|by Scott Swain
When I began this experiment [investigation?], I had no idea it would go so far or that it would bleed over into a discussion on principles.
It began when I posted the following simple question in a few different forums:
"Would you force a person to love you, if you could? Can you come up with a justification for when it would ever be okay to do so?"
The answer was a resounding "No!" No justifications were presented. A common response was that the giving party would experience resentment and that forced love was not real love.
This inspired another question:
"I'm with you all on this and I'll admit the question was pretty much rhetorical, yet I want to explore how you all think and feel about this topic, partially because I believe we may take it for granted and I want to dig deeper, down to our motivations. So if we take it a bit further and talk about expressions of love, like touch, gifts, words, acts of service, etc., would it be okay to force any of those things to be given?"
Again, the answer was "No!" across the board.
"Is love a basic need? If it is, and a person is starving for love, is there then any justification or situation where it is okay to force another person to give expressions of love, like touch, gifts, words, acts of service, etc., to the "love starved" person?
If you can come up with a situation where you would force one person to show expressions of love to another, can you think of all the pros and cons of this being done?
Here again, people spoke eloquently of many reasons why even the forcing of expressions of love
is not a good thing. I was glad to hear many people mention children and the often culturally acceptable situation where parents force children to kiss or hug certain adults, usually relatives, even when the child expresses a desire to not do so. That
is a whole other topic
And then, someone said this: "No. Because love comes after safety, and forcing expressions of love violates that - I'm not safe in my property (gifts) or resources (acts of service) if I'm forced to give expressions of love. Those are - if you believe Maslow - more basic needs than love."
[In the interest of keeping on track, I want to mention but not go into this: Love is on Maslow's list. I don't want to discount love as a need. One example: There is much evidence showing massive increase in infant mortality when babies are deprived of love.]
Which brings me to the next question:
"What if instead, the 'unloved' person is actually starving for food? Then is the person with food obliged to give food? Would Maslow's determination of the value of food be enough to justify forcing you to give food to a starving person? And if it did, why would that determination not apply as equally to you to protect you from food being taken from you?"
A different person replied:
"Food is essential to survival, not just happiness, which changes the equation. Further, food's nourishment value isn't reliant on the sincerity of the person offering it. That changes the equation further."
So, let's talk about our reasons for answering as we did to the initial equation. Was it because we were looking at the need of the love starved compared to the price paid by the person forced to give? Or were we thinking more about the act of force and the consequences of force on both parties?
Do we see how one can take either a principled approach here, which would be to always reject coercion, no matter the professed, subjective values, or the case-by-case approach where before coercion was wrong but now it is ok, even if in both cases it is obviously unfair to the person being stolen from?
A devil's advocate might say, "You're trying to compare a commodity to a behavior and I think your analogy is suffering for it."
Ah yes. The two situations:
(A) Forced expressions of love (words, service, touch, or gifts) --> goal for receiver to have greater emotional health; or
(B) Forced service or gifts --> goal for receiver to have greater physical health and/or higher standard of living.
Are they so different? In both cases we are forcing a person to do something against their will. In both cases the victim of the coercion has needs being violated; need for respect, autonomy, choice, privacy, and perhaps security. Why privacy? Because how else will some authority know the victim has "extra" stuff or time-for-service to take? Why security? Because when authority takes their stuff, to increase the security of another, then it decreases the security of the donor. Another interesting thing that happens is we also forget the reasons why - before, when it was love - we saw that the receipt of forced love had a reduced value and sometimes even a negative value to the recipient, but when it becomes something that many deem higher on the life priority list, we stop seeing the price paid by both sides, including the massive cost and eventual inevitable corruption that occurs when we create authority figures to do the "necessary" rule-making, monitoring, judging, collecting, catching, and punishing. An entire ruling class that has different rights - inequality because they monitor, judge, collect, catch, and punish in cases of their own guilt. Giving people power over others, no matter the cause, is a recipe for corruption. For evidence of this, one need only look around. Or merely look at human psychology. It is human to grow and to want more.
This is what happens when we use a system other than principles. It makes it easy to justify initiation of force and many other atrocities. If we used principles like "it is wrong to initiate force except for in self defense" then when someone speaks of forcing a person to do, say, and give things to another person so that the other person can feel loved or safe or healthy, we will say, "because initiation of force is wrong because, no matter the reason for its use, it still always exacts a price on all involved".
But instead, if you attempt to measure and compare everyone's needs, who can be accurate? Who can know everything about all parties involved? A cursory examination might show Jane has more food than Fred. But how much of Jane and Fred's past and future do we know? Did we know Jane has been robbed of her life savings and still often gives to charities and will be raped and have a baby in eleven months and the money/food/whatever that was forcibly taken from her to feed Fred would have made the difference in her not getting kicked out of her home so that her baby is born into a homeless situation? In order to be truly fair, we must investigate deep into Jane and Fred's past, into everything that formed them, everyone they have been in contact with, everyone they are now in contact with, and everyone they will be in contact with. Whose lives might Jane have enriched via choice? What valuable lessons might Fred have learned? How often do we consider the value of struggle? What lessons are learned when a problem is solved for us?
[By the way, I'm speaking from experience. A good chunk of my childhood was spent homeless, hitchhiking around the nation with my mom as she took odd jobs and we lived in tents, cabins, communes, garages, trailers, wherever people would voluntarily take us in. I would never trade those experiences.]
Can we know that Fred will be mugged four days after receiving the bounty given to him because that wad of food stamps, acquired more easily than through use of his brain or brawn, had a decreased value in his eyes so he wasn't as careful guarding it from prying eyes as he might otherwise have been? For every horror story propagated by the ruling class to scare the rest of us into believing we need them, there is an equal horror story about dependency, self respect, and the even worse poverty that comes from the ruling class making more rules every day.
Back to fairness: The point is, we can not know enough information in order to be truly fair, at least while respecting privacy. But yes, if we can somehow:
- Collect enough information about people;
- Accurately know their past and predict their future;
- Fairly add up all the effort (emotional, physical, mental, etc) each person put into getting where they are;
- Calculate relative values of the goods/services being re-allocated (water is more valuable to a thirsty person);
- Know all the potential futures of all parties in the exchange;
- Keep costs of rule-making, monitoring, judging, collecting, catching, and punishing low enough so the transaction bears enough fruit for the receiver to be worth the loss in goods to the victim as well as loss in privacy and liberty to both parties; and
- Finally, somehow find "perfect people" to be in the position to make rules, monitor, judge, collect, catch, and punish.
So yes, we can choose to see the ways the two kinds of coercion are different by ignoring that they are both coercion.
Or we can use principles, which vastly simplifies and shows us how the situations are the same.
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