Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Power Politics Attracts The Corruptible

It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.
- David Brin, American author (1950- )

This quote struck me with such effect that it was like a bolt of lightning out of a blue sky. It explained for me something that has caused me considerable doubt and pondering for years.
Why do supposedly good politicians go bad? Brin says that it's the corruptibility of those who crave power in the first place that sets up the potential.

That's not to say that all politicians are corrupt or corruptible. But then, not all politicians seek the kind of power that puts them in the position of being able to indulge in corruption.

Politics has a long history of corrupt representatives, ever since the early days of democracy in ancient Greece after the "every man has a vote on every issue" period changed to the first kind of representative democracy and some senators could be bribed to vote as they payers wished.

For much of the last century politics in the great democracies was dominated by lawyers. Knowing the reputation of lawyers today, little more needs to be said to explain the outrageous corruption that prevailed in many places.

Democratic countries today are turning more to top level business people and academics. The advantage of academics is that they know how to think matters through and their original choice of profession would not have been influenced by a basic desire for wealth.

Business people, however, do not necessarily share the same fundamental moral code as academics. Even the lawyers have had to clean up their act a great deal to prevent the reputation of their profession from being further sullied.

While business people in government demonstrate the need for greed and power to some extent, as they have been accustomed to in business, lawyers in the same government are more apt to be in politics because of the recognition they receive, such as in the media. Fame take precedence over power as the driving force of many lawyers in government.

In Canada, national representatives who have served a minimum of six years in office receive a sizable pension for life once they are no longer in office. They don't enjoy great wealth when they are still in parliament, but they enjoy many options once they leave because they can depend on a secure income.

The problem of nominating the best people still exists. In pre-election nomination meetings, influence, prior service to the community and simple popularity tend to carry the day. The major criterion on the minds of most voting members is "Which one can win?"

Only when the main criterion is "Which candidate can best represent the interests of our community and our party?" will we have fewer corruptible representatives in government.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the complex issues of life a little easier to manage.
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