The original question was: “What lies at the root of the authoritarianism that seems to be asserting itself in free societies in today’s West?”
Here’s my answer:
The same root that causes irritating busybodies to take over Home Owner Associations. Some people have a lust for power. Government is the ultimate well of power. Author Frank Herbert expressed it well:
“All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible.”
“When religion and politics travel in the same cart, the riders believe nothing can stand in their way. Their movements become headlong – faster and faster and faster.”
Leftism is itself a religion, complete with an Eden (Earth), an original sin (Capitalism), and a god (government – aka “power over others.”) Another quote I’m fond of by a gentleman by the name of Glenn Wishard:
“The rise and fall of the Marxist ideal is rather neatly contained in the Twentieth Century, and comprises its central political phenomenon. Fascism and democratic defeatism are its sun-dogs. The common theme is politics as a theology of salvation, with a heroic transformation of the human condition (nothing less) promised to those who will agitate for it. Political activity becomes the highest human vocation. The various socialisms are only the most prominent manifestation of this delusion, which our future historian calls “politicism”. In all its forms, it defines human beings as exclusively political animals, based on characteristics which are largely or entirely beyond human control: ethnicity, nationality, gender, and social class. It claims universal relevance, and so divides the entire human race into heroes and enemies. To be on the correct side of this equation is considered full moral justification in and of itself, while no courtesy or concession can be afforded to those on the other. Therefore, politicism has no conscience whatsoever, no charity, and no mercy.”
When your quest is to drag the rest of the world, kicking and screaming, into your utopia, authoritarianism is the way to get there. Never mind that you’re enabling the most greedy, rapacious and psychopathic to grab the levers of power.
In short, it’s human nature.