I just recently finished reading a book called The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture can't be Jammed and it got me thinking about coercion in a way I've neglected in the past. This topic is to explore the role of coercion in a just society, whether it be a theoretical ideal or a contemporary/historical reality. If any of you have followed my more political posts here you may have noticed a trajectory in my development. Initially I would have described myself as a moderate statist social democrat. A relatively mainstream position that sees the state as a just entity that ought to be used to correct market failures, protect rights, keep the power of private organizations in check through the rule of law. At some point I rejected the state socialist position for anarchy, more positively described as libertarian socialism, the libertarian left and perhaps most specifically mutualism. One of the reasons for the transition in ideology, from authoritarian to libertarian had to do with coercion. I began to see means and ends as inherently linked, which lead me to a general rejection of coercion as a justifiable method of correcting injustice in a given social system. Instead, I embraced the idealism of mutualist anarchism, an ideology that for me has argued convincingly the case for equality of opportunity, social justice, and freedom at the same time. Positions that are contradictory within the frame of mainstream ideological discourse. The word I kept coming back to was "voluntary". This, a more broad way to articulate the implications of the libertarian notion of the non-aggression principle, clearly eschews coercion as a just means of social organization. I have come to realize that this was the underlying factor that accounted for my own ideological development, I just didn't recognize it as the prime motivator at the time: it was always more implicit than explicit. Even in the literature I read it was rarely discussed directly, and appeared only as an assumption that coercion is not only undesirable morally, but also unnecessary in a truly free society. However, Potter and Heath's book (Rebel Sell) brought these underlying assumptions into focus. In their book they argue that coercion is more or less a necessary evil and that the libertarian ideal is nothing but a dream since it fails to take into account collective action problems. Collective action problems are issues of social organization that arise from prisoner dilemma-like circumstances where the individual nature of humanity forces us to compete with one another in a race to the bottom, even when the outcome is undesirable for all invovled. The arms race is an example of such a collective action problem at a more geopolitical level. In cases like these, the authors argue, the only way out is for the parties involved to agree to stop by issuing what amounts to an inherently coercive pact that limits the freedom of the other. Thus, coercion is a necessary evil to rationally organize a complex, modern, multi-faceted society. Anyways, what I am trying to get at is a discussion about the necessity/lack of necessity of coercion in a just society. What do you think? For those of you who describe your political beliefs as anti-authoritarian/libertarian how do you perceive coercion and then square that perception with your ideological outlook?