Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | February 27, 2014

The “Necessity” of Imposed Authority

The perception that imposed authority is necessary in order to mitigate the effects of unintelligent, mischievous, or malicious behavior rests on a presumption that a significant amount of that behavior exists — and it does. However, the question of its source is rarely raised. Two general perspectives on this question vie to designate the source.

One perspective is that humans tend by nature to be relatively unintelligent, mischievous, and malicious unless otherwise conditioned, which is the role of parenting, education, social normalization and, if those fail, law and justice. So, unintelligent, mischievous, and malicious behavior are in effect symptoms of the limited success of parenting, education, and social normalization (glass half full) and/or the as yet unsolved perverse, recalcitrant stubbornness of human nature (glass half empty.) As the effectiveness of parenting, education, and social normalization improves, misbehavior should diminish.

Another perspective is that humans are by nature exceptionally intelligent and tend towards cooperative, constructive, creative pursuits, but become damaged through the conditioning of parenting, education, and social normalization, and that this damage is the pathological source of most unintelligent, mischievous, and malicious behavior.

Four mountains of evidence support the second perspective and undermine the necessity of imposed authority:

  1. Our personal experiences correspond to the second perspective. Our loyalty to the necessity of imposed authority is largely the result of a kind of socially-induced Stockholm syndrome by which we ratify the rationales of authoritarians for lack of credible alternatives, and because we were trained to believe that authoritarian perspective is “true.”
  2. The inordinate amount of resources and energy that societies invest into instituting, maintaining, defending, and promulgating authoritarian narratives and practices that denigrate the vast majority of human beings. If people were naturally so unintelligent, mischievous, and malicious, this truth would be evident without such massive investment to portray and confirm it.
  3. The overwhelming mass of atrocities throughout history were instigated, funded, directed, and profited from by minority authorities and their agents, at the cost of life, limb, and property of the supposedly unintelligent, mischievous, malicious majorities. The misdeeds of the majorities have always been minuscule in comparison.
  4. The disproportionate and, frankly, paranoid reactions that typify all authoritarian regimes, regardless of sector or scale, public or private, on detecting the slightest move towards question of or challenge to their authority. Intuitively, authorities know that open question of their right to impose authority will inevitably lead to dissolution of their authority, so they prevent the question from being raised and vilify those who raise it in earnest.

Further, imposed authority involves two essential self-contradictions that undermine its own legitimacy:

  1. The goal of imposed authority is a prescribed state within which authority can be safely foregone, so that within authorized bounds, “freedom reigns.” In other words, the explicit goal of authority is to realize controlled conditions that obviate its necessity.
  2. Authority succeeds only after resistance is broken, achieving a modicum of cooperation among the ruled. So, at a fundamental level and in a crucial way, authority imposed to mitigate effects of unintelligent, mischievous, or malicious behavior relies on the intelligence, compliance, and goodwill of those being imposed upon. In other words, authority can be exercised only with permission of the ruled, but yet its imposition is a willful and conscious violation of that permission. This is why authorities almost always resort to violence when the ruled revoke their permission: violence is then their sole recourse to salvage rejected authority.

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