Achieve or Go Mad With Power


What’s more destructive to the soul? Power, or powerlessness? Or is it some combination of both?

The prevailing wisdom is that power is what corrupts. Offer someone something great, and you can bet that all kinds of moral compromises are on the way. The eternal search, therefore, is for that mythical creature: the incorruptible man, the individual willing and able to resist the temptations of power and maintain principle and integrity. However, I don’t think it’s that simple. Power means nothing without context. To a national legislator, for example, a million dollars can be significant, while to a fabulously wealthy businessman such a sum is absolutely meaningless.

You know what actually corrupts? Void. That internal emptiness that we all have to some certain degree, customized to our own personal life struggle. For some it’s recognition, to others it’s financial achievement, to still others it’s love and intimate validation. And people with the lowest amount of achievement tend to be those with the largest voids. For the out of shape, nerdy, lonely young guy, a charming young lady’s advances can get him to do just about anything. To the single mother spending her days at a low-paying and soul-sucking job, any recognition and acclaim can make her compromise. The political hopeful living in a trailer with no major accomplishment to his name won’t stick to his principles for long.

I’ve seen this firsthand. I’ve seen state-level politicians, individual specks in a 400-person legislature making $100 per year each, compromise their principles at the smallest pressure in order to hold on to that little, sad bit of power they’ve managed to momentarily grasp. I’ve seen a presidential candidate buy 200 or so votes in a small and meaningless online poll to get noticed, then scramble to try to cover it up. I’ve seen perpetually single young men have their lives ruined by the affection of women of very mediocre attractiveness. Everyone has a price relative to the size of their personal void. Don’t think you’re incorruptible. Instead, achieve, and in so doing raise your price to the point where no one will think it’s a good deal to buy you.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. When the limit of your accomplishments is very low, so is the cost of offering you absolute power. Achieve, or be bought at a discount.

Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx. He is also the founder of the Rights Brigade, a mover for the Free State Project, and a martial art instructor.