Friday, November 17, 2006

The Vice of Power

When English historian Lord John Acton wrote in an 1887 letter to Bishop Creighton that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely", he did so in protest of the promulgation by Pope Pius IX of the dogma of papal infallibility. This he saw as an affront to the progressive notions he championed on liberalism and limited government.

Although much of what Lord Acton had advocated during his life in the 19th century would still be disagreeable to some in this century, his assertion on the wicked tendencies of power offer an enduring equation whose implied correlations are of near exact predictability. This demonstrable truth of power waltzing with vice and conceit is perhaps a topic that can be further explored by our contemporary neuroscientists.

The culprit, I say, is Dopamine. This chemical, which is produced in the primitive (animal) part of the human brain, regulates our appetite for rewards and our perception of how well those rewards meet our expectations. This is responsible for the brain’s attraction to pleasure-seeking substances and activities including sex, drugs, and Rock&Roll.

So, when the newly elected members of the US Congress assume their responsibilities early next year and when those who were defeated return home to consider their futures, they may want to first consider how to regulate their Dopamine before regulating the people’s business.


Post a Comment

<< Home