On Authority

Sunday, August 22, 2021 – On Authority 

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. ~ Galileo Galilei

I have a strong disrespect for authority and for rules. Including gravity. Gravity sucks. ~ Sebastian Thrun

No oppression is so heavy or lasting as that which is inflicted by the perversion and exorbitance of legal authority. ~ Joseph Addison

Distrust of authority should be the first civic duty. ~ Norman Douglas

The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority. ~ Stanley Milgram

Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish. ~ Anne Bradstreet

To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself. ~ Albert Einstein

Don’t be scared by the word authority. Believing things on authority only means believing them because you’ve been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York. I haven’t seen it myself. I couldn’t prove by abstract reasoning that there must be such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so. The ordinary man believes in the Solar System, atoms, evolution, and the circulation of the blood on authority – because the scientists say so. Every historical statement in the world is believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove them by pure logic as you prove a thing in mathematics. We believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them: in fact, on authority. A man who jibbed at authority in other things, as some people do in religion, would have to be content to know nothing all his life. ~ C. S. Lewis

Men are excessively ruthless and cruel not as a rule out of malice but from outraged righteousness. How much more is this true of legally constituted states, invested with all this seeming moral authority of parliaments and congresses and courts of justice! The destructive capacity of an individual, however vicious, is small; of the state, however well-intentioned, almost limitless. Expand the state and the destructive capacity necessarily expands too. Collective righteousness is far more ungovernable than any individual pursuit of revenge. That was a point well understood by Woodrow Wilson, who warned: “Once lead this people into war and they’ll forget there ever was such a thing as tolerance.” ~ Paul Johnson, Modern Times

People in general know not what wickedness there is in this pretended word of God. Brought up in habits of superstition, they take it for granted that the Bible is true, and that it is good; they permit themselves not to doubt of it, and they carry the ideas they form of the benevolence of the Almighty to the book which they have been taught to believe was written by his authority. Good heavens! It is quite another thing; it is a book of lies, wickedness, and blasphemy. ~ Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

All authority is quite degrading. It degrades those who exercise it, and degrades those over whom it is exercised. When it is violently, grossly, and cruelly used, it produces a good effect by creating, or at any rate bringing out, the spirit of revolt and individualism that is to kill it. When it is used with a certain amount of kindness, and accompanied by prizes and rewards, it is dreadfully demoralizing. People, in that case, are less conscious of the horrible pressure that is being put on them, and so go through their lives in a sort of coarse comfort, like petted animals, without ever realizing that they are probably thinking other people’s thoughts, living by other people’s standards, wearing practically what one may call other people’s second-hand clothes, and never being themselves for a single moment. ~ Oscar Wilde

I have as much authority as the Pope. I just don’t have as many people who believe it. ~ George Carlin

When the authorities warn you of the dangers of having sex, there is an important lesson to be learned. Do not have sex with the authorities. ~ Matt Groening

The man whose authority is recent is always stern. ~ Aeschylus

Obedience to lawful authority is the foundation of manly character. ~ Robert E. Lee

If you’re going to kick authority in the teeth, you might as well use two feet. ~ Keith Richards

When you make your peace with authority, you become authority. ~ Jim Morrison

Undermine their pompous authority, reject their moral standards, make anarchy and disorder your trademarks. Cause as much chaos and disruption as possible, but don’t let them take you ALIVE. ~ Sid Vicious

Authority pisses me off. I think everyone should be able to drink and get loud whenever they want. ~ James Hetfield

I didn’t have any concept of age or authority. I remember realizing, oh, the world has rules and we don’t. ~ Moon Unit Zappa

If we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us, that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity. ~ Daniel Webster

He who is firmly seated in authority soon learns to think security, and not progress, the highest lesson in statecraft. ~ James Russell Lowell

Most men, after a little freedom, have preferred authority with the consoling assurances and the economy of effort it brings. ~ Walter Lippmann

The faith that stands on authority is not faith. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Put two or three men in positions of conflicting authority. This will force them to work at loggerheads, allowing you to be the ultimate arbiter. ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

My relationship to power and authority is that I’m all for it. People need somebody to watch over them. Ninety-five percent of the people in the world need to be told what to do and how to behave. ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger

War should only be declared by the authority of the people, whose toils and treasures are to support its burdens, instead of the government which is to reap its fruits. ~ James Madison

Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority. ~ Francis Bacon

Destiny: A tyrant’s authority for crime and a fool’s excuse for failure. ~ Ambrose Bierce

To be free in an age like ours, one must be in a position of authority. That in itself would be enough to make me ambitious. ~ Hannah Arendt

We have to hate our immediate predecessors to get free of their authority. ~ D. H. Lawrence

The man who prefers his country before any other duty shows the same spirit as the man who surrenders every right to the state. They both deny that right is superior to authority. ~ Lord Acton

Crime in full glory consolidates authority by the sacred fear it inspires. ~ M. Cioran

In revolutions authority remains with the greatest scoundrels. ~ Georges Jacques Danton

A leading authority is anyone who has guessed right more than once. ~ Frank Howard Clark

Homo sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority, then forgets that symbols are inventions. ~ Joyce Carol Oates

The burnt odor in Washington is from the disintegrating authority of the governing classes. ~ William Greider

Any commander who fails to exceed his authority is not of much use to his subordinates. ~ Arleigh Burke

Liberty is the proper end and object of authority, and cannot subsist without it; and it is liberty to that which is good, just, and honest. ~ John Winthrop

Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive. ~ Henry Steele Commager

Where the people possess no authority, their rights obtain no respect. ~ George Bancroft

There are two kinds of people who never amount to much: Those who cannot do what they are told, and those who can do nothing else. ~ Cyrus H. Curtis

I won’t take my religion from any man who never works except with his mouth. ~ Carl Sandburg

He seems to be of great authority. Close with him, give him gold; and though authority be a stubborn bear, yet he is oft led by the nose with gold. ~ William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale (Clown at IV, iv)

We are at heart so profoundly anarchistic that the only form of state we can imagine living in is Utopian; and so cynical that the only Utopia we can believe in is authoritarian. ~ Lionel Trilling

No authority is higher than reality. ~ Peter Nivio Zarlenga

The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians. ~ George Orwell

The authoritarian character worships the past. What has been, will eternally be. To wish or to work for something that has not yet been before is crime or madness. The miracle of creation – and creation is always a miracle – is outside of his range of emotional experience. ~ Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom

Off goes the head of the king, and tyranny gives way to freedom. The change seems abysmal. Then, bit by bit, the face of freedom hardens, and by and by it is the old face of tyranny. Then another cycle, and another. But under the play of all these opposites there is something fundamental and permanent – the basic delusion that men may be governed and yet be free. ~ H. L. Mencken, The American Credo: A Contribution Toward the Interpretation of the National Mind

As painful and embarrassing as it may be, the fact remains that we are confronted with a human structure that has been shaped by thousands of years of mechanistic civilization and is expressed in social helplessness and an intense desire for a führer ~ Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism

One need only to admit that public tranquility is in danger and any action finds a justification. All the horrors of the reign of terror were based only on solicitude for public tranquility. ~ Leo Tolstoy

The relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion. The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them. ~ George Orwell

A quotation in a speech, article or book is like a rifle in the hands of an infantryman. It speaks with authority. ~ Brendan Francis