Sunday, April 23, 2017

Coercion And Consequences

Comments on: Finding Liberty Between Vulnerability and Coercion by Adam Gurri

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Xero: The products at the grocery store aren’t equally relevant to my reality. Fortunately, I get to pick and choose which products I spend my money on. I have the chance to use my money to let the store know which products are the most important to me. The store offers me, and everyone else, the opportunity to substantially participate in the prioritization process. In other words, the store is a market.

The products (shows/movies) on Netflix aren’t equally relevant to my reality. Unfortunately, I don’t get to pick and choose which products I spend my fees on. I don’t have the chance to use my money to let Netflix know which products are the most important to me. Netflix does not offer me, or anyone else, the opportunity to substantially participate in the prioritization process. Netflix is not a market.

Coercion can be defined as preventing people from substantially participating in the prioritization process. With this definition, the government really does not have a monopoly on coercion. Netflix also engages in coercion.

However, the fact of the matter is that hardly anybody wants Netflix to be a market. So the real issue isn’t “delicately balancing” anything. The real issue is figuring out the rules of coercion. When is it beneficial to disregard how relevant things are to people’s reality? When is it beneficial to prevent people from substantially participating in the prioritization process? When does coercion truly make the world a better place for everyone?

Gurri: Coercion is making someone do something against their consent. Netflix certainly does not coerce anyone.

Xero: Netflix certainly doesn’t force me to subscribe. But if I choose to subscribe… does this mean that I necessarily consent to Netflix spending my money on products made by Michael Moore?

The government doesn’t force me to stay in the US. I certainly have the freedom to move to Canada. If I choose to remain in the US and pay taxes…. does this mean that I necessarily consent to the government spending my money on the drug war? If the government asked me… “Hey guy, do you consent to having your tax dollars spent on the drug war?”… my answer would be… “F no!!!”

The government and Netflix don’t care how relevant their specific products are to my reality. But I don’t choose to exit from their services because the alternatives sure aren’t any better. Also, in the case of the government, exit certainly isn’t cheap or easy…

Yes, you can change citizenship, but it takes years of paperwork, many thousands of dollars, and requires a total uprooting of yourself and all your work/family/friend connections. It’s a herculean labor even for those for whom it goes smoothly, and the hard experiences of so many immigrants demonstrates how exercising that choice rarely generates a smooth passage thereafter. So we live caught between that rock and the hard place of living under a government that may have nothing to do with how we want to live or be governed. – Ada Palmer, The Dystopian Question and Minorities of One

Preventing people from substantially participating in the prioritization process has a serious consequence. The consequence is a big disparity between the world we live in and the world that we want to live in.

Gurri: When you give Netflix your money, your consent no longer enters into how they use it.

When you do not give the US your money, they fine you or send you to jail. That’s coercion. If you don’t pay Netflix, they just cancel your service. The parallel simply doesn’t hold.

Xero: When you do not give the US your money, they fine you or send you to jail… because you’re using goods (roads, defense, etc) that you aren’t paying for. You’d be punished for stealing. Same thing if you somehow used Netflix without paying for it. I don’t know if anybody has necessarily gone to jail for stealing cable but some people have certainly been caught and punished for doing so.

So the parallel does hold. And again, whether we’re talking about Netflix or the government, the actual and real issue is that the products are not equally relevant to your reality. Is it beneficial when the money that you earn is spent on products that aren’t at all relevant to your reality? Is it beneficial when you’re prevented from substantially participating in the prioritization process?

Whether we’re talking about Netflix or the government… ideally you should be as happy as a kid in a candy store. There should be a gazillion products that are extremely relevant to your reality. But this ideal won’t be realized if you can’t pick and choose which products you spend your money on.

Basically, it’s less than useless to talk about coercion without considering the tangible consequences of coercion. Just like it’s less than useless to talk about theft without considering the tangible consequences of theft.

Gurri: Well I agree with your conclusion, but as usual you took a highly eccentric path to get there, hahaha.

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