Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Saturday, April 11, 2015 :::

What strikes me as odd about this is probably not what strikes most people as odd:

This issue of government force is a funny one. You could also argue that the government is forcing you to drive below the speed limit or wear a seatbelt in your car. But it’s not. There isn’t a police officer holding a gun to your head literally forcing you to buckle up. In fact, you are 100 percent free to speed and not wear your seatbelt—and simply deal with the consequences if you’re pulled over.
What strikes me as odd is that the writer (Sally Kohn, at Talking Points Memo) asks us to step back from the useful shorthand that unpleasant alternatives shouldn't be considered real alternatives, but then she assumes that if a police officer were holding a gun to your head, you would have no choice but to obey the law. Of course, you would have a choice: if the police officer physically overpowered you and buckled the seat-belt himself, you wouldn't have a choice, but "do it or I'll shoot you" is — in the absurdly literal sense we're using here — a choice, as indicated by the "or" (I'm assuming here that, if the police officer shoots you, he won't then buckle you in, though I suppose he could).

My understanding (which I'm not sure of and have no intention of verifying) is that this discussion grew out of this Twitter conversation. But even if she is right in her column that one is rarely literally forced to follow the law, that doesn't mean that law isn't force, as she suggested on Twitter. As she herself notes, laws generally work by forcing lawbreakers to face consequences that would not otherwise exist. If the act required by the law is not literally forced upon you, the consequences are.

::: posted by Steven at 11:44 PM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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