John Holbo: Coercion vs. Freedom: BHL vs. BRG
Charting Our Policy Insanity: One Year Ago

With Torches and Pitchforks, the Denizens of Crooked Timber Advance on the Fortress of "Contractarian Consent Equals Legitimacy"…

The argument that whatever relationships of subordination and subjection you entered into are ipso facto legitimate ones--that you consented and contracted for them, didn't you, and you did so because they were a good, nay the best, deal open to you, weren't they (for if they weren't, you would have chosen something else)?--has always been subject to two critiques:

  1. You did not get what you thought you had paid for--that the deal you were shown was merely the demo, and now you are locked into something that was not what you expected…
  2. That just because you chose this one--consented and contracted to it--doesn't mean that it does not s*&k, just that the other options open to you s*&k far worse…

In my view, the standard responses--whether from Reason or Marginal Revolution--to this seem to me to shade a little too much into the Roman justification of slavery, which goes more-or-less like this:

  1. A dishonorable man has no rights, and is owed no consideration.
  2. An honorable man does not fear but welcomes death fighting his enemies.
  3. Those who enslaved you thereby made themselves your enemies.
  4. Well, what are you waiting for?
  5. You say you have no weapons? You have your fists, and your arms, and your brain, and your teeth!
  6. Well, what are you waiting for?
  7. (Pause)
  8. I gather you are not an honorable man. (See C.J. Cherryh, Hunter of Worlds.)

"Man"--and "single man" without dependents--is, I think, somewhat important here. Belle Waring:

Infringements on Worker’s Rights: Not Imaginary: Oh Christ. IMAGINATIVE EMPATHY FAIL. The imaginative empathy fail button at CT headquarters is turning around and blaring and stuff….

Everyone! Please try to imagine you are a poor person! For at least 45 seconds at a minimum.

Also, if you look at an 80-comment thread and only one commenter with a visibly female handle has said anything, would you please just, go get someone off the street or something, or like maybe the woman next to you at Starbucks, to comment? Don’t tell her it’s about libertarianism!! Don’t be hitting on her either. Unless you’ve got mad game like Kells….

Do you know how becoming a Jesuit differs from taking on a job that is unpleasant? You don’t need to become a Jesuit to get money to buy food and clothes for your family! For real! You’re not even supposed to have a family!... This could be an interesting sidebar discussion but it has nothing to say about the “putting up with awful things to have a job” issue. We’re not talking about the merely unpleasant:

I didn’t particularly feel like looking up all those cases.

We’re talking about the:

I have to carefully arrange things so that I’m never in the stock-taking area at the back of the store alone with my boss or he’ll put his hand up my skirt and try to finger fuck me and I can’t get away and when someone finally does come in after time has stretched out to a thousand aeons it’s I who will be hot and red with shame and he who will laugh and wink and even joke about how I can’t stay away from him. And his two or three toadies will laugh along. And even my friends will giggle nervously, looking at me with contrary sympathy, because no one wants to get fired, but it has happened to them. And I can’t quit because my sister-in-law has been unemployed for 15 months and I’m afraid he’ll tell everyone in my small town I’m “difficult” and no one will ever hire me.

That thing, that I just talked about? Is a real thing happening right now…. When you don’t have savings, when your credit cards are maxed out and you are getting calls every day that you have to try and hide from your children, when you are praying that your car doesn’t break down—you are not free to quit. You have to suck it up. For your kids, for your family. Your moms.

And there has been a remarkable elision in the discussion of libertarianism subsequent to my husband’s post and to Chris Bertram, Corey Robin and Alex Gourevitch’s below. The elision is from “refuses to let you leave the room to pee and you have to wear adult diapers to work and sit in your own fucking piss for hours” to “bosses you around.” That’s really smoothing out the rough edges a bit much, I think, and is extraordinarily unhelpful…

John Holbo, more abstractly, quoting Friedrich von Hayek on the reductio ad absurdam of consent-and-contract-as-legitimacy:

Coercion vs. Freedom: BHL vs. BRG (Happy 4th of July!): Friedrich Hayek:

Anyone is, of course, entitled to “identify liberty… with the process of active participation in public power and public law making.”… [T]his use tends to obscure the fact that a person may vote or contract himself into slavery and thus consent to give up freedom… It would be difficult to maintain that a man who voluntarily but irrevocably had sold his services for a long period of years to a military organization such as the Foreign Legion remained free thereafter in our sense….

If you voluntarily contract yourself into slavery, it does not follow that you are still free. Hayek wants to wield this as an argument against construing participatory political power as either necessary or sufficient for ensuring freedom. But it works as well as an argument against the sufficiency of ensuring contracting power, as a mechanism for maximizing freedom…