Corruption, Power and Dirty Politics

Power corrupts. When we give someone authority over us, it will likely become abuse. For example, when we gave the government power of eminent domain to construct roads, it began using it to condemn private homes so that corporate developers could build malls. When we gave the government the power of civil forfeiture (taking property and money without trial) from known criminals, it began to take cash from innocent people.

When we gave the government the power to regulate industries, presumably for consumer protection, it drove the mom-and-pop shops out of business and became a way for Big Business to destroy its smaller competitors Thankfully, the libertarian Institute for Justice is fighting against these abuses pro bono. Ultimately, however, only lessening the authority of government can stop the abuse.

Remember: less authority to abuse means less abuse of authority.

We usually think that making a law makes it so, but just the opposite is usually true. When we try to legislate virtue, we end up harming the very people we intended to help. That’s why prohibition, whether of drugs or alcohol, does more harm than good. That’s why outlawing prostitution or gambling only drives it underground. That’s why regulations intended to protect the consumer usually harm them instead. Using government to force peaceful people to act as we think that they should backfires. Bad means result in bad ends, not good ones.

Most people feel politics is dirty, even if they can’t tell you why. The “why” is that government is allowed to do things that the rest of us would be thrown in jail for. Politicians and regulators often enjoy sovereign immunity for actions that would land us in prison for decades. Government officials have become a privileged class, just like the monarchs of old. Isn’t it time that they have to obey the same laws that we do?

We defer to these authority figures because they are supposed to know more than we do. If a mistake is made, it’s easy to lay the blame at their feet. Ultimately, however, we are responsible for choosing the authority figure we defer to.

Power, as in political power, is used to bend others to our will. No one who seeks to take away the liberty of others can legitimately claim to love their neighbors. Liberty, on the other hand, is consistent both with self-love and love of others, since we must be willing to grant liberty to others to have it for ourselves.

Comments

  1. Greg Metcalf says:

    Your advocacy of good means is unique and powerful. The idea that good means open the way for a wider array of good ends is difficult to portray but very worthwhile for us to support. Well done.
    I first heard you allude to this concept on Tom Woods interview of you – very inspiring!

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