COOPERATION AND CONSCRIPTION


Cooperation implies voluntary agreements and a coordinated approach to the solution of a problem. Conscription implies a non-voluntary or forced behavioral choice in the allocation process. An economic input (labor, capital, land) or good can be conscripted. Conscription implies the ability of one person or group to force another to make choices they would not prefer. Cooperation and coercion are opposite ends of a spectrum or range of behavioral patterns. The degree to which a choice is voluntary or forced is not always clear. A group of Inuits above the Arctic Circle may use cooperation as an important element of the coordination process. “Cooperation” may be encouraged by strongly held common values or necessity. Each member of the society understands that their chance for survival is reduced if she or he is not a member of the community. A behavior that is not sanctioned by be community (e.g. theft, murder, etc) may be result in the individual being ostracized and expelled from the community, the result being death. Is the acceptance of group values and activities voluntary or coerced? If a government (a formal social institution for allocating power and decision making authority in a community) uses sanctions to force behavior or choice it is clearly coercion or conscription. If I threaten harm if you do not make a given choice or act in a specific way, that is coercion. If a person’s mother says, “Your go ahead but it will break my heart!” is that coercion? Voluntary cooperation and coerced conscription lie at opposite ends of a continuum. It is a variation of the arguments about whether individuals have free will. The shift from voluntary coordinated behavior (cooperation) to coerced coordinated behavior (conscription) is a matter of degrees. In both cases, individuals have an incentive to coordinate their behavior. In the case of coercion, the incentive is the costs created and imposed by other individuals or groups of individuals. A student in high school may feel coerced by their peers, the class bully or the rules of the system. A worker may be coerced by other workers, the management of the firm or government regulations.