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article imageOp-Ed: The Liberal Contradiction

By Michael Billy     Sep 25, 2008 in Politics
It was Lord Acton who said, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, and liberals, especially in the classical sense of the term, seem to prescribe to this maxim. There is, however, an inherent contradiction hidden in this philosophy
Classical liberal thinkers like John Locke believed that in the ‘State of Nature’ people behaved in a selfish and greedy manner and were, overall, power-seeking creatures. This quality, combined with the absence of a mandatory governing body, would eventually lead to a life for all humans that was solitary, poor, brutish, short, and plagued by perpetual civil wars.
The quality of human greed was key to this philosophy, as it would not allow for a balanced, tolerant society to occur naturally. He believed, as many liberals and conservatives do, that a state apparatus was needed to counteract this inherent human greed and, in turn, create what he believed would be a civilized and balanced society.
This state, of course, would contain ‘checks and balances’ that would theoretically prevent the government from running rough shot over the rights of the people it ruled. Government would be formed by the consent of the people.
The problem here, however, is that when a government is created it also creates a position of absolute power, and thus absolute corruption, for those power-seeking individuals to strive for. In the United States, for example, those power-seeking individuals that Hobbes and Locke so feared can contend for any number of governmental positions e.g., governor, senator, representative, or even president for those that are truly corrupt. All of the checks and balances in the world will not stop a truly corrupt individual from pursuing, obtaining, and abusing these totalitarian positions of power.
The United States provides us with a solid example in the case of the illegal and unconstitutional federally funded War on Drugs. According to the tenth amendment of the countries constitution, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Simply put, any powers not mentioned previously in the constitution will be given to the States and the people to decide on.
In California, however, medical marijuana has been legalized yet the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), an arm of the federal government, still conducts raids on the marijuana dispensaries and clinics in the state even though the Constitution does not grant them the power to do so. The positions of power have corrupted, on the macro scale, the individuals in the federal government that wish to impose their morals on the citizens of the country, and on the micro scale, the individuals in the DEA who are using force on the citizens to execute said morality.
The Constitution is supposed to provide a check on the federal government, but it has failed miserably in this and an innumerable amount of other situations. It is, after all, as forty-third president of the United States of America George W. Bush so eloquently put it, “just a goddamned piece of paper.” It truly has no power to prevent corruption.
When positions of power are created those interested in power will always seek those positions no matter what means are necessary. This is the liberal contradiction. Classical liberals are very quick to admit that greed and the ambition to achieve power are the major downfalls of humankind yet, just as quickly, they are willing to create positions of power that will give these greedy power-seekers ultimate control over the lives of others. This power is often used to punish a politician’s enemy, reward their friends, pad their own coffers, start unconstitutional and illegal wars, impose morality, create monopolies, or take part in illegal activities like the smuggling of contraband, but it is rarely used for the good of the people. Power, indeed, does corrupt and the creation of positions of power will only lead to corruption on a more grandiose scale.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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