Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Power and Corruption

As I continue to think about Federalism and the original intent of the Constitution, I become aware of why the power of the Government was spread over three branches (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial) and three levels (Federal, State, and Local.)

It's because of a simple little maxim.

Power almost always corrupts.

Now the more power is concentrated in one place the more powerful the corruption is going to be. If power is totally decentralized then no one person is going to be able to exert corrupt power over the entire nation. If we have two corrupt individuals working at cross-purposes, their own corruption can serve as a check on each other, but if corruption is centralized, then it ceases to work at cross-purposes and begins to work together through cronyism.

One thing I have decided is that as far as who has power, it doesn't matter what kind of government or economy you have, the same type of person, and possibly even the same person is going to gain power. An intelligent, charismatic, driven and ambitious individual will always be the kind that finds power, and regardless of what they say, will do so for their own self-interest. (I once heard ambition defined as a moral disease born of the excessive worship of the bitch goddess named Success.)

Regardless of what type of government we have the same kind of people are going to wind up in power. Now some may say that in a Monarchy power is hereditary but the King is not the only power, but he will have "friends" and advisers who will be very powerful who again will be this type of person.

If this is the case, does that mean Democracy is futile? No. First off, by separation of powers and also by separation of levels of Government, the effect of corruption can be limited and controlled. Secondly the act of voting can restrict corruption by holding those with power accountable to the people. Term limits are of some help, but they too have problems, like someone pulling the strings and controlling both the older office-holder and his/her successor.

Separation of Powers between three branches and Separation of Spheres of Sovereignty between three levels of government, if maintained and respected, will manage, though never eliminate, corruption in the government. That is why we have to keep all three branches and all three levels from overreaching their authority. Overreach seems to exist in all three branches and that has to be dealt with. Overreach also seems to be a problem in the Federal government, moreso than the other levels and that is unacceptable.

Depending too much on one level of Government has other problems too, as the residents of New Orleans discovered when Hurricane Katrina hit a while back. Because of over-dependence on one level of government, there were needless deaths and suffering. If the State and Local governments had recognized and acted on their responsibility it would have been much much better. The mayor and governor were both better situated to handle the crisis than the Feds were, but they totally failed to act and the Feds took too long. We have reached the point where everything is a Federal responsibility and that just won't work.

Three Branches of Government, Three levels of Government. Let's keep all of them doing their own jobs and not each others. This will help contain and manage the inevitable corruption, and also lead to a better and more responsive government.

2 Comments:

Blogger Gayle said...

That's a brilliant post, Shoprat, and I couldn't agree with you more. I especially like this quote defining amition as a moral disease born of the excessive worship of the bitch goddess named Success. For some reason it struck me as funny, but I think there's much truth to it.

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Americaneocon said...

I love the theory of the separation of powers. Not only does it prevent corruption, but it prevents some radical majority from tyrannizing the rest of us!

Keep it up, Shoprat!!

9:23 PM  

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