It seems to me, two of the most corrupting influences on Mankind, are both arbitrary power and great poverty. Both stultify the soul and wither one’s empathy, they lower a person’s thinking to the most base level, reducing him to a mere animal, and both great poverty and arbitrary power give a human being a sense of entitlement, all of which lower instead of raise the individual. Only a saint could remain unaffected by unlimited power or great poverty. Therefore, if we want to live in a virtuous society, if we want mankind to grow in knowledge and wisdom, and if we want our children to live in safety and prosperity, we must strive to mitigate the effects and to eliminate arbitrary power and great poverty.
Arbitrary power has been known to be evil for thousands of years. Solon, the lawgiver of Athens, made even favoring arbitrary power punishable by the ostracism. Such was the threat the ancient Athenians held for arbitrary power. What arbitrary power is, is exactly what the term implies, that a person or group, have total control over a land and it’s people. They can make up laws as they want, they can change laws, they can take the property of others without consequence, they can order citizens executed without trial… basically, there is no limit on their power over others. Essentially, everyone suffering under arbitrary rule, are slaves, in the most draconian sense of the word. There are two kinds of tyranny, legal and arbitrary, a legal tyranny is the better because even the despot must follow the law when he tyrannizes you, but in arbitrary rule the despot’s power is unlimited. Nazi Germany is an example of a legal tyranny.
Great poverty lowers a human being’s thought to basic needs. What drowning man wouldn’t pull down even his own loved one? When living in great poverty a person doesn’t have the luxury of being able to take flights of imagination, the stomach intrudes on the mind. Those who live in great poverty have no means to change their lives because society itself lacks the resources. The starving man has no scruples around a loaf of bread, similar to a despot, who has no scruples at all. Seeing one’s own children starve to death takes away our humanity. How can it not? All of these factors impel those who live in great poverty to join rebellions, and engage in crime, because nothing strips the veneer of civilization from a person like starving to death. Unlike the despot however, once great poverty is lifted from someone their humanity returns rapidly, but the person who practices arbitrary rule is lost forever.
Wherever there is great poverty there is arbitrary rule, and whenever there is arbitrary rule, there will be great poverty. The two go hand in hand. In States where there is arbitrary rule the economy cannot function properly. There is not one example of an economy that survived arbitrary rule throughout history. Marxist nations have all collapsed economically because socialism grows arbitrary rule like a stagnant pond grows algae. Throughout the ages every great civilization that has risen in virtue has fallen in vice, vice that was introduced by arbitrary rule. When Pericles came to power in Athens he perverted Athenian polity and law to his own ends. He built great edifices to his mythical gods, and his ego, he used the ostracism as a weapon to enforce his arbitrary rule, and the result was the subjugation of Athens to Sparta.
In nations with great poverty there is always arbitrary rule. Darfur is an example of arbitrary rule destroying a people and ushering in great poverty. There has never been great wealth there, but the people had sufficient food, shelter and clothing. Once the despot, Al-Bashir, decided the people of Darfur were expendable, and on resources he wanted, he simply took the resources. When the people rebelled, Bashir sent military jets to kill them, he forced them out of their ancient villages and into the desert. The resulting great poverty was on television for all to see. Yet, most took the wrong lesson from that example, most believed the great poverty of the people of Darfur was the result of war, ignoring the root cause of that war, arbitrary power. Many believe Darfur’s great poverty could be alleviated by foreign aid, but the reality is that the warp and the woof of the problem is arbitrary rule.
Unfortunately, the siren call for the leaders of any nation to arbitrary rule is so great that only the most saintly, or the most limited, can resist it… and it is obvious that our leaders are not resisting. Despite the cautionary history of collapsed civilizations, lost wealth, and entire nations enslaved, arbitrary rule is even more of a threat now than ever in history. With modern technology, a despot could control every aspect of the people’s lives, like in the book, 1984 George Orwell. With our market based economies, of the various nations around the world, incipient arbitrary rule has already done great damage. Today we still live in relative wealth, but that is slipping away fast, even as we are told we should turn to socialism, to get an ever larger piece of an ever shrinking pie. In the end, if our children have to live in great poverty, it will be because we allowed arbitrary rule… again.