Thursday, March 31, 2011

Almost persuaded...

I would guess it would be accurate to assume that everybody has been influenced by another person at sometime in their lives. I remember that back at Millville Grade School, my old buddy Stinky Wilmont influenced me and a few others into trouble on more than one occasion. Invariably, when a questionable activity was discovered by a non-participating student who was on the playground safety patrol, and we were pleading our case before Principal Baker, the first line of defense was usually "Stinky made us do it!". That line of reasoning never carried much weight with the powers to be at the time, and as I grew a little older, and hopefully a little wiser, it started to carry a little less weight with me.

I think what the principal knew at the time, and what I figured out later, is the difference between persuasion and coercion. Admittedly, Stinky could be pretty persuasive, but as long as he didn't threaten us with bodily injury or some other measure of force, we were at liberty to walk away and join Bernice Hawkins on the maypole or some other less controversial means of entertainment.

My parents, who raised 8 of us kids just up the road from Millville, were always pretty good at persuasion, too, although when persuasion failed, they weren't above a little coercion if the situation or attitude made it necessary. Like most families, once we reached adulthood, the use of coercion and force gave way to persuasion and logic.

I think that's how things ought to work. Most of us in our day to day lives rely on persuasion. I operate a small construction business, and I spend part of my time trying to persuade people to hire us for the job they want done. If I can't come up with a way to persuade them to do that, then I start looking for people with another job that I can persuade.

Sometimes people try to persuade us to work for them, and sometimes we just can't work it in to our schedule. I assume they end up persuading someone else to work for them. However things work out, it's all based on persuasion. I don't get to force anybody to hire us, and no one gets to force us to work for them.

Every Sunday, the newspapers are chock full of advertisements that try to persuade us to buy from one store or another. It's been my experience that some stores are more persuasive than others, and certainly some people are more easily persuaded than others, but you likely won't see a store employee dragging a customer in from the street and forcing them to make a purchase.

That's how people generally deal with other people. Government, however, doesn't quite work that way. George Washington correctly pointed out that: "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master."

Every law, regulation, rule or tax that the government adopts is backed with force or the threat of force. While on a personal level we might try to persuade our friends to wear their seatbelts or donate to a charity, when the government gets involved, persuasion gives way to coercion and force, in the form of fines and jail sentences. Or worse.

Libertarians believe that the proper role of government is to protect us from the initiation of force and fraud, and otherwise allow adults to make their own decisions based on peaceful persuasion. We think limiting government to its proper role is the best way to limit the amount of force and coercion it can inflict on its citizens.

I hope eventually we're able to persuade more people to feel the same.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes, (especially around tax time!)I feel like Stinky is setting on my chest, making me eat worms!

12:07 PM  

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