People have all kinds of different preferences. We tend to like all kinds of different things. People do all sorts of dumb stuff. We want to share our passion with others sometimes. Sometimes we want to keep people from following in our missteps. It’s part of being human, right?
We should all work to sell the value of our views. But when we have to resort to telling people what they should do. Well, we don’t do anyone any favors by resorting to force.
The tell versus sell stems from a simple mistake. It can be very easy to the leap from our preferences to others’ obligations. I wouldn’t do that job, is fine. It is probably still a sell. I wouldn’t do that job; therefore, no one should be allowed to, is not. We just slipped into tell.
I really think this subject is important is fine. It’s a sell. I really think this subject is important; therefore, everyone should be required to study it is not. It slipped into a tell. More generally, I like doing this thing is OK because we are selling. I like doing this thing; therefore, everyone should be required to generally isn’t. Again it slips into telling.
When we coerce others we aren’t respecting others’ liberty, dignity, and autonomy. They are independent and independently valuable moral agents. When we coerce we’re silencing the economic conversation. That is conversation about what should be produced, when, where, how, and for whom.
When we coerce we stifle the cultural conversation about what it means to live well. By simply saying some things are out of bounds when compulsion might be warranted we do a disservice. When there isn’t a compelling case that those things negatively affect others enough, we do harm. A lot of the things people want to ban or require don’t even get close to a decent case for coercion.
Consider low-wage jobs in dangerous conditions. It’s not something I choose. It isn’t even something I’m tempted to choose. But that is because I have much better options. But who am I to tell someone else that he or she can’t take such a job?
Because I would find it unpleasant or because they would accept a wage I wouldn’t for the work. Those things don’t mean I should compel their decision. They should not be compelled especially if it’s the best of a lot of bad options, which it may be for them.
If we really respect people’s liberty, dignity, and autonomy; If we really care about their prosperity, the right answer is to work to expand their options rather than limit them. Opportunity not coercion should be our goal… always. If you agree with these thoughts, ask yourself if your political party does. Sell don’t tell.