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Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely

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"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Explain and discuss the implications of this view for Liberalism. Liberalism focuses on the freedom of the individual. For all liberals, "freedom of the individual," means that human beings are entitled to equal rights. For Bentham and Mill "freedom of the individual," consisted of the freedom to follow the natural inclination of mankind to pursue its own selfish interests. Mill recognises that individuals are self-seeking hence the possibility that more dominant individuals in pursuit of their own selfish interests would encroach upon the individual liberty of others. ...read more.


I suppose this can be the application of the view of Lord Acton regarding absolute power to the individual. If all individuals had absolute power over their actions, they would act corruptly. The implications being the establishment of a "social contract." All individuals would recognise that it is within their best interests to sacrifice a portion of their liberty in order to set up a system of law; otherwise their liberty and indeed lives would be constantly under threat. Thus arises a sovereign state, that enforces law, in order to serve the people. ...read more.


Government arises out of the consent of the governed. This implies that the obligation to obey the laws of government is not absolute. Government itself may break the terms of the contract. This is done if government becomes corrupt. Accordingly the legitimacy of government evaporates and the people have the right of rebellion. This is one way of responding to Actons concern regarding government. However Locke resorting to rebellion erases the whole government structure. It would be a lot more efficient for the solution to Actons concern to be sewn into the fabric of government. This would be done through constitutionalism; limiting government through a series of checks and balances, targeting Actons concern at the source, taking away absolute power, rather than responding to absolute power. ...read more.

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