Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Moral Authority

This article is about moral authority and how it influences people. What is moral authority? Who has it and why?

Moral authority is a major factor in many societies. It is the idea that one individual should be given the right to speak for and judge all others in a given group. Religious leaders, politicians and business leaders have tried to gain moral authority in order to inspire people to work toward a particular cause that they promote. Their moral authority testifies to the value and importance of their ideas and exhorts people to participate in the grand plan. Here are a few statements made by some of history’s most influential moral authorities:

“There is a road to freedom. Its milestones are Obedience, Endeavor, Honesty, Order, Cleanliness, Sobriety, Truthfulness, Sacrifice, and love of the Fatherland.”[1]


"It is thus necessary that the individual should finally come to realize that his own ego is of no importance in comparison with the existence of his nation; that the position of the individual ego is conditioned solely by the interests of the nation as a whole.., that above all the unity of a nation's spirit and will are worth far more than the freedom of the spirit and will of an individual.... "

"This state of mind, which subordinates the interests of the ego to the conservation of the community, is really the first premise for every truly human culture .... The basic attitude from which such activity arises, we call—to distinguish it from egoism and selfishness—idealism. By this we understand only the individual's capacity to make sacrifices for the community, for his fellow men."[2]


“We have lost the understanding that in a democracy, we have a mutual obligation to one another — that we cannot measure the greatness of our society by the strongest and richest of us, but we have to measure our greatness by the least of these. That we have to compromise and sacrifice for one another in order to get things done.”[3]


“When you’re really trying to make serious change, you don’t want people to get caught up in emotion because change isn’t emotion. … Its real work and organization and strategy.. that’s just the truth of it. I mean, you pull people in with inspiration, but then you have to roll up your sleeves and you’ve got to make sacrifices and you have got to have structure.”[4]


“The wise and virtuous man is at all times willing that his own private interest should be sacrificed to the public interest of his own particular order or society.”[5]


“We demand that the State shall make it its first duty to promote the industry and livelihood of citizens…. We demand extensive development of provision for old age. We demand creation and maintenance of a healthy middle class…. We demand development of the gifted children of poor parents, whatever their class or occupation, at the expense of the State. The state must see to raising the standard of health in the nation….”[6]

Moral authority is fostered, most often, by people that we trust. Yet, sometimes, charlatans define a cause and decide to seek the moral authority that would enable them to obtain participation in their cause. Religious charlatans, and even leaders of nations, often use the language of moral authority in order to steer men in a direction of their choosing.

The tactic behind many political movements is to muster the moral authority that will enable them to obtain the support of a large number of people and, presumably, accomplish much good. The theory is that a group of people, working together, and sacrificing their time, money and energy, can create a better world. According to this view, collective goals pursued by collective action mean good works and tangible results. If we all get together, they think, we can solve the world’s problems. How many times have we heard that?

Moral authorities also tell us that selfishness and greed are the enemies of mankind...and they should be punished for the harm they do. The problem in the world, the thinking goes, is that some people do not want to participate in collective action toward collective goals. These few, not only cause the world’s problems, they also refuse to participate in working to solve them. Our moral authorities are perceptive enough to see this, and for members of the collective, it makes sense.

A person with moral authority, because he is given much power and a position of trust, has the ability to affect the lives of people in significant ways. He gives beautiful speeches, uses eloquent phrases and has learned the skills necessary to convince millions to go along with him toward social justice and equality. The goal is utopia.

Yet, the individual, the joiner in collective goals, gives up his own ability to judge what is moral. The person granted moral authority is considered to be more studied and with a superior ability to decide for the group. In many cases, this unique, superior knowledge comes as a revelation from God. At other times, it comes from his love of humanity and/or his past suffering for the people.

Indeed, moral authority is an extremely powerful strategic tool in a variety of areas. For instance, in war, if the general of one army is seen to be a great leader and a powerful moral agent, that fact alone may intimidate an opposing army and tilt the balance of victory. The astute general will use that power, not only to intimidate his opposition, but to motivate his own soldiers.

The god that a particular army worships may also be a strategic advantage. If that god is seen as powerful and capable of intervening in the events of the war, he could have a powerful influence on both sides. Here an astute general will do all he can to convince the soldiers of both sides of the power of his special God.

Oftentimes, leaders with moral authority use that authority to disarm dissent. Anyone who questions the moral authority of a leader is branded as evil and subversive, an enemy who wants to stop the progress of the group…the group cannot be wrong.

Why do moral authorities always talk about the need for sacrifice? Why do their goals always involve people sacrificing their own wishes and desires for the group? This is because the idea of sacrifice itself has a tremendous moral authority. Today we call it altruism but it is essentially the view that it is good to live for others. The leader with moral authority appeals to victims who have been oppressed by the self-interested enemy and he declares himself to be fighting for the downtrodden and helpless. This gives him tremendous credibility and power among people who don’t want to think too much…who would rather see the riches given to them instead of earned by them.

Income re-distribution is altruism applied to the income of working people. Those who produce goods and services that people want are required to give up part of their income for the sake of others who are not able to produce as much. The moral authority who advocates this idea thinks that it makes everything better to have income re-distribution.

One moral authority put it like this:

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”[7]

and another said:

“My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. If you’ve got a plumbing business, you’re gonna be better off if you’ve got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you, and right now everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody and I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody."[8]

But there are some people who understand that the above words are merely empty promises. The idea of altruism, of sacrifice, makes it possible for people to declare that it is moral to re-distribute wealth - but no one has bothered to look at history to see if wealth is ever created in a society based upon that principle. No one has analyzed the Soviet Union, Fascist Italy, Communist China, Socialist England, New Harmony, Indiana and a whole host of other utopian failed societies to see if altruism and collectivism actually made things better. In fact, these societies experienced a progressive decline into collective poverty because they disenfranchised the productive (which forced them to produce less) and enfranchised the less productive (which encouraged them to produce nothing) - while the entire group descended into bickering and finger-pointing. Yet, even after a whole century based upon that premise, we are still promised affluence and better lives if only we would sacrifice for the vision.

Yet, some utopians understand that utopia is not the goal of re-distribution. Words like “sacrifice for the common good” are merely code words used to obtain power, to deceive people…just like in the societies mentioned above. One advocate of collective action said it this way:

"You do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments."[9]

Re-distribution/sacrifice/altruism continues to be the motive power behind the advance of fascism. Fascism is the control of the nation by the politicians; it is a society where the citizens own most of the property but the politicians dictate the social goals toward which the property owners should work. In this system, the government manipulates certain (successful) enterprises or industries in order to re-distribute income to government favorites. Whenever government manipulation forces a particular enterprise to fail, it rescues the enterprise and takes it over - using money it has extorted or stolen from other productive sectors of the economy. Fascist politicians think they are too smart to did Hitler and Mussolini. When they bankrupt a country, they enlist further support by starting wars.

Collectivism and altruism are the stock in trade of fascist politicians; the result historically has always been dilatory acquiescence (slavery) or revolutionary dissent (concentration camps and/or armed struggle). In either case, destruction was the result. Along the path toward fascism you will find, strewn along the side, burned out factories and homes, bombed cities, decaying concentration camps engaged in genocide and groups that destroyed each other out of hatred. You see victims…not utopia. The only thing that fascism destroys is the people. After it has reached its destructive goal, its leaders commit suicide or are punished by the people they have exploited. This is the path upon which the Obama administration and its moral authority are taking us . I've said it...history will prove me children and yours will be the pebbles ground under to make up this path. Do you really want that?

Moral authority, and the blind acceptance of moral authorities, is the all-consuming cancer on our society. It is the idea that kills the intellects of millions of people and opens them to the exploitation of fascists like Hitler and Obama. When we give moral authority to any individual leader, we give up the responsibility that each of us has to be moral, the responsibility we have to judge and question our leaders; and we allow these leaders to turn us against each other. There should be no moral authority over any individual except the individual.

[2] Speeches of Adolf Hitler, quoted by Dr. Leonard Peikoff, “Ominous Parallels”
[3] Michelle Obama,
[4] Michelle Obama,
[5] Adam Smith, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” quoted by Dr. Leonard Peikoff in “The Ominous Parallels”
[6] “Twenty-Five Points”, Nazi Party, 1920, quoted by Dr. Leonard Peikoff in “The Ominous Parallels”
[7] Karl Marx, 'Critique of the Gotha Program'
[8] Barack Obama, conversation with Joe the Plumber
[9] Saul Alinsky “Rules for Radicals”

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