1/08/2020

The Paradox of Liberalism and Monopolies of Coercion: Levin on Himmelfarb

"Let’s put it in these terms. The opposite of liberty is coercion. A libertarian is concerned both with coercion per se, with the mere curtailment of individual liberty, and with the existence of an authority endowed with the monopoly of coercion. Monopolizing coercion creates a much stronger coercive power than there would otherwise exist. It does so because such coercive power has no rival, no competitor, and therefore can more easily extend its own tentacles.

On paper, the idea of giving coercive power to one social actor (the state) and then work to limit it sounds nice and strong. The problem is that political institutions are not “designed” on paper: they emerge over time and history. We can see free institutions in a sense as the unintended consequences of other historical phenomena."