"Absolute power corrupts even when exercised for humane purposes.
The benevolent despot who sees himself as a shepherd of the people
still demands from others the submissiveness of sheep. The taint
inherent in absolute power is not its inhumanity but its anti-humanity."
by:
Eric Hoffer
(1902-1983) American author, philosopher, awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom
Source:
The Ordeal of Change (1963), Chapter 15
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Reader comments about this quote:
Well, what should a benevolent governor do, when so many of the sheep are really goats, and they refuse to govern themselves with respect respecting others rights? In fact, men are inadequate to govern themselves, or others. Too many men will not do what they should unless obligated by a force outside themselves. Of course there are tyrants. And there are pirates, mustangs, and bad boys, too, who collectively cause as much disturbance and disorder as any tyrant. Have a great day anyway.
 -- David L. Rosenthal, Hollywood     
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     -- Anonymous, Reston, VA US      
    Are we talking about GOD here? Or are we ignoring the demands of the sheep to be herded?
     -- Terry Berg, Occidental, CA     
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    I wonder where Hoffer could have found an experience of a benevolent dictator in order to form this opinion?
     -- Dick Trice, Fort Worth     
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    I wonder where A. Einstein could have found an 'experience' of what happens to matter at the speed of light in order to form his most notorious equation?
     -- Anonymous     
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    Where? - GOD of course.
     -- Harold Levy, Hermosa Beach, CA     
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     -- Mike, Norwalk      
    Don't why all of the five stars with the contra comments. What is the guys point? Absolute power says that a person will be hung for murder does that make the absolute power good or bad in Hoffer's view. Unfortunately man has been dealt a deck in which he must make moral decisions. Would Hoffer have US make none because in might interfere absolutely with some ONE else's?
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Absolute power is wrong even when it is supposedly exercised for the benefit of all. It can not help but be corrupt and contra to the spirit of free men. To Govern is to rule. I do not need to be ruled and neither do you. The laws of "justice" should serve as moral guidelines to all.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    How true it is that legal and ethical are two entirely different things rarely considing.
     -- cal, lewisville, tx     
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    Benevolent would be dictator Obama says that he will look after your healthcare whether you like it or not. After all, the Messiah knows best, Long live the king.
     -- jim k     
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     -- RKA, Wasilla, AK      
    Super! but don't tell anyone you were an Atheist otherwise they may take your stars away - don't worry, I wont touch mine. This one of his many religious quotes: 'The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not" and his other absolute quote: 'Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power.'
     -- RBESRQ     
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    What are you talking about Waffler?
     -- warren, olathe     
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    Robert, you're right; The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist because, a fanatical atheist is a religious fanatic. Why your hangup with religion? An Atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, etc. all have the same ability to observe natural law, history, cause and effect, etc as anybody else. Why would anyone take away stars from someone that speaks the truth just because his religion or beliefs are different / same as yours and mine?
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    Pretty good.
     -- Brigit, Portland     
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    J in your world does law and justice have nothing do with governance and rule. In your world what do you do with the rare individual who does not recognize the laws of justice, do your rule and govern them or what? Warren apparently cannot comprehend a world in which man must make moral decisions thus he says "what are we talking about"!
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Waffler, in my world government should be an administration of managers who's jobs are few and clearly defined. One of those tasks would be the implementaion of a system of justice (as opposed to a system of ridiculously controling "laws") That system of justice is enforced by a civil police force. Not a system of covert policing agencies who spy on Americans. This sytem of justice would include serious penalties for breaking the "laws of justice." And the rare individual who does not recognize this justice system as being the moral code we all live by might just find himself shot by a law abiding citizen. Simple and easy to understand as opposed to convoluted and ambiguous.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    Carlton, you are speaking about the classic Common Law. Since corporations (i.e. groups of people) can combine their collective power, the systems of jurisprudence are separated into common law, commercial law, and military law. Since corporations are 'legal fictions' with no rights over a real human, these 'entities' are to be regulated via commericial law, sometimes referred to as colorable law or statutory law. But today, 'people' are treated like corporations and corporations like 'persons.' When individual people must hold their ground against corporations, the common law was supposed to protect them. Now, without common law courts, all of us are corporations now and therefore to be regulated by the government. And like most employees in a giant corporation, we do whatever we are told to do because that is the way it is and there isn't anything you can do about it.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    Good and honest recovery J. I am glad to see you see the logic and necessity of governance and rule to enforce the "laws of justice". Your world is probably not as different from mine as I previously thought, we just may have some minor differences concerning details, of course that is where the devil is.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    Archer, you know what you're talking about. We become "corporations" for the fleecing when we accept a Social Security number. We enter into an agreement with our government to support it with our labor and our money along with whatever else they demand. They in turn provide us with "Social Security" which is a complete and utter farce.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    Thank you Waffler. However seldom you and I might agree, we have diametrically opposing views of the world and the way it should be. I demand my freedom within moral law. You seem to hold a different version of "moral" than I do.....world's apart.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    Our Founders understood the evils of "absolute power". They experienced it and studied the history of it.

    The Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution are beautiful expressions limiting and protecting us from those evils.
     -- bruski, naples FL     
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    "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

    Lord Acton
     -- bruski, naples FL     
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    Within 50 or so years after the revolution, materialism had begun to take hold, life was only getting better, then the people, loosing sight of what they Had achieved. Seemed not so important anymore. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of Truth. There are many, masters of assemblies that have come to us, through the course of time, which are given from one Shepherd. God is upright and just, he is plumb and square.
     -- Ronw13, Yachats Or     
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