Does The Character Of Politicians Matter?
Julian Sanchez riffs off of social science data pertaining to power and authority:
When people in experimental environments were made to feel as though they were powerfuleither by recalling actual instances for their lives or by being placed in simulated positions of power for a few hoursresearchers found that they became less compassionate, less prone to take the perspective of others, more able to lie without feeling guilty about it, and more prone to consider themselves exempt from the rules and standards they righteously insist apply to others. What’s striking is how quickly and easily the experimenters elicited dramatic behavioral differences given that (unlike people who actively seek power) their “powerful” and control groups were randomly chosen.
He concludes that the problem in politics isn't that we elect bad people so much as that they're changed by power. The Founders understood this, implementing checks and balances that limited authority, and giving us a nation of laws rather than men. Perhaps throwing elected officials in jail when they break the law would remind the whole political class that they aren't quite as powerful as they imagine, and result in less Washington corruption.