Responsibility and Authority

Responsibility and Authority

*To demand that others suffer responsibility for the consequences of your choices and actions, is the heart of tyranny. *

A favorite tagline I see over on Pournelle’s site, is “Free men are not equal, equal men are not free.” It is catchy, and encapsulates very nicely a central theme of the book “Equality: The Impossible Quest” that equality is a myth, that any attempt to establish equality on one axis inevitably results in inequality on others. Worse, not all inequalities are equally harmful when one attempts to overcome them – as some result in far more bloodshed than others.

Even in Christian equality before god, it is a type of equality of opportunity. We are not all born of the same station, with the same resources, or the same abilities. It’s more that God is so much greater that the differences we see in this mortal coil matter not to him, so much as what we choose to do.

Yet we are still judged by our choices – or shaped by them. Some are raised to heaven, others suffer. Wherever we end up we put ourselves there by how we chose.

And we do not make the same choices.

So there is another expression that ties into the concept of freedom, one I no longer remember where it originally came from, or the original wording. It centers around the concept of balancing responsibility and authority. I usually point out that “Authority without responsibility is tyranny, responsibility without authority is slavery.”

This one statement covers “power corrupts” – for is not authority to act without suffering the consequences the ultimate form of power? And how can one be free when one is held responsible for the consequences of decisions one is not allowed to make? A woman who wants to sleep with dozens of men, and have her poor choices subsidized by someone else is a tyrant, for she is making others work to cover the responsibility of her choices. A man forced to pay taxes to subsidize the poor choices of others is a slave, for he is responsible for decisions others make, without a say in the matter, or over his own time, his own sweat, his own blood and pain and work. They are taken from him and he will be imprisoned, or killed, if he puts up enough of a fuss.

As one gains in authority in business, in a military organization, one also gains responsibility. A captain of a ship will lose his command if it runs aground, even if he wasn’t on the bridge. Ultimately, it was his job to know his OOD’s could stand the watch on the bridge, could cross check the navigators, that departmental heads were on top of their chiefs, who ensured that lookouts knew their duties, and so forth. It doesn’t matter if he had any ability to affect the outcome directly, he has the power to order them to their deaths, and he’s responsible for ensuring the crew can do their job.

The two are never in perfect balance – no system is static – but despite the occasional saint, the temptation of lack of consequence can undermine any soul.  The tyrants, petty or great, are no longer told that they too are human, that they can fail, that their decisions can turn around and kill them. And those made to pick up the pieces at gunpoint, literal or figurative, become angry and bitter, lash out.

If you’re thinking there’s any parallel between this, and liberals/the uniparty vs. the tea party/alt-right/alt-lite….

I have no idea what you’re talking about.

About Last Redoubt

Ex nuke mechanic, jack of all trades.