Vol. LVII No. 5

Collective Coercion

Abstract: When a collective-choice situation places coercive pressure on individual participants, the law’s traditional protection of individual autonomy against coercion must be reconciled with its necessary role in resolving problems of collective action. On the one hand, the law might seek to remove coercion from the equation so that individuals are free to make their own decisions. On the other hand, the law might empower a central authority to decide, thereby solving a problem of collective action in order to maximize the group’s shared interests. The tension between these two approaches creates deep uncertainty for the regulation of collective-choice situations. It is palpable in the law’s conflicted response to corporate takeover bids in that applicable federal and state laws simultaneously enhance and diminish shareholder choice. Elsewhere—for example, the structure of government buyout programs, or the imposition of mandatory fees for nonunion employees—the intersection of coercion and collective choice may be overlooked altogether. By situating the literature on coercion in the context of offers that exploit collective-action problems, this Article proposes a unifying framework for identifying and remedying problems of collective coercion.

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