Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

Essay by scottyg17High School, 10th grade March 2008

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On July 14, 1789, after hours of combat in the streets of Paris, the mob of commoners stormed and seized control of the Bastille, the King's prison. This violence signaled the end of absolute monarchy in France, and ultimately in Europe. Lord Acton, a renowned British historian of the 19th Century, created the phrase "power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." Although a review of his biography shows this statement relates to his opposition to the policies of the Pope, it has become a popular and often used saying. History is full of examples that prove its truth. Governments which are based on dictatorships always seem to be corrupt. They take for themselves while their subjects starve. The period preceding the French Revolution is an example of this. The Nazis are probably the most well known example of corruption in absolute power. The Nazis were responsible for initiating the holocaust which killed around 11 million people.

North Korea, a potentially prosperous country suffers from terrible famine while its dictator Kim Jong-Il has lobster air-lifted to his train (which he eats with silver chop-sticks).

Before the French Revolution, most of Europe had always been governed by absolutely powerful governments like France's monarchy. Their kings and nobility enjoyed great wealth and privilege while the common people starved and worked fruitlessly. The line of Kings leading up to Louis XVI had been corrupt because they over taxed the people for the benefit of themselves and the nobility. The Kings and nobility kept growing richer and richer and the peasants and serfs grew poorer and poorer. The ideas of the enlightenment were spread to the common people creating a strong sense of disapproval with the monarchy. Louis XVI was not the ideal leader for this time. The French government was badly in need...