The significant point is that people unfit for freedom — who cannot do much with it — are hungry for power. The desire for freedom is an attribute of a “have” type of self. It says: leave me alone and I shall grow, learn, and realize my capacities. The desire for power is basically an attribute of a “have-not” type of self. If Hitler had had the talents and the temperament of a genuine artist, if Stalin had had the capacity to become a first-rate theoretician, if Napoleon had had the makings of a great poet or philosopher they would hardly have developed the all-consuming lust for absolute power.
Freedom gives us a chance to realize our human and individual uniqueness. Absolute power can also bestow uniqueness: to have absolute power is to have the power to reduce all the people around us to puppets, robots, toys, or animals, and be the only man in sight. Absolute power achieves uniqueness by dehumanizing others.

To sum up: Those who lack the capacity to achieve much in an atmosphere of freedom will clamor for power.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
Working and Thinking on the Waterfront, Journal entry (28 March 1959)(1969)
Added on 21-Dec-10 | Last updated 21-Dec-10
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