With so many important elections coming up this year it has made me think about the use and abuse of power.
One of the reasons we honor the founding fathers of America is due to their complete understanding and proper use of power. They understood that it was in the very nature of all men to abuse any real power they were given, and that the more power given to any one group, or any one man, the more likely it would be misused.
I am constantly reminded of the adage from Lord John Acton, who said:
"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
In the Mormon scripture, The Doctrine and Covenants, God clearly defines this problem of power (although this scripture is speaking of the power of the Priesthood, it can easily be related to political power also):
"Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson-- That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
"That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
"We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence many are called, but few are chosen." (D&C 121:34-40)
The nature of men is well known. It was known by our founding fathers as well, which is why they went to such great lengths to protect the everyday citizen from the effects and abuse of power by wicked men.
Just think about it: almost the entire Constitution of the United States is written, not to give power, but to RESTRICT the power given to the government, and those men who preside within the government. They created a 'balance of power' in the government in an attempt to prevent any one group, or any one man, from gaining too much power.
Even after the Constitution was written and ratified, they were still fearful that men would be able to gain too much political power (and would naturally abuse it, since it is in their nature); so they immediately created what we now call the Bill of Rights, which is simply the first ten amendments to the Constitution.
Those who had written the constitution felt it would be understood that the government could not take any power unto itself other than what was specifically given to it, as written down in the constitution itself. But the founders (many of whom were lawyers) understood how easily evil men can twist the meaning of words.
Eventually a majority insisted that many of the rights of the people be specifically spelled out. These specific rights became the first 9 amendments to the constitution.
Then, just to make sure, once and for all, that the government could not take more power to itself than it should, they created the 10th amendment:
Amendment 10 - Powers of the States and People.
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
They obviously wanted to make clear that the government could not simply give itself more power whenever it wanted.
Understanding the great lengths the founding fathers went through in an attempt to restrict the power of government, and to contain the natural power of men to misuse this power, is instructive.
As our lives are affected by the acts of government every day, I guess it is up to each one of us to decide just how successful the founding fathers were in controlling the power of government, and those who wield that power!
So the questions arise: How should men in power act? What is the proper way to use power?
In the same section of Mormon scripture, God gives us direction as to how power should be properly used by men:
"No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile--
Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
"Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
"The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever." (D&C 121:41-46)
The best use of power is when it is used with and by the consent of the governed. Power should be gained through persuasion, kindness, and, yes, love. That is how the government is supposed to work also!
Politicians spend months and years 'persuading' us concerning what they want to do. If the majority of people agree with them, they are elected and can then can implement their policies.
This is how it is supposed to work--through common consent. Over time, the nation is protected because the majority of people are good, and consciences. The real threat comes when the majority of the people become wicked--then the 'proper' use of government can be overturned, and the power that has been held in check can be used at will. Ultimate power will lead to ultimate corruption, as Lord Acton predicted.
All too often those in power use tactics of intimidation to bend people to their will. Whether it is a boss who uses the threat of a loss of job and income to force his employees to act against their consciences; or a politician using fear and threats of job losses, or loss of services, or threats abroad in an attempt to gain votes... all of these tactics are not 'kind', nor 'meek', nor promoting 'pure knowledge'; but are simply an abuse of power.
One of the most flagrant abuses of power I have seen in the news recently is the law that will soon be passed permitting the unions to hold 'open' elections within a company (to see whether or not the company can be forced to hire only union employees).
By 'open' elections, they mean that the employee ballots will no longer be secret--they must vote openly, so that everyone, including the union bosses and their fellow employees, will know how they voted!
Having gone through one of these 'elections' when I was the CEO of a company in Cleveland, Ohio, I have a good understanding of the issues. If my employees had not been given the right to a secret ballot when voting, the threats and intimidation they may have received--from both sides--would have been not only unethical, but heartrending. Depending upon how they voted, and who won in the end, could have made or ended their careers!
Just think how life on these small islands would change if your politician, or your boss, or your family, were to know exactly how you voted!
The open intimidation and threats that people would be under to vote a certain way would completely destroy any remnant of freedom we had left. Yet that is exactly what the Democrats, in collusion with their unions supporters, are asking permission to do within large companies...
The only thing of recent date I have found more threatening or shameful was the Supreme Court decision that the state could arbitrarily take someones property as long as it is deemed "in the public interest". We were living in Conn. when this happened, and it was a Conn. case that was before the Supreme Court.
Soon after the decision, municipalities all over the state were reviewing ways to raise money by taking people's land! In one egregious case, a contractor had submitted a plan to the zoning board to build a number of houses. It had been approved, and he was proceeding with construction.
However, after this supreme court case, the city decided that they could gain more tax revenue if this contractor built office buildings or condos instead of homes. They approached the contractor and demanded that he change his building plan. When he refused, the city simply took his land by using the 'eminent domain' laws, and built what they wanted!
We are living in interesting times. We often hear about 'tipping points', or the point of no return, when our actions push us to the point where the consequences cannot be reversed. I often wonder, what is the 'tipping point' for our freedoms?