I was reading this the other day, and it stuck in my head. This is a quote from Franklin as he argued against paying legislators for their terms of office.
"Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence on the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power and the love of money. Separately each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but when united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects. Place before the eyes of such men, a post of honour that shall be at the same time a place of profit, and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it. The vast number of such places it is renders the British government so tempestuous. The struggles for them are the true sources of all those factions which are perpetually dividing the nation, distracting its councils, hurrying sometimes into fruitless and mischievous wars, and often compelling a submission to dishonorable terms of peace.
And of what kind are the men that will strive for this profitable pre-eminence, through all the bustle and cabal, the heat of contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to pieces the best of characters? It will not be the wise and moderate; the lovers of peace and good order, the men of fittest for the trust. It will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits. These will thrust themselves into your government and be your rulers -- And these too will be mistaken in the expected happiness of their situation: for their vanquished competitors of the same spirit, and from the same motives will perpetually be endeavouring to distress their administration, thwart their measures, and render them odious to the people.
Besides these evils, sir, though we may set out in the beginning with moderate salaries, we will find that such will not be of long continuance. Reasons will never be wanting for proposed augmentations. And there will all always be a party for giving more to the rulers, that the rulers may be able in return to give more to them. Hence as all history informs us, there has been in every state and kingdom a constant warfare between the governing and the governed: the one striving to obtain more for its support, and the other to pay less. And this has alone occasioned great convulsions, actual civil wars, ending either in dethroning of the Princes, or enslaving the people. Generally indeed the ruling power carries its point, the revenues of princes constantly increasing, and we see that they are never satisfied, but always in want of more. The more the people are discontented with the oppression of taxes; the greater the need the prince has of money to distribute among his partisans and pay the troops that are to suppress all resistance, and enable him to plunder at pleasure. There is scarce a king in a hundred who would not, if he could, follow the example of the Pharaoh, get first all the people's money, then all their lands, and then make them and their children servants forever. It will be said, that we don't propose to establish kings. I know it. But there is a natural inclination in mankind to kingly government. It sometimes relieves them from aristocratic domination. They had rather have one tyrant than five hundred. It gives more of the appearance of equality among citizens, and that they like. I am apprehensive therefore, perhaps too apprehensive, that the government of these states, may in future times, end in a monarchy. But this catastrophe I think may be long delayed, if in our proposed system we do now sow the seeds of contention, faction, and tumult, but making our posts of honor, places of profit.."
So is it possible to have a governing body that does not personally profit exist and be effective legislators?
His comment about the governed rather having one rich tyrant than 500 is spot on. People would much rather strip wealth from those at the top and give it to one man than they would letting them keep the said wealth and power. I think it gives them a false sense of equality. Inwardly, we crave a king and I think people like Marx feed off this craving.