Money and political power
The addictive power of money was studied by Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Jenna McGregor's January 10, 2014 Washington Post article describes Pfeffer's work with researchers at the University of Toronto and Renmin University of China. Their research indicates that the more money people make, the more they value money.
Pfeffer's proposed solution to money addiction is a graduated tax. McGregor quotes Pfeffer: "What we've typically done with addictive substances like nicotine and gambling is tax them. Maybe this will fix some of the problem."
Wall Street owns Congress and regulators. In an April 24, 2014, article on Slate, Alison Fitzgerald and Daniel Wagner describe the stranglehold lobbyists for large financial firms have placed on Congress and regulators. The authors cite figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics that puts total contributions by financial companies to congressional candidates in the current election cycle at $149 million, by far the most of any single industry.
Money is power, after all. The prospect of re-regulation or increased taxation of the rich is almost nil in the current political and economic climate. If money is power, and power corrupts, as Lord Acton and others have famously pointed out, then is money inherently corrupt? Not necessarily.
Lord Acton's well-worn axiom that absolute power corrupts absolutely is brought into question by research conducted by Katherine A. DeCelles, a professor of management at the University of Toronto. DeCelles co-authored a study published in the June 2012 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology entitled "Does power corrupt or enable? When and why power facilitates self-interested behavior."
As Christopher Shea reports in the October 2012 Smithsonian Magazine, the researchers found that "power doesn’t corrupt; it heightens pre-existing ethical tendencies." The research subjects were assigned a moral-identity score based on the extent to which they considered the effect of their actions on others. Those with a high moral-identity score were more likely to use their power for the common good, and those with a low moral-identity score tended to exercise their power for their own self-interest. Shea closes with this quote from Abraham Lincoln: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
As with other addictive substances, it appears not everyone is susceptible to a money addiction. Unfortunately, those that are susceptible to the addictive properties of money have gained an advantage in our political and economic systems. Throughout our nation's history, politicians have struck a tenuous balance between the need to fight corruption and the desire not to hinder business profitability. At various times over the past 200 years, corrupt business practices have gotten the upper hand, but ultimately the people, through their government, respond to restore the balance... at least temporarily.