“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…”, said Lord Acton, aptly summing up what power can do to normal mortals, and especially in the case of great religious saints and world statesmen, who are definitely above ordinary mortals.
Power works like an intoxicant for people, going directly to their head. It makes them agent, proud, and audacious. They feel that they can get away with almost anything. This leads them to arrogance and corruption since there can be no other accountability for their action. It is only an exceptionally strong man, endowed with incorrigible character, who does not fall for the loaves and fishes of office.
History is repeated with examples of how good men under its influence, not only became corrupt when they rose to power but also wreaked havoc on the destiny of their country. We have the example of Adolf Hitler, who was an epitome of patriotism, but no sooner did he become Fuehrer, he let loose the scourge of war culminating in the Second World War. The war crimes that he perpetuated against Jews shall forever be a blot on the history of mankind. Even in India, we had the Rajas and Maharajas, enjoying absolute powers over their subjects. This made them corrupt and immoral. The British, too, effectively exploited their powers to annex the country and rule it for over two hundred years.
History is witness to the fact that such people thrive more in an autocratic or oligarchic form of government, where the head of the state has unbridled power. The corruption in the administration, at times leads to general dissatisfaction, making the people revolt in mutiny. This is what we saw in Philippines and Uganda, where president Marcos and Idi Amin were overthrown in an uprising. This does not absolve the democratic form of government from such evil in any way. Its tentacles reach out to even responsible leaders, evident in the case of Japanese Prime Minister who had to resign on the grounds of corruption.
Thus, there is a need for a proper check and balance on all people occupying positions of power and authority. There should also be stringent laws facilitating early identification of corrupt officials followed by their legal indictment. This would serve as a deterrent for others to not to harbour corrupt intensions. An effort in this direction has been made by a constitutional amendment, whereby Lokpal has been appointed for trying cases, even involving the Prime Minister. In addition to this, other measures need to be taken so that they produce a salutary effect on the people enjoying power.
There is no doubt whatsoever in the above statement, that power corrupts. However, having a proper system in place for ensuring accountability can effectively check this. People occupying important positions of power should be adequately compensated so that they do not adopt corrupt methods for their own aggrandizement and are able to exercise their powers without fear and favour. Until we do this, the words of Edmund Burke, “The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse”, will continue to haunt us.
Richa Singh is a student pursuing Economics from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited By: Samra Ejaz
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.