I said, a while ago, in the course of one of my periodic rants against libertarians, that I think that right-libertarians, rather than being the steely-eyed guardians of freedom they imagine themselves, systematically underestimate the amount of coercion that exists in any world. I now think this is true of left-libertarians as well. In particular, the freedom that neither kind of libertarian takes into account is the freedom that is lost, or perhaps better, never gained, by virtue of living with others, whose actions effect the costs and benefits of one's own actions. For example, the loss of freedom that I outlined here follows from the fact that there are millions of people seeking jobs, many of whom potential employers can rely on to undercut each other, thus driving or holding wages and other benefits down, and hours up. In fact, one could go further and say that all the costs and benefits are assigned to particular actions - how much I get paid, how high the price is for the goods or services that I provide, anything which involves any social interaction whatsoever - are significantly determined by the actions of other agents. That surely is a form of unfreedom: what I receive for my labour, or pay for my food and housing, is dependent on the actions of others over which I have no control.
Think of this another way. Say there is a religious community, where people are generally inclined to take seriously and act upon anything the priests say. Say further that the priests decide that anyone who does not attend their churches and live as they demand should be driven out of the community, not by violence but by a refusal by the other members of the community to interact with them at all - to speak to them in the street, to employ them, to buy from or sell to them. The cost of not going to church is now being driven out of the community, for it is more or less impossible, unless you can produce everything you need yourself, to live amongst people who refuse to interact with you at all. That is surely coercion, and hence a loss of freedom.
Notice though that it is coercion by the community as a whole, and does not depend on all those doing the coercing have the intention to coerce, for whilst what produces the result which is coercive is the coordinated action of the members of the community - that they all refuse to interact with those who do not live as the priests demand - it is not necessary that they all are aiming at the result of having to live as the priest demands, since they may only be trying to avoid being driven out of the community themselves. Indeed, it could well be the case that none of them aim at the coercive result, that they are all operating on the basis that everyone else takes seriously the demands of the priests, without that result being any less coercive. That shows that coercion can result from a set of actions none of which aim at coercion and which individually would not be coercive, when those actions, taken together, determine the costs and benefits which attach to certain actions. Social interaction, including social interaction through the market, is a set of actions, most of which usually aren't coercive, and which individually would usually not be coercive. It is thus at least possible that social interaction is, as a category, coercive, and any argument that it is not would depend on being able to show a relevant difference between the case of the religious community and social interaction more generally.
I do not think there is any relevant difference. The difference would have to be something to do with the role of the priests or with the outcome itself, because it cannot be to do with the intentions of those who take the actions which, individually, are not coercive, but collectively are, since that possibility has already been dismissed. Yet, say there are no priests, merely a generally held belief that something terrible will happen if all the members of the community do not behave as the priests would want. Regardless of whether this belief is true or not, the results would surely still be coercive. It does not even matter whether the belief is generally held, as long as there is a generally held belief that the belief is generally held. This suggests that what causes social interaction to be structured in whatever way it is structured is irrelevant to whether it is coercive or not, because if meta-meta level beliefs can perform the same role as a priest making demands of their parishoners, the crucial point about the priest's role must not be their intentions, but rather the effects that they had. If there is a difference, it must rest in the features of the outcome itself.
Notice what the outcome is though. It is the creation of a particular cost for a particular action, through the not-necessarily intended outcomes of a set of actions which individually would not have those outcomes. What makes it so stark is the disproportionality and unjustifiability of the cost to the action, but it is simply the attaching, as a result of a particular set of social practices, of a particular cost to a particular action, rather than some other cost or none at all. Coercion is the creation of one option set rather than any of the other available ones, the attaching of one set of costs and benefits to action rather than the others that would have resulted from other actions. It does not require the use of powers one does not have a right to, since clearly the parishoners all, individually at least, have the right to choose whom to employ, whom to buy and sell goods from and to, and certainly whom to speak to, yet the result of them all making the same choices about whom to do these things with results in coercion. All they have done is created, not even necessarily deliberately, one particular option set rather than any of the others that could have been created by different actions. The details of the outcome don't matter: what matters is that it is an outcome in particular, rather than any of the other outcomes. Social interaction is thus coercive.
Libertarians don't think so though. Both are inclined to ignore the way in which freedom is lost, or rather, never gained, by the simple fact of living in society, and hence being dependent on the actions of others for the value of one's own actions. This is what I have already elsewhere called the Democrat's Insight, that the imposition of any set of rules is coercive, and that it is morally troubling to the extent that it distributes goods and bads in an unreasonable or unfair way. Libertarians, because they only care about access to a mythical free market or to property, ignore this insight because they fail to see either how the market can coerce, in the case of right-libertarians, or how institutions other than an unequal distribution of property can, in the case of left-libertarians. Both are authoritarian because they do not care about the losses of freedom elsewhere in society.
Both, for example, would oppose closed shop legislation, which requires that management in a particular workplace negotiate only with one union, simply on the principle that it is a violation of rights of association. I have reservations about closed shop legislation, many, but not all of which, are about the violation of rights of association, but the libertarian answer to whether or not closed shop legislation is justified misses the point that allowing unions to underbid each other reduces the freedom of the members of those unions by forcing them to accept worse terms and conditions, and hence more restricted option-sets in the rest of their lives. That loss of freedom is a real one, and libertarians cannot dismiss it simply by handwaving in the direction of another, equally real, freedom, because to do so is to fail to think of it as a loss of freedom, and it is a loss of freedom. Admittedly, it may be a loss of freedom which comes about through the free action of others, but we have already seen that is no barrier to something being a loss of freedom through the case of the priests and their parishoners. Libertarians don't think it is, and thus they are, by virtue of being in favour of restrictions of liberty, authoritarians.