Friday, May 01, 2009

The Authoritarian Mindset

When encountering those who have a desire to tell others what to do, to dictate to them, one can try to classify them into different categories. C. S. Lewis did so by discussing the difference between the dictator who dictates out of greed and the one who dictates out of a desire to help others. The former, he said, was preferable because his greed could sometimes be sated.

Another way of looking at this is to compare those who desire to dictate because of a specific action they see (or fail to see) in others that they want to correct. While they consider themselves lovers of liberty they are all too willing to violate it for "just this cause" or "just that purpose." It could be the moral authoritarianism of the war against vice or it could be the socialist authoritarianism of the war against differences of ability. In neither case does the person involved see himself as anti-liberty, but they see themselves correcting a flaw in liberty.

But the worst dictators are the ones who most strongly desire to be dictated to.

Some people, a minority but they actually do exist and are the antithesis of libertarians, are actually comfortable in an authoritarian system because it frees them from the necessity of decision making. They do not need to rely on their own judgment. Experts, who have been recognized by the government as experts, are more qualified to make decisions for them.

These people hate libertarians because libertarians are willing to challenge the experts. Paul Krugman won a Nobel Prize, and libertarians reply with "So what? He's still an idiot." Libertarians even say that the Supreme Court has erred on occasion, and not just when later courts overturned earlier judgments. And sometimes the libertarians who say these things are self-educated and do not have the necessary certificates to prove that they know what they actually do know.

An individual must not challenge the decision making of the proper authorities. That one could do so challenges their worldview to the core.

These people also make the most severe dictators. When given power their decisions must never be challenged because they have to be right because they have all the certificates and credentials that say they are right. Dissent is not to be tolerated.

These people make the most docile slaves and the most demented dictators.


Anonymous said...

lets exchange links or whatever people do on these things. I have written about the inevitable? descent into tyranny, and discussed the authoritarian mind set. said...

Thank you for a very thoughtful essay. Your accurate characterization of the authoritarian is as frustrating as it is unsettling.

The authoritarian mindset is a very troubling thing to encounter in America. When I traveled around America especially in the Mid-West, I found authoritarianism everywhere. Typically, the authoritarians I encountered were extremely responsive to harsh, brutal, even, leadership. I am speaking of large groups of 2 or 3 hundred at a time. They would test the leader. If he did not render swift and harsh reprisals they considered him weak, no leader at all and rebellion ensued. I agree, that abusive childrearing ensures the child will develop into a hyper- conservative authoritarian who will be interested only in living his or her life in lockstep with those of similar mindset under a totalitarian dictatorship.