In my earlier posts, I challenged Hassoun’s arguments regarding the coerciveness of loan conditionality and then I developed my own positive account regarding this matter. In her response, Hassoun attempts to give reasons showing that (1) focusing on “coercive rules” rather than “coercion” is sufficient to make her case for the coerciveness of something like international loan conditionality and (2) that my new account of the coerciveness of international loan conditionality faces its own problems. I would like to try out some responses to both of these concerns.
First, Hassoun writes, “the important question for me is not whether the IMF and WB succeed in coercing people, but whether they subject people to coercive rules. I tend to think that both the person in Krishnamurthy’s example and those in the IMF/WB case are subject to coercive rules even if they are not successfully coerced and I expect Krishnamurthy accepts this point and thinks that the person in her example is subject to coercive rule.”
I am not sure that I do accept this point. Reconsider the example Hassoun has in mind.
Conversion 2 (C2):
S has always wanted to become a Catholic. S decides to carry out this plan and walks over to Mother Teresa’s mission. S is also starving and desperate for food. Mother Teresa, says, “I will give you food, if you convert to Catholicism.” S consents to the conversion.
Hassoun’s thought is that while S may not be “successfully coerced,” he is “subject to coercive rules.” Whether this is the case will depend on what exactly it means to be subject to coercive rules. I am tempted to say that
S is subject to a set of coercive rules just in case that S is coerced by a set of rules.
On my view, there is no relevant distinction between “successful coercion” and “being subject to coercive rule.” Any difference between the two is merely terminological and not substantive. On my view, S is not successfully coerced by Mother Theresa and S is not subject to Mother Teresa’s coercive rules. S is acting according to her own rules – i.e., S’s rule: convert to Catholicism at first opportunity – and not those of another agent.
Second, Hassoun gives two counterexamples to my proposed motivation-based account of coercion. Hassoun suggests that, according to my account, (1) “one may have to agree that whether or not a man subjects you to coercive rule by sticking a gun in your mouth and demanding your money depends on whether or not you want to give it to him for other reasons”; (2) “the fact that you happen to like your government’s rules and follow them of your own free will does not seem to me to make you one wit less subject to their coercive force.”
The first example is meant as a kind of reductio. Hassoun is suggesting that it would be absurd to hold, as my account of coercion requires, that you are not subject to coercion (or coercive rule in Hassoun’s lingo) if giving over your money is one of your aims or ends. In response, I wonder if it really is so absurd? Part of the seeming absurdity, I think, flows from the contentiousness of the example. If we take a less contentious example (borrowed from Jappa Pallaikathyil’s comment on an earlier post), then the plausibility of my conclusions becomes more apparent. “Suppose I am destitute, on the brink of starvation, etc. and someone offers me my dream job with a very high salary.” In this case, as Pallaakathayil notes, it would be weird to say that I am coerced into accepting the offer. I am accepting the offer because of the aims that I have. This is what motivates me to act as I do, not the dire circumstances I find myself in. Similarly, if I really did have the aim of giving over my money to you and that aim continued to motivate me to act despite the the dire circumstances that I find myself in (that is, with a gun to my head), then I think it would be similarly weird to say that I was coerced into giving you my money. In this case, I would be acting on my own aims and commitments. (For more thoughts on this issue see the comment section on this earlier post.)
This, however, is not to say that there is nothing wrong with what is being done to you, when someone holds a gun to your head (or hangs you from your toes), even if it is consistent with your aims or ends. My point is simply that you are not being coerced. A different sort of wrongdoing may occur, but the nature of this wrongdoing is less clear. For example, the person with the gun may be attempting to coerce you by aiming a gun in your mouth (imagine they did not know that giving up your money was one of your aims). (In the second case, regarding the government’s rules, something similar may be happening, though I am admittedly less sure here.) There does seem to be something wrong with attempted coercion. However, the reasons explaining the wrongness of attempted coercion are different in kind than those explaining the wrongness of successful coercion. As I suggested earlier, successful coercion is wrong because it interferes with an individual’s autonomy. Attempted coercion, however, does not interfere with an individual’s autonomy. And, at least, at this point, I am not entirely clear on why attempted coercion is wrong.
Ultimately, I think, what Hassoun is interested in is attempted coercion and how the global institutional order (including loan conditionality) is an example of attempted coercion. For her arguments to be successful, she needs to give a story as to why attempted coercion is wrong (and why it stands in need of justification in the same way that successful coercion does). For my part, I am interested in thinking about successful coercion and why loan conditionality is best understood as an example of this phenomenon. I am interested in successful coercion largely because, unlike in the case of attempted coercion, the nature of the wrongess is clear. Furthermore, to the extent that loan conditionality is coercive, the nature of the wrongdoing is also clear: it interferes with individual’s autonomy.