Tag Archives: choice

What’s worse than coercion?

Desperation is coercive, or so it is said. The analogy between having a gun to your head and starvation at your door is a good one, as far as decision making is concerned.

So why do we always state this just before doing the last thing we would do to someone with a gun to their head? 
Our reasoning goes: 
  1. She’s only working for nothing/selling her kidneys/poisoning her water supply because she has no other option.
  2. Therefore she’s effectively being coerced.
  3. That’s terrible. 
  4. We won’t allow it. We won’t buy her t-shirts or her kidneys.
  5. Now she can’t be coerced. Hoorah!
So we take away the ‘not getting shot in the head’ option. 
This would be fine if we also gave another choice. However if we did that that the person would no longer be desperate, and thus no longer ‘coerced’ anyway (and so there would be no need to interfere). There should never be a need to prevent coercion by taking away choices.
In our analogy, there is a difference between preventing coercion by forcing someone to be shot and by giving them a safe exit.