Power Corrupts and What to Do About It

When the First Vatican Council proclaimed the doctrine of Papal Infallibility in 1870, the Catholic historian Lord Acton responded: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

If one subscribes to the notion that there can be too much power then one ought to be worried about a unipolar world where the sole superpower can pursue her whims at will.

That is indeed the attitude of some Western Europeans who regard America’s sole superpower status with apprehension. They fail to recognize, however, that one can hardly blame the USA for the imbalance. It’s only natural that a state should pursue power.

France and Germany cannot expect that other powers serve their priorities. They have to take responsibility for their own agenda.

It begins with a reasonable defense budget and acquiring logistics that can actually reach places like East Timor, Darfur, and Zimbabwe. The foundation has to be, however, that France and Germany finally come to terms with globalization. They need to restructure their states and economies so that the considerable creativity of their citizens and residents can be unleashed in the market place.

Until then, there will be no balance in world politics . . . and only France and Germany are to blame.



  1. One could argue they are doing something about it with the EU and the underlying hope that it will counter American power (but one has to ask whether it is possible in any meaningful way with the current state of things). Also, France’s vote against the new constitution is curious in this regard.


  2. That’s a good point, John. One has the impression that the European Union too often serves as a fig leave that covers up the inaction of the national governments. To be sure, the European Union does improve security in Europe. But it cannot be a substitute for power.


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