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Authentic Authority and Shared Values

AUTHENTIC authority has the advantage over power in that a lesser level of energy is required in order to exercise it - because compliance tends to be almost automatic. But compliance to authority is derived from the perception of legitimacy, based in turn on shared values. The messy global political process, to a far greater extent than the conservative international system of the past, demands such unifying values, if global cooperation rather than conflict is to become its principal reality.

The relevance of American values to what might eventually be called a new world order thus becomes the essential question. There is no doubt that America emits a compelling and appealing message of liberty to the world. However, much of the message is procedural, with its emphasis on a constitutional process that guarantees human rights and freedom of choice. Yet just as important is the social and cultural content of the American message - the mores and life-styles that it disseminates.

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Unless these are historically relevant, the danger arises that American global power - if deprived of the needed legitimacy and thereby lacking the capacity to assert positive control - could be undermined by the global impact of America's own values.


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