Power Corrupts even the common man

The sun never set on the British Empire until endless wars brought that empire to its knees. I’m sure that at one time, a British citizen could easily say with arrogance, “If Russia (or China, or Germany, or Italy, or France or Spain) doesn’t behave, we will spank them.” And Britain did spank these countries and others for centuries until the empire was bankrupt and burdened with debt—sound familiar?

I read a piece in The Huffington Post recently and was reminded how power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Then I remembered what an old friend said in an e-mail.  This friend is a conservative, born-again Christian. He claims to be guided by scripture. He believes that George W. Bush (GWB) was the greatest if not one of the greatest American presidents. He also believes in the nation building that GWB attempted in Iraq.

He makes part of his living as a handyman. He lives alone in a one-bedroom apartment and drives a very-used car that he keeps running by visiting junk yards for parts and doing the work himself. He also votes Republican and often bashes evil liberals while listening to radio-talk shows like Dennis Prager and reading authors like Ann Coulter.

This friend wrote in an e-mail, “If China doesn’t behave, we will spank them.” He also wrote once that Communism was evil. My reply was that individuals like Mao or Stalin were corrupted by their power and did evil things, but not all communists were or are evil.

I always thought that ‘power corrupts’ only applied to people in powerful positions like corporate CEOs or elected officials.  I was wrong. A nation’s power may also corrupt the thinking of its people.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel, Running with the Enemy, was awarded an honorable mention in general fiction at the 2013 San Francisco Book Festival.

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2 Responses to Power Corrupts even the common man

  1. merlin says:

    Forget Mao and Stalin. Lets walk back farther. Hitler would be a GREAT example because he actually was not all that evil to begin with. Germany was a train wreck after WW1 and the allies put all the blame on Germany sending Germany into debt, so it’s easy to see first why a citizen in Germany of that era would have an itch for revenge. The other thing is he protested the government and wished for change because what he saw was the government doing all the wrong things. He needed support, and he found it in the Nazi party. They fueled his determination and eventually placed him so high that he became corrupted. He lived a lavish lifestyle in his days while the common folk were throwing everything they had into his war effort including their own tank of gas for their car to go to the market every week.

    • “Power corrupts: absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton (1834 – 1902) He saw it happen while the British Empire was at its most powerful.

      Acton took a great interest in America, considering its Federal structure the perfect guarantor of individual liberties. During the American Civil War, his sympathies lay entirely with the Confederacy, for their defense of States’ Rights against a centralized government that, by all historical precedent, would inevitably turn tyrannical.

      Like Hitler, Mao also started out with good intentions and then the power corrupted him. He was a better revolutionary than the leader of a country. But even then, some of his policies led to better health care that almost doubled the average lifespan in China. In 1949, the average life span was age 35. When Mao died, the average lifespan was about age 60 and under Mao, the population of China doubled.

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