Monday, September 30, 2013

Why Almost Everyone Believes in Authority

1. In the paleolithic period, organized brute force was the only game in town in the context of inter-tribal rivalry. Thus, natural selection favored those who were obedient to tribal alpha males. The disobedient were simply killed off.

2. The way to make tribal obedience psychologically bearable and prudentially beneficial was to rationalize it. Thus, the obedient came to view their rulers as necessary for coordinating collective action and/or concerned with the welfare of the tribe. This was the earliest manifestaton of the Stockholm Syndrome. Again, natural selection favored those who succumbed to this syndrome especially easily.

3. The rulers realized that, being a numerical minority, they need legitimacy to maintain their rule. Thus, they set out to cultivate and strengthen the Stockholm Syndrome among their subjects. The pinnacle of their achievement in this regard was the invention of democracy - a universal invitation to join the ranks of rulers, which decisively blurred the distinction between the rulers and the ruled, and ushered in a system where everyone is expected to feel entitled to live at the expense of everyone else.

4. As famously noted by Lord Acton and infamously demonstrated in the Stanford Prison Experiment, power is extremely corrupting. With the advent of democracy, the corrupting effects of power became particularly widespread. This, coupled with the complementary effects of global Stockholm Syndrome, made belief in (political) authority - i.e., the belief that some people have a right to rule other people - practically universal.

No comments:

Post a Comment