Now, it's easy enough to see why those with an interest themselves in coercing would like to deny the voluntary -- if everything is "coercive" then all that matters is that my coercion triumphs, and I no longer have to worry about justifying it. But it's interesting to witness how this operates like a kind of intellectual quicksand, pulling those who use it into increasingly extreme claims that eventually threaten to drown their own moral/political position. So, for example, it's not enough just to assert that people in conditions of great duress are so constrained in their options that they're effectively coerced (e.g., everybody except Jack Benny understands that "Your money or your life" isn't a real choice), because everybody also recognizes that such constrained conditions are rare. In order, then, to extend the operation of your counter-coercion, so to speak, you have to start arguing that the bad coercion is everywhere, from "norm-enforcement", to advertising and propaganda, to "rhetoric, speech, persuasion, marketing, influence, charisma, and so forth" (this last was overtly conceded not to be coercion per se, but supposedly enough like coercion to pose a problem for those who would like to uphold the voluntary as a social/political goal, e.g., libertarians). But this of course, by undercutting the whole notion of free choice or free will, threatens to undermine the moral foundations of political choice and action as well. One commenter (John Protevi), seeing this danger, attempted to dodge it by avoiding dealing with the individual level at all, instead looking only "below", to neurological processes, and "above", to the impersonal machinations of collective entities -- but this then leaves you with no good-faith way of speaking about an individual's moral/political responsibility at all. It should be a sign you've sunk too far when you find that your picture of the world consists only of neural robots, on the one hand, and "emergent" entities of vast size and power, on the other.
As I said toward the end of the thread, "I think that olde problem of free-will resurfaces again and again, no matter how quickly you try to change the subject." And my last comment was this:
1) Science won’t ever get us out of the free-will/determinism dilemma, because of what we are and how we’re situated in the world—the only way out is to hold onto both. This approach actually has a name—compatibilism—and it involves the recognition that we have, and need to have, two distinct stances in regard to our experience and behavior.
2) Trying to mix those stances, as when we try to use science to draw moral/political conclusions, leads us not just into confusion, but into error, both moral and empirical.Which was maybe a bit too brief -- this post on another blog from some years ago expands it a little better.