One of the tenets of libertarianism is that (with some exceptions) decisions should be made at the individual level.

A good example is: is it moral to require workers to pay union dues as a condition of work, or should it be an individual decision? One strand of thought says that of course it should be up to the individual workers. If unionism truly is a good idea, enough workers will voluntarily support the union, and that any union that does not allow individual choice does not deserve support.

This is an instance of larger class of problems, about local maxima. Suppose we're at a local maximum such that a set of workers have about as good a deal as they can get by relying on individuals to contribute. But now suppose that the rules changes so that union dues were collected from every worker's paycheck, and the the resulting increase resulted in a situation in which, in the long run benefited all the workers, even taking into account the loss of autonomy occasioned by mandatory support of the union. But to get from the local maximum to the global maximum it was necessary to pass through a "valley" of reduce utility or well-being for some.

And this gets to the heart of utilitarianism. It's easy to come up with scenarios that show utilitarianism in a bad light. For instance, suppose there are nine terminally ill people (who could each be saved by getting an organ transplant) and one healthy person. Is it moral to kill the one healthy person and distribute his organs to the sick ones? No, of course not, but why not? A (naive or straw-man) version of utilitarianism would say that the outcome is just, as there is only one dead person instead of nine. And then some people would use this clearly wrong version of utilitarianism to reject all utilitarian programs, including scenarios such as the one above about the union, which (to me, at least) seem plausible.

So the best analysis I can come up with now, is that coercion of (some) individuals to promote the well-being of others might be justified, but we must take into account what exactly is taken. Taking someone's life, for whatever grand goal, seems indefensible, while taking a few bucks every paycheck seems to be in a different category. If one perceives class as a real thing, and believes it stems from the fact that different classes have different material interests, and that class conflict is inevitable and ubiquitous, then it might be plausibly argued that the situation is analogous to war, and that some people should rightfully be coerced to contribute to the struggle.

Then there is the question of who benefits. In the transplant scenario there is no benefit from the person whose life is taken, while in the union scenario (if we accep the facts as given), all the workers would benefit, even those who did not give freely. I'm not saying benefit always overrides choice, only that it should be taken into account.

One last note about the union scenario: it may be that one's view of this scenario depends on one's conception of class. It's sometimes thought that issues of consent are different in times of war or emergency. When one is fighting an enemy, or fighting for one's survival, it may be that rules made for normal times do not apply. So if one perceives

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