nature as a result of increased power. But I definitely do not believe this is true of everyone, nor even a majority per se.

Let us take person A for example, I will call him Pablo. Pablo is a rather malicious sort who would gladly rape, torture, or kill anyone given the opportunity. Thankfully, he is in a position of little power and keeps his impulses in check to keep from going to jail. One day Pablo somehow finds his way into power, he then has more opportunities to commit crimes and does so. Do these additional crimes make him more corrupt? I would say no. They make him more guilty. But his degree of corruption has remained the same. He is still motivated by the same impulses as he was before he had power. The only thing that is different now is the level of opportunity.


In the light of Karma, I must say that carrying out evil deeds creates more karma than speaking about them, which creates more Karma than thinking of doing them. Corruption is essentially Karmic concept in my opinion, something similar to good or bad.

lib wrote:

Let us take person B now for example. I will call him Antoine. Before he came into power, he valued doing the right thing. He felt empathy for others. He acted with compassion and consideration. He was so loved by his friends, family, and community that they naturally elect him to be mayor or even president. Now that he is confronted with opportunities to exploit others, he avoids these at first but after time becomes accustomed to luxury and freedom and no longer feels as emotionally connected to the people as he once did. His moral values begin to decline. As such, it may be said that he has become corrupted by power.

And this would be my theory as to why power corrupts. The essence of it is that it puts you in a position where there is an obstacle between you and truly being able to empathize with others who are not in power. Not an impossible one to overcome, but a difficult one.


What exactly creates this obstacle? Is it in the nature of power to create this obstacle in its possesor? Power is simply ability or control over things and people--how this lessens empathy in you?

By the principle of happiness/pleasure, the power must be used for maximizing one's happiness as everything else is, in that case, why power tries to optimize your happiness at the cost of everyone else?


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Posted 04/20/12 - 9:24 AM:

Thinker wrote:
What exactly is corruption in your opinion?

I thought I had answered this question but I will try to be more clear. In my view, corruption is not simply a matter of committing bad deeds. It is, more to the point, evidence of some form of transformation. See the following list of definitions at merriam-websters. Not merely a lack of good morals but a change in moral state from good to bad or from bad to worse. Note the use of the word "degrade" in definition 1b. To "rot" or "spoil" in definition 2. You could think of telephone line that was once functioning properly but due to external corrosion has become corrupted. Or think about a computer file that is determined to be corrupt. The key concept is that they once worked fine, now they don't.

I see there are other definitions of "corrupt" floating around the internet that indicate a meaning of simply "guilty of bad deeds". I could see how the definition has evolved over time to reach this meaning. I would speculate that this comes from many people seeing descriptions of corrupt politicians and such in the newspaper and making assumptions about what that means. But when used properly, "corrupt" has a very specific connotation. Someone who is guilty is not necessarily corrupt. A mentally ill person would not rightly be described as corrupt. A mentally disabled person wouldn't, either. And yet someone in these conditions can also be guilty of evil deeds.

Thinker wrote:
What exactly creates this obstacle? Is it in the nature of power to create this obstacle in its possesor? Power is simply ability or control over things and people--how this lessens empathy in you?

Think about what empathy means - the ability to feel what others are feeling. The more power you have over others, the less you can truly empathize with what they truly feel. Why? Because they are the ones being dominated, and you are the one doing the dominating. You have advantages and liberties that they don't. As I said, it's not impossible to stay connected, but I would hazard that it's very difficult. This, I believe, is why some people become corrupted.

Thinker wrote:
By the principle of happiness/pleasure, the power must be used for maximizing one's happiness as everything else is, in that case, why power tries to optimize your happiness at the cost of everyone else?

Because the battle is between intellect and emotion. On an intellectual level, we can say "Power must be used for the good of everyone" but on an emotional level, the person in power must struggle to feel genuine empathy for what the good of others actually is. Again, I say it's not impossible. But I do imagine it to be difficult.
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Posted 04/20/12 - 12:36 PM:

libertygrl wrote:

I thought I had answered this question but I will try to be more clear. In my view, corruption is not simply a matter of committing bad deeds. It is, more to the point, evidence of some form of transformation. See the following list of definitions at merriam-websters. Not merely a lack of good morals but a change in moral state from good to bad or from bad to worse. Note the use of the word "degrade" in definition 1b. To "rot" or "spoil" in definition 2. You could think of telephone line that was once functioning properly but due to external corrosion has become corrupted. Or think about a computer file that is determined to be corrupt. The key concept is that they once worked fine, now they don't.


I don't have any contention against various definitions of the word, but from the beginning the sense in which word has been used, in the context of this thread, had most to do with power.

lib wrote:

I see there are other definitions of "corrupt" floating around the internet that indicate a meaning of simply "guilty of bad deeds". I could see how the definition has evolved over time to reach this meaning. I would speculate that this comes from many people seeing descriptions of corrupt politicians and such in the newspaper and making assumptions about what that means. But when used properly, "corrupt" has a very specific connotation. Someone who is guilty is not necessarily corrupt. A mentally ill person would not rightly be described as corrupt. A mentally disabled person wouldn't, either. And yet someone in these conditions can also be guilty of evil deeds.


I agree about serious mental illnesses but just with the labels of 'psychopath' or 'sociopath,' not everyone who commits horrible things could be called righteous and I would call them corrupt. If you sign-off Hitler, Napoleon or Ghenghis Khan as 'not corrupt' because they were 'megalomaniacs' or 'sociopaths' or 'psychopaths,' I don't think that it's justified.

lib wrote:

Think about what empathy means - the ability to feel what others are feeling. The more power you have over others, the less you can truly empathize with what they truly feel. Why? Because they are the ones being dominated, and you are the one doing the dominating. You have advantages and liberties that they don't. As I said, it's not impossible to stay connected, but I would hazard that it's very difficult. This, I believe, is why some people become corrupted.


If I have advantages, privileges, liberties and I am the one dominating, how does this desensitizes me to the sufferings of others? I feel that this is especially true for political power. Compare it with a well-off prince like Siddhartha, who had immense power since beginning but instead of craving for more power he channeled his energies into spiritual directions.

lib wrote:

Thinker13 wrote:

By the principle of happiness/pleasure, the power must be used for maximizing one's happiness as everything else is, in that case, why power tries to optimize your happiness at the cost of everyone else?


Because the battle is between intellect and emotion. On an intellectual level, we can say "Power must be used for the good of everyone" but on an emotional level, the person in power must struggle to feel genuine empathy for what the good of others actually is. Again, I say it's not impossible. But I do imagine it to be difficult.


The person with power struggles to 'feel' genuine empathy. Why? Is it in the nature of power to charge its possesor in a way that it benumbs the sensations in a way? Say, we are at the same level and I don't try to exploit you and then after some time I become very powerful and I start exploiting you: Why? Because I see that you will not be able to harm me even if I used you for my advantage? I want to use you because I am corrupt and then some opportunities confer power and then my desires get materialized. If this is as you and Jrynymnx suggest, that power just amplifies corruption and does not actually induce corruption in the subject, then, it's almost a given that corrupt people are more likely to become powerful, if we agree partially that more often than not powerful people tend to be corrupt.

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Posted 04/20/12 - 2:45 PM:

Thinker wrote:
not everyone who commits horrible things could be called righteous and I would call them corrupt

I would speculate that Hitler was corrupted by the abuse he suffered as a child. I could not speculate on Napoleon or Ghengis Khan because I don't know that much about their histories or state of mind.

Compare it with a well-off prince like Siddhartha, who had immense power since beginning but instead of craving for more power he channeled his energies into spiritual directions.

If that is true, then it is clear that power does not necessarily corrupt.

Is it in the nature of power to charge its possesor in a way that it benumbs the sensations in a way?

Could be true.

Say, we are at the same level and I don't try to exploit you and then after some time I become very powerful and I start exploiting you: Why? Because I see that you will not be able to harm me even if I used you for my advantage?

1) Because you can.
2) Because you begin to see yourself as fundamentally different from the other. Perhaps stronger, more capable, generally overall: better. It has the potential to create a superiority complex.

If this is as you and Jrynymnx suggest, that power just amplifies corruption and does not actually induce corruption in the subject, then, it's almost a given that corrupt people are more likely to become powerful, if we agree partially that more often than not powerful people tend to be corrupt.

I don't think it's the case that corrupt people are more likely to become powerful, although it may be the case that corrupt people are more attracted to the idea of power. I would suggest rather that power merely reveals pre-existing corruption in people.
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Posted 04/20/12 - 3:09 PM:

libertygrl wrote:

I would speculate that Hitler was corrupted by the abuse he suffered as a child. I could not speculate on Napoleon or Ghengis Khan because I don't know that much about their histories or state of mind.


I might agree, but how many persons who suffer in their childhood ultimately turn out to be like Hitler? What I am trying to say is: It might have been one of the factors. Add to that 'will to power,' the vision of ubermensch.

If you take into the account just one factor of 'child abuse' which might have created a complex in him, then it again boils down to psychological disease.

This makes me to think that misuse of power might be actually a dysfunction. Yes, it might be true that all corrupt people who misuse their power are suffering from some sort of psychosis and might have complexes, but I am not sure. I think, we might discuss more about it. smiling face


lib wrote:

If that is true, then it is clear that power does not necessarily corrupt.


To a T. Even if it seems so by my outlook throughout the discussion, I was never convinced that power corrupts everyone. Do you have some more examples of exceptions?




lib wrote:

1) Because you can.
2) Because you begin to see yourself as fundamentally different from the other. Perhaps stronger, more capable, generally overall: better. It has the potential to create a superiority complex.


It again insinuates towards the tendency of power to create psychological dysfunction and complexes. Power creates psychological dysfunction? What else does? Do we know what exactly causes psychological dysfunction? I might tell you about Karmic reasons, but first let us discuss about general reasons as observed by the Science and Philosophy.

lib wrote:

I don't think it's the case that corrupt people are more likely to become powerful, although it may be the case that corrupt people are more attracted to the idea of power. I would suggest rather that power merely reveals pre-existing corruption in people.


Jrnymnx pointed to the same thing. At least in the present political scene, in India, corruption has helped the incumbents for enough long. smiling face
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#23 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 04/26/12 - 9:04 PM:

Thinker13 wrote:
I might agree, but how many persons who suffer in their childhood ultimately turn out to be like Hitler?

I think it's probably very few who come out having the power that Hitler amassed. But if you phrase the question to ask: How many serial killers were severely abused as a child? Then I think the answer would be: almost every single one. So I think it can be safely said that abuse can destroy the integrity of a person. Some are stronger than others, though, and are able to preserve a sense of empathy in spite of it. Still, they may succumb to corruption.

Thinker wrote:
What I am trying to say is: It might have been one of the factors. Add to that 'will to power,' the vision of ubermensch.

Indeed, "will to power" is an important factor. Without it we are merely mechanisms of fate.

Thinker wrote:
This makes me to think that misuse of power might be actually a dysfunction.

Dysfunction is a good word for it. "Psychosis" is a more problematic term.

Thinker wrote:
Yes, it might be true that all corrupt people who misuse their power are suffering from some sort of psychosis and might have complexes, but I am not sure. I think, we might discuss more about it. smiling face

Sure. I think it would be worthwhile to address the meaning of psychosis.

Thinker wrote:
To a T. Even if it seems so by my outlook throughout the discussion, I was never convinced that power corrupts everyone. Do you have some more examples of exceptions?

I think a number of examples can be found in our U.S. Congress. Not a lot, but a few. Dennis Kucinich comes to mind. No scandals, a long list of achievements, seems like a good guy. Barbara Boxer also comes to mind. I could probably dig up more names, but I would definitely characterize these people as the exception rather than the rule. Surely there are leaders throughout history who have won the respect of their countrymen and whose names we quickly forgot in their absence of infamy.
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Posted 04/30/12 - 7:27 AM:

I came across this news report today. It seems to be in alignment with what we have been thinking methinks--that power causes dysfunction in its possessor and that is how it corrupts.

Article wrote:

Like baboons, our elected leaders are literally addicted to power
Political power has a similar effect on the brain to cocaine - and it's not surprising that, as the Leveson Inquiry shows, our political leaders are hooked on it, says Dr Ian Robertson.


Democracy, the separation of judicial powers and the free press all evolved for essentially one purpose – to reduce the chance of leaders becoming power addicts. Power changes the brain triggering increased testosterone in both men and women. Testosterone and one of its by-products called 3-androstanediol, are addictive, largely because they increase dopamine in a part of the brain’s reward system called the nucleus accumbens. Cocaine has its effects through this system also, and by hijacking our brain’s reward system, it can give short-term extreme pleasure but leads to long-term addiction, with all that that entails.
Unfettered power has almost identical effects, but in the light of yesterday’s Leveson Inquiry interchanges in London, there seems to be less chance of British government ministers becoming addicted to power. Why? Because, as it appears from the emails released by James Murdoch yesterday, they appeared to be submissive to the all-powerful Murdoch empire, hugely dependent on the support of this organization for their jobs and status, who could swing hundreds of thousands of votes for or against them.
Submissiveness and dominance have their effects on the same reward circuits of the brain as power and cocaine. Baboons low down in the dominance hierarchy have lower levels of dopamine in key brain areas, but if they get ‘promoted’ to a higher position, then dopamine rises accordingly. This makes them more aggressive and sexually active, and in humans similar changes happen when people are given power. What’s more, power also makes people smarter, because dopamine improves the functioning of the brain’s frontal lobes. Conversely, demotion in a hierarchy decreases dopamine levels, increases stress and reduces cognitive function.
But too much power - and hence too much dopamine - can disrupt normal cognition and emotion, leading to gross errors of judgment and imperviousness to risk, not to mention huge egocentricity and lack of empathy for others. The Murdoch empire and its acolytes seem to have got carried away by the power they have wielded over the British political system and the unfettered power they have had - unconstrained by any democratic constraints - has led to the quite extraordinary behaviour and arrogance that has been corporately demonstrated.
We should all be grateful that two of the three power-constraining elements of democracy - the legal system and a free press - have managed to at last reign in some of the power of the Murdoch empire. But it was a close call for both, given the threat to financial viability of the newspaper industry and to the integrity of the police system through the close links between the Murdoch empire and Scotland Yard.



What do you think?

Edited by Thinker13 on 04/30/12 - 7:40 AM
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#25 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 05/03/12 - 6:26 PM:

Thinker13 wrote:
What do you think?


I think the good doctor is trying to sell a book.

I feel that while it may be somewhat accurate to say the neuro-chemical 'ends' are similar ignoring the 'means' borders on deliberate obfuscation. One is a natural process that is a reward for success, the other is an artificial reward for nothing.

The doctor points out that power makes people smarter whereas from all accounts I've come across cocaine only makes people think they're smarter.
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