Power Corrupts
How having power is dangerous to you and everyone around you


(permanent link) added: 2012-03-27 04:56:13 sponsor: kjnoren (last reply: 2013-10-28 13:56:30)

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YKTTW Notes

  • Rolled in examples and added some more related tropes.

No Launching Please, Rolling Updates, Early Development Phase

Note that there is a wiki page for this, but it's empty. Given the numbers of possible sub-tropes and how common this is, should this be made an index too?

Description

"Nearly any man can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
— Abraham Lincoln

Having Power or Authority is dangerous. Not only is there the temptation to use for your own gain, or for your family and friends, there is also an expectation from others that you can use your power for their sake. Having and using power is all too often a Dirty Business. Simply having the power to impose your will on others will shape your thinking. Using the power you have is simpler than working through all the motions: When All You Have Is a Hammer.

So even the best intentions, great humility, or being a paragon of virtue might not be protection.

Super Trope of Comes Great Responsibility, The Corruption, Drunk with Power, Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!, Screw the Rules, I Have Money!, Screw the Rules, I Make Them!, With Great Power Comes Great Insanity, With Great Power Comes Great Perks.

Compare A God Am I, The Chains of Commanding, Power is Sexy, Pride, Power at a Price. Contrast Was It Really Worth It?.

Please list only works where none of the SubTropes really fit, which use use several of them in a reinforcing manner, discuss the use of power explicitly, or have it as an underlying theme.

Examples:

Manga:

  • Death Note shows how having the power of life and death over others by means of the title artifact corrupted Light Yagami.

Literature:

  • The Prince by Machiavelli is the classic treatise on how to handle this from a pragmatic standpoint. Ie, how to avoid becoming too corrupt or let it interfere with the ability to rule.
  • Chronicles of the Kencyrath by PC Hodgell has its characters constantly grappling with power both supernatural and mundane, if they aren't already corrupt.
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell shows how the pigs gradually become no different from the humans.
  • Used in the 1632 series by Eric Flint et al:
    • In 1635: The Eastern Front and 1636: The Saxon Uprising this causes Prime Minister Wilhelm Wettin to lose track of his political goals and destroy the political opposition by force.
    • In The Dreeson Incident, mayor Henry Dreeson was murdered by Huegenot fanatics, but initial public suspicion and outrage fell on the anti-Semitic groups in Germany. Mike Stearns was made aware of the truth, but instead turned over all the government files on anti-Semtic groups to the most militant elements in the Committees of Correspondence. Later discussed in 1635 - The Eastern Front:
      To this day, he'd [Mike Stearns] never felt the slightest twinge of remorse over his actions after the Dreeson Incident. None.
      How many times could a man do something on the grounds that the end justifies the means before he rubs away his conscience altogether?
      Mike didn't know. What he did know was that today he was scraping away some more of it.

Webcomics:

  • Eerie Cuties: This is what happened to Chloe, when she donned the Doom panties prematurely. They fed off her feelings of inadequacy in conjunction with her desire for Layla's fiance, Dio, which brought out her Superpowered Evil Side.
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