We’ve all heard the adage attributed to Lord Acton, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”
When I was younger and didn’t know a whole lot of the Bible, I never realized that the 10th Commandment “Thou shalt not covet” was basically a commandment which encompassed all of the other commandments. Coveting means to desire or have one’s heart set on something.
Power, or the desire of, stems from pride which comes from coveting, and the attitude which has been around since the fall of man in the Garden. The desire and pride to think that one is one’s own god, coveting the main thing which a god has- power and control over others.
I have read enough about the fall of the Roman Empire to recognize the same road this country is on.
I know others are a lot more knowledgeable than I am on history of Rome’s downfall, but this is an interesting article that’s worth reading and might give a little insight on what we’re going through now. As long as people covet to be their own gods, power will corrupt and people will suffer.
The Lust for Power Led to Rome’s Decline and Fall
By Lawrence Reed
Rome, as the old saying goes, wasn’t built in a day. It wasn’t ruined in a day, either, nor by a single person. In the Epilogue to his Caesar and Christ (1944), historian Will Durant noted that, “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of Rome’s decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars.”
I don’t really disagree with Durant’s statement. However, if pressed to describe in one word why the ancient Roman Republic fell, I wouldn’t choose any that Durant mentions here. I would not choose corruption, nor any of the other usual suspects: war, socialism, slavery, the welfare state, envy, civil strife, foreign invasion, erosion of character, taxes, bureaucracy, spending or debt. Those were all important factors but they were symptomatic rather than causative, as I explained in this 2014 essay, “The Fall of the Republic.”
More than anything else, the drawn-out demise of Rome’s 500-year-old Republic must be laid at the doorstep of the most corrosive influence in the affairs of humankind. It’s a mental poison that twists and warps even the best of men and women if they allow it to take root in their souls. I refer to power—the exercise of control over others. Simply the pursuit of it, whether one ultimately attains it or not, is itself an intoxicant.
Since most people don’t want someone else to control them, one who wishes to control others must sooner or later convince his victims (if he doesn’t kill them first) that it’s good for them to either embrace it or refrain from resisting it. That invariably requires lies and deception and, ultimately, force and violence. The more I observe the ways that power-seekers behave—present company as well as the hordes from history’s dustbin—the more I’m convinced that power is the principal way that pure Evil manifests itself.
Marius and the Corruption of Power
I recently had my perceptions reinforced as I read my friend Marc Hyden’s new book, Gaius Marius, the Rise and Fall of Rome’s Saviour. Hyden’s subject, Marius (157 BC – 86 BC), was arguably a good man in his early life—a Roman patriot, a military hero whose reforms helped to defend the Republic, and a diligent public servant in the ancient government. As he worked his way to the top, however, his ambition for power transformed him into an enemy of the very Republic he once swore to protect.
Marius allowed the lust for power to consume his soul. He came to possess “more power than any good man should want, and more power than any other kind of man ought to have,” to borrow an eloquent phrase from U.S. Senator Daniel O. Hastings from Delaware, in another context in 1935. Marius’s story is evidence of Montesquieu’s observation that “constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it, and to carry his authority as far as it goes.”
To read the rest, please go here.