“Every state begins with violence, and (if it becomes secure) mellows into liberty.” – Will Durant, The Lessons of History
But power doesn’t always intoxicate and immunity doesn’t always corrupt. Just 99.9% of the time.
The Founding Fathers, who knew their history, knew about the lust for money and power and the many imperfections of man, which is why we have the separation of powers in our government. They wanted to dilute those powers until it was weak and inefficient. After all, society and government are not the same thing, and the bigger and stronger the government, the weaker society and culture.
Yet, there is one man in 50 million who can handle power, even absolute power with no accountability to anyone. He isn’t intoxicated by it and isn’t corrupted by it.
Not surprisingly these men have been of a philosophical nature. Think Marcus Aurelius, not surprisingly a Stoic, who ended up dying leading his troops into battle.
Another one, not well-known at all because he wasn’t Western, was Akbar the Great. He never even learned to read or write, but was probably the greatest of Eastern rulers.
Of Mongol/Turkish ancestry, he was once called “one of the wisest, most humane and most cultured of all the kings known to history,” although he came from murderous barbarian beginnings and once at 14 cut off a prisoner’s head with one stroke of his scimitar.
He was, at that time in India, the ruler of the most powerful empire then known.
Even though he was raised Muslim, he gave it up and accepted all religions, and enjoyed talking for hours to their scholars. As for his library it had 24,000 volumes in it.
He yearned to be a philosopher, as philosophers yearn to be emperors – and only sages need not live by human law since it is already written in their hearts.
He once said, "Although I am the master of so vast a kingdom, and all the appliances of government are at my hand, yet since true greatness consists in doing the will of God, my mind is not at ease in this diversity of sects and creeds; and apart from this outward pomp of circumstance, with what satisfaction, in this despondency, can I undertake the sway of empire? I await the coming of some discreet man of principle who will resolve the difficulties of my conscience. . . . discourses in philosophy have such a charm for me that they distract me from all else, and I forcibly restrain myself from listening to them lest the necessary duties of the hour should be neglected."
Even on his deathbed he refused to reconvert to Islam.
The U.S. at its beginning had a few men similar to Akbar – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson. But after that? Monsters like Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Lyndon Johnson.
I’ve always been stuck by Dubya Shrub’s claim that Jesus was his favorite “philosopher” and that he should have been dictator. What a downhill toboggan slide in character!
Benjamin Franklin once made a comment about the avarice and love of power among rulers, which, again, is why the Founding Fathers tried to split up the powers of government. They didn’t want big government in the slightest.
As far as I know it was the Greek historian Polybius who first wrote about the separation of powers. After all, the Roman Cicero. After that, Baron Montesquieu, who came up with the concept of an independent judiciary.
In other words it took thousands of years to culminate in the concepts upon which the United States was founded. To me that’s astonishing. Thousands of years! And the first written records are from Sumeria!
And about the only reason it worked is because North America was, as I have written, a mostly empty, incredibly rich Great Frontier, one protected by two vast oceans.
That combination of circumstances is amazing to the point of being impossible. But for all the problems we have I’m certainly glad it happened.
“Oppressive government is fiercer than a tiger.” – Confucius
”In their effects on the individual’s freedom to pursue happiness, the creation of prosperous and free societies is the greatest accomplishment is the greatest of all achievements by humans on behalf of other humans.” - Charles Murray, Human Accomplishment