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Jeremy Bentham argued that the ruling elite benefits from corruption, waste, and war (1827)

According to Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) the “ruling one” (the monarch) along with its companion group, “the sub-ruling few” (the establishment), have an interest in creating or maintaining corruption, waste, and war:

Under a government which has for its main object the sacrifice of the greatest happiness of the greatest number, to the sinister interest of the ruling one and the sub-ruling few, corruption and delusion to the greatest extent possible, are necessary to that object: waste, in so far as conducive to the increase of the corruption and delusion fund, a subordinate or co-ordinate object: war, were it only as a means and pretence for such waste, another object never out of view.

Under a government which has for its object the greatest happiness of the greatest number, official frugality is an object uniformly and anxiously pursued: peace, were it only as an instrument of such frugality, cultivated with proportionable sincerity and anxiety: any want of effect given to the laws, by which contributions are required for the maintenance of government, universally felt and regarded as a mischief: all endeavours employed in the evasion of them regarded as generally mischievous, and as such punished, and with full reason, by general contempt.

Under a government which has for its main object the sacrifice of the greatest happiness of the greatest number, to the sinister interest of the ruling one and the sub-ruling few, corruption and delusion to the greatest extent possible, are necessary to that object: waste, in so far as conducive to the increase of the corruption and delusion fund, a subordinate or co-ordinate object: war, were it only as a means and pretence for such waste, another object never out of view: that object, together with those others, invariably pursued, in so far as the contributions capable of being extracted from contributors, involuntary or voluntary, in the shape of taxes, or in the shape of loans, i. e. annuities paid by government by means of further taxes, can be obtained:—under such a government, by every penny paid into the Treasury, the means of diminishing the happiness of the greatest number receive increase;—by every penny which is prevented from taking that pernicious course, the diminution of that general happiness is so far prevented.

As, under the one government, every man, in proportion to the regard he feels for the greatest happiness of the greatest number, will give his strength to the revenue laws, and set his strength against all endeavours employed for the evasion of them,—so, under the other sort of government, in proportion to the regard he feels for that same object, will he set his strength against the laws, and in support of all endeavours employed for the evasion of them. Thus in particular, and so in general. In so far as the laws have been made every man’s enemy, every man in defence, not only of his own happiness, but of the happiness of the greatest number, will, in desire and endeavour, be an enemy to the laws.

About this Quotation:

A key insight Bentham had into the operation of politics was the idea of “the sinister interest.” According to Bentham, every individual had both universal interests (a concern for the interests of mankind in general) and sinister interests (or personal and selfish interests which worked against the universal interests of mankind). It was the task of rational bureaucrats who ran the state to ensure that sinister interests did not over-ride the universal interests of mankind. In this passage from his Principles of Judicial Procedure (1827) he argues that when the state is instead run by a few individuals, or what he calls “the ruling one and the sub-ruling few,” they have a vested interest in promoting the corruption from which they derive their livelihoods. This “corruption” is made possible by government waste, war and war contracts, the increase of taxes, and government loans. Although normally a stickler for obeying the law at all times, when corruption is rife in a state he believes upright men and women should evade the revenue laws in order to deprive the corrupt sinister interests of their source of revenue and income, and thus promote “the happiness of the greatest number”.

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