Autonomy - self-government - is something else. The power to set and alter the trajectory of your own life is not corrupting, but liberating. That's why Demos searches for and communicates ideas to give people more power to shape their own lives. I hate the term 'empowerment', because it presupposes that it is the job of others (the well-educated elite) to improve others: there are few more patronising phrases than "I am here to empower you".
Similarly, discussions of the 'devolution' of power start from the presumption that power should ordinarily be held by the officers of the expert state. Any dispersal of power has to justified on economic or efficiency grounds. This is entirely the wrong way round. Witness the conservative alliance of the British Medical Association and UNISON opposing progressive Government plans to extend pilots giving people with long-term health conditions their own budgets. But power, like jam, is best spread around. Our starting point should be that power lies in the hands of people, with every step towards centralisation strongly justified in terms of better outcomes for the disenfranchised individuals and communities.
Our vision is a democracy of free citizens, with an equal stake in society. Attaining these goals requires progress along four axes, which guide Demos' work: more capable citizens; public institutions which enhance independence; opportunities for citizenship; and security. A society of powerful citizens will be better for all. The most disadvantaged in our society are those who lack a sense of power over their own destinies, who live at the mercy of others. The powerless end up detatched from society, politics and community. In the end, it is not power which corrupts, but powerlessness.