Eric HofferEric Hoffer, (1902-1983) American author, philosopher, awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

Eric Hoffer Quote

“Absolute power corrupts even when exercised for humane purposes. The benevolent despot who sees himself as a shepherd of the people still demands from others the submissiveness of sheep. The taint inherent in absolute power is not its inhumanity but its anti-humanity.”

Eric HofferEric Hoffer
~ Eric Hoffer

The Ordeal of Change (1963), Chapter 15

Ratings and Comments

David L. Rosenthal, Hollywood

Well, what should a benevolent governor do, when so many of the sheep are really goats, and they refuse to govern themselves with respect respecting others rights? In fact, men are inadequate to govern themselves, or others. Too many men will not do what they should unless obligated by a force outside themselves. Of course there are tyrants. And there are pirates, mustangs, and bad boys, too, who collectively cause as much disturbance and disorder as any tyrant. Have a great day anyway.

Mike, Norwalk
  • Reply
Mike, Norwalk David L. Rosenthal, Hollywood 2/17/19

David, WHAT ???  "Too many men will not do what they should unless obligated by a force outside themselves." WHAT ???  What are so many men doing (not doing) that they should be forced to do? What is your theocratic system, that it would violate the laws of nature and of nature's God and justice. What is you benevolent system that would not be called tyranny at best and slavery at worst?

Terry Berg, Occidental, CA

Are we talking about GOD here? Or are we ignoring the demands of the sheep to be herded?

Dick Trice, Fort Worth

I wonder where Hoffer could have found an experience of a benevolent dictator in order to form this opinion?

Mike, Norwalk
  • Reply
Mike, Norwalk Dick Trice, Fort Worth 2/17/19

Dick, in the occupying statist theocracy infesting this land

  • Reply
Anonymous    3/4/06

I wonder where A. Einstein could have found an 'experience' of what happens to matter at the speed of light in order to form his most notorious equation?

Harold Levy, Hermosa Beach, CA

Where? - GOD of course.

Waffler, Smith

Don't why all of the five stars with the contra comments. What is the guys point? Absolute power says that a person will be hung for murder does that make the absolute power good or bad in Hoffer's view. Unfortunately man has been dealt a deck in which he must make moral decisions. Would Hoffer have US make none because in might interfere absolutely with some ONE else's?

J Carlton, Calgary

Absolute power is wrong even when it is supposedly exercised for the benefit of all. It can not help but be corrupt and contra to the spirit of free men. To Govern is to rule. I do not need to be ruled and neither do you. The laws of "justice" should serve as moral guidelines to all.

cal, lewisville, tx

How true it is that legal and ethical are two entirely different things rarely considing.

jim k
  • 1
  • Reply
jim k    9/29/09

Benevolent would be dictator Obama says that he will look after your healthcare whether you like it or not. After all, the Messiah knows best, Long live the king.

  • Reply
RBESRQ    9/29/09

Super! but don't tell anyone you were an Atheist otherwise they may take your stars away - don't worry, I wont touch mine. This one of his many religious quotes: 'The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not" and his other absolute quote: 'Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power.'

warren, olathe

What are you talking about Waffler?

Mike, Norwalk

Robert, you're right; The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist because, a fanatical atheist is a religious fanatic. Why your hangup with religion? An Atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, etc. all have the same ability to observe natural law, history, cause and effect, etc as anybody else. Why would anyone take away stars from someone that speaks the truth just because his religion or beliefs are different / same as yours and mine?

Brigit, Portland

Pretty good.

Waffler, Smith

J in your world does law and justice have nothing do with governance and rule. In your world what do you do with the rare individual who does not recognize the laws of justice, do your rule and govern them or what? Warren apparently cannot comprehend a world in which man must make moral decisions thus he says "what are we talking about"!

J Carlton, Calgary

Waffler, in my world government should be an administration of managers who's jobs are few and clearly defined. One of those tasks would be the implementaion of a system of justice (as opposed to a system of ridiculously controling "laws") That system of justice is enforced by a civil police force. Not a system of covert policing agencies who spy on Americans. This sytem of justice would include serious penalties for breaking the "laws of justice." And the rare individual who does not recognize this justice system as being the moral code we all live by might just find himself shot by a law abiding citizen. Simple and easy to understand as opposed to convoluted and ambiguous.

E Archer, NYC

Carlton, you are speaking about the classic Common Law. Since corporations (i.e. groups of people) can combine their collective power, the systems of jurisprudence are separated into common law, commercial law, and military law. Since corporations are 'legal fictions' with no rights over a real human, these 'entities' are to be regulated via commericial law, sometimes referred to as colorable law or statutory law. But today, 'people' are treated like corporations and corporations like 'persons.' When individual people must hold their ground against corporations, the common law was supposed to protect them. Now, without common law courts, all of us are corporations now and therefore to be regulated by the government. And like most employees in a giant corporation, we do whatever we are told to do because that is the way it is and there isn't anything you can do about it.

Waffler, Smith

Good and honest recovery J. I am glad to see you see the logic and necessity of governance and rule to enforce the "laws of justice". Your world is probably not as different from mine as I previously thought, we just may have some minor differences concerning details, of course that is where the devil is.

J Carlton, Calgary

Archer, you know what you're talking about. We become "corporations" for the fleecing when we accept a Social Security number. We enter into an agreement with our government to support it with our labor and our money along with whatever else they demand. They in turn provide us with "Social Security" which is a complete and utter farce.

J Carlton, Calgary

Thank you Waffler. However seldom you and I might agree, we have diametrically opposing views of the world and the way it should be. I demand my freedom within moral law. You seem to hold a different version of "moral" than I's apart.

bruski, naples FL

Our Founders understood the evils of "absolute power". They experienced it and studied the history of it.

The Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution are beautiful expressions limiting and protecting us from those evils.

bruski, naples FL

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

Lord Acton

Ronw13, Yachats Or

Within 50 or so years after the revolution, materialism had begun to take hold, life was only getting better, then the people, loosing sight of what they Had achieved. Seemed not so important anymore. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of Truth. There are many, masters of assemblies that have come to us, through the course of time, which are given from one Shepherd. God is upright and just, he is plumb and square.


Get a Quote-a-Day!

Liberty Quotes sent to your mail box daily.