is the subordination of an individual to an authority greater than themselves.
This authority is used by some individuals to justify the initiation of force (violence) against others in order to help achieve the(ir) "common good".
The idea that any cause is greater than a human life, and that the rights of an individual may be violated to achieve it, is responsible for some of the worst atrocities perpetrated throughout history. The average person abhors violence against a fellow human being, but once they are convinced that some collective ideal or group right supersedes the rights of the individual, it becomes a simple matter to convince themselves that the suffering of a single human is of lesser importance than the success of the larger group, and they are able to justify almost any action against the minority, the individual.
Many believe that blindly following authority is the root problem. But the issue does not stem primarily from authority; it originates with the self: specifically, the with a lack of individual accountability. The answer is not to turn against all authority, or worse, to persistently act against it and lead a contrarian lifestyle; no, the answer is to demand that each individual question their own actions and accept personal responsibility.
If one observes the nature of human interaction, beneath all of the emotional complexities and infinite outcomes, is an intrinsic judgement: either one considers individual rights as immutable, or one does not. Either one believes that a person has the right to live separately from the group, or one believes that other people are part of a single collective, which must be obeyed for the good of all those who must be a part of it. There is no middle ground. By their nature, rights must be inviolate or they are meaningless. One either has them, or one does not. To ask forgiveness while killing someone only doubles the sin; it is to admit guilt, and worse, to confess understanding.
The great conflicts of history have always been, in essence, a struggle between the individual and the collective. Whether man was being sacrificed to the gods for the good of the “tribe,” conscripted for the good of the “state,” or just taxed for the good of the “community,” the individual has always been asked to suffer for the well-being of others. Throughout history, the first and deadliest accusation to be thrown at any targeted class was: they are not contributing to the public good, or worse: they are detracting from it. The Public, The Future Generations, The Family, The Common Good… there is no shortage of higher powers.
In each age a collective rises to power and becomes the ultimate authority, claiming that right which can never exist: the right to appropriate by force the mind, body, and property of the individual, i.e. his life. If some people are entitled, by "right" to the products of the work of others, it necessarily means that those others are deprived of their rights and condemned to slave labor, in degrees or in full. Any alleged “right” of one human, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right. No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty, or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as the right to violate rights. Humans are not property, to be disposed of for the good of others.
We are taught as children to live for others, to be altruistic, self-sacrificing, obedient, and humble. We are told always to respect the authority of parents, teachers, politicians, and God. We are made to understand that someone else always deserves our possessions more than we do, and that we should always defer to the authority above us. Is it any wonder that someone who lives for himself is viewed as a problem — or even as an enemy? Is it really surprising that the average person, given the way he was raised, would readily subordinate himself to a convincing authority when told that it was for a worthy cause, when the very foundation of modern ethics is to serve others?
When a culture places the individual as the object of last and least concern, does it not follow that the pain inflicted upon others ranks lower in our minds than the desire to avoid the disapproval of the community, or follow the commands of a community’s representatives? The impetus behind such people that choose to sacrifice themselves or others is the idea that the collective is an entity greater than any one person. But no matter the size, a group is ultimately only a collection of individuals. There is no magic number where individual rights create or transform into "collective rights". And just as there are no collective rights, so there can be no collective good. There is and can only be the individual good. Thus, the question to be posed in any social context, is: does this action violate the rights of another human? Yes or no? This is the only issue. It is not the destruction of authority but the identification and respect of that greatest authority, individual rights, which is desperately needed, and more, demanded by our very nature as independent entities.