You hear it over and over again, “You should show respect for authority!”
Why? What makes authority right? If we have any sense at all, we require a reason before respecting anything.
Hitler became an authority via democratic process. Did that make him worthy of obedience?
Authority is an abstract; a secondary, not a primary. We ought to respect things that are profitable to men.
But, while I am more or less condemning authority, I should add that there are times when sensible men do choose to follow authority. Military operations are a good example of this. The individual soldier is not in a position to see the whole, complex, difficult situation. Only a commander has enough information (hopefully) to direct the operation. So, in this case, the individual soldiers will obey orders and follow their chain of command.
But even in this case, the soldiers are not following mindlessly, but because they know there is no other way for the operation to work well.
What this means is that obedience to authority is not virtuous by itself, only that it can become a practical necessity to achieve some goal that is virtuous.
We should only resort to going on someone else’s word when we have insufficient information and insufficient time to gather it and decide upon it. And even in these cases, we really should consider the benevolence and honor of the person calling the shots.
Respect goes to individuals who earn it, not to positions.
[“Why Show Respect for Authority?” is an excerpt from Paul Rosenberg’s book, Mindless Slogans – 101 Cheap Substitutes for Actual Thought]