Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Coercion no way to win support

Coercion no way to win support

(My Clovis News Journal/Portales News-Tribune column for November 18, 2011)

When you decide your house needs a new roof how do you go about getting it done? Do you either try to use your insurance policy or find a way to pay for it yourself? Or, do you go to your neighbors and demand, at gunpoint, that they pay for all or part of it on your behalf?

Only government can consistently choose the latter option and keep getting away with it.

There are a lot of things I think I really "need". Things that would be good for me and probably be good for everyone in my life, but things that cost more than I can possibly afford on my own. There are also things I think would be good for "the community", which I can't do alone.

However I am not under the impression that just because some things would be good, and would arguably benefit a lot of people, I am justified in forcing you to pay for them, even if I can see no other way. I can describe what I want, and try to convince others to pitch in. I could even whine and plead and cry. As long as I don't use coercion- or delegate someone else to use coercion for the cause- I am doing nothing wrong. Annoying, perhaps, but not wrong.

It is also why I would not impose a libertarian paradise on you without leaving you a simple way to opt out.

Just as soon as I use violence, or even skillfully veiled threats of violence, to get my way, I have crossed the line from right to wrong. It doesn't matter what the money was for, or how many people it might benefit. I have de-legitimized my cause by giving up on convincing others to help voluntarily and lowering myself to the level of the common crook.

So, is there something you think should be done that you can't afford to do by yourself? Then start telling others why you believe it is important and convince them to go along with you. Don't turn to coercion, not even through the enforced opinions of a voting majority, to accomplish your goals. That just shows you couldn't sway enough people to voluntarily help you accomplish your goal, but were only able to convince enough who believe coercion is OK and are willing to use force against people who don't want to participate. It means you failed. Don't fail.



  1. My neighborhad a large dying tree in his yard. through which passed the power lines for his house my house and a third neighbors house.
    Calling my neighbors together I could have said, "When that tree falls it will pull all our lines out and set fire to our houses, it will cost $500 to have it cut down. want to split three ways?"
    Or I could have said. "You own that tree, cut it or I will sue you."
    The tree is gone and my neighbors feed me, invite me over for birthdays, and there children play in my yard. Which approach did I use?

  2. Sounds like you used the reasonable course and made the offer to share the burden.
    What would you have done had he refused?

  3. Good question,
    For $1500, I could have had my power line rerouted as a buried cable, and been out of danger. I had already priced that option.

  4. I had a suspicion you would have a good, non-coercive answer.

    That's what gets me about some (other) people. When the first attempt fails, they jump over any other good options and go directly for the coercion. It isn't that hard to avoid bringing coercion into the mix.

    Thank you very much for giving this example!

  5. The story above occured three years ago. The cooperation has continued. When the husbands are away I will bring up the trash cans on trash day. When my can got turned over in the street while I was busy in the house by the time I had gotten dressed to go out and clean up, everything was squared away. I was sick last summer and the grass was cut. I have an excelent snow blower and hit the three driveways when needed. I never have to buy gas and Hot Cocoa flows freely. When my neighbor had a death in the family we cooked. when the other gave birth we celabrated. It is a good thing to have good neighbors, and requires little effort.