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Nially_Bob's avatar

If a person is placed in a position of power such as that of a politician are they naturally inclined to become 'corrupt'?

Asked by Nially_Bob (3844points) August 29th, 2009

Worldwide politicians (alongside CEOs, powerful political activists etc) are questioned, belittled and fought against by those believing them to be corrupt or to be performing their job incorrectly in some manner. However, would these same people not be equally flawed if placed in the same position? Is the job of a politician one wherein additional power is so easy to acquire that it is encouraged? What defines corruption? Would your ideas, when implemented legally, be for the “greater good” or would you have been merely chasing ideas constructed by your ego?
I would appreciate any thoughts on the matter.

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28 Answers

bumwithablackberry's avatar

Corruption is arbitrary, we’re all “corrupt”. Some theologians, would suggest it’s a matter of good or evil. What if you were corrupt for good, is that possible?

DrBill's avatar

Politics does not make one corrupt, it reveals how corrupt they already are.

filmfann's avatar

Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The ONLY power I know of that doesn’t corrupt is parenting, and that power is very limited, and tempered by love.

Piper_Brianmind's avatar

@bumwithablackberry It is possible, yes. Often times, even through selfish actions, there is a ripple effect that will inadvertantly help others, whether you intended to or not (The same as GOOD intentioned actions will inadvertantly cause NEGATIVE effects for some). Some of those people are those who share your views, and some are not. With every action, there is a positive effect and a negative effect. How they balance out depends on what you do. But I think the most a person with power can ask for is to be able to make the good outweigh the bad, even if their own personal ambition causing it is less than righteous. Which it often will be.
Yes, power does naturally lead to corruption.

deni's avatar

I think they’re just corrupt on a larger scale than us every day joes.

Nially_Bob's avatar

@deni But if us ‘everyday Joes’ were placed in the same position that a politician were would we not become as corrupt? I can honestly say that I likely would

bumwithablackberry's avatar

@Piper_Brianmind so we as the people should sit back in awe while these politicians pretend to know the true result of their actions. Because that’s kind of God-like. I personally practice rResultism, like say you help an old lady across the street but end up getting her hit by a bus, intent is just a catalyst. A+B=C

Piper_Brianmind's avatar

@bumwithablackberry I’m not sure if we’re in argument or agreement here. Explain your belief, your practice, a bit more.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

I’m sure there’s a certain political subculture that is ok with exploiting the benefits of the position. There’s so many of them.

bumwithablackberry's avatar

I don’t see it as with or for, I’m just exchanging ideas. But you seem smart, so more in agreement

deni's avatar

@Nially_Bob Oh totally. I was agreeing.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

mankind is machiavellian in nature.

bumwithablackberry's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic oh my goodness you did not just say that. That my friend is a subtle riot.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I’m always amazed when public people act as if their lives are invisible to the outside.

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

EVERYONE is inclined to become corrupt. Ones position doesnt matter. One follows ethics or one doesnt.

YARNLADY's avatar

When you say “When a person is placed” as if someone is just taken from the general population and forced to become a politician. In my experience, most politicians have chosen to become what they are based on their own resources, which include an ability to convince others to give them “power”. This does often override their ability to discern between the use and the misuse of their power.

Many non-politicians have this same inability, but it’s not as noticable because they don’t have much “power” to back it up.

Darwin's avatar

If someone has a code of ethics and follows it they will not become corrupt. There will be temptation, and there may be peer pressure, but it isn’t required to concede to either.

However, one problem with politics is that some of the people who go into it do so because they want the power over other people. They want to be treated as if they own the world. Those people are more likely to become corrupt. Others go into politics because they want to serve the country or effect positive change. Some of these people are successful and many are never corrupted.

Something to consider, though, is that headlines are not written about honest politicians. Who cares if a politician is found to have nothing but frozen dinners in his ice box? It’s much more interesting if it turns out he has cold, hard cash hidden away in there.

Blondesjon's avatar

To get to that level you have already sold your soul a long time ago.

Zuma's avatar

No one gets to be president without making lots of promises to powerful vested interests that he is not going to upset their particular apple cart. That alone is enough to ensure that he is perceived as corrupt by the vast tracts of humanity who thought they were electing him to champion their interests.

But there are some endemic processes specific to the presidency that make it almost inevitable that the president is corrupted. Chief among them is the king and the courtier problem where the Chief Executive is set upon by flatterers and yes-men, and by advisers who have hidden agendas. Bush, for example, was easily seduced by Cheney and Tenant who would feed him intelligence reports laced with apocalyptic biblical references.

Tim Geithner was “spun around” by his former colleagues from Goldman Sachs. No doubt others with equally impressive expertise apply their spin to their expertise to influence the president. In fact, it almost doesn’t matter who wins the presidency, the entrenched elites who are the acknowledged experts in key fields can almost always spin and seduce a president whichever way they please.

There is another corrupting process. If the press becomes an adversary to the president, there is a tendency for the presidency to hunker down and engage in information control in order to snow the press. It almost never works, and the press becomes even more critical, and the president develops a bunker or siege mentality which further restricts the information flows to the president. We saw this in spades during the Nixon and Johnson Administrations, and somewhat in Bush/Cheney, even though the press was pretty tame by this time.

FDR was the least susceptible to corrupting influence because he surrounded himself with a lot of people who had strikingly different points of view. He also had Eleanor, who spent much of her time on the road sampling the mood of the country. Bush II surrounded himself almost exclusively with yes-men and flatterers, and made a deliberate attempt to purge the entire government of anyone who was ideologically not “on board.”

ubersiren's avatar

Yes. I think that anyone given the sense that they are “special” or above most of their country adopt a skewed view of the world. This includes many celebrities and the very rich. When it comes to politicians, it seems that they feel they can get away with more because they have the power to giveth and to taketh away.

bumwithablackberry's avatar

@ubersiren Uh so power doesn’t give you power, I’m confused?

cbloom8's avatar

Most people will have that inclination, a few won’t, a few will but will work against it, and the rest will become corrupt.

bumwithablackberry's avatar

But corruption isn’t a finite term, that’s the secret.

ubersiren's avatar

@bumwithablackberry : No, power is power, but sometimes with that comes the delusion that you can get away with murder. Sometimes literally. And that is not the meaning of power, but corruption.

bumwithablackberry's avatar

Murder, you mean you haven’t tried killing, it’s to die for.

dalepetrie's avatar

Power can corrupt, or at least bring out the propensity for corruption. From a purely humanistic standpoint, man serves his self interest, that is ingrained within all of us. It is only the domain of the truly unselfish to sacrifice of themselves for the greater good. To a degree, most of us probably have the capacity for self sacrifice for the greater good, but when you get right down to it, many would be more likely to self-sacrifice for the good of someone or something of great importance to them personally. Case in point, most parents would give up their lives willingly to save their children, even if they were informed that they personally would do more good for the world than would their children ultimately. That is love, and it is in our self interest to serve that which we love unconditionally. But take this same person and ask them to sacrifice their life to save a stranger and tell them that this stranger would have a greater impact on the world than they would themselves, and you would find FAR fewer willing to comply. Human nature.

Politics is by nature an illusory business. Rarely do people go into politics out of a deep desire to change the world. I have a deep desire to change the world, but knowing how our government is structured, I know that an honest man such as myself would never effect real change, there is simply too much of our government which has over time been ceded to the interests of corporations and the elite/powerful/wealthy. Because politics is all about appearances, and not about substance in the slightest, the whole political game becomes about convincing the most voters (not even the most people) that you are a better person than your opponent. That is why many people report they vote for the guy they’d most like to have a beer with….that is why scandals involving the private lives of politicians bring them down….it’s not a matter of picking the most competent, capable, honest, hard working person of integrity…it’s about picking whom you like the most.

So, because of this, people who really want to effect change, often end up trying to do so in smaller ways, doing things on the inside where they can see an impact…be it volunteering to build houses, serving on the school board, showing up at town counsel meetings to rally for a new stoplight, protesting the G8 summit, organizing and canvasing for someone like Obama who they see as the only hope for our nation, or going on Fluther and shooting off their opinions in hopes of convincing even a few people to consider things from a different angle. People like this by and large have no desire to enter the thankless world of politics, because really helping people in this world is a warm, human, real thing to do. Politics is about image and style…it’s not at all genuine, and it involves basically saying what you think people want to hear…honest people often don’t win elections because their opponents, not bound by integrity, honesty, logic or reason, can assail an honest person’s character in a number of ways, but the honest man will not engage in a tit for tat. This makes the honest man look weak and dishonest, and the dishonest man look like a strong defender of all that is good and right.

But even if you end up getting into a high position of power as an honest person, our culture relegates you to the sidelines. For example, in the Presidential contests, people like Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, and even Ron Paul to some degree, really would be the kinds of people who would work to remove the money from the electoral system, but they’re relegated to the sidelines…no one thinks they even COULD win, so why should the press pay any attention to them (indeed they have a vested interest in keeping us in the dark, because they are owned by corporations who would not do well if a person who wanted to represent the people and not the corporations were to come to power). So either you have to make deals and cede some of what you want to be able to get other things you want done (see: Obama), or you say what you mean, mean what you say and end up as a Kucinich. Which is why the truly great people who really want to make us a better nation will by and large leave politics to politicians.

Politicians…the people who really get off on wheeling and dealing in a world where perception is more valuable than reality are the kinds of people who respond more greatly to matters of self interest anyway. They get into politics out of self interest, to stroke their egos, to feel the power. They are going to be the ones most succeptable to the corrupting influences of money and power.

So in summary, I think there are probably a lot of people with high moral standards in this country who could not be bought in most cases. Having said that, almost everyone has a price. But it is only those who are more easily corruptable than the masses who would seek out a career making decisions for others anyway, and that is what leads to the perception you’ve stated in your question.

bumwithablackberry's avatar

Wow, if I would have said that in one sentence I would have been moderated.

mattbrowne's avatar

No, but there are more temptations to be resisted.

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