Throughout the course of modern history, the cyclical nature of government has always been to expand itself, corrupt itself, and to subsequently be replaced by a new regime or government which makes the same predictable mistakes as the last. Corruption and immorality, while rampant in government today, are hardly new: the Emperor Nero of Rome and Cleopatra of Egypt were noted for assassinations of family members, for instance.
However, it is generally thought by most in society that corruption need not be a direct function of power, but rather an unfortunate coincidence of these systems of power over a period of time. As part of his best-selling Road to Serfdom (which has gained renewed interest in light of its recent feature on television pundit Glenn Beck’s show), Nobel Prize winner F.A. Hayek sought to discredit this notion of coincidence in a chapter he entitled “Why the Worst Get on Top.” In his own words, Hayek initiates the discussion in this way:
“It is the belief that the most repellant features of the totalitarian regimes are due to the historical accident that they were established by groups of blackguards and thugs … Why should it not be possible that the same sort of system, if it be necessary to achieve important ends, be run by decent people for the good of the community as a whole? … [Yet] There are strong reasons for believing that what to us appear the worst features of the existing totalitarian systems are not accidental by-products but phenomena which totalitarianism is certain sooner or later to produce.”
Those “strong reasons” were the substance of a chapter whose message can give pause to even the most well-intentioned of progressives in today’s political climate: perhaps the expansion and concentration of power attracts those who would plunder the population and take advantage of the weak in society, rather than those who would use such power for any perceived benefit. Specifically, Hayek noted three crucial points that lead socialist regimes into the hands of ruthless totalitarian dictators as a predictable consequence.