By: Patrick T. Ourant
What Is Coercion?
Webster's New Collegiate defines coerce as:
1. To restrain or dominate by nullifying individual will; 2. To compel to an act or choice;
3. To enforce or bring about by force or threat.
Coercion is essentially the overwhelming of the will of another by force or threat of force, or through less noticeable forms such as fraud. The use of coercion is the means by which a person or group of people impose their will upon another or others. Coercion can also be used to forcibly or fraudulently take the property of others. A crucial qualification of the initiation of force or the threat of force must be present. As long as an individual has done nothing to harm others or violate another's rights, no one has the right to initiate force or the threat of force against that individual. A distinction needs to be made between initiated force, and force used in self-defense. You are quite justified in using force, the threat of force, bluffing, deception, etc., to prevent others from coercing you. Although you need to decide for yourself if, depending on the circumstances, if it would be worth the risk of being harmed more by resisting someone's attempt to coerce you. How to Treat Your Neighbors
Suppose that you want to organize a cookout with your neighbors. What would happen if you went to your neighbor's house and told him that he and his family must join you in planning the cookout and that he must pay his fair share; and if he doesn't submit to "voluntary compliance", then you will "enforce" his cooperation by hiring someone to confiscate his property and/or lock him up. If he resists then they may have to harm him even worse with bodily injury. Would this type of behavior be a formula for conducting harmonious relationships? Or would it cause resentment, conflict, and other problems? Please think about this. Is this the sort of formula that government bureaucrats adhere to?
There is a common-law principle that states that for there to be a crime, there has to be a victim. Without a victim there is no crime. There cannot be a "victimless crime". There is also a principle which states that for a contract to be valid, it has to be knowingly and voluntarily entered into by both parties. By attempting to force people to do something when they haven't committed a crime or entered into a contract to do it, is coercion. Persuasion vs. Coercion
Coercion needs to be distinguished from persuasion where someone may merely argue truthfully and convincingly with someone else over why they should or shouldn't do something. Many people are severely deficient in many thinking skills. People, who can't think soundly about a particular area or topic, tend to substitute coercion for thought. Sometimes this happens in several areas of a person's life. For example, a parent, lacking the necessary skills to persuade a child to do the right thing, resorts to coercion, establishing a pervasive and destructive pattern.
Coercive political systems are simply the extension of this type of atmosphere to the level of society. If people tolerate the substitution of coercion as thought for themselves, it's no wonder that they support coercive political systems to practice coercion on their behalf. Levels of Coercion
In its strongest form, coercion involves the killing of another. Next comes threatening to kill someone unless he or she obeys you. Threatening to beat, rob, or incarcerate is next. The strongest forms of coercion involve force or threat of force, sometimes even deadly force. Government bureaucrats tend to operate at these levels as a last resort. Political power comes from the barrel of a gun, said Mao. This is also the level of the violent criminal, the robber or the murderer.
Then there's blackmail by compelling someone to make a payment or perform a specific action or service, or be harmed in some way, such as disclosure of a...