September 12, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 36

Corruption spreads to citizenry

In a previous editorial, Tom Morphet wonders whether a lack of participation in government has us “witnessing just the collapse of our democratic institutions or the beginning of the fall of our nation.”  I argue both are occurring.

Republics suffer from constant clashes pitting “the few” against “the many.”These struggles feature battles between power and liberty. Constitutions drafted at the birth of republics attempt to build fortresses around the liberty of the many. These institutions are designed to protect liberty by beating back the relentless advances of power. 

The few are by nature ambitious; power is by nature aggressive and expansionary. They work in unison, attempting to corrupt the institutions of liberty. Should this succeed, institutions of, by and for the many erode into institutions of, by and for the few. 

Corruption then flows through these institutions and into the laws, subsequently protecting the few at the expense of the many. Ultimately, oligarchies evolve: The few protecting the few; power protecting power. 

Sixteenth-century philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli’s observation stands: corrupt the institutions, and you corrupt the laws; corrupt the laws, and you corrupt the society. Today in America, the few have wrestled operational control of government from the many. Effective access to our political system requires admittance at costs that elude the finances of most Americans. Any hope of meaningful and effective influence by the many in this system is nil. Thus, apathy abounds. Mr. Morphet’s pessimism is well placed; fate has seized our republic as she did Rome.

Mike Denker