John Steward of Jesus
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The survival of institutions and individuals

November 6, 1980

It is the voluntary groupings of men which survive through the centuries, and through which man himself survives as an individual.  Families, neighborhoods, cooperatives, societies, and many churches,are examples of groups which do not use coercive tactics, but depend on the continued voluntary participation of their members to survive.

At the significant turning points of history, it is the coercive institutions which collapse and disappear. Such institutions must disintegrate and disappear, for they are not in harmony with the nature of man.  Free individuals emerge out of the ruins of such institutions. If new coercive institutions do not arise, then periods of peace and prosperity follow soon, as men form voluntary associations to accomplish their purposes.

If the American political system continues to survive, it will be because the founding fathers succeeded in giving U.S. citizens the means through which they reassert their control of the government, when the government ceases to be that to which they voluntarily submit. It is significant that the dramatic shift in Tuesday’s election (1980) occurred because of the effects of voluntary groups, and that we live in an age when men are rediscovering the foundational importance of their voluntary groups--family, community, church, etc. At times when coercive groups self-destruct, the individuals are left to themselves and their voluntary groups. If men have not kept their voluntary groups healthy, then at such times they become very vulnerable to the quick institution of new coercive groups. If their voluntary groups are healthy, then the transition to a new government need not be terribly painful.

If, at the time of a governmental collapse, there are existing semi-coercive groups, as some churches in history have been, then individuals are vulnerable to the extension of that force so that such an institution grows to become itself the coercive force in the land, and thus itself vulnerable to disintegration and collapse.

It is because free individuals propagate themselves, while coercive groups do not, that the tide of history moves toward freedom. The individual emerges out of the ruins when institutions collapse. If that individual does not survive, then the human race ceases to exist.

One test of the coercive tendency of an institution is its response to the individual who holds a contrary viewpoint or chooses not to participate in its program. Is he ignored, or is he punished?  Shunning is non-coercive. The stocks are coercive.