Starting by referring to two posts I wrote back in January, Obi wan Liberali posts More Thoughts on Authoritarian Thinking. I have to say that, like Obi wan, I am deeply concerned about our shift towards a more authoritarian society. I also agree that the positions publicly identified as conservative are tending towards greater social authoritarianism although I’m not sure they are becoming more authoritarian economically. On the other hand, the positions publicly identified as liberal have always been likely to take an authoritarian stance economically while remaining libertarian in the social arena.
I believe that Obi wan is correct in identifying two classifications of authoritarians – most being authoritarian followers, and the minority being authoritarian leaders (he calls them dominators). Obi identifies religion as being naturally authoritarian in structure. While I agree that religion is generally authoritarian I don’t believe that this is peculiar to religion – I believe that authoritarianism is human nature.
People who strive for power are naturally going to be authoritarian leaders. Leadership based solely on logic and persuasion is not a dependable way to maintain authority. Those who rely on persuasion are not concerned about their personal authority. The reason that so many people qualify as authoritarian followers is a combination of short-sightedness and laziness. Some people are unwilling to do the work necessary to form their own opinions so they follow whatever authoritarian leader they are inclined to follow. Others are willing to do the work to form their own opinions, but they fail to foresee the dangers of supporting the authoritarian pursuits of those who are ideologically in line with the positions they have chosen.
The reason that authoritarian systems are so worrisome to me is that I view personal responsibility to be the foundation and the working definition of liberty. Authoritarianism is antithetical to personal liberty and personal responsibility. People who are unwilling to take the time to gather the information to form their own opinions will always be seeking for someone to follow politically, religiously, or in any other arena. People who will put forth that effort will enjoy the fruits of their personal liberty only to the extent that they are allowed to – meaning that they cannot enjoy the fruits of liberty in a situation where their opportunity to make choices is cut short by the system. This applies to equally economic, political, and religious systems.