In the case of harassment of government officials by hired goons, we are dealing with two types of coercion.
The first is coercion per se, the human threat of physical harm against another human. A person who is coerced is limited to the choice of either doing that which the other wants done; or to suffer physical pain or immobility, even death. Some would consider this not much of a choice! Perhaps the threat could be on someone else, say a loved one of the coerced person; but the variations do not concern us too much here.
For now, we merely point out that the threat being made against DENR employees by private individuals who use guns constitutes coercion per se.
GOVERNMENT IS INSTITUTIONALIZED COERCION
The second type is institutionalized coercion, that which is established to a great degree in society so as to be virtually accepted, or at least tolerated by most. A government, which only acts on the basis of coercion ― otherwise its mandate would be pursued by free individuals sans government ― is the primary example of institutionalized coercion. Many lament holduppers and gangsters, but fail to see the biggest and most influential coercer of them all, government, for what it is.
INHERENT COERCIVENESS OF GOVERNMENT NOT ALWAYS APPARENT
In the particular case of the DENR’s unarmed employees being threatened by goons, it may not be apparent that we are dealing with two coercive entities. This is because the government assumes that people would quote-unquote respect its authority, rendering the immediate threat of arms unnecessary. But if its wishes are repeatedly rebuked, even private goons will be faced with unfavorable odds wherein the DENR can get the police’s backing to impose its coercive will. That is, if such conflicts are not settled by bribery.
In all of this, what is given prominence is not the entrepreneur’s ability to provide for the consumer, but rather, a rule by force, with all the property rights violations that go with this. Instead of mutually beneficial trade, we have spoils for the victor. This may seem like an exaggeration, but the only reason for whatever favorable economic conditions we have is the triumph of freedom in spite of the assault on freedom that coercion is.
It would do us well to recognize organized government as a bigger threat to people’s freedom and well-being than the threat of scattered and isolated incidents of robbery.
We must conquer the illusion of peace and order under government, an illusion made possible only by the deep institutionalization of coercion by which bureaucrats have lower time preferences in the execution of their crimes, as compared to petty criminals.
WHAT ABOUT ‘SOCIAL JUSTICE’?
In spite of all these considerations, some may still think that institutionalized coercion is the best means by which to bring about ‘social justice’ for the poor. But would it not be more likely that people are able to provide for the less unfortunate when not faced with the threat of expropriation at all times?
Would it not be possible for a free people, as opposed to an unfree people, to think of their fellow human beings, by which to fund programs that uplift conditions for the poor?
It is worth considering how the greatest massacres in history have come about in the name of equality, social justice, the common good, and the like. The prevalent use of coercion in such a society is indicative of the violent nature instilled amongst such a majority and their leaders, noble intentions notwithstanding.
HOW CAN PEACE AND ORDER BE ACHIEVED SANS GOVERNMENT?
Contrary to common thinking, social order is not brought about by government. Even the justness of government’s acts, is determined by the degree by which property rights are upheld. No Constitution, no legislation can be considered just without recognizing property rights, of which the basic principle is that rules are dictated by respective property owners.
From this comes liability of property rights violators, who are sanctioned not for vengeance but for prevention of future violations, the terms of which can be agreed upon by the parties involved. This is what ‘rule of law,’ the invoking of which is done even by those who may support limited government, is ultimately about.
Such a system may not eliminate coercion altogether, but at least, the most significant entity by which coercion is institutionalized, the government, will have been done for. It is only in the absence of institutionalized coercion that peace can prevail.
For a copy of the book in the picture above, which I wrote in 2009, go to Google Books. Warning: some far out stuff! Far out!