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.

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