“For always in thine eyes, O Liberty!
Shines that high light whereby the world is saved;
And though thou slay us, we will trust in thee.”
On Picket Duty.
John Swinton, in the New York “Sun,” quotes the following remark made by a friend of his: “Freedom enjoys a superlative attribute by which it ever strains upward towards more freedom.”
F. Q. Stuart, who is the editor of the Individualist department of “Living Issues,” regards municipalization as in perfect line with Individualism. But who regards Stuart as an authority on Individualism?
Capt. Huntington describes in “The New Nation” the nationalist industrial army, which he calls “the army of peace.” Yes, it would be an army of — the peace of Warsaw. Like Capt. Huntington, we love peace; but we do not love the peace of the slavery which his Nationalism would bring.
The “Voice” calls William Morris’s new book, “News from Nowhere,” the “Anarchistic ‘Looking Backward.’” It ought to know better. Morris’s book is Communistic throughout, and it ought to be easy for the “Voice” to distinguish between sentimental Communism and sturdy Individualism.
Mr. Pentecost constantly reminds us that no single writer, school, or movement has the whole truth. It is this idea, I suppose, coupled with his ambition to make the “Twentieth Century” representative of the whole truth, that impels him, after teaching in his editorial columns views wholly irreconcilable with those of the Bellamy brothers, to speak of the latter in his advertising columns as possessing “a genius for social problems.”
The editor of the “Open Court” hasn’t much sympathy with the work of the editor of “Lucifer.” The facts which arouse Mr. Harman’s indignation the editor of the “Open Court” declares to have no existence I We must either believe that the Monist editor knows everything that takes place on the globe, or else that the Monist mistakes his own person for the globe and considers his own ignorance of facts as conclusive proof of their non-existence.
Rabbi Schindler, in a recent address in answer to the question, “Why are there no drunkards among the Jews?” said that one reason why they had abstained from the immoderate use of intoxicating drinks was because such beverages were never prohibited. There would, he said, be less sin in the world and fewer sinners if there were fewer rules, ordinances, and laws to be transgressed. No sooner is a thing prohibited than at once a craving for it arises in the human mind. All this is very good. But Rabbi Schindler will have to deliver another address to explain how he reconciles these sentiments with the principles of Nationalism, of which he is an avowed champion, or with his admiration for German Imperial Socialism.
The world is unjust to Mr. C. L. James. For many years he has been writing on economic, social, political, and philosophical questions, displaying rare ignorance and phenomenal incapacity, and yet the world does not seem ready to award him the prize which he has honestly earned and to allow him to retire from public life. The world is unjust, and unwise as well. For it is plain that, if it anticipates more fun from Mr. James, it is doomed to disappointment. Anything he may say hereafter will sound flat, insipid, and simply dull in comparison with those brilliantly nonsensical and amazingly absurd deliverances with which his latest efforts are replete. Take his declaration that Marx was an Anarchist. Can any lunatic asylum in the world boast of an inmate capable of bettering this startling blunder? Or take his description of Spencer as “a fanciful metaphysical writer whose relation to positive science is little higher than that of a mere popularizer.” Who can improve upon it? Even should another miracle occur and a real ass become capable of articulate speech, there can be no doubt that the ass’s philosophy would be far inferior in originality to Mr. James’s sociological notions. It is to be hoped that good sense and sympathy will soon prevail, and that the cruel sportsmen will turn their attention to other diversions and allow Mr. James to depart in peace.
Last summer the literary editor of “Harper’s Monthly” created a considerable excitement in journalistic circles by a gently savage attack on the policy of anonymous reviewing and irresponsible criticism. Liberty concurred in the views expressed by Mr. Howells, and, commenting on certain objections on the part of the Boston “Transcript,” it said: “In journalism the whole is not greater than its parts. A bad art critic is not strengthened by a poor musical critic, nor by a good one. A literary judgment neither gains nor loses from the support of a scientific writer on biology or astronomy. Each department of a paper must derive its strength from the ability of the person conducting it.” The Boston “Herald” illustrates the correctness of this position. In many respects a very good paper, more or less liberal and modern in some of its views, independent to a certain extent in politics, it yet permits its book and magazine review department to be conducted in the most reactionary and ridiculous manner. Some of the “Herald’s” judgments on books would disgrace the most conservative and narrow-minded organs of orthodox theological sects. Its literary editor frequently dismisses with a few lines of abusive or sarcastic language books which such papers as the New York “Times” and the Philadelphia “Press” find it fitting to discuss elaborately and recommend as possessing great merits. Now, does the general progressiveness of the “Herald” change the character of the snap and silly judgments of its obscurantist literary editor? Certainly not. It only intensifies the contrast and enables the discriminating reader to detect and deplore the incongruity. A bigot’s point of view cannot be made acceptable to us, and the liberality of his neighbors will only increase our dissatisfaction with his illiberality.
In Liberty of December 27 appeared the following editorial remark: “Our land reformers who have nothing to say about the money monopoly and who pass sleepless nights trying to devise a way for the community to appropriate economic rent, strain at a gnat after swallowing camels.” That stanch old land and money reformer, J. K. Ingalls, comments upon this in another column, and is curious to know exactly who was meant. He “judges” that the “Old Guard” cannot have been meant, because its members were anti-usury and anti-government-bank men. Here Mr. Ingalls ought to do more than “judge”; he ought to know. “Land reformers who have nothing to say about the money monopoly” cannot possibly mean land reformers who have had a great deal to say about and against money monopoly. Liberty referred, as Mr. Ingalls supposes, only to those who want the community to appropriate economic rent, but it pleads not guilty to Mr. Ingalls’s charge that it used language incorrectly in calling such men land reformers. Any one who wishes to modify the relations between man and the land or the conditions upon which the former may hold the latter is a land reformer. Leaving the Galveston “News” to answer Mr. Ingalls’s questions about land in Texas, Liberty simply remarks that to ask “how non-circulating credits can ever be discounted at cost for circulating credits which are based on monopolized security” betrays a failure to comprehend the mechanism of mutual banking. Under that system the same security guarantees the non-circulating credits that guarantees the circulating credits. If a man gives a mutual bank his note secured by a mortgage on land and gets mutual-bank notes in return, the mortgage secures the bank-notes as well as the individual note. Therefore, whether the security is monopolized or not, there is no reason, in an exchange of notes alike based upon it, why either form of notes should be at a premium over the other. The discount is the cost price of producing circulating credits, and is not at all representative of a difference between the solvency of the bank-notes and that of the notes of the bank’s customers.
Land Reform and Money Reform.
To the Editor of Liberty:
My curiosity is a little piqued to find out your exact meaning, in your issue of December 27, when you say: “Our land reformers who have nothing to say about the money monopoly,” who you think “will not be missed even if they retire from the reform field altogether.” I judge you cannot include to mean the “Old Guard,” for you must be aware that George H. Evans, John H. Hunt, Louis A. Hine, John Pickering, and other old-time land reformers were anti-usury and anti-government-bank men, half a century ago. You were personally acquainted with Dr. Edward Palmer, myself, and our lamented friend Rowe.
But if you meant, as I imagine, those alone who seek to appropriate economic rent, then I submit that the term is a misnomer; for years ago they abandoned the name altogether, and took instead that of tax reformers; still later they have christened themselves “single taxers,” “limited” or “unlimited,” as they are inclined to the leadership of Shearman or of George. Doubtless they think that in some roundabout way they will affect the evils of land monopoly. But they no longer even pretend that they propose to attack legal land ownership.
Through Liberty, I would also like to inquire, in this connection, of the Galveston “News,” how near to Galveston or to any considerable market land can be had “at a nominal price,” and what rate of interest such price will command during the forty years given to pay it in? Mr. Willis Gleed, in the “Forum” for March, states that “no land fit for agriculture can now be had from the government,” and argues from thence that capitalists may confidently look to have their rates of Interest on farm mortgages increased and the payments made more promptly, because the farmers will no longer suffer from the competition with the cultivators of free or cheap lands.
Now, does the “News,” or even Liberty, fully comprehend how largely interest on money depends upon its legal ability to buy up and monopolize the land, and the broad base land mortgages give to money monopoly? How can non-circulating credits ever be discounted at cost for circulating credits which are based on monopolized security?
Let me also say that the genuine land reformers do not object to “property, in land.” The anti-slavery people did not object to “property in person,” — i. e., one’s own person. But neither the land nor person of another is property; since property in all things is limited by the law of equal freedom and of equal privilege.
J. K. Ingalls.
By George Forrest.
He was leaning back comfortably in the large wicker rocking chair, the soft red light from the shaded lamp of brass just barely illuminating his features and the broad expanse of his white shirt front, rescuing them from the darkness of the room. He yawned and glanced at his watch, the reflections of the gold case sending sprays of light shivering around the room, drowning themselves finally in the cool depths of the mirrors and the wall. The glittering watch amused him; and it was so pleasant to be amused. Amusement, pleasure, before all things, thought he; but ennui was dreadful. When he first suffered ennui, he rather enjoyed it,— so novel, you know; quite a sensation. Again he yawned; his watch had ceased to amuse him; and he picked up a book, but that cursed, fashionable light forbade his reading — really he was ennuyé. But a knock at the door, and a voice calling, drove away the weary expression from his face.
“My dear boy,” he was saying to a blonde young man who stood in the door-way, “My dear boy, I’m deuced glad to see you. I heard you were coming; and really, I’ve been waiting nearly an hour.”
He held the newcomer by the hand, and rested the other hand on his shoulder. In the dim light they looked very much like each other: the same clear-cut features, the same cold eyes; the delicate, quivering nostril, alike in both. As they walked into the better light and seated themselves near the lamp, the newcomer’s features showed the younger and more sanguine cast. He was smiling, and saying:
“Not more glad than I am to see you, George; it’s like meeting an old sweetheart. We liked each other somewhat in old college days, you know.”
His voice was soft and musical, and his mobile face reflected the tenderness of his tones. The soft light from the lamp seemed to exercise a silent effect on the room, so that, when they spoke, it felt as though au everlasting stillness had just been broken.
“Like each other!” exclaimed George, “ah, it was nearer love,— that friendship of ours. But we’ve grown cold since then; I am a man of the world, who cares for no one, for nothing,— you a brilliant young physician, caring only for your profession; perhaps with great ambitions, which I have not, nor wish for; yet, to me, that old friendship is as real today as ever, the sweetest thing of my life.”
He became quite earnest as he spoke, and his voice had that beautiful modulation, cold, yet tender, which is common to those who are without an emotion, yet have felt all: in their voice lingers the memory of what their life has been.
“And you, Harry,” he continued, “I suppose you sometimes think of those old days; of our plans to reform the world, of your devotion to your profession and the great good you were to do, and of my devotion to everything — nothing. You remember it all, do you not?”
There was something of irony in his voice as he referred to their youthful ambitions, and he smiled in his usual sarcastic manner. Even his smile was slightly grave, and his sarcasm was of that soft, delicate kind which never gives pain.
Harry laughed; there was yet a boyish ring in the laugh, young and fresh.
“Yes,” he answered, “I remember well, and when I received your letter yesterday, stating that you had just returned from one of your long tours, all the old memories became revived. But they’re not so old either, it’s scarcely five years since we left college. I wondered if you were just as independent as over, if you had reached your ideal and become the ‘perfect man,’ that you used to preach so much about. Are you that self-sufficient, inemotional personage yet, or have you changed your views?”
Harry spoke laughingly at first, but his tone changed as he noticed the sad gravity of his friend’s features. He knew how well George had loved that ideal, and himself had, almost unconsciously, endeavored to attain it also.
“My views have not changed,” answered George, enunciating every word gravely and clearly, “except to become more thorough. And you,” he said, his gaze becoming clear and penetrating, “have you attained the ideal?”
“I have married,” stammered Harry, and his sanguine face clouded a little.
“And you are beginning to think you have made a mistake.”
“No, no; you do not understand me. My wife is a most excellent woman, and we loved each other,” interrupted Harry.
“I do understand you, my boy,” said George, slowly. “You fell in love and married; but you are not in love now. True, you do not seem to be very unhappy. You have settled down to make the best of it, but you no longer have an ideal; home, duty, and family have taken its place. I see you understand me. You have done what I expected you would do; it was very natural. What matter if we prove that love can very seldom last a lifetime; people will still agree to love a lifetime — but love is not made by agreement. You may think that I am criticising you. I am not, I am merely stating general truths. You know we used to discuss the question of love and marriage years ago; my views have changed but little since then, but yours have, or you would not have married.”
He paused and toyed with his watch-chain. Harry looked up as his friend ceased speaking and said:
“I remember your ideas about love and my own were almost the same; we thought that true love for life was exceeding rare. Three years ago I changed my mind; it was then I first met my wife. But I will be frank with you, as we have always been with each other. Well, I fell in love with her and we were married, and for a year we were very happy: our views were the same on everything, our natures were parallel; but soon our individuality began to creep back on us, and we grew apart. I no longer love; my wife no longer loves; yet we agree very well together; a staid friendship has taken the place of love. I am not unhappy, yet I confess to you that I would be happier if I had not married.”
George listened attentively, and he stretched forth his hand in sympathy and clasped Harry’s as he spoke:
“I know it all,” he said; “it is always the same story. I early found love to be a very unstable thing, which changes as we change. That which I loved ten years ago I care nothing for now, and that which I care for now I may detest next year. When I was a boy I was religious; I vowed to love Christ above all things, as long as I should live.”
He smiled softly, and slowly said: “Poor little fool — poor little fool.” He sighed, and then continued:
“I broke my vow, as you know, for I now love myself above all things; yet I was as much in earnest then as I am now. My agreement to love amounted to nothing, and love and belief were shattered at the same time.”
“But even you have not reached the ideal that you had in view,” said Harry. “Have you done better than I, or worse?”
“I, ah, I have lived, that is all — sometimes ill, sometimes well, but I have not reached the ideal. The ideal, the perfect man is an impossibility in an imperfect environment. The greater our culture, the greater must be the pain of our vulgar surroundings. Of course I found it difficult to live up to my ideas, but — ideas are flexible things, so I modified some of them. I have not made a martyr of myself: I have enjoyed life; and, in the words of Gustave Fallot, ‘I suffer,
I labor, I dream, I enjoy, I think; and, in a word, when my last hour strikes, I shall have lived.’ How well I remember that sentence! You know, when we used to read Proudhon, Fallot’s letter impressed me very much.”
He remained for some time silent, the memories of the past drifting through his mind.
“Well,” he resumed, “I haven’t read Proudhon in a long time. I spend most of_my time drifting about the world, seeing men, places, and such, and doing a great many foolish things. When I read, it is generally George Moore or some other author that the world thinks I should not read. Of late Ibsen has attracted me; in fact, he almost arouSed me from my lethargy, and I felt like preaching the old ideal again; but I have subsided, for I know the uselessness of my efforts. Yet the old thoughts were not downed — I was still the cool idealist, though my life would seem to contradict it. While drinking in the café, smoking on the boulevard, or card-playing, the old thoughts would come before my mind. I wondered how many days’ labor the workmen had to give to supply the young fools with the money which I fleeced from them at poker; and I saw the parallel clearly: the workingmen were fleeced by the fools, and the fools were fleeced by me; and I thought it very, very strange. Then I’d take a brandy and soda and think over it.”
“Why, George,” interrupted Harry, “I never thought you would gamble. I’m afraid there’s very little of the old ideal that you care for.”
George smiled, as though he enjoyed his friend’s perplexity. He stroked his moustache lazily and seemed in no hurry to relieve the anxiety regarding his morals. At last he spoke, still stroking his moustache, and uttering his words with a pronounced drawl:
“I see you are startled: you think me immoral. I am not. True, I have gambled; in fact, lived by gambling. You undoubtedly think that wrong; but you are mistaken. To obtain money by winning it is no more immoral than to receive it as a gift. Most people think it is; but then” —
He paused abruptly, evidently for effect, and then finished the sentence quietly:
“Most people are fools.”
Again he resumed stroking his moustache. He was evidently waiting for Harry to speak. The silence became embarrassing. Finally Harry spoke.
“I had hardly thought that of you, George,” he said seriously. “I never supposed you would become a professional gambler, much less endeavor to justify it. You were always so high-minded, so conscientious, that it seems impossible.”
“It is because I am conscientious that I am a gambler,” he replied. “Startling, isn’t it? — I know how it appears to you, impregnated with conventionality as you are,— liberal conventionality though it be. To you my actions appear immoral because you do not understand them. I remember in old days, when we used to chum together, I frequently startled you, and, liberal though you were, there were many truths which so conflicted with general belief that you would never accept them.”
He became quite in earnest; the train of thought seemed to please him, and he continued fluently:
“General belief is no measure of truth; while it has been the passport of all the great falsehoods of ages. That the world was flat was general belief; general belief was responsible for the horned devil; that the sun moved, that Christ arose from the dead, that the king could do no wrong, that the voice of the people was the voice of a vague, indefinitely-defined, eternal being — all were general beliefs; some of them are still believed in. The list of general beliefs of today which are lies is a long one: the sacredness of marriage, the life-lasting of love, that this is a free country, and, to approach what we were talking of, that gambling is a vice. I repeat, I am a gambler, because I am conscientious and cannot earn a living by fraudulent means.”
He stopped speaking and lazily leaned back in his chair. He had become so much in earnest that he had spoken rapidly, forgetting his assumed drawl; but he now again assumed it.
“Really,” he said, “it requires too much energy to talk on these subjects. It is always the same: one talks and argues, and writes and occasionally thinks; but it doesn’t amount to anything: the energy is wasted. The vast majority still insist on not thinking.”
“Ah!” said Harry, sadly, “I’m afraid you’ve changed much since we were boys together. There is no longer the same affinity between us,— we have grown apart” —
“As lovers do,” said George, finishing the sentence. “Well, what matters!” he continued. “It nearly always happens so.”
Then as Harry arose to go, he arose also, and put on his coat and hat to accompany him, saying as they walked out:
“Well, there is one thing upon which we can agree.”
“To take a brandy and soda together.”
Proudhon, the Father of Anarchism.
His Personality and His Philosophy.
[From Dr. S. Engländer’s “Abolition of the State.”*]
His book closes with these words: “Irony, true liberty! you have saved me from the ambition of power, the slavery of party, the admiration of great lords, the mystification of politics, the fanaticism of reformers, the superstition of this world, and, chief of all, from self-deification. Thou art the teacher of wisdom, the genius of providence and virtue. Goddess that thou art! oh, come and pour out over my fellow-citizens only one ray of light! Send forth into their souls only the spark of your spirit, so that my confession may conciliate them and they may realize the unavoidable revolution with joy and rejoicing.”
This right of the individual to be allowed to be free and alone Proudhon demands not only for himself, but for every one else; and he held those social arrangements only to be good and reasonable in which individualism finds its fullest development. Under present circumstances this is not the case, because the individual is governed; his activity is restricted. Proudhon therefore regarded that condition as an ideal one in which government and society should be identical and no longer divided.
This return of government to its original source, this reflux of labor into national life, is for him the type of freedom. His view of the present State was mankind despairing at history; it was the violent rending asunder of the chains which for a thousand years have fettered liberty. It is the confession that it is contradictory to the dignity of humanity to be ruled, that a transference of authority, whether to a monarch or to a popular representative, is a lie and a cheat.
His Anarchy does not dissolve: it creates. It is the purest human form, the necessity of freedom; it gives an impulse to self-assertion and independence; by it the masses arrive at their majority, and feel at first uneasy at the new sense of responsibility thereby imparted.
The abolition of the present State is the creation of the true state, of the first free human system of solidarity in which every individual rises to his true value, and human affairs are carried on in a purer and more vigorous fashion than heretofore. His abolition of government is the introduction of self-government, the organization of universal suffrage, the absorption of all activities for the free development of the most glorious goal of humanity.
Proudhon regards the regulation of the free attitude of individual to individual as the only problem of social science. He saw the whole evil of our present social condition in the fact that it misunderstood and violated reciprocity. Hence it was that, economically, his whole endeavors were directed to the establishment of justice in exchange, to the organization of credit, of true mutuality. As he began by freeing the individual from the ties of State and of humanity, and by setting him up in his full right as an individual, so he led back all free individuals to the true human fraternity.
This union, springing from a purified egotism, was not comprised in the Communist solidarity of Louis Blanc, but in a mutual solidarity.
On the one side, Proudhon descried the independent centralization of the social functions; on the other, the mutual guaranteeing of credit. His entire scheme for society was exhausted in these two formulas. He led us by egotism to true fraternity, or, in other words, he overcame egotism by itself. The economic side of his principle gains by this means, as we shall see, a profound meaning. He tears from the hand of capital its own weapon wherewith to kill it.
The business of exchange he transforms into a revolution, and he uses the means formerly at the disposal of usury wherewith to liberate labor. Capitalists obtained possession of the bill of exchange, and made of it a monopoly. Proudhon restores this invention to society at large. He generalizes and democratizes the bill of exchange, he republicanizes credit, and thereby creates a true solidarity which forms the exact antithesis of Communism.
Humanity, since the turning-point of modern history, is going through a course of symbol renunciation, in order to turn towards the reality of thought.
In Egypt it was hieroglyphics, in Greece sculpture, in the Middle Ages architecture, which served as an allegory. The mystical twilight of history has now been changed. Government and the Church are the last symbols which man has not yet got rid of. Authority and religion represent the range of the ideas of humanity, because it cannot yet breathe the purity of the idea.
Government and God are intimately connected. There is a meaning in the expression used by kings, “By the Grace of God.” Without God there is no king, without a king there is no God. Man decks these last remnants of his mystical immaturity with all imaginable colors.
Man invented statecraft, by which the symbol of government can be transformed into an intellectual reality; and he illuminates the hieroglyphic of religion by the eternal Harae of philosophy, without knowing that thereby it must be destroyed.
Hieroglyphics must be believed in, or they cease to exist. Man, however, endeavors to explain to himself the governmental and religious symbolism, in order to preserve it by reason, and thus unintentionally solves the problem of the century,— namely, the desertion of symbolism and the adoption of reality.
He only is a Christian who believes in the redemption of the world by the death of Jesus Christ, and he only is a true citizen of the State to whom the king patriarchally represents and symbolizes the entire State.
As soon as criticism of the mystical contents of religion commences, or as soon as we cease to recognize in the king the genuine symbolic expression of the whole body of citizens, to supplement his powers with national representatives, and to demand guarantees, the transition path to ideal purity has been entered upon, which man strives, both as a philosopher and a citizen, to attain.
Hitherto most men have been only able to fathom their position in the universe by means of a God external to the world and earthly culture. The necessity for a social organization of union only presents itself figuratively to human consciousness by the establishment of a government. The more clear is the self-assertion of the individual, the stronger is the impulse to achieve and satisfy it, and therefore the less is it contented with symbols. A thing becomes a symbol sooner than a man. There are, therefore, no more governments, only usurpations. Opposition to the State is one of the chief features of our age; it alone gives sense and meaning to revolution.
Practically, a revolution is only thereby important that it denotes the struggle of nations to get rid of the morbid matter of government — the State. During the victory of a revolution the people is for one moment free, and lives long on the memory of this moment.
But immediately after the victory mistrust and discontent slink in among the people. Without knowing why, each one feels that this wild fanatical state of affairs, this morbidly heightened wantonness, this mutual animosity, as little constitutes freedom as the recommencement of governing, decreeing, place-hunting, and organizing can achieve any real alteration. Discontented and deceived, we are deafened in the wild tumult of the revolution. Happily the unhealthy wave of life which is thrown up does not leave us time to consider whether the battle has been really useful, and whether the victims which have been slain have been offered in a noble cause.
But when sobriety sets in, the old chains are once more felt, the old complaints of having been cheated are once more raised, and the firm resolve is taken, having learned something by experience, to do it better next time. As if the chain had not again been rattled the very day after the revolution, only we did not hear the clank. As if the political strife had not been waged the very day after the fall of the Government; and as if by the juggle of election we had not been worse defrauded of our liberty by the democrats than a countryman of his money by a common thimble-rigger. Let the revolution but take a name, let it be personified, whether in Robespierre or Lamartine, and it shrivels up and is lost.
Every rebel is a genius; to rebel is to be in advance of the age, to make a leap out of the State, to fly against the Government. A revolution is a species of birth, a coming of age, a mystical idea of liberty. Every barricade is an altar of liberty, a negation of police regulations, a humorous criticism of the State, a stumbling-block which trips up the State.
In this sense Proudhon was the greatest rebel. He accused all our State dispositions of being impregnated with feudality and monarchy. Our system of administration, in its pyramidal form, was in his eyes essentially monarchical. The whole power of the nation appears to him to be concentrated in a national assembly as in a dynasty. To him the electoral forms of the assembly are a mystery and a game of chance. Proudhon does not abolish the State by an abstract development, but he undermines it by placing by its side the picture of no-State, a condition without government. He makes us free by showing us liberty. Practically, this way is the best. Man holds it impossible to escape from his state; a step out of his circle is for him a journey into the unknown. Proudhon invents, therefore, if we may use the expression, an empirical way.
To be continued.
* Continued from No. 176.
The Wail of the “Whoop-Her-Ups.”
William Holmes, an old comrade of Parsons, and a devoted follower of the revolutionary and salvation method of reform, and a serious and earnest worker, is sorely troubled that the old days of banner-carrying, street-preaching, and picnic-revivals of the hungry prolétaire, etc., are no more. He looks with longing fora renewal of those “momentous times,” and, when he thinks of the present method of spreading ideas, he gets scornful and calls it dilletante radicalism. “The philosophic Anarchists,” he says, “discuss the evils of monopoly and Government, whilst they turn a deaf ear to the pitiful cries of the poor victims thereof. They meet in carpeted rooms about cheerful grates to argue questions of political and social economy; they discuss the woman question, the land question, the questions relating to finance and government,— in short, they philosophize on all the evils of an admittedly infamous system; but little is done to enlighten the masses; the old-time enthusiasm is gone; agitation on the streets and in the slums is foolish and vulgar. We must train our own intellects, develop our Ego,— and to the devil with the poor prolétariat, with his rags, his hovels, his bad odors, and his misery.”
Unfortunately it is not quite true that philosophical Anarchists meet in carpeted parlors, though occasionally one may be invited to a representative gathering or a private club. But what if they did meet in pleasant places? Was it not the constant wail of the street-corner preacher that the people with cheerful firesides and carpets never troubled themselves about the wrongs in society? Then why deplore a tendency that carries the truth to those who need it?
“At one time,” says Mr. Holmes, “great halls were filled weekly to overflowing by multitudes who came to hear glad tidings, but this is in a great measure changed.” Well, how is that? Why don’t the multitudes show up now? Have they all gone into carpeted rooms with cheerful firesides to discuss philosophic Anarchism? Unfortunately, no. The fact is that the shining lights of those noisy days of strong denunciation, when big hearts were more in demand than clear heads, have disappeared. Some of the noble and brave ones, like Parsons and Spies, have been eclipsed forever. Others have drifted into all sorts of side shows, and appear to have forgotten the little they ever did know. Some, like our friend Holmes, are as serious and solemn as ever, but, Bourbon-like, never learn anything new. Some have retired into privacy altogether, and though at one time they were prominent figures at the lake front and weekly gatherings where the glad tidings were dispensed, they are now never seen or heard of,— not even at the Eleventh of November Anniversary meetings. Some of the less noisy but more thoughtful ones have become philosophic Anarchists. To make reference to those who have become disheartened and despondent, or to those who have learned something, or those who have retired into privacy, would be unbecoming. But to give point to these remarks I will refer to two noisy blatherskites who used to incite those weekly multitudes to howl for war; both of them were comrades of Parsons and Spies, and both editorial writers on the old “Alarm,” where they have left on record most blood-curdling denunciations of property holders. They are C. S. Griffin and William Gorsuch, and they have been airing their views lately in the “Twentieth Century.” They are not philosophic Anarchists. One or both of them have been everything but that; one of them writes a sophistic article against being “tagged,” and objects to being labelled Socialist, Monarchist, Anarchist, Single-Taxist, or any other ist, presumably for the reason that it gives more latitude to a practical schemer to pose as a general friend of the workingman. The other, C. S. Griffin, writes an effusion attempting to point out some fallacies in Anarchism, but succeeds only in showing that the few hap-hazard good hits he once made against the State, in the “Alarm,” were not clear-cut ideas of his own, or any that he fully comprehended.
This is the direction in which Mr. Holmes should look for causes of the degeneracy of his own party. These recreants and Salvationist cork-screws are to blame, not plumb-line Anarchists. Of course, a man ought to be commended for an intelligent changing of opinions, when he sees the follies of them, and has the courage to announce the change. But these comrades of Mr. Holmes have never given reasons for discarding their old follies: presumably they still believe that private property is the root of all evil, and that dynamite and a rising of the prolétaire are the true methods of salvation, but that Nationalism or Georgeism or any other bourgeois scheme are useful as propaganda. Perhaps this is the reason that Messrs. Holmes and Danielewitch and that school have no words against these comrades,— which only goes to prove the lack of reasoning faculty in these people, and how prone they are to become the tools of any reactionist school that may happen to be in fashion for the time. The “Arbeiter Zeitung” — Spies’s old paper — that once had a consistent policy — is following the trend of the times, and probably will end up as the organ of the Morgan, Daniel & Company’s “New Commonwealth.” Poor Spies, if never a philosophical Anarchist, was anything but a Gronlundite. And yet the same paper that prints Win. Holmes’s wail speaks in commendation of the “Zeitung.”
It is narrow-mindedness to say that because one does not see the wisdom of talking expropriation to crowds of ignorant and unfortunate workmen, that he turns a “deaf ear to the pitiful cries of the poor victims, or that he has no sympathy with their sufferings.” Occasionally I feel as doleful and almost as hopeless as Mr. Holmes, but a little reflection will show that the dreadful condition he deplores is due to the lack among the agitators of an intelligent understanding of the problem to be solved, or the method of solving it. Agitation is a very necessary work, but, if the agitators have nothing but communistic dreams or Bellamyism to offer the multitudes, they had better cease their altruistic agitation; awhile and “train their intellects” and “develop their Ego,” regardless of the sneer in the last quotation from Mr. Holmes.
In London the revolutionary Communists are all demoralized. William Morris has come to see that the logical result of crazy, undefined agitation among ignorant multitudes is to land the party in the net of political mountebanks I and reactionists, and so he sounded a note of warning which was reprinted in a recent Liberty. Straightway he is denounced as a carpeted-room philosopher, a student, an intellectual theorist, a poet, and in other mild terms, both by the multitude and the agitators.
A. H. Simpson.
Faneuil Hall Couldn’t Answer.
To the Editor of Liberty:
In the pending discussion about silver, it is constantly assumed by the believers in restricted money that the present value of gold is determined by the normal action of economic forces. Nothing can be further from the truth. Kuskin stated the case of gold and silver money when he said that, “inasmuch as gold is good money, it is bad commodity; and, inasmuch as it is good commodity, it is bad money.” That is, its commodity relations interfere with its use as money, and its use as the money instrument destroys its position as a commodity. The gold-bugs who went down to Faneuil Hall the other day to declaim against silver took the position that silver is depreciated,— the truth being that both metals are appreciated, through their use as money metals, out of their commodity relations with other labor products. As Col Greene put it,— they are in the position of “trump” cards.
Gold is held in its position by the unchecked power of the four great political and commercial States of the world. Silver can be held at a parity with gold at the ratio of 16 to 1 by the United States alone, in virtue of its power as a fiscal agent,— receiving and distributing $400,000,000 each year.
submitted by a wage-earner to the officers of the anti-silver meeting held in Faneuil Hall January 20, 1891.
1. Is there any other than “political” money in circulation in the United States at the present time; — that Is, money whose circulation depends on the political power of the State, and not on the action of economic forces, (a.) Gold is held in reserve by the power of the State. (b.) Silver is bought and coined by the State, (c.) Treasury notes are political money pure and simple, (d.) National bank notes are guaranteed by the State and ultimately redeemable through compulsory taxation.
2. Is there any other redemption of circulating notes — legal tenders, national bank notes, gold and silver certficates — than political redemption,— that is, redemption outside and independent of economic forces?
3. Is the position of gold in the circulation of the four great commercial nations — England, France, Germany, and the United States — economically determined? That is: is the ratio or proportionality of gold in exchange for other labor products determined by the free action and interaction of economic forces? Or is gold in the position of syndicated copper under the bourgeois of the French Syndicate? If the French Syndicate had possessed the power now exercised by the four great governmental gold banks of the world,— Banks of England, France, and Germany, and the Treasury of the United States,— could not the Syndicate have held the “market” price of copper at double its economic price for an indefinite period? Will it require more bushels of wheat to pay the principal of the present national debt of SI,000,000,000 than it would have required to pay the debt of almost $3,000,000,000 of 1866? Yes.
Has wheat fallen or gold risen? Which?
E. B. McKenzie, Jr.
“In abolishing rent and interest, the last vestiges of old-time slavery, the Revolution abolishes at one stroke the sword of the executioner, the seal of the magistrate, the club of the policeman, the gunge of the exciseman, the erasing-knife of the department clerk, all those insignia of Politics, which young Liberty grinds beneath her heel.” — Proudhon.
The appearance in the editorial column of articles over other signatures than the editor’s initial indicates that the editor approves their central purpose and general tenor, though he does not hold himself responsible for every phrase or word. But the appearance in other parts of the paper of articles by the same or other writers by no means indicates that he disapproves them in any respect, such disposition of them being governed largely by motives of convenience.
Prohibition and Crime.
It seems that I was wrong in attributing to the “Voice” a desire to cure human disease and vice by the method of compulsion and restriction. Commenting on ray recent remarks on the prohibition movement, the “Voice” argues as follows:
We are not trying, as Prohibitionists, to remedy “human weakness, vice, and disease;” we are trying to protect ourselves and society in general from the consequences of that weakness, vice, and disease. We are not trying to protect a man from his own folly or weakness, but to protect others from his weakness and folly. If A wants a drink and B sells it to him, who is wronged? No one, if A does not drink to excess. What right then has Government to interfere? None at all, if that specific act of sale is all there is to the question. We give “V. Y.” the full benefit of that admission. But now let him go with us a little further.
Prior to that act of sale two conditions must have been established: (1) the facilities for traffic; (2) the permission (tacit or otherwise) of organized society or government. The facilities are supplied by the seller himself; the permission by Government, for “trade is a social act,” as John Stuart Mill has said. Before granting that permission Government is bound to ask whether or not the desired traffic will interfere with its (Government’s) performance of its proper functions. If so, it has no right to grant the permission. What are those functions? Its chief (some say its only) function is to protect each citizen from violence and injustice at the hands of another. Does the saloon interfere with the exercise of this function? No, not if every man who drinks remains sober and harmless. But here is the point: The saloon neceasarily and inevitably (as experience shows) incites to drink those who under the influence of drink commit crimes of violence. If B sells drink to A how are C’s rights affected? Not at all perhaps, if A keeps his head. But if B incites A to drink, and A in consequence of that drink becomes a maniac on the street to the imminent peril or inconvenience of C, then the latter’s rights are affected not only by A, but by B who incited him to drink, and by the Government which authorized a business which will inevitably incite such men to drink by its mere presence. The whole argument hangs on the fact that drink makes a man dangerous to others. Smoking does not do that. Eating too much does not do it. Even using opium does not do it.
The “Voice,” in conclusion, boldly defies any man to show it a flaw in its argument. May it please the “Voice,” I will undertake to point out several flaws. Let me remind it in the first place that the original charge against saloon-keepers was that they deprive “men of clear heads, families of means of support, children of equal opportunities with other children.” The “Voice” seems to be ready to withdraw that charge, but I cannot allow it to do so,— not until it has been a little more explicit. Does the “Voice” insist on protecting a man’s family as well as his neighbors from the consequences of his vice and weakness, or does it not? If it does, then I need do no more than reiterate my criticism. Other things equal, the family of a man who works too much, or smokes too much, or eats too much, or takes too much interest in abstract speculation, or uses opium, will not have equal opportunities with the family of a man free from these habits. Hence, if we feel called upon and entitled to protect his family, we should, if we believe in prohibition, regulate his life in all the above mentioned directions as well as in many others that might be specified. If it does not, then it is bound to furnish reasons for excluding a man’s family from those benefits of prohibition which it wishes “society” to enjoy. Surely the “Voice,” though a strong champion of legal marriage and the family, is not of those who regard a man’s wife and children as his property, with which he is free to do whatever he pleases.
Supposing, however, that the “Voice,” for good reasons, does exclude the family from the benefits of prohibition, let us ask if it is true that drink alone “makes a man dangerous to others.” Experience shows that under the influence of orthodox religious preaching men commit crimes of violence. (If the “Voice” is not aware of this, all it has to do is to apply for information to the courteous editor of the New York “Truthseeker,” who, I am confident, will be most happy to supply abundant evidence of the truth of my statement.) Some men go to orthodox churches and remain sober and harmless; but some do not remain so. If, then, all men are to be forbidden to buy and sell drinks because some men become dangerous after consuming a certain quantity of ardent spirits, then all men should be forbidden to attend revival meetings or listen to orthodox sermons on hell and salvation. It is equally certain that some men buy weapons to kill other men; the selling of weapons, then, should also be prohibited. In short, the prohibitionists must be prepared to urge their measure in every case where it can be shown that some men are tempted to act in ways leading to the injury of others; and of such cases there is no end.
But the most serious Saw in the argument of the “Voice” remains to be pointed out. Let us admit, as the “Voice” assumes, that the chief function of the government “is to protect each citizen from violence and injustice at the hands of another.” Let us admit further that the saloon “necessarily and inevitably incites to drink those who under the influence of drink commit crimes of violence.” Does it follow that it is the right and duty of the government to close all saloons and prohibit the liquor traffic? By no means. The “Voice” is simply astonishingly illogical in thinking that this does follow. It jumps to its conclusion with a blindness and impetuosity only to be accounted for by its passionate love of prohibition and hatred of the saloon. What is the logical sequence here? It is the duty of the government to protect the citizen from injustice. Then it is bound to protect me in my legitimate activities, and neither allow others to interfere with me nor be itself guilty of interference. Now, a man is innocent until proved an aggressor. It is no crime, as the “Voice” cannot help granting, to desire and apply for a drink, and it is no crime to sell one. The government then is bound to protect the saloon-keeper and his customer against any unjust interference with this transaction. If a man gets drunk and commits a crime, the government is bound to punish the criminal. Its duty calls for no more, and it has no right to do more. The government does not arrest all men on the streets because some men are pickpockets; no more has it the right to abolish men’s freedom to buy and sell ardent spirits because some men commit crimes when drunk. It punishes pickpockets after the commission of the crime; and it has the right to punish drunkards who are guilty of crimes. It will not avail the “Voice” to plead that prevention is better than cure, for even if we admit that it is expedient and proper for the government to undertake to prevent crimes by anticipatory measures, we are not landed in the camp of the prohibitionists. Let the government station police officers at every saloon to escort to their homes the gentlemen needing support and see them duly taken care of, thus preventing them from doing mischief. Let the government prevent crime without becoming a criminal itself. It cannot prohibit the liquor traffic without violating justice, it being admitted that drink does not inevitably lead everybody visiting the saloon to commit crimes.
The reader will doubtless bear in mind that in this argument against prohibition, I have for the sake of convenience placed myself at the governmentalists’ point of view. What the distinctively Anarchistic arguments against prohibition are, I need not state here. The Anarchistic reader knows them as well as I do, while with the “Voice” they of course could have no weight. The “Voice” believes in free and full and fair discussion. The Anarchists are welcomed in its columns as cordially as the opponents of Anarchism, and its readers are always given opportunities to hear all sides and make decision intelligently. Let us hope that some day the “Voice” will editorially enter upon an examination of Anarchism. When it does, I shall be most happy to cross swords with it. V. Y.
Property in Ideas and Equal Liberty.
Let me begin this third and probably final contribution to the copyright controversy by dissipating the misunderstanding in regard to the alleged charge of evasion. Mr. Tucker has very properly refused to believe that I really meant to attribute to him that despicable pride of intellect which prompts evasion and shuffling. I do not attribute that quality to him, and the word “evade” was illegitimate, as I intended to say no more than that he had ignored an argument which he could not have failed to observe was advanced by me as decisive. I am glad that he does not suppose me capable of deliberately charging him with evasion, since such a charge would argue an unfair as well as unintelligent appreciation on my part of his character and logical insight.
I am afraid, however, that it will be found to be no mere inaccuracy of expression which furnishes me with a basis for a complaint against Mr. Tucker’s treatment of my humble self. His remark that one remarkable feature of my last article is the number of points and considerations neglected in it can have no purpose and significance unless it is calculated to suggest to the reader that the points neglected are to be considered points settled in Mr. Tucker’s favor and that my silence is to be viewed as equivalent to admission of defeat. If I am correct, then I submit that Mr. Tucker overstepped the limits of fair and honorable warfare when he stooped to indulge in that verbal thrust. Knowing as he did that the points which I neglected were not essential to the solution of the central issue, be had no right to attempt to make capital out of that by no means “remarkable feature.” If all controversialists were to insist on carrying to the end the discussion of each and every side issue or subordinate point of disagreement, no controversy would ever come to a conclusion. This copyright controversy has brought to the surface many minor differences between Mr. Tucker and myself which no doubt might prove interesting subjects for discussion. But the main issue is not affected by them, and I propose to ignore them for the time being. I feel that my position on the main question is so impregnable that I can afford to let all the minor issues rest under the cloud of uncertainty.
Mr. Tucker will not deny that, if I can successfully establish the claim that the “general principle” is on my side, then, no matter how numerous and how serious the practical difficulties in the way of the equitable application of the principle may be, the verdict must be in favor of copyright. What he does deny, and very strenuously and confidently, is that the “general principle” is on my side, and he claims to destroy the force of my reasoning by pointing out a fallacy in Spencer’s statement of the general principle. But I can easily show that there is no fallacy in Spencer’s statement, and that Mr. Tucker simply failed to comprehend it. The general principle is the principle of equal liberty, and the right to property, whether in the produce of the hand or the brain, is a corollary to that principle. The man who has discovered or elaborated from acquired facts a new idea has the right to use that idea to his private advantage. Whether he uses it secretly or openly, he has the right to a monopoly of its use. The right to privacy which Mr. Tucker so persistently obtrudes upon us has nothing to do with the question of property in the produce of the brain. The argument that “ideas are there to be found” is, as I have said, too silly to need refutation. The only question to decide is whether property in ideas is negatived by the principle of equal liberty. “From the moment a patent or copyright is granted,” says Mr. Tucker, “no man is free to acquire the same facts — to elaborate from them, if he can, the same new ideas — and in a similar manner employ those new ideas for his private advantage.” Whether this is true or not depends altogether on the sort of patent or copyright the man is granted. In spite of my repeated warning against confounding my defence of patent and copyright with the present laws and legal principles governing those relations, Mr. Tucker appears to hold me responsible for the injustice generated by legality. Suppose that, in accordance with the law of justice, we recognize a man’s absolute right of property in his invention or literary production, while warning him that no infringement on the equal right of others to discover or elaborate and exploit a similar thing will be allowed. As long as no competitor appears, the man, if he sells copies of his book, violates nobody’s right. The abandonment of secrecy by him does not justify us in stealing his property. The fact that Spencer has published his works does not justify me in republishing them. Can Mr. Tucker show that a denial of his or my right to republish Spencer’s works is a denial of our equal liberty to acquire the facts, elaborate the ideas, and publish our own works? Of course not. Then, I repeat, as long as no competitor appears, Spencer’s right of absolute property in his works may be recognised without a denial of the principle of equal liberty. There is no leap, then, from the recognition of Spencer’s right to use his ideas secretly to the recognition of his right of private property in his books. Now, suppose another man appears with a book in many or all respects identical with one of Spencer’s. The question arises: is this man a thief, or has he really written this book and has stolen nothing from Spencer? This question must be decided before a jury of experts, or before an ordinary jury on the testimony of experts. If the man is proved a thief, he is punished, and the right to sell the book is denied him. If juries disagree, or the man is proved honest and the real author of the book, he is permitted to compete with Spencer. Again justice is satisfied, and still, as before, no third man has a right to publish and sell either of the books.
So far, then, as the “general principle” is concerned, property in ideas has the same sanction as property in material things. In no case does the author or inventor who has the monopoly of the use or sale of his invention or discovery infringe the equal right of others. Other men, provided they can prove to the satisfaction of a jury that the things they claim as the products of their own labor are really such, have the right to use their ideas or things for their private advantage, secretly or publicly. Only those are debarred from using the ideas who either make no claim to authorship at all or who, having made the claim, are convicted of falsehood and robbery by juries.
But the reason why Spencer, without being “absurd” and “contradictory,” introduces his limitation of the right to property in ideas is that in many cases it is impossible to prove the claim of originality. The “general principle” is clear, but its application is found to be difficult. It is deemed expedient, therefore, to qualify an inventor’s right of property, and allow him a temporary instead of a perpetual monopoly. Where absolute justice cannot be had, relative justice is sought to be obtained. Spencer does not hold that property in ideas abridges others’ liberty of action; he merely admits that it is often impossible for honest men to prove their titles to their own property, and considers it advisable to remedy the injustice that the claimants would suffer if the protectors of the first inventor’s title insisted on convincing evidence, by abridging the first inventor’s right. Should it become possible to decide the claims of all competitors in all cases, Spencer would withdraw his qualification and adhere to the principle of absolute property in ideas.
Here it becomes clear that, holding as I do that there is no tendency for any form of literary expression to be reproduced by independent writers and that the practical difficulties that embarrass us in the case of inventors are conspicuously absent in the case of authors, I cannot follow Spencer in his attempt to abridge the right of authors to their literary works. I see no reason for violating the “general principle” in this case. Here, I say, absolute justice, not merely relative justice, may be had. To be sure, Mr. Tucker denies the logical impossibility of two men being sufficiently alike to write substantially the same book. He himself, he tells us, has known men closely resembling each other in physical, mental, and moral traits and qualities. But this, instead of being damaging to my position, powerfully tells against Mr. Tucker himself. For, if two such men should appear before a jury, and the jury should conclude that it is more reasonable to suppose them capable of producing books substantially alike than kooks widely different, the right of the second claimant would be recognized and justice secured. While l still maintain that no jury would ever be called to decide such a case, and deny Mr. Tucker’s “confident” statement that “substantial similarity” has not infrequently occurred, I am willing to assume that he is right and appeal to intelligent readers to say whether it would be difficult for a jury to distinguish between truth and Imposture in such a case. I am confident that it would not be difficult, but very easy.
I think I have succeeded in showing that the “general principle” is on my side, that property in ideas is logically deduced by Spencer from the principle of equal liberty, and that only certain practical difficulties in the way of the application of the principle render it expedient to abridge this right in certain cases. V. Y.
When Mr. Yarros charged me with evasion, I expressed my confidence that his words meant more than he meant, and his readiness to alter them shows that my confidence was justified. But when I use language which Mr. Yarros construes as an imputation upon him, he is afraid that I mean more than my words mean, or, if not that, he at least insists that my words necessarily mean something which they do not mean at all. There is no mistaking the meaning of the word evasion as used in discussion; it involves a contemptible motive. But the words remarkable feature may mean many things. If Mr. Yarros thinks they can mean but one thing, he is the victim of a philological error. If he thinks they may mean many things, but in this instance were intended to mean a thing dishonorable to him, he shows a readiness to distrust me under circumstances less suspicious on their face than those under which I refused to distrust him. Now let me explain my purpose in using the words complained of. Knowing that the readers, absorbed in the main points of Mr. Yarros’s second article, were less likely than I to remark the dropping of the subordinate considerations originally introduced by him and met by me, I called their attention to it as remark-able. I wanted them to notice that my arguments on the secondary issues had not been overthrown, no matter whether Mr. Yarros could overthrow them or not. And I hoped also, by calling attention to the matter, to lead Mr. Yarros to change this tacit admission that the now neglected issues are secondary into an explicit admission, which might have a salutary effect on those of my opponents who have paid less heed than he to my disposition to narrow the debate down to essentials. That hope has been realized, at least so far as obtaining the admission is concerned.
Though Mr. Yarros withdraws the word evade, he still says (or does not unsay what he “intended to say”) that I ignored an argument which I could not have failed to observe was advanced by him as decisive. This, too, is incorrect. His original argument was that it is beyond all possibility that the writings of two men should ever be alike, because no two men are mentally and morally alike. I did not ignore this, but met it as I understood it (and as I now understand his original words), never dreaming that he meant to declare that differences of intellect make impossible that duplication of literary form which mere chance does not exclude. When, from his second article, I gathered his real meaning, I hastened to answer him again, and now, at the risk of repeating my offence, I must once more point out as remarkable the entire neglect of my second answer, made to an argument this time not secondary, but “advanced as decisive.” Not that I intend more than before to hint that Mr. Yarros admits error on his part. I simply note the phenomenon, without attempting to fathom motives. I have no doubt that Mr. Yarros has a perfectly honorable reason for his silence. But until that silence is broken, it remains demonstrated to my satisfaction that an intelligent man who had never heard of the play of “Hamlet” would be millions of times more likely to reproduce that play than the letters that compose it would be likely, if tossed into the air, to reproduce it by chance in falling to the ground.
Mr. Yarros rightly thinks I will not deny that, if he can successfully establish the claim that the general principle is on his side, then, no matter how numerous and how serious the practical difficulties in the way of the equitable application of the principle may be, the verdict must be in favor of copyright. But I have to remind Mr. Yarros, as I have had to remind other opponents in the past, of the immortal words of Cap’n Cuttle that “the bearin’ o’ this ’ere hobservation lies in the application on’t.” And when the application comes, we find that both Mr. Yarros and Mr. Spencer prove (as they think) that property in ideas is consistent with the general principle of equal liberty, only to find the next minute that they cannot make property in ideas a reality without violating the principle of equal liberty; in view of which “practical difficulty” they kindly consent to violate it only for a little while,— in each case for some fifty years or so. We, who are violated, appreciate their moderation in tyranny, but we really must decline to abandon our liberty even for so short a time. The truth is that what is here called a “practical difficulty” is a theoretical difficulty, and that the snag which property in ideas meets is the very principle of equal liberty by which it professes to sustain itself. To see this it is only necessary to read the extracts from Spencer which Mr. Yarros quoted and endorsed in the last issue of Liberty. And my view of those extracts suddenly receives endorsement from an unexpected quarter. I am not in the habit of buttressing my opinions with those of others, but when a man decides in my favor on a point where naturally he would have a two-fold bias against me, it is at least interesting to quote the corroboration. I refer to the editor of “Today,” who, in his own paper, has just taken a hand in this discussion. He holds to property in ideas as firmly as I oppose it. Here is the first ground of bias; his tendency would be to disagree with anything that I might say on the subject. The second ground of bias is found in his attitude toward Spencer, which is not far removed from that “brute admiration” which Victor Hugo confessed for Shakspere; he will decide against Spencer only when, as an honest man, lie absolutely must. What, then, does this close student of Spencer, this believer in property in ideas, say of these extracts from Spencer upon which Mr. Yarros relies? “Let me begin,” he says, “by admitting that Spencer’s qualification of the absolute right of property in ideas is irredeemably weak. . . . . It seems to me untenable, and the argument quite lacking in cogency. I believe that the right of property in ideas is too obvious to be dwelt on at all; and the right, once existing, is perpetual, and cannot be qualified by anything whatever.” The position stated in the last sentence has at least the virtue of consistency,— a virtue of which neither Mr. Spencer nor Mr. Yarros can boast so far as this matter is concerned.
To the criticism on Spencer’s qualification Mr. Yarros makes an answer which, weak as it is, I must not ignore. “Spencer,” he says, “does not hold that property in ideas abridges others’ liberty of action; he merely admits that it is often impossible for honest men to prove their titles to their own property, and considers it advisable to remedy the injustice that the claimants would suffer if the protectors of the first inventor’s title insisted on convincing evidence, by abridging the first inventor’s right.” This is merely Mr. Yarros’s interpretation of Mr. Spencer’s language.
I see no evidence that the interpretation is correct. On the contrary, Mr. Spencer could not imagine for a moment that the “claimants” (as Mr. Yarros wrongfully calls the alleged infringers, the claimant in law being the complainant,— that is, the man whose property is said to have been stolen),— Mr. Spencer could not imagine, I say, that the “claimants” would suffer from being called on for convincing evidence. Bless your innocent soul, Mr. Yarros! fortunately Mr. Spencer has not yet thrown overboard, as you have, and as the editor of “Today” has (as appears later in his article), that good old rule of evidence that “a claim must be proved by him who makes it, not disproved by him against whom it is made” (the quotation is from Spencer himself). From the moment that the copyright and patent laws cease to deny the right of competition to rivals who work out an idea independently though subsequently, the holders of copyrights and patents, whenever they prosecute for infringement, will be obliged by the most fundamental rules of evidence to prove that the alleged infringers are not independent inventors and authors. Unless this is proved, the defendants will be held innocent.
I do not believe that Spencer ever entertained for a moment the thought of submitting patents and copyrights to juries on any other questions than those of priority of invention and identity of idea. He would know full well that to go to a jury on a question of independence of invention or authorship, with the burden of proof on the complainant as would be necessary (for to abandon this rule of evidence would result virtually in the abandonment of courts and juries altogether), would mean sure victory for the defendant. Now, the patents and copyrights that Spencer believes in are no platonic affairs, the virility gone out of them; they live but a term of years, to be sure, but they are vigorous while they last. Only such patents and copyrights do the monopolists want, only such do the friends of freedom fear. As for the castrated copyrights that Mr. Yarros and the editor of “Today” propose, if I were to look at the practical side simply, I would say, barring the putting the burden of proof on the defendant: “Have them and welcome!” for I know that it is well-nigh impossible to prove the cribbing of an idea.
But I do not take the practical view only. As a friend of equal liberty, I cannot endure the monopolist, even though he be a eunuch. Theoretically he has an elixir in the opportunity given him to prove that which is practically incapable of proof. And theoretically the sterility is transferred to all other persons, from whom the opportunity is taken of exploiting at a competitive price the fact or truth of nature which, even under this practically barren copyright, they can, theoretically, enjoy only at a monopoly price. For it is an idle mockery to say that people would still have the liberty to discover for themselves. No man living in the civilized world has the liberty to discover the principle of the steam-engine. Having seen the steam-engine, he is powerless to discover it (except by simply understanding it, to use the word in the sense in which Mr. Lloyd uses it in another column). This being the case, and the first inventor of the steam-engine having virtually rendered all other people powerless to invent it, a patent given to him puts the entire world at his mercy by enabling him to deprive it of its chief motive-power if he chooses, or, if he prefers, to sell it to the world at the price of a permanent income for himself and his heirs amounting to a fraction less than the annual extra product due to the use of steam. The same is true in principle, though in less degree, of books and their authors. And here I may note that the editor of “Today” agrees with Spencer and myself against Mr. Yarros that “a collocation of words is a discovery the same as any other discovery.”
It is useless to traverse again the ground which I have been over already so many times in showing that ideas, or rather the truths and facts of which ideas are conceptions, are not produced by the brain, but exist independently of man. My arguments on this point seem plain and clear to me; to Mr. Yarros they seem “too silly to need refutation.” This deadlock ends all debate.
The fact which Mr. Lloyd presents so clearly, and which I refer to above,— that perpetual copyright warrants the wanton destruction of the most valuable treasures that the world possesses,— is one that I had been holding in reserve as the final and triumphant reductio ad absurdum of all theories of perpetual property in ideas. The simple and indisputable truth that, if perpetual copyright existed, Spencer’s heirs, if they chanced to be Roman Catholics for instance, might, at the bidding of the Pope, burn all his books after his death, melt the plates, and forever forbid the reprinting of the works, shows in itself, most overwhelmingly, that perpetual property in ideas is one of the most stupendous absurdities that ever confused the minds of intelligent men.
I hope the editor of “Today” will forgive me for making no special reply to his article. In this answer to Mr. Yarros I have been able incidentally to meet “Today’s” arguments also, in spite of the fact that in some important particulars Mr. Yarros and “Today” are at variance. Thus far this has been a most interesting battle. To me I am sure it will prove a useful one, whether I win it or lose it. To be forced to combat single-handed against five such gladiators as Yarros, Simpson, Donisthorpe, Fuller, and Bilgrain develops one’s faculties immensely. It seems like discouraging odds, but in purely intellectual campaigns Napoleon’s maxim fails; God isn’t always with the big battalions. Besides, I am no longer alone; Lloyd has come valiantly to my rescue. He is a host in himself, and with him at my side I have no notion of retreating. T.
The recent editorial controversy on copyright in Liberty is timely and most interesting. For fine argument and literary grace Mr. Yarros’s presentation of the plausible view he represents has never, I think, been excelled. But, while Mr. Tucker’s language is less clear and persuasive, his more penetrative logic is seen, when comprehended, to have smitten through the beautiful armor of his antagonist with deadly effect. Some time ago I sent an article to Mr. Pentecost, criticising some of his printed views. So far as I know, he has not considered it expedient to print it, and I propose to include most of its arguments, in a somewhat modified form, in this present article.
It appears to me indisputable that, if copyright or patent-right (they are the same in essence) exist at all as property, they must resemble all other forms of property, must conform to the definitions of true property. If my hands make a hoe from wood and iron, it is admitted that the hoe is rightfully my property, and the property of my heirs and assigns forever. Only by free gift, or equitable exchange, can it be rightfully separated from me. I can (and let this be carefully observed) use this hoe in any way I please, even if I please to use it for fuel, and I can rightfully withhold it from use. The right of property then includes the right of gift (of which bequest is but a form); of sale; of destruction (or change of form); of disuse; and these without other than natural limits. If, then, an author or inventor possesses such property in his works as to be rightfully able to forbid all other men copying them, this property of his possesses all these attributes. It is his property and that of his heirs and assigns forever; it is a natural right, not to be increased by courts or legislators, or limited by them.
The owner has a right to give away his copyright, to sell it, to destroy it, to withhold it from use. (The impossibility of destroying an idea, or withholding it from use, it may be remarked in passing, is excellent proof that there can be no property in ideas.)
But distinguishing between the idea and its expression, Mr. Yarros and Mr. George renounce copyright property in the former, and assert it only in the latter. Any one may copy the idea,— that is free; but the way in which some one, for the first time, expresses that idea,— that is his property, and no one may copy it without invasion. This amounts in practice to copyright in forms, to an assertion that all original forms are the originator’s exclusive property. Therefore, if I express the idea of the hoe in some new form, I have perpetual property in that form.
Is this distinction a true one? Mr. Tucker denies that it is, and with wonderful acuteness declares that the form of expression is itself an idea, therefore self-condemned as property by the attempted distinction. If we accept this view, it follows that the hoe I make is mine, but the form in which I make it, no matter how original, being an idea, is not mine; and my neighbor, seeing my hoe, can rightfully make another like it, which, being his production, is his. It appears to me that Mr. Tucker’s position is impregnable, and it might be argued in support of it that all ideas exist in consciousness as forms merely. A formless idea is inconceivable, cannot in any way be apprehended by human thought. Nothing can for an instant be entertained by the mind that does not present itself in some form, actual or symbolic. Therefore in what is called discovering an idea I discover a form, and to me the idea and its form are one, and in expressing the idea I must express that form, or else feel that I have expressed the idea incompletely.
So, practically, it is all one whether we copyright an idea or patent a form. This leads to the question that has from the first been pressing upon us: What practical advantage has the patenting an individual’s form of expressing an idea over patenting the idea itself in his favor? — and to the inevitable answer: No advantage; they are one and the same.
To leave out governmental patenting, and assert that a man has a natural right to prevent others from copying his inventions, only increases the evil, and therefore proves it, for evils are best proven by carrying them out to their natural or logical conclusion. Government patent right is limited, and therefore, if evil, is limited evil; but natural patent right, if it exist at all as a true form of property, must be perpetual, and therefore, if evil, is limitless evil, and such indeed it would prove.
It is quite within the limits of possibility, however improbable, that I could invent a hoe so superior to any other that not only all existing hoes, but all existing tools of cultivation, were worthless by comparison.
The practice of improved agriculture would then depend upon the manufacture and use of my hoes, yet the form of hoe thus expressed being exclusively mine, I would at once become an autocrat of tremendous power. Not only could I, and my heirs and assigns, obtain untold wealth by exacting tribute from all needers of my hoes, the entire agricultural population, and thus imperil human liberty without hope of redress, but we could at any time do something perhaps even worse,— refuse to make these hoes altogether, and forbid others to do so, and this for all time. If “copyright” (the right to prevent copying) is a natural property right, we could do this as innocently as a gardener can hang up his hoe in his tool-house, and refuse to use it, or lend it. Suppose the author of Shakspere, from some insane whim, forever forbidding others to copy his plays. Suppose Spencer stopping all publication of his works.
Either we must admit all this, or we must deny “the right of use and abuse” as a correct definition of property, and assert that all honest property is usufruct merely, a possessory right, the same for labor products as for air, light, water, land, etc.; an assertion that a man has a right to own no more than he needs of anything.
There is no escape here, however, for usufruct is a good rule that works both ways, and, in denying a man’s right to own what he does not need, assumes his right to own what he does need. Now a man does not need perpetual copyright in that which he has invented, while other men do greatly need perfect freedom in copying it; therefore usufruct denies property in original forms, and brings us back to universal liberty of copying.
We are obliged to reach this conclusion, no matter from what direction we approach the subject.
Is it asserted that original discovery gives exclusive right to copy? Consider the nature of mental action. You cannot cut an idea bodily out of a brain and transplant it into another brain as you might transplant a strawberry from one garden to another. If I think the same thought as my neighbor, very well; it is plain that I have taken and received nothing from him, for he still has his thought as strong as ever. Every thought that I have is my own, and without my mental action could by no possibility have been implanted in me. Mental action appears to be the response, or reaction, of the brain to the impressions of the environment. Therefore a man is not a god, self-originating ideas. The facts of my environment, of which my neighbor’s thoughts and acts are a part, impress my brain to react in the production of certain ideas. If I utter these ideas in words or acts, they become a part of my neighbors’ environment, impressing their brains to react in their reproduction; their brains having the same natural right to react to impressions as mine. To interfere in any way with this process is to prevent that “universal mental liberty” for which true liberals are supposed to contend.
My understanding of my environment is my idea of it. That which I see in the physical as well as the mental realm is equally ideal,— a state of consciousness. Everything that I understand I discover, just as much as the first man who understood it and discovered it. If a revelation to John the Baptist was no revelation to Thomas Paine, neither is another’s discovery any discovery for me, though perhaps making discovery easier for me. (Even governments do not refuse or award patent rights with any reference to ease or difficulty of discovery, but simply with reference to priority of application.) I must discover it for myself. My understanding of another’s idea, as before shown, is not his idea, but my own, and my discovery of his discovery is original discovery so far as I am concerned, no matter how many thousand times discovered by others before. So, if original discovery gives exclusive right to copy, very well, all discovery is original; all understanding is original discovery for the individual making it, and beyond the individual we, as egoistic Anarchists, have no need to go. In nature first thought, or first perception, or first discovery, receives no more reward and gives no more exclusive right than second thought, or third perception, or fifth, or any other discovery. Besides, priority in time has nothing to do with it in nature, for each individual is rewarded for his own intelligence; nor in law, for the modern inventor of a non-breakable glass would not be refused a patent because malleable glass was one of the lost arts of the ancients; nor in public opinion, for we honor Swartz none the less for inventing gunpowder because Roger Bacon anticipated him, or because the Chinese had it centuries before.
All individual action is original, and yet who knows how many of us ever thought a thought unthought before, or did a deed never before done? The question, what is new under the sun? may be answered equally well by saying everything, or nothing. So then, if original discovery is essential to copyright, all men have copyright, because all men attain their ideas by an independent process of discovery. If there is any justice or force in the doctrine that originality conveys natural monopoly in copyright, it must logically apply to all ideas, or means of expressing them. So if it be maintained that nothing is original except with the first man who discovered it, it follows that, if justice were done, we should have to pay royalty for almost every thought and deed to the heirs of these first thinkers and doers,— an intolerable nuisance and slavery. But even this would end in equality, for every man’s ancestors would be the first to have thought and done many things, and the only way to avoid incessant litigation of unprovable claims would be for each man to say to his fellows: “Give me your copyright, and I will give you mine.” Therefore, whether we say originality is with each independent discoverer or with the first discoverer, we end alike in equal and universal copyright. Or, if we decide that there is nothing original, everything being derived from something else; or, if we decide that the originator, while perhaps existing, or having existed, cannot be discovered, we reach the same conclusion.
Do I, then, deny copyright? Yes and no. I deny false, legal copyright, which is the privilege of the first man who exercises his faculties in discovery or production to forbid others to imitate without permission. This is really not copyright, but the invasion of true copyright, which is the inalienable right of every man to copy whatever he pleases if he can, a part of that complete natural liberty of the inoffensive for which we Anarchists persistently stand. That there is no offence in copying is proved by the simple fact that, even if I think a thought similar to the thought of my fellow, he is not thereby at all prevented from thinking it; if he copies my hoe, he does not by so doing take away my hoe, or prevent my using it, or making as many as I please like it. This consideration alone is all-sufficient to make true Anarchists endorse free copyright, inasmuch as all action not invasive is truly free and justifiable.
Legal copyright, patent-right, is only one form of that hydra headed monopoly which is reducing us all to slavery. This is the true copyright, my right and your right to copy and reproduce everything our senses comprehend; anything less than this stops human growth and blocks the wheels of progress. If I am free to copy all men’s thoughts and deeds, I am a man among men; if I may do freely only that which I am first to do, I am a pauper or a slave.
But if we refuse monopolistic copyright, how shall the author be compensated? We might justly refuse this question by saying that at this stage of social evolution we are concerned only with laying the ethical foundations of that future free society in which human happiness will be assured, and by confidently asserting that, if literary works are essential to the happiness of men in a free society, free Socialists will find little difficulty in discovering ways and means to justly compensate and encourage authors without permitting them to invade or be invaded. But perhaps it would be better to mention a few ways in which this result might be attained.
First, for the straightforward ordinary way,— the matter-of-course business way. In a society founded altogether upon principles of liberty and honesty,— and we are contemplating none other,— it is manifest that no respectable publisher would think of printing a manuscript without justly compensating the author for his labor. It is manifest that no honest buyer would purchase other than this authorized edition, until the publisher had in his turn sold enough of these books at a given price to compensate him for the sum paid the author. This might be accomplished by adding the purchase price to the cost of the first edition, distributed equally among the number of volumes; the printing of a second edition proving to all the world that the publisher and author had been paid, and that all publishers might now copy as much as they pleased without unfairness. It seems to me reasonable that this, or something very like it, would occur in the natural order of events within free conditions. It were of course too much to suppose that there would be no unscrupulous publishers or unscrupulous readers; but it would also be too much to suppose that, in a state of society honest and intelligent enough to adopt Anarchy, these would be sufficient in number to seriously affect the practicability of the above arrangement.
A modification of the above would be for the author to publish his own book at his own expense, adding the cost of writing the work to the printing cost of the first edition, being in other respects like the first plan. If the author valued his work too highly, and charged too much per copy, purchasers would be few; and, in order to sell, he would be obliged to reduce price, or sell out cheaply to some publisher. Therefore, supply and demand would ensure fair price, approximately.
The fame which excellent work brings is one of the natural compensations which most literary men value immeasurably higher than any pecuniary reward, and this compensation free copyright only increases; the more freely and abundantly an author’s books are copied, the greater the knowledge of him and his fame. Besides these ordinary and natural compensations, there might be added such extra inducements to literary effort as literary societies (and they would naturally be numerous and generous in free society) might devise,— the offer of prizes, medals, etc., or perhaps an agreement by each member to purchase a copy of any work endorsed by a chosen literary committee; or other methods.
In brief, “where there is a will there is a way,” and we have very little trust in liberty, and very little faith in human ingenuity, if we doubt that it will be perfectly practicable to justly compensate every worker, without permitting him to become a monopolizer and a menace.
J. Wm. Lloyd.
A Twice-Told Tale.
To the Editor of Liberty:
Your rejoinder to my communication on the reward of authors was a surprise to me. You aver that you must begin by repudiating the standpoint from which I start, vaguely alluding to principles of social conduct which you say are matters of discovery. But a mere assertion of opinion that a certain rule or act of conduct is proper or improper, without tracing the assertion to fundamental laws, will not satisfy my mind.
Heretofore I have based my conclusions on the experience that in nature the strong prevails over the weak, if he so chooses; that by association the weak can create an entity of superior strength; and that man strives to gratify his desires with the least exertion, and selects that course of action that in his judgment will give him the most pleasure and cause the least distress. On the basis of these axioms I can follow Spencer’s derivation of the proposition that, if a people desire to enjoy the greatest happiness, they must unite and restrict men’s liberty whenever, and only when, such liberty infringes the equal liberty of others. But whenever I find a reputed application of this law which is in conflict with the original axioms, I conclude it must be due to a misinterpretation of that proposition. If you base your doctrine on other fundamental principles capable of discovery, I shall be glad to learn, and I may then possibly be in a position to adopt your views, which now appear to me not sufficiently consistent to be acceptable. However, judging from what I have read in Liberty, I have reason to believe that we stand on identical fundamental ground, and that we disagree only on propositions deduced therefrom, one of us having arrived at erroneous conclusions. Permit me to give my reasons for believing that you are the one whose logic is at fault; and if I am mistaken, I shall be glad to accept your explanation and to amend my views.
In your editorial of December 27 you quote from the “Standard,” and you say, to a certain point, you agree with Henry George. These are some of the assertions: “Ownership comes from production. It cannot come from discovery. Discovery can give no right of ownership.” . . . Then, speaking of patent rights: “In this we seek by special laws to give a special reward to labor expended in discovery, which does not belong to it of natural right, and is of the nature of a bounty. But as for labor expended in the second of these modes,— in the production of the machine,— . . . we need no special laws to reward that.”
If these assertions are placed in contrast with the following, I have no doubt as to which you will accept and which reject.
Ownership is the result of the adoption and enforcement of the precept, “Thou shalt not steal,” whether accepted by the people by tacit or by express agreement. It is accepted because of the experience that by its enforcement the people at large can gratify their desires with the least exertion, other things equal. The producer being the first possessor, the rule nominally secures the produce to the producer; but this object has for some reason or other never been attained in any civilized society, the principal methods of evasion being the acquisition, by idlers, of rent and interest. Whether a discovery can be the subject of ownership depends on the interpretation of the concept “steal.” Whenever the supreme power giants to a person the exclusive right to use a discovery, that person is the owner of the discovery. In the abstract, a difference between the ownership of a concrete product and that of a discovery does not exist. Property in a concrete thing is no more natural than property in a discovery. Both concepts are of a social or specifically human origin. Without specific laws, tacit or express, a right of ownership of any description cannot exist.
This exposition of the right of property is radically different from that of Henry George. It is a description of the means to attain a given end, while Henry George confounds the end to be attained with the means of attaining it. The definition of the concept “ownership” need not take into account whether the grant of the right is equitable or otherwise, nor whether it is of a permanent or transient nature. The question of equity and permanency cannot be discussed before an agreement regarding the fundamental concepts is reached. Therefore, before replying to any of the points of controversy raised in your rejoinder, I wish to know whether, after this exposition of my fundamental standpoint, you still hold that you must begin by repudiating the same.
Philadelphia, January 19, 1891.
Mr. Bilgram’s use, or rather non-use, of the law of equal liberty is laughable in the extreme. A generalization from known and long-observed phenomena seems to have no value for him as a guide. A comparison of the various forms of the conduct of men in relation to their fellows in the fields where these forms have been the most thoroughly tested has revealed the fact that the proportion in which these forms make for happiness corresponds in the long-run very exactly to the proportion in which they observe and preserve equality of liberty. Centuries of experience have so established this fact to the satisfaction of the greatest political philosophers of today that they consider this generalization as a social law, and use it as a test of proposed policies in fields untried or comparatively unexplored. If it is not to be used in this way, it is useless, or nearly so. To serve as such a test, and to do away with the necessity of empirical observation in each new case, is the main function of a generalization. But Mr. Bilgram has no such use for it. He believes it a true generalization, but he refuses to test anything by it. If the test is made by others, and the new phenomenon seems to stand the test, no effect is produced upon him. If he, notwithstanding the lack of knowledge of the new and special case that has arisen, and notwithstanding the absence or limited quantity of experience in the field in which it has arisen, thinks he foresees results which would show that the test has been misapplied, he feels justified in asserting this misapplication, without specifying, or attempting to specify, wherein the misapplication consists. He places his fancied prescience above other men’s science. The question having arisen whether property in ideas is to be recognized, Mr. Bilgram refuses to answer those people who point out that such property is, in principle, inconsistent with equal liberty, and says that, because in his opinion the denial of property in ideas would leave us without a literature (although there is not the slightest proof of this, such evidence as there is tending rather the other way) and would therefore make for unhappiness, this form of property must be consistent with equal liberty. So far as yet appears, he is unable to point out any flaw in the reasoning which shows it to be inconsistent, but he is sure there must be a flaw, not on the strength of any actual experience, but simply on the strength of experience that he looks for in the future. If generalizations are to be treated in this way, any prohibitionist or protectionist might well swear, with the rest of us, by the law of equal liberty. The prohibitionist, to justify a prohibitory law, need only point out that in his opinion free rum would lead to universal drunkenness in order to show that it is not prohibition, but free rum, that is inconsistent with the law of equal liberty. Such reasoning would make a horse laugh.
So much for the first half of Mr. Bilgram’s letter now for the second.
This matter of the right of ownership I canvassed with Mr. Bilgram in Liberty of August 2, 1890, and I have reason to complain of him for compelling me to say the same thing twice. His remarks on ownership in the present letter are substantially the same as those in his letter of last August, and, in the absence of any new considerations, I refuse to answer them save as I answered them then. Hence I reprint an extract. Mr. Bilgram having defined the right of ownership as “that relation between a thing and a person created by the social promise to guarantee possession,” and having added that this “implies the existence of a social organization, however crude,” and “a supreme power to enforce the command, ‘Thou shalt not steal’,” I made this rejoinder:
In the thought that I take to be fundamental in Mr. Bilgram’s argument — namely, that there is no right, from the standpoint of society, other than social expediency — I fully concur. But I am equally certain that the standard of social expediency — that is to say, the facts as to what really is socially expedient, and the generalizations from those facts which we may call the laws of social expediency — exists apart from the decree of any social power whatever. In accordance with this view, the Anarchistic definition of the right of ownership, while closely related to Mr. Bilgram’s, is such a modification of his that it does not carry the implication which his carries and which he points out. From an Anarchistic standpoint, the right of ownership is that control of a thing by a person which will receive either social sanction, or else unanimous individual sanction, when the laws of social expediency shall have been finally discovered. (Of course I might go further and explain that Anarchism considers the greatest amount of liberty compatible with equality of liberty the fundamental law of social expediency, and that nearly all Anarchists consider labor to be the only basis of the right of ownership in harmony with that law; but this is not essential to the definition, or to the refutation of Mr. Bilgram’s point against Anarchism.)
It will be seen that the Anarchistic definition just given does not imply necessarily the existence of an organized or Instituted social power to enforce the right of ownership. It contemplates a time when social sanction shall be superseded by unanimous individual sanction, thus rendering enforcement needless. But in such an event, by Mr. Bilgram’s definition, the right of ownership would cease to exist. In other words, he seems to think that, if all men were to agree upon a property standard and should voluntarily observe it, property would then hare no existence simply because of the absence of any institution to protect it. Now, in the view of the Anarchists, property would then exist in its perfection.
The difference between Mr. Bilgram and me seems to be this: that he views everything from the standpoint of legality, and has no conception of legality as anything but an expression of will, not to say caprice; whereas I view everything from the standpoint of science, and have no use for legality at all save in the sense of applied political science.
I think that it must now be plain to Mr. Bilgram in what sense I repudiate his fundamental standpoint. T.
Mr. J. H. Levy protests that Mr. Donisthorpe errs in attributing to him a belief in the permanence of the State. He states his real position in these words: “State coercion ought naturally to decrease with the increase of respect for the rights of others and the consequent decline of invasive conduct. Under Individualism the State would tend to evanesce with the evanescence of its raison d’être.” These words ought, in fairness to Mr. Levy, to have been printed in the same issue of Liberty that contained the words of Mr. Donisthorpe with which they conflict.
Don’t keep Liberty to yourself, share it with others!
Leonard E. Read: Accent On The Right: To Frederic Bastiat (1801–1850), who sought for truth rather than outcome and never witnessed the fruits his labor bore. Obedience to conscience was his first rule; we witness the results.
Leonard E. Read: Anything That’s Peaceful: Many favor peace but not many favor the things that make for peace. — Thomas à Kempis
Leonard E. Read: Awake for Freedom’s Sake: Finally, share with others. Forget about “reforming” them! The more we share, the more we learn. This is in the interest of self and freedom!
Leonard E. Read: Castles in the Air: If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; there is where they should be. Now put foundations under them. — Henry David Thoreau
Libertarian Anarchy: Against the State: Political philosophy is dominated by a myth, the myth of the necessity of the state. The state is considered necessary for the provision of many things, but primarily for peace and security. In this provocative book, Gerard Casey argues that social order can be spontaneously generated, that such spontaneous order is the norm in human society and that deviations from the ordered norms can be dealt with without recourse to the coercive power of the state.
Major Conservative and Libertarian Thinkers: Murray Rothbard: Murray Rothbard (1926–1995) was an economist, historian, philosopher, and legal theoretician. His work was unified by a passionate and resolute commitment to a libertarianism that may be characterized as ‘anarcho-capitalism’ and which implied a belief that even the legal system may be provided privately without the need for a coercive collective authority. Hence, anarcho-capitalists envisage a society where the traditional role of government is wholly subsumed by private, profit-making enterprises and all social relationships are ultimately founded upon consent.