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From a reader:

Hi, Jonah,

Yes, and Tomasky also has to give a positive account of “non-coercive liberalism,” not just tell us that it’s the kind opposed to coercive liberalism. What does it look like to have a society that puts all sorts of power in the hands of the state, but “non-coercively”?

Let me guess. It’s a society in which almost everyone’s a liberal and the overwhelming majority vote in support of big welfare state policies. “There’s no coercion; we’re voting that way. We’ve deliberated peaceably in the forum and most of our society’s members have gotten on board. All aboard!” Alright, so there’s your positive account.

The problem is the loss of liberty (a pesky issue that seems to dog totalitarianism no matter what it does to avoid it.) Even if an overwhelming majority vote for a nice-fascist society, and their representatives agree and implement it, two stubborn facts remain: The minority is coerced by the new policies (QED). And the majority also no longer have their liberty. Should any liberal decide to go back to have individual lives of liberty, he will be prevented from doing so by the obstacles he helped vote into place. Now it will take a majority vote to dismantle the big-state policies (if even that will work.) Until he gets a majority to agree with him to return to liberty, our regretful liberal will be coerced by the big state, his individual rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness no longer being protected by the state (another QED). Sure, we all decide to bend our will into alignment with the General Will. The problem is once you start, you can’t have just one. You try to kick the habit and the General Will doesn’t allow it. In other words, the General Will is totalitarian. Non-coercive big-statism is General Will-ish. Therefore, non-coercive big-statism is totalitarian. But totalitarianism is coercive. So the whole thing is oxymoronic.

So, what does it look like to have a non-coercive liberal state? It doesn’t look like anything. No such thing.

Just saying,
Jim
 



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