What Should Democracies Know? What Democrats Should Know

By Jane Mansbridge

The looming reality

The reality we all must face is that we are going to need more and more state coercion into the future to solve the free-rider problems created by our growing interdependence and the new need for human provision of resources formerly provided by “nature.”

Coercion is a bad; it means getting someone to do something they would otherwise not do through the threat of sanction and the use of force. State coercion is another bad, particularly as the state grows larger, because it is hard to get under citizen control.

Nevertheless, we are going to need increasing amounts of state coercion into the future. Democrats should therefore be concerned not only with how to resist it but also with how to legitimate it in order to use it well. Increasing inequality and increasing polarization in the US make legitimacy harder and harder to achieve. Just as we have dramatically increasing need for legitimate coercion, the supply of legitimate coercion is shrinking, making every ounce of legitimacy even more precious.

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