Lord Acton’s “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is still valid today. Man is born innocent and in his acquisition of power, goes astray when unguided by morals and ethical principles. True wisdom is the ability to exercise power with moral and ethical dignity. If these abilities are lost, the people need re-education in moral and ethical philosophy.
Although I am not well versed with the subject of political philosophy, the older I get, the reading of these articles makes more and more sense as I delved deeper into it.
The English had a strong foundation on political philosophy which produces great moral and ethical thinkers like Viscount Francis Bacon (1561-1626), who was a philosopher, Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England.
Another eminent historian and moralist was Lord Acton, and in his letter to Bishop Mandell-Creighton in 1887, he wrote: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. This saying was further aired in George Orwell’s allegory “Animal Farm”. Such occurrence in history is often repeated and the best example in modern times comes from WW2.
The 7 principles illustrated by KIM WINGEREI. It’s Time for Ethical Politics” is a timely reminder that people and politicians have lost their direction by discarding the wisdom embedded in the principles.
Moral and ethical behaviour are accepted as “charter” in private, public and professional organisations and institutions. Some breaches are minor but serious breaches can detrimental to the name of the organisation, and sometimes destroys it.
There appears to be a common denominator in those who breach the moral-ethical principles, ie. Their appetite for power and more power. It happens in community NGOs, public and private organisations. Hence, it is “power” that is corrosive and corrupting if not handled with moral ethical “gloves”.
The Sunzi art of war is a zero-sum game and it is win at all costs Some have considered some tactics as morally and ethically wrong! Our contemporary example of a champion zero-sum gamer is President Trump. There is ample evidence and examples of him breaking all the seven principles illustrated by KIM WINGEREI.
It is also easier to show that all 7 principles are constantly breached in the political arena and supported by the media. Win at all cost equals vote catching is the new order of the day, a way to stay in power.
If these breaches come from the top, then it is “Monkey see, Monkey do”. Hence is imperative that good examples should be set from the top.
The corrupt use of power is “learned”. To support my hypothesis, I quote the Confucian classic “San ji jing”
人之初, 性本善, 性相近, 習相遠
苟不教, 性乃遷, 教之道. 貴以專
People at birth, are naturally good. Their natures are similar; their habits become different.
If, negligently, not taught, their nature deteriorate. The right way to teach is with absolute concentration.
Here is a challenge: If money can buy power, is money more corrupt then power? Then, is capitalism without moral/ethical consideration a corrupting influence?
I remember what my Professor at university said to me about scientific research in molecular biology. “Once you master the art, you can use it for good or bad. Good being using it to prolong life and bad means using it for warfare”. Such scientific skills were matched with proper moral and ethical education.
Maybe we need to be re-educated and a university education should include compulsory “humanity” subjects. In this area, the UNSW has done well to prepare its students for the world in a positive sense that their degrees must include a compulsory humanity subject. This should be adopted by other tertiary institutions.
For re-education, The Place of Political Philosophy within Kant’s Philosophical System, could be a good read.
Dr Anthony Pun OAM, is the current National President of the Chinese Community Council of Australia Inc.