Coercion, welfare, and the study of public finance
The Purpose and Outline of This Book Social interaction necessarily requires limits on the freedom of individual choice. As soon as we are part of a group, different voices must be heard and compromises must be made. Major questions will inevitably arise about whether some people have more to say than others do when acceptable limits to individual actions are specified, how such limits or rights are to be defined and circumscribed, and how they will be enforced once agreement on their nature is achieved. Coercion is an essential part of this process. Although voluntary agreement may underlie some of the compromises achieved, coercion is a part of all widely used collective decision mechanisms. Coercion will also be involved in the enforcement of group decisions after they are made, to deal with free rider problems and other types of strategic behavior by individuals or groups who attempt to take advantage of their fellow citizens. Coercion is therefore a fundamental and unavoidable part of our social lives. For this reason, it is not surprising that philosophers and legal experts have examined its nature at length. Economists, however, have not yet offered a fully integrated analysis of its role in either the private or the public economy. Contemporary economic analysis of the public sector usually does not deal with coercion in a direct or formal manner, although a concern with it often lies below the surface, especially when contentious issues such as taxation are involved. The essays in this book are different. Because collective choices on fiscal matters emerge from and have all the essential characteristics of social interaction, including the necessity of coercion, and because there is an older tradition of work on coercion in public finance (introduced later) that we can build on, the essays presented here focus directly on the study of coercion arising through the operation of the fiscal system.
Martinez-Vazquez, J. (Jorge), & Winer, S. (2012). Coercion, welfare, and the study of public finance. In Coercion and Social Welfare in Public Finance: Economic and Political Perspectives (pp. 1–26). doi:10.1017/CBO9781107280847.002