“Coercion Equals Voluntary Action”
January 10, 2011 · Posted in Government
One of the most fundamental facts about human action seems to be that no matter what people do, they always need to have a moral justification for their actions. Whatever people do, they need to believe and make others believe that they did what was right, good, just, etc.
The same holds true in the political sphere. Fundamentally, politicians cannot get away with actions unless they can sell them to the people who tolerate their leadership as right, good, just, etc.
Since humans need to describe, communicate, and justify their actions using words, language becomes a popular target for conscious or subconscious manipulation. A good example from Orwell’s 1984 would be “Freedom is Slavery”.
Even today, citizens (conservatives and progressives alike) need such doublespeak in order to make up a justification for the existence of, acceptance of, and obedience to the government, an entity that can only exist due to the initiation of violence of threat thereof against its citizens’ bodies or property, should they not comply.
While the type of language and the types of justifications differ on both sides based on their political tendencies (left vs right), for both of them and in fact for all states around the world there is one core justification that is the basis for all the other ones:
Coercion Equals Voluntary Action.
This is the core logical fallacy that you will often run into when you talk to anybody who tries to morally justify the existence of a government. If a belief system is based upon this idea, then it cannot withstand this shakiness and error at its core, just as valid mathematical or physical theories cannot possibly be based upon the idea that “0=1″ or that “up is down”.
How does this fallacy manifest itself at the root of people’s thinking?
Well, whenever you talk to others about the validity and/or necessity of government programs, and you bring up the idea that taxation is the confiscation of one’s property via the initiation of violence or threat thereof, they come up on a pretty clear, simple, yet inconvenient crossroad: They can either accept reality, or continue to delude themselves via the manipulation of language.
If they accept reality, then you have accomplished one of the rare feats in the realm of philosophical education: You have turned on a light switch. These moments are rare, but it is in such moments that you are doing the world a great service.
On the other hand, the more common thing you will likely encounter at that point is that the person you are talking to will do whatever they can to make coercion look like voluntary action. Common arguments are:
“You voluntarily choose taxation because you are staying in this country. If you don’t like it, then you can get out!”
“There is a social contract that we all voluntarily enter into when we are born. Violating it gives the government the right to use violence in defense against your act of aggression!”
“You are being given a choice: Prison or paying taxes. Since you are given this choice, it is all voluntary!”
“It’s just like renting an apartment. When you fail to pay the landlord he has the right to use violence to remove you from his property!”
Voluntary action is by definition an action that is not performed under aggression (=initiation of violence) or the threat thereof. It is thus impossible to cast acts of aggression as voluntary action without committing the most rampant logical fallacy you can possibly commit in the realm of human action.
All these long refuted excuses for tyranny and aggression need not bother us here in particular. In fact, if such thinking wasn’t virtually imprinted onto people’s DNA, the existence of the systems that people around the world tolerate would make little to no sense at all.
What is important is to do your best to communicate these ideas as consistently and as passionately as you can. They are like a gift that’s been withheld from most people for their entire lives. What they choose to do with it once presented, is entirely up to them. A choice, by the way, that is of voluntary nature. :)