Consent vs. Coercion

2-26-19 / Kyle Turnblazer

Consent is defined as “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something”. Coercion is defined as “the practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats”. These two ideas, or actions, are diametrically opposed to one another. Yet, we sometimes conflate one with the other. Why is that? That’s what I’m going to try to answer in this article. Let’s look at some examples of each first.



You wouldn’t like it very much is someone pulled a knife on you and demanded your wallet, would you? How about if someone shorted you on a debt or payment? What if they threatened you with physical violence if you didn’t provide some sort of service for them? Maybe someone has threatened to get you fired before, told you they’d “kick your ass” if you snitched on them, or even tried to force you into a situation you didn’t want to be a part of.


These are just a few examples of coercion. It sure is a good thing you don’t have to deal with this every day, huh? Well, we’ll get back to that.



How would you prefer most of your daily interactions to go? Peaceful? Voluntary? When, where, and how you “consent” to? You probably want to have some control over who you deal with and what those dealings may be. I know I do. Consent allows us to have more autonomy; freedom to choose.


Consent gives us the power to guide our own actions for the pursuit of our own ends. It’s a cornerstone in the foundation of civilization and many different philosophies. A friend once told me, “You’re right to say No is your right to exist”. The idea of consent is at the core of this powerful statement, and I’ll never forget it.



Living With Coercion


We would all like to think that we live our own lives, freely. We make our own decisions without the unwelcome guidance or threats of others. Afterall, we’re adults in the freest nation in the free world, right? Well, not exactly.


Americans have given up much (if not almost all) of their liberty for comfort and security. The organization that has stolen this freedom away is the very organization that was charged to protect it; the state. The state, in all it’s varying levels and degrees, is nothing more than a monopoly on violence. This violence is most often wielded in the form of coercion.

A short list of coercive acts perpetrated by the state is as follows:

Arresting peaceful people for “victimless crimes”.

Purporting to have control over the way you raise and educate your children.

Restricting one’s freedom to travel.

Severely diminishing one’s ability to defend his/her self and family.

Preventing people from seeking what medical attention they may see fit.

Stealing property in the name of “eminent domain” or “asset forfeiture”.

Holding a monopoly on such services as judicial, defense, and policing services, allowing no competition to help hold their agents accountable.

Creating partnered monopolies through the processes of licensure and regulation.

Pretending to be the world’s police while overthrowing foreign powers and controlling their resources.

Extorting their very citizenry with the awful practice of taxation.


Why do Americans deal with this awful system of governance? I thought that America was founded as an experiment in liberty. I thought that the nation’s constitution was drafted by men who wanted to be free from tyranny. The truth is that the state can not thrive in liberty. The state, by its very nature, needs to wield the power of coercion over its citizenry.


The German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer said it best in his 1908 book, The State.

“There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man…is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one’s own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others…I propose…to call one’s own labor and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the ‘economic means’…while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the ‘political means’.”


Oppenheimer’s “political means” describes the very nature of the state. The state cannot produce anything on its own. The state cannot participate in a free market. The state cannot do anything without without the full force and backing of its monopoly on violence. The state must steal labor, resources, and goods from its productive citizenry. The state is also the only organization that wields the power of taxation.


Taxation is at the heart of everything that’s coercive about the state. Taxation gives the coercive state its power. Taxation is how the state is able to fund all of its activities that you may or may not approve of. The coercive nature of taxation makes it, ipso facto, theft.


Avoiding the political means (coercion) and acting according to the economic means (consent) is at the heart of the liberty-lover’s philosophy. Voluntary interactions are the cornerstone of economic, religious, and civil liberty in the world today. I can’t speak for everyone else, but as for me, I choose not to be a part of the coercive political means.

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