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1 " Is power like the vis viva and the quantite d’avancement? That is, is it conserved by the universe, or is it like shares of a stock, which may have great value one day, and be worthless the next? If power is like stock shares, then it follows that the immense sum thereof lately lost by B[olingbroke] has vanished like shadows in sunlight. For no matter how much wealth is lost in stock crashes, it never seems to turn up, but if power is conserved, then B’s must have gone somewhere. Where is it? Some say ‘twas scooped up by my Lord R, who hid it under a rock, lest my Lord M come from across the sea and snatch it away. My friends among the Whigs say that any power lost by a Tory is infallibly and insensibly distributed among all the people, but no matter how assiduously I search the lower rooms of the clink for B’s lost power, I cannot seem to find any there, which explodes that argument, for there are assuredly very many people in those dark salons. I propose a novel theory of power, which is inspired by . . . the engine for raising water by fire. As a mill makes flour, a loom makes cloth and a forge makes steel, so we are assured this engine shall make power. If the backers of this device speak truly, and I have no reason to deprecate their honesty, it proves that power is not a conserved quantity, for of such quantities, it is never possible to make more. The amount of power in the world, it follows, is ever increasing, and the rate of increase grows ever faster as more of these engines are built. A man who hordes power is therefore like a miser who sits on a heap of coins in a realm where the currency is being continually debased by the production of more coins than the market can bear. So that what was a great fortune, when first he raked it together, insensibly becomes a slag heap, and is found to be devoid of value. When at last he takes it to the marketplace to be spent. Thus my Lord B and his vaunted power hoard what is true of him is likely to be true of his lackeys, particularly his most base and slavish followers such as Mr. Charles White. This varmint has asserted that he owns me. He fancies that to own a man is to have power, yet he has got nothing by claiming to own me, while I who was supposed to be rendered powerless, am now writing for a Grub Street newspaper that is being perused by you, esteemed reader. "

Neal Stephenson , The System of the World (The Baroque Cycle, #3)