Anti-Authoritarian Authoritarians – OpEd


Many readers of The Beacon will know that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has issued an executive order prohibiting governments in Florida from mandating that people wear masks. Meanwhile, many local government officials, including my local school board and superintendent, have defied that order and issued mask mandates.

In response, the governor and state commissioner of education have said they will withhold the salaries of those local officials who issue mask mandates. This article explains that even though the local school board has weakened its mask mandates, the governor and commissioner still find the board in violation of the governor’s order and are withholding the salaries of board members.

One interesting thing about this case is that the authoritarian school board is issuing orders requiring that those within its jurisdiction comply, and in doing so is defying the authority of the government that stands above them. They are anti-authoritarian authoritarians.

The school board is saying that they will not comply with the mandates of those under whose authority they operate, while requiring that those who are within their jurisdiction comply with the board’s mandates.

Cases in which lower-level governments defy the authority of higher-level governments are always interesting because of the conflicts they create. The most visible example right now is state governments legalizing recreational marijuana use, which remains illegal under federal law. But in that case, the states are defying the authority of the federal government by permitting people the liberty to make their own choices. They are consistently anti-authoritarian. In the mask mandate case, the lower-level government is prohibiting individuals from making their own choices.

In the marijuana example, states are resisting the authoritarian reach of government. In the mask mandate example, the school district is claiming the right to extend its authoritarian reach, in defiance of those above them in the chain of command.

There appears to be an inconsistency in the actions of anti-authoritarian authoritarians. They are telling people, “We don’t have to abide by the rules imposed on us, but you have to abide by the rules we impose on you.”

This article was published at The Beacon

Randall G. Holcombe

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at The Independent Institute, DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University, past President of the Public Choice Society, and past President of the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Tech, and has taught at Texas A&M University and Auburn University. Dr. Holcombe is also Senior Fellow at the James Madison Institute and was a member of the Florida Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors.

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