Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Near-absolute power corrupts sorta

Let's say that, theoretically, you save the world, or at least our little portion of the world. You're given one wish by President Hillary. You choose the power to be above the law. Nearly anything you do is fine. You can take stuff, you can destroy stuff, you can arrest people, you can give people tickets for whatever you like, et cetera. You probably wouldn't be allowed to kill people at random or poison the town's water supply or ratify Constitutional amendments, but most stuff you'd do would be cool. Like diplomatic immunity on steroids or something. Do you think you could handle this power responsibility? We all know that absolute power corrupts absolutely, but does near-absolute power corrupt sorta?

I think I could probably handle it. Maybe. Oh, sure, I'd abuse it all the time, but they'd be little abuses. Maybe I'd flash my Agent of the President badge and cut in line, or get a car and put sirens on it to bypass traffic. I'd hand out tickets all the time.

But if it didn't drive me mad with power right away, things would certainly quickly get out of control and need to be reigned in. At some point I'd need to figure out how to best acquire an expensive home that I wouldn't be paying for. This has a very high level of abuse potential. I'd also need an elite security force, because probably a lot of people would either want to kill me or worship me or something, which also has very high potential for abuse.

After the selfish basics, I'd probably attempt to make the world a better place with my power. This is probably where things would make the biggest turn for the worse. I'm the most powerful guy in the world; I wouldn't have to think about what I was going to do. If I wanted to redistribute wealth from corporations I didn't like to charities that I did, I'd probably do it without putting much thought into what that charity would do with the money or the other consequences of my actions—I mean, I'm doing good, so I can't be making a mistake, can I? Eventually using my powers for "good" too much would probably cause more corruption in whatever I tried to help.

Assuming I wasn't crazy by this point, this would probably start to really get to me. I don't know if I'd keep trying to fix things, or if I'd just give up and realize that having all this power was making things worse, not better. I guess my decision at that point would decide if I was crazy or not.

Anyway, that doesn't seem like a very positive scenario. So, it's probably best if I don't ever save the world. Or maybe, if I do, I should ask Hillary for something smaller, like just the whole "be able to write tickets for people who are jerks" part.