Does absolute power ALWAYS corrupt absolutely?

Have there ever been any all-powerful dictator types who actually ran a pretty good ship, having skipped on the palaces, ego-driven wars, and the enslaved dancing girls?

By no means am I personally qualified to run or control anything, but I think if I became dictator I really would skip all of the palatial indulgence and I’d go straight into surrounding myself with the greatest minds in the nation so we could figure out how to best run the country.

Or, are those the famous last words of *every *dictator before their downward spiral into twisted excess?

Pretty much.

The actual line is that “absolute power tends to currupt absolutely”. However, consider this: no one can ever slot with you. One word from you, even a mild disdain from you, can ruin or wreck their entire life. You can decide everything and have everything you want. No one wants to cross you, ever, for any reason, because they know what you’ll potentially do to them afterward.

… but I think if I became dictator I really would skip all of the palatial indulgence…

-I think it takes dictatorial drive to become an all-powerful dictator. You don’t just become one.

That said, I think Ramesses II might qualify (that being spoken from a point of ignorance however).

But if you went into it already aware of this phenomenon, you could “tone it down a bit” from the beginning, couldn’t you? If your people knew they could speak their minds with relative impunity, you’d get honest answers, answers you would need. I can’t imagine that any top-level CEO desires to be surrounded entirely by “Yes” men. Don’t they cherish straight-shooters?

Yes, I suppose you’re right.

Lee Kwan Yew ran a pretty tight ship in Singapore for many years. He probably couldn’t be called a dictator, but he had a lot of authority and most of the citizens seemed pretty happy with the results he achieved.

Are we judging by purely modern morality? If so, I think the list is going to be pretty thin.

I presume you’re excluding the Roman post of Dictator?

How about St Edward the Confessor, King of England?

Richard I might also qualify, but by default, as he was only in England for 6 months of his 10 year reign, and was imprisoned for some of it to boot.

I dunno, but that’s the part I’m looking forward to! :smiley:

What about the “five good emperors” of ancient Rome?

Another thing is that a dictatorial seat of power is an attractive prize. Even if you’re the nicest guy in the country and never abuse your power, there’s going to be some lesser people who don’t have your morals but figure they would like your job. The only way you’re going to discourage these guys from staging a coup and replacing you is by establishing some degree of fear in them - otherwise they’ll all figure they can attack you with impunity and you’ll spend all you time fighting off revolts (assuming you don’t spend it writing your memoirs in exile or rotting in jail.)

Some do. Most don’t.

At least, I’ve never worked at a company where the CEO appreciated a dissenting opinion. Maybe I’ve been unlucky.

The saying is not really about personal indulgence but that’s part of it.

And since the result was a product of the best and the brightest, at least according to you, you would supress anyone who disagreed. After all, you have come up with the best plan and any dissent is bad for the country, right?

I’ve occasionally thought that it would be great if I could just make those who really piss me off disappear. Then I realize that I would get awfully lonesome because sooner or later everybody really pissed you off at least once.

While he never became dictator or even close, Che Guevera walked away from a position with authority within “the system” which could have led to great things to instead be a poor fighter again, this time in other countries. I don’t like a whole lot about him and his methods, but that small part earns a bit of respect from me.

George Washington could have become king of America, but chose not to.

Maybe, that was never seriously put to the test. I am glad he did not pursue it and that he took the Oath of Cincinnatus. I am not an expert on the time period, but I suspect the talk of George Washington being made king is a little overblown and would not have had all that much support.


I’ll nominate Josip Tito of Yugoslavia, and Ataturk.

Tito could be absolutely ruthless when it came to politics, but he never struck me as your typical dictator. His primary failure was his inability to establish a successor (which appears to be the main occupational hazard of dictators. I mean you spend years cultivating and training an apprentice, and does he let you retire peacefully - no, he throws you down a power shaft. Not that its much better for the apprentices either, as soon as the guy on top thinks he’s found someone better, its off with your head…not great incentives for either side really, makes you wonder why they would bother, …hmmm…, maybe Tito had it right after all.) I think recent history has shown us that he was the only thing keeping Yugoslavia together as one state.

Ataturk could have easily assumed absolute power and become another dictator, but pulled a ‘George Washington’ instead. But he was only in the position of doing so by pushing a ‘Washington’ agenda. If he had tried to assume power for personal ambition, rather than nationalist ambitions, I doubt he would have succeeded.

Park Chung-Hee of South Korea also seems to have lived rather modestly, but I dont know much more about him than what Wikipedia says.

While most CEOs do surround themselves with yes men, there are some exceptions. J. Paul Getty was one such person. He went to great lengths to separate the straight-shooters from the yes men when he had a top position to fill. One method was to host a party at his house, and see if the potentials agreed with him on some painting, he loved art. He would pick the most horrible painting he could find and admire it in front of the potential appointee, if the person agreed with him he lost the promotion. He had other methods also.

I came in her to mention Lee Kwan Yew. Although I would disagree that yes, he could be easily called a dictator. However, it didn’t see to corrupt him absolutely. Plenty of cronyism and one could start with BG Lee (aka Brigadier General Lee) who is just a few cancer cells away from having been part of the dynastic succession.

Not even kinda. For 20 years after we won independence the United States of America was a pathetic fragile child. From then till now has most of South America followed the wrong path…America is the way it is because of these selfless precious few. I love history and if I were to teach American history I’d make this two decade period my semester class. It was/is** VITAL** to how democracy is created.

I’m not an expert, but it does seem that Washington had a lot of power and influence, had a grand opportunity to make a play for greater power and influence, and chose not too; chose, in fact, to surrender the power and influence he had. He was not corrupted by power and popular adulation.