In a coercive social order, the government exercises state power to ensure compliance with the decisions of a few individuals who govern everyone else. A government the exercises state power only in accordance with the community consensus could be described as a cooperative social order. A Pyramidal government will often employ coercion, and a Horizontal government will often require consensus building to facilitate cooperation. Insofar as coercion can be employed to build consensus, and cooperation between the elite and a subset of the working class can support a hierarchy, these two social orders can be distinguished from the Pyramid and the Horizon.

Defenders of coercive social order have many examples to demonstrate feasibility. Cooperative social orders historically exist only temporarily and at small scales. As such, advocates for cooperative authority must demonstrate that they propose something feasible as well as desirable. In the absence of longstanding empires built on cooperative arrangements alone, the advocate for cooperative social order remains at a disadvantage.

A forensic analysis of failed cooperative social order reveals a few themes. After an initial period of easy consensus, the community finds it more and more difficult to address needs without imposing some hierarchy. Clashes around those nominated to the hierarchy and their handling of the situation then erode the ability to form consensus, and the community fails. Alternatively, the community adapts to hierarchy and practices more coercion to maintain itself.

Both trajectories might be framed as failures of cooperative social order, and one might infer that coercion must be a feature of any functioning society. However, the historical prevalence of coercive social order provides an additional dimension to the account. Any cooperative social order brought into existence must cope with coercive social orders already established. A successful cooperative community attracts individuals seeking refuge from coercive societies and invites individuals to resist coercive societies through collective action. The rulers of a coercive society then have an interest in the failure of cooperative ventures in order to discourage challenges to their power. Since no community can maintain itself against constant attack, the cooperative eventually succumbs to economic or political pressures applied by its neighbors.

Coercive social orders enjoy a substantial natural advantage. By definition a coercive government needs to build consensus across a smaller number of individuals. Rulers agree on law and policy, police and military segments agree to obey the rulers and enforce compliance on the rest of the population.

A cooperative social order must obtain a wider consensus or else resort to coercion. Even in a small community, obtaining agreement will consume more time and effort than the unilateral action of a single individual. Larger communities or networks of communities take on additional coordination burdens to make and implement large scale decisions. By every measure, a cooperative social order is less efficient than a coercive social order.

The natural advantage makes coercive social order attractive, but it should not obscure the human cost. A coercive society engages in a form of warfare with its own citizens. Enforced compliance enables rulers to organize society around their interests and appease only enough broader interest to maintain the support of the martial class. The support of the martial class then carries out violence to ensure compliance of remaining population, dividing the society within itself. An honest critique of coercive social order must focus on the morality of enforced conformity and systemic oppression. A focus on efficiency serves only to obscure the moral cost of a coercive social order.