The Journal of Ethics

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 449–471 | Cite as

Coercion as a Pro Tanto Wrong: A Moderately Moralized Approach

  • Jackson KushnerEmail author


I defend one way of solving the Impermissibility Problem—that is, the problem that on moralized approaches to coercion, coerciveness and permissibility are mutually exclusive. This brings up intuitive difficulties for cases such as taxation, which seem to be both coercive and permissible. I gloss three popular theories of coercion—the moralized baseline, nonmoralized baseline, and enforcement approaches—and conclude that only the nonmoralized baseline approach clearly solves the problem. However, Robert Nozick’s famous “slave case” raises another serious issue for the nonmoralized baseline approach. So, in order to solve both the slave case and the Impermissibility Problem, I draw on Grant Lamond’s discussion of the coerciveness of law to propose the pro tanto wrong approach. On this approach, coercion is not impermissible simpliciter, but requires some sort of special justification. The pro tanto wrong approach is moralized, but on it, moralization comes in coercion’s need for justification, not in whether it is, in fact, justified. Thus impermissibility is neither necessary nor sufficient for coerciveness, and the Impermissibility Problem is avoided. I conclude that solving the problem in this way is desirable because it preserves a core belief of liberalism: certain acts, including taxation, may be both coercive and permissible.


Coercion Permissibility Pro tanto wrong Liberalism Law Justification 



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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Georgia State UniversityAtlantaGeorgia

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