Men, when they first enter into magistracy, have often their former condition before their eyes: They remember what they themselves suffered, with their fellow-subjects, from the abuse of power, and how much they blamed it; and so their first purposes are to be humble, modest, and just; and probably, for some time, they continue so. But the possession of power soon alters and vitiates their hearts, which are at the same time sure to be leavened, and puffed up to an unnatural size, by the deceitful incense of false friends, and by the prostrate submission of parasites. First, they grow indifferent to all their good designs, then drop them: Next, they lose their moderation; afterwards, they renounce all measures with their old acquaintance and old principles; and seeing themselves in magnifying glasses, grow, in conceit, a different species from their fellow subjects; and so by too sudden degrees become insolent, rapacious and tyrannical, ready to catch at all means, often the vilest and most oppressive, to raise their fortunes as high as their imaginary greatness.

—John Trenchard. Cato’s Letters No. 61, How free Governments are to be framed so as to last, and how they differ from such as are arbitrary, Saturday, January 13, 1722.

Political power engorges the ego beyond the bounds of decency or prudence. This condition cannot be solved simply by holding elections, since being returned to office only worsens a politician’s conceit. The remedy is to hold regular elections from a pool of fresh candidates. This enables former politicians to return to expressing their opinions in the barbershop and having it count equally with all others, instead of being surrounded by sycophantic staffers, access-hungry journalists, and rent-seeking lobbyists. As John Adams explained: “These great men, in this respect, should be, once a year ‘Like bubbles on the sea of matter borne, They rise, they break, and to that sea return.’ This will teach them the great political virtues of humility, patience, and moderation, without which every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey.” (Thoughts on Government, April 1776.)

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove