The Corruptive Influence of Power


originally posted June 25, 2010

“Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely”
John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887

Supporters of Marxist theories often imply that the motive for what they call the capitalists´class war against the working class is greed for money, not greed for power. Power, according to some of the Marxists I read, is just a means to an end.
I´m not an expert in Marxist theory myself, therefore I don´t know if Marxism deals with the issue of power at some level.

But if I understand Marxist theory correctly, then capitalists only seek power in order to protect their wealth and the comfortable life-style they fear to lose if wealth were to be distributed more equally.

But how much money do you actually need to live a comfortable life?

A person with a yearly income of a million dollars will already be able to afford all the comforts he could ever wish for. Sure, there are expensive objects or services which rich people have sought,like works of art, jewellery, or yachts, all of them worth several million of dollars.

But those objects seem to serve mainly as status symbols. The high prices of many of those objects are driven purely by the demand of those who´ve got too much money to spend. These objects don´t actually improve life´s comfort. Neither do crazy parties where dishes with actual gold-flakes are served.

(As at a party Icelandic bankers held for their big customers, some media people. One of those who attended actually said the gold didn´t improve the taste of the risotto one bit.)

You don´t need billions to buy things.
Yearning for luxuries might be the motive for a bank-robber,but I really doubt it´s the main driving force behind the big bankers’ efforts to buy up smaller banks.

Greed for power seems to be a driving force in and of itself, not a means to an end. And in today´s financially driven capitalism, it seems to me to be in the driver’s seat.

In today´s capitalism, the most powerful and politically influential people aren´t the ones who actually own physical wealth, such as land, real-estate, and factories, the means of industrial production. The monetary value of this physical wealth seems to be easily manipulated up or down by far more powerful individuals.

The real power lies with those who are in control of the money creation process: the bankers. They control all trade, all credit, and through their credit, all the means of production, even while not legally owning them.

(As shown for instance the video: Money as Debt)

Eventually, however, in times of crisis when money becomes scarce and credit can no longer be repaid and new credit can´t be obtained, then the title to the real physical wealth does actually fall into the hands of those banking elites. This means, of course, that in a capitalist society, every recession or depression is a time when large amounts of physical wealth are transferred into the hands of those who control the money creation process. And this means, in turn, an accumulation of power in fewer and fewer hands.

It seems to me that because Marxism didn´t fully take into account the destructive influence of power on the human mind (and from there also on the political system), Marxist communism was doomed to fail from the very beginning. It should also be noted that Marxist philosophy doesn´t deal with the money creation process.

(Perhaps Marxism doesn´t deal with power as a main motivating factor in capitalism because Marxism bases itself purely on a materialist theory. Sure, power can be wielded with the help of objects like weapons, no doubt about it, but power can also be wielded in non-materialist ways by psychological coercion. Power is an idea, a belief that some people have the RIGHT to rule and control others for whatever reason.)

When I look at the Soviet and Chinese communist experiments, it becomes obvious to me that the use or abuse of power over people is less dependent on who legally owns the “means of production” or the resources, than on who and how many control those means and resources.

A group of party-leaders in control of state-owned industries has just as much power concentrated in their hands as does the board of directors of a large corporation. When the power of either the party leaders or the corporate hacks over other people has become so extensive that it can no longer be questioned by those who are ruled by this power–in other words, when power becomes absolute–then the abuse of this power is inevitable.

Experience shows that power is addictive, and it seems to work like a mind-altering drug. People who are addicted to power come to need more and more and more of it.
This seems to be a general weakness in human nature. Few if any human beings are immune to this corruptive influence of power.

The powerful soon start to believe that they need to shape the world in their own image, or better yet, the image of their particular world-view.

Shortly thereafter, they inevitably develop a superiority complex. In their minds, they become the only ones who know what is right for the people under their control and for the world as a whole.

The more total their power over others becomes, the less empathy they can feel for those they control.
The powerful believe that they need to force compliance on everyone at any cost. They see critics and resistors as obstacles for achieving their aim of protecting “the greater good,” as an evil which must be fought at any cost.

The powerful see themselves as the only ones reasonable enough to understand the “greater good” and what must be done to achieve it.

For communist ideologists, this “greater good” might be the creation of a new less self-interested man, a creation facilitated by an enforced “re-education” process.
For fascists, the “greater good” might be the strengthening of national power, or the preservation and strengthening of their own “superior” race.

For today´s western power elites, there are two causes they use to justify their actions:
The “greater good” is either “the protection of the planet” from the menace of human destruction brought on by human “overpopulation” or it is the aim of humanity´s “self-evolution”, the creation of a new and improved human model, a “Homo Superior”.

Some ideologies are clearly inhumane.
But why would people resist the control of the powerful, if their ideology seems initially so humanistic?

Communism, for instance, strives to distribute work, resources, and the products of production equally among the people. It intends to create a smooth and well-run system which eventually is supposed to perfectly fulfill everyone´s needs.

Why did the populations of most communist countries eventually reject such a system?

Because the theory was fine, but reality didn´t work according to theory.
A system organized by a far-away authoritarian power-center never succeeds in putting a beautiful theory into long-distance practice.
It tries to control everyone and everything, yet it still cannot run smoothly and effectively, no matter how smart or well-meaning its leaders might be.

In human reality, no far-away bureaucracy can foresee all eventualities, nor make provisions for all local social, environmental, cultural or economic conditions.
The larger a society becomes, the more complex it will be. It´s impossible to create one single matrix, a pattern that will work perfectly for all the complexity of all human societies. Every imposed pattern will make the system less flexible,less efficient.

Why? Because any patterns imposed from the outside will pretty much suffocate human initiative and ingenuity. Individuals who try to improve things and adapt them to local conditions will constantly run into bureaucratic brick walls, for the local bureaucrats will be under pressure from their superiors in the higher echelons of the power pyramid to uphold the rules set by the far-away power-center.

Some of the very frustrated people will become angry, others will soon become passive and lose all interest in what they are doing, since they have no power over their own work.

When power-elites become aware of anger and non-cooperation within the general population, they will then become more and more paranoid and hostile towards the general population.
They will take more punitive measures against perceived offenders; they will try to monitor potential resistors even more intensively in their attempt to preempt any successful opposition. And bit by bit, the elites´ power becomes ever more oppressive and ever more suffocating for the general population.

Today´s western power-elites have slowly accumulated their enormous powers under the disguise of “democracy” by the manipulation of information. “Democracy”, Greek for “people´s rule,” has become an Orwellian misnomer. Ordinary people have essentially no power in this system any more, and in recent years, they have also lost many of the rights which might protect them from the abuse of power by the elitist system.

But this manipulative power-system is on the verge of a break-down–the internet is destroying its disguise, its protection by the means of secrecy.

And so at the moment, the western elites are attempting to replace this pseudo-democracy with a more brutal system of power-projection: Corporate Fascism and Full-Spectrum-Dominance by electronically monitoring everyone and everything.

The current system is driving us into endless smaller wars.

The next step will lead us to WWIII, a catastrophe where nuclear, biological or chemical weapons of mass-destruction could be used, as the PNAC-papers suggest.

It´s quite clear from their actions and their writings that today´s western power-elites–the financial, corporate and military elites, together with their subservient “intellectuals” and politicians–have no regard whatsoever for the value of human life, but neither did other power-elites in human history, such as all the war-faring powers of WWII, both on the Axis side (Germany, Italy, Japan) and on the Allied side (Britain, United States, Soviet Union), as can be seen in the picture of the Firebombing of Dresden below.

Here is a new historical analysis of why Dresden was really destroyed.

Based on many historic documents, this analysis concludes that the destruction of Dresden–the burning alive of between 25 000 to 40 000 civilians–was a political ploy used by the western allies to show the Soviets what kind of destructive weaponry the western allies had and were not afraid to use. Those weapons could also be used on the Soviets, who were less than a hundred km away from the city, if they didn´t show themselves reasonable in negotiations about the future division of Europe.

Communist revolutionary troops and later communist regimes have killed, maimed and tortured hundreds of millions of people or destroyed their homes and cultures so that their elites could first gain and then hold on to their positions of power, while those very elites themselves believed they were serving some higher good.

The problems created by brutal regimes lie not so much in the actual ownership of productive property or with any motivating political ideology. They lie far more in the destructive force of accumulated power in the hands of any kind of elites.

Whatever the original ideology might have been, what it boils down to in the end is this:

Too much power in the hands of too few will inevitably lead to terrible suffering for far too many.

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