Our Lexicon: Coercion

When you initiate or threaten violence against someone you are using coercion. You are being coercive.

Coercion is what The State does. It is the only tool The State has.

Every law and regulation is based on coercion. If you disobey The State's dictates then eventually people with guns will arrive to compel you to comply. If you continue to resist then The State's agents will use violence against you to subdue you and punish you. They may even kill you.

Only two groups behave this way. Criminals and those who work for The State. But unlike criminal gangs, The State is a massive monopoly, with little to constrain it within the territory it controls. For this reason it should not be surprising to learn that The State has murdered more people throughout history than all individual criminals combined.

Professor R.J. Rummel estimates the total number of murders by The State at 262 million in the 20th Century alone.

America's Founders well understood the dangerous nature of The State. This is why they took so many steps to limit what the new American State could do. They sought to create a State that would actually protect people from coercion rather than subject them to it.

The key to these constraints on State power is the difference between the initiation of force and retaliatory force for self-defense. If you defend yourself, you are NOT being coercive. The American State was supposed to be an institution of retaliation, not initiation. For instance . . .

  • You are presumed innocent until proved guilty.
  • The State must have evidence showing the probability that you have harmed others before it can intrude on your life.
  • The State must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that you have coerced others before it can coerce you.

The entire U.S. Constitution was an attempt to create a State that was prohibited from initiating force (coercion), and limited to retaliatory force (self-defense). It was an imperfect attempt from the start, and has had its ups and downs since . . .

  • Slavery was permitted and then abolished.
  • Racial discrimination was the law, then abolished, and then made somewhat mandatory again through racial quotas.
  • Laws imposing prior restraint on human freedom were frowned upon, but then proliferated with the birth of the regulatory state.

The level of State coercion has fluctuated constantly, but one thing is clear . . .

Severe limits on State coercion are what made the American State different from all previous States, and the gradual loss of these limits has served to diminish American freedom and the greatness freedom produces. We must work to perfect a system that forbids coercion. The State must be prohibited from initiating or threatening violence. It must be restricted to retaliatory force only.

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Copyright (c) 2010 by Perry Willis. Permission to distribute this blog post for educational purposes is granted, if done with attribution to the author and the Downsize DC Foundation. Permission to use for commercial purposes is denied.