… is from page 260 of University of Notre Dame philosopher James Otteson’s superb 2021 book, Seven Deadly Economic Sins :
Autonomy does not require that there are no influences on you, or that there were no external circumstances to which you responded or that you took into consideration. What it requires instead is that you could have chosen otherwise….
This capacity to choose otherwise, or “autonomy,” gives human beings dignity and elevates their status above that of non-human animals and inanimate objects.
And so whenever someone initiates (the threat of) coercion against you to prevent you from making a peaceful choice – a choice that violates no one else’s equal right to their property or their equal right to choose – that someone strips you of some of your dignity and of part of your humanity. That someone treats you as if you are a non-human animal. That someone treats you as if you are either a beast to be subdued or harnessed for work, or as a pet for other people’s amusement. This fact is true even if that someone is a duly elected or appointed government official.