Who said “Power corrupts”?

From Dr. Brian Klaas’s Garden Talk “Does power really corrupt?
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"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." 

This is a quote from Lord Acton, a British historian and politician who was the first to coin this famous phrase in 1887 in reference to how power can corrupt people in positions of power.

This is because they are not afraid of being held accountable for their actions, and they believe that what they do with their power is justified by their position. The more powerful you become, the more likely you are to be corrupted by your own sense of entitlement and superiority over others.

Culture also plays a role in how much corruption occurs in a society or organisation. For example, cultures that value honesty will have less corruption than cultures where lying is acceptable and expected as part of daily life.

According to Brian Klass though, while culture and individuals matter, it is the systems that drive behaviour and this is where we need to look to fix the problem of corruption.

Learn more about this with our series “Unequal Society”

Our societies are becoming more economically unequal, but what can we do about it? Join the director and researchers of the IFS to discuss what needs to be done, and what's possible, to build a better future

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