Sunday, January 30, 2011

Coercion and the English Language

Coercion involves forced action. Maybe.

In the case of a monopoly, a company can hike its' prices all it wants so long as it does not force people to buy. So lets have a concrete example; A company that supplies a medicine one needs to survive suddenly increases prices %1200. Is the company killing the customer that is unable to pay? Or is the customer killing themself with their own 'inability'? This is a fuzzy point that I'm sure many of us cannot define quite easily, but I am able to make a guess at something Hayek's ideas are depending on here: The company is not holding a gun to the persons head and forcing them to buy the medicine, but due to the situation, that gun is implied. I think Hayek believes "passive aggressive" coercion doesn't count.

The thing is that this passive aggressive coercion (as I'm calling it) is what makes the world go round. Where do we draw the line? is exercising actual force coercion? Pure force is an inefficient and stupid way to exercise power. Countering my own counter point; action implies an immediate reaction. When the passive aggressive coercer acts they have to wait for a response. That response may be, going back to the pharmaceutical, a competing business. The best way for the coercer to counter this is with pure force. Muscling out the competition if you will. They are no longer being passive. Hayek talks about the state as a coercive tool that is used to limit coercion. This is just a prelude to 'the Rules of the Game'. Or as mentioned in the chapter, "known rules".

Hayek says that the precise definition will be formed in the second half of the book but I'm having trouble forming my own version now. Perhaps it has to do with the time but maybe the concept is just a little foggy.

I look forward to your opinions on Thursday,

1 comment:

  1. In this chapter of the text Hayek defines coercion as, " conrol of the eviornment or circumstances of a person by another that, in order to avoid greater evil, he is forced to act not according to a coherent plan of his own but to server the ends of another"
    So in regards to the pharmaceutical question at hand in terms of coercion is to what extent does the pahrmy. company have control in the enviornment/circusmtnace of the person in need of said drug. Is the company in control of the fact that the person is sick? No. The pharmesutical company meerly has the answer to the persons problem. If the pharmesutical company did not exsist the person would have no option other than death, but because the company does exisit the person now has the option to live, if the person is willing to pay the price. It is up to the sick person do a cost benefit analysis of his situation and act accordingly.
    This brings me to the arguement that the companys actions are not coercive because the choice of the person purchasing the drug, and in so choosing to live, ultimatley serves himself.
    I would also like to make the point that although by definition the companys actions might not be considered "coercive" it is my opinion that there actions are unethical. Although one could also argue that the profit the company makes from selling a miricle drug at a high price would enable that company to invest in more reserach in hopes of producing more "miracle drugs" and ultimaley result saving more human life than that was lost by inflating the price of the first drug.