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April 17, 2012

Faith in Authority

Most animals, particularly mammals, raise their children by feeding and sheltering them to the extent they can. But at some point, the child will leave and the mother lets them go.
Humans want to duplicate the pattern of parental authority throughout our lives. We want to be led.
This isn’t necessarily bad, but it is open to confusion. A “leader” could be an army general, or a “leader” could be a guide on a nature hike. The difference is that, to the army general, you matter only insofar as you help HIM, whereas the nature hike guide is there to impart tips and wisdom for YOUR benefit.
There is the authority of force, and there is the authority of wisdom. The first is coercive, the second is voluntary.
The two kinds of leadership have been merged in our heads. Political authority encompasses and trumps all forms of voluntary authority. The instinct to be “led” (or taught) about matters we don’t know about. has all become political.
Humans can’t survive in civilization without guidance. That explains why we “want” and “need” to be led in ways that a wild animal doesn’t need. The task is to channel such instincts to our benefit, rather than sacrifice our own interests for the benefit of a “leader.”

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