Absolute Power

The Republicans, over the past eight nightmarish years of the Bush Administration, have been busily ceding power to the executive branch. Republicans, from 2000 through at least 2006, when they finally lost control of Congress, showed their true colors regarding smaller, less intrusive government. That is, they never had any intention of shrinking government and getting it out of the wallets and the bedrooms of the people. Quite the opposite; with the excuse of September 11, the President was either granted, or simply grabbed, powers far beyond what the Constitution allows.

Enjoy the irony of the supposed “conservative” party, which won electoral victories by promising smaller government, being in power when illegal wiretaps, torture, and undeclared wars swept away what little remained of the American tradition of smaller, less intrusive government. Toss in the purely fascist concept of the government stepping in to prop up failing industries–socializing losses for companies with political pull–and you can see just how sincere Republican mantras about “freedom” really were.

Now the question is: what will Barack Obama do with all those newly minted powers that Bush has left him? Will the domestic spying continue? Will innocent people swept up and sent to prisons in Guantanamo, or rendered to foreign countries to be tortured, be given some sort of compensation for the inconceivable evils that were done to them by those who brayed about their love of “freedom?”

I have no doubt that Obama is much more intelligent than George W. Bush. That isn’t saying much. But does he have the moral courage to undo the power grabs that Bush has left him? Or will he fall for the delusion that he can keep those powers, and simply use them in ways that he deems to be “good”?

As Lord Acton said, “power corrupts, and total absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Obama was first in his class at Harvard Law School. He is no fool. But I will be quite astonished if he has the moral mettle and intelligence (the two are connected) to let go of the powers he has inherited. He will try to use those powers to “do good.” But no human being can be given those sorts of powers, and not abuse them.

Most importantly, he has, through the Federal Reserve, the power to create money at whim (don’t make me laugh by saying the Fed is “independent” of the government), which is far, far more dangerous than the power to tax. The temptation to continue the Hoover-Bush policies of propping up incompetently run companies will likely prove impossible to resist. If Obama continues down this road, the result will be either a protracted Depression, or a Weimar-style hyperinflation, or some weird combination of both.

No man, granted such powers, can resist the temptation to abuse them. If Obama is a moral giant, he will divest himself of those powers. But to date, there is no indication he will do so.