April Freeman Banner 2014


Coercion is What Makes the Difference


This past weekend, the New York Times ran a story on the Park Slope Food Co-op in Brooklyn, NY. It seems some of the members of the cooperative grocery store are hiring their nannies or other non-family members to work the occasional shift at the store as required by its by-laws. What follows is a series of short interviews with members who decry this practice as “unfair” and “elitist” while some merely shrug their shoulders.

But what really caught my eye was this assessment of the situation:

Some members conceded that having the nanny do the work was tempting. “In my fantasy, I’d have my nanny cover my shift,” Sarah Rivkin, 39, said. But she added that she knew that would be “inappropriate.” Anyway, she said she would be too intimidated. A friend of hers had married a Cuban immigrant, who summed up why Ms. Rivkin felt that way. “His assessment of the co-op is that the co-op is worse than socialism,” she said. “Because at least in a socialist country, if you know the right people, you can get out of it.”

While amusing, the Cuban immigrant is absolutely correct about socialism being a system which is unequal in its treatment, rife with bribable bureaucracy, and prone to allowing those in control (or their friends) out of the most heinous of privations imposed by the system. But he is absolutely wrong when he infers that socialism and the co-op are morally equivalent. Nobody held a gun to anyone else’s head and forced them to join the co-op. Further, there is nothing stopping you from leaving the co-op. As a private institution, they are allowed to have any rules they deem necessary. And you have every right to leave if you don’t like them.

Being denied access to fresh, organic fruits and vegetables in the middle of Brooklyn because you don’t like the rules may be an inconvenience, but it’s not coercion.



Carl Oberg is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Economic Education.

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April 2014

Around the world, people are struggling to throw off authoritarianism, with deeply mixed results. From Egypt to Venezuela, determined people build networks to overthrow their regimes, but as yet we have not learned to live without Leviathan. In this issue, Michael Malice and Gary Dudney discuss their glimpses inside totalitarian regimes, while Sarah Skwire and Michael Nolan look at how totalitarian regimes grind down the individual--and how individuals fight back. Plus, Jeffrey Tucker identifies a strain in libertarianism that, left unchecked, could reduce even our vibrant movement to something that is analogous to the grim aesthetic of architectural brutalism. The struggle for our lives and freedom is a struggle for beauty; it begins inside each of us.
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