[ExI] Coercion in context/was Re: Private and government R&D

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Wed Jul 1 21:32:32 UTC 2009

--- On Tue, 6/30/09, Stefano Vaj <stefano.vaj at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Tue, Jun 30, 2009 at 3:02 PM, Dan<dan_ust at yahoo.com> wrote:
>> I'm not sure what you mean by "prohibition."  The
>> first thing that comes to mind is, of course, things made
>> illegal, such as alcohol during Probition in the 1920s in
>> the US or many recreational drugs now in most of the world.
>> These prohibitions are state coercion -- since they are
>> enforced by using the violence, real or implied, of the
>> state.
> OK. But we were discussing "coerced" vs "voluntary" tech
> development.
> My point was exactly that "coercion" may also have a
> negative content.
> Sometimes arising from legal, sometimes from "cultural"
> norms.

I'm not sure exactly what you mean.  Coercion would have to, to be objective, imply a context where rights (rights not to be interfered with, that is) are defined.

That the state is not the only source of coercion, I freely admit and have underscored before.  The state, however, tends to be the largest and most routine source of coercion in any statist society.  (In fact, when this is not the case, it's either that we have a nominal state which is ineffective and another de facto state that actually is the largest source of coercion or the rare case of stateless societies.)

That cultural norms can be coercive is true.  For example, in a stateless society with slavery, one can argue that the cultural norms enforce slavery.  And slavery is coercive -- some people who presumably have a right to not be enslaved are enslaved.  (In general, too, in stateless societies, it's much harder to keep coercive norms going for long because it's harder to enforce them.  Think of the slave example in the US pre-1865 context.  Slavery seemed both a cultural norm in the US's South and was legally enforced in the whole US.  Legal enforcement made it cheaper for slaveowners to hold slaves because the cost of enforcing slavery was redistributed to the rest of society.  Were this not so, then slaves would merely have to leave the plantation and head to another part of the US -- a place where either people didn't agree with slavery or one where regardless of agreeing with it they weren't going to waste their resources returning someone else's
 slaves -- without fear of being returned.)

But the case we are discussing -- public funding of R&D -- seems clearly coercive and not a social or cultural norms issue.  That taxation and other government funding methods require force to continue seems uncontroversial: people who don't pay taxes, if they are caught, go to jail or face stiff fines and property seizures; people who try to set up rival currencies, likewise, are punished.




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