In a world where goodness is a deplete-able resource, what happens when it runs out?
In many stories, there is a special power source that makes whoever has it super powerful, but at a cost. Often, the more the person uses the power, the more evil/selfish/uncaring/crazy he becomes. Examples that come to mind include the Epics in Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart, which are extremely powerful yet disregard human life as worthless, and the scepters in the Eric Rex series (by Kaza Kingsley), which are nearly all-powerful yet drive the user mad.
What if, instead, the power makes all who use it even better, as well as more powerful? Let’s call the resource Benedite (which turns out to be a real word in Italian), after the Latin word for Good (bene), and make it mine-able like coal is. In fact, let’s make benedite even more like coal and say that it’s plentiful, non-renewable, and, importantly, deplete-able.
For centuries, everyone buys and sells this benedite. Everyone who uses it is a nicer person (not necessarily naïve, though), and much stronger to boot. Civilization makes huge leaps, because everyone can more quickly finish their work, and there is very little conflict. After all, everyone is nice and happy. The richest, those who can afford the most benedite, are also the most charitable. Poverty and crime are virtually non-existent. Then, benedite starts running out. Not stolen or anything like that, just used up.
The first signs that benedite is running low would probably be found in the food industry (assuming benedite is edible). I’m sure that at some point some genius would think to start selling benedite enhanced food to the people to boost sales (like we sell vitamin enhanced food). People might still have to take benedite pills (or whatever), but having all of the food contain benedite would make getting it even easier. Perhaps junk food would be food that has no benedite in it (after all, it probably helps you heal faster too). Slowly, as the cost of benedite starts going up, the amount of benedite in each piece of food would go down, until foods that have high quantities of it are seen as luxury foods. When the announcement comes that no more benedite is being found, even the junk food with very little benedite would suddenly rise in value.
Benedite, which had been almost free only a few months (or years) before, suddenly rises in value, leaving only the richest with any left. Now the population has to deal with crime and poverty for the first time in hundreds of years, and they are totally unprepared. Those who still have the benedite are forced to decide what to do with what’s left. Do they give it to the people, only to make it run out faster? Some do, perhaps because they think that it’s the right thing to do, or perhaps because they broke under the pressure of the riots that would surely have come. Others decide that it would be in the best interest of everyone if the benedite was kept to a select few who would be used to keep the population safe, sort of like the Justice League. The benedite enhanced “cops” would, after all, want nothing more than the good of the people, and they would be much stronger than the average man. This would preserve the benedite longer. There are some programs which are set up to help wean the people off of the benedite and set them up so that they can survive without it.
But there is, and it turns out, has always been, corruption, even with benedite. There are a few far secluded countries that hadn’t even heard of benedite. There are those in the civilized country that deliberately avoid using benedite, for a variety of reasons. Note: there are very few of these people; after all, benedite has been around for centuries and has no harmful side effects, but plenty of good effects. Some avoid it because of personal belief, but most who avoid it are those who are trying to take advantage of other people. Many who never use benedite are afraid that if they use it they will turn themselves in for their past crimes. It is very hard to be bad in a civilization like this, but some are.
Rich people might buy a lot of benedite to make themselves seem trustworthy, but never use it, and some people would deliberately not use it so that they can work as mercenaries. Working as a mercenary without benedite would be hard, though, because the average person would be much stronger than you, and the average important person would be even stronger. Perhaps the benedite-less would primarily attack the other benedite-less.
Above all that, there is a very very very small group of people who are immune to the effects of benedite, whether immune to the strengthening effects, or, even worse, immune to the purifying part, allowing them to commit terrible acts without weakness.
Another part of this is the fact that the entire world has been built to accommodate these super strong, super nice, (maybe super smart,) people. For example, none of the doors would have locks, because no one would ever even think to steal anything. Also, much of what would have been easy is now next to impossible. You can imagine how different the world would be if everyone was super powered. Everything would be designed to be used, and run, by people with super strength, super speed, maybe super brains, etc. Not only would the world be short on goodness, it would also be short on just about everything.
I think I would really enjoy reading a book based on this, and I’ve grown to really like this idea as I’ve typed it. I’m sure there is much more that can be fleshed out of this idea, but so far this was fun. I wonder what the science industry would be doing, trying to replicate/create benedite in a lab. In the story, would Earth ever get benedite back?