Webster’s dictionary has two excellent definitions of coercion: (1) “To restrain or dominate by nullifying individual will.” (2) “To enforce by force or threat.” It is my view, and the view of modern day libertarians, that except for defensive functions, coercion is evil in every instance of its application.
Most people agree that government, financed through taxation, should establish a local police force, a court system to handle contract disputes, and a military to defend the borders of the country. The courts uphold the rights of all citizens equally, the police arrest murderers, thieves, con men, and anyone that physically assaults or steals from other human beings. The military protects the country from foreign attack. Other than these basic functions, it is the libertarian position that government has no business in restricting the individual will of the citizens.
Unfortunately, federal, state, and local governments have dealt a serious blow to individual freedom over the years. In my case, the feds extract thousands and thousands of dollars from me and spend it on “social engineering”, forcing me to help fund everything from flat screen televisions in ghettos to subsidies for phony businesses like Solyndra. The State of Minnesota extracts a special sales tax to support art projects in which I have no interest along with lousy public schools. Local governments dictate what setback I need for a new garage and on what streets I can ride my bicycle.
When the government tries to micro-manage industry, the environment, what goes on in our bedrooms, and what we can eat, drink and smoke, this is an insult to individual freedom. In fact, government is little more than some people telling other people what to do. If you’re a democrat you think it is fine to coerce hard working men and women to give more of their money as part of governments’ huge “Robin Hood” scheme. If you’re a republican you want to coerce gays not to marry and young women not to get an abortion. Either way, you’re an agent of coercion.
Moreover, the cloak of big government, this terrible result of both Democratic and Republican rule, assumes that people are inherently evil; that we need government to steer us in the right direction. I’ve got news for you. Most people are inherently good. They are inherently charitable, responsible, caring, and industrious. They don’t deserve to be coerced at every turn. This causes them to despise their government and makes it much harder for them to reap the rewards that individual freedom naturally provides for individuals and for society as a whole.
At every election we get to choose who will coerce us. This upcoming election, like most in the latter 20th century, offers little hope for freedom. The talk is cheap, but few politicians are willing to act in freedom and risk their political careers. Where, pray tell, is Galt’s Gulch? *
If you want to know where Galt’s Gulch is, read Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
Or you could just “google” it like my students!