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The Myth of “Authority”


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Contrary to what many people assume, most of the suffering, injustice and conflict in the world is NOT the result of greed, hatred or intolerance. Instead, most of man’s inhumanity to man is the result of one particular belief, one irrational superstition which is shared by almost everyone: namely, the belief in “authority.” Most theft, assault and murder in the world is not carried out by individuals acting on their own malice, but by individuals who were obeying the orders of so-called “governments.” The worst atrocities in history were the result of a very SMALL number of truly nasty people acquiring positions of power, combined with a very LARGE number of average people who viewed those FEW people as “authority,” and so felt obligated to obey their commands. It has always been the “law-abiding taxpayers” who have funded and empowered oppressive regimes.

The problem is that most GOOD people have fallen for the lie that when aggression, robbery and control is committed in the name of “law,” then it is legitimate and moral—even necessary. The belief in “authority” tricks basically good people into going along with LEGALIZED injustice. Most children are taught that obedience to authority is a virtue, and even most adults still think that bowing to a ruling class, which they call “obeying the law,” is what makes someone a good person. It’s not. On the contrary, being a moral human being requires understanding right and wrong, and doing the right thing even when “authority” tells you not to.

The basic rules for being a good person are very simple. Treat every other person as if he owns himself, because he does. This means you shouldn’t attack, rob, or otherwise initiate violence against anyone. In other words, you shouldn’t start a fight. If someone else attacks you, you have the right to defend yourself. But no one has the right to BE an attacker. Badges, uniforms and so-called “laws” do not change this fact. There is virtue in respecting the rights and property of others. There is no virtue in obeying the law, just for the sake of being obedient. Sometimes a law happens to match morality—such as laws against murder. But the reason murder is bad is NOT because politicians wrote a law about it. Murder is wrong because it violates the self-ownership of the victim. If laws against murder were repealed tomorrow, or if a law was passed COMMANDING some people to commit murder—as has happened over and over again throughout history—murder would still be wrong.

Indeed, there are many historical examples where the good people were the criminals, the law-breakers, the rebels and traitors to their so-called “governments.” When the law goes AGAINST what is moral and righteous, then it is the duty of every decent person to DISOBEY and RESIST. These days, few dare to stand up to any supposed “authority.” Instead, people are trained to participate in elections and politics, which amounts to begging the masters to please be nicer, as if we shouldn’t do what we know is right unless and until the politicians give us permission to.

Not only that, but decent people are also tricked into believing that it is perfectly acceptable and righteous to control and rob their neighbors as long as they do it by way of voting and the political process. Tyrants love it when they can get the people to cheer for their neighbors to be robbed by way of taxation, or cheer for their neighbors to be forcibly controlled by way of regulation and legislation. In short, the political process is designed to dupe the people into cooperating with and even DEMANDING their own subjugation, and the subjugation of everyone else. As long as those in power can trick people into arguing over HOW government power should be used, arguing over WHO should be robbed and how much, arguing over WHO should be bossed around and controlled, then the masses will always be at war with each other, and will keep empowering tyrants and throwing away their own freedom.

Even otherwise good people feel no guilt about condoning that their fellow man be robbed and dominated, because they’ve been taught that when extortion and coercion is called “taxation” and “law enforcement,” that it is not only moral and proper, but is necessary for society. Only very rarely do people recognize that the only way they will ever have freedom themselves is to allow everyone else—including people they don’t like, don’t approve of, and have little in common with—to also be free. As long as people keep playing the game where they argue over WHICH power-happy political opportunist should be running things, there will be no freedom or justice for anyone.

Every government in the world legalizes aggression and extortion. Every so-called “tax” or other “law” is a threat of violence. On one level, everyone knows this. The politicians, by way of the legislative process, tell everyone else what they must do, or what they may not do, and anyone who gets caught disobeying will be robbed or caged in the name of “the law.” The old notion of the Divine Right of Kings has changed into the Divine Right of Politicians, with similar results. Indeed, the belief in “government” is essentially a religion, the most dangerous and destructive religion ever. Hundreds of millions of human beings have been murdered by their OWN governments, many millions more have died in government-created wars, and BILLIONS more have been robbed, harassed, terrorized, and otherwise forcibly dominated and oppressed by ruling classes—including democratically-elected, constitutional governments.

Yes, sometimes agents of government will try to stop OTHER aggressors, but EVERY government is itself a gang of thieves and thugs. In fact, private thieves could never steal anywhere near the amount of wealth that government confiscates via taxes, and the wars waged by government completely dwarf the murder and violence committed by private thugs.

Of course, there ARE nasty people in the world—and there still would be without government—and the good people need to have the ability and willingness to defend against such people. But organizing for self defense is NOT, in and of itself, what government is. Instead, government is the idea that some people can have the moral right to rule everyone else; that constitutions, elections and other rituals give some people an EXEMPTION from basic morality, and make it OKAY for them to boss around other people under threat of force.

The idea that we need to give a group of people PERMISSION to forcibly rob and control us, so they can protect us from those who might forcibly rob and control us, is ridiculous. And yet most people believe exactly that: they believe that we need “government”—the biggest thug and thief around—to protect us from thugs and thieves. To make this sound less absurd, the people are taught nonsensical mythology about democracy, representative government, and the consent of the governed. But there are several ways to easily prove that “government” cannot possibly be legitimate—never has been and never will be. For example, people obviously cannot delegate rights they don’t have themselves. If YOU do not have the right to rob your neighbor on your own, then you can’t possibly give such a right to some public official. Nor can anyone else. No election, no constitution, no political process, can make robbery and extortion moral and righteous—even if politicians first do a bunch of complicated pseudo-religious rituals and then call the robbery law and taxation.

It is also easy to prove that the ONLY thing “government” adds to society, or will ever add to society, is more IMMORAL violence. In short, anything that is inherently righteous—people being productive, working together, voluntarily cooperating and organizing, defending themselves from attackers and thieves—these things don’t require any special authority. You don’t need a badge or a uniform, you don’t need to be elected or appointed, in order to have the right to do things which are already righteous and good. The ONLY thing that so-called “authority” is needed for is to do things which normal people do NOT have the right to do, to try to authorize and legitimize acts that would be WRONG if done by normal people. In other words, so-called “authority” is nothing more than permission to do BAD things.
When someone has been convinced that he has the RIGHT to rule others—whether it’s a politician who believes he has the right to control your life, or a cop who believes he has the right to forcibly dominate you and forcibly impose the politicians’ will on you—of COURSE such people will tend to be callous, power-happy and violent. When even most of their VICTIMS talk and act as if the ruling class has the RIGHT to extort and dominate everyone else, of course there will be corruption, abuse and oppression.

At the Nuremberg trials, Nazis who were directly involved in orchestrating and carrying out mass murder claimed that they weren’t to blame because they were “just following orders.” In other words, they were obeying authority, and therefore were not personally responsible for their actions. Although at Nuremberg that defense was rejected, that attitude is STILL shared by every soldier, every law enforcer, every tax collector and every bureaucrat of every country in the world, who still imagine that they aren’t to blame for robbing, harassing, assaulting or even murdering innocent people, because so-called “authority” told them to. And that is exactly why “authority” is the most dangerous superstition in the world, why the belief in “government” has been the direct cause of the vast majority of human suffering.

But what is the alternative? Isn’t obedience to “authority” what keeps us civilized? Wouldn’t there be chaos without government, without law, without rules? Well, no.
Most people already understand and abide by the non-aggression principle, even if they’ve never heard it called that. In short, the non-aggression principle states it’s not okay to commit aggression, to start a fight, to attack someone else, to initiate violence against anyone else, and that physical force is justified ONLY to defend AGAINST attackers. Most people, of most cultures and religions, already understand this, and mostly abide by it. But they’ve been taught that “authority” has an EXEMPTION from this rule; that aggression committed by “law-makers” and their hired enforcers is moral and legitimate. As a result, the belief in “government” makes humanity far LESS civilized, and far MORE violent, because people have been taught to believe that legalized violence is acceptable.

The vast majority of human pain and suffering throughout history has been a direct result of people ignoring their own moral codes and their own consciences in favor of obedience to some imaginary external authority. The death and destruction that happened under Mao Tse Tung was not because the Chinese people are evil. It was because they believed in, and obeyed, authority. The death and destruction that happened under Stalin and Lenin was not because the people of Russia are evil. It was because they believed in, and obeyed, authority. The death and destruction that happened under Adolf Hitler was not because the German people are evil. It was because they believed in, and obeyed, authority. The same is true of the injustices committed by one regime after another, all over the world, throughout all of history. The way to break the cycle is not to get the RIGHT person on the throne. It’s for the people to stop believing in the throne altogether.

So what would the world look like if people stopped believing in “authority”? Would everyone suddenly lose their moral codes, and have no concept of right and wrong? Of course not. Do people only know the difference between right and wrong thanks to politicians telling them? Of course not. Do most people know how to peacefully cooperate and organize WITHOUT politicians, soldiers, cops, tax collectors and bureaucrats bossing them around? Of course they do. Yes, there would still be the occasional private sociopath, thief or thug who would try to defraud or assault others, and the good people should—and would—do what they could to organize a means of defense against such predators. But to CREATE a huge, all-powerful predator—which is what government always is—in the name of STOPPING predators, is simply insane.
Removing the belief in “authority” does NOT remove the people’s ability to organize, and cooperate, and work together for mutual benefit. In fact, despite the politicians’ rhetoric, “government” is never about working together; it is only about WHOSE agenda, opinions and values will be FORCED on everyone else. In contrast, there are countless ways in which people can create voluntary arrangements and organizations, which benefit everyone, without pretending to have some special right to rule. Imagine something similar to police, only they didn’t pretend to have any rights that YOU don’t have, and you could FIRE them whenever you wanted. No more abusive, condescending thugs, always looking for an excuse to fine you or arrest you to make their political masters happy. YOU would be their employer, so YOU would be the one they would be serving, and trying to please. Instead of the inefficient, corrupt, counter-productive and often destructive “government” version of various services, imagine if YOU could decide what charities to give to, what services to purchase, and from whom.

There would, however, be a trade-off. Advocating true freedom, which requires giving up the belief in “authority” and “government,” would mean giving up your ability to force your preferences onto others, to force others to pay for whatever YOU think they should support. You can only have freedom for YOURSELF if you also leave every other individual in freedom. That is why most people want “government”: they want a guilt-free, risk-free way to butt into the lives of others, to control and rob others by way of the political process, to try to use the VIOLENCE of the state to make the world into what they think it should be. But of course, the moment you appoint a master—over yourself and everyone else—to think that he is going to care about YOUR interests and concerns, instead of his own, is extremely naive. To volunteer to be the slave of a political ruling class, in the hopes that it will do what YOU want, and make the world what YOU wish it was, is simply insane. There is only one path that leads to peace and justice. That path is freedom, and “government” is always the enemy of freedom.

History has taught us that trying to fix the world by way of “government” always ends in disaster, that in the end the political process empowers the ruling class, and no one else. Constitutions don’t fix it. Elections don’t fix it. Once there is a position of power, it is always the megalomaniacs and sociopaths who will, sooner or later, one way or another, get themselves into that position. And then the big powerful thing that you HOPED would be a protector and servant of the people, will be an oppressor and exploiter of the people. That is what “government” has always been, and always will be, until the people dare to let go of the superstition of “authority.”


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