In the wake of the FIFA bribery scandal, from which Sepp Blatter emerged as Head of Corruption for another four years, some proper scientific evidence that power corrupts. Given the amount of cash Blatter slung in the general direction of Africa and South America to gerrymander his re-election, you might wonder why anybody bothered to study this phenomenon, but I do like some science to back up my prejudices.
Researchers in Lausanne decided that the heart of corruption was the breaking of an unspoken agreement. (Lausanne is in Switzerland, and the Swiss have a bit of a history of taking money off all comers and keeping shtum.) Anyway, people largely agree on how leaders should behave when they are given power. So they designed two variations of the well known Dictator Game to gauge the extent of misuse of power for personal gain. In one version of the test, the group were asked to vote on how much it would be reasonable for a ‘leader’ to take relative to those being led. The idea here was to establish the social norms. This group then entered the same test as the other group, who had not voted. Leaders were chosen at random, and given one or three followers. They then had to distribute money around their teams.
It won’t surprise you that leaders all kept more for themselves than for their acolytes. It also won’t surprise you that those with higher numbers of followers tended to take even more wonga for themselves. Power does indeed corrupt, even in those with high personal levels of honesty. This was a pretty robust study, with over 700 participants, and it confirmed our own worst suspicions. Those in power are bent. There again, you only need to look at Ted Cruz and the study would have been unnecessary
Now we get to the interesting bit, since all the foregoing conclusions were pretty much a slam dunk. The researchers proposed a theorem, one that reflects something I’ve thought for a good long time. They suggested that the very act of seeking power was a pretty good indicator that the individual was a wrong ‘un from the get-go. If you seek power, you’re not fit to be in power. Which is why I came up with my method of selecting a democratic government. I think it’s a winner.