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The Reality Of Freedom #1: Freedom Requires Coercion

Whenever something is scarce,  some concept of property (the exclusive use of a resource)  is necessary for the development of incentives, coordination, and production — even if the difference between ‘several property’ and ‘shareholder property’, is defined differently by different groups — therefore all societies include and sanction some form of coercion.  No society can exist without coercion. This applies to tribal hunter gatherers, nomads, village agrarians, market city dwellers, and vast urban and rural empires in a complex division of knowledge and labor.

We can equally forgo the opportunity for violence theft, fraud, corruption.  For the poorest, this means refraining from theft, fraud, deception and violence in exchange for access to the market society and it’s prices. For the middle class, it means refraining from fraud and deception in exchange for participating in the market society and profiting from it.  For the wealthiest, it means refraining from manipulation of market prices or and participating in corruption of the rules of the market, and corruption, in exchange for status and choice.  For the most powerful it means refraining from corruption, and refraining from laziness, incompetence, and maintaining disciplined efforts to serve the marketplace in exchange for freedom from participation in the marketplace.

Each of these forgone opportunities for profit is a cost to the individual.  Cumulatively, for each individual, and for any society, these are very, very high costs, because opportunities for violence, theft, fraud, deception, market manipulation, and corruption are more frequent than opportunities for fair exchange of goods and services due to asymmetries of knowledge and resources — even if the type of cost is different along the spectrum: theft and violence are easiest for the bottom and corruption is most easy for the top.

[callout=’Freedom’]There is no social order that is free of coercion as long as there is scarcity. Property itself is a form of coercion. It must be or we would not have to invent it and enforce it.[/callout]

There is no social order that is free of coercion as long as there is scarcity.  Property itself is a form of coercion. It must be or we would not have to invent it and enforce it.

The coercion that people object to, and classify as corruption, is profiteering by the political class.  Or financial coercion, which means the taking of their time, opportunity, effort, property, or most importantly, status, and to some degree their very attention,  and distributing it to people with whom they disagree, or using it for purposes with which they disagree.  They see this as corruption: obtaining political office and favors by taking from one group and giving to another whom they disfavor.

All societies concentrate and redistribute wealth. All societies participate in coercion – or else they could not have property and production.  But whenever a society consists of people with dissimilar interests, by definition there must be negative coercion.

Almost all members of any society will tolerate any commonly accepted set of property definitions, even if the scope of individual property is severely limited.  They may form black markets if that scope is too severely limited.  They may form tax avoidance schemes if taxes are too expansive.  But if those definitions remain constant, and they do not have to feel that their plans, and efforts at gain were frustrated, then they will not see the state as coercive.

Freedom is defined as freedom from coercion. Meaning freedom from all but equal coercions. And the only freedom we can equally coerce each other with is respect for property. And even then, respecting property is a higher cost for some, and lower for others.

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