Goodness of Authority

Without authority, Yves Simon argues (A General Theory of Authority), our efforts at collective action would be stymied: “decisions concerning the common action of a multitude could be taken unanimously, at least under the ideal conditions of a community made up of intelligent and virtuous persons alone. This is not the case, because contingency prevents us from knowing exhaustively the factors with which our decisions is concerned and from predicting their future with any kind of certainty. In the complex matters of collective behavior, more than anywhere else, the theoretical consideration on which the prudential judgment is based, cannot be demonstrated. Accordingly, it can never be shown evidently that this or that practical judgment, to be taken as a rule for our common action, is the best possible one. However conscientious the deliberation may be, since it cannot afford to prove its conclusions, anybody can, at any time, object that a better course of action could be conceived, and the unity of action which is supposed to be required by the pursuit of the common good will be ceaselessly jeopardized unless all members of the community agree to follow one prudential decision and only one which is to submit themselves to some authority.”

Simon concludes that “the principle of authority answers a necessity which is in no way accidental, which is not a consequence of any sin, evil or deficiency, a necessity which is but a metaphysical consequence of the nature of things. Considered in its principle, authority is neither a necessary evil nor the consequence of any evil, nor a lesser good, nor the consequence of some lesser good, but an absolutely good thing founded upon the metaphysical goodness of nature. Considered in its essential functions, as identical with the prudence of society in its collective action, authority is the everlastingly good principle of the social unity in the pursuit of the common good.”

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