"The issue therefore is whether economic aid transferred by collective consent from the top of the socio-economic pyramid to the bottom is totalitarian.Elsewhere in Gracchi's piece, the balance of his argument is understandably aimed squarely at the open goal that right-wing libertarians offer: the dubious liberty of the beggar to eat caviar.
Various respectable bloggers on the right would definitely argue that case, but I think they are wrong. If you accept the definition of liberty that it is the absence of coercion, you then face a problem which libertarians are rather too keen to forget about, which is the definition of coercion and who can coerce. For the straightforward libertarian answer is that only the state can coerce, but that is obviously nonsense."
But I think that the word coercion provides a suitable jumping-off point. Douglas Rushkoff's notion of coercion, for instance, casts a useful light on another common theme of right-libertarians: A dislike for the concept of public service broadcasting.
The BBC is - I think for almost every English-speaking resident of these isles - fantastic value for money. For 37p a day, the radio alone is worth it. Chuck in the TV channels, the archives, the website, and the fact that Auntie provides a larger subsidy to the performing arts than the every other investor in the EU combined,* and the argument becomes almost unanswerable.
The vast majority of us have no complaint about the coercion of paying a licence fee, because it can allow us to continue enjoying this fantastic value at the expense of the minority who do.
Long may it continue. Because the alternative would be to expose my kids (and myself) to a constant stream of coercive advertising on TV. That would be coercion squared. On the one hand, continuously feeling incomplete without whatever tat that they are determined to flog me. And on the other, stuck in an expensive war of attrition that every parent has to fight when their children are exposed to advertisers.
It would cost us all a good deal more than 37p a day if some people had their way - and the level of investment in original content would fall through the floor at the same time.
There is something slightly bizarre in arguing with people who spend so much time painting liberal democracy as inherently totalitarian, while at the same time remaining silent about the powers of a profession that uses coercive subliminal techniques every day.
*OK. I can't source this figure any more - I could in the late 1990s, and I don't think it's changed, but I stand to be corrected.