Shaming Others is Unjustifiable Coercion


There are lots of ways to attempt to control other people’s behavior. You can look at all attempts as existing on a scale from friendly persuasion to force. When you think about it, all threats of force where there’s any agency left to choose, even if the other choice is death, are persuasion. The only question is, once threats are involved, what the threat is and who will administer the repercussions.

In the first world, states threaten people who “misbehave” with arrest, fines, imprisonment and sometimes death. But individuals and groups threaten people who “misbehave” as well, with criticism, ridicule, shame, and sometimes complete ostracization.

Somewhere we’ve decided that the tools the state uses to influence behavior are “coercion” while the tools non-state actors use are cooperation. Where is the justification for this? I didn’t sign a contract with slut-shamers any more than I did with my government. I may find complete ostracism much more oppressive than a small fine. In fact, there are studies which indicate that social exclusion is far more psychologically damaging than property crime.

Of course when it comes to non-cooperative behavior, in the absence of sufficient contracts, sometimes coercion is necessary.

But say my actions are completely and totally cooperative, but frowned upon. Maybe I’m doing heroin, or having sex with lots of dudes. What right then does anyone have to coerce me by threatening to criticize, ridicule, shame or ostracize me?

And how is this private coercion any better than public coercion? It is safe to say that those who would criticize, ridicule, shame or ostracize me do not have all of the information I have about my environment and behavior. The same knowledge problem which makes state planning inferior to markets makes other people shaming me into certain behavior inferior to me making decisions separate from that outside threat of shame.

It may be “clear” to you that I shouldn’t do heroin or bang lots of dudes. But it’s also “clear” to planners that redistribution works to create prosperity. And if you want to justify your attempts to control my behavior by claiming that the state forces you to pay for my methadone and AIDS treatment, maybe you should be focused on replacing state help with private charity instead.

Now, maybe you’re right, and it would be better for me to do no heroin and bang no dudes. Instead of threatening me with criticism, ridicule, shame, and sometimes complete ostracization, sell me on your view. There is no coercion in educating me about the natural pitfalls of my activities. There is no coercion in explaining to me the benefits of abstaining.

Coercion comes in many forms. There is no need or sufficient justification for coercion as a response to cooperative behavior.

UPDATE: Cathy has followed up on her ideas and clarified some things in this post. 

  • “Persuading people to do things is coercion.”
    —Cathy Reisenwitz [citation needed]

    • Johnny Lemuria

      The threat of force, when used in persuasion, is coercive. If it wasn’t, then no robbery would be a robbery unless the victim got shot, not just threatened with a gun.
      Ms. Reisenwitz’s assertion is that coordinated social ostracism is equal to force. That may seem like a strange concept, and it is to me to some degree, but if we go by the harm it does to people, then a definite case could be made.
      So, if force or its equivalent is only acceptable when used in self-defense against aggression, and any other use is an aggressive act, then a case could be made that the threat or practice of coordinated ostracism on a community level as a means of controlling the non-aggressive behavior of others is actually a violation of the NAP, and thus should not be a thing that libertarians do.

      • nicholas bonasoro

        that seems like an arbitrary distinction because you are saying that the simple act of coordinating behavior between voluntary associations is immoral. if everybody arrived at the decision to ostracize a person independently of anybody else influencing their opinion, then by your definition that is okay, but individuals being a part of a voluntary association that chooses to ostracize is wrong. so groups have LESS rights than the individual?

      • Tony

        “Ms. Reisenwitz’s assertion is that coordinated social ostracism is equal
        to force. That may seem like a strange concept, and it is to me to some
        degree, but if we go by the harm it does to people, then a definite
        case could be made.”

        People do not have a right not to be “harmed” in a general sense, and certainly not if it puts bounds on a person that commits no (threat to) physical integrity. If they did, then even economic competition (the free market) would be impossible, for depressions and a whole variety of other psychological ills can result from losing your business, or losing your job.
        Threats during a bank robbery force people to act in ways they don’t want to because they fear grave physical injury or death. To equate this with feelings of emotion grief that do not impede your actions (unless you want them to) is intellectually dishonest at best.

        “So, if force or its equivalent is only acceptable
        when used in self-defense against aggression, and any other use is an
        aggressive act, then a case could be made that the threat or practice of
        coordinated ostracism on a community level as a means of controlling
        the non-aggressive behavior of others is actually a violation of the
        NAP, and thus should not be a thing that libertarians do.”

        A non-sequitur if ever there was one, for the simple reason that it has not in any way shape or form been established that someones else’s opinion or expression is coercion, nor that ostracism is.
        You have a right to free association, but you do not have a right to FORCE others to supply it, any more than you can have a right to bread for the reason that someone else would have to supply it.
        The right to dissociate is a corollary to the right to free association. You cannot force others to deal with you, or think well about you, just because it would hurt your feelings if they didn’t. You don’t own their bodies, their thoughts, their mouths, or their actions. To force others to associate with you or respect you is to enslave them to your emotional needs. How anyone can pretend that this emotional totalitarianism is in any way compatible with libertarianism is truly baffling. We have some strange people in this “movement”.

  • AuntMerryweather

    I agree that there’s a large batch of “free speech” that falls rightly into the category of “abuse.” But social exclusion and ostracism? Strikes me as the most peaceful way to deal with people with whom you don’t wish to freely associate.

    • It is the softest form of coercion. That doesn’t kick it off the spectrum.

      • AuntMerryweather

        Is there a right to my respect and admiration that I’m not aware of? Do I have a duty to somebody who’s life choices I don’t agree with to try “Friendly persuasion,” or am I free to not engage? I agree with the moral instruction that “if you can’t say anything nice, shut your fucking face hole” but by including social exclusion under the umbrella of “coercion,” I think you’re walking into a minefield here.

      • Steven Horwitz

        Yes, actually, it does. It’s simply NOT coercion. It’s criticism. There’s no force or threat of force involved. Period.

        • jtkennedy

          You are dismissing the threat of subjective hurty-harm.

      • jtkennedy

        Why isn’t warm and fuzzy salesmanship a softer form of coercion?

      • Tony

        Coercion forces you to into an action against your will for fear of physical injury or worse, or damage to personal property. Something you could not prevent as property damage or physical harm is a provable fact, whereas having your “feelings” hurt is subjective and completely arbitrary.

        If someone insulting you is spurring you into an action you don’t like to perform, it is of your own choice. You can tell them “go to hell” and keep going. You choose not to.

        You have no positive right to fuzzy feelings and a happy mood. You have no right to someone else’s respect. You have no right to someone else’s association with you without a contract or fee that is involved in guaranteeing such association.
        To put it simple: Life’s a Bitch. Grow up and deal with it, or vote Democrat.

    • jtkennedy

      Why is it problematic in the context of the Jim Crow South? The problem there was mostly actual state coercion, and the rest was actual private coercion, most often effectively protected by state coercion. Absent that actual coercion free markets would have made short work of Jim Crow.

      • AuntMerryweather

        “Would have made short work of Jim Crow” is speculative. But really, I just don’t want to open that can of worms. Not going there.

  • The price of social inclusion is having to live with the norms of the society you’re included in. “Coercion,” as you’ve defined it, is almost any proactive thing. Which is what Davila thinks too: “Liberty is, in fact, alienated from itself in the same gesture in which it is assumed, because free action possesses a coherent structure, an internal organization, a regular proliferation of sequelae.”

    This is why the “liberty-as-absence-of-coercion” deontological view is contradictory and, ultimately, untenable. Since it’s untenable, the only recourse is the know-nothing-ism of this piece, that universal moral norms couldn’t ever exist and you can’t judge other people.

    The problem with this is social opprobrium is less a softer version of state coercion than, in many cases, an alternative to it. To use an undeniably polarizing example, perhaps shaming the urban poor into not having children out of wedlock would have been better than subsidizing, and thus encouraging, such behavior.

    It’s not so much that there’s a right to judge you, it’s that you have no right to be shielded from judgment.

    With slut-shaming, the big issue is the expectations being different for each gender. If there weren’t different expectations, I’m not sure I’d really have a problem with it. It might even be good.

    Not to go all conservative on you, but a free society really does depend on virtuous people.

    • The thing is you don’t need shame or criticism. If you want people to act morally, sell them on it.

      • Shame and criticism are very useful things.

        • AuntMerryweather

          They’re actually not. Often times, they just cause people to double-down on their obnoxious opinions/actions, driving further alienation between the shamers and the … shamees(?), who, so long as a few people rush to their defense, will usually look at themselves as the target of a witch hunt.

          That said, it’s probably best to just STFU, live and let live, and thumb your nose at anyone who gives you shit for your peaceful life choices. Which, not coincidentally, is the quintessential libertarian position.

          • Anonymous Internet personality says shaming isn’t useful, cites public shaming campaign that got noted bigot fired.

          • AuntMerryweather

            I clarify: shaming can be “useful” insofar as it can shut people up, get them fired, prevent them from entertaining fantasies about fleeing the cult compound, etc.; it’s generally less useful for changing hearts and minds. Depends on your aim, I suppose.

          • seanwmalone

            “…it’s generally less useful for changing hearts and minds. ”

            Maybe. Maybe not. There are plenty of actions which incur social costs, and those costs will deter people from engaging in those actions in the future. Whether or not that’s persuaded them to not *want* to engage in the socially costly behavior is a little hard to know, but we do know that social pressures do work to discourage the behavior itself. Fewer people engaging in certain behavior is likely to have a long-term effect on the prevalence of that behavior in future generations.

            Think about Stetson Kennedy using popular mockery on Superman Radio to create utter disrespect for the KKK in the eyes of children in the 1940s. It created conditions where KKK members were less likely to act and attend meetings, and less likely to indoctrinate their kids in their club as well. They felt shame and embarrassment because their kids were making fun of them.

            Now… Maybe kindness and compassion are better ways to get people to agree with you. I tend to think that it is. But that doesn’t mean that negative reinforcement against behavior most people in a community dislike is actually ineffective or unacceptable. It sure as hell doesn’t mean it’s morally the equivalent of using violence.

      • Steven Horwitz

        Really? You think a good and free society is one without shame or criticism? Do you think a good economy is one where firms never make losses?

      • jtkennedy

        Cathy, Selling entails making someone unsatisfied with their current situation, much like shaming. How can that escape the category of coercion by your lights?

      • Tony

        It doesn’t matter what people “need” to do. Freedom is not a right of people to do merely what they “need”.

      • Inane Rambler

        Why are you not a anarcho-socialist? That is indeed what you sound like.

    • James Miller

      “This is why the “liberty-as-absence-of-coercion” deontological view is contradictory and, ultimately, untenable.”

      And this is a variation of the post hoc ergo propter hoc. If you assume coercion is the same as social ostracism – that is non-violent means of enforcing mores – then the conclusion that liberty-as-absence-of-coercion is untenable is correct. But anyone who can detect the difference between physical, real coercion and “feeling bad” knows that such an understanding is horribly flawed.

      The very fact that Ms. Reisenwitz wrote a piece engaging the very criticism she supposedly abhors shows such a contradiction in thought, it is hard to take serious.

  • ryan

    Shaming people for shaming is unjustifiable coercion.

  • Andrea Castillo

    “I didn’t sign a contract with slut-shamers any more than I did with my government.”

    This cuts both ways: those “slut-shamers” didn’t sign a contract to submit to your expressions of deed and thought.

    Why do you think that you have a claim to others’ expressions but others do not have a claim to yours?

    • Andrea Castillo

      Another thought: through our conversations, you’ve defined your conception of feminism as “opposing sexism.”

      I know that you do not advocate government force to achieve this, but you often publicly “criticize, ridicule, and shame” thoughts and behaviors that you perceive to be “sexist” or “misogynistic.”

      How is this consistent with your newfound opposition to shaming as a form of unjustifiable coercion?

    • Ricky Vaughn

      Is it legal to “shame” Reisenwitz by calling her an intellectual joke who has gotten by on her good looks?

  • I think a discussion like this would greatly benefit from the author starting out by very explicitly detailing what they are considering coercion & shaming and what they are excluding. Some of the disagreement here may not be actual disagreement with the author but disagreement over definitions of coercion and shaming.

  • Alex McNabb

    So what exactly do you propose here? When someone says “Quit being a slut!” you shoot them to death? You do realize that you’re basically claiming that anytime someone offends your delicate little emotional biases you can retroactively claim they are “coercing” you and demand they pay the consequences?

    I have a suggestion for you: Give up on Libertarianism and Anarchy. What you need is a good ol’ liberal nanny state full of Orwellian right-speak laws to keep you from ever being offended.

  • I think we have a definitional problem here: when does “opinion” slip into “shaming?” There are points where I don’t think it’s obvious.

  • dk

    I completely agree with this. Whenever I suggest, using evidence, that blacks are less intelligent than whites, I am shamed and ostracized. This is a form of soft coercion.

  • Robert Kenneth Kirchoff

    I dislike most forms of shaming. I think shaming is much less “useful” in crafting the kind of societies shamers want than they think. And even if it is effective, it unquestionably causes considerable human misery.

    That said, simply because people act miserably doesn’t mean they’re coercing someone. We cannot insist that anything bad is immediately unlibertarian. Equivocation is intellectually dishonest.

    Coercion is probably best (and most loosely) defined as a violation of rights. If you’re shaming someone in a free society, the only threat that hangs over their head is not being able to transact with you and those who agree with you. If we can consider that coercion, then people have a positive right–in fact, a natural positive right–to transact with anyone they please. I simply cannot accept that. It defies both intuition and reason.

  • Tregard

    So how are you supposed to deal with potentially nasty people in your perfect society?

    Just ignore then?

    Great strategy.

  • Mary Ann Johansen

    I’m just a bit curious what you’d want as a result of shaming being unjustifiable coercion. I’m assuming you’re not calling for the government to ban shaming, but what would be the goal?

  • Steven Horwitz

    Sorry, not buying this at all. Once we argue “shaming” is a form of coercion, we don’t raise it up to the level of coercion, instead we define REAL coercion down. Now “shaming” is a form of coercion just like robbery, slavery, and rape are? Really?

    Cathy, you’re making EXACTLY the same mistake as the feminist anti-porn crowd does when they try to define porn as a form of rape. That doesn’t make porn worse, it cheapens rape.

    You are cheapening real, genuine, does-serious-harm coercion by trying to argue that people who don’t like what you or others do, and say so, are coercing you. They aren’t. They are criticizing you. We can criticize them for having bad criticisms, but we don’t get to call everything we don’t like “coercion.” It just doesn’t work that way and it’s a good thing it doesn’t, because doing so harms the libertarian cause.

    No sale. And I hope this is not a direction libertarians go it, because it leads to a philosophical and political nightmare.

    • James Miller

      For once, I agree with Horwitz on a social issue.

      • Pochy

        Me. too. THis happens every 5000 years.

        • Steven Horwitz

          Love you too guys 🙂

        • Jesus is risen? Steve is the second coming!

    • Okay, I’d actually like to play with this a bit. It is my inclination to disagree that shaming is coercion as well, but I’m not really sure that pulling the two apart is as easily philosophically justifiable as your comment makes it seem.

      So, first of all, I think Cathy (and I elsewhere) would draw a distinction between criticism of an action and shaming. Shaming is “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” That is different from telling someone that what they did is wrong for whatever reason. Shaming is focused on the person; criticism on the action. Criticism has reasoning behind it, shaming does not. This is the point that Cathy brings up: persuasion is preferable to shaming.

      Cathy also talks about social ostracism as a function of shaming, and I think that’s completely legitimate. Such things harms someone’s potential to be a fully functioning human being, and, according to our definition above, shaming also is painful to them.

      So here we have many of the basic problems with coercion and why it is unethical. In both the case of threatening physical harm and threatening or enacting social costs, the person being threatened still completely has the freedom to take the option that they want, but the person doing it makes the costs of what someone does so high that the person in question chooses not to do it.

      So, there are lots of similarities there, IMO.

      In truth, where we as westerners and as libertarians draw the line in the sand of what is considered appropriate means to get someone to do what you want them to do is exactly that—an arbitrary line in the sand. I’m not entirely convinced that we have a good, rational reason to draw it where we do and am somewhat sympathetic to the argument that it should be somewhere else.

      Aaaand I have to go back to work now. Will be back to touch more on this.

      • Andrea Castillo

        But Cathy *didn’t* make that distinction, she listed “criticism” right next to “ridicule, shame, and ostracization.”

        Your definition of shaming is more properly the definition of being shamed; it is premised on a “painful feeling caused by consciousness”. The attempted distinction between criticism and shame is irrelevant to the question of whether a person has a positive right to “non-painful feelings” and whether others’ negative rights to free expression should be compromised to respect this proposed positive right.

        • Fair on the point about Cathy’s feelings on criticism. My fault entirely for missing that.

          As far as my definition of shame, it’s just what I pulled from the dictionary.

          As far as the distinction between criticism/persuasion (I see the two as somewhat synonymous. Perhaps constructive criticism might be a better term to use), I do see it as important because I think that one kind of action should be encouraged while the other should be discouraged.

          • Andrea Castillo

            “Shaming is ‘a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.'”

            You are not following. This definition of shame is predicated upon the “shamee’s” reaction – their “painful feelings.”

            Let’s say we direct the same exact criticism to two different people. One person shrugs it off and moves on with their life, the other feels deep emotional distress. By your definition, only one person was shamed. Shame, then, is entirely dependent on the reactions of the recipient of this message.

            This is why I brought up the critical distinction between negative and positive rights. You seem to be positing that people have a positive right to not feel this distress, so I pointed out that this necessarily conflicts with others’ negative rights to self-expression.

            Your comments have not yet resolved this important tension.

          • Steven Horwitz

            What Andrea said. And see my longer reply to Cathy.

          • Can you link me? There’s a lot going on in this thread.

          • My fault. The above quoted is the definition of “shame.” I thought that the verb form of that would be relatively clear, but I understand what you’re saying based on the data I gave you. Shaming (vb) would be:

            (of a person, action, or situation) make (someone) feel ashamed.

            with “ashamed” having the above meaning.

            Interestingly, in several of the sources I found, “force” is included in the definition of shame (vb)

            shamed, sham·ing, shames

            1. To cause to feel shame; put to shame.
            2. To bring dishonor or disgrace on.
            3. To disgrace by surpassing.
            4. To force by making ashamed: He was shamed into making an apology.

            Now, I think this definition is predicated by the philosophical question of whether or not a person can make someone feel something. It assumes you can, while I think you and others might think that you can’t. That might be the central tension here (I don’t necessarily agree that it’s about positive/negative rights, but I’ll touch on that later).

            I think that the answer to that question, long and debated it is, is probably somewhere in between that humans have complete control over their emotions and no control over them at all. I don’t have empirical data on me to back that up, but I think it’s philosophically sound.

            So, accepting that someone can, at least sometimes, make you feel something, I think that, just in the realm of decency, it is incumbent upon people, in general, to try their best to not make someone feel something bad. I think that’s a fairly commonly accepted societal norm. We apologize when we unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings. Tact is a thing. Etc.

            The exception to this is when we feel someone has done something wrong. We don’t have a problem with making someone feel bad if they have done something wrong. Murderers should feel bad, child molesters should feel bad, etc.

            So too, we all agree that physically making someone do something is not okay unless they are doing or have done something bad. However, we, as libertarians, limit this to harm to others.

            So, from a libertarian perspective (and right now I’m just dealing in ethics, not governments, which is why I’m not concerned with rights right now), you shouldn’t physically make someone do something unless they have done something to harm someone else.

            My point here is that, philosophically, I do not see a justifiable distinction between making someone feel something and making someone do something. Feelings are a physical phenomenon just as anything else. If we agree (a) that you can make someone feel something and (b) that those feelings can cause harm to them, then it seems like making someone feel something so that they will do something that you want is a form of coercion, and that coercion is not justifiable under a libertarian schema unless that person has done something to harm someone else.

            I have to step away now, but I’ll be back. I know I didn’t directly address your points about the differences the same potentially shaming act has on two different people. I have a couple of thoughts on that, but I gotta go.

          • Andrea Castillo

            “I do not see a justifiable distinction between making someone feel something and making someone do something.”

            Obviously. This is what I am criticizing you for.

            Your dictionary and preferences cannot save you from the burden to justify why your proposed positive right to warm and fuzzies should trump everyone else’s negative rights to free expression and self-ownership.

            Why do you think that your emotions create a property right in others’ thoughts?

          • I’m not pulling out the dictionary to prove my point, but to establish a commonality in definitions.

            I didn’t say anything about property rights or positive rights. Shockingly, you can have discussions about ethics without talking about rights or property.

          • Andrea Castillo

            You’re not trying to “establish a commonality in languages,” you’re playing word games. And it’s tiresome.

            What other kind of discussion beyond “these are my preferences” do you think we can have if we can’t first agree on what constitutes a legitimate use of force?

            You are claiming that people should curtail their thoughts and expressions if it hurts someone’s feelings. This is a claim of a right, whether or not you will admit it.

          • What psychic abilities let you understand someone’s intent better then they themselves do?

          • Andrea Castillo

            No psychic abilities, just context and repeated interactions.

          • Chriswich

            “My point here is that, philosophically, I do not see a justifiable distinction between making someone feel something and making someone do something.”

            I think what is relevant is how we respond to making someone feel something vs. making someone do something. If someone makes you feel a certain way and you respond with physical force (i.e., making them DO something) then it is a misplaced reaction. Even if both forms of coercion are bad, physical coercion only makes sense as a response to other physical coercion. Thus, people are allowed to make others feel certain ways in the sense that we can’t physically stop them from doing it. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with them doing it or that it’s not wrong at all.

          • jtkennedy

            Heh, Anyone who thinks shaming is coercion ought to try coercing me that way.

      • seanwmalone

        Ok. Let’s take this:

        “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.”

        This is a fine enough definition of “shame”, and then “shaming”
        would be the act of deliberately trying to create those painful feelings in another person. Seems reasonable.

        But then you make a huge leap. Shaming is really just a tactic of criticism & social pressure. It doesn’t say anything at all about whether or not there is reasoning behind the criticism.

        It also doesn’t actually affect a person’s ability to be a “fully functional human being” unless they allow it to. The shamed individual could continue to do what they’re doing within a culture that overwhelmingly disapproves of their behavior provided that there isn’t any physical violence employed to prevent it.

        You may not want to do the thing because it has social costs, but so? The fact that other people don’t like what you’re doing doesn’t mean you get to shut them up, or put the burden of your feelings on them. If we argue that people are only fully functional as human beings when they are free from shame, humiliation or harsh criticism, then we’re arguing that people don’t have any control over themselves or their reactions to other people’s opinions… and if that’s true, then it would arguably be justifiable to force unwanted associations and to prevent unwanted speech.

        Is that acceptable?

        At some point, people need to take responsibility for their own feelings and acknowledge that they have no right to prevent other people from criticizing their behavior. Unlike with physical force – where a chain around a leg literally prevents a person from moving – shaming only works to the extent the shamed accepts it as legitimate. If you want to do the thing you want to do, and you think the shaming has no merit, by all means… carry on doing what you’re doing and ignore it, or engage their shaming with speech of your own.

        These are very different things.

        • “It also doesn’t actually affect a person’s ability to be a “fully functional human being” unless they allow it to.”

          Tell that to the Steubenville rape victim, who was slut shamed (even though the sex was totally unconsensual). Tell that to people who are massively bombarded after a video of them doing something sexual goes viral. I think it certainly does impede in their ability to function in society, particularly if they are ostracized. If we accept that humans are social beings and that socialness is inherent to being a fully functional human being, then ostracizing someone by definition keeps them from being fully functional humans.

          That is not even to say the other kinds of harms that slut shaming does, like systemic harms:

          “You may not want to do the thing because it has social costs, but so?”

          You may not want to avoid paying your taxes because it has a physical cost, but so? My point is that, philosophically, the distinction between physical coercion and social coercion is fairly arbitrary. I have yet to see a good argument for why physical coercion deserves a place of different ethical consideration than does social coercion.

          Examples I give above are pretty good ones, I think, to the real harm it can and does do.

          • James Miller

            “My point is that, philosophically, the distinction between physical coercion and social coercion is fairly arbitrary.”

            Wrong on so many levels. Physical coercion is me putting a gun in your face and demanding payment. Social coercion is me telling you to stop behaving like a fool. The former employs force, the latter does not.

            ” I have yet to see a good argument for why physical coercion deserves a place of different ethical consideration than does social coercion.”

            Funny, because there is a lot of literature on the subject. But I will summarize: humans own their body and justly acquired property. You cannot possibly own the thoughts and feelings of another person – as such would undermine the self-ownership of another.

            So if I think you are a rotten pig (I do not for the record, but this is for arguendo) and say so, I am expressing an idea via my own property. I am not interfering with yours.

          • seanwmalone

            “You cannot possibly own the thoughts and feelings of another person – as such would undermine the self-ownership of another.”

            Damn right.

          • jtkennedy

            “My point is that, philosophically, the distinction between physical coercion and social coercion is fairly arbitrary.”

            Imagine a government that didn’t use physical coercion.

          • seanwmalone

            First. Harassment ≠ “Shaming”.

            It is a very different situation for someone to be hounded, tracked, chased down, and have people shouting hurtful things at them all day every day – blocking their free movement, preventing them from working, sleeping, or even having conversations, etc. – and having a bunch of people not want to talk to you, not want to associate with you, and otherwise look down on you for your (real or imagined) “bad” behavior.

            If by “shaming” you actually mean “harassment”, then let’s talk about harassment, which may actually be deliberately threatening or coercive and for which currently, you can get court issued restraining orders to prevent or discontinue.

            People not liking you for the way you behave isn’t harassment.

            Second. You bring up the Stubenville rape case, and other specific cases where people are “bombarded” after leaked sex videos or what-have-you…. Ok.

            Couple issues here.

            1. Rape is physical coercion.

            2. I would never, ever, speak for a rape victim, but I’d imagine that the shaming part of the Stubenville case is more insult to injury and at the time indicative of actual harassment than it is a matter of “shaming”.

            Additionally, there were also an enormous number of people – like you (and most people in my own social media sphere) – who spent the whole case criticizing and shaming the boys involved, as well as the numerous law-enforcement officers who dropped the ball.

            Yes, some people shamed the victim, but many people also shamed the perpetrators. In fact, no one that I can recall at that time did anything *but* shaming. Meaning… No one actually tried to reason with or otherwise kindly reach out to boys who sexually assault drunk girls at parties in order to “convince them” that what they were doing was wrong.

            Was that coercion? Or do we just not care about that because the boys were in the wrong?

            (Hint: I bet I know which…)

            3. It’s usually bad to use extreme cases to try to justify a general point. Most people are not subject to national media attention no matter what their actions. So sticking with either the Stubenville case or celebrity sex-tapes, the social ostracism tends to be on a far bigger and more aggressive scale than any “shaming” that happens to ordinary people who don’t get write-ups in the NY Times.

            3. On that note… You talk about people “being bombarded”. Where? By what?

            With phone calls? Emails? Letters? Picket lines outside their homes and workplaces?

            Again… Harassment is a different issue than shaming. If people are showing up on your private property and harassing you (with shame) then you can get a restraining order or you’d be within your rights to tell them to go away.

            But if they’re refusing to let you into their clubs, their social cliques, and making fun of you? No. I’m sorry… They have just as much right to their opinions of you and to associate or disassociate with whomever they chose as you have a right to engage in otherwise harmless behavior which nobody likes. Being free “from” being offended means – by necessity – being able to prevent other people from saying and thinking what they want about or to you.

            Thus we must toss free speech right out the window.

            So, I guess to sum up here… Harassment may prevent people from “participating in society”, to the extent that it involves threats of physical force and prevents a person from physically interacting with the rest of the world. You may be harassed for many reasons – including for the purpose of shaming you – but shame qua shaming is not harassment.

            You don’t get to force everyone else to invite you to their parties and say only the nicest of things to you just because. Life doesn’t owe you that. Nor do you owe it to anyone else.

          • Chriswich

            “I have yet to see a good argument for why physical coercion deserves a place of different ethical consideration than does social coercion.”

            It’s different in the way we can react to them. If people don’t have a right to “socially coerce” then that means we have a right to physically coerce them to not do it. But that wouldn’t makes sense because we’d be trying to solve a social problem with physical violence, which would be overkill don’t you think? It’s the same reason that it’s wrong to shoot someone who wanders onto your property. They might be aggressing against your land but that doesn’t mean you can then aggress against them even more (by killing them). If “social coercion” is aggression to some extent, any solution that involves physical coercion would be an overreaction.

        • Neverfox

          It also doesn’t actually affect a person’s ability to be a “fully functional human being” unless they allow it to.

          I don’t think it’s obviously true that psychological harm is always somehow voluntarily suffered. It also seems to me that the same argument could be used against a variety of cases typically taken for granted as coercion, e.g. I could steal your TV and argue that you could be a fully-functional human being — indeed a better human being — if you get over it, don’t let it affect you, and read a book instead.

          The shamed individual could continue to do what they’re doing within a culture that overwhelmingly disapproves of their behavior provided that there isn’t any physical violence employed to prevent it.

          Why should the standard be what’s logically possible after the fact? It’s logically possible that you can go buy another TV. After all, I just robbed you; I didn’t end the whole system of free markets or take all your money. My point is that I don’t think it’s relevant what options one is left with. I think that what is most relevant is whether or not I have violated someone’s boundaries and treated them as a mere means.

          • seanwmalone

            Firstly, your emotions are fundamentally your own to control and to deal with. Other people are not – and cannot be – responsible for your emotional well-being. Not only is it unfeasible, since that would require everyone to have specific knowledge about what kinds of statements will have which effect on which people (which is impossible), making someone else the keeper of your emotional well-being would almost intrinsically mean initiating force against people who don’t say the things you want them to say.

            You choose whether or not to let other people’s view of you impact the way you see yourself. Frankly, I do this every day of my life in small ways… I suspect most people do. As someone who has opted to hold a lot of ideas and beliefs that are outside the norm, I subject myself to a lot of criticism on a fairly routine basis.

            I could allow that criticism to devastate me, or pressure me into changing my mind about libertarian ideas, for example, or I can acknowledge that not everyone likes what I think or how I act, and move on… proudly continuing to defend my beliefs against that criticism.

            If you can’t stand up for yourself when you make a choice other people don’t like, you’re going to have a bad time at life in general.

            Anyway… As I’ve made clear elsewhere on this thread, shaming and harassment are not the same thing. If a person is following you, yelling at you, and refuses to leave you alone, then no – you cannot control that, and it would be unreasonable to expect someone not to be affected by that in some way or another.

            But that’s a separate issue from shaming on its own.

            Shaming is just another person’s attempt at making you feel bad about your choices. If you know you made the right choice for your own life, then tell them to fuck off and be done with it. There was no force involved and yes, the majority of the power they have over you is given by you in the first place by caring about their opinion.

            To compare that to theft of a TV is silly. If the TV is gone, it’s gone.

      • Cole Gentles

        Gina, I think there is a huge difference in the fact that the coerced will be physically harmed in some way (or threatened with physical harm) to prevent them from being able to behave in a certain way, as opposed to the ‘shamed’ or ‘ostracized’ who can STILL behave that way if they so desire, and can even engage and associate with others who share those values, however small or outside the norm those behaviors may be (so long as they aren’t violating anyone’s rights).

        Shaming and ostracizing still allow for those behaviors to compete with the moral majority’s preferred behaviors and allow for others to decide which way they prefer to live. Coercion does not.

        That’s all the difference in the world.

      • Chriswich

        It’s one thing to say something like is unethical and it’s another to say that it is not someone’s right. If it’s not someone’s right then that suggests we should be allowed to physically stop them from doing it. So would we be right to physically stop someone from slut shaming, or threaten them with force if they don’t stop? No, because slut-shaming itself isn’t physically coercive even if it is unethical.

      • Chriswich

        Even if shaming is a form of coercion, it is still not as coercive as physical coercion. Thus, people would have a right to do it without being physically forced to stop, since physical coercion would be an overreaction to the problem.

      • Tristan Finley Collins

        Even if we defined shaming separately from criticism, as hurtful … it is not the same as a threat of physical force against a persons body or property. If shaming was accompanied by a threat or action of direct force then we’d be onto something. But no, Cathy hasn’t made that distinction either.

    • Stephan Kinsella

      “Once we argue “shaming” is a form of coercion, we don’t raise it up to the level of coercion, instead we define REAL coercion down. ”

      This is similar to my argument against intellectual property. If you enforce positive rights, it comes at the expense of negative rights. If you inflate money you dilute the value of existing money. Nothing is free: new positive rights come at the expense existing negative property rights. New money comes at the expense of the purchasing power of existing money. Calling everything coercion or rape dilutes the negative power of labeling some really bad things as rape or coercion (not to mention: the word coercion is misused here; we libertarians do not oppose coercion per se any more than we oppose force or violence per se; we oppose initiated force or coercion, i..e aggression — ).

      In the case of IP the only way to enforce IP rights by using material force against material resources. All IP amounts to a transfer or rights in already-owned resources. in this broad sense, rape is a form of IP.

      • “Shame” only works if there is already an attitude of such among
        others regarding that behavior. There’s nothing coercive about someone making a statement of fact. If there is something about your actions that you think others may not approve of, then you have either stop the behavior, practice some discretion, or just accept others’ right to free association which also includes the freedom to dissociate. Calling social pressure from others exercising their freedoms “coercion” not only cheapens the word but almost completely destroys it.

        Yes, Stephan you are very correct in saying these positive “rights” don’t exist. IP (I hate this false propagandistic term) only exists by
        violating the true property rights through the denial of their freedom
        to use their own property as they wish.

    • Guest


      • Steven Horwitz

        Really Cathy? By that standard, your whole post is a big “Nuh uh.” As in a small child saying “you’re not the boss of me and you can’t tell me what I want to do isn’t cool.” Because basically, that’s what it is. Being a free person means taking responsibility for one’s choices and being willing to defend them against criticism. That’s what freedom means. Wanting a world in which we rule out criticism and “shaming” by defining it as coercion is to want a world where we never have to be responsible for our choices and where the freedom to criticize will itself have to be coercively (and REALLY coercively) interfered with.

        The world you are implicitly describing is the world of the 5 year old stamping his feet because the universe doesn’t conform to his wishes.

        As a smart guy once said “Coercion occurs when one man’s actions are made to serve another man’s will, not for his own but for the other’s purpose….Coercion clearly does not inlcude all influences that men can exercise on the actions of others…. Coercion implices both the threat of inflicting harm and the intention thereby to bring about certain conduct.” (Hayek, CoL)

        The problem with your definition is that shaming, criticism and the like involve no threat of inflicting harm. They do not bend others to our will. They simply say “What you’re doing is wrong and I wish you would behave differently.” Saying that to those whose actions we think are wrong is an essential part of what it means to live in a society of free and responsible people.

        The same applies to those who wish to challenge social norms: If you wish to live differently than the majority of your society, you are free to do (assuming you aren’t harming others), but I am equally free to say you’ve made a bad choice. And those who choose to live differently need to accept the responsibility for the fact that they are challenging the majority and thereby deal with criticism. That’s what freedom and responsibility are.

        A world without the right to peacefully shame and criticize will be a world of unsocialized narcissists (in other words, most toddlers) who will not care at all when they really do violate the rights of others becasue when we try to stop those rights violations, they will simply whine about how we’re shaming them and coercing them into conforming.

        NOT a free society and NOT the world I want to live in.

        • Steven Horwitz

          Let me add one more point that others have made: the problem with “slut shaming” is that it is often a BAD criticism and it’s applied unevenly to men and women. The problem with it is NOT that it’s “shaming” but that the targets of that shaming (in the case of rape victims who wore certain clothing) do not deserve the shame.

          • JQ Tomanek

            I use the word “debauchee-defaming” for the male equivalent. Fraternal correction is the simplest social way to correct behavior. If a person wants to blast their behavior publicly, be ready for public response that is not accepting.

        • Coercion is an invitation to have your pain receptors stimulated.
          Shaming is an invitation to feel bad about yourself.
          I cannot equate those two things, because they are not equal.

    • Labsaver

      Agree 100% Steven. This is exactly that same mistake feminists make time and time again. Somehow they confuse screwing everyone and having that be ok with having Liberty. The fact is Liberty means keeping the state out of what you do. It has nothing to do with how others may feel about what you do.

      Commentaries like this hurt the Libertarian cause greatly.

      • Steven Horwitz

        Well I don’t agree 100%. My argument was that it is a mistake feminist make on one issue, not all the time. I kinda like many feminists. A lot. And I like them so much that I think this argument actually undermines feminism, which was my point. So please, take me off your feminist-hating team. 🙂

        • seanwmalone

          “And I like them so much that I think this argument actually undermines feminism, which was my point. ”

          This is super important to me.

          Something that has been eating at me for quite a while, but which I’ve only really had time to formulate in pieces, are the myriad arguments made recently by people who are bringing feminist or otherwise “positive-rights’ focused influences into libertarian thought which are simply terrible.

          This one was the worst I’ve ever seen.

          But overall, I think the thing that frustrates me the most about these kinds of things is that there is a lot of value to learning from feminism in general – I *like* that we are starting to talk about structural issues, systemic issues, racism, sexism, historical mistreatment of individuals based on collectivist categories, etc.

          We should be talking about that stuff.

          But if all we’re doing is regurgitating the utterly abysmal arguments of many of the liberals who talk about this kind of stuff, then we’re importing the worst of all possible ideas. That’s something I very strongly want to avoid.

    • Neverfox

      Once we argue “shaming” is a form of coercion, we don’t raise it up to the level of coercion, instead we define REAL coercion down. Now “shaming” is a form of coercion just like robbery, slavery, and rape are?

      Besides begging the question with that “REAL,” this is nonsense. One doesn’t flatten any rank scale that might exist by declaring something “a form of”; that’s what rankings are for and it certainly doesn’t make sense to rank completely incommensurable items.

      Take your own examples of robbery on the one hand and slavery/rape on the other hand. I take it that you would consider stealing a pack of bubblegum to be “a form of” coercion since it’s robbery, but by arguing that, have you thereby cheapened the moral seriousness of slavery/rape, which I imagine few consider to be on the same level?

      You are cheapening real, genuine, does-serious-harm coercion by trying to argue that people who don’t like what you or others do, and say so, are coercing you.

      More question-begging. You can’t or won’t address any argument she has (which includes, for better or worse, the point that many forms of what you would want to say are not coercion do far more serious harm than many things you would want to say are coercion) so instead you resort to telling her that by simply “trying to argue” her point, all kinds of bad things will happen. How about saying exactly why she’s wrong rather than whipping up all kinds of scary consequences for the belief (also a fallacy)?

      If there’s any reason to worry about the direction that libertarianism is going, it’s that your comment, as full of fallacy and non-argument as it is, has 86 up-votes and no down-votes so far (save for mine).

      • Tony

        If there’s any reason to worry about the direction that libertarianism
        is going, it’s that your comment, as full of fallacy and non-argument as
        it is, has 86 up-votes and no down-votes so far (save for mine).”

        The 86 up-votes comes from people who have a clear understanding of the concept of freedom, and are libertariansm, whereas the down vote obviously comes from confused “freedom-lovers”, whom in fact are trying to substitute a touchy-feely society with thought police for a free society, and whom mistake libertarianism for politically correct egalitarianism.

        Unfortunately, this proves that as libertarianism becomes more popular, there tend to be more people who try to sculpt it into something that fits with their ideology of tolerance, instead of a love of individual freedom. Tolerance has nothing to do with freedom, since it puts the mind and mouth in chains.

        • Neverfox

          Cool story, bro, but do you have any actual argument for why I’m mistaken about the fallacies in Steven’s argument?

  • kylebennett

    There’s a legitimate point to make here about the ineffectiveness and counter-productiveness of shaming in general, and of attempting to regulate people’s behavior in the kinds of areas you cite. But instead of making it, you wandered out to Derpville and did a drunken herp dance in the square. You’ve decided that you are too precious a snowflake to ever have to endure the judgement of others, that they shouldn’t be allowed to evaluate the merits and virtue of your behavior.

    “writes regularly for Doublethink magazine”


  • Omar Benmegdoul

    Coercion is not mere harm; it’s a violation of rights. In fact, the reason why we have rights is to decide who gets what in cases in which there is an issue–e.g. my promiscuity is harming you, and your attempting to persuade me through non-forceful means is harming me. Who’s in the right? You are, because you have a right to free speech.

  • fancygapva

    If you’re going to live in the world with other people you can’t deny them their opinions or their expression of them (maybe they want to avoid you or preach to you) That is their right as well as it is yours to bang a lot of dudes and do heroin. If you feel shamed by their comments or your own behavior that is your stuff, lady. You must have some doubts about your own behavior or their opinions or their slut-slamming wouldn’t bother you. If you want to be free you have to have the courage of your convictions and not wimp out and whine when others don’t approve.

  • James Miller

    Once again, a member of the “shame for me, not thee” confuses real coercion for persuasion.

    Serious question Cathy: If this article is purportedly an act of persuading others to your view point, how are you not also engaging in coercion?

    Are you not attempting to “criticize, ridicule, shame or ostracize” others who disagree right now?

    • Steven Horwitz

      And how can anyone possibly disagree with it without being coercive? Air-tight self-referential impregnable epistemic closure.

  • Henry Vandenburgh

    I’m with Kathy. In my old age, I’ve come to believe that most shaming is illegitimate. And it’s a big problem for the liberal left. The idea (pace Kors et al.) is to create culture of consensus around new norms, many of which would restrict individual autonomy. The idea (pace Gramsci) is to create a society where unanimity of voice is like “the withering away of the state” in Marxism-Leninism. We see this attempt all the time in the anti-gun movement, or, significantly, in sex-negative feminism (many think “surplus” sexual shaming sets the stage for being open to control in a myriad of ways not related to sex – the overarching feeling of shame makes us malleable.) Certainly there are things that most people would agree on – senseless murder or assault, sex with actual children (“statutory” rape is less clear – and speaks against the autonomy of young adults.) People doing these things can be legitimately shamed or defended against– or converted. But of course, many try to shame people into behaving in ways which (if inspected) they believe will advantage them. Men and women use “slut shaming” differently. Men to attack women who show a chink in their armor – this is particularly perverse because it depends of these men’s frustration with the control of sex by women. Women to restrict access to marriage markets and to keep their perceived market value high in a sex-negative environment. Sometimes men slut shame at the behest of women.

  • Rico Boudreau

    I see a lot of people are shitting on this and I was tempted to do the same. But are you saying we should not shame people because it’s unproductive and mean, or because shaming is actual violence ? Being calm and gentle is usually the only way to bring wise people to your side, but when you’re dealing with irresponsible children or even adults, a bit of “shaking things up” is Necessary in my opinion. This is a good article, I just think it needs a bit of clarification.

  • I’m against slut-shaming as much as any other sane person (everybody likes sex, if you do it a lot, we should envy you, not shame you), but I don’t think it’s a form of coercion. I think that, as society evolves, shaming slut-shamers will be the norm, and the prudes will be on the minority. And I’m totally in favor of that.

  • Dave Kozak

    “What right then does anyone have to coerce me by threatening to criticize, ridicule, shame or ostracize me?”

    Speaking rudely to you is not coercion, coercion is compelling action by the threat of force.

  • Logan Albright

    The claim that shaming is somehow the same as coercion is obviously absurd, but I also disagree about shaming not being a useful and positive aspect of a free society. Shaming is a large part of the reason we witness so little racism today. Everyone knows that holding racist views or behaving in racist ways will mean that they will never be able to get a job again. That is a good thing, and the only sensible alternative to legal prohibitions on speech. Public opinion is how you incentivize good behavior without the threat of violence.

    • Archimedes

      I agree that public opinion is how good behavior can be incentivized.


      Under the current regime, the only reason you can’t get a job if you’re an outspoken bigot is because of state coercion: employers know if they hire someone with known racist views, and that person makes a racist comment to other employees, the employer will get dragged into a government court for permitting a “hostile work environment”, or other such crimes. And any time an employer gets taken to court, it’s a lose, even if they win the case.

      Regardless of what one thinks of hate speech, if you agree that it can
      be regulated in any way by the state — whether via its courts, or not — then you have given the state the power to regulate YOUR speech.

      Absent the power of the state to coerce a business into paying dearly
      for non-PC speech, people who find themselves working with bigots are
      free to choose to work elsewhere, and customers who discover they’re buying from bigots will tend to buy elsewhere.

      Only freedom actually works to curb bigotry permanently. Using state coercion to curb it only forces it underground and makes it fester; worse, it also institutionalizes reverse bigotry.

      Freedom takes longer to create an attitude change, but the results are permanent and the chance of it creating just as bad a situation in reverse is almost nil.

  • Derek Ellerman

    Butt Hurt Libertarians
    about an hour ago near Saint Louis, MO
    Threatening to criticize, ridicule, shame or ostracize people who use drugs or are sluts is coercion and a violation of their rights!

    Criticizing, ridiculing, shaming or ostracizing Ron Paul and the LvMI is something all moral, right thinking people should do. In fact, if you don’t criticize, ridicule, shame or ostracize them, you’re probably a racist who needs to be criticized, ridiculed, shamed, and ostracized.

    Because…science, based on muh feels.

    My thoughts exactly.

  • dylboz

    Shame the shamers by renaming their shaming! Henceforth, it shall be known as coercion! And the villagers danced! Rather provocatively and in revealing outfits, actually. Then they totally hooked up with the cute guys at the pool table and never was heard a discouraging word. The end.

  • dylboz

    “There is no coercion in educating me about the natural pitfalls of my
    activities. There is no coercion in explaining to me the benefits of

    Wait, isn’t that condescending mansplaining behavior which reinforces the patriarchy by disempowering you and undermining your agency in making choices about your own body? Sheesh, I can never be sure what the limits of appropriate behavior are for the modern man (or am I inappropriately gendering myself). Shame on me.

  • DocMerlin

    They have a right to interact with whoever they want. Therefor, them shaming or refusing to interact with you is not coercive. It would be coercive if they didn’t want to interact with you, but you used a gun or threat of violence to make them interact with you.

    Also, you seem to think that small fines aren’t coercive… what happens if someone refuses to pay that fine? (Jail_time/being_shot/being_forcibly_chained)

  • DocMerlin

    You are defining a positive right:
    “I have a right to make people interact with me.”

    Once you do that, what happens is rather negative.

  • Axxion

    Nothing wrong with slut or any other kind of shaming! Sorry if I find your behavior disgusting or undesirable I AM going to ostracize you! Personally i don’t care how many guys you screw, but if someone does find exception to it, then they have every right to express their opinion to you and call you a slut, as well as to socially ostracize you, as long as they are not using force against your person or property. Just as you have every right to tell them to piss off, and socially ostracize them for being intolerant or what have you. Sorry but the only way to keep me from speaking my mind is to use force or violence to stop me, then you really are violating my rights. Sorry, but if you openly engage in behavior society finds distasteful, you are going to have to deal with the social consequences of that. On the bright side, you do have the choice to not care what others say and live your own life.

  • Ankur Chawla

    I don’t disagree with Cathy’s intention — I think community ostracization is a form of Foucauldian power on the same scale as state enforcement — but I don’t think this is a bad thing. If a community is providing feedback to certain behavior, that is because people in the community are self-regulating what they perceive as a problem. These “horizontal social contracts”, I think, provide us with normative rules of social interaction without compromising local knowledge.

    That being said, I think slut-shamers are the worst. But this belief is couched in my own community, and I expect members of my community to ostracize slut-shamers out. That’s how social change works.

    • Tony

      “I think community ostracization is a form of Foucauldian power on the same scale as state enforcement”

      And i here i was, mistakenly thinking that the state has a monopoly on the use of violence whereas a community would merely practice their right not to associate with someone with a lifestyle they find disagreeable.
      Apparently, all the state has ever done is to “shame” and “ostracize” people to their graves. Those were some weak minded people who were shamed and ostracized to death by the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao.

      Am i going too far in thinking that making an analogy being community ostracization and the worst excesses of state enforcement is gross and an insult to, among others, the over 100 million people that died at the hands of government just in the last century alone?

    • I guess, my question to you would be, like, what, then, is the ethical distinction between what a state does and what a community does? For instance, was the community in The Scarlett Letter acting ethically when they shunned Hester Prynne? I’m inclined to believe that they weren’t, and I haven’t really seen a meaningful argument (thus far) that successfully argues that physical coercion and shaming are clearly distinct. Why should we favor physical harm over mental and emotional harm? I’m not sure that we should.

      It is, honestly, a question I’ve been turning around for some years now, and I’m glad Cathy wrote what she did, because it’s a question I’d like to take some time to discuss.

  • Ryan Harrison

    “Somewhere we’ve decided that the tools the
    state uses to influence behavior are “coercion” while the tools
    non-state actors use are cooperation. Where is the justification for
    this? I didn’t sign a contract with slut-shamers any more than I
    did with my government. I may find complete ostracism much more
    oppressive than a small fine. In fact, there are studies which indicate
    that social exclusion is far more psychologically damaging than property
    crime.” ~Cathy Reisenwitz

    Cathy, I am disturbed by the
    article, but mostly by this paragraph. In my own life, when someone is
    behaving destructively towards people around me, or myself, I
    “ostracize” them from my life. Maybe a definition for ostracize is
    necessary: “verb; to exclude from a group”. The “group” here is my life.
    I am free to exclude people from my life. I do it all the time and I am
    not coercing anyone by doing it. This can also be called
    discrimination, even though that term has an undeserved bad reputation.

    Discrimination can mean choosing the people with whom I choose to be
    friends with, with whom I love, with whom I do business, etc. I am
    discriminating against the rest of the world when I decide to
    romantically love my significant other but not anyone else. I am
    discriminating against the rest of the office supply industry when I
    choose Office Depot over their many competitors. I am discriminating
    against the rest of my pool of available friends in Tucson when I choose
    to have dinner with one but not the others. Do I need to go on?

    I also take issue with your misunderstanding between the differences
    between the state and “non-state actors” as you call them. The state,
    as we know it, functions on theft. Non-state actors may function on
    theft for a time but human life, human survival, and human preservation
    are not supported by thievery. Thievery is the way of animals without
    reason, not humans capable of miracles in our minds and environment.

    Most non-state actors have thus come to the conclusion
    that hard work, voluntary free trade, and the creation of wealth is the
    way to go. These things support human life, survival and preservation on
    a short term and long term basis.

    “In fact, there are studies which indicate that social exclusion is far more psychologically damaging than property crime.”

    I’d love to see your references to these psychology studies.
    Social exclusion is something necessary for human survival and human
    happiness, I’d argue. Property crime only makes our human evolution move
    at a slower pace.

    • Derek Ellerman

      Yes. All of this has already been fully pre-refuted by Walter Block’s work.

      Oh wait, I can’t cite anyone at LvMI, because only those who complain about shaming and criticism are allowed to shame and criticize others.

      • Ryan Harrison

        Derek, thank you for turning me onto Walter Block. I already found an article from him that you are referring to. Good stuff.

        By the way, I wasn’t under the assumption my thoughts were original. I assume a vast number of ideas have been recycled many times. Thanks for letting me know though. Now I put my ideas and Walter Block’s written ideas together and come up with better ideas (hopefully!). 🙂

        Thanks again Derek.

  • AuntMerryweather

    I’m knocking on wood as I type this, but I’d like to point out and commend all the antagonistic commenters here for challenging the broader claim about criticism and shaming, and not the *specific* claim about *slut-shaming.* Well done, team.

  • I’m curious about what Cathy sees as the difference between her past criticism of slut shamers, racists, etc. and the shaming she’s concerned with here. Is it a matter of execution or degree? Is there a bright line between persuasion and criticism and shaming? If it depends on the reaction of the target (feeling excluded or feeling shame) then how can one avoid shaming ex ante?

  • Labsaver

    Good lord. Really? what a bunch of poppy cock. People ARE supposed to have opinions about behavior, about anything in a society. That is HOW a free society adjusts and defines itself. We are not animals. We are not pigs. We are not immoral low-lifes. We are humans who have a right and indeed a responsibility to praise, love, and indeed SHAME when we feel it appropriate.

    If you want to do heroin and “bang” (love that term) a bunch of “dudes” I say the state has no say in that. But I sure do. And I shall have an opinion and I shall voice that opinion.

    Slut shaming is all about Liberty.

  • I commend Cathy for having the guts to publish this, even though she’s dead wrong. Unless she only did it as a cheap way to drive traffic to her blog, in which case I rescind my commendation.

  • Earl Chandler

    Fail. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Definition of Coerce: 1. to restrain or dominate by force; 2. to compel to an act or choice; 3. to achieve by force or threat.

  • Chriswich

    People have a right to criticize, ridicule, or shame you because they’re not forcing you to stop. That doesn’t mean what they’re doing is good. If they didn’t have a right to criticize you then you would have a right to force them to not criticize you in which case you would be using physical force to stop someone from doing something that is not physically forceful itself. It would be overkill. Instead, you can criticize and shame them right back.

  • Daniel J. D’Amico

    I don’t have strong positions or a desire to characterize slut shaming as justifiable or not. I’m opposed to slut shaming, for similar reasons as I am motivated on all normative and practical matters primarily for self-interest. In fact, I consider myself an active promoter of slut approbation. Sluts are great! I often prefer interacting with them over other types of people. If you know any sluts who feel personally shamed and without sufficient friends, please feel free to forward my contact information onto them, and I’ll gladly try my best to make them feel welcomed and tolerated. Steven Landsburg’s More Sex is Safer Sex even provides a socially altruistic justification for my personal position and activist strategy of approving sluts and their slutty behaviors.

    But,the comments on this thread are so surprising to me I feel compelled to
    comment. I’m not surprised because people are eager to defend slut shaming.
    Social shunning and ostracism are crucial tools for the maintenance of
    coordination and social cooperation, enough said. I’m also not surprised by the
    hostile tone many comments contain, it seems reasonable to find Cathy’s
    equivocation of slut shaming and coercion offensive. Horwitz hits the nail on
    the head when he points out how repugnant it is to put genocide and slavery on
    the same spectrum as openly disapproving of someone’s behavior who
    indiscriminately fornicates.

    I am surprised by the comments I’ve read, though I might have missed some,
    because no one seems to have pointed out Cathy’s blatant misunderstanding of
    Hayek’s knowledge problem when she writes, “The same knowledge problem which makes state planning inferior to markets makes other people shaming me into certain behavior inferior to me making decisions separate from that outside threat of shame.” Simply put, this is not correct.

    The knowledge problem that makes planning inferior to markets stems from a lack of meaningful market prices and the particular forms of knowledge that prices
    convey: quantitative, particular, contextual, adaptive, etc. The planner can’t
    plan effectively because he doesn’t have the knowledge that is possessed by
    market decision makers. These knowledge problems make the task of economic
    production and distribution impossible without significant discord and social
    conflict and that is the sense in which they are inferior to markets.

    With regard to the superiority of a slut’s decision to be a slut or the inferiority
    of the slut-shamer to decide what is best for the slut, the knowledge problem
    qua economics has nothing to say. We have to first presume some sort of broader plan for the slut, of which slutting behavior was merely a part. Then the
    knowledge problem could hold some usefulness. Say a slut was being slutty to
    fill some sort of emotional void left by a neglectful father figure. Cliche,
    yes but let’s presume for the sake of argument. Then, yes, discovering the best
    strategies for filling such voids may require local knowledge, experimentation,
    trial, and error, etc. Slutting might be one strategy, of many, that may be useful and or necessary to discover effective void filling solutions. No outside planner or slut-shamer would be able to better improve the modal slut’s lot through slut shaming without this contextual knowledge.

    But, the above does not seem to be Cathy’s point, that slut-shamers don’t know jack about how to make the pain go away better than slutting. Instead she just seems to be arguing, “who are slut-shamers to judge sluts?” Many a more
    philosophers, ethicists, theologians, etc. could certainly chime in here and
    claim they have lots to contribute. Assessing the moral legitimacy of slutting
    is a matter of individual ethics etc. but not one for the positive analytics of
    knowledge problems or economics. Though Cathy’s point here, “who are they
    to judge?” is one I agree with as I am a bit of a moral nihilist and selfish hedonist on such matters. But it is precisely this point that render’s Cathy’s general argument moot. Mainly, denying any ability to assess the moral quality of behaviors across individuals (something not many philosophers will get behind, but I sure will), means that the slut shamer has no justification for condemning the slut, but then so too does Cathy or any slut have no justification when condemning slut shaming. C4SS ran a similar article that confused Hayekian knowledge problems in a similar way regarding the concept of privledge. Hayek’s comments surrounding the futility of social justice parallel my own regarding the futility of shaming; slut shaming and or slut shamer shaming.

    Cathy seems to prefer empowerment efforts over criticisms as a means of promoting preferable behaviors and outcomes. That’s fine as a preference, but it makes no strong case against slut-shaming morally. It might hold some consequential merit given the psychological literature surrounding the efficacies of moral condemnation, but again this gets problematic when trying to make a moral case, because many forms of social ostracism etc. have significant benefits to social order as well. It may seem reasonable to tell slut shamers to lead by example rather than shame, but, then the consistent position must be that the shamers of slut shamers should do the same. Mainly, sluts should just own up to being sluts. Haters gonna hate, sluts are gonna slut. It’s called a free society. Get over it.

  • John

    This is the most absurd argument I’ve ever heard. Try again, Cathy.

    • This is the most condescending, baseless retort I’ve ever read, try again with some actual counter-arguments, John.

  • jwrennie

    To call shame “coercion” is silly, but in our libertine age I guess I expect no better.

    If I have freedom of association and freedom of speech then shaming and ostracising people who behave in ways I regard as shameful is well within my rights. To label “shaming/ostracism” as “coercion” means that I no longer have a right of free association and no longer have a right to free speech. Do you really want to go claim this?

    Additionally, what if you refuse to be persuaded that having sex with many random men or doing buckets of heroin is a bad idea? You might decide you simply don’t care about the consequences and you can do that, but to turn around and whine about behavior having consequences is stupid. All of this just amounts to, in the case of slut shaming, women screeching, “How dare you expect me to be responsible for my behavior”.

  • Amos and Gromar

    A political commentator? Guys, let’s be real. The only reason she has a platform anywhere is because she’s a woman. Her writing sucks, and her philosophy is bullshit.

  • Shaun Robert Connell

    Why draw the line at “shaming”? Why not -any- opinion people have of you? After all, if someone has a view of you that you didn’t “consent” to, then it’s just as coercive.

    It’s obviously silly. You’re just doing what statists do and are mixing “politics” with “what I want to see in society”. That’s your first mistake.

    Hopefully, this is a learning opportunity for libertarians reading this.

  • Jackson Reeves

    I’ve always held that libertarianism will never be popular because ultimately it says the individual is forced to bear the consequences of his or her decisions. This is simply not as popular as the belief that the property and labor of others should be redistributed to account for potential negative consequences (or bad luck, for that matter). I find that females are much more likely to be driven by a desire to avoid negative consequences whereas males are much more likely to be driven by a desire to achieve positive consequences. So I never found it odd when I observed liberty groups to be disproportionately made up of males. I was circumspect of any females who attended such groups. As the libertarian movement has rolled along in the past decade, I feel that suspicion was well warranted. Libertarianism has been split down the middle. One group consists of individuals who are interested in learning the history of liberty, the analyzing the present manifestations of liberty, and ways by which to bring increased liberty into the future. The other group consists of individuals using empty libertarian rhetoric to espouse contradictory, feel-good, egalitarian beliefs to boost wounded and deficient egos. I will leave it as an exercise for the student to determine which group has more support from female ‘libertarians’.

    It’s not that I think writers like Ms. Reisenwitz are wholly disenginous. I’m sure she likes the idea of liberty in some superficial manner. But her nature as a security-driven, risk averse individual blinds her to the laughable leaps and breaks in logic necessary to arrive at the post hoc rationalization of how people forming opinions of her other than ‘oh she’s wonderful and everything she does is right and the fact that she illustrates a disgusting and self-destructive high time preference by spreading her legs for every exciting loser who wanders near her should in no way reflect upon my opinion of how much dignity, grace, and elegance this young woman possesses’ is akin to a state saying ‘hello citizen, I’ll take a third of your money or I will throw you in a cage.’ I don’t believe it is unfair to hold the position that due to the realities of biology and sex, a woman who is sexually promiscuous is less desirable as a mate than a woman who is more discerning. And I find it hypocritical to suggest that men, as consensual actors in the sexual marketplace, should be expected or ‘shamed’ into artificially increasing the value of certain types of women in favor of others because doing otherwise may result in hurt feelings. You and you alone are responsible for your emotional state. If the fact that the number of your sexual conquests (that was definitely tongue-in-cheek, from a male perspective, every instance of sex is an instance where the female has been conquered) has knocked you down from the ‘marriage material’ peg to the ‘pump and dump’ peg, then perhaps the person who is aggressing against your well being and bringing shame upon your person is…well…you.

    But these two paragraphs give this little article much more respect than it actually deserves. This is not a serious attempt to add to the discussion of liberty or to open any meaningful dialogue. This is just an insecure girl with a void of a personality using ‘liberty’ as a soap box upon which she can stand and shout ‘Lo! Behold me! I am a female and am wonderful and totally sexy! Check me out, fellas!’ An an-cap friend of mine simply linked me this and said ‘lol’ – this is all the attention such thoughts deserve from thinking men.

  • bitbutter

    “Somewhere we’ve decided that the tools the state uses to influence behavior are “coercion” while the tools non-state actors use are cooperation.”

    I haven’t decided that. Coercion (in the sense usually used by libertarians) and cooperation certainly don’t exhaust the ways that people seek to influence each other’s behaviour. So to me this sounds like a straw man.

    “What right then does anyone have to coerce me by threatening to criticize, ridicule, shame or ostracize me?”

    In my view you have property rights in your body, for example, but you certainly don’t have property rights to your reputation, honour, popularity or anything else that exists in the minds of other people (those aren’t your neurons).

    If we _did_ try to assign property rights in these things the result would be a hopelessly ambiguous situation with a dramatic increase in the intensity and frequency of conflict to the extent that people actually tried to enforce these ‘rights’.

  • Tristan Finley Collins

    It is the difference between positive vs negative rights… The govt violates your
    rights to your own life liberty and property… the social pressure, ostracism, only
    withdraws what was a privilege- freedom of association, voluntary
    interaction. You didn’t sign a contract with the slut shamers, but they didn’t with you either… they are pushing “sluts” away from them. They are not obligated to deal with people they find aesthetically displeasing. The great thing is, you don’t have to deal with them either!

    You cannot shame someone- affect their feelings, if they don’t allow it. You can violate their body, their property, but shame is a feeling you cannot forcibly control in others unless they let you. It is important we control our own feelings. Of course,
    I’m not condoning slut shaming. But a snide comment or a cold shoulder is not the same as a gun to your head.

  • Don B

    I agree with Cathy Reisenwitz. We’ve become a society of annoying scolds, with people constantly telling others what they are doing wrong.
    If people spent more time figuring out where they could use improvement instead of critically scrutinizing their neighbors, we’d be a lot better off.

    • Arnold

      If we’re not allowed to critically scrutinize our neighbors anymore then this whole site would have to shut down.

  • Guest

    “The same knowledge problem which makes state planning inferior to markets makes other people shaming me into certain behavior inferior to me making decisions separate from that outside threat of shame.”

    No, the only real planning with state central planning is that the state makes decisions for you and compels you to comply. Criticism doesn’t do that.

  • jtkennedy

    “The same knowledge problem which makes state planning inferior to markets makes other people shaming me into certain behavior inferior to me making decisions separate from that outside threat of shame.”

    No, the only real problem with state central planning is that the state makes decisions for you and compels you to comply. Criticism doesn’t do that.

  • Voice of Reason

    The moment Cathy attempts to assert (and not very convincingly, I might add) the non-violent, verbal and written expression of another person’s opinions amounts to “coercion,” on par with that exercised by the state, she loses all credibility as someone who believes in liberty. This is an abomination of an article.

  • Tristan Finley Collins

    The neo-classical painting illustrating the blogpost is ironic, though. Those
    paintings were the porn of their time, kept behind curtains in smoking
    rooms for the gentlemen of the house to view- gentlemen who had no
    qualms about slut shaming women right into 5 layers of clothes XP

  • Chris Pacia

    Funny I remember a post not that long ago “shaming” an author of article who prefered male only clubs to mixed gender clubs. Was that “unjustifiable” coersion?

  • Chris Pacia

    “What right then does anyone have to coerce me by threatening to criticize, ridicule, shame or ostracize me?” <—– if coercion is defined this way you've just made a case for complete totalitarianism.

  • Justin Keith

    Shaming, lying, hell even property ownership can be forms of coercion to some degree. The salient difference for me is that fines take away opportunities to something which you created or were gifted/sold or which were just there without requiring anyone to provide them while shaming and ostracism doesn’t.

    Also, while one can attempt to shame another, I suspect the other will only feel shame if they are having a value conflict. If one values doing something more than the benefits one gets from others thinking highly of them, then just do that. If the reverse, then do that. Own your values.

  • Beyondhate

    “And how is this private coercion any better than public coercion?”

    Quite simply, one is an expression of valuation by an individual, the other is an overriding of those valuations (or usurpation) by some individuals “in the name of” others. Worse, this usurpation is done by a non agent – the state – which, when expressing concepts like shame, can only do so by active force.

    Long story short, I can shame you by withholding action. I can’t actually force you not to do those things. The state can do the same thing, but it doesn’t have anything to give in the first place, so all it can do is shoot you.

  • Skyler Lehto
  • Tom

    Ostracizing is just non-association. I can
    choose who my friends are. Free association, which implies free
    non-association, is not coercive. As in, it does not have to coerce a change in
    their behavior. I just choose whether or not to hang out with you based on my
    preferences the same way I choose whether or not to buy any other product If I tell people the truth about your
    behavior, and they don’t want to hang out, it’s not necessarily “slut
    shaming”. It’s just giving people full information. They get to make decisions based on that information. Criticizing can just be a statement of my
    preferences so you have information about the landscape. As in, I’m allowing
    you to choose whether you want to change your behavior or not in order to keep
    my friendship. Ridicule may be more difficult to deal with, but even if I were
    to agree with that one (and I’m not sure I do), it is still just one.

  • Berry Muhl

    Shaming is part and parcel of social cohesion. Someone needs to do some study into ethology and social behavior. Google “Amity / Enmity Complex” for starters.

    Norms and values are imposed on you by the group. You either accept them and become part of the group, or you reject them and are in turn rejected by the group. This is standard procedure for all social animals. Get used to it or go live in the wild.

  • Adam Kissel

    This is worth thinking about. Try this: It is not the act of shaming that’s immoral. What’s immoral is the implication that the whole community should refuse to engage with someone because of her perceived moral failing. In other words, it’s not just public moral disapproval, which adults ought to be able to handle; it’s trying to get people to boycott the Bad Person or Bad Group until they change.

    Boycott-like efforts are coercive and immoral because they don’t just raise the cost of doing business, they are intended to ostracize and kick the Bad Person or Bad Group out of the community until they change. In contrast, individual choices not to engage with someone else are, say, expressions of one’s values, and the person remains free to engage with somebody else.

    I am mindful of the comment about ‘defining coercion down,’ yet in my view there are immoral and coercive actions for which a state-imposed solution is likely to be way worse than the problem. Meanwhile, outside the state we already see a kind of private solution that might satisfy everyone: when some people rise to boycott the Bad Group, others indeed rise to do business with the Bad Group. This is what Shaming Defense Agency services provide: an alert that somebody is under attack. Many such agencies exist today. [“Shaming defense agency” comes from a conversation I’m having elsewhere.]

    The situation when many people think the state should step into the transaction (I do not, but consider it) is when the Bad Group is so hated that nobody will do business with the Bad Group–thus we get things like public accommodation laws and nondiscrimination laws that include moral characteristics. Is there then something more that a Shaming Defense Agency should do? Maybe these privately organized solutions are called charities.

  • Catoii

    Apparently is has to be said by someone, so here goes:

    The difference between the state and individuals is, the state has a monopoly on the legal use of force (except in self-defense). Only the state can use violence to force you to do (or not do) something, i.e., threaten to shoot you with a gun if you don’t do what they tell you to do. That’s true coercion.

    An individual can say mean or nasty things to you (and thank the First Amendment that they are still allowed to do that), but you have an equal right to ignore or argue back or even laugh at them. You can’t ignore or argue with a gun. You have to do what the person holding the gun tells you to do.

    Actually, the same freedom that allows some people to “slut-shame” (or otherwise criticize people’s behavior) allows you to shame them back, or argue with them, or tell them to go to hell. If you try to remove their right to shame or criticize, how do you distinguish that from your right to shame or argue back?

  • Lorin Chane Partain

    Criticism is freedom of speech, not coercion. Shaming someone for being morally loose is merely an exercise of freedom of speech. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you don’t want a slutty reputation then don’t be a slut, but don’t expect to act like a slut and not get a slut’s reputation.

  • Tony

    “Maybe I’m doing heroin, or having sex with lots of dudes. What right
    then does anyone have to coerce me by threatening to criticize,
    ridicule, shame or ostracize me?”

    Truly one of the most ridiculous comments i have yet read from one of the people more recently considering themselves part of the freedom movement.

    Even outright statists would not consider slut-shaming to be a form of coersion.

    You are basically willing to deny the right to people to employ the free will to express an opinion about people, or make free-will decisions not to deal with them in any way. People have no right to be respected, nor do they have a right to cooperation unless it has been agreed upon by contract or payment.

    I don’t know what ideas you have formed about libertarianism, but offensive speech or opinions as “coersion” has absolutely nothing to do with it. What are you, a commissar of the feeling police? My advise is to seek the comfort of liberalism. They like “tolerance” and political correctness at the expense of freedom of speech there.

    And to make it clear: you have not in any logical way proven that “slut shaming” is coersion. You have merely formed a personal and subjective opinion. So any demand that nay-sayers “refute” an opinion is nonsense.

  • Coercer
  • Johnson Weiner

    Is it allowed for a group of people to come together in union in which said people hold the belief that upholding basic principles will promote the society they want to reside in? If we as a people hold to some form of decent public behavior as promoting health growth of a society, why is it no valid to coerce obedience?

    Every society has an outcast population, those who choose to remain on the fringe. When that society embraces this fringe it always declines into oblivion.
    Our society is firmly on this track, our reward for embracing the fringe is showing in our decline, broken families, individuals who have no leadership and have lost their conscience totally. Business robs, politicians don’t even think before lying, an ever growing part of populace that has no thought of the lives of others in our or any other land is sacred. We wave the flag while knowing our government respects on one else’s sovereignty.

  • Ben O’Neill

    Sorry, but coercion is coercion, and criticism is criticism. Pretending one is the other does not advance freedom – it derogates from it.

    The difference between the two categories of action is demarcated by understanding the underlying property rights at issue, and in particular, accepting one’s right of ownership over one’s own body. People who recognize property rights understand that it is indeed legitimate (in a pure entitlement sense) to use your own body to take heroin or bang lots of guys. But by the same token, it is also legitimate (in the same sense) to use your own body to voice opinions about the conduct of other people. The latter would clearly include expressing criticism, shame, and ridicule, with social ostracism then occurring if lots of people do this. (Even with a distinction between criticism and shaming, as one comment suggested, these would both still be acts that are within the prerogatives of self-ownership.)

    Of course, neither of these actions are necessarily “legitimate” in the wider normative sense, and whether they are or not is a matter for argument. One might criticize a woman who uses heroin, or has sex with many men, or one might criticize the people who criticize this (or criticize the people who criticize the people who criticize this).

    (The fact that the author refers to the fact that she did not sign a contract with “slut-shamers” shows the confusion here. Philosophically, property rights come before contracts, not as a consequence of contracts. Self-ownership and first appropriate come initially, and then contracts are merely conditional exchanges of property ownership.)

    You cannot have one of these freedoms without the other, while upholding property rights. Both arise from the same philosophical basis, as consequences of the acceptance of self-ownership. The present article attempts to conflate coercion and criticism by showing they are the same in non-essential respects – that both are disliked (to varying degrees) by the target of the action, and can hurt the target of the action. That particular equation is true, but it does not make these the same category of action.

    The result is an implicit suggestion that freedom of conscience and speech is not allowable – that people must be forced to refrain from criticisms because it would hurt other people’s feelings. I don’t think this is a very good way to advance freedom – it seems to me to be an opening wedge to a society where there are mandated opinions and sacred cows which cannot be criticized.

    (Has the author considered that her own argument could just as easily be turned around against the things she supports?)

  • Bonnie S

    You can’t abrogate their right to free speech. You might be able to argue for keeping them a few feet away from your person for your personal safety, but blog posts? Even a billboard put up with your name on it? Sorry, we live in a free country. You’re free to ostracize them back.

  • Navin_Kumar


    So I don’t consider myself a libertarian, merely a utilitarian whose views on most things coincide with those of libertarians because of the knowledge/incentives thing. Your argument, if I correctly understand it, is that both physical force and shaming are ways to get people do things they don’t want to by threatening to impose a cost, physical pain the first case, emotional pain in the latter.

    So far, I don’t disagree. Since I don’t consider “liberty” to be a valuable end in itself (for me it’s welfare) I see no reason to engage you in a debate. What I found interesting was this:

    “The same knowledge problem which makes state planning inferior to markets makes other people shaming me into certain behavior inferior to me making decisions separate from that outside threat of shame.”

    I disagree. A bureaucrat in Washington may have no idea of whether heroin is doing you good or bad; your friends definitely do. A bureaucrat may not know whether you banging lots of dudes is a way for you to bolster your self-esteem while avoiding dealing with your issues; your sister does. And so on. In other words, people who are in a position to “criticism, ridicule, shame, and” ostracize you also have the best information about you, perhaps knowing you better than you do (more on that shortly). Unless you’re a celebrity (in which I fully agree) most of the people who are in position to shame you are close to you.

    But, as you say, why not then just try to persuade you, instead of shaming you? A good question, and there are three answers.

    (BTW, I assume I’m going to come under a lot of fire for these reasons, which can also be used to defend government coercion. Please note that they can’t, unless the government is full of omniscient, benevolent beings, which it isn’t. Too much knowledge is needed.)

    Firstly, externalities. If you blow all your money on heroin and your parents (or siblings or friends) have to step in to save you from living on the streets, you end up imposing a cost on them. And don’t say “they don’t have to” – yes they pretty much do, because of the way their happiness is linked to yours. Shaming can therefore be seen as a method of getting you to internalize these costs.

    Secondly, myopia. People are fairly shortsighted, and don’t put enough weight on welfare of their future selves. They eat/smoke/drink/consume too much and exercise/save/etc too little *by their own estimation*. Shaming can be seen as the way your friends – who care about Future You as much as Current You – internalize the costs you’re imposing on your future self.

    Thirdly, information. People are prone to self-deception. Think of battered men and women who keep telling themselves that their partners can’t help it – they just lose all control. This, despite the fact that they rarely lose control outside the privacy of their home. It’s sometimes necessary to have someone (especially someone you trust – not a government babu) step in and tell you – viciously – that you’re doing it wrong, and that if you don’t start taking steps you will destroy your life. When people are engaged in self-deception, trying to “persuade” them is often not enough. Sharp criticism is required.

    If I was your friend, and thought you were perfectly happy with your heroin and booty calls, I wouldn’t even bring it up. However if you started whining about how you can’t find a job or a nice guy, I’d consider it my duty to start “coercing” you out of your destructive patterns.

  • John

    Free speech shaming at its worst. Obviously doesnt’ get being a libertarian and wouldn’t survive 10 minutes in a libertarian world.

  • Matt Chappel

    Shaming (social ostracization) is a core component of free association. More importantly, it isn’t initiation of physical force.

  • Nathan Larson

    Someone with editing rights should add this link to the article:

  • Shivank Mehra

    Can’t stand others being “BRUTALLY honest”? LOL. Didn’t anyone teach you value is subjective?

  • Tony Liberté

    I think you’re is missing a critical component in your analysis: consequences. The consequences that one face are what separates peer pressure from coercion. The latter involves violating the terms of use over your property, including property in your own person, if you don’t comply. In other words, if you don’t comply we’re gonna lock you in a cage, we’re gonna take your property, we’re gonna beat you senseless. This is an entirely different thing altogether than saying your not gonna be cool if you don’t do it or I won’t have respect for you. This loose usage over key concepts and definitions can lead one to commit an equivocation fallacy, as this article clearly exemplifies. This really is a piss poor excuse of an article attempting to pass as serious libertarian thought.

  • Is it coercion and shaming to point out that this is essentially an argument that offering any incentives or disincentives for any behavior is coercion? So potty training an infant, not voting for a statist politician, and not fellating anyone who wants to be fellated would all be coercion.

  • stirner

    You are owed social acceptance by virtue of… what exactly? What other claims on my life are you born with, Cathy?

  • David Burns

    So criticizing and slut-shaming is coercion, but criticizing the slut-shamers is not? I say let the punishment fit the crime. Fight physical coercion with physical coercion, words with words.

  • Earl of Sandwich


    What was wrong with calling “speech”….well, ‘Speech’?

    Either you’re about free speech, or you’re about Policing it (and policing naturally requires some enforcement, and then we’re on the slip-n-slide to [redacted]….


    *Note = the original author of this post has been identified by the Moderators as Immoderate and a Likely Shamer of Protected Classes, and has been sent to the Jezebel-Institute For RighThink and Genetic Reconstruction for rehabilitation and/or fed-to-Piranha

  • Ricky James Moore II

    Or maybe people think you’re a nutbag leftist, and find it more useful to keep people from buying into your crackpot self-indulgent nonsense by calling you the fucking gaytard you are.

  • Cathy, I appreciate your thoughts, but equating shaming (social coercion) with physical coercion is unjustified, in my opinion. Both are unethical (see, but using force in response to non-force is disproportionate (See Kinsella, Also, voluntaryism is a much better framework to criticize social coercion (shaming, blackmail, douchebaggery) than is libertarianism. See,, and

    What do you think?

  • Mike

    Your rights end where Cathy’s feelings begin