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The free market is coercive and powerful too

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Our libertarian friends make a big deal about how laws are coercive. Some go so far as to assert they do 'violence' against people, whatever that means, and as such are at least arguably wrong.

Maybe so, maybe no. It seems reasonable to allow that government when acting within its proper sphere must be allowed that strength. Still, the coercive ability of government certainly is indeed powerful and as such must be limited. But as the typical libertarian also demands freedom (whatever they mean by that) and free markets, we find ourselves asking, isn't freedom, aren't the markets, coercive too? Cannot people acting freely nonetheless be doing violence to others through whatever coercive measures may be at their disposal?

When a large corporate structure makes its employees work on what are holidays for most of the populace, isn't it being coercive? When a large corporate structure leans on its vendors for better prices and service, isn't it being coercive (and arguably violent, to use the libertarian catchphrase)? Why aren't such 'violences', which most certainly infringe on the freedom of others, as wrong as government action?

Perhaps because those involved in private endeavors realize what they're up against and accept the cost. That appears fair enough, so far as it goes. Yet how far does it really go? If you need your job but would like the time off with your family and friends, you are at least, again, arguably, having a violence done against you when made to work when most others are enjoying days off. If you have no realistic choice but to take the job you've got or are offered, isn't that still a demand against your freedom and free will? If Large Corporate Structure leans on your company or you employer's company to give a better deal or else, isn't violence being done to you and them? Why is that less of an affront to human dignity that a law?

Don't misunderstand our point: we would far prefer freer markets and freer people than we have in America today, and freer markets would surely give people greater choices in where they work and what they buy. We are simply not impressed with the violence argument with regard to government action. The question isn't whether government actions are coercive but whether they are right. So long as they are right, issues of freedom are superfluous. But more, if freedom is the real point of libertarianism then the movement ought to be a bit more concerned with a decided lack of real choice on the part of many people much of the time, and realize that often they are at the mercy of forces if not as powerful as government, still very strong and still to some degree oppressive. That was part of the point of Pope Francis's recent encyclical. Threats to freedom and dignity are not all at the hands of a congress or parliament.



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