Social Question

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

If you had nearly limitless power, how would you keep it from corrupting you?

Asked by JeanPaulSartre (5779points) February 17th, 2010

Lord Action in 1887 wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If you had such power, how would you prevent it from changing you, or corrupting you. Or would you try to stop it at all?

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75 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

The only way to prevent it from corrupting me would be to give it up.

Trillian's avatar

I’d like to think that I’d find a way, since this is something about which I feel strongly. Perhaps a truth-sayer, like what the Seanchan have in a series of books that I’m reading. Or just maybe a group of people whose sole function is to check my stupid ass. Of course, that would entail giving away some power, would it not? I’m not sure anyone other that someone like the Dalai Lama could actually manage it.

Shecky_Johnson's avatar

That is the main reason I do not pursue for powers. I am sure I would certainly use them for evil.

CMaz's avatar

It would never corrupt me.

You just might see it that way.

Silhouette's avatar

I’d give some of it away.

ucme's avatar

I’d have a healthy dose of anti corruption to extinguish any such outcome.It’s called humility.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@Trillian The Dalai Lama uses his limited power in some pretty negative ways against the gay community…

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@ucme But you have all that power… how will you stay humble?

marinelife's avatar

I don’t think it is something that you do consciously. It is the sum total of your life experiences up to the point at which you get absolute power.

If you had a good grounding in the golden rule, if you had examples of people who cared, who gave their wealth away, then I think you would be OK. For the most part.

Steve_A's avatar

I’d become a super hero.

ucme's avatar

@Because that’s who I am. I would never let anything change that.It would not be a problem at all for me.Besides if I did get a little elitist i’m sure my family & friends would show me the error of my ways via a kick up the backside.For which i’d thank them.

Trillian's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre Really? I thought he was a pretty much live and let live kind of guy.

Sampson's avatar

I would remember who I am. People with that amount of power end up forgetting that they’re just people. They see themselves as above mankind. Those in power forget to keep their head about them.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

The dalai lama hates gays? That doesn’t sound right.

As for power, the king is a slave. I don’t want that power.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@Trillian Plus some damane to kick ass when needed. :)

Cruiser's avatar

I would buy everything I ever needed so no one could bribe or corrupt me.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

The Dalai Lama views it as sexual misconduct… and also isn’t as peaceful as we think

Harp's avatar

My wife would totally keep me in line. She’d just give me one of her looks, and that would be that.

Scooby's avatar

I’d become a politician! That way I could live with myself when corrupted!! Lol…. No guilt at all….......... :-)

gemiwing's avatar

I would call my mom.
I don’t care how powerful I become. nothing can withstand ‘the look’.

Plus, she’s awesome.

liminal's avatar

I would at the least wear a clown nose and maybe some roller skates. My hope would be that even all-powerful-me wouldn’t take myself to seriously and start acting all-knowing. I would definitely keep my self surrounded by advisors who think differently than I.

ratboy's avatar

What’s the point of power if you don’t abuse it?

susanc's avatar

I would have married Michelle and changed her last name to Obama. She doesn’t put up with much foolishness.

davidbetterman's avatar

I would marry a fat ugly woman who would keep me in line…

OreetCocker's avatar

Mmmmmmm corruption :-)

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I wouldn’t need to for I am invincible and impervious to corruption!Yes!That’s it.

CMaz's avatar

Abuse is in the eyes of the beholder.

RocketSquid's avatar

I wouldn’t.

BoBo1946's avatar

People who are determined to do good in this crazy World will do just that…good! Look at Bill Gates…got more money (money is power) than China, but he does a lot of good with all that power and money!

But, your question was about me…hummmm…would try very hard to do good things with that power! But, words are cheap…I’m sure most politicians feel that way when they are elected, but we know the rest of the story!

Bluefreedom's avatar

I honestly don’t know. I’d probably put together a group of my most trusted friends, as a Security Council for example, so that there would be some oversight if I overstepped my boundaries. This isn’t foolproof of course because one or more of those friends could wind up having ulterior motives and want to usurp my power and authority and use it for nefarious purposes. What a great question though. Nice job.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Lord Acton’s statement applies to “political power over others”. You do have as near limitless power over yourself as is possible; how corrupted are you by that?

The_Idler's avatar

@BoBo1946 Microsoft is the most brutishly predatory corporation I can think of right now. Their history is a incessant stream of attempts to destroy any and all competition, through whatever means necessary. Not only that, but they have repeatedly abused their monopoly position in attempts to destroy organisations and products they were not even in competition with in the first place!

Also, Bill definitely doesn’t have more money than China, but, taking his philanthropy into account, he probably does more good for the people of Earth.

Don’t deny that power has corrupted him though. He has a conscience, but within the realm in which he holds (nearly) absolute power, his has become (nearly) absolutely corrupted. That’s business for you. If he hadn’t behaved so viciously, he wouldn’t have got to where he is.

mammal's avatar

i would employ a suitably skilled Jester….. as for the Dalai Lama i think he is pestered into commentating on every hot and spicy contemporary topic, for all kinds of Agendas and by people looking for an advocate for their pet cause, the motives for this behaviour are juvenile and unsound so it is no surprise that nothing of any benefit is derived. People should decide for themselves. i’m sure being a monk and condoning homosexual conduct amongst the monks and nuns is unwise believe me, they need no encouragement… lol

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@The_Idler really? “Through whatever means necessary?” In round numbers, how many people has Bill Gates been charged with killing? I’ll accept a reasonable estimate if you provide some justification or backup for the number.

The_Idler's avatar

@CyanoticWasp We’re talking about corruption from position of power?
He’s not in the kind of position of power, where he can get away with killing people.
But everything that he could get away with, because of his position of power, he has done.
And then some… that he didn’t get away with.

We’re talking about business practice here, not a spy movie.

ragingloli's avatar

The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined that I would prevent corruption by shedding my emotions, if necessary with the help of various chemical substances and devote my life to logic and reason.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

It wouldn’t corrupt me – there’d be nothing to it.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

It would most definitely corrupt me in some way, but I think (read: hope) that I would still be able to do good things with it.

BoBo1946's avatar

@The_Idler just a figue of speech (more money than China)! understood..And Bill Gates does a lot of good with money!

And, “business is business!” Is that not he American way? To make money!

BoBo1946's avatar

@The_Idler and, from reading the threads, you come here to debate. We could talk about this for hours….and accomplished nothing. Certainly respect your comments.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I’d follow the path of the Jedi .

Nullo's avatar

I would use my nigh-limitless power to acquire effectively infinite wisdom, and with that craft the ultimate in accountability systems.
Other possibilities would be to bury yourself in so much bureaucracy that you can’t even move, or give it all up.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I would keep working on my golf game. And bowling. And sex. My god; how did that get last on that list? I’m older than I thought, I guess.

The_Idler's avatar

@BoBo1946 Nah, I’ve not heard the figure of speech. When you say “money”, though, you mean USD…
I understand now =P

drClaw's avatar

I would just give into the dark-side and start forcing the peasants to make me food and clean my castle.

Berserker's avatar

I’d like to say it wouldn’t corrupt me, but it probably would.

That is, if I can be any more corrupted than I already am.


CyanoticWasp's avatar

@drClaw you underestimate the power of celebrity you would have, I think. The peasants would happily pay to clean your castle. You’d need to be hiring more and better security to keep them out.

Jeruba's avatar

I agree with @wundayatta. Absolutely.

Look what it did to God.

CMaz's avatar

I would crush all of you! CRUSH I SAY… CRUSH!!!

Then I would have an orange crush.

Nullo's avatar


You can’t corrupt something incorruptable :\

ragingloli's avatar

more like you can’t corrupt something that is already corrupt

Nullo's avatar

@ragingloli The God of the Bible is described as abhorring sin, evil, corruption, etc. and embodying such lofty concepts as Truth, Justice, Righteousness, etc. So no.

ragingloli's avatar

The US is described as “one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” But words are meaningless without appropriate action. As Jesus said, you shall know the tree by its fruit. And God’s actions are devoid of justice or righteousness.

Nullo's avatar

@ragingloli SIn is evil, evil is done away with. Is this not justice? Justice is brutal; it’s mercy that’s lenient.
Perhaps you dislike what is defined as evil.

ragingloli's avatar

I am also talking about expecting people to believe that the universe was created within 6 days, with all animals being created as is and all at once, while at the same time creating a universe that is filled with evidence that indicate the contrary, that points towards a gradual development and evolution without the necessity of a creator.
I would call that a deception of cosmic scale. The very opposite of truth.
And we are not talking about “doing away with evil” (which he created in the first place) but about collateral damage, genocide, murdering millions of people that lived in the “evil culture” that however did not partake in the “evil”, like children, or the occasional good guys.
And we are talking about creating hell, the devil, evil, and people who will go to hell, while fully knowing in advance of even creating the universe itself, that they will burn, while only offering two alternatives, either eternal bliss or eternal torment, infinite punishment for finite transgressions, while not offering any middle ground for the people who were neither perfect nor perfectly evil.
I would call that evil.

The_Idler's avatar

Yeah, the God of The Bible is a nasty fucker.

Hey, but you know what they say about absolute power…

Nullo's avatar

@ragingloli The meaning of evidence depends on the paradigm of the viewer.
The various large-scale judgments described in the Bible provide escape for the more-or-less righteous: Noah, Lot, Rehab, and so on. It stands to reason that the same goes for the events not so painstakingly described.
Perhaps you have the wrong idea of the nature of evil. Some have described it as being the absence of goodness, an argument that seems pretty sound. Similarly, Hell seems more like existence without God than anything else; since God cannot stand any sin, it becomes an either/or.
Jesus seems to fill the role that you want your middle ground to have: the Bible explicitly states that nobody is perfect enough to get to Heaven on their own, so God sends Jesus to fill in for the missing perfectness. Salvation is merely a matter of accepting it.
Consider this: God could have completely forgone creation. And most likely knowing the outcome, He did it anyway, choosing to salvage the operation once it’s turned sour. The glory of God is the overarching goal of creation. God doesn’t exist for us, but rather, we exist for God.
Lucifer was not evil at the outset. I imagine that, not being the embodiment of incorruptible righteous justice, he was corrupted by his power.

Got Questions? is a much better resource than I am.

ragingloli's avatar

the radiometric, fossil and genetic evidence is quite conclusive. if 2 people come to two different results by examining the evidence, then at least one of them needs to revise his examination skills.
Perhaps you have the wrong idea of the nature of evil.
Perhaps. But perhaps you have the wrong one. Yours does not even allow for neutrality. It is like dropping a drop of ink into a huge swimming pool and then saying that the pool is full of ink. My bet is on you having the wrong idea of evil
Jesus is not really a middle ground. It still is either heaven or hell, the former requiring the complete acceptance and belief in unsupported dogma in face of evidence to the contrary. A middle ground would be a place other than heaven or hell for people, the majority of people on earth, who just go on about their lives while not buying into the jesus dogma. People like them still go to hell.
And the existence of Lucifer, even within judeochristian dogma, is debatable. Jews reject the notion of an independent agent opposed to God altogether, for them, Satan/the devil, is still a loyal servant of God, his job being testing people’s faith. The very name Lucifer is likely to be a mistranslation of a title given to a human king in the OT, which then was used to construct the Lucifer dogma of Christianity.
“_ God could have completely forgone creation. And most likely knowing the outcome, He did it anyway,_” What is it with this binary thinking? There is a third option, you know? Like, creating the universe in a way that it would not “turn sour”, which, by virtue of being omnipotent, would have been perfectly within his repertoire

The_Idler's avatar

@Nullo What, don’t you think I’ve read the Bible!?

The references on the other side of your link, by the way, were rather selective….

YARNLADY's avatar

I don’t even believe that saying is true, so there’s nothing to worry about.

JessicaisinLove's avatar

In that or a similar position, the World comes to you. Everyone smiles, opens doors, wants to give you free stuff, and are way too agreeable to often. That can do strange things to some people. They begin to see themselves as through a warped mirror. Many can loose sight of the responsibilities that came along with their life and integrity.
So having steadfast values, integrity and compassion would be the signpost’s along the way. Guiding my choices. And I’d need a really good advisor. hahahahaha
Hey anyone with almost unlimitedness power always has an advisor.

bea2345's avatar

You can’t, not if you’re human.

tinyfaery's avatar

Just call me Goddess tinyfaery. Don’t worry, fluther will be spared.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. People would want to believe having power like that would not change them or they would not abused it, sadly I believe more than 80% would. It may take a while but the thought if anyone crossed you or someone you cared about or did something you did not approve of you could vanquish them with a wave of the hand you would eventually come to see it as normal. Think of that person, who gets to run the crew for the 1st time, they relish the power to give commands and have them followed and to punish those who don’t listen.

The only was not to become a monster is you have to believe that there is one greater who will judge you upon death on how you used or abused the power.

CMaz's avatar

If I had nearly limitless power, I would stop the use of “whisper”.

The_Idler's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central “The only was [sic] not to become a monster is you have to believe that there is one greater who will judge you upon death on how you used or abused the power.”

OR… have morals based on personal ideals and principles.
Or are you saying that we need to have God, to have morals?

YARNLADY's avatar

@The_Idler re: @Hypocrisy_Central It sounded to me like he is saying that, but since I know it is preposterous, I decided to ignore it, rather than hijack this thread. That subject has already been cussed and discussed many times here.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@The_Idler Did you hear me say God? I said something whatever that may be that is greater than yourself. If once you pass and go to your other dimension (could not be used in this dimension because you are omnipotent and have all the power). The only way you won’t be a total butt nugget with the power is if you had thin skin and was worried people would hate you. Then again, those you did not like you, If you have total power, you would not care about what anyone thought, you would and could do as you pleased and no one could tell you different.

The_Idler's avatar

And I am saying that I think some people behave based on personal ideals and principles, rather than whatever they fear a “higher power” might think of them, or, for that matter, what lesser men might think of them.

Some people actually like being nice.

ragingloli's avatar

It is incredibly easy for people to convince themselves that whatever they are doing is what the ‘higher power’/‘god’ wants. It does not protect from corruption. On the contrary. It makes it easier to become corrupt.
For example, Hitler thought he was doing God’s work by eradicating Jews.

gorillapaws's avatar

I would order my harem of beautiful naked women to keep my corruption in check.

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