Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

“This history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States…” – The United States Declaration of Independence

King George William Frederick III – The Bully?

 The afore-stated lines were a part of a letter, written and sent to the king of Great Britain, George William Frederick, III in the year 1776.  The colonists were fed up with his long line of abuses and felt a need to outline or declare the reasons for their decision to separate themselves from his oppressive leadership.  For example, George had not only determined when legislation would be enacted, but he determined if legislation would be enacted at all; he felt he was above-the law, that he was the law, and therefore did not have to assent to them.  He was accused of intimidating the people by having a standing army, the imposition of taxes without representation and the list goes on. In answering the question for this particular blog post, “Does absolute power corrupt absolutely?” my answer is a quick and unapologetic, “yes!”  

As a prelaw student, I was completely enamored with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  I had a professor who made those documents live.  He demanded deep thought, conversation, and debate about the various interpretations of these documents.  It appears that should we visit the many positions outlined by founding fathers of the “new world” as they debated and drafted the political documents, i.e., Articles of Confederation, The Federalist Papers up to and including the U.S. Constitution, they were advocating for a balance of power, a shared power, a respect of power.  The founders advocated for truths that were self-evident, a declaration of the rights of man endowed by nature not those given as a privilege by mortal man.  They understood all too well the ability of power to corrupt or the corruption of power.  So they confronted King George by outlining his “…long train of abuses and usurpations” (U.S. Declaration of Independence) declaring their severance from his leadership. 

Power Corrupted or Corrupted Power

When we examine the leadership structures of governmental entities or even that of organizations, we might see an effort by a society, through the codification of processes and responsibilities a type of shared power to avoid the oppression(s) and/or moral/ethical violation(s) under King George’s leadership.  King George is a leading example or demonstration of corruption of power or power corrupted.  So, the various laws, bylaws, ethical and moral codes can only be effective though when you have an informed society that remains vigilant and active and willing to assert their humanity against power corrupted.  The power might not be in the hands of one man, but certainly is being wielded by those who are abusing it, namely, the one percent.  Case study after case study this semester has illustrated that we are experiencing a great need of honest, committed, ethical and moral leadership. 

Judicial and Correctional leaders all embrace the idea of restitution, but too few ignore that idea of rehabilitation and restoration.  There is great disparity in not only the application law, but too its interpretation. These leaders are responsible for the care, custody and control of offenders and appear to have a system that punishes, without a proper balance of rehabilitation and restoration.  And this keeps hundreds of thousands “locked-out” of society. If leadership cannot take care of the least of these in our society, then we provide, at best, pitiable examples of leadership and in contrast, a great example of power corrupted. As the costs of crime and prison construction spiral upward, systemic changes are necessary to decrease recidivism rates (Welsh, 2002) American society should revisit this notion. Correctional Education is a proven, documented process for doing so.

In the absence of functional processing and meaning there can only be the dynamics of imposition, will, and power.”  (Aziz, 2008)  Aziz continued with, “Power corrupts because it gives license to unconsciousness…”  All too many of our leaders are immersed in self-promotion or personal power rather than that of service. And power is that to which leadership defaults in the absence of being able to contain and process meaning with others and within oneself.  In the absence of functional interpersonal (external) and intrapsychic processing there can only be power. (Aziz, 2011)  Absolute power does corrupt and as such, let us not forget what Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Let us realize that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” 


 Aziz, R. (2008). The Change of Which Barack Obama Speaks.Unknown: CreateSpace Publishing.

Aziz, R. (2011, August 7). Why Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely. Retrieved from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-robert-aziz/why-power-corrupts-and-ab_b_920638.html

Welsh, M. F. (2002, December). The Effects of the Elimination of Pell Grant Eligibility for State Prison Inmates.Journal of Correctional Education, 53(4), 1.

Ethics, Morality, and Philosophical Beliefs

What makes an act moral is the motive, the intention.”  And in so speaking, we have a “…categorical duty to respect the dignity of persons…and not to use people as a means to even good ends.”  (Immanuel Kant, 1724-1804)

This blog posting regarding the topic of Ethics, Morality, and Philosophical Beliefs is one incredibly rich assignment.  One of the resources for this assignment was a video in the Justice series produced at Harvard University titled, “Episode 6, Part One, Mind Your Motive”.  It is replete with ideas, thoughts – positions on that of ethics, morality, and philosophy of belief.  This series could easily fill volumes of pages of encyclopedia.  One of the first thoughts that occurred to me was that maxim or so called, Golden Rule, “…doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  That when we perform an action, we should do so merely for the sake of duty.  The action has full value in itself, that we should do the right thing simply for the sake of duty.  (Sandel, 2014)  This reminds me of my church days wherein a passage of scripture was always quoted in reference to tithes and offerings, “…let each one give as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver…” (Proverbs 22:9).  This scripture seems to contradict another well-quoted passage about the mandatory tithing of ten percent.  As I would like to retain my Christian friends and sustain my familial relations so that they might still show up at commencement for the bequeathing of my letters, I will quickly move on. LOL!  However, this would not fit within the framework of “ethics” for I am withholding my ideas, thoughts – positions on a very sensitive topic just to have support in the stands cheering me on during graduation, right?  When we revisit our ideas on on ethics:  beliefs, values, and standards that govern our actions and behaviors (Thompson, 2014), the community might not appreciate my silence because the silence was governed not by a duty to share my true feelings, but an inclination to still my honest feelings because of a need for acceptance.  A desired silence (Gilles Deleuze, 1925-1995) has been established because of a need to retain and sustain Christian friends and familial relations.

When we visit the idea of morals, it too is the beliefs, values, and standards that govern actions and behaviors, but these are considered the level of the individual.  The Kehoe text stated, “…the first step in analyzing moral issues is obvious, but not always easy:  Get the facts.”  (Kehoe, 2014)  While reviewing this assignment, I perused old thoughts about the recent two wars that my country was involved in, the war we are mostly recently engaged in, and my military service.  My immediate question was, “what is the motive for this war, what is the intention of my president, his cabinet and colleagues in both political parties?”  Surely it cannot be for humanitarian intentions because we have wars going on right in the ghettos of Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles – the District of Columbia!  The War on Drugs has been codified in American law. Surely the billions that are being spent on war campaigns abroad might be spent far more effectively right here at home.  America’s primary duty is to take care of home first.  Our elected officials have a moral duty not to be so easily predisposed – inclined to jump into the affairs of our neighbors under the guise of humanity when it is really about a financial interest(s).  My almost ten years in the service of my country are memorable.  Today, if offered the opportunity to return to military service, I would have to decline because I possess a certain autonomy of thought that would preclude my fighting a war that is both unethical (according to many Americans) and immoral. 

My unyielding position at this juncture in my life is that “all life is valuable”.  Our tiny speck of a planet earth is barely a spot on the canvass of the universe – comparatively speaking in terms of the other millions of planets that are far larger.  And we have not the wherewithal to determine how to live peaceably with our fellow man?  We send ships propelling through space to land on distant moons, but we are unable to determine how to establish and maintain peace on this spot called earth?  Man has determined how to bend metal to create ships that float on the sea – when a tire iron sinks in the self-same sea?  but he, man is unable to demonstrate peace – consistently?  It appears that our planet might be compared to the Exxon Valdez than ran aground at Bligh Reef in 1989.  Are we the inhabitants of earth so impaired with the art of war that we have long forgotten how to act out of free will – in the respect and reverence of our fellow man?  “Suppose that there was something whose existence has in it an absolute value…and end in itself…then in it alone would there be the grounds of a possible categorical imperative.”  – (Immanuel Kant, 1724-1804)


Revisiting the final sentence, suppose this “it” was humankind,Period, Case-Closed!


Kehoe, W. J. (2014). Annual Editions, Business Ethics 13/14.New York: McGraw-Hill.

Sandel, M. (2014, September 28). Mind Your Motive. Retrieved from Harvard University’s Justice with Michael Sandel: http://www.justiceharvard.org/2011/02/episode-06/#watch

Thompson, L. (2014, September 13). Ethics in Decision Making Lecture. Houston, TX, US.