“Human beings are often told to do stuff on the sheer basis of “authority” alone. “Listen to your teacher.” Why? Because they have “authority.” “Pay your taxes.” Why? Because the government has “authority.” “Take off your pants at the sign ahead in Terminal B and let the guy touch your butt.” Why? Because, well, whoever is doing this must have some kind of authority.
There are some serious problems with this age-old idea (or religious “superstition,” in the words of Rose Wilder). First of all, it should be remembered that authority is the simply the conditional position of one that is authorized. The trust that people give others (e.g., kings) gives them (the kings) “authority.” When people stop believing or trusting, the authority disappears. If a general’s army woke up one day and said to him, “We don’t believe you have any authority anymore,” the general may say “Oh, yes I do! I’m the General and you’re my subordinates.” But this means nothing. Simply saying “I have authority over you” doesn’t make it so. In fact, the general should have immediately said “You were my subordinates, but now you’re not because you no longer authorized me…and I think I hear my phone ringing, excuse me…” And should the army then kill the general, it would become even more explicit that the General no longer has authority—again, simply because the people who trusted him stopped doing so.”