In reading chapter nine “Coercion and the State” I was swept away in Hayek’s artful and well thought out definition of the term Coercion. I could imagine the little man with his horn rimmed glasses sitting in his office and pondering away asking himself, if he missed anything in his definition.
What I enjoyed about reading Hayek is that even though he has a philosophical feel with his vague language and tone he is a straight up realistic. This chapter in particular reminded me of a work I read about coercion and manipulation once before. This work was Machiavelli’s Prince and even though its focus was on how to use coercive powers to be an effective young prince much of the work was an application of Hayek’s examples and definitions. Though both of these men’s views on how coercion should be used are completely oppositional; they both are similar in their view of human nature and interpersonal relationships and the corresponding opportunity for coercion to be prevalent. I really follow Hayek’s further suggestion that little can be done by society to circumvent coercion in impersonal relationships “beyond making such associations with others truly voluntary.” (p. 138)
I think that in terms of making mistakes in dealing with others one huge mistake that is very common, is one which is highlighted in the Prince and many other works. This is the idea that a person has the power to change who another person is. I think that this is possible though coercion, but many try to do it in sake of making others “better” people. Our benevolent feelings that aim to help others need to have limits in place, as it may be hard to determine where the line is drawn between helping someone or trying to help someone by changing them. Change is important, but in the end the person who is changing can only make that change last if it comes deep within them. I feel like those who specialize in the art of being a fake manipulator often abuse the idea of acting as if they are helping others but acting for their own means. Machiavelli makes that clear when he notes that the prince should appear to be a sheep, but in reality be the powerful lion controlling the entire show. I really think that Hayek’s view is that of the Anti-Machiavelli where to let individuals truly be free we step back and let them make their own choices so they can be who they really are.