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Authority is the right to command. This immediately begs the question – who gives this right? Medieval kings believed it had been granted by God, and that they were God's deputies on earth. The authority of modern government has been conferred by the people (or at least, the ones who bother to vote) through the ballot box. Debate still rages, however, as to how far that authority should go, in interfering in people's lives.

Authority is questioned and sometimes treated with contempt, increasingly so in modern times. In order to be fully effective on its own terms, it has to have power to enforce obedience. In medieval times, questioning the king (or God) would get you hanged. Nowadays, obedience is enforced by the army or ...

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