Authority and Power have become all too interchangeable in today’s dialogue when they have distinct meanings that differentiate them from one another, but also complement each other.
After defining both terms, it will be clear what their different meanings are. By understanding that, the level of dialogue can be elevated and nuanced in a manner that allows people to toe the line between the two terms, understanding how they interact in politics. It will also be clear how misunderstanding these terms leads to government overreach, cognitive dissonance and fanaticism.
If you are the video-watching type, check out my video on my YouTube Channel, Episode 10 -Power Authority and Force, otherwise, keep reading!!!
What is Power?
Power is simply the ability to make something happen, which in politics is almost always making someone do something. The Power of government comes from its ability to exert force. This is not a justification, but a reality.
An example is that an adult has Power over a child, simply because the adult is bigger, stronger and smarter. This doesn’t give the adult the right to bully the child or steal from the child. Most ethical people would argue this Power means the adult must exhibit restraint in using their Power.
Power is simply a tool. It can be used for good or for bad. It’s like a crane, which can be used to put beams into place to build buildings or can have a wrecking ball attached to it to tear down buildings. Therefore, the mere presence of Power is not enough to condemn an individual, institution or government. But, how the Power is wielded can condemned based on how it is implemented.
What is Authority?
Authority is the assertion that one is justified in using Power. In the context of American politics, Authority is given to the government in the Constitution to execute certain roles and perform certain duties. They are known as the “Enumerated Powers” and represent the Powers that the government is Authorized to do.
Authority can be given in private institutions as well. For instance, by getting a job, you submit yourself to the authority of your boss. They are responsible for keeping you employed and paying you, and in exchange, they have the Authority to tell you what to do. Another example would be a Home Owners Association. By living in a neighborhood and signing an HOA, you give them Authority to use their Power to enforce certain rules.
Not only can it be given explicitly, but implicitly as well. Parents have Authority over their children. They are responsible for caring for their child, but the child is born into the parents’ Authority, rather than willfully submitting like an employee would. Nevertheless, children are subject to Authority unless the parents do something that would prove them unworthy of the Authority inherent in their position.
In each case, Authority is granted in exchange for some sense of liability for the party in the position of Authority. The reason being that if one is granted the Authority to dictate another’s life, then they can be held liable for poor decisions or exceeding their Authority.
As you can see, Authority is the right to wield Power under the guidelines that the Authority granted allows. In America, both Authority and Power of the government have grown out of control. Each one needs to be addressed and limited, at least back to its original state.
What is important is understanding which one is being overstepped in certain situations. Often, it is the expansion of Authority that occurs first, followed by the expansion of Power to enforce the Authority. For example, Congress writes a law banning the sale of raw milk because they claim it is bad. They do not have the Authority to do that, but because that goes unchallenged, people cede that Authority to the government. Then, to enforce that, the government has to add regulations, procedures and policing to ensure that their rule is enforced.
Then, once both are expanded, Power begins to corrupt. In order to sustain the Authority, Power has to be expanded and the checks and balances in the system decay. Executive Agencies prove this point in their conduct. First, the assertion was made that America needed the EPA, then it was given power to conduct basic functions. Eventually, once the claim of Authority was made on regulating the environment, it was ever-expanding. This necessitated more Power, which eroded the checks on Power until the entire institution became motivated by expanding Power to fill the growing gap between its Power and Authority.
These types of institutions attract the wrong types of people for government. The only person fit to hold a government office is one who fears and disdains the Power and Authority granted to them as a new parent does when they have a child. They should second guess every step, fear hurting people with each action and never take for granted their position. Wielding Power and Authority should be a burden, and when that is true, there will be real change in America.
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