Rulers Seek to Rule

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by Jeff Thomas via International Man


Rulers seek to rule. Well, that seems a bit obvious, doesn’t it? And yet, time after time, we elect new leaders, imagining that, “This new group will be better—they’ll represent us as they promised.”

Unfortunately, the democratic system doesn’t really work very well at all. The idea is supposed to be that if old leaders overstep their bounds, new candidates may come forth who promise a reversal of the autocracy of the previous group, and we elect them. They will then proceed to implement that reversal.

Of course, we all know that it’s this last bit that consistently fails to happen. The new group does not fulfill its promises to the electorate—in fact, it almost invariably seeks to increase its power over them. And as each group assumes greater power than the previous one, the country slowly declines, until ultimately, it reaches the state of tyranny.

But what is at the heart of this process? Why on earth does it never seem to happen that the new leaders actually diminish their power and become true representatives of those who elected them? Surely, we must get a few good leaders once in a while.

To answer this question, let’s have another look at that title, at the top of the page…

Rulers seek to rule. Ruling is not a side issue; it is not a by-product. It is their very purpose. It is the reason they ran for elected office.

But then, why do better, less-obsessed people not run? Well, they occasionally do, mostly at the lower levels of public office, where they soon find that politics is a nasty business and that their fellow office-holders detest them for their integrity. In effect, they find themselves isolated, much like New York policeman Frank Serpico—a lamb amongst vipers. In such an environment, it’s unlikely that a “good guy” will last long.

There arises the occasional Ron Paul, a beacon in the night, but the Ron Pauls are rare and even more rarely attain high office. Instead, those who are most likely to pursue public office and most likely to remain there are those that most desire to rule.

So, if we follow this reasoning along, who within a given society does most want to rule? Well, clearly, those who are the most obsessive in their desire to control others. Even more so if they possess this desire to a pathological degree.

In a small jurisdiction, this is less pronounced, because there are fewer people to run for office. The larger the country, the greater the likelihood that those who are pathological will not only come forward, but will do whatever it takes to succeed. Their odds of initial and continued success are therefore far greater than those of the “good” candidates.

If the above reasoning is correct, we’d find our legislatures full of pathological people.

In a large country, all candidates, in all parties, might well answer this description, resulting in a virtual guarantee that the top spots would be filled by those who are pathological. (Estimates hold that approximately 6.2% of any population are likely to be narcissistic. Sociopaths are at 4%.)

So, let’s test this out. Let’s look at a list of character traits of each of these psychopathies and ask ourselves if the descriptions fit any (or all) of our rulers.


  • Grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success and power
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a pronounced sense of entitlement
  • Is exploitative of others
  • Lacks empathy
  • Demonstrates arrogant, haughty behaviour


  • Superficial charm and good intelligence
  • Unreliability
  • Untruthfulness and insincerity
  • Lack of remorse and shame
  • Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
  • Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love

In examining the traits above and comparing them to the traits we observe in our political leaders, we no longer wonder why our leaders are not more truthful, more reliable, more representative, less arrogant, etc. In fact, in any given situation, we can expect overreach from leaders in each of the following categories:

  • An assumed right to power (over both the electorate and other sovereign states)
  • Extreme lack of concern for truth or integrity (Reality becomes whatever the leader has most recently decided it is)
  • Lack of true concern for the electorate on any level (although “concern” may very well be pretended)
  • Inconsistency and unreliability in actions and policymaking
  • Fascination with opportunities for armed conflict (both domestic and international)
  • Carelessness in the sacrifice of the lives of others in combat situations (Armed conflict is an interesting game, rather than an unfortunate necessity)

Whatever nation the reader is from, he might reread the above description, whilst picturing each of the last several leaders his country has had, and ask himself if these traits apply. (Again, the larger the country, the more likely that all the boxes are ticked, with regard to every leader, regardless of political party.) In addition, if the reader decides to extend the exercise to those on the second and third tiers of power (deputy prime minister, vice president, chancellor of the exchequer, secretary of state, etc., depending upon the jurisdiction), my guess would be that these individuals would also fit the bill fairly well.

Right, then. We were already a bit glum about those who ostensibly were elected to “represent our interests”. Now, it appears not only that they are a bad lot, but that there’s little hope for improvement, short of exhuming Guy Fawkes and cloning him in large numbers.

So what can we glean from this exercise?

We can surmise that, whether a sovereign state was founded as a free republic (e.g., Ancient Rome or the United States), or whether it was founded right from the outset as an oppressive state (e.g., France or the Soviet Union after their respective revolutions in 1799 and 1917), it is certain that pathological individuals will be those who will most desperately seek office. This then means that, over time, the new state will invariably progress toward tyranny, until such time as the system is ended and started anew.

What this means is that the reader might wish to assess the point that his home country has reached in its decline and consider whether it has reached the point of diminishing returns as regards his own personal freedom to live his life as he sees fit.

Reprinted with permission from International Man.

Fast Rope Note: Friedrich Hayek’s classic book The Road to Serfdom explains why the worst get to the top in much greater detail. It’s an absolute must-read book for any liberty minded individual.