Sunday, June 17, 2018

[ycgdwtri] Testing "Power corrupts"

Investigate as psychology research the adage "Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely."  How does it corrupt?  When does it corrupt?  At what rate does it corrupt?  What kinds of powers induce what kinds of corruption?  Does it depend on the "character" of the person before achieving power?

The Stanford Prison Experiment is the most famous experiment in this field.  Possibly flawed, but we need follow up investigation regardless to fine-tune our knowledge in this field: how should society design its structures of power?  (Optimistically, I hypothesize that society has organically discovered and implemented many mechanisms to counteract the effect despite not explicitly understanding it.)

Inspired as a response to Ben Blum "The lifespan of a lie", in which the author attempts to discredit the Stanford Prison Experiment and undermine its conclusions.  Curiously, the phrase "power corrupts" never appears in the piece, even though it is the central thesis of what the experiment was trying to prove.

It would be absolutely shocking if the adage were proven to be false in all respects, maybe always just an illusion of observer or selection bias, and that power actually does not affect psychology in any way.  Therefore, we assume the conclusions of the experiment remain valid -- power still corrupts.  Flaws in the experiment prevent strongly supporting the conclusion, but do not disprove it.

Blum's actual motive is far from disguised: it is highlighted in green in the middle of the piece.  The purpose of discrediting the experiment is to strengthen the political case for "individual responsibility", the propaganda technique employed by the right to justify maintaining racism and discrimination and cutting welfare.

By avoiding mentioning the issue "power corrupts", it also subtly supports another right-wing agenda item: the authoritarian state.  Perhaps we are meant to believe that power doesn't corrupt, so we should let our autocrats have as much power as they desire and nothing bad will happen.

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