The great thinker Milton Friedman, in a seminal interview with Phil Donahue, exposed one of the great, under-addressed flaws in the premise of socialism and its other central-planning variants: the fact that the people in charge are no different than the people they purport to protect us from. His money quote:

Just tell me where in the world you find these angels who are going to organize society for us?

The recent, highly sensational college entrance cheating scandal that has almost certainly torpedoed the careers of actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, that will forever taint several dozen college-age offspring whose parents used their power and wealth to cheat their way into college, and that will, I expect, have reverberations for years, reminds us again that money inevitably turns into power.

Leftists, socialists, communists, anti-corporatists, greens, granola-crunchers, and their ilk whoop it up with major AHA!s whenever the rich and powerful exert undue influence (legal or illegal, it matters not), believing that such behavior justifies their belief in investing more power in government.

They have it exactly backward. Worse, FAR worse, than the power afforded by one’s own money is the power afforded by other people’s money, especially when combined with the legalized force that government offers those running it. Thus, Friedman’s lament about angels.

Assuming a government job changes nothing in a human being’s natural proclivities. Sure, we are more than our base nature, and we can override our DNA-encoded predilections – when we want to. But, the

English politician/philosopher John Acton observed, over a century ago, that

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

and voiced a reality witnessed across the entirety of human history. America was built on that notion, with a Constitution written expressly to limit power, distribute it across many rather than concentrating in in the hands of a few, and setting those many in adversarial positions, to keep the perils of power at bay.

Unfortunately, the siren song of do-good-ism lures every new generation of voters, who refuse to learn the lessons of human history when it comes to investing power in others.

Why does this keep happening? One possibility lies in human nature: children grow up with the important and natural tendency to rely on and trust father figures to take care of them. It’s an evolutionary advantage, since human children take so long to reach the point of self-sufficiency. This father-figure wiring doesn’t go away upon reaching voting age, and continues to manifest in deference to “alphas” who assume responsibility for the well-being of the tribe. So, when someone promises that things will be better if given the power to do what’s needed, human nature kicks in and we want to believe this to be true.

At family, clan, or tribal population sizes, this evolutionary strategy works. Too big a group, though, and it starts to break down. This is one reason that libertarians and other small-government-minded people believe that the actions of government should happen at as low and proximate level as possible: That which can be handled locally should not be handled city-wide. That which can be handled by the city should not be handled by the state. That which can be handled by the state should not be handled at the national level. This near-at-hand attitude towards government also serves to distribute and dilute power, leaving less ability for mischief in the hands of the most powerful.

It’s also why the Democratic Party’s following the lead of Alexandria and the Supremes (dubbed thus by columnist John Podhoretz) is a recipe for national disaster. They may actually believe that their concentrating even more power in government and taking control of even more OPM via their confiscatory and predatory taxation schemes will allow them to do Good, or they may simply covet the power to crush their enemies, see them driven before them, and hear the lamentations of non-socialists. Their intentions don’t matter. Money and power will lead them to behaving in a less-than-angelic way. Even if one or some of them have the wisdom of Solomon (and I suspect even he wasn’t quite all that and a bag of chips) and resist the corruptive effects, others will succumb. History and human nature guarantee it.

Many are relishing in the schadenfreude of a few rich and powerful (and presumably liberal) Hollywood types being caught in money-fueled naughtiness, but many more are missing the lesson: Money always looks to itself, and when we give more power to the powerful, we magnify that effect. Other people’s money is even more alluring, because it’s so much more easily acquired when enough power is achieved, and because it’s nearly infinite.

The college admissions cheaters will get their comeuppance, but, let’s be real. This isn’t a unique happening or one-off. Only a starry-eyed naif would believe that many parents with money don’t try to use that money to give their kids an advantage. In fact, universities rely on it. Do we believe that every donor to his or her alma mater does so for purely altruistic reasons? Or, are many such donations made to add a little bit of lagniappe to their kids chances of admission? Similarly, we see occasional stories of college athletes receiving money or compensation that the rule books prohibit – does anyone not comprehend that market forces almost guarantee this?

Just as alcohol prohibition failed to stop drinking, and the war on drugs has failed to stop use of narcotics, there is no chance – none – that the influence of money can be quashed simply by writing laws or electing the “right” people. What we should be doing is reducing the political/government power we grant to those people, because that’s the only way to reduce the corrupting influence of money. We should support those who would reduce the power and scope of government, because less power means less corruptive influence.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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