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Why does power corrupt?

  1. Aug 28, 2009 #1
    "sorry in advance for bad spelling, English is my third language and not my favorite language to write"

    I was thinking about our future as species, I believe that it is certain that we eventually are going to come to a one world, one goverment, one religion ( or maybe it will be science ). And we are as a race going to elect some one to lead us, but if you look at our world today you realise that any one with any kind of power is corrupt and there are 2 types of corruption, one being publicly corrupted ( agreed by majority ) or some one that is corrupted (usualy way worse then the public one) but is quite good at keeping his public image as a decent and honest individual. Therefor if we were to come to a one world goverment, how are we going to be able to defend our selves? Absolute power would give the goverment absolute control, and we can even see today that minorities that try to speak out against the super powers can easily be pertrayed in the media as anything the goverment wants them to be pertrayed.
    I have been introduced to the "american dream" or american life style at the age of 14, and some observations I have made in my life is that the goverment is very religious. And religion is dangerous because most of inexcusable action could be explaned as in the name of god, for the good of our brothers and sisters and etc. And the media, is so powerfull in our society today, and with the help of technology is going to get bigger and even more in your face then before, and how can an average person say anything if all the media is controlled by enormous corporations. Even if a decent and senseer person would want to speak out against one of these companies one of two things will happen, he will not even attempt to do anything because what we learn from movies and news broadcasts is that money rules, or the 2nd thing he can do is attempt to follow the proper proseedings and sue the companies, but what good will that do when you are standing against the bigest and most influencial people in the world that have access to the most expensive lawyers and etc.
    Another thing I want to say, is why the schooling systems are soo poorly designed?
    Like I earlier I have moved to Canada at the age of 14, and from my research I have found out that Canada is on average has more graduation % and higher score average, but never the less it is extremely low, and that is a mistery to me because most of the material covered in school is childs play compare to what some other countries are going through. For example, when I was in grade 6 in russia we have been learning "mathimaticly" things that the canadien school only introduced around grade 10, but besides that it is so easy for a 14-18 year old child to fool the school system and skip class, be under drug influence in class, not study, and pretty much everything along thowse lines, so what i am trying to say is why are school system are soo poorly designed, and why doesen't any one do anything about it? The answer is (in my opinion) that we are the perfect society to control, we don't ask too many question because we have way to many things to preocupy our selves with, and most of the people do not even realise the problems, and the ones that do have adopted a very nice mentality of " some body has to do something " , but not me because I have this and that going on. Well there is nothing else I can say on the subject, but one day it will be too late to do anything.

    Thank you for reading this, but I had this on my mind for quite a while now and I couldn't find a better place to share this.

    Ivan Evstropov - 20 year old
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 28, 2009 #2
    People are selfish, egotistical creatures by nature. From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense for every organism to be selfish...every organism needs to fight to pass along THEIR seed.

    Of course, there are also evolutionary motivations for group camaraderie, companionship, empathy, etc...but whenever there is group camaraderie, there are still people outside of the group who receive less preferential treatment.

    Humans simply do not operate on the perspective of maximizing the overall happiness of the human race (I forget what the philosophical word for that is). Some idealistic people may claim to choose their actions based on "the greater good," but I think these people are just disillusioned. We really only take into consideration our close friends/relatives. When do WE make decisions that are supposedly to benefit "humanity," it's really just to benefit our own egos so we can go to sleep at night with a smile having "done our part" by donating a few dollars to some charity, or whatever.

    Looking from the bottom up, it's very easy to criticize those in power and say that we wouldn't do that sort of thing. But can you REALLY defy your human nature to be selfish and preferential? You can try...there are societal feedbacks that most people are constantly observing that keep them in line. If you are a jerk to your friends, they abandon you, and you become lonely. You are forced to learn lessons such as generosity. People are nicer to you, it makes it easier to get what you want when people are all friendly with you.

    But if you are in a position of absolute power, these feedback mechanisms gradually fall away when people have to obey you...when you realize you will still have that power and money and influence and anything you want even if you are a jerk. After a while the benefits of being generous to people that can no longer help you become negligible and you stop caring about them as a result...
  4. Aug 28, 2009 #3
    It is very interesting consept, but the question is what is nature?
    How can we defy nature of human beings? For example if a boy was to grow up with a pack of wolves, wouldn't his nature be the same as of a wolf, therefor if a boy was to grow up in a pack of civilized humans who are looking to benefit the world for it's greater good, wouldnt that boy grow up to be just like them? I guess what I am trying to say is, isnt our nature simply the factor of what we learn at a young age? And if I am correct then wouldn't nature just be a variable depending on factors input into our mind at its developing stage, and not a constant.
  5. Aug 28, 2009 #4
    No, what you are referring to is "nurture" the "nature" part is that which is encoded in our DNA. Have you ever noticed commonalities in the habits of men vs. women? This is due to genetics, and also upbringing..but mostly genetics I think.

  6. Aug 28, 2009 #5
    I allways believed that human mind has evolved, past being influenced by nature because what separates us from animals is that we are able to feel guilt and compassion and emberasement and many other things, but if you think about it our evolution as society and the evolution of our brain has gone so far, that our DNA simple can not keep up with the complexity of situation we deal with on day to day basis, we are now able to comprehend consequenses, and causes that our actions may cause. And to say that you ignore there factors of nurture to follow your nature of greediness is simply a sign of your stupidity. And we know that human beings are able to be rationable so dosent that mean we can be rationable enaugh to detect our nature trying to play tricks on our mind.
    I am sorry if this dosent make sense, but I am not a sientist or anything I am just a kid and i am trying to explain this the best way I can.

    In simpler words, what I am trying to say is if we are able to comprehend nature, why do we have to act accordingly to it? Dosent a human being have enaugh will power to over come his nature?
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2009
  7. Aug 28, 2009 #6


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    We can't. Humans are animals and will generally always behave, fundamentally, as animals do.
  8. Aug 28, 2009 #7
    I disagree with you about the big tv media corporations gaining more power over what news gets presented to the masses; On the contrary, the traditional media outlets are losing a large chunk of their audience because of the number of choices people seek out for news and information because of the explosive growth of the internet and because the quality of the news from traditional media outlets is becoming corroded; They are making their bias more apparent by having programs more devoted to the opinions of pundits rather than presenting news in a non-bias way; I don't think its religion that is inherently evil per se, I think religion is a tool humans used to advanced their agenda, whether it benefits society as a whole or whether it benefits the person using it as a tool . Like guns, religion can be used to harm people or help people; I can easily point out non-religious regimes like Soviet Russia and China under maozedong's reign where people were oppressed and shot for questioning the integrity of the person in power; Power is the real source of evil; I do think when people blindly follow a leader with applying rationalism it is easy for political leaders to become corrupt when people mindlessly praise that leader and they don't bother to check if he is carrying out the duties he promised; In other words, I say the people need to hold a leader accountable in order to keep corruption under the cap , since he would easily lose power if people didn't mindlessly follow his policies;
  9. Aug 28, 2009 #8
    Every action you make is governed by electrochemical reactions in your body and brain. As long as our brains are governed by the laws of physics, it is fundamentally impossible for us to act outside of our "nature."
  10. Aug 28, 2009 #9
    Yes, even thought all our actions are governed by electrochemical reaction as you said if we are able to comprehend such a concept, then why do we continue to behave accordingly? Junglebeast you seem like an intelligent person, wouldn't per say you be able to overcome your instincts? Let's say you have came upon a super power, and as a physicist and a philosopher wouldn't you be able to recognize that your action were to become egoistic, and selfish like you said earlier? And per say you were to be ignorant to these actions because it was in your nature, don't you think one of the people around you be able to point it out to you? Therefor human nature is not an excuse to be ignorant, selfish, egoistic or all of those, but simply a choice an individual makes. The problem is not our nature, the problem is our society, which requires a person who is evil by nature to be able to acquire complete power or any power by that matter.
  11. Aug 28, 2009 #10
    Why couldn't we act outside our nature; Aren't we able to control our urges like sexual urges and urges to kill someone who we believe did us wrong by suppressing those kinds of urges with rationalism?
  12. Aug 28, 2009 #11


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    We can only overcome our instincts up to a point. There are some deep-rooted instinct (e.g. protecting our young etc) that -for the vast majority of people- are impossible to "reason" with.
    Also, remember that we to a large extent define "good" and "bad" based on very basic (and in evolutionary terms old) mechanisms/drives in our brain; e.g. being happy is "good" while hurting is "bad".
    Unless you invoke religion it is impossible to come up with "objective" criteria for good/bad that are NOT related to basic instincts. Instincts that to a large extent probably predates our ability to reason.
  13. Aug 28, 2009 #12


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    To a point, but there are situtuations where the vast majority of would kill. All is needed is for the group we belong to give us permission and say that it is ok. That is why people who would never normally hurt anyone end up being good soldiers.
    The same goes for sex; there is a reason why so many women (and some men) get raped in war.
  14. Aug 29, 2009 #13
    That returns me to my point, therefor the reason that power corrupts is not because it is human nature, but because the people that come to have great power are corrupt individuals and not because they are corrupt by nature, so that means that our society is corrupt, and if our society was not corrupt and kids were given a chance to grow up in a society with out corruption, the term would seas to exist.
  15. Aug 29, 2009 #14
    That's not acting outside of your nature -- it is your nature to have those thoughts and respond that way.
  16. Aug 29, 2009 #15
    Power does corrupt, I think. It is human nature to be corrupted by power. Perhaps it is possible to overcome it to some extent, but not completely.

    We all want people to agree with us. It causes psychological pain to hear disagreement with our views. The temptation for the powerful to enforce agreement, even if only in mild and subtle ways, is irresistible, and usually unconscious. And what is worse, if others see you have power, they will lie to you, in order to manipulate you, and not give your ideas the critical scrutiny all of us need in order to better approach the truth.

    I would recommend you to read two of your former compatriots, Bakunin and Kropotkin, but that is my personal view. Many Americans would want to refer you to another interesting Russian-Canadian, Ayn Rand, who believed that inequalities of power were the natural order of things, and any attempt to dilute them led to corruption. As you are not happy with the power of great corporations, I suspect you would not be happy with her views either, which would be wise of you. The only remedy I know of, is this: if we grant power to someone, we build in the highest direct oversight and accountability into what they do, so that real power is with the people. Corporations are circumventing this accountability and oversight process.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2009
  17. Sep 12, 2009 #16
    I would suggest Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, even if you dont like big corporations, since at least in USA the only way corporations have gotten the power they have is through government sponsorship. Government sponsorship is a huge part of her book and a part she is very, very strongly against. She is stongly in favor of selfishness, since that is one thing you can count on people doing is doing things for their own good(at least people used to have to do things for their own good, now mama government will wipe your *** for you). She shows how even though you are doing something for yourself, the thing you create helps society. You dont need to have helping society as one of your goals in order to help society. Was Edison trying to help society or was he trying to solve a problem for himself? Did the incadescent lightbulb help society or was that just greedy capitalism?
    The founders of our country understood human nature(probably even better than most people nowdays), that is why they wrote a constitution that only gave limited power to the government. The first one they wrote (articles of confederation) was even more conservative, as it hardly gave the federal government any power. Since the 1860's(civil war) when our country changed from a federal government(states had the power) into a national government, more and more power has been given to washington it is not surprising that it has become more and more corrupt, since absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    I think our country has shown the dangers of a one world government, since our government is having trouble keeping a measly 50 states and 350 million people under one law(it was never meant to do that anyway). There is no way to govern the whole world as one(just imagine 7 billion different points of view). Every community has different beliefs, customs, and traditions, and because of that, government needs to be more locallized instead of globalized. If its not local you are going to have people every where feeling oppression, and when people feel like they are being oppressed they strike out(civil wars everywhere). I feel that a one world government would have to be the most oppressive government ever designed, probably martial law the world over. I for one would rather not go there.
    On another note, oversight is over-rated, we have had tons of oversight over every facet of our country and it hasnt stopped a thing. What we need in the world is more under-sight, we the people need to take back the power we have given up and hold those in power accountable. If you feel a company is taking advantage, dont shop there. If you feel the stock market is to powerful, quit buying stock. If you feel the government is taking advantage kick'em out. If you feel an employer is taking advantage, quit and go find a new job or better yet be selfish and start your own buisiness. The only power any one(or anything) has over you, is the power that you give them(it). So lets quit giving them the power.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 12, 2009
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