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Abstract

Cohen endorses the coercive taxation of the talented at a progressive rate for the sake of realizing equality. By contrast, he denies that it is legitimate for the state to engage in the ‘Stalinist forcing’ of people into one or another line of work in order to bring about a more egalitarian society. He rejects such occupational conscription on grounds of the invasiveness of the gathering and acting upon information regarding people's preferences for different types of work that would be required to implement such a policy. More precisely, Cohen maintains that the presence versus the absence of such intrusion explains why such Stalinist forcing of the talented is unacceptable whereas the progressive taxation of their income is legitimate. I argue that Cohen's appeal to invasiveness does not adequately capture the moral repugnance of the state's conscripting people into work at a given occupation. I propose that a right to self-ownership, and that which explains such a right, provides a better explanation than Cohen's of why Stalinist forcing is objectionable, whereas progressive taxation is not.1