Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The "coercion factor"

All government legislation initiating force against individuals is coercive. In fact, a bill's moral worth can be measured, so to speak, by its lack or level of coercion. We might call this the "coercion factor." We could even establish a numbers system for how coercive a measure is: on a scale of 0 to 10, with zero being non-coercive to 10 being murderously coercive.

The parameters for the measurement of a bill's coercion might be: 1) Does it force you to do something or prohibit you from doing something 2) Does it take family or property, including money, from you 3) What's the punishment for any violations 4) To what degree are the coercion and punishment 5) What precedent does it set for further coercion

There are hundreds of nuances to this kind of measurement, perhaps leaving most people to say, "Well, my gut says that's probably a '5' on the coercion factor."

For instance, a law could outlaw "hate" speech. That might rate a "2" on the scale, but if the punishment for that speech is the death penalty, then the coercive law must be rated a "10." If the punishment is a small fine, then perhaps it's a "3"; if a big fine, perhaps a "4." Or perhaps any coerciveness on speech automatically rates a "6," especially if a prison term is associated with it. In some countries, opposition political speech is punishable by the death penalty, which would rate those laws a "10."

Seat belt laws in every state in the union require you to spend 5 seconds to strap yourself in before driving or face a fine, usually not very big, but a fine nevertheless. If you obey this coercive legislation, then you may lose a small amount of your precious lifetime strapping yourself in. Perhaps you would always strap yourself in anyway. So, perhaps this law would rate a "1" for its small coercion and small fine.

How about taxes? Governments take anywhere from 30% to 60% of our income each year -- for those of us who work and own property such as cars. The punishment for not paying taxes is at least a significant fine and possibly, if you refuse to pay the fines, imprisonment with people who may rape you or beat you to death. The coercive laws of taxation might then rate a "7" for the degree to which they rob you of your lifetime and threaten you with imprisonment if you do not allow them to rob you of your lifetime.

For an industrious soul, I'll leave the itemization of coercive laws and the measurement of the degree of coercion and punishment in those laws, as well as any precedent set.

But before I leave, I'll address the coercion factor of the takeover of health decisions in the United States of America by the execrable being sneering at us from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C.

The coercive bill on our health probably rates a "7." It will force each of us healthy (or unhealthy) individuals to buy health insurance; it forces every American to give private information to the government; it takes over a huge portion of industry; it penalizes those who do not cooperate with fines; it threatens imprisonment for not paying fines; it sets an ominous precedent for the further erosion of individual rights (I consider this by itself worthy of a "4").

For those of you asking, "OK, David, how did you come up with the '7' without actually quantifying each aspect of your five parameters?" I say to you, "Yes, you're right. Please be my guest. I would love for somebody with the inclination to do so to quantify all of the above. My interest lies in getting the ball rolling."

I would love to hear the "coercion factor" mentioned each time a liberal or conservative makes his case for some new piece of oppressive altruism. I'd like to hear principled individuals discuss the issue of legislation with fundamentals involving individual rights. I think the coercion factor helps do that. Each time a wretched congressman or president brags of wanting to help Haiti or the sick or the underprivileged, I want to hear the rebuttal: "Who are you forcing to pay for your altruism? How much will it cost? What happens if people refuse to go along? What's the coercion factor, you mangy dog?"

No comments: