Authority

I have said that children require the feedback of adults to evolve their judgments. We have discussed moral, intellectual, emotional and practical judgments. These judgments must be made in personal, professional and social settings.

Obviously, completely mastering any one of these dimensions is a challenge. Mastering them all is impossible.

In one sense of the word, we invest authority in those that we trust to guide us in those contexts that we have not mastered. They, in turn, rely upon us for the energy and talent that we apply to their concerns. In this reciprocal relationship, authority is granted to those that act most effectively to accomplish our aims.

This definition of authority lacks a moral component. If we invest authority in those that accomplish our aims once, what expectations can we have that they will continue to serve our aims in the future? Upon what basis do we invest our trust?

In a broader sense, our communities identify authority figures that, under certain circumstances, have the right to command allegiance to their dictates. These include the emergency personnel (police, fire and medical), community leaders involved in implementing policy, and technocrats with detailed understanding of problems that may threaten the viability of the community.

Except for the community leaders, and even then typically only in the case of elected officials, we often have no personal history to use in evaluating the trustworthiness of the individual asserting authority. The podium, or the uniform and badge, are all that we have to base that decision on. Is this a sufficient basis for investing authority?

History tells us that the answer is "no". Or maybe even "Hell no"! Political leaders, police departments and technocrats all lose the allegiance of communities that believe they have not been serve faithfully or competently.

That loss of trust can only be mitigated by moral conduct. Using the definition above, we reach the conclusion: authority exists where power is validated by expressions of love.