The keen and capable businessman is ambitious to get the power of authority and capital to manage a large business on his own lines; and the clever and earnest soldier wants to be a general, so that he can have the chance of directing armies to victory.
Whether, therefore, love of power is a good or bad thing, depends entirely on the use to which the coveted power is to be put. Power in capable hands and directed to beneficent ends, is a blessing; but power in weak or vicious hand and directed to selfish ends, is indeed a curse.
Love of power generally means love of power for its own sake. In the cases above mentioned, power is regarded only as a means to a beneficent end; but when power is regarded as an end in itself, it is a selfish passion, and the coveted power, when obtained, is generally used selfishly to the hurt of others.
There are men who want to rule simply because their proud spirits revolt at the idea of “playing second fiddle” and serving others.
Milton, in his Paradise Lost, makes Satan say, “To be weak is to be miserable”; and “Better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.” The tyrant loves power, because thereby he can subdue whole peoples to his will, and crush any opposition to his whims and wishes.
Many politicians work for place and authority, simply to satisfy their ambition to be “great men”, and not from any love of their country.
And statesmen often cling to office long after they have ceased to be of any service to their nation, simply because they love authority and would be miserable if not bowed down to by all. Such love of power for its own sake is wrong, and has worked incalculable harm in the world.