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Power attracts the corruptible. Suspect all who seek it.
– Frank Herbert, “Dune”
It was nothing more than a random headline my husband read out loud off the Internet this week, something about how Hillary Clinton wants to be the new president of the World Bank.
“You know,” I commented as I stirred a pot on the stove, “I simply do not understand why people don’t long for a quiet simple life, with a job they can leave behind at the end of the day and a warm and loving family life they can come home to.”
That’s the way most of us are wired, after all. Naturally we have plans and ambitions, but for most people, the family they come home to at the end of the day is the thing that really counts.
But not everyone feels this way. Some people long to be the president of the World Bank for apparently no other reason than a lust for power. It’s like a fever in the blood and a condition literally unfathomable to those who don’t share it. My husband calls it The Centurion Complex (Matthew 8:8-9): I tell them to come and they come; I tell them to go and they go.
Lust is defined as an overwhelming craving. Power is the ability to dominate or rule others. People with a lust for power over others don’t think like you and me. They gauge things on a different scale. Those afflicted with this condition naturally gravitate toward positions in life where obedience is compulsory – and what better arena than government, where their craving can be enforced at the point of a gun?
Power lust transcends party affiliation since power attracts the corruptible. It’s something the Founding Fathers, fresh from the tyranny of George III and British authority, knew intimately. Into the Constitution and Bill of Rights they built mechanisms to avoid repeating the oppression under which they had lived. “The natural progress of things,” noted Thomas Jefferson, “is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” These men knew the dangers of centralized government and how such an arrangement would attract those with an inbred lust for power.
How right they were. Our Founding Fathers would be rolling in their graves today.
In Kevin Duffy’s essay “What Drives the Lust for Power?” he points out how power lust is permitted (or at least tolerated) due to five key factors: ignorance, greed, fear, envy and fantasy.
By keeping people ignorant – of their constitutional heritage, of history, of the nature of the free market – they can be played like violins, swayed by any politician with a glib voice and slick promises.
By playing on peoples’ greed, politicians can play one segment of its citizenry against another, letting things reach a boiling point until the government comes to the rescue with a “solution” to the problem it created. By accusing successful businesses of “greed,” government can step in and force them to redistribute profits or even close down.
By making mountains out of molehills, governments instigate fear until the people demand a government solution (for even a minor or non-existent problem) in exchange for security. (And we all know where that leads.)
By nurturing envy and fertilizing the grounds for class welfare, politicians cultivate the notion that one segment of society has the (cough) “right” to liberate another segment of society of its resources, which are then redistributed to those deemed by the politicians to be more worthy.
And of course this all plays into the fantasy that a Utopia is possible here on earth, a place where everyone will live in peace and harmony if only those awful greedy others would do as I say. “The only inconvenience,” notes Duffy, is “at the end of the day [this] Utopia requires brute force.”
Of course, all politicians will deny they’re in it for power. They’d never get elected if they told the blunt truth. Rather, they always dress up their desire in pretty and sympathetic language: “I want to help the poor.” “I want to make things more fair.” “I want to give health care to everyone.” In short, they’re only trying to do for people what they cannot do by themselves. How noble. How selfless. How full of bull.
And since we the people are too stupid to run our own businesses, educate (or even feed) our own children, buy our own homes, or otherwise act like competent and mature adults … well, the government happily steps in to save us from ourselves. After all, it’s in the best interests of the powerful to regulate the many for the sins of the few.
The lust for power is relentless. “In order to obtain and hold power,” noted Leo Tolstoy, “a man must love it.” Henry Kissinger noted, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” This is what propels a 64-year-old woman to seek out yet another powerful position instead of retiring in dignity to enjoy her senior years in peace and quiet. I don’t mean to pick on Hillary Clinton, because she’s not alone.
Throughout history, tyrants both petty and great have arisen and delighted in oppressing others in their insatiable desire for control. This lust has fueled Hitler, Napoleon, Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar and an endless succession of despots notching the timeline of history.
If someone doesn’t enter politics driven by a lust for power – in other words, that rare individual who enters politics out of a genuine love for country and a desire to right some wrongs – they are either marginalized to the point of ineffectiveness, or they are seduced by the dark side and begin to feel the trickle of lust sliding through their veins. Sadly, it’s almost inevitable.
Power-lust isn’t limited to politics. There are people in every walk of life whose lust for power leads them into positions of authority. But only in government can citizens be compelled to obey the whims set by power-mad politicians. If the CEO of a private company got to become CEO because of his lust for power, he cannot force me to purchase his product. But government can – and does.
The lust for power has been the driving force of tyranny since Cain killed Abel. It’s part of the nature of mankind. Even those who fight against tyranny have a desire for power – with one critical difference: They desire to rule only themselves, not others.
It’s time for some honest reflection. Which kind of lust for power do you have?