An authority is a person or institution that is either well trusted by the people (authority from below) or given authority by a higher authority (authority from above).

One defers to an authority, by definition. That is, there is no other way to recognize an authority other than by actual deference. In a system or with intellectual integrity only only defers to another who is superior morally, not in other ways. Most societies however are not rigorous theocracies with a clear concept of moral superiority.

Some modern sociologists debate a more flexible concept of trust: social capital. Paul Adler asserted that this market metaphor was possibly inappropriate in that real trust was more like a single command hierarchy than like currency. He nonetheless made a long list of definitions of social capital.

In any society, lines of authority are an essential part of the social system itself: Authority only exists when people choose to defer to others, or obey the rules that the authority may create - depending on how much that authority is actually trusted. This creates one of the essential tradeoffs of politics - the choice of defering to authority which is seldom perfect but usually better than no authority at all; or the turbulence of transition from one authority to another in which there is a risk of having no authority at all (anarchy, which rarely works out well for the weak.).

The evidence/source/authority that underlies a given issue/position/argument - called TIPAESA when all of these are available and explicit in one structure with a deadline on top - are always subject to debate. In fact this is more important than debating any other aspect of arguments.

It is always a good edit to cite authorities on issues, e.g., add a cite link which provides a definition of a unique term that that may or may not be on the list of policy terms or list of all issues, but which the authority says should be, or just says is important. However, one must not cite only "one's own" experts:

When you take sides on an issue, be sure to cite their experts or a civic best practice - if you don't, someone else will. Build a position or an argument while citing the most respected authorities on both sides of the issue. When including experts, a cite link should be created back to the original published source for that authority.

A pundit or expert is a person often cited in arguments. This does not make them an authority, even if they are often a source, because they may be simply conveying the opinions of others or of some faction that they personally have no authority over.