Thought: Does Power Corrupt ? Or does Power Reveal?


There is a Common Phrase which is that “Power Corrupts, and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely”. This phrase Asserts that a Process exists whereby a person placed in a Position of power inevitably begins to Behave in corrupt ways, in the form of Oppression, Embezzlement, Cronyism, or other such Negative Behaviours.

Recently, I read a Thing, a Post on a Discussion Forum for writers and fans of Gallente fiction, where the argument was Proposed that Power does not Corrupt, but rather that it Reveals a person’s Nature.

The Argument was that it was somewhat Lazy Writing, to have a Character behave in Negative behaviours Just because of being in a position of Power. It is also Somewhat Cynical.

That is: A person does not Behave in e.g. Cronyist Behaviour, when placed in power, but rather that Power allows the Person to Express their pre-existing Cronyist tendencies.

Thus, it is Better Writing, if one Wishes to have a Character behave in that way when they achieve Power, to Establish that they have such Tendencies prior to their achievement of a position of Power.

The Implication of that Argument is that it is at least Theoretically Possible, to appoint Persons into positions of Authority, without them behaving in Corruption. The Difficulty There is then Locating suitable Candidates.

What is your Thought on this Question ?
Does Giving Power to someone cause an Inevitable Process of Corruption ?
Or does it merely Reveal their pre-existing corrupt Tendencies ?

Does this Phenomenon Occur in your Culture ? How is it Managed or Mitigated ?


An interesting point of discussion. Allow me to preface this by stating I am hardly an expert on the matter.

I would start by suggesting there is a correlation but important distinction between freedom and power.

Freedom is the ability to exercise expression and thought without inhibition or limitation.
Power can be defined as either the capability to act (eg: the power of speech) or the ability to exercise influence or control over others.

So it’s important to define ‘power’ in context to the discussion. If we’re referring to the capability to act then it is essentially possessing freedom in which case I would agree that the more freedom an individual obtains, the more their true nature will reveal itself through their actions and words.

However, if we’re talking about ‘power’ in the sense of authority or the ability to influence or control others or events then I believe the nature of the axiom we’re discussing speaks to the nature of power rather than the nature of an individual. Power, by it’s nature, tempts the individual possessing it to exercise it and the more an individual exercises power, the easier it becomes for that person to justify continuing to use it and to gain more of it in order to exercise it more fully. It becomes, in effect, a battle between the nature of power and the nature of the individual. There are obviously those that will think nothing of it and seek to obtain and exercise power without any consideration of restraint and there are those that would stive to use power in a limited capacity or with great restraint but the temptation to use it will always be present and, at some point, the nature of power usually prevails over the nature of the individual. There are exceptions, but they’re rare.

It most certainly does occur in Gallente society and in the Federation at large. Elected officials and representatives are given a great deal of power to affect specific aspects of Federation policy and activity and sometimes they take advantage of that for their own benefit, the detriment of others or both simultaneously.

This is mitigated by term limits and election cycles. Those who have power and authority are subject to the process of election and must maintain the trust and will of the populace in order to stay in office, otherwise they will find themselves removed from office and their power and authority taken from them. There are examples of both the happening and the repercussions in our history.

1 Like

Is it? Look at the behavior among our own kind. We have the power to return from death. So what do we do with it? Kill and die over and over again. That said, corruption can mean a lot of things. Hatred, greed, covetousness, lust for power, I could go on. A dictator isn’t necessarily like that bastard Kuvakei.

I myself have heard another phrase: “What a man can do is what a man will do.” Our decisions are tempered by our sense of ethics. Most of the Minmatar tribes would consider the Amarr Emperors to be monsters, but the Emperors had their own idea of right and wrong. They had their own lines that they wouldn’t cross. I don’t see the Empire shoving slave implants into their servants like Sansha, even though it is within their power. Why? Because in their system of ethics that would be a perversion of the Reclaiming and thus unconscionable.

Corruption, then, is a sliding scale of subjectively interpreted ideas. It is a failure to judge oneself.

1 Like

Then you have to bring into the thought had the amarr not attacked the minmatar tribes would they even be in the place they are now


Power reveals and corrupts. The equilibrium depends on the psychology of who has it.


Power reveals corruption. Those who are easily susceptible to corruption become even more so when given power…

1 Like

So … I don’t think this is a simple question at all.

Let’s start with a clear definition of power. Power is a resource that can be used to work towards a purpose.

Power is a tool-- any tool. Any tool at all.

Money? Power. Physical strength? Power. Keen wit? Power. Charisma? Power. Weapons? Power. Wisdom? Power. A technician’s toolkit? Power. A sharp rock? Power. A heavy rock? Power. A pebble? Power.

Everyone has it, every living thing. Those we think of as powerful just have more, and often a wider variety of forms.

Power can be thought of as corruptive for two central reasons. First, there’s the human reaction, not to power, but to status. Second, there are the base requirements of possessing and maintaining power.

First, status. Human beings as a species are typically wired to feel empathy for those whose opinions matter to them: those of equal or higher status. This is natural: in general, a human is more likely to suffer or perish at the hand of a rival or the whim of a superior than because of a subordinate. It takes an unusually empathetic individual to really feel empathy for those whose opinions aren’t immediately important. Thus the upper castes of any given society are likely to have a reputation for callous and selfish behavior-- not because they’re psychopathic, but because they’re just normal humans and don’t have as many superiors or peers.

This is the cause of a lot of trouble, but it seems to be just how we are.

Then, also, it’s the nature of most, if not all, power that it doesn’t maintain itself, at least not for long. Money, skills, social status, physical strength: all of these require attention and effort even to maintain, and most who possess such things want to see them grow. Most methods of acquiring and maintaining power involve either exercising that same power or leveraging power of a different kind.

This can get pretty ruthless.

In general I think of LUMEN as a pretty benevolent alliance, but I also have seen firsthand the leveraging and expenditure of military resources and personnel (forms of power) for the sake of reputation (another form of power). Acquiring and maintaining that reputational power is itself aimed at greater security for our resources and personnel: having a reputation for having teeth and the will to fight and kill is a good way to keep from having our teeth and will too-frequently tested.

But it comes at a price in human suffering and death even just to more-or-less maintain. How much more to actively expand it?

Most power that puts a person in any kind of exceptional position is like this, to one degree or another. A pilot risks others’ lives and their own material to build even a basic set of resources and skills; an empire plays similar games, but on a scale so vast that the costs involved in scrabbling for any kind of edge can seem obscene.

The whole world can be described in this way, without really being wrong. (But being, I think, insufficiently right-- there’s so much more to life in this universe than that.)

For these reasons, I usually don’t say so much that power corrupts as that I don’t feel it does favors for those who have it. It doesn’t necessarily corrupt, but it tends to harden the heart by increasing status and then encourage ruthless conduct in its maintenance and growth.

The results might often be described as corruption. But I don’t think it’s as simple as either making people bad or revealing their true selves.

It’s more like, the more power you possess, the more of your focus, your time, your self you’ll have to dedicate to its maintenance and growth.

And some people perhaps end up paying with basically all that they are: focusing so much on power that they can no longer see the world in any other way. I don’t know that that’s corrupt, necessarily, but it seems like a sad way to spend a life.

I’m not sure I can think of a more empty life than one consumed with seeking power for power’s sake.

1 Like

There is Much to Think About.

Can the Capacity for Empathy of an Individual be Modified ? Are you aware of any Methods by which this may be achieved ?

Drugs or implants. I’ve seen what True Slaves are capable of first hand. They’d discharge a laser straight into a loved one’s head without a moment’s hesitation. Their eyes are empty, devoid of any remorse or fear. It’s the most revolting thing I’ve ever witnessed.


The big question for me is why do these things happen?

1 Like

Choice (or whatever mechanism passes for it).

People seem to be able to decide that such-and-such a person or class of people is outside their concern … and make it so. We’re not usually stuck caring about people’s feelings if we’ve decided to disregard exactly that.

I’m not sure how easy it is to flip it one way or another, but certainly people do also seem able to decide to start caring about the feelings of people they didn’t, before.

1 Like

Power reveals.

For deeper explanation, you need look no farther than this thread. Everyone in this thread is exercising power: the power to answer, to inform, to contribute to the shape of another’s thoughts.

Or, you know, to ask the question in the first place. And how is that power used?

You seek understanding and an expansion of knowledge.

Quilliam, a loyal Gallente, doesn’t quite answer the question, but does feel a need to tie ‘freedom’ into the mix.

Ulysses, an Intaki looking for the chance to see his people free from what he considers to be opporession, frames the issue in terms of ‘what is corruption?’ and offers the axiom ‘What a man can do is what a man will do’, which is generally understood to mean both that we always act in accordance with our natures, and both our virtue and depravity are often limited only by opportunity and how much we think we can get away with.

Lafisquefiscfes (I never spell that name right) seeks to strike a balance between the concepts, as though corruption itself isn’t revelatory where the person involved is concerned.

Aria finds a long-winded way to say Everything Is More Complicated Than You Know™, and ends up offering a value judgment on seeking power that has nothing to do with the original question.

And me? I find fault with all of them like the conceited know-it-all that I am. (You didn’t think I’d escape my own notice, did you?)

All of which, anyone who’s paid attention to our posting could have predicted.

And then there’s all the people who aren’t responding. Maybe they don’t want to get dragged into long-ass discussions. Maybe they oppose responding to you on the grounds that your capitalization style offends them. Maybe they just don’t care. Whatever the cause, they’re opting not to contribute to the shape of your resulting thoughts, to deny you their contributions. And that, too, is power, and that choice does tell us something about them.

When given power, we either use that power or don’t. It’s a choice, from ‘nothing’ to all of the various options we can express in how we choose to use or not use it. And in that choice—noble, corrupt, hard-hearted, empathetic, detached, doesn’t matter—we reveal who we are.


Who are those who rob you of your “disclosure” while taking away your chances of anything else?

1 Like

Being able to repair our body from fatal injuries is not a power. It is simply a technological possibility. We have had forms of immortaility in the sense of being able to recreate ourselves to sexual reproduction, being remembered for our deeds or even improvements in medical technology.

Corruption is not a sliding scale of subjectively interpreted ideas. The word would be meaningless if it was and everybody would be corrupt. Corruption is the use of power that was given to one by society’s norms and institutions for purposes it was not intended for that serve one’s own interest.

If you are given the power of phyisical immortality to fight for your country, but you use it for other purposes, then you are corrupt.

1 Like

I have to disagree with you: Even society and its institutions are technological constructs. They empower individuals in much the same way that a clone pod or a plasma rifle do. Even then, what you do with that power can have a varying level of corruption. There is stark contrast between a politician that funnels money into their own pockets and another politician that uses their clout to have their opponents killed.

That’s an interesting concept to explore: Are you forever tied to the reason you became immortal? My immortality was bought and paid for which relieves me of such a responsibility. But what of those among the State or Federation Navies? Should their capsuleers be subject to military duty for eternity, else face accusations of corruption?

1 Like

The answer to your question is yes.
Power corrupts values and reveals fears in order to conserve itself.
To attain power requires common principle, an inclusive we, to maintain power requires compromise, an elite us.
It is a law of entropy that can only be escaped by dynamic equilibrium with the chaotic forces of the unknown.
Only truth is eternal. The only victory is over self, for as long as it may be suffered, as, the seeds of our defeat are borne from it.

1 Like

I suppose I lost myself in the attempt to breakdown the explanation, that’s a fair criticism. A succinct summary of what I was trying to say is:

I don’t think power corrupts or reveals, I think power has its own nature and that nature compels those who wield it to exercise it and the more they do, the more they’re compelled to do so.

A person’s nature is revealed more through their freedoms than power.

Also, it’s “Ouilliam” with an O.

1 Like

Hey, so it is!


Although I am very much an adept of the school of “Everything Is More Complicated Than You Know”, I would like to give my perspective. As an Amarr, I tend to view this through the lens of religion.

How I see it is that power is not the source of corruption, but the source of temptation. In this I agree with Ouilliam Antolliere. The downside of the increased capacity to do good, is a greater temptation to sin. So, writing about characters that achieve power, I think is very much like writing about characters being led into temptation. They do not necessarily give in, but they face this struggle, these demons whispering temptations to them all the time.

So, how can one face temptation?

In Amarr, we believe that prayer, and constant striving to align oneself with God are antidotes against temptation. That is why those closest to God hold the most power - culminating in the Empress.

There are countless stories of Saints in which this is exemplified, but none more famous than the one about the greatest of the desert fathers, Saint Thoneus - though he goes by different names on different worlds. He was the son of a mighty Holder, and having seen how “power corrupts” rather than taking his father’s holdership, he gave up all his worldly possessions -money, land, slaves, titles- and went to the desert to meditate.

There, he was visited by demons who presented him with all sorts of temptations: power, knowledge, lustful maidens, and even food and drinks as these were lacking in the desert. Then the temptations turned to threats - none other than the temptation to preserve life regardless of the consequences. Through staunch and continuous prayer, the Saint was able to withstand all these temptations and defeat the demons.


Your perspective is appealing, even reasonable from a certain point of view. That point being that The One Being with ultimate power is in-itself incorruptible.

Unfortunately, the existence of Sansha’s Nation begs a question that I fear you may consider … uncomfortable, but I shall dare to ask it anyway.

Why does God permit the use of the Power the Nation has stolen? Were your victims of Incursion of insufficient faith?

Please do not reply with an appeal the unknowable mind of God because the search for The Truth is the very purpose of my minor Ida-Adakul Order and I would much prefer to enjoy common cause with you than an alternative.

If I may proffer a compromise. Maybe God awaits our unity to end such foul usurpation of souls.

If that is the case we have much yet to achieve. I predict that each of our Empires will suffer more degradation and fragmentation before minor Orders such as mine can sow the seeds of such an accord.

1 Like