Letter: Power corrupts…especially when nobody’s looking
Unfortunately, the average American citizen troubles himself but little with his civic duties. The only interest exhibited may be a general displeasure at tax time and the overall perceived incompetence and inefficiency of elected officials. The average citizen rarely involves himself to form a government that would reflect his views.
This brings to mind a comment that Thomas Jefferson made to Congressman Edward Carrington:
"If once (the people) become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress assemblies, judges and governors, shall become wolves."
Thomas Jefferson, probably the most accomplished thinker of the Founders, through his introspection, knowledge and experience, prompted a reflection on the very nature of humanity, its strengths, weaknesses and man’s propensity to the will to power and corruption. Once again, Jefferson gives us a glimpse into his remarkable insight when he warned that:
"In questions of power, then let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."
Recent research has been conducted into the nature of power using volunteers in two groups: the more powerful and the less powerful. The research proved that those who had been prompted to believe that they were entitled to their power readily engaged in acts of moral hypocrisy. Having power makes people feel special; therefore, they don’t believe that the same rules apply to them. This bit of experimentation and research simply proves a lesson that the Founders knew well. Political power corrupts the morals and judgments of those we elect to represent us. Let us remember Jefferson’s analogy of the power to corrupt, to become wolves. A politician, leader and statesman of a later period, Winston Churchill, once observed:
"The longer you look back, the farther you can look forward."
It is time for looking back, a reflection upon the values of the Founders and the principles that made this country great.
Port Haywood, Va.