The 20th century was arguably, the most bloody century in recorded human existance. Two world wars, numerous genocides, "police actions", revolutions, and the rise of countless dictators were the norm for the globe during this bloody century. Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Francisco Franco, Che Guervara, Fidel Castro, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il Sung, Mussolini, etc the list goes on and on. All of these evil men were men who held absolute power over the lives of their people. Gulags, concentration camps, death camps, death squads, mass murders, torture, were the means by which these despots remained in power. Use of a police state apparatus against their own citizens gave these men the power to murder, starve, torture and enslave all who opposed their will.
Our nation, the United States, is not immune from this future. We have seen the steady and concentrated erosion of our liberties since the end of WWII and more recently the since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. President George W. Bush and other Republican fascists have been working day and night to establish a police state in America. Secret trials, prisons and use of torture have made the USA hated and despised around the globe. The use of miltary tribunals to try suspected "terrorists" whether Americans or not has been attempted. All of this is a result of too much power in the hands of men. In matters not whether a man is well educated, like many in the political class, or is uneducated; the gift of absolute power to one man, or a group of men corrupts and destroys not only the person exercising such power, but the liberties and lives of their fellow citizens. Power is what all politicians crave. Once aquired, like a narcotic, the obsession for more power causes men to commit the most heinous of crimes. Lying, slandering, bribery, theft, corruption and even murder are used to maintain power. Men's souls are destroyed while they seek power. It is often said that the libertarian is an atomist only concerned with himself. This charge is false. As pointed out by Peter Brow on his Nation of Liberty website, the true atomist is the statist. He cares only about himself. More particularly, he cares about his personal aquisition of power, making him the true atomist. The English and American Libertarian tradition is in direct opposition to the aquisition of power and it's corrosive effects on the human mind. Let's examine this tradition a little more closely.
The English and American Libertarian Tradition
This great Anglo-American tradition is a philosophy of Liberty vs Power in a political state. Starting with the English Revolution of the 1640's,and in a direct line through the American and into the French Revolution, this tradition attempts to maximize the liberties of individuals against the power of the state. During the English Revolution the English Levellers exerted this philosophy in it's purest form. These libertarians called for complete freedom of religion, abolition of all church privileges, abolition of the monarchy, the House of Lords, and freedom for the individual Englishman. Also the right against unreasonable search and seizure, the use of Habeus Corpus, opposition to conscription, abolition of the famous royal Star Chamber court, and freedom of press and speech were proposed. Although the Levellers failed to implement their program due to the treachery of Oliver Cromwell, the fight for liberty was begun.
Later in 1688 the English "Glorius Revolution" was completed. The power of the monarchy was limited, and the power of Parliament increased. Men like John Locke and Algernon Sidney brought forth essays and writings against absolute power. Locke, in his Second treatise of Government proposed the radical doctrine of popular sovereignty and the right of revolution by the people against a tyrannical government. Algernon Sidney in his Discourses on Government also opposed absolute monarchy and put forth his radical doctrine of the right of revolution and regicide. Sidney paid for these writings with his life in 1683 by being beheaded for treason .
In 1720 English radicals Thomas Gordon and John Trenchard began publishing their radical anti-clerical, and anti despotic, Cato's Letters.
In these articles Trenchard and Gordon put forth the arguement that men who are in power always aspire to aquire more. Power, lead to corruption and despotism as the despot and his minions plundered their country to enrich themselves and increase their power. In article after article these men exemplfied the ideology of Radical Whiggery. Both men correctly pointed out that mercantilist corporations, state religions, and government bureaucrats are all involved in enslaving their nations while enriching themselves at the expense of the lives and liberties of their fellow men. Trenchard and Gordon's writings were one of the most read writings on the libertarian tradition by our Founders.
These Radical Whig writings came to their most successful fruition during the American Revolution beginning in 1765 with the Stamp Act and culminating with the birth of the United States. The American Revolution became the true libertarian revolution against arbitrary power. This libertarian tradition also infected Europe helping cause the French Revolution as evidenced by the abolition of feudalism, abolition of church privileges, and the abolition of the monarchy.
This direct line now leads us back to power, and the consequences of unbridled authority.
How the Quest for Power Destroys a Man
The quest for more political power usually leads to the destruction of the power hungry individual, his nation and it's people. Power causes men to plot against each other, betray confidences and friends, break promises, in turn destroying their very soul. The quest for power can make good men vicious, kind men uncaring, and evil men monsters.
Most men who seek power do so for their own benefit. They claim to be public servants, but really only wish to make the public serve them. Once power is acheived, a ongoing desire for more develops. As this desire increases attempts are made usually through the manipulation of a supposed "crisis" that "requires" more government power. This government power translates into power for the ruling clique or person. It also requires a large standing military to maintain a climate of fear, a police state apparatus to keep the populace in line, and government propaganda machine to keep a semblence of legitimacy around the clique. All in all this quest for power annhilates liberty, morality, and generosity. It eats men out from within. Just look at any bureaucrat, local state or federal, that has a large amount of authority. Generally they are arrogant, condescending , and have little compassion for the concerns or problems of their consituents. Power corrupts the soul of a man. It leads to hate, aggression, war, brutality, and tyranny.
Power as a Dark Force
Power can be used for either good or ill, although it is usually used for evil. This was seen most perceptively by Star Wars director George Lucas in his outstanding six episode space opera. As related by Jedi Master Yoda: " fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."
Power fanatics are very afraid. They are afraid of losing their power and domination of others. They are angry and aggressive because they need these negative emotions to fuel their quest for greater power. They are hateful because they crave the inferiority, misfortune and tragedy of others. Arrogance pervades their personalities so as to hide their insecurity and uncertainty about themselves. Their hatred is projected out on their unfortunate subjects because the object of their hate is right before them in the mirror. When all of the layers are removed these people are unhappy, tragic souls who resent and despise themselves.
In Revenge of the Sith Anakin Skywalker is plagued by doubt, anger and fear of loss. He allows his fears and negative emotions to dominate his thinking. During this time the evil Palpatine, the future emperor, plays on Anakin's fears, resentments and his burning anger. It is his fear of his wife dying in childbirth along with his growing discontent with the Jedi Order that causing him to fall prey to Palpatine's evil influence. Anakin's fears prove to be his undoing and are a direct cause of his quest for power and eventual transformation into Darth Vader. Anger, fear, doubt, aggression, and hate are the harbringers of power. Men like Josef Stalin hated mankind. He used his absolute power in the Soviet Union to massacre, starve and enslave his people. Mao Tse Tung, brutal despotic founder of Communist China, stated " food is a weapon", a statement he clearly meant when he starved millions of his people. He also stated "political power comes through the barrel of a gun". This statement was fulfilled by his creation of a massive standing army to occupy his country and keep the populace from revolting.
None of these power hungry individuals are happy people. The exercise of absolute power over others is a sure sign of mental degredation. To cause others to suffer and die so one can be all powerful is the consequence of a mind filled with hate and self loathing.
Lessons for the Future
We need to heed the warnings of history. From ancient Rome to modern America, the results of absolute power are the same. The death of liberty, freedom and morality is the sure consequence of allowing one man, or group of men to become all powerful. The USA is no different. Since the 9/11 attacks we have seen the erosion of our sacred liberties in the name of fighting "terrorists". We have seen government agents aquire more power and authority to spy of citizens. We have seen the executive branch of the federal government grow larger and larger. These are warnings, dire warnings. We are one "terrorist" attack away from the end of constitutional free government. When such an attack happens, the American "experiment" in libertarian government and democratic republicanism will be over. It is our job as citizens and patriots to oppose all increases in power for public officials. We must speak out loudly against encroaching tyranny. If we are silent, Power, the Ultimate addiction will have infected so much of the political body that there will be no return.