Sunday, 5 August 2007

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

This idiom (ok, as the meaning can be determined from the definitions of the words it is not really an idiom, but it is not necessarily a cliché as this implies overuse. It is perhaps a stock phrase; it could be considered a truism. It is like an old wives tale, something people say in confidence that it is true, without ever considering its truth. I think perhaps I'll refer to them as expressions to cast the net as wide as possible) has two possible interpretations: that having absolute power will corrupt absolutely; or that the quest to obtain absolute power will corrupt absolutely. I see truth in the second interpretation, but not the first. If one day you woke up with absolute power, the power to create anything, or destroy every atom in the universe one by one, perhaps even the power to change the laws of physics (why limit our definition of absolute power) would you feel the need to abuse it? Sure, you'd make your life easier, you'd create doughnuts rather than walking to the shop for them. You could force everyone you met to be nice to you. But would you hurt or abuse other people? Why bother? I think the point is, the most efficient way of obtaining power is to hurt and abuse other people, hence why it is the quest for absolute power, not the fact of owning it, that corrupts.

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