9 September 2007

Coercion, coercion, coercion

Recently I reminded readers of the mediocracy blog why the 'educational conscription' issue is relatively important, as civil liberties controversies go (of which there are at present a not inconsiderable number).

The reason I am far more alarmed by this proposal than by (say) ID cards is that I see it as a way of surreptitiously floating a much larger and more radical notion, namely that coercion is, in principle, an acceptable way to address social problems. To some extent, I would not be particularly relieved if this proposal simply died a quiet death. It worries me that there has been so little resistance to the principle of the thing. In my view, if people don't object to this proposal on moral grounds, we could easily start to see the coercion idea applied in other areas.

Here we are, one month later, and the coercion concept seems to be gaining ground. Rather than oppose the idea — as we might hope from our opposition party — the Conservatives seem to have got a taste for it. First, we have a plan to make teenagers attend six-week community service projects, though Mr Cameron seems to have been persuaded (at least for the moment) to use the carrot of a cash reward, rather than the stick of compulsion, as inducement for attendance. Second, we have plans to force failing primary pupils to attend summer school or even resit an entire year.

Of course, we had hints of this aspect of new-style 'Conservatism' when Mr Cameron was appointed. The compulsory community service idea was first floated in January 2006, when we were told that it was a way of improving social cohesion.

Clearly, coercion is on the agenda. It's not limited to the main political parties, either. I get a sense of an authoritarian backlash brewing, as a reaction to all the ills which supposedly 'liberal' polices have generated. For example, there was recently a suggestion in the Telegraph that children should be forced to eat school lunches.

For the moment, coercion may seem to be limited to the under-18s, though we already have pending legislation for compulsory medication. Once coercion becomes seen as an acceptable remedy, however, I expect to see proposals to extend it to over-18s. Compulsory voting is an obvious possible area of application, but I can think of several others. (I am not going to mention them, because I don't want to give lovers of authoritarianism any ideas.)

Incidentally, the post that started this campaign blog — "What is wrong with you people?" — still gets an unusually high number of hits, six months after the event. (I have no idea why.)

1 comment:


You're not required to go to school at all, ever. Look at Education Otherwise. Wish I'd known it earlier!