“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.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in an address at the annual meeting of the Personal Rights Association, held in London June 25, said: “I do not believe in compulsory education, but I do believe in free schools.” That is to say, Mrs. Stanton does not believe in compelling people to educate their own children, but she does believe in compelling them to educate other people’s children. This logic (pardon me, Mrs. Stanton) is truly feminine.
“The Rag-Picker of Paris” is now in book-form. Though it has been published but a week, I have already sold 4,000 copies, and the third edition is in press. It is destined to have an enormous sale and to exercise an enormous influence. Every reader of Liberty who failed to follow it as a serial will now desire to read it, and everyone who read it in the paper will have only a greater desire to own the volume. The price is one dollar for the cloth edition and fifty cents for the paper edition. See the advertisement in another column.
“Government,” says the editor of “Today” in summing up “the conclusions that have been reached,” “must be considered as having ever been, in all its branches, political, religious, and ceremonial, beneficial and indeed absolutely necessary.” I deny that any such conclusion has ever been reached, and would like to see somebody undertake to prove me wrong. In this connection, Mr. Yarros’s article on “Anarchism vs. Legalism,” reprinted in this issue from the “Twentieth Century,” will prove suggestive, as it deals with a notion very similar to the one expressed in the above quotation.
People are asking themselves in wonder how it is that the only distinctively labor paper of Boston, the “Labor Leader,” which claims to champion the rights and interests of the workingmen and to fight monopoly and political corruption, has not said a word about the revelations of the tactics of the Boston legislators, lobbyists, and monopolists made in the recent State House investigations. Is it because one or two of the self-styled labor advocates have benefited by the present methods of securing legislation? Is it because the interests of labor and of monopoly often strangely coincide in the action of “labor”-lobbyists?
“Was not your wife an eccentric person?” asked Lawyer William M. Evarts of Witness Stephen Pearl Andrews in the Beecher-Tilton trial. “I never thought so,” was the reply. “But would she not have been considered eccentric by an ordinary person?” persisted the lawyer. “That depends on how ordinary a person you mean,” came the quick rejoinder. I was reminded of this delightful retort when I read in L. M. H.’s letter (published in another column) that the “Beacon” is intelligible to an ordinary person, while Liberty is not. Given a sufficiently ordinary person, and I have no doubt the statement is correct.
If any one doubts that the single-tax humbug is played out, let him read George’s side of the debate in the last number of the “Century.” If there is to be found anywhere in the writings of students another economic argument so shallow, ignorant, wild, hypocritical, and absurd, it has yet to be discovered. It no longer even bears the impression of sincerity. It is impossible to credit the man with an honest and helpless imbecility. He apparently realizes that he has been exposed and refuted, but he must of course keep on talking and pretending and prophesying as if nothing has occurred since his first successful imposition upon the uneducated public. It is a sad spectacle. The fate of a clown whose tricks no longer amuse but who must go on repeating them is not a more pitiful one.
The conservatives are to be pitied. Even the policemen have learned to strike. Hired to defend the rich against their victims, they insist on obtaining a greater share in the plunder. To be sure, there is the great army of the unemployed, which may supply the law with wielders of the club and the pistol as it does capital with cheap labor; but the police will probably organize a new “trades-union” and send delegates to the central labor organizations. Then, in case of a strike of either the police or other branch of the mass despoiled, a general tie-up could be agreed upon. The unemployed of course would not then so easily spoil the chances of success. Think of a strike without the danger of being clubbed by the police I Liberty would earnestly suggest to the trades-unions that an attempt to organize the police might prove fruitful of much good in view of the London events.
Judge Pennypacker of Philadelphia has decided that it is not lawful for a man to be shaved by a barber in that city on Sunday, although there is no law forbidding a man to shave himself. I cannot see why this decision should not close every restaurant and hotel, church and concert-room, and stop every steam and horse car, in Philadelphia on Sunday. If a man is not to be shaved by another, he should not be allowed to have his food cooked and served by another, his amusement supplied by another, his newspaper sold to him by another, and so on, and so on. It is a great misfortune that the world’s oppressors are not all logical and fanatical. No amount of tyranny and invasion short of the maximum limit will, it seems, move the people to action in defence of their liberties. And by the time that limit is reached, perhaps they will be dead and blunt to every manly and noble feeling.
“B,” it seems, is not the only editor of the Denver “Individualist” who does not fully understand the philosophy of Anarchistic Socialism. Another editor, “T,” recently wrote as follows: “The Social question is not one of intelligence, primarily, but of morality. It is not as essential to teach men as to mould their characters so that the sight of happiness in others gives them pleasure; so that they will be more careful not to infringe on the rights of others than to be always on the lookout lest others curtail their liberty. Afterwards we must have intelligence to tell us how to accomplish these things. But only after morality has made us desire to do them.” The puerility of this notion is such that I need not stop to ask how it is proposed to mould men’s characters, and how men ignorant of social laws and individual rights can resist or refrain from invasion. The important point is that the notion is radically inconsistent with the real position of Anarchistic Socialists.
A writer in the new London periodical, “The Speaker,” urges the elimination of that objectionable feature of the drama, love-making, which is often tiresome and absurd and farcical on the stage. This leads to the discovery of a new excellence in Ibsen, the pioneer of the new drama. Ibsen either leaves out the business of love-making altogether, or shows it in a most natural way, as in “Rosmersholm,” for instance. Love-making on the stage is not objectionable per se, but because there is little truth and reality about it in the conventional plays. Theatrical love-making has had a very pernicious effect on real lovers, both in repressing noble sentiment and in vulgarizing it. Some lovers “play” in real life, thinking that no love which does not seek the familiar manifestations is deep and genuine. Others, fearing to appear theatrical and ridiculous, check proper expression of their purest feelings. What we need is truth and realism in stage love-making, just as we need it in every other feature of the drama.
The first thing I read in the last number of the “Twentieth Century” was Mr. Pentecost’s tribute to T. L. M’Cready. Among many other things, he said: “M’Cready was no fighter. This fact stands to his honor. A fighter, as such, even though words are his only weapons, is a savage.” This meant, I could not help perceiving, a condemnation of the personnel of Liberty’ office. We are fighters, and. therefore savages, according to Mr. Pentecost, and this fact stands to our dishonor. Gloomily turning over the pages of the paper, I struck an editorial paragraph, commenting upon the conviction of Heywood, in which Mr. Pentecost confesses he has no words that can express his “indignation against and contempt for the law, the judge, the jury, and the public opinion that conspire to condemn and imprison such men as Harman and Heywood” and in which he says that “Wanamaker’s name is the synonym of humbug piety, and the most debased and debasing political rottenness” and that Comstock, being a detective, is “one of the lowest and meanest of men.” Then I discovered another paragraph, in which Mr. Pentecost tells the officers of the law of South Carolina,— judge, jury, sheriff, hangman, and clergyman,— who are making preparations for the execution of a convicted murderer, that they are also murderers, and in which he declares that “capital punishment is a damning disgrace to all who participate in it or approve of it.” Now all this may be true; but it is all expressed in the manner of a fighter and consequently of a savage. Having thus Mr. Pentecost himself to keep us company in our dishonor, we are a little consoled.
Compulsory Taxation Condemned.
Murat Halstead in the last “Cosmopolitan” says he thinks municipal governments are failures. Pavements, street cleaning, elevated roads, all municipal works, are failures. Municipal officials are hopelessly corrupt. He suggests that Erastus P. Wiman, the Vanderbilts, and the Astors form a corporation, buy up Staten Island, and build a city similar to Bellamy’s twentieth century Boston. Each house should be ten stories high and supplied with every possible comfort and convenience. Each street should have a subway for transit and piping. There should be no voting. Everything should be run by the corporation. The corporation should furnish everything the inhabitants use in establishing their homes and be satisfied with a return of two per cent, on their invested capital. He thinks this would stop the further growth of New York and result in a city that would be a model which all others would imitate. The article is significant for its confession of the failure of republicanism in cities, and embodies a not bad idea.
Anarchism versus Legalism.
[Victor Yarros in the Twentieth Century.]
The article on “How Far Are We All Anarchists Even Now?” from the pen of J. C. Kimball (I omit the “Rev.” as an indignity which I cannot sincerely apply to a logical and independent thinker) In the “Twentieth Century” of June 12 is so excellent and philosophical that I cannot forbear criticising the one strong weakness which it contains. I refer to Mr. Kimball’s observations on legalism and government. He writes:
All this is not saying that legalism is not good in its place. I have never taken such ground; and those who do take it are no true Evolutionists. Legalism is good. But it is good only as a help to something better. There is no inconsistency between the two any more than between the root and the flower.... What the human parent does in the home and the divine Parent in the Church, the Anarchistic Philosophy believes in doing in society at large. It begins with the use of law, employs the intelligence and experience of the more advanced to bring up the more backward; and so far as men are childish, backward, incapable of discerning for themselves right, it may properly consent to the employment of law now; but its object is to educate them as fast as possible out of legalism up, into acting right freely for themselves. How can any sensible man, when he knows it, do otherwise than accept and use the principle?
Now, I have always regarded myself as an Evolutionist, and yet I emphatically dissent from Mr. Kimball’s views as expressed above. And a little investigation would show that many other Evolutionists entertain opinions on legalism totally at variance with Mr. Kimball’s. Law and government are doubtless necessary, at certain periods of human history inevitable, but they are not “good,” they are not “a help to something better,” there is no such relation between them and the future developed state as that between “the root and the flower.” We have the scientific authority of Comte for saying with perfect propriety that a thing which exists or is known to have existed as a matter of historical necessity may yet be evil and deplorable from the higher and more enlightened standpoint attained by us. We are obliged to take history as we find it, and, without futile regrets as to the past, endeavor to profit by the lessons of experience and direct our future course wisely. But Mr. Kimball is certainly mistaken when he assumes that an Evolutionist must consider every fact a healthy and progressive fact. History is not simply a record of uninterrupted progress, but a record of struggle between social tendencies and anti-social tendencies, between progression and degeneration, between life and death. Legality may have been “a help to something better,” but it may have been a hindrance. Either view is not inconsistent with a belief in evolution, since from the mere fact of its existence nothing may be Inferred except that it must be the natural result of certain antecedents.
Herbert Spencer, the Evolutionist philosopher, whose sociological theories rest on a wide basis of historical knowledge, writes as follows on the subject of government:
It is unquestionably true that government is begotten of aggression and by aggression. In small, undeveloped societies where for ages complete peace has continued, there exists nothing like what we call government; no coercive agency, but mere honorary headship, if any headship at all. In these exceptional communities, unaggressive and from special causes unaggressed upon, there is so little deviation from the virtues of truthfulness, honesty, justice, and generosity that nothing beyond an occasional expression of public opinion by Informally assembled elders is needful. Conversely, we find proofs that, at first recognized but temporarily during leadership in war, the authority of a chief is permanently established by continuity in war; and grows strong where successful aggression ends in subjection of neighboring tribes.... Comparisons disclose a further truth which should be ever present to us — the truth that the aggressiveness of the ruling power inside a society increases with its aggressiveness outside the society.... Of the aggregate results of men’s desires seeking their gratification, those which have prompted their private actmties and their spontaneous coöperations have done much more toward social development than those which have worked through governmental agencies.... Perpetually governments have thwarted the growth, but have in no way furthered it, save by partially discharging their proper function and maintaining social order.
To Spencer’s statement that economic, intellectual, and artistic progress is “the result of spontaneous activities of citizens separate or grouped/’ many of us add that moral progress, or the development of social feelings and sympathies, is the result of the conditions under which the social animals have had to live and to work. Thinking together (con-science), says Maudsley, is the result of living together and working together.
I find no evidence that governments have ever consciously attempted to elevate humanity. Mr. Spencer tells us that the “administration of justice as we know it, grew up incidentally, and began with bribing the ruling man to interfere on behalf of the complainant. Not wishes for the public weal, but wishes for private profit and power, originated the regulative organization of societies.” Law has never meant the employment of “the intelligence and experience of the more advanced to bring up the more backward.” In monarchical countries, the rulers are engaged in obstructing the natural growth of ideas and in fortifying their own positions. In democratic countries, the rulers are engaged in plundering the masses and monopolizing natural resources. I do not remember to have heard of any “good” law passed by the legislators. And certainly they are not entitled to any credit for the concessions which they are at times forced to make to public opinion. In a word, social progress goes on in spite of government and in opposition to it. Neither historically nor statically Is it true that the object of government has been or is to educate men “as fast as possible out of legalism up into acting right freely for themselves.” It is truth, science, philosophy, which make us free. We discard the political and social superstitions that rendered us submissive to authority, and we begin to measure everything by the standard of utility. The days of the reign of the ballot are numbered, not because the governments of today are ready to grant us Individual liberty, but because we have discovered that majority government is no better in theory or practice than other forms of tyranny.
The Anarchists ignore government pending the time when they are strong enough to fight it. They do not agree with Mr. Kimball that it is not necessary to abolish or repeal existing laws. They are now teaching the people that the abolition of certain laws (principally bearing upon industrial activity) would enable them to soon lift themselves into a sphere where government and legality would become a mischievous superfluity; and as soon as they see a chance for a successful attack, they mean to improve it. The Anarchists will disregard and violate all obnoxious laws whenever it becomes possible to do so with comparative safety; they will fight for liberty, and not wait for it.
George Macdonald Endorses Egoism.
Every man should be able to give a reason for the hope that is in him, and should be prepared to explain hisoonduct when he does good as well as when he does evil. To do good for the sake of good, or to do right “because it is right,” is not philosophical. Self-denial is unnatural, and therefore unwise unless some benefit results to the self-denier sufficient to pay for the inconvenience. Life, as far as I can see, has no object, but it may have its uses. Uses for what? To give the means of happiness to its possessor. One thing is not “higher” than another. A handful of mud from the bottom of the bay is as “high” as the brain of the philosopher. The latter is merely a more complex mass, and has attributes not belonging to mud. What we call intelligence, as I view it, is a result of complexity. Intelligence is not put into the brain, but is the recognizable manifestation of the working of the brain. There is no design in it, but a natural process. Therefore we are not required to indulge in sentimental admiration for genius. We need only to recognize it as a natural outcome of prior conditions.
Life having no object, and, when rightly viewed, no high aim or romance to the sane person, what shall he do with it? Spend it riotously? That will not pay, as witness the wrecks on the shores of dissipation. Shall we practise self-denial as regards the pleasures of the world? Yes, if it gives us happiness, in which case we have used life to the point of its highest productivity, and in denying ourselves one pleasure, we have achieved a greater. The monk in his cell, the anchorite in his cave, the priest among lepers, contemplates his reward and is happier, or thinks he is, than he would be elsewhere. Otherwise he would not be there. Life has no virtues and no duties as generally understood. To do that which we call virtuous is to do what experience has taught us brings most happiness, and therefore pays us in the end. It is no more praiseworthy than the act of paying our board in advance when we have no credit. To practise what goes under the name of virtue is simply to prepare conditions for selfish benefits. The duty idea is a superstition. If a person would be happy otherwise than in the performance of what he terms his duty, he would not perform it. He has only followed his ruling inclination.
Gentle reader, do you ask what I am giving you? I answer: If I understand the subject, it is the doctrine of Egoism, the philosophical side of Anarchism. It appears to me to be a valuable line of thought for those who desire to get at the main spring of human action, though at the end of the investigation they are likely to emerge from the same hole they went in at, and to find things the same as ever upon the surface.
Beauties of Government.
[Clippings from the Press.]
Washington, July 19. — The Senate resumed consideration of the sundry civil appropriation bill. An amendment that provoked discussion was on appropriating $4000 for aid to the Industrial Christian Home Society in Utah territory.
Mr. Cockrell inquired as to the total number of Inmates that have been sheltered at the home (which was established for the protection of Mormon women desiring to escape from polygamy), and gave as the result of his information that it had never had in all more than twenty inmates, including children.
Mr. Edmunds stated the purpose of Congress in aiding the work of Christian women in Utah to save Mormon women from the slavery of polygamy. He admitted that not many Mormon women took advantage of it, but said the building was an open invitation to them, and that he should be glad to have the people of the United States help the home for that reason alone.
Mr. Cockrell stated it as his belief that there were no persons at the home except those who were receiving salaries from the United States.
Mr. Vest said that he had recently seen a statement published to the effect that there never had been a dozen inmates in that home, for which the government had appropriated $50,000, and now Congress was asked to appropriate $4000 a year for no other purpose whatever than to pay salaries for a lot of people who had managed to obtain an appropriation under the pretence of philanthropy. He had asked a woman in Utah whether she was a plural wife. She said yes, that she was a third wife; that that was according to the Bible, and that her husband could not go to heaven if he did not practise polygamy when he was able to take care of several wives. Senator Pomeroy had the idea that suffrage ought to be given to the women of Utah, so that they could escape from polygamy. They had got it, and every one of them had voted the polygamist ticket. Then the Senate had turned around under the leadership of the senator from Vermont (Mr. Edmunds), and taken the suffrage away from them.
The amendment was agreed to.
Washington, July 18. President Harrison has taken a deep interest in the total inadequacy of the present statutes to reach the Louisiana and other lottery schemes. He fully coincides with Postmaster-General Wanamaker in the necessity for action to effectually put a stop to the Louisiana lottery, at least outside of that State. The Senate committee has promised to take up the matter, and is now at work preparing a bill that will make mall for such lotteries, etc., non-mailable. This would relieve the postmaster-general in the exercise of his discretion. He also suggests that the provisions of law applicable to individuals conducting lotteries should be extended to their agents and to all agencies acting for them, so as to exclude the latter from the right of receiving registered and money order letters the same as their principals.
Fall River, July 18. Members of the city government are in a quandary over a new ordinance. The Trades Council recently drew up an ordinance and presented it to the aldermen, who referred it to the proper committee. The ordinance stipulated that the work for the city shall be awarded to local contractors and workmen, in preference to outsiders, and that journeymen and not apprentices be employed. The committee secured a legal opinion to the effect that, if adopted by a city ordinance, it could not be enforced, since it amounts to a boycott on outside labor, and would be illegal. Several members fear to offend their constituents If an adverse report is made, yet dare not go against legal opinion. The Trades Council is determined to prevent outside firms from taking work when local workmen need it, and will endeavor to gain its end in some other way if this ordinance is rejected.
St. Petersburg, July 10. There is a strong irritation among the anti-Semites here, owing to the fact that some of the prisoners convicted in Paris of being Implicated in a nihilist plot are Jews. Stringent measures against the Jews are being prepared by the authorities. These Include the suppression of the newspaper “Novosti,” whose editor has been warned that he must settle his affairs and leave the country by 1892.
Constantinople, July 11. A private dispatch says that on June 10 some Armenian peasants of the village of Alakil-ease, in the province of Sivas, were burned to death by the Turkish police stationed there, because they could not pay their taxes. The authorities have not punished any of the Zaptiebs who perpetrated this atrocious crime, although the Armenian prelate of Sivas sent a written complaint with all details to the government.
Lowell, July 18. A clerk from Supt. Wadlin’s office has been in Lowell looking up the uncompleted work of the census enumerators. One enumerator was found whose work was wholly neglected, and another whose 600 blanks are without any names at all. Reports of persons having been missed are made daily.
London, July 12. Two thousand Arab men, women, and children are dying of starvation just outside Suakin, a town under British protection, but the British government, which waged war upon the unhappy people, destroyed their crops, flocks, and herds, and thereby brought about the present misery, says it can do nothing for them. Today the Aborigines Protection Society issued an appeal for money to help the victims, but it is feared that hundreds will be dead before succor can reach them.
London, July 18. The Daily News today says: The shirt buttons, which it will be remembered furnished Mrs. Caudle with one of her most fruitful texts, represent the last of those industries which the American Congress has chosen to endow. A new duty has been imposed upon shell and mother of pearl, constituting an advance of 300 or 400 per cent. This action is defended on the ground of protection to domestic industry against the competition of foreign convict labor. But it appears that most of the shell and mother of pearl sent to the United States are made by the poor, honest women and children in Vienna and its suburbs. What is really intended is that the American people shall be compelled to buy some other kind of buttons at much higher prices than they are now paying.
’Twas in old Hospitaller Hall,*
In days of yore,—
Seven thousand three hundred, at least,
The Labor Question gathered life,
’Spite the good men
Who’d fought the theologic war,
Their leader led to prison for
Boldly challenged Christian church
And “powers that be,”
And knew right well theology
Was at the base
Of every ill, whate’er the name,
Afflicts the race.
The time full ripe, Reformers new
Came to the front,—
The laborer must grimly bear
The battle’s brunt.
“Come one, come all, who’d say a word,—
And you are free to rise and claim
Your share o’ time.”
Loud rang the claims of brotherhood;
Reorganized; the sons of toll
In deadly strife
With Capital; and loud declaim
Of workingmen, and shouts for all
Anathemas that blazed: “O base
Of wealth ill-gotten from the poor
By want subdued!
“For what do we this long while plead?
We want the product of our toll,
“The rich will never yield their game
Till force compel.
We’ll start a State industrial
With power to quell
“Disturbance of our just award
To honest toll!
Industrial armies! Call the roll
On Freedom’s soil!
“No humblest son forgotten in
The plan. Nor quit
Till order from old Chaos come:
“Then — plenty for the years beyond.
Shall stalk a ghost in every town.
And there shall be
“A chance for every human soul
To live and love:
On earth shall heaven come, like that
“A social-weal! Equality —
Secured by laws —
Of opportunity; coöperation —
The basic clause
“Of all the rest — imprisoning
Starving, and slaying, and sending it
Home to perdition.”
This and a vast deal more as years
Sped on apace.
The speakers win new power of speech,
New force, new grace;
And audience keep company;
Will learn the new
Philosophy, or science, and can
With ease pursue
The wildest speech there set in motion,
Chase toward the point,
And cry forth: “Question,” or applaud
In place, conjoint.
Together there they one and all
The social state. A forward look —
Yet they were mostly laboring men;
Nor purse nor fame,
Sending their Gospel round the world,
The cause gave name.
Reporters made poor work of it,
Gave all as jest;
Who wrote it up the funniest
And ministers, and editors,
And fashion’s bards,
Reformers, too, who shuffled but
All made one common cause against
This “social” view,
The whisperings of which struck them
As folly new.
Now ’tis of this I ’gan to write.
Is for this purpose only lent:
Of late, bedecked
With flowers of rhetoric, and cast
In pleasing phrase,
The old-time social talk resumes.
’Mid shower of praise
And hint of Christianized crusade,
The “prophet” comes —
The New Time’s hero. Softly now
He deftly thrums
Our social harp. Behold the dance,
Not imp, but fairy;
The same mad heresies returned,
Old wares, they blaze!
Lo, there athwart the labor sky
A labor craze!
Works witchery, this change of garb:
Preacher and poet
Re-sing the Hospitaller hymns
And do not know it.
The plagiarism may not harm;
It may work good
By stirring up a greed-bound world.
But if it should,
I’d link with it a memory
Of prophets old
As well as new, and add a hope:
Nor fame nor gold
Shall always be for “better class”
To portals of the soul: so oft
A happy thought perchance it was
To lift our age
Out of its boots, and set it down
In storied page
A century ahead of time.
This backward look
Disturbs us less than doth the call
No hour will brook,
To straight forego the social war
And find the peace
Of brotherhood in equities
That aye increase
The power of all to live and be
All nature wills:
And blest the means, whate’er it be,
This hest fulfils.
A last word more, just to relate
The little fact
That Hospitaller men did hold
The social pact,
As Nationalists now do, to mean
The Individual,— man’s liberty
O’erwhelmed by love;
And in their meetings oft did score
Took them to task for selfishness,
Derided those who freely spoke
Against the State
As wise depository of
Man’s earthly fate.
They never seemed to see that each
Soul’s freedom was,
Beyond all calculation else,
The Sacred Cause;
That Equity, set free to work,
Would build defence
’Gainst property that wrung its toll
Of usuries, rents,
From cornered slaves who feared to hurl
Their hearts’ protest:
“Repeal your laws of privilege;
We’ll do the rest.
“We’ll liberate our working world
Without the fee
Your Social State would seize for its
The Socialist to Statecraft wed
More wise today
Is not; doth not yet clearly see
The simpler way
Is ever best. I would that he
Take note of this:
’Tis each one’s own life’s freest choice
Yields social bliss.
Pity for Our Quaking Victims.
To the Editor of Liberty:
One cannot help admiring the ability displayed in the general make-up of Liberty, and were it not for one fault a lover of freedom might be quite enthusiastic over it; bat, as it is, liberal readers can but feel displeased and pained over its spirit of intolerance, severity, and invective toward any radical person, paper, or movement not in strict line with Liberty’s teachings. It seems to use a special fierceness against other reformers, as the real enemies of liberty never catch a tithe of the scathing that unfortunate radicals who differ from Liberty’s writers must tremble under.
I realize that the intellectual writers of Liberty who have studied deep and long, and are sure of their ground, feel they have a right to call a man a fool who shows that he does not reach the conclusions they have reached. But it seems to me real wisdom is simple, modest, not over-confident. Because the higher we go, the more we find there is to know,— the clearer we see that every line of intellectual research reaches into the unknowable, and every step is debatable ground.
When it comes to close definitions, even the editor and writers in Liberty have been known to flounder, and are not always consistent. I believe there is a great deal in the Universe we none of us know yet, and no one can be so positively sure he is right that he can afford to call another student a fool. It sounds so vain, so harsh, so cruel, so like the old believers in the infallibility of the church, to call people who have proved by years of devoted work their sincerity and intelligence, “ignorant” “brutal” “destitute of knowledge, common sense, style” etc.
It is simply the opinion of Liberty’s editor that the “Beacon” is “no friend of labor; that it has all the ‘vices’ of the ‘Alarm’ and none of its merits; that it shows ignorance and brutality, is insignificant and wild” etc. But it is in poor taste, looks spiteful, narrow-minded, bigoted, to express such an opinion so severely. Many others have been delighted with the bright little “Beacon.” It is interesting, which Liberty in its profundity is not. It is a paper one can hand to any ordinary person with the assurance it will be understood,— which Liberty is not. Danielewicz is one of the few who has no idol dearer than the cause; he works outside to earn money for the publication of the “Beacon” and sets type, writes, reads proof at night on a salary of nothing a week. A great many people in this country cannot be convinced even by the able Mr. Tucker that the editor of the “Beacon” tea fool, is brutal, or needs to study for years under that profound and unreadable bigot, E. C. Walker. He perhaps is wiser in his revolutionary utterances than his learned critics. For great barriers across the path of progress have, as yet, as little likelihood of being reasoned away as prayed away; if the world were better and wiser, there might be more chance of Danielewicz being mistaken.
Other workers and writers, whose known devotion, self-sacrifice, and ability should “protect them from their friends” have been glibly dubbed by Liberty’s staff “fools” “ignoramuses” “grovelers” etc. Why should a lover of liberty show such a pugnacious disposition? I like to believe all “our kind of people” are kind-hearted, liberal, tolerant, fraternal in their feelings; it pains me to learn they are not. The closest, strictest reasoning is commendable; but harsh names only evince a vindictive spirit. Argue as well as possible; then let readers judge who is the fool. L. M. H.
La Veta, Colorado, June 26, 1890.
[I print the above, but cannot stop to answer it at any length. The question involved has been too recently exhausted in these columns. It is a curious fact that on the day I received the letter from L. M. H. I received another from a woman certainly her equal, and living in a territory not far from Colorado, warmly complimenting Liberty’s attitude toward the “Beacon.” Which shows that opinions differ. I like L. M. H.’s example better than her precept. She thinks E. C. Walker a bigot, and her frank expression of this view pleases me, even though it fails to win my assent. But why she should be accorded the privilege of declaring Walker a bigot and I should be denied that of declaring the “Beacon” a brute is one of those things intelligible only to “an ordinary person.” To me it is a puzzle. — Editor Liberty.]
“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.
The Best Way to Help Harman.
I have said in Liberty that I know no way of helping Moses Harman, editor of “Lucifer,” out of prison. I still know none. But there is a way of making his burden lighter, and — what is more important — of foiling his enemies in their real purpose, the suppression of his paper. That way is to keep his paper alive till he is free. In such an effort any Anarchist may well take part, whatever his opinion may be of the paper itself. I certainly hold it in very light esteem. But it is a Liberal paper, and that is enough. The foes of liberty want to suppress it, and if they fail, it will afford them little satisfaction to have imprisoned Moses Harman. Let us then keep “Lucifer” alive. All funds received for that purpose will be acknowledged in this column and forwarded to the office of “Lucifer.”
Benj. R. Tucker. . . . . . . . . $10.00
Jour Orth, Boston . . . . . . . . 1.00
C. Schulenburg, Detroit. . . . . . . 3.00
A. H. Simpson, Boston . . . . . . . 2.00
“Today’s” View of Interest.
When I saw the word “Interest” at the top of an article in a recent issue of “Today,” I said to myself: This looks promising; either the editor of “Today” is about to remove the basis (so far as his paper is concerned) of Mr. Yarros’s vigorous criticism upon journals of its class that they fail of influence because they neglect to show that individualism will redress economic grievances, or else he has discovered some vital flaw in the Anarchist economics and is about to save us further waste of energy by showing that economic liberty will not produce the results we predict from it. Fancy my disappointment when, on reading the article, I found it made up, seven-eighths, of facts and historical remarks which would be more interesting if less venerable, but which, though pertinent as throwing light upon the conditions under which interest arose, prevailed, and fluctuated, have not the remotest bearing upon the arguments of those who dispute the viability of interest today; one-sixteenth, of the assertion of an economic truism, equally without significance in connection with those arguments; and, one-sixteenth, of the assertion of an economic error, which assertion betrays no familiarity with those arguments (although it is within my knowledge that the editor of “Today” possesses such familiarity in a considerable degree), and which error can be sufficiently refuted by stating it in a slightly different form.
The irrelevant facts I ignore. I do not care a copper whether interest was twelve per cent, in Aristotle’s time or eighteen in Solon’s; whether Catholicism and Mohammedanism were united in their aversion to it; whether Jew or Christian has been the greater usurer The modern opponents of interest are perfectly willing to consider facts tending to refute their position, but no facts can have such a tendency unless they belong to one of two classes: first, facts showing that interest has generally (not sporadically) existed in a community in whose economy money was as important a factor as it is with us today and in whose laws there was no restriction upon its issue; or, second, facts showing that interest is sustained by causes that would still be effectively, invincibly operative after the abolition of the banking monopoly. I do not find any such facts among those cited by “Today.” The array is formidable in appearance only. Possession of encyclopaedic knowledge is a virtue which Spencer sometimes exaggerates into a vice, and a vice which some of his disciples too seldom reduce to the proportions of a virtue.
To the economic truism I will give a little more attention, its irrelevancy being less apparent. Here it is: “The existence of interest depends, of course, primarily upon the existence of private property.” I call this a truism, though the word “primarily” introduces an element of error. If we are to inquire upon what interest primarily depends, we shall start upon an endless journey into the realm of metaphysics. But without entering that realm we certainly can go farther back in the series than private property and find that interest depends still more remotely upon the existence of human beings and even of the universe itself. However, interest undoubtedly depends upon private property, and, if this fact had any significance, I should not stop to trifle over the word “primarily.” But it has no significance. It only seems to have significance because it carries, or seems to be supposed to carry, the implication that, if private property is a necessary condition of interest, interest is a necessary result of private property. The inference, of course, is wholly unwarranted by logic, but that it is intended appears from a remark almost immediately following: “Expectations have been entertained that it [interest] will eventually become zero; but this stage will probably be reached only when economic products become common free property of the human race.” The word “probably” leaves the writer, to be sure, a small logical loophole of escape, but it is not expected that the reader will notice it, the emphasis being all in the other direction. The reader is expected to look upon interest as a necessary result of private property simply because without private property there could be no interest. Now, my hat sometimes hangs upon a hook, and, if there were no hook, there could be no hanging hat; but it by no means follows that because there is a hook there must be a hanging hat. Therefore, if I wanted to abolish hanging hats, it would be idle, irrelevant, and illogical to declare that I must first abolish hooks. Likewise it is idle, irrelevant, and illogical to declare that before interest can be abolished private property must be abolished. Take another illustration. If there were no winter, water-pipes would never freeze up, but it is not necessary to abolish winter to prevent this freezing. Human device has succeeded in preventing it as a general thing. Similarly, without private property there would be no borrowing of capital and therefore no interest; but it is claimed that, without abolishing private property, a human device — namely, money and banking — will, if not restricted, prevent the necessity of borrowing capital as a general thing, and therefore virtually abolish interest; though interest might still be paid in extraordinary cases, just as water-pipes still freeze up under extraordinary conditions. Is this claim true? That is the only question.
This claim is met in the single relevant sixteenth of “Today’s” article,— that already referred to as an economic error. But it is met simply by denial, which is not disproof. I give the writer’s words:
The most popular fallacy upon the subject now is that the rate of interest can be lowered by increasing the amount of currency. What men really wish to borrow usually is capital,— agencies of production,— and money is only a means for the transfer of these. The amount of currency can have no effect upon the abundance of capital, and even an increase in the abundance of capital does not always lower the rate of interest; this is partly determined by the value of capital in use.
This paragraph, though introduced with a rather nonchalant air, seems to have been the objective point of the entire article. All the rest was apparently written to furnish an occasion for voicing the excessively silly notion that “the amount of currency can have no effect upon the abundance of capital.” As I have already said, to show how silly it is, it is only necessary to slightly change the wording of the phrase. Let it be stated thus: “The abolition of currency can have no effect upon the abundance of capital.” Of course, if the former statement is true, the latter follows. But the latter is manifestly absurd, and hence the former is false. To affirm it is to affirm that currency does not facilitate the distribution of wealth; for if it does, then it increases the effective demand for wealth, and hence the production of wealth, and hence the abundance of capital. It is true that “an increase in the abundance of capital does not always lower the rate of interest.” An extra horse attached to a heavy load does not always move the load. If the load is heavy enough, two extra horses will be required to move it. But it is always the tendency of the first extra horse to move it, whether he succeeds or not. In the same way, increase of capital always tends to lower interest up to the time when interest disappears entirely. But though increased capital lowers interest and increased currency increases capital, increased currency also acts directly in lowering interest before it has increased the amount of capital. It is here that the editor of “Today” seems to show unfamiliarity with the position of the opponents of interest. It is true that what men really wish to get is capital,— the agencies of production. And it is precisely because money is “a means for the transfer of these” that the ability to issue money secured by their own property would make it unnecessary for them to borrow these agencies by enabling them to buy them. This raises a question which I have asked hundreds of times of defenders of interest and which has invariably proved a “poser.” I will now put it to the editor of “Today.” A is a farmer owning a farm. He mortgages his farm to a bank for $1,000, giving the bank a mortgage note for that sum and receiving in exchange the bank’s notes for the same sum, which are secured by the mortgage. With the bank-notes A buys farming tools of B. The next day B uses the notes to buy of C the materials used in the manufacture of tools. The day after, C in turn pays them to D in exchange for something that he needs. At the end of a year, after a constant succession of exchanges, the notes are in the hands of Z, a dealer in farm produce. He pays them to A, who gives in return $1,000 worth of farm products which he has raised during the year. Then A carries the notes to the bank, receives in exchange for them his mortgage note, and the bank cancels the mortgage. Now, in this whole circle of transactions, has there been any lending of capital? If so, who was the lender? If not, who is entitled to any interest? I call upon the editor of “Today” to answer this question. It is needless to assure him that it is vital. T.
“Intellect, insight,” said Carlyle, “is the discernment of order in disorder..... Intellect is like light; the chaos becomes a world under it.” It seems to me that the English National Association for the Defence of Personal Rights, whose organ is the London “Personal Rights Journal,” must now keenly feel the need of an intellect that would convert the chaos of opinion on the subject of individualism displayed in its organ into a system. I had understood the editorial position of the “Journal” to be that nationalization of land and compulsory taxation are not only not repugnant to individualism but essential conditions or features of that political system. When, however, I found in an article on “Compulsory Temperance” in the June issue of the paper the declaration of the Association that “force is only justified against force, aggression against aggression, and this only within the limits which the necessity of repelling invasion marks out,” I became somewhat uncertain as to the accuracy of my conception of the editor’s position. Still, it was impossible, I finally concluded, that I should have been so greatly mistaken: the editor certainly had affirmed the necessity of land nationalization and compulsory taxation, which, it is obvious, are not to be in any wise reconciled with the principle that “force is only justified against force.” I was therefore obliged to decide to hold the editor of the organ of the Association guilty of a palpable inconsistency until he proved himself innocent.
When in this frame of mind, I happened to glance at the editor’s “Answers to Correspondents,” and there I read, in answer to an Anarchist who entered a protest against the policy of running protection upon monopolistic rather than competitive principles, the editor’s admission that “there is no consistent individualist who does not wish that this [referring to the possibility of voluntary association for defence] were true, as it would be with the progress of humanity; for, under individualism, State functions would become ‘small and beautifully less,’ till at last individualism and Anarchism would coincide.” The editor added that “any attempt to realize Anarchism now would result in not less but more of aggression than would occur under individualism.”
From these remarks it would appear that the “Personal Rights Journal” agrees with Liberty, though, in consequence of its erroneous assumption that Liberty would “attempt to realize Anarchism now” all at once and in its entirety, it imagines that it differs from it, because insisting upon slow and gradual realization of the programme common to Individualists and Anarchists. Where the “Journal” could find the slightest ground for the belief that Liberty encourages “the attempt to realize Anarchism now,” I cannot surmise; yet it must have felt confident of the absolute correctness of this interpretation of the Anarchistic position when recently replying to a criticism of Mr. Tucker’s.
If, however, the editor is with us, some of his contributors are plainly not yet ready to admit that the logical outcome of individualism is Anarchism. One “J. B.” squarely denies that “the logical outcome of individualism, as understood today, does lead us to the state of Anarchy which Professor Huxley defined” in his review article on government. He does not “pretend for individualism a theoretical perfection,” but regards it as “a resistive principle brought into play to counteract the ultimate logical consequences of State interference.” This correspondent claims to speak in the name of “the individualists,” and presumably of the association represented by the “Personal Rights Journal”; yet the editor allows these statements to pass without critical comment.
On the whole, we find plenty of evidence that these are times that try English Individualists’ souls. That the most thoughtful of them will finally frankly accept the Anarchist position is a foregone conclusion. Let us watch them now. V. Y.
Spencerian Government and Anarchism.
Let us reason together about the Spencerian position on the question of government. Let us understand clearly the differences between Spencer and the Anarchists. Are the Anarchists right in regarding the Spencerian defence of government as lame and impotent and fatally defective? Are they warranted in demanding the total abolition of the compulsory political State? Or are they passing the limits of philosophical discussion in this contention and may they be dismissed as visionaries and wild theorists by those who treat the subject scientifically and who draw no conclusions that are not legitimately inferred from demonstrably correct premises? It should be borne in mind that we deal, not with the position taken in “Social Statics,” but with the doctrine set forth in Spencer’s recent sociological writings.
Seeking “some higher warrant for the subordination of minority to majority than that arising from inability to resist physical coercion,” a “moral justification for the supposed absolute power of the majority,” Spencer, after an analysis and rejection of the social compact hypothesis, finds a difficulty confronting him. On the one hand, it may be urged that “in the absence of any agreement, with its implied limitations, the rule of the majority is unlimited; because it is more just that the majority should have its way than that the minority should have its way.” On the other hand, it may be contended with equal force that “in the absence of an agreement, the supremacy of a majority over a minority does not exist at all.” But, continues Spencer, further reflection reveals a solution of the difficulty.
For if, dismissing all thought of any hypothetical agreement to coöperate heretofore made, we ask what would be the agreement into which citizens would now enter with practical unanimity, we get a sufficiently clear answer; and with it a sufficiently clear justification for the rule of the majority inside a certain sphere, but not outside that sphere. Let us first observe a few of the limitations which at once become apparent.
Were all Englishmen now asked if they would agree to coöperate for the teaching of religion, and would give the majority power to fix the creed and the forms of worship, there would come a very emphatic “No” from a large part of them. If, in pursuance of a proposal to revive sumptuary laws, the inquiry were made whether they would bind themselves to abide by the will of the majority in respect of the fashions and qualities of their clothes, nearly all of them would refuse. In like manner if (to take an actual question of the day) people were polled to ascertain whether, in respect of the beverages they drank, they would accept the decision of the greater number, certainly half, and probably more than half, would be unwilling. Similarly with respect to many other actions which most men now-a-days regard as of purely private concern. Whatever desire there might be to coöperate for carrying on, or regulating, such actions, would be far from a unanimous desire. Manifestly, then, bad social coöperation to be commenced by ourselves, and had its purposes to be specified before consent to coöperate could be obtained, there would be large parts of human conduct in respect of which coöperation would be declined; and in respect of which, consequently, no authority by the majority over the minority could be rightfully exercised.
Turn now to the converse question — For what ends would all men agree to coöperate? None will deny that for resisting invasion the agreement would be practically unanimous. Excepting only Quakers, who, having done highly useful work in their time, are now dying out, all would unite for defensive war (not, however, for offensive war); and they would, by so doing, tacitly bind themselves to conform to the will of the majority in respect of measures directed to that end. There would be practical unanimity, also, in the agreement to coöperate for defence against internal enemies as against external enemies. Omitting criminals, all must wish to have person and property adequately protected. In short, each citizen desires to preserve his life, to preserve those things which conduce to maintenance of his life and enjoyment of it, and to preserve intact his liberties both of using these things and getting further such. It is obvious to him that he cannot do all this if he acts alone. Against foreign invaders he is powerless unless he combines with his fellows; and the business of protecting himself against domestic invaders, if he did not similarly combine, would be alike onerous, dangerous, and inefficient. In one other coöperation all are interested — use of the territory they inhabit
Details are not needful here.... It is sufficient to recognize the undeniable truth that there are numerous kinds of actions in respect of which men would not, if they were asked, agree with anything like unanimity to be bound by the wjll of the majority; while there are some kinds of actions in respect of which they would almost unanimously agree to be thus bound. Here, then, we find a definite warrant for enforcing the will of the majority within certain limits, and a definite warrant for denying the authority of its will beyond those limits.
Again Spencer says, somewhat more explicitly:
When that “divinity” which “doth hedge a king.” and which has left a glamour around the body inheriting his power, has quite died away; when it begins to be seen clearly that, in a popularly governed nation, the government is simply a committee of management, it will also be seen that this committee of management has no intrinsic authority. The inevitable conclusion will be, that its authority is given by those appointing it; and has just such bounds as they choose to impose.
The above was subjected to a keen and vigorous critical examination by Mr. Wordsworth Donisthorpe, of which the following portions may be appropriated to voice my own thoughts:
After all, the outcome of Mr. Spencer’s criticism of Hobbes and Austin results in the substitution of a hypothetical social compact made today for a hypothetical social compact made a long time ago....
But Mr. Spencer’s social compact is a sort of chronic ple-biscitum. The justification for each new act of parliament is to be found by the process of wondering what would be the result if the people were polled. This of course is the referendum..... But perhaps Mr. Spencer would not go the length of taking a poll of the people in order to justify each new piece of proposed legislation. He would rather work the question out on paper; he would ask himself — not the people — whether they would “agree to coöperate for the teaching of religion?” and he would answer himself with a “very emphatic No.” “In the like manner, if people were polled to ascertain whether in respect of the beverages they drank they would accept the decision of the greater number, certainly half, and probably more than half, would be unwilling.” Now this is just what local-optionists deny. It is just what many others want to know. Mr. Spencer settles it offhand by intuition....
Nor does the prospect brighten when we come to the converse question — For what ends would men agree to coöperate? To which the ready answer is: “None will deny that for resisting invasion the agreement would be practically unanimous.” Indeed! many will deny it most emphatically. Besides, supposing that only one person held aloof, would the rest be justified in forcing that one to coöperate? If so, on what principle? Mr. Spencer himself excepts the Quakers, whom, however, he dismisses with a compliment and annihilation. This must be another of those intuitions which only a poll of the people can verify or disprove. It is at least as probable that a majority would vote the other way....
Further, we are not told whether there would be any limit to the subordination of individuals to the State in those matters in which they, “with practical unanimity,” “almost unanimously,” “omittingcriminals,” “exceptingQuakers,” agreed to coöperate. Take the agreement to coöperate for defensive war, and suppose that means something definite. Would the citizens thereby bind themselves to conform to the will of the majority in respect of measures directed to that end — all measures? Might not a citizen be willing to contribute money towards the expenses of the war without being willing to submit to conscription? Might be not accept conscription with power of substitution without being willing to serve? Or, assuming in the face of a growing party of sincere Socialists that, “omitting criminals, all must wish to have person and property adequately protected,” is it equally certain that all would be willing to accept the decision of the majority in respect of the measures needful for that end? And what is “property”? Mr. Spencer glides over this as a phantom ship might glide over sunken rocks.
But the principal fallacy and sophism lurking in Spencer’s argumentation is not yet sufficiently exposed. Does Mr. Spencer mean unanimity when he says unanimity? If he does, and justifies what he calls subordination of minority to majority only where there is real unanimity in the agreement to coöperate, then he is an Anarchist and disbelieves in coercive government entirely. Voluntary subordination is not inconsistent with Anarchism. Members of corporations and clubs find it convenient to settle certain matters on the principle of majority decision, which arrangement, however, does not convert these associations into States. The Anarchists desire the political association to be conducted on business principles. If this is what Spencer also desires, then the only charge against him is that he uses ambiguous and vague language. But Spencer apparently does not mean unanimity when he says unanimity. He continually speaks of “practical unanimity” and of “almost unanimous agreement,” which raises the suspicion that he would ignore or suppress small rebellious minorities, provided they were too small to affect the requisite “practical unanimity.” However loudly a portion of society might demand to be dispensed alike from the burdens and benefits of the State, Spencer would coolly assume practical unanimity of agreement to coöperate for defence against invaders. But we are bold enough to point out that Spencer begs the question and gives no solution of the difficulty. Having engaged to furnish an ethical warrant for majority rule, he really tells us that as long ae we can keep up appearances and feign unanimity we may crush minorities without compunction. Not only is our demand for an ethical warrant for majority rule left unsatisfied; but we are mocked and outraged — insult is added to injury — by being told that we are too insignificant numerically to affect the practical unanimity conceded to be indispensable.
Nor is this all. We are cruelly left in darkness as to the exact point at which practical unanimity abruptly changes into practical divergence. Supposing the anti-government elements disregarded by Spencer to constitute one per cent, of the nation, we are not told whether practical unanimity will still be claimed when they multiply up to ten per cent, or twenty per cent. Obviously a very needful detail was omitted by Spencer.
It is plain that the search for the “higher warrant for the subordination of minority to majority” has led to no discovery. In face of the fact that a growing minority openly protests against being coerced into any kind of coöperation, against being counted in without their express consent, the Spencerian “process of wondering what would be the result if the people were polled” must be declared a hypocritical contrivance. And yet the editor of “Today” expects us to admire the scientific and philosophical Spencerian view of the proper sphere and authority of government! Did he but suggest that, as a matter of practical wisdom, we ought to endeavor to unite all liberal elements on this eminently sensible platform of restricting the activity of the State to defence of equal liberty, a platform which can be victoriously supported by an overwhelming amount of theoretical and practical argumentation, the Anarchists would gladly respond to the call and coöperate in the formation of a strong popular opinion favoring that immense and healthy political reform. The Anarchists wish to succeed, and no progressive practical movement will be denied their sympathy. But when the question is not one of practical warfare, of skilful, gradual conquest, but of scientific definition and limitation of the authority of government, they demand “evidence” and “facts” in support of every proposition. No “ethical warrant” for government has been shown, and we really cannot indulge the Spencerians and feign that we see something when we do not.
According to the Anarchists, the “laws of human life as carried on under social conditions” authorize certain restraints upon certain lines of conduct, which restraints, however, may be imposed by individuals and. minorities as well as by majorities. The question of justice bears no relation to numbers, and if one individual is unjustly dealt with by the whole society, he is ethically warranted in treating the society as criminals and compelling them to abide by the rules of justice. But men are yet far from a unanimity of judgment concerning the requirements of justice. In society there are numerous schools and doctrines and parties, each of which regards its conception of justice as the most sound. If all were to try to enforce their several notions of justice, we should have a state of intolerable disorder and implacable war. Knowing this, the question for each of the disputants is how to overcome his antagonists most effectively and how to secure the general acceptance of his ideas. The Anarchists, entertaining certain views of rational and just social organization, views that conflict with those of the supporters of the existing governments as well as those of many reformers, have simply to decide upon the wisest methods of combatting the errors and iniquities that prevail and spreading the light of their principles.
Those who oppose Anarchism can only do so successfully by controverting and overthrowing their conception of justice. They must demonstrate that the economic, or the political, or the social relations which the Anarchists advocate would tend to generate injustice. Spencer’s facts and arguments all go to sustain the Anarchists’ contention that the present social relations are unjust and inequitable. To be sure, he pretends to differ from them in certain conclusions, and denies that his position logically leads to Anarchism; but the question is not what he says; the question is, how far consistently with himself does he say it? Some of his conclusions do not follow from his premises; we do not undertake to say whether the cause of his error is intellectual or moral; but we do point out the error and draw the proper inference from the given premises. We agree with Spencer more than he agrees with himself, and therefore are we Anarchists. V. Y.
Economically Marx’s error consisted in adopting without analysis the Ricardian views on rent and finance. Blind to the fact that the present landholding system and the banking system are not at all inseparably connected with competitive industry, but, on the contrary, are huge hindrances to its normal course, Marx could see no way of improving the condition of the laborer within the system and so predicted a revolt against it and a new organization on a different basis. But the error of the orthodox view discovered, and the true causes of rent and interest detected, the occupation of the denouncer of free contract and competition is doomed. Even Marx would not deny that labor would be benefited by the freeing of land; and although he strenuously opposed Proudhon’s idea of the organization of credit as a means of emancipating labor and securing its supremacy over capital, he conspicuously failed in supporting his position. There is no evidence that he ever understood Proudhon’s financial views; but whether he did or not, the world is now steadily repudiating the old ideas of the organization of banking and currency-issue, and more and more is it understood that there will be no truly free industrial system until competition in the supply of credit and the issue of mediums of exchange has been fully allowed. And then the demand for labor will always be in excess of the supply, and the employer will either coöperate with the workmen and receive his wages as manager, or he will be obliged to consume his principal.
(I think it proper to state here that, according to the admission of F. Engel, Marx’s published volumes are but a fragment of his whole work on “Capital,” and that it is impossible to understand the Marxian synthesis in the absence of the third volume. The contradictions and apparent errors in the two published volumes are all said to be duly rectified in the unpublished third volume, which is to give the necessary analysis of surplus value. This explanation puts the loud and insolent Marxian disciples who ignorantly claim for their “scientific” views the exactness of mathematics and who pretend that they know the last word on the subject of industrial development, in a very ludicrous light. It appears that they are not even aware that there is an important deficiency to be supplied. As for us, of course we deal only with the material before us, and if any modification of our view shall be required by the supplementary evidence promised, it will be cheerfully made.)
But Marx’s error proceeded not alone from his failure to subject our industrial order to a deeper analysis and grasp the true causes of surplus value. This one-sided view of economic development was predetermined by his general philosophy, by the view he took of men and their different affairs. His philosophy was false, and his economics unsound, but it is precisely this connection, this harmony, between the two that gave Marxian teaching a peculiar charm and appearance of solidity and profundity. When his disciples, ignorant of this consideration, attempt to paraphrase his doctrine without making the philosophy prominent, their weakness and poverty become painfully apparent.
Marx states in his preface that his philosophy is antithetical to Hegeliauism, and that he regards the material, economic basis of society as the only real force which shapes and colors in its own image all the rest of men’s interests. He held the political, social, and religious relations to be the reflex of the material, economic structure, changing with it, but contributing no independent influence of their own to the change. To expect to effect a change in the industrial relations through political or moral agencies was deemed puerile, since, from the standpoint adopted, the political arrangements, the moral laws, the religious beliefs, all appeared as the results of the economic relations. His standpoint, says Marx, “from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains.” He is impatient with what he styles “the very cheap sort of sentimentality” which characterizes the capitalist method of defining the value of labor-power as “brutal.” For, while it is clear that “nature does not produce on the one side owners of money or commodities, and on the other men possessing nothing but their own labor-power,” and that neither is the social basis of capitalism “one that is common to all historical periods,” yet “it is clearly the result of a past historical development, the product of many economical revolutions, of the extinction of a whole series of older forms of social production.” On the other hand, he dismissed with haughty contempt the objections against his positive plans raised by those who cultivated an attachment to the principle of personal liberty and private property. To him liberty and property were bourgeois terms and ideas, having no meaning or value apart from the general bourgeois theory and practice; and when the time comes for the downfall of the entire bourgeois edifice, no attention needs to be wasted on its minor ornamental appendages.
Marx, however, nowhere furnishes his own adequate explanation of the causes and factors of economic revolutions, and we do not feel called upon to cudgel our brain for the purpose of supplying this material omission. Whatever it may have been, we can unhesitatingly pronounce his philosophy of history totally absurd. With the results of the labors of the anthropologists, sociologists, and historians accessible to us, it is impossible not to know that the subordination of the social, political, and religious interests to the economic structure never existed, and that often industrial changes followed political and moral changes. At all times the actions and reactions of these distinct departments of human life have been such that it is almost impossible to say which has been the most decisive and powerful. The fatalism of Marx must be discarded in the light of the investigations of Spencer, Maine, Lubbock, Tyler, and Comte. And we find that modern progressive Socialists, like the Fabians, have discarded it and recognize the conception of a sociological science teaching men to intelligently and wisely build up a social order based on equity and justice. Nothing was farther from Marx’s thoughts than such a conception. And therefore nothing is farther from the thoughts of scientific thinkers and students today than the Marxian view of social evolution. Nearly all thinkers are agreed that the problems agitating us at present — which are many, political and social as well as industrial — can only be solved by men applying themselves to a scientific study of them, by a free and full discussion, and by conscious deliberate action in accordance with truths evolved and discovered in the process of such study and discussion.
After all, to conclude as I began, it is scarcely necessary to take pains to refute a position almost wholly abandoned by the followers of Marx themselves. Marx’s “Scientific Socialism” was loud and noisy, but not deep, and the progress of thought has left it behind. As in all cases of crisis and disintegration, so in the case of the Socialists, retrogression divided the field with progression, the better with the worse. While on the one hand, a portion of the “scientific Socialists” have really advanced and taken up higher ground, another and more numerous portion degenerated and mixed with inferior elements. Christian Socialism and Nationalism must be looked upon as cases of striking retrogression and decay. The case of higher development is found in the English Fabian Socialist movement, to which I now turn.
“Fabian Socialism” is comparatively free, at least in the persons of its ablest spokesmen, from the fallacies and vulgar blunders of the schools we have examined. So far as their philosophical and ethical views are concerned, few exceptions can be taken against them by those who are abreast of the scientific progress of the age. They do not base their system on mysticism and superstition. They are not theologians or metaphysicians. They demand collective property in the means of production because they deem this the only method of abolishing involuntary poverty and economic inequality, of securing real equality of opportunity to all deserving members of society. To quote one of the most prominent Fabians, Mr. G. B. Shaw:
If we have got as far as an intellectual conviction that the source of our social misery “is no eternal well-spring of confusion and evil, but only an artificial system susceptible of almost infinite modification and readjustment, nay of practical demolition and substitution at the will of man, then a terrible weight will be lifted from the minds of all..... When the Socialist came forward as a mellorist.... the old school of political economists who could see no alternative to private property, put forward [the analysis Just presented] in proof of the powerlessness of benevolent action to arrest the deadly automatic production of poverty by the increase of population. Their conclusions exactly fitted in with the new ideas. It was Nature at it again,— the struggle for existence,— the remorseless extirpation of the weak,— the survival of the fittest,— In short, natural selection at work. Socialism seemed too good to be true; It was passed by as merely the old optimism foolishly running its head against the stone wall of modern science. But Socialism now challenges Individualism, scepticism, pessimism, worship of nature personified as a devil, on their own ground of science. The science of production and distribution of wealth is political economy. Socialism appeals to that science, and, turning on individualism Its own guns, routs it in incurable disaster.... It Is to economic science — once the Dismal, now the Hopeful — that we are indebted for the discovery that, though the evil Is enormously worse than we knew, yet It is not eternal, not even very long-lived, if we only bestir ourselves and make an end of it.
Here we have a very clear indication of the task to be undertaken and performed by those who dissent from the conclusions of Fabian Socialism. To show that “complete individual liberty, with unrestrained private ownership of the instruments of wealth production,” is not “irreconcilable with the common weal,” is to refute the most progressive form of collectivism as a scientific theory. To show that the advocates of the theory have not made out their case but have heaped assertion upon assertion, assumption upon assumption, and artifice upon artifice in the construction of their system, neglecting in the most unceremonious manner to provide satisfactory evidence and logical support for it, is to disable Fabian Socialism as a practical movement. It is sufficient to accomplish the latter purpose; it is not difficult to carry out the former.
First of all, the Fabian Socialists are guilty of the same fundamental error which we have fixed upon the Nationalists,— the error of confounding the present social system with the system of Individualism, of assuming that “complete individual liberty, with unrestrained private ownership of the instruments of wealth production,” is what exists today in fact. That the system under which we live is “irreconcilable with the common weal” cannot be denied. But is this system truly individualistic? Is “individual liberty” enjoyed equally by all, or is it the case that only a few possess the liberty to do whatsoever they will (not to speak of obvious and under the circumstances trifling exceptions, such as murder and direct robbery) without regard to the rights of others? Is it the producers who enjoy the “unrestrained private ownership of wealth production”? In a word, have we all equal liberty and equal opportunity — which is what Individualism means? To put the question is to answer it. No, we have not even a decent apology for that. What the Fabian Socialists are entitled to affirm is that a system in which land is monopolized by a few and the many are obliged to pay large sums, large portions of their labor product, for the privilege of living on the earth; in which credit is monopolized and owners of a certain form of wealth levy tribute upon all others in the shape of interest; in which the enormous benefits of invention and division of labor are caused to flow into the pockets of a privileged minority; — that such a system is irreconcilable with the common weal. And in this all the consistent individualists would concur, for this is what they have been insisting upon all along. But they are not entitled to demand, in the interest of the common weal, “the replacement of private capital by collective capital,” the “coöperative organization of national work upon the basis of collective property of the sum of all the members of society in the instruments of production.” This demand could only be legitimately made (to speak merely from the standpoint of economic wellbeing) upon a successful demonstration of the irreconcilability of the common weal with a system of real individualism, with equal liberty and equal opportunity realized. Unless it is plainly shown that the abolition of all legal monopolies, including that of land, and the recognition of the principle of free competition in the largest sense, would still leave the laborers at the mercy of idlers, and would still permit some to live without working and condemn others to work without reaping the entire product, there can be no valid scientific reason for advocating the abandonment of free contract and instituting compulsory coöperation and common ownership of capital.
Did the limits of my space allow, I should like to briefly restate here Mr. Shaw’s “economic” analysis, which, it is claimed, “convicts private property of being unjust even from the beginning.” It is a marvel of humor and literary excellence, and, had it been intended as a satire on the arguments and methods of scientific Socialists, it could not but have discredited its subject in the eyes of all scientific thinkers. At all events it is a splendid unconscious satire on collectivism, by which its antagonists would do well to profit.
The present situation, with the unemployed, the starving proletariat, and the thousand and one horrors characterizing it, are all traced to the “law of rent.” It is assumed that the unemployed laborer can find no land which is not the property of some one else; which is not true of any country in the world. There is plenty of unoccupied land, of land that could be had for the asking, provided the capital were there to cultivate it. It is assumed that all the rent paid is economic rent, when even the political economists know and declare the largest portion of it to be monopoly rent. It is assumed that interest is but another form of rent, springing from the same source, whereas it is the result of the monopoly of credit and banking. And those sources of profit — tariffs and patents — are ignored altogether.
Let us pass by this analysis of what does not exist at all, and ask for an analysis of a true individualistic system. It is not difficult to imagine a system in which everybody who occupies and uses land personally is recognized as the private owner of that small lot; in which everybody who produces anything is free to exchange it with others; in which capital belongs either to its individual creator, or to the small association of producers engaged in a given pursuit coöperatively; a society in which equality of opportunity and individual liberty really exist. Would exploitation of man by man, robbery of labor by capital, be possible under it? No man in his senses could answer affirmatively. What the Fabian Socialists would however advance in answer is that, while there might not be exploitation of man by man, there certainly would remain economic inequality. They point to the law of rent, and claim that even under perfect freedom of competition, and under occupying ownership of land, equality of opportunity would not exist, since the differences in the returns to labor due to the differences in the fertility of the soils and advantages of location are in no way equalized.
Whatever strength there is in Fabian Socialism is due to this fact, which they alone, of all Socialists, set much stress on. They have this one truth to build upon, and it remains for us to consider just what sort of superstructure this foundation will sustain.
Two questions apparently there are to be decided. First, whether it is necessary for the peace and harmony of society to equalize the returns to labor. Second, whether it is possible to advantageously equalize them. Does expediency urge the taxation of economic rent by the authority watching over the community and its redistribution among all the members equally? If so, can it be done? Assuming the necessity, let us turn to the practicability. Now, experience as well as deductive reasoning have abundantly established the fact that no governing body of officials can economically and honestly and ably administer business affairs in the interest of the citizens. Corruption, extravagance, and incompetence are absolutely inseparable attributes of governmental management of industrial or financial offices. A very large portion of the sum collected would go to cover the heavy expenses of maintaining the institution created for the purpose; and of the remaining portion, whether distributed by the officials directly among the citizens or expended on common public conveniences, very little would actually accrue to the individual citizen. It may of course be contended that the governments under different industrial conditions would not be like the governments we are accustomed to; but the rejoinder would be that it is the part of wisdom to put aside all cares and plans until that good time. Hope is not certainty; it is useless to puzzle one’s self over details when neither the materials nor the workers are at hand.
Assuming, however, practicability for the sake of of the argument, let us inquire into the point of necessity. I hold it clear that none but those enamored of absolute equality to a degree amounting to infatuation would insist upon the taxation of economic rent by a government if it could be shown that the inequalities of wages or incomes due to the inequalities of natural opportunities would not be appreciable,— that the difference between the one at the margin of cultivation and the one occupying the soil of the first quality would not be very great. Man governed by purely utilitarian considerations would not care to maintain an institution for the purpose of equalizing trifling inequalities and neutralizing insignificant infractions of social principles. As long as each individual was guaranteed independence and equity in his relations with his fellows, as long as each enjoyed the full product of his labor, and the only disturbing element in the universal harmony proceeded from nature’s blind caprice, the taking or not of formal united action in the direction of equalizing the unearned increments would depend on the quantitative importance of the element of economic rent.
If this be conceded, it becomes evident that the advocates of regulation and taxation can only hope to receive encouragement from men firmly convinced of the imperative necessity of equalizing incomes as a means of averting social ruin and disorder. Now, what have these advocates done to convince us of this necessity? Absolutely nothing. In place of facts and figures, of evidence, we find gratuitous assumptions. We find assertions based on confusion of dissimilar things, and statements that the most competent authorities, the most careful practical investigators, reject as monstrous exaggerations. Fabian Socialists, like the so-called single-taxers, build upon the Ricardian theory of rent,— a theory which those who have studied rent and population and prices historically, and who speak with authority, repudiate. Thorold Rogers repudiates Ricardo’s theory of rent, which he calls “partly a truism, partly a fallacy,” whose “acceptance as a sufficient analysis of rent is one of the peculiar hindrances which obstruct” the solution of the land problem. He ridicules the notion that the confiscation of rent is either necessary or desirable, saying: “The rise in rent during the eighteenth century proves that rent depends in a slight degree on the natural powers of the soil, and to a limited extent, these natural powers being easily exhaustible, and a great deal on the acquired capacity of the cultivator,— this cause of rent depending on the general diffusion of agricultural skill. In short, to use a logical expression, what in Ricardo’s definition of rent is made objective, to those who know anything whatever of the history of agriculture is subjective.” Professor Nicholson, who recognizes the authority of Rogers, not only agrees that, “whatever opinion is held concerning the theoretical value of rent, it must be admitted that it is too abstract to be of practical utility” but declares that the Rioardian theory “fails in giving the reasons why ‘economic’ rent has risen in the past, and why it may be expected to rise continuously in the future,” and repudiates the agitation for government confiscation of economic rent, which “may be traced to the same writer’s hypothetical theory of the past and.prophecies on the future of economic rent.” And Professor Ingram, summing up the historical verdict on the orthodox analysis of rent, says that “neither safe inference nor sound action can be built upon” the Ricardian theory.
Are we not warranted in the conclusion that Fabian Socialism and Georgians are conceived and entertained in ignorance of the real facts and conditions of rent? Both boast of their close connection with economic science; but the truth is that both mistake exploded and discredited economic notions for modern and established conclusions. Modern economic science, no less than political science, plays sad havoc with the air-castles of the collectivists and more than ever furnishes individualism with ammunition for successful war upon its assailants. A breath of modern economic knowledge is fatal to the cobwebs of the Fabians and single-taxers, whose “analysis” of the economic situation would be perfect if any correspondence existed between the real facts and the facts which they conceive as existing. Unfortunately for these latter-day State Socialists, they have not constructed their reformatory system be the sound basis of recent economic investigations, but on old theories universally discarded and consigned to oblivion.
Lastly, a few words about revolutionary Anarchistic Communism.
[To be concluded.]
* An examination of the varlooi current doctrines of State Socialism. Continued from No. 162.
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.