True to form, Heilbroner doesn’t restrict the human conditioning process and its dubious fruit, our proclivity to obey, to lower classes alone. It’s a well nigh universal human trait for him: everyone’s included. Thus, this "acquiescence, in, or search for, a hierarchical ordering includes not only the lower and middle reaches but also the upper levels of society, who regularly look for 'leadership' to someone still higher in the world." We may of course go along with him on this score to a point, but mind you, only to a point, for immediately thereafter, he writes, "Indeed, it [our acquiescence, eagerness to accept authority, etc.] finds striking expression in the habit of rulers, including the most dictatorial and absolute, to declare their own 'submission' to a will higher than their own...”
One doesn’t know how to read Heilbroner here. Is he speaking with a straight face or with tongue in cheek? Does he really mean to suggest that the rulers of this world, even the most corrupt ones, truly believe in an authority higher than their own, an authority from which their own power and sway over men may be said to derive?
Apart from countless examples to the contrary, both present and past, the use of the term habit suggests otherwise. And yet, although habit (it’s quite conceivable) may well start out by design, as something contrived, to progress eventually to something akin to policy, it’s also true that in due time it’s been known to become internalized. And the import of this is – once you start believing in something, the divine right of kings in this instance, you’re more apt to act in accord with that belief. It’s always easier to exercise one’s authority, however acquired, in the name of someone or something other than yourself: Psychology 101. So there’s no question that some of the worldly rulers Heilbroner may be referring to have truly absorbed the lesson and got to believe they represent the will of God or some other earthy or unearthly power on this here Earth. Even so, one can’t help but to conclude that the passage in question is ambiguous to say the least, that's been made to be ambiguous, I venture to say, in order to promote his own agenda, his peculiar take on things.
It’s time to put all the pieces together so as to arrive at a composite. The objective demand for what amounts to almost unlimited political power arises for Heilbroner from the dire need to deal with imminent global dangers facing the human prospect, dangers which threaten our very survival. This objective demand, or so the argument goes, is being augmented by aspects of human psychology; in particular, by our natural propensity, it’s argued, shaped as it may be by our early conditioning, to listen and to obey. Furthermore, since the impending dangers are surely clear and present, we’re bound therefore to be doubly concerned; and this concern surely must translate to a call for ever greater political authority in order to avert the possibility of the impending disaster. Nothing short of it would or could. It is thus that the objective (or the positive) aspects of political authority, according to Heilbroner, are being met and reinforced by the subjective or the latent. They work in tandem.