Should anyone have coercive authority over others?

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Statism is the idea that some person or group must have coercive control over society. But the Milgram and Stanford experiments refute this belief. These two famous studies show that…

  • No one is qualified to give orders
  • No one is qualified to follow orders

The Stanford Experiment was conducted in 1971 by Professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University. He randomly divided students into prison guards and prisoners. What happened next was both disturbing and enlightening…
Many “guards” became abusive and the “prisoners” submissive. Even worse, the “prisoners” collaborated in both their own subjugation and the oppression of others. Things got so bad that the experiment had to be stopped early and has never been repeated. The verdict — giving some people coercive power over others is inherently corrupting, both to those who have the power and to those who are subject to it.
The Milgram Experiment was conducted in 1961 by Stanley Milgram at Yale University. Variations of this experiment have delivered consistent results — people tend to obey an authority figure, even if doing so causes physical harm to others.

  • The Milgram findings tie into the results found in the Stanford Experiment, where prisoners willingly submitted to abuse and collaborated in the abuse of others.
  • It also relates to Stockholm Syndrome, where kidnap victims come to identify and even cooperate with their captors.

These studies show something powerful about human psychology, and about statism…

  • We are corrupted by coercive power
  • We are corrupted when others have coercive power over us
  • Coercive power short-circuits empathy

Not only is there no need for some person or group to have coercive control over society, it’s positively dangerous to do so.

By Perry Willis & Jim Babka


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