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The Privileges of Power: Is Seduction an Absolute Certainty?

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  • Last year the University of Colorado at Boulder asked citizens for a 9.3 percent tuition increase purported to fund a merit-based salary pool so that faculty and staff could have raises.  Now Colorado taxpayers are dismayed to learn that most of the tuition money instead went to top administrators already receiving six-figure salaries, with one chancellor receiving a raise of $49,000 (about as much as I've ever made in a year).  Now university administrators want to increase tuition again, this time by 15.7 percent.  Who will reap the raises this time?  

  • Early in the 20th century unions rose to support workers and counterbalance the power of employers.  This was a much-needed accommodation and enabled people to join the ranks of the middle class.  Yet by the 70s grumbling had begun to be heard.  Union dues were high and automatically deducted from paychecks.  Non-union workers could not work in union shops.  A computer programmer relates how, in the 70s, when entering a union shop to fix a computer, he could not proceed until a union electrician was called to remove the screws from the CPU. 

  • In 2011, 15 percent of the funds donated to the Komen "Race-for-the-Cure" foundation went toward research (half of the percentage from 2008) while fundraising and administrative costs as well as the foundation's revenue escalated. 

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Is it an inherent human weakness that, once a position of power or authority or wealth is achieved, beneficient aims morph into the intent to maintain and increase that position?  Is there any way that human beings can avoid being sucked into the trappings of power and its abuse?  

It is important to note that the urge to exploit can be deferred.  Consider the revolving doors among government, lobbies, and regulators.  The power assumes amorphous forms.  

In words often paraphrased, Thomas Jefferson wrote:  

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God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.  The people cannot be all, and always, well informed.  The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty....  And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance?  Let them take arms.  The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them.  What signify a few lives lost in a century or two?  The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.  It is its natural manure.

This quotation is often interpreted as a call for periodic overthrow of the government when in fact Jefferson may be referring more to the second-amendment right of Americans to bear arms and fight for their rights.  But in the sense of the necessity of the governed to gaze upon (and have some input into) the workings of the sausage factory, no matter how repugnant they may be, the words could not be more fitting.  

"The remedy is to set them right as to the facts ..."  Why is it necessary to make this periodic correction, sometimes forcefully?  Because of the drift of power toward dominion.  

Is it inevitable, the metamorphosis of good intention into intent to rule?  I don't ask this rhetorically.  

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Dr. Dial is a psychologist and medical illustrator who for well over a decade has worked as a freelance medical and science writer and editor. She is an editor for OpEdNews, having contributed a number of articles about hydraulic fracturing, (more...)

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