Why the Worst Get on Top

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Making the lowest of the people priests and preachers of high places

With Government, “Living Beyond Your Means” Is a Moral Problem

“Finally, in one of the most insightful chapters in the book, Hayek explains why, in the politicized society, there is a tendency for “the worst to get on top.” Fulfillment of the government’s plans and policies requires the leaders to have the power to use any means necessary to get the job done. Thus, those with the least conscience or fewest moral scruples are likely to rise highest in the hierarchy of control. The bureaucracies of the planned and regulated society attract those who are most likely to enjoy the use and abuse of power over others.”
“One example of this principle in Nazi Germany was known as “working towards the Führer.” In 1934, a senior Nazi government official told his subordinates, “It is the duty of every single person to attempt, in the spirit of the Führer, to work towards him.” And, “the one who works correctly towards the Führer along his lines and toward his aim will in future as previously have the finest reward….”
As historian Ian Kershaw explained in his biography, Hitler, 1889–1936 — Hubris (1998), “The way to power and advancement [in the Nazi regime] was through anticipating the ‘Führer’s will’, and, without waiting for directives, taking initiatives to promote what were presumed to be Hitler’s aims and wishes.”
“Kershaw continues: “Through ‘working towards the Führer’, initiatives were taken, pressures created, legislation instigated — all in ways which fell in line with what were taken to be Hitler’s aims and without the dictator necessarily having to dictate.”
“In that instance, the government bureaucrat was stimulated by his superiors to anticipate Hitler’s will in instituting policies and actions in the hope for material gain and promotion within the Nazi hierarchy, and to do so with often-brutal ruthlessness, to the misfortune of many helpless victims.”
“Those who pursue such careers and who are willing to introduce and implement whatever policies necessary in the name of explicit or implicit government goals will be those who often care little about the unethical and immoral conduct that holding such political positions will require of them.”

‘But there are others who may be led to do things in their government role and position that as a private individual in their personal life they would consider immoral or unethical behavior. They do so often because of their confidence in the patriotic purpose and belief in a superior understanding of what must be done regardless of the violation of other people’s rights or the sacrifices imposed on other members of society to attain the greater national or social good.”
“With the realization that it is a controversial subject, let me suggest that a type of person who searches out employment and specialized surveillance work in the National Security Agency because he truly believes that there are potential enemies everywhere threatening harm to the homeland is highly likely to be a person who gives few second thoughts about whether intruding into the privacy of ordinary people’s emails, phone conversations, text messages, and private computer documents is unethical, illegal, or even simply bad manners. Indeed, the more zealous among such types of persons will at the end of their workday not lose sleep to a guilty conscience that a human being’s privacy rights have been violated. They are more likely to be thinking of tomorrow’s day of work and how they can find ways to do it even more effectively, regardless of how much more other people’s rights and privacy might have to be abridged in the attempt to attain the highly allusive goal of national security.”
“Indeed, in 1776, the famous Scottish economist, Adam Smith, warned about such people in government, when he said that nowhere would such political power “be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.” Men are easily subject to arrogance and hubris, and never is that human weakness so to be feared as when government has the power that allows such persons to practice their pretensions of superior knowledge and wisdom over their fellow human beings.”

Austrian Economics & Public Policy–Restoring Freedom and Prosperity, Richard Ebeling, p. 123.