Monday, December 13, 2010

Coercion Betrays the Vice of Laziness

Tibor R. Machan

So many people who try to justify coercing others to part with their lives, time, resources and so forth claim that the goals to be served justify the coercion. Indeed, one hears it said often that we must realize there are greater goals than our own ones that need to be served by us. Anything else is greedy or selfish or some such thing or other. So don’t fret about your liberty, you selfish monster you. (And by what moral right do slaves and serfs insist that they be set free? Go figure.)

Now I have an observation to offer that should wake up people to just what kind of ruse all this amounts to. If you believe that there are these very important goals that everyone must serve and for the sake of which they may be coerced, how is it that coercion is the chosen approach instead of, say, proselytizing, advocating, crusading, promoting, campaigning and all the other peaceful, non-coercive ways one can go about raising support for what one believes is really worthwhile? Not only is it inhuman to force people to do the right thing--it deprives them of the morally significant choice of whether to do it themselves--but it also shows one’s own laziness or, even worse, hypocrisy. After all, if everyone ought to believe in and support this supposedly superior goal, would it not follow that one who is fully convinced of its great merit would be first in line to actually work for it instead of trying to force others do so? I mean here that they ought really to work and not merely vote for government regulations and rules to force others to comply with the idea.

Only voluntary compliance with good ideas, including moral imperatives, amounts to something praiseworthy. Anything else is morally insignificant--at the point of the gun, morality ends as Ayn Rand once pointed out. But those who would enforce such imperatives should of course be the first out there doing what they preach. And to respect their fellow citizens, they should always use persuasion, never coercion to achieve their goals. Using coercive force on others to get them to do anything, including what is worthwhile when done voluntarily, is treating people as if they were the children of those using the coercion. If adults make use of such means, it is unjustifiable except it amounts to retaliation of the prior use of force, as in self-defense. Who are these adults regimenting fellow adults anyway?

Why then are so many people utilizing coercive force to get others to pursue all those great ideas they believe need service from everyone? Could it be that (a) these people talk a good game but do not at all really believe in putting their money whether their mouths are; and (b) might they just be so damned lazy that they want everyone else to come up with the effort excepting them? After all, if a cause is that worthy, surely one way to serve it is to go out and diligently hustle up support for it. Here is where the traditional peaceful missionaries can serve as a good model--most of them believe and preach instead of using weapons or the threat of them to serve their ideals.

But no, the bulk of those advocating using force really just want other people to do the work that they pretend to be committed to doing, serve the objectives they pretend to cherish so much. Are they then better than ordinary criminals who circumvent the honorable ways of interacting with their fellows and resort, instead, to stealing, lying, cheating, murdering, raping and doing all kinds of other things that do not respect the rights of others? You know the correct answer to this, of course. Please try to make sure everyone else reaches the same insight--these coercers are unabashed bullies.

Those who reject coercion as a means for getting things done have a bit of a disadvantage because they must, if they are to possess any integrity, abide by their own policy of refraining from coercing others even if the objective is morally impeccable. Certainly implementing voluntary relationships among people qualifies as that.

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