Because I said so, that’s why

April 24, 2014 § 97 Comments

Power is a material capacity to make this thing happen rather than that.

Authority is a moral capacity to oblige a subject to choose this thing rather than that.

Enforcement is a power associated with an authority, specifically to punish those who disobey authority and extract restitution from them.

Tyranny is a false pretense of authority, frequently accompanied by enforcement of the false claim.

A basic problem with modern people is that they don’t believe in authority: they don’t believe that other men can oblige them to do or not do particular things independent of consent to the obligation.

§ 97 Responses to Because I said so, that’s why

  • Michael Schleyer says:

    Great post, Zippy.

    The modern world with all its distractions and perverse forms of entertainment keeping people from reality has built up a false barrier of protection around people. They believe they have a lot more power and safety to resist authority than they actually do. That, and most modern people have never experienced a real authority figure whether in the political sphere or at home. The blind egotism, the “dreamer” mentality which has been disseminated in all schools and by modern parenting advocates everywhere also perverts the natural order by thrusting the individual above the collective good, further weakening any notions of authority and corrupting the views of power.

    This world needs the return of the kings and queens of old – strong Christian men and women, the epitome of true authority.

    Great blog by the way. God bless.

  • jonolan says:

    As I am no man’s subject, your statement rings false. I cannot be compelled; my consent must be given.

  • Marissa says:

    Zippy, can you give some real-world examples of authorities and tyrannies, past or present?

  • […] on local doors.  The notion of a “tame” liberalism, one that will destroy only the authorities you don’t like while leaving intact the authorities you do like, is a baseless […]

  • sunshinemary says:

    I cannot be compelled

    Not to nitpick, but this is delusional. Do you suppose an armed police unit cannot compel you to do that which you do not wish to do? The question isn’t are you or aren’t you subject to other men’s power; you most certainly are. The question is “Do the people who wield this power over you have the (moral) authority to compel you or are these people tyrants?” Your consent really is irrelevant to the matter, as consent has zero bearing on whether or not the people in power truly have the moral authority to rule.

  • jonolan says:

    No. Armed police cannot compel me to take any action that I find reprehensible or abhorrent. They can incapacitate or kill me but not compel against my will. My body’s life isn’t worth my soul.

    As for the rest – no man has moral authority to rule. Some may have it to govern with consent of the governed but, even those, are rare these days.

  • Zippy says:

    Marissa:
    In the context of a liberal society these naturally become all entangled, even moreso than in other societies. Part of the purpose of my post is just to attempt to bring some clarity.

    That said, examples of the exercise of authority and of tyrannies abound. The law that says you must register your cars and drive on the right side of the road is an exercise of authority. The Supreme Court decision Roe vs Wade proposing to authorize the murder of children by their mothers is an example of tyranny.

  • Zippy says:

    jonolan:

    no man has moral authority to rule

    Yes, that is precisely the modern belief that I point out in the OP. I appreciate you showing up and providing anecdotal confirmation. Like most modern people you do not believe in authority.

  • King Richard says:

    Jonolan,
    You illustrate the great danger of Modern Liberal Republicanism. You may abstractly know something of social contracts, but they are distant. In the meantime you are effectively powerless with no recourse but the mercy of those with power while convinced that those with power only have it by your consent.
    Do you disagree? Tell me, how long will it take you to meet with the mayor of the closest city to your home? How about your senator? The local sheriff? What do those men owe you, personally? What do they owe you even in the abstract once they are elected? Yet any one of those men could cost you your freedom, your job, your savings, your home, even your life.
    And we haven’t even gotten to the unelected bureaucrats that wield both real power and anonymity!
    Peasants under a local baron had lower taxes, better access, and more guarantees of their rights than do Americans with their ‘consent of the governed’.
    Part of it was because the social contract was explicit, not implicit.

  • sunshinemary says:

    @jonolan

    Killing you isn’t wielding power over you against your will? It seems to me that killing someone is the ultimate form of compelling them. You will die if they shoot you whether you will it or no.

  • Zippy says:

    Sunshine:
    jonolan is correct that he cannot be compelled to choose, as long as he is willing to face the consequences of not choosing.

    Where he is wrong is in his contention that no other man can morally oblige him to do or not do certain things. He is wrong in his denial of authority.

  • Denise says:

    It seems that Roe v. Wade would be an example of the government refraining from exercising authority rather than exercising it in a tyrannical manner. It binds the government’s hands. The opinion essentially said that the government does not possess the authority to compel a woman to carry her child to term. And given that the U.S. is a Lockean experiment, such an opinion is probably a natural outgrowth of that philosophy.

  • jonolan says:

    @ King Richard

    And, if it came down to it, any of them could lose their freedom, their homes, the lives of their families, or their own lives at my desire as well. We’re even in that because “law” isn’t power; it’s just a justification for its use.

    @sunshinemary

    Killing my body may be wielding power of me. It is, however, no form of compulsion to act.

    @ Zippy.

    You’re wrong in believing that man ever has moral authority over another to compel into a course of action that he wouldn’t consent to. He may or may not have the power to do so, but power an authority are two separate things.

    I’ll give you this: If a man is the material channel of Divine authority, I would find it easy to consent to his authority, irrespective of whatever power he wielded.

  • Zippy says:

    Denise:

    It seems that Roe v. Wade would be an example of the government refraining from exercising authority rather than exercising it in a tyrannical manner.

    Only if we are careful not to think about it too much. Liberalism always frames its tyrannies as ‘liberation’; but that doesn’t make them not tyrannies.

  • Zippy says:

    jonolan:

    You’re wrong in believing that man ever has moral authority over another to compel into a course of action that he wouldn’t consent to.

    Do fathers have moral authority to compel their children into a course of action that the children would rather not consent to?

  • Escalona says:

    jonolan, Zippy: I think what we mean is coercion. Power concerning another’s choice is never direct, absolute power, but power to coerce the other in his choice, to lesser and greater degrees.

    As for Roe v. Wade, if you still believe in state sovereignty or a separation of powers, it was unquestionably a positive exercise of tyranny: pretending to oblige the state (and federal) legislatures to refrain from punishing one species of murder.

  • Zippy says:

    Escalona:
    I suppose I might have added a definition of “coercion” to the OP. “The use of power to influence a person’s choice” or something, where coercion could range from very gentle to very extreme.

    But part of what I was attempting was to keep things clear, and the more I clutter it up with other things the less clear it will be to particular readers.

    Another thing I considered including was the observation that human beings are by nature free moral agents: we always make our own choices, even when those choices are influenced (to greater or lesser degree) by externally inflicted consequences, some of which arise from power exercised by others.

    But anyway, near as I can tell jonolan understood correctly, and simply disagrees that men ever have genuine authority over other men — which is precisely what I suggested that most modern people believe, with greater or lesser consistency.

  • jonolan says:

    @ Zippy

    You’ve just about got me with the parenting thing. Yet, even that, has to taken into account what is being commanded and the mental development of the child. And in no way does the parent-child relationship correlate with the People and the Government.

    Also, by and large, I understood you. The only grey area is “Morally Oblige.” I’d prefer an explanation of what you mean by that.

    I cannot see where any man has the right to enforce his moral obligations onto another free agent, with the possible exception of preventing harm to a third party. Indeed, by coercing another one removes from them the possibility of them willfully upholding such moral obligations of their own.

    Coercion is an attempt to remove choice. The removal choice also removes moral accountability.

  • Marissa says:

    The law that says you must register your cars and drive on the right side of the road is an exercise of authority. The Supreme Court decision Roe vs Wade proposing to authorize the murder of children by their mothers is an example of tyranny.

    What is the tool one uses to determine whether an exercise of power is grounded in authority or tyranny? I agree with you on both of these judgments you make above, but are these not simply personal preferences? What is the metric? Morality?

    Also, it’s interesting to see later comments about “liberation” as tyranny. It’s something I was debating with someone who said the country today is more permissive than it was in 1776 with me arguing that it is more restrictive. It seems to be an issue of framing (or overthinking). For instance, abortion is more legal today than it was then–I consider this restrictive (against the life of the child). The other person things it permissive (in light of the lack of restrictions on the part of the mother). There we stand at an impasse.

  • Zippy says:

    jonolan:

    Yet, even that, has to taken into account what is being commanded and the mental development of the child. And in no way does the parent-child relationship correlate with the People and the Government.

    Well, I’m not a young man anymore and I’ll just suggest that from my vantage point where you see discontinuities I see lots of continuum. And I do think that the polis is much more like an extended family than liberalism would like to admit. Granted that — as with all the things liberalism denies (e.g. masculinity) — this manifests itself sociopathically under liberalism precisely because liberalism denies its legitimacy and tries to remake it in its own image.

    I cannot see where any man has the right to enforce his moral obligations onto another free agent …

    Well, perhaps we haven’t fully understood each other yet. It isn’t about his own moral obligations, it is about him creating new ones for his subjects from the raw material of natural law and his position of authority.

    First note that authority is distinct from power (ref. the OP).

    A husband for example has legitimate authority over his wife, and when he exercises that authority (within due limits) she is in fact morally obligated to obey, whatever her personal preferences on the particular matter might be. Also this obligation is quite distinct from whether or not she herself agrees that she is morally obligated to obey, and it is distinct from whether or not her husband has the power to enforce his authority — which many in the manosphere would argue that he does not under the modern legal regime (about which I think they are partially right and partially wrong, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion).

    So anyway, a moral obligation represents an action that, as a matter of objective fact, one ought to choose. And an authority is a person who has the capacity (also called “authority”) to create these particular moral obligations. When Dad says “Johnny, do the dishes” Johnny has an obligation to choose to do the dishes, whatever his personal preferences might be w.r.t. other things he might prefer to choose. This is the case even if Dad is sick in bed and can’t easily access the switch to take to Johnny’s (lets suppose) disobedient behind: Johnny’s obligation is there independent of enforcement, punishment, etc.

  • Zippy says:

    Marissa:

    What is the metric? Morality?

    Yes. Liberalism on one view is a centuries-long attempt to use politics to avoid substantive questions of what is good, true, and beautiful and just let everyone do what they want. It sounds very pretty, especially to modern ears; but then there are those unprecedented numbers of corpses that it has left in its wake.

  • jf12 says:

    Zippy, great post and comments. It seems to me, though, it could use a bit of cluttering up in order to clarify some things.

    Granted that Johnny is morally obliged to choose to obey Dad because of Dad’s authority, IF Johnny decides to be bad then Dad’s authority is thereby strictured unless enforcement is effective enough. I helpfully point out that are costs to enforcements, and limited resources. In other words, power comes with a bill for kWh used.

    For example, let’s suppose that Dad has 19 Johnnys and counting, and they are all disobeying and jumping on the couches and running in and out the house leaving the door open like it was a barn and saying bad words. And then Dad claims he also has the authority to make them wash the dishes, and all the Johnnys laugh at him.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    If they laugh just because Dad doesn’t have the power to enforce his authority it just makes them bad sons. And the consequences of being a bad son are usually far worse than the switch. Sometimes the punishment for a crime is that you have to live the life of the criminal.

    So anyway, while there are certainly practical connections between power and authority they are nonetheless distinct. And Heaven help those whose fathers and kings do not have enough power to help them along the path of virtue with the occasional stinging backside.

  • jf12 says:

    @Zippy “And Heaven help those whose fathers and kings do not have enough power to help them along the path of virtue with the occasional stinging backside.” Amen.

    Still, though, enforcement seems to be the blurry issue, unless it’s my eyesight. There’s a material capacity on one side, and an immaterial (moral) capacity on the other side, or hovering nearby, or something. I think it’s safe to presume that the immaterial ghost is not necessarily inside the material machine. So, there’s something connecting the two. You said “associated with”. Are they just holding hands, or what?

  • jonolan says:

    @Zippy

    I’m very far from liberal, sociopolitically speaking, but we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this. While I do respect where you seem to be coming from, what you hold dear I find abhorrent. The more you explain it the more I dislike it.

    Simply put, it’s just too utilitarian for my tastes to believe it’s rights, as opposed to an evil necessity, to compel others to make the choices that they should have made on their own. To mind mind, that devalues their actions and imperils their souls.

  • Zippy says:

    jonolan:
    Whether each of us are liberal or not, all of us in the modern first world live under liberalism, which is the only conceivable political doctrine inside the Overton window.

    Simply put, it’s just too utilitarian for my tastes to believe it’s rights, as opposed to an evil necessity, to compel others to make the choices that they should have made on their own.

    Almost nothing that human beings do is done “on their own” though. Almost everything each of us does is done in a social context, which includes authority. Hermits and such might arguably be exceptions, but the exception just proves the rule: most men (including anyone using the Internet) live in communities and are subject to the authority of those communities. There isn’t anything “utilitarian” in naturally social Man acting socially rather than under a false pretense of atomized individuality.

    As you suggest, though, we’ll likely continue to disagree.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    There’s a material capacity on one side, and an immaterial (moral) capacity on the other side, or hovering nearby, or something. I think it’s safe to presume that the immaterial ghost is not necessarily inside the material machine. So, there’s something connecting the two.

    (1) Enforcement (of legitimate authority) and (2) tyranny are both exercises of (material) power. The difference[*] between (1) and (2) is the legitimate authority behind (1).

    That doesn’t begin to explain everything about legitimate authority, of course. But then it wasn’t the ambition of the OP to explain in detail everything about the subject matter: it was just to say in very general terms what power, authority, enforcement, and tyranny are and to give a reasonably succinct account of the relationships between them. I think the comment thread has demonstrated that while the OP may not have succeeded even in that rather modest ambition it nevertheless made clarifying discussion possible.

    —-

    [*] That isn’t the only difference we could discuss, because it is possible for (say) otherwise legitimate enforcement to be excessive or to involve intrinsically immoral acts. But again, in defense of my editorial choices in the OP, somewhere there has to be a trade off between pithiness and information density. I could probably write a whole shelf of books on the concept “the” without fully exhausting the subject matter, if it came to it.

  • Zippy says:

    Marissa:

    For instance, abortion is more legal today than it was then–I consider this restrictive (against the life of the child). The other person things it permissive (in light of the lack of restrictions on the part of the mother). There we stand at an impasse.

    This concretely shows what I’ve said many times about liberalism’s internal incoherence as a political doctrine. Politics and governance just is a matter of taking up these particular conflicts, discriminating between the conflicting parties based on a substantive understanding of the good, and exercising authority to enforce the discrimination. So liberalism’s attempt to make politics about eliminating authoritative discrimination based on a prejudiced substantive understanding of the good is self-contradictory (because that’s just what politics is).

    I’ve outlined the consequences of situating a self-contradictory political doctrine in a concrete particular reality a number of times. But suffice to say that the situation is counterintuitive until you’ve grasped it; and the bottom line is that it makes liberalism more resilient and dangerous, not less, and that liberals are for the most part perfectly sincere in their political beliefs, which are sincerely sustainable as long as we avoid thinking about them too much.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Political authority is the claim City makes on individuals that comprise it.
    The authority arises out of the logic of the situation. The question is whether an individual may justly secede from his City (even if the City lays no tyrannical claims upon him)?

    The relation that builds a City is of love certain individuals bear for her.
    That is, America exists because Americans love America.
    Texas was sovereign once but is no longer. Why?
    Because once Texans loved Texas above all but now they love America more than Texas.

    Thus, political authority exists (for an individual) because of the love he bears for the City. If he falls out of love, the political authority CEASES to exist for him.

    One may still object that even if the subjective love is lost, the individual still owes his vows to the City. Like a man that has lost his feeling of love towards his wife still owes fidelity.

  • Mike T says:

    Tyranny is a false pretense of authority, frequently accompanied by enforcement of the false claim.

    I think this is a good start for the definition, but it’s incomplete. Slumlord provided an excellent example of soft tyranny which comes in the form of shunning from polite society, employment, etc. all people who hold traditional values publicly. This is not an exercise of authority, but it is a conscious, organic effort to isolate people from a range of necessary human activities such as work and educaton because they hold different values. Authorities may be involved along the way, but most people who engage in that soft tyranny do not in fact have any authority. The authority may even side with the victim, but it doesn’t matter if no one else under the authority (ex. employer) will work, associate, etc. with that person.

    There is also the fact that abuse of authority is largely a subjective matter. King Richard thinks it’s fine to disarm the law-abiding public, I do not because there is no justification for imposing such a restriction on a man who has demonstrated no desire to break the law in a serious manner. Likewise, the average Brit would probably disagree with most here that there is any right to utter offensive speech on race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

  • King Richard says:

    jonolan,
    “I’m very far from liberal, sociopolitically speaking”
    Believing in the total autonomy of the individual is the very definition of pure Liberal thought.

  • Zippy says:

    Libertarians, “conservatives” and the like don’t think they are liberals. For that matter they don’t think ‘conventional’ liberals and leftists are liberals, because they are always accusing each other of insincerity. That’s because none of them adequately grasp what liberalism (the object of their fealty) is, and do not see that virtually all of modernity’s political battles and existential wars are intramural fights between different kinds of liberals.

  • Zippy says:

    vishmehr24:
    I would never deny that sometimes (that is, theoretically under some possible conditions) emigration, secession and even patricide/regicide are justified. What gets people worked up is when I suggest that preferences alone do not constitute justification: that in most cases people have moral duties which transcend their preferences, and that the sovereign can (the mere suggestion that this is ever the case at all frequently gets me compared to the Nazis) be making a morally correct choice to impede emigration/secession.

  • King Richard says:

    Zippy,
    please trust me on this – as someone who is not an American, has formal education in political theory, and spends about 1/3rd of his time speaking about politics I am well aware of the weird ideas of politics held in many parts of the world, especially how Americans think things such as ‘Libertarians are conservative’ and ‘the Founding Fathers were conservative’!

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Fair points about “soft tyranny”; but then again we call it “soft tyranny” instead of just “tyranny” for a reason. Nobody who has been through both is going to confuse the experience of political correctness with Auschwitz.

    Soft tyranny is a far more effective means of control, of course.

  • King Richard says:

    Mike,
    “There is also the fact that abuse of authority is largely a subjective matter”
    Agreed! To moderns this is CERTAINLY true.
    This, of course, implies a great deal. Two of the implications I would like to point out;
    1) Society therefore needs a framework with which to judge authority, a framework that is outside of the control of both the leaders and followers.
    2) The onus for rebellion thereby falls upon *those who would rebel*.

  • Mike T says:

    Zippy,

    They are different, but that is what complicates King Richard’s assertions that a mere lack of jackboots and such, combined with wealth and free elections means the UK and Australia are free societies. Bundy would be prosecuted in either of them for his recent tirade on blacks. Conservative Christians are actually increasingly afraid of reading Bible passages on homosexuality in public in Canada due to a similar issue. Soft tyranny is often a warning sign that a form of hard tyranny is about to reveal itself. A zeitgeis of state terrorism against certain groups doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. There is a cultural current that brings the idea “we can persecute group X because they’re bad enough to justify persecution” into sufficient tolerance in the public to let the state get started.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    They are different, but that is what complicates King Richard’s assertions that a mere lack of jackboots and such, combined with wealth and free elections means the UK and Australia are free societies.

    I’ve been mostly just chomping popcorn for that part of the discussion. The concept of what is a “free society” and what isn’t doesn’t really interest me much.

    I don’t care about free societies; I care about the good, the true, and the beautiful. When that accidentally corresponds to what some people think of as “free” that’s great, but I think they’d be better off focusing on the fundamentals. Especially modern people in particular should just stop obsessing over the empty slogan “freedom”. Free moral agency is a gift God has given to all of us, but we should worry over what we ought to choose rather than just basking in the hedonistic hot tub chanting “whee, look at me, I’m a free choosy choose chooser!”.

    Yes, we are choosers made in the image of God. So lets choose rightly.

  • King Richard says:

    Mike,
    You seem to be missing my point. Let me try again.
    [I think Zippy missed it, too, so it is obviously my fault]
    Are the UK and Australia Democracies?
    Yes, they are.
    Do they have open, free elections with relatively uncorrupt balloting?
    Yes, they sure seem to.
    Do they have multiple political parties with a variety of viewpoints?
    Looks like it, yes.
    Do they have active media with a variety of viewpoints? Can citizens freely seek out information?
    Yup.
    Can the citizens emigrate freely?
    Sure.
    Do the citizens enjoy the benefits of governmental services like roads, police, etc?
    Also yes.

    If you are a republican (in the real sense of the word) WHAT ELSE IS THERE? If you are a supporter of Democracy what else can you use to define ‘a free country’?
    After all, it has been 15 years since Australia passed those gun laws – if ‘the people’ actually didn’t want them wouldn’t the last several elections have resulted in a change?
    There are political parties in the UK that want to get rid of the laws about hate speech – if Brits really wanted them changed that party would have a \\enough clout to change them, right?
    Right?

    You keep pointing to fully-functional Democracies that are some of the richest, least-violent, and developed nations in the existing world and saying ‘those laws, passed by lawfully-elected representatives by freely-voting citizens and supported by an independent judiciary in a fully-functional Democracy, are proof of *TYRANNY*!!!!!’
    and *I* am asking ‘what else do you have to say?’
    OK, go arm every Brit. Give ’em all my very favorite pistol, the FN five-seven with the 30 round extended mag and toss in 6,000 rounds of armor-defeating ammo. Go ahead.
    Guess what? While the number of gun crimes may very well go up I am betting the way the VOTERS in that DEMOCRACY behave won’t change to support what you want. My evidence?
    They obviously want the laws they have. Otherwise things would change, right?
    Right?
    After all, isn’t ‘the government’ in a Democracy ‘the people’?
    How can ‘the people’ oppress ‘the people’?

  • Zippy says:

    KR:
    I didn’t misunderstand; I just don’t buy into this notion of a “free society”.

    Every governed society discriminates in favor of some particular authoritative conception of the good. (The main difference in liberal societies is that liberal societies incoherently believe themselves to be doing the opposite of this, even though they are necessarily doing it too).

    Naturally folks who prefer to do what a given society permits will see it as free, while those who prefer to do what it forbids will see it as unfree.

    So again, I just don’t care about this whole “free society” (for values of “free”) concept. I care about the good, the true, and the beautiful.

  • jf12 says:

    @Zippy, re: “So again, I just don’t care about this whole “free society” (for values of “free”) concept. I care about the good, the true, and the beautiful.” Again, right where the rubber hits the road, I think I see hydroplaning instead. It certainly is possible that being a good, true, and beautiful social structure is correlated with being free. Moreoever, there are individual preferences that are more good, true, and beautiful than other preferences.

  • jf12 says:

    Although I agree with the concept that a legitimate authority obliges a subject independent of whether or not that subject does consent, I think that the concept entails that the subject *should* consent. I cannot think of an example where a subject should not consent to obligations imposed by legitimate authority.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    I’m not entirely sure what the objection is, but you may be assuming that the concept “free society” is independent of a (possibly implicit) particular, authoritative, inherently discriminatory conception of the good. If so, that assumption is wrong.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    Agreed: by definition we always should consent to do what we objectively ought to do. But the fact that we don’t consent in some cases doesn’t change what we ought to do in those cases. This astonishingly obvious fact seems to be peculiarly puzzling to minds that have pickled too long in the soup of modernity.

  • jf12 says:

    I’m almost thinking. I’ll have to point to an example to escape the burden of thought. Does the legitimacy of an authority create an *obligation* to consent? In (all of the many, probably not surprising) cases where I’ve gone along with what I believed to be legitimate authority *instead* of what I would have done independent of such authority, that is exactly how it felt to me (now I’m appealing to feelings!): my consent was obliged by their legitimacy.

    In a recent example I was at a site looking at some equipment and the safety guy made me put on a hard hat. Yes, it was a hard hat zone, but regulatory -wise and common sense -wise the rule only applies when work was being done, which it wasn’t. But being the safety guy he had the authority, so I consented to put it on.

  • jf12 says:

    Maybe in a Good free society the authority can expect consent and therefore should refrain from imposing a lot of obligations.

  • Zippy says:

    Or alternatively, because politics is the art of resolving conflicts the fewer conflicts there are the less need there is for politics. So something like liberalism, which inherently promotes diversity and dissatisfaction, will also inherently increase the intrusion of politics into everyday life.

  • Mike T says:

    KR,

    Did you not say this?

    What do they owe you even in the abstract once they are elected? Yet any one of those men could cost you your freedom, your job, your savings, your home, even your life.

    By your own admission, the established authorities enjoy considerable power to disrupt or destroy the life of anyone who opposes them. They are restrained primarily by their own consciences. However, in the US they are restrained also by the near certainty that a step too far may result in a bullet to the head from a private citizen. Australians have no such fall back.

    Also, as I said there are plenty of ways in which political correctness are being imposed by force of law in those societies. I’ve given you examples of speech that is inoffensive and compatible with traditionalism and patriotism that is in fact criminal to utter in those societies. You seem to ignore those examples because they fly in the face of your assertions of freedom.

    I would not characterize them as tyrannies in the hard sense yet, but for traditional Christians they are headed that way. The US is much further behind them because, as I said, the liberals are actually quite afraid of locking up people for espousing nativism, opposition to homosexuality and other non-liberal views because their would-be victims are often as well-armed or better than the very police they’d send t harm them.

  • jf12 says:

    Perhaps the plethora of obligations in a non-free society are necessarily a kind of training mechanism for obeying illegitimate authority. And a bad, false, and ugly authority at that! So there!

  • King Richard says:

    But Mike – I’m a Monarchist (obviously). I don’t think Democracies are capable of being truly legitimate authorities. Re-read what I actually wrote – my point is that Australia, the UK, the US are getting *exactly what they want*.
    Ever hear Mencken’s definition of Democracy?
    “The belief that the common man knows what he wants and deserves to get it good and hard”.
    I don’t know *why* you keep missing my actual points, but I assume it is my fault. Let me list them directly in hopes that it will be clearer;
    -the mere act of disarming people or restricting their access to weapons is not immoral in and of itself.
    -violence in a particular society isn’t about access to this weapon or that weapon, but about the nature of the society itself
    -if a Democracy is running as a Democracy is designed to (routine, free elections; multiple political parties; average levels of governmental services and infrastructure in return for taxes; functioning courts; relatively free access to information; broad voting rights) you cannot call the result a ‘tyranny’ because the people are obviously capable of changing the system if they wish, according to Democratic theory.

    I do not require anyone to agree with any of those points, but all of your arguments have just convinced me that I am correct.

  • Mike T says:

    King Richard,

    The problem here is that you think your opinions are authoritative so much of my disagreement with them seems to be “misunderstanding.” You also seem to be missing a point which I have repeatedly told you, namely that I don’t think restrictions are inherently unjust even when applied to the whole society. Where we disagree is that I do not believe that it is ever just under any circumstances short of an invader threatening to kill every last man, woman and child if there is not a systemic disarmament for an authority to carry out one. This is rooted in a disagreement you saw between me and Zippy, namely that I believe all injustice exists on a spectrum with murder as the most extreme one. Therefore if you can say it is acceptable for an authority to inflict an injustice on an innocent man, you’ve justified an authority inflicting the whole spectrum on the innocent.

    I also agree with you that Australia is getting what it wants, but so is the US. The people are seeing the courts beginning to reassert the second amendment on the authorities. This is, all things considered, a popular judicial activism because the courts are giving what the established parties refuse to allow their members to do. However, where I would probably disagree with you is that I wouldn’t support sending a single US soldier to help the people of Australia if Communists overthrew their government and began massacring the sniveling little sheep who are so afraid of their own shadow that they acquiesced to disarmament. That would, in my estimation, be the final phase of “getting what they wanted (or deserved) good and hard.”

  • […] essentially about discriminating between different notions of what ought to be done, exercising authority in favor of some choices while restricting others, and enforcing that authority with whatever […]

  • […] authority is nothing but what promotes and protects freedom and equal rights: other kinds of “authority” may exist in a non-normative sense, but they (contra reality) have no teeth, and indeed must be […]

  • […] is that the fact that it is not possible or prudent for every government to enforce every moral norm in every conceivable case does not invalidate governance generally. If it is taken […]

  • […] implications, what matters is whether or not it is true. Politics is necessarily about exercising authority and enforcement to make everyone conform to a particular understanding of the good, backed by an initiation of […]

  • […] messy human authority over there” is restricting someone’s freedom. That’s what authority does: it discriminates between people in such a way that some people get their way and others […]

  • […] fond of property taxes: they both reflect inherently brittle and cavalier modern attitudes about authority, where kingship and ownership are both forms of […]

  • […] mainly so they can get them cheaper and without always having to seek out permission slips from authority (“prescriptions” from […]

  • […] sense (and only this sense) that government by consent of the governed is true: not that legitimate authority derives from consent, but that the things which happen in a society are just those things which […]

  • […] has legitimate authority to levy taxes.  As with all human authorities this particular authority is inherently limited. […]

  • […] real though.  It also makes folks think that real things are unreal. A husband and father’s authority is just tyranny. The wife’s commitment to satisfy the marriage debt is rape. Taxation is […]

  • […] Of course, as an intrinsically immoral case of usury this entitlement may be enforced by the positive law, but it is not a genuine moral […]

  • […] Liberalism is a political philosophy.  That is, liberalism is a particular view of what justifies the exercise of authority. […]

  • […] to be obsessed with the precise structure of governance, because to the extent structure obscures authority liberals can pretend that authority doesn’t exist.  In liberal republics, subjects petition […]

  • […] Anti-authoritarianism means imposing anarchy on everyone against their will. […]

  • […] naturally yearn for authority, despite the fact that modernity relentlessly indoctrinates us with the idea that to be human […]

  • […] though it takes somewhat less solipsism, though still a substantial amount, to deny the reality of authority than it does to deny the reality of rabbits. So conversations with positivists (or folks with […]

  • […] their theories to reality they become positivistic: refusing for example to believe in authority despite being presented with the counterexamples of property owner and parent. Because their […]

  • […] and basic rationality beg to differ, so human authority does not disappear: it merely becomes sociopathic, ‘justified’ by consequentialism […]

  • […] My own view is that this is mainly driven by ignorance of Catholic history combined with modern/protestant attitudes toward authority. […]

  • […] and concretely a political doctrine: a basic understanding or view about the right exercise of authority. Liberalism makes freedom into a purpose, final cause, or telos of political action, that is, of […]

  • […] the important things to get right in economics and politics is authority. I think that Zippy gets political authority correct. I am interested in authority as such and then to work my way down to species of […]

  • […] obligation on the persons involved. This imposition of an obligation is a certain moral power. As Zippy notes, this is a sort of authority that binds another in some way, in particular to the terms of the […]

  • […] midwit leaders – and the great majority of people in authority are and always will be midwits – who aspire futilely to greatness, is an endless source of […]

  • […] is first and foremost a political doctrine: an (incoherent) view about legitimate exercise of authority. It is true that once empowered liberalism cannot be contained and ‘leaks’ into everything […]

  • […] our own behaviors. It is in the nature of liberty to advance on the imprisoning barriers of authority: thus liberalism is, at its very foundations, a political doctrine.  In an individual mind it may […]

  • […] Neocenitelný Zippy má na tuto otázku jednoduchou a přímočarou odpověď. […]

  • […] defines authority as “a moral capacity to oblige a subject to choose this thing rather than […]

  • […] may rest easy though: tyranny is a perfectly meaningful concept, and freedom is a perfectly meaningful concept.  In fact if freedom were not a meaningful concept […]

  • […] Authority is a sort of power to order things to ends, when it is an authority over people it constitutes a moral power, that is to bind people morally to some end. […]

  • […] like “Bob has the freedom to do X” in a political context we should substitute “Bob has the authority to insist that everyone else must obediently cooperate with him doing […]

  • […] of authority are human choices which, like all human choices, eliminate options. Because they are specifically […]

  • […] all the way down, starting with its attempt to develop a political doctrine (an understanding of authority) while prescinding from religious […]

  • […] part of one’s identity shields that particular thing, whatever it may be, from the reach of authority.   If voluntary acts of sodomy by the incontinent are part of the makeup of what someone is, then […]

  • […] to pursue. Liberals have been killing each other for centuries in violent disputation over what authoritative policies do and do not “authentically” liberate, who is and is not the oppressor, […]

  • […] Authority is a natural and essential organ of these transcendent social beings, much as the brain and nervous system are a natural and essential organ of individual human beings. […]

  • […] authority of particular men arises from and builds upon the natural law.  A father has authority over his […]

  • […] about matters they don’t understand, and prodigious helpings of vice. Who would want to be actually morally obligated to obey such a […]

  • […] a certain point of view, sure. But when we step back, we realize this difference in coercion is not actually […]

  • […] a certain point of view, sure. But when we step back, we realize this difference in coercion is not actually […]

  • […] I’ve described before, authority in its essence is a capacity for someone in a position of authority to create moral […]

  • […] and proposes that the consent of the governed is what morally grounds legitimate government authority and concomitant powers. The consent of the governed is what makes government powers just in liberal regimes, as opposed to […]

  • […] of course are the establishment. If they weren't the establishment they wouldn't have the power to be tyrants. Liberals from their own perspective are scrappy rebel underdogs seeking freedom and […]

  • […] outside of the closet is the domain of the common good. It is here where authority operates: where these “rights” of yours cannot negate the operation of […]

  • […] moral social fabric for centuries would make it dissolve? Who could have predicted that treating human authority and hierarchy as if it were what is wrong with the world would lead to its dissolution and reconstitution as an […]

  • […] The best he can do is repent and make a commitment, with the help of God’s grace and human authorities, to stop choosing immoral behaviors and to do the right […]

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