How people choose to wield their power affects our daily lives, whether it’s a dictator or simply an obnoxiously officious member of a homeowner’s association. Brian Klaas, a political scientist and author of “Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How it Changes Us,” joins Big Think to talk about the nature of power, the people who are drawn to it, and the ways we can improve how power is wielded within institutions.
So, what’s one way to ensure that reasonable people rise to positions of power? Klaas proposes the strategy of asking politicians a fairly straightforward question before they take office: What would it take for you to think that you are no longer necessary in power? Answers to questions like these can reveal deep insights into what kind of a leader a person is likely to be.
An intro to power
0:00 Meet Brian Klaas
0:21 Why is it important to understand power?
1:55 Why did you start studying power?
3:12 Who is Lord Acton and how does he relate to power?
5:43 What are your 4 main arguments about power?
Who gains power and why?
6:18 Why do bad people often end up in positions of power?
11:12 Should we only give power to those who don’t seek it?
14:04 What is self-selection bias?
15:21 What is survivorship bias?
18:12 Does evolution play a role in survivorship bias?
Psychopathy and the ‘dark triad’
20:43 Why are we drawn to bad leaders?
25:23 Why do certain demographic groups often end up in power?
33:51 How can physical appearance affect our preference for leaders?
38:53 Who is Steve Raucci and what are the dark triad traits?
53:20 Can psychopathy ever be a beneficial trait?
55:04 Why might some psychopathy be beneficial to leaders?
58:32 Do the dark triad traits always occur together in individuals?
1:02:02 How common are the dark triad traits amongst dictators?
Stopping the “worst person in the world”
1:05:52 How can systems help us select better leaders?
1:10:34 Why are systems so important when it comes to power?
1:14:43 What real-world systems have you observed to learn about power?
1:19:02 Why does society often fail to screen out bad leaders?
1:21:18 How can we rethink democracy to help us choose better leaders?
1:27:17 Does policing attract people who are more likely to abuse power?
1:33:35 How do you believe we can improve policing?
1:37:12 How can thought experiments help us evaluate the decisions of our leaders?
1:41:30 Who is Abhisit Vejjajiva and what do his decisions teach us about power?
1:49:33 How can being thrust into power affect our decision-making?
1:53:45 How can we evaluate the decisions of individuals in power?
About Brian Klaas:
Associate Professor of Global Politics at University College London, Contributing Writer for The Atlantic, author of Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How It Changes Us, and Creator/Host of the award-winning Power Corrupts podcast.
Johnny Punish is the founder and owner of GlobalThinkers.money. He is also a writer, global citizen eco-activist, visionary, musician, artist, entertainer, businessman, investor, life coach, and syndicated columnist.
Punish was educated at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (1980-81) and California State University Fullerton (1981-1984) with studies in accounting and business.
Before the “internets” had been invented, he owned and ran (5) national newspapers in the United States of America from 1987-1998 Punish has over 130 original songs written. He records and produces music. A member of ASCAP, Punish has several songs placed in feature films. His music is promoted worldwide and played on all digital networks and net radio.
He is also the founder of VT Foreign Policy, a freedom media
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