Ideals, Ideologues, Politics, and Corruption

Sometimes, when discussing highly volatile subjects, such as politics, it’s best to begin with definitions. So here are four.

Ideal – a standard of perfection; a principle to be aimed at.

Idealist – a person who is guided more by ideals than by practical considerations.

Ideology – a system of ideas and ideals, especially one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.

Ideologue – an uncompromising and dogmatic adherent of an ideology.

The Founding Fathers were essentially pragmatists who attempted to create a form of government that provided a flexible framework based on ideals. For the most part, they weren’t ideologues attempting to create an inflexible legalistic system with absolutely rigid boundaries, but one where law was a tool used by imperfect men aiming toward a set of ideals.

People being people, most of us believe that our beliefs/ideals are the best ones, and that’s not a problem until politicians decide to rigidly codify the details of beliefs into hard and fast laws, with few or no exceptions, with punishments for those who don’t comply.

There’s a reason why “murder” has a number of legal definitions, and why there are trials for those charged with committing a murder. Was it self-defense? An accident? Were there extenuating or mitigating circumstances?

Yet today we have battles between ideologues on one side or the other over the issues of gun control, abortion, immigration, drugs, border controls, among others, and these ideologues insist that there is only one correct and absolute legal answer. Abortion should be always legal or always totally illegal. The United States should embrace all illegal immigrants or deport them all. Every American should have the right to any and all personally-carried weapons of choice or no civilian should have any right to deadly weapons.

This sort of absolutism is not only insane, but totally illogical, because absolute government control is tyranny and absolute lack of control is anarchy. Yet, at present, more and more individuals seem to be adopting one form of absolutism or another, and any politician who tries to take a moderate position tends to be crucified, at present only figuratively, but what lies ahead?

In 1874, Lord Acton made the observation that “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” but I personally hold to what David Brin said much later – that “power attracts the corruptible.” I’d take it even further and contend that as power tends to be more and more concentrated in the United States, whether in government and politics, business and finance, and even in non-governmental organizations, corrupt individuals are more and more attracted, and less corrupt and most likely more able individuals shy away from such fields – or find themselves forced out because they won’t stoop to do absolutely anything in order to gain power.

Today, what we have in Donald Trump is an ethically corrupt individual who is posing as an ideologue of the far right, much in the way that Lenin, and later Stalin, appealed to the ideology of the Russian working class, or that Hitler appealed to the working class of 1930s Germany, corrupt individuals cloaking themselves in a popular ideology in order to obtain power.

And, historically, whether in ancient Greece, ancient Rome, any number of Chinese empires and other absolute monarchies or dictatorships, corrupt individuals cloaking themselves in popular ideologies have wreaked havoc upon their lands. Why do so many people think we’re any different?

4 thoughts on “Ideals, Ideologues, Politics, and Corruption”

  1. Aaron EM says:

    One possible solution might lie in recognizing that we as humanity have not ‘changed’, however much we have adapted to changing times – and by that I mean overall in a positive sense. Overall, we have advanced in many respects, but that does not presuppose any fundamental change per se. Rather, we are different if, when, and how we choose to react differently, to think differently – but not because of any supposedly inherent fundamental change.

  2. Frank Kennedy says:

    I continue to think that Trump is a symptom of the problem, not the actual problem. He seems to be more of a Huey Long than a Hitler. At least so far.

    1. While I tend to agree with you, even as a symptom, Trump has the power to make the situation worse and appears to be bumbling in that direction.

  3. Wine Guy says:

    We’re not different. My question is ‘What to do about it?’ Not Trump. I think we mostly agree that his presence as Pres. is a symptom. How do we get at the root of the problem, which is ‘My group is better than your group’ and woe be unto those who are moderates….

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