(From chapter thirteen of The Freedom App)
State coercion displaces other means of addressing problems. It is so much easier and widely effective (in the short term) to simply go to the guy with the gun and pay him to force a law on others.
Perhaps a person believes that wearing a seat belt in a moving car is the wisest thing for anyone to do. Not satisfied to simply wear his own seatbelt, he lobbies the State to force everyone to adopt his viewpoint on the matter.
Once a law is passed, agents for the State patrol the streets and roadways looking for violators of the new law and they take money from those who share a different opinion on the matter. In the absence of any true victim or interference with property money is taken from people who simply do not share the opinion of the folks who lobbied to have the new law created.
All other solutions are driven from the marketplace by the monopoly coercive method of the State. Differences in automobile injury insurance might have accomplished the same end non-coercively. New designs in car seats or restraint devices might have. Awareness campaigns advertising the merits of seat belts might have accomplished the same goal without using force. Those with strong feelings on the matter could have paid seat belt non-users for their compliance.
But why do any of those non-violent, non-coercive things? Why not just vote for a coercer with the power of a gun to force your opinion on everyone? It so simple. It’s the same thought process of the thief in the alley who could exert himself to earn his own money but discovered that simply coercing people out of theirs is so much faster and easier.
The unseen cost is not only the friction to positive production lost to coercion, it is also the cost of opening the Pandora’s box of allowing any coercion into a society. History shows that State coercion always escalates to the point of permeating every aspect of people’s lives. Is there any property or activity today not governed by a coercive law?
Today most people would find it hard to believe that in the recent past a person could make any amount of money and not have to report it to the State. He could keep the money in a bank account in his own or a friend’s or a relative’s name because there was no reporting or tax liability to worry about. He could move his money from country to country without being placed on a list of possible violent criminals like drug dealers or terrorists.
People still alive today worked at a time when there was no tax on their income and no sales taxes at the cash register or gas pump. Unused airline tickets could be sold in newspaper classified ads because the airline only needed to see the ticket, not the name of the person on the ticket or any identification from the passenger. Paper money was backed by gold so printing more money was not possible without doing the work of mining more gold. Any person could exchange his paper money for an equal value of gold.
Coercion always grows in a society where coercion is part of the operational mechanism. Witness the level of intrusion into our personal lives and finances in our contemporary society. Financial reporting for taxation alone requires disclosing some of the most personal information we own and virtually every activity is subject to regulation. Regulation, in the political sense, is a euphemism for coercion.
In the absence of available coercion people must turn to peaceful persuasion as a means of influencing the opinions and actions of others. If a company wants to influence potential customers to fly across the ocean in its airplanes, it can inform them of the merits of flying versus taking a ship across the ocean. In a Contractual Republic there is no way to outlaw passenger ships, or have a tax assessed against the industry or force ports to refuse to accept the ships.
Such a society develops a sensitivity to reason and scientific method as a means to examine issues and reach conclusions. Of course, flying over oceans is better for some people and crossing by ship is better for others. That is the nature of free markets; choices flourish and are not restrained by artificial means.
Even an ugly, divisive issue like abortion is far better served by persuasion than by coercion. The nature of human life is that a woman owns her body and everything in it. To create a situation where a woman, by virtue of becoming pregnant, is controlled by the demands of other people is to literally engage in slavery over Freedom. In a free society a woman has the moral right to jump off a cliff and end her life. If she is pregnant she does not lose the right of control over her body.
Of course, few people want to see a woman end her life or the life of a baby growing inside of her. In a non-coercive society compassionate people find ways to assist and encourage women in distressed pregnancies. Rather than raise millions of dollars each year to pay for the campaign advertising of lying politicians who promise to act coercively, the same money — and likely much more since it would never be wasted — can be directed to persuading women to carry pregnancies to full term in exchange for some benefit to them and their baby.
On the whole, humans try to make rational decisions, and when there is a better reason to not have an abortion than there is to have one then most people will choose the better option. This dynamic has the added benefit of measuring how much pro-life advocates truly care about the women and babies concerned. It’s one thing to say to the man with the gun, “Force her to do what I want — at her expense.” It’s another thing to say, “I’d like to encourage you to do what I want — at my expense.”
Voluntary persuasion encourages civility. Coercion encourages savagery.
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