It's really disappointing that even some of my favorite other philosophers cling to the senseless idea that power corrupts you. When I spell it out I can get most people to admit that being powerful doesn't in any way override our free will, so just where is this idea coming from? The only thing we could mean by 'corrupt' in that sentence that doesn't contradict free will is that having lots of power just makes it more tempting to be corrupt. And this might seem to make sense when you consider that power can mean you face less consequences for being corrupt... except, it still doesn't.

It's true that being powerful enables you to get away with corruption. But this works just as well in the opposite direction. Being powerful enables you to do more good, and to not be held back by fear when good is unpopular. Power is completely orthogonal to good and evil; power in the hands of good people is no less beneficial than power in the hands of bad people is harmful.

Sometimes when people make this argument it turns out that by 'power' they mean 'authority', in the sense that governments have it. That's a very different concept though; of course other people being nihilistically loyal to you over their conscience would make corruption more tempting. When I make this argument, I'm defending power, not authority. For example, a superhero has a lot of power but usually doesn't have authority.

It's also worth noticing the difference between power and unaccountability. Unaccountability is not just extreme power. Power means the ability to do things; unaccountability means not facing consequences for what you do. It's possible to have power without unaccountability: for example, someone who could launch a missile but will be shot if they do has a lot of power but is accountable. They could use this power to blow up a tyrant's military base. In fact, this leads me to another point:

Power when it's not coupled with unaccountability is actually not even close to balanced; it's by far a good thing, due to how temptation works. Bad people are selfish; when they desire to hurt others, they usually won't still do it if it would get them hurt too. A selfish person would not give their own life to bomb someone they hate. But a heroic person might give their life to bomb a tyrant's army. Good people, being set apart from bad people by having a value other than their own happiness, are more willing to use power than bad ones when it's not coupled with unaccountability. When it is coupled with unaccountability, the two are fully symmetric.

The idea that "Good people should avoid power because they know they can't trust themselves not to use it for evil" is just depressing to hear people express. That's called despair! If "good" people don't allow themselves to have great power, then they can never solve great problems.

The same thing applies to knowledge. You should never pass an opportunity to learn something at zero cost and zero risk (time costs count obviously but I feel that if I don't say so explicitly someone will take the opportunity to strawman me). Even sensitive information, like someone else's password, you might as well ascertain if you can, because knowledge in the hands of a good person is strictly beneficial to the forces of good. You never know what might come up. At worst, the information will never be useful and they will never know that you "violated their privacy".

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