Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why does anyone trust "the authorities"? (Wendy McElroy)

Wendy McElroy has a hard time understanding why most people think agents of the state deserve special privilege and respect:

There is overwhelming evidence that power corrupts. Of course, some people claim the foregoing chronology is wrong: it is not power that corrupts but the corrupt who seek power. I think both are true. I do not deny the phenomenon of decent people running for office or otherwise trying to assume unjust authority over others. But such people do not seek power per se. It is not a goal in-an-of-itself but a means to achieving another justice, individual rights, religious purity. Power is merely a necessary evil or an expedient. Of course, the decency doesn't last long once people start wielding their authority over others; you cannot embrace injustice and remain a just human being. At some point, being powerful becomes a habit -- that is, it becomes part of who you are -- so it seems only natural for you to enjoy special privileges or a respect that you are denying to others. This creates elitism -- the kind of double standard by which those who make or administer the law do not believe they have to abide by it themselves.

I understand that process far better than I understand its corollary: namely, why do "the people" agree with the politician and accept that he or she deserves special privileges and respect?

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