“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.
The loss of the U. S. S. “Despatch” shows that it is the way of our naval officers, who, like the major-general in the “Pirates of Penzance,” are “versed in the scientific side of their profession to the detriment of the practical,” to steer into instead of out of the way of dangers.
A citizen in a small town in this State was robbed, and had the robber arrested. The robber was marched to jail, and his victim, strange to say, accompanied him — against his will, of course. The explanation of this is that the injured citizen could not secure bail, and was detained as a witness. He was handcuffed to the robber and sent to jail. His crime was poverty.
A Philadelphia paper states that the detective force of that city is inefficient and notoriously venal, and that a large proportion of the police force has become debauched by the constant protection of crime. Recent revelations have shown that there is a similar state of things in this city, and there is no reason to think that Philadelphia and Boston are exceptions in this respect. Police officers and detectives coöperate with the criminals infesting the large cities, and furnish them most of the needed information. The professional criminals have at least the decency not to ask pay for the “protection” they give us.
Mr. Pentecost, it seems, has become a lawyer. I cannot share the view of those who condemn him for taking this step. He admits that the practice of law is inconsistent with his ideal, but, finding himself obliged to do violence to his ideal in order to make a living, he thinks the legal profession as well suited to his purpose as any. In this Mr. Pentecost is behaving like a sensible man, and for one I thoroughly appreciate the bravery which enables him to scorn the moralists Who will raise the howl of inconsistency. But I cannot help recalling the time when Mr. Pentecost raised the same howl against me because I, a disbeliever in copyright, find it expedient to copyright some of my publications. For his course toward me on that occasion Mr. Pentecost owes me an apology, for the graceful tender of which he will never find a more fitting opportunity than the present.
In the New York “Sun’s” weekly record of Russian news, I find the following interesting statement: “In the Government of Ekaterinoslav ‘marriage by contract’ is now in vogue. A couple desiring to unite in marriage simply promise to be faithful to each other in the presence of witnesses and fortify their promise by giving each other notes on certain amounts of money, mortgages on property, and other such documents to bind them to the conditions upon which they contract the alliance. The dissolution of such marriages is very easy; either by mutual consent the contract is destroyed, or, at the worst, the party desiring to break the contract can be held responsible only for its ‘financial obligations,’ so to speak. It is curious to notice that the first contractors of such marriages were peasants, and that their strongest advocates and supporters are the women.” The reporter adds that “cases of wife-stealing and wife-buying are very frequent”; but as the women are the strongest supporters of the arrangement, that fact needn’t trouble him.
“Die Gesellschaft,” a German monthly magazine and perhaps the most significant of all the periodicals which the young man known as the Emperor William is pleased to let live, being the representative organ of whatever is vital and progressive in the German literature of today, does honor to itself and to John Henry Mackay by publishing in a recent issue an extended study of the young poet’s works by Gabriele Reuter, a frontispiece portrait of Mackay, two new poems and a prose poem by Mackay himself, and a review of his latest book, “Die Anarchisten.” This may fairly be called a Mackay number, and is a high tribute to the author whose work I am shortly to have the honor of introducing for the first time to English readers. The publication of “The Anarchists” has been delayed, but before the end of the month of October it will be placed upon the American market. It will contain a fine half-tone portrait of the author, and a translation of Gabriele Reuter’s study of his works which George Schumm, also the translator of the book proper, has furnished. In size the book will be over three hundred pages, and its price will be fifty cents in paper covers and one dollar in cloth covers. Upon this noteworthy addition to Anarchistic literature I am able to congratulate all Anarchists except Mr. Yarros, who will find in this work of high art and “brutal” egoism little or nothing to admire.
The New York “Times” says: “The figures submitted to the Clearing House Association at its annual meeting were of a magnitude to puzzle even the most active imagination. It is like trying to realize the distance to the moon to try to form a clear conception of clearings for a year amounting to over $34,000,000,000, or even of average daily clearings of over $111,000,000. We commend to the attention of simple-minded people who are wrestling with the question of how much ‘money per capita’ is needed to ‘effect exchanges’ the fact that the average proportion of balances to clearings during the year was but 4.4 per cent. In other words, by this admirable arrangement between the banks $44 did the work of $1,000. And it is to be remarked that the system by which this tremendous work is accomplished is the result of the evolution of business under the guidance of private citizens, unaided and unforced by any legislation, State or national.” Why does the “Times” overlook the folly of the simple-minded people who do not wrestle with the question referred to, but allow the government to place arbitrary restrictions upon the volume of currency? If it is absurd to try to discover how much is needed, is it not still more absurd to fix a limit to the amount without any inquiry and investigation? The fact that under the admirable arrangement between the banks $44 did the work of $1,000 is the best argument in favor of perfect freedom in banking.
The John Law Scheme.
If the success of the sub-treasury plan could be augured from the quality of the arguments most frequently offered against it, the plan would be almost assured of a brilliant triumph. As a specimen, look at an article occupying nearly two columns in the St. Paul “Pioneer Press” of last Saturday. It begins with the declaration that “No delusion to which the human mind is subject is more persistent in its recurrence or takes a deeper hold on the unthinking masses than the idea that national wealth can be created by the issue of paper money. Hydra-like, it is destroyed in one generation only to take possession of the next in some new and more grotesque form.” After this and more to the same effect as an exordium, the “Pioneer Press” closely follows the “Century Magazine,” but omits some of the particulars given in that publication, which, if stated, would have rendered it easier for the reader to have discovered the fallacy of the argument. It recites the story of John Law’s crazy scheme launched in the early part of the eighteenth century, and which ran riot in France until the whole nation was involved in a speculation that had no more foundation than an artificial boom in a paper city. It is true that there was land, thousands of miles away from Europe, on which the shares of the Law corporation and its money were issued. But how was that land valued? Not at a price which it would sell for, but at a fancy price per acre on the assumption that, the land being indestructible and some day to be needed by mankind, it might be held at such price as the government fixed, and would sustain the credit of currency at such price. From the first the calculation was to rely largely upon faith in the government fiat. The fundamental fallacy in assuming for land a value which it may have fifty years hence and issuing notes thereon is discoverable without much research. The land simply will not sell for coin or commodities to the fancy valuation. The currency then will share the fate of the land as to current and immediate value. When one contemplates waiting a generation or two for land to reach a certain value, one must allow that, if it were sold for cash at the present time and the cash were Invested at the current rate of interest, the result of the investment would be all in favor of taking the money now rather than the land, unless the land were clearly salable now for more than the money at which it is valued. Law virtually asked everybody taking stock in his enterprise to believe that land is worth now what it will be worth in fifty years, and to ignore that their money, if otherwise invested during those fifty years, would bring them interest for that time. Hence the failure of his absurd scheme in no wise affects the soundness of the proposition that a piece of property is good security for currency to something less than the amount of what the property will sell for in coin. The assumption that people expect to get rich by possessing paper money is as much of a misconception as the assumption that people expect to get rich by buying barrels, wagons, steam engines, ledgers, check books, and other things which constitute the approved media of industry and commerce. Producers have need of such various means by which they can safely deliver their products to customers and receive security for thereafter obtaining value in return. If any necessary appliance be lacking, there is an arrest of production and sale. The farmer does not expect to get rich merely by having a number of implements, but he would grow very poor if he were without necessary implements. They are an expense, of course, and so is money, but money also is a necessity to prevent the arrest of business. How much or how little currency is useful is a matter to be determined by business needs. In some cases checks can be used, and then checks generally will be used. It is pretty much like determining whether barrels or bottles should be used, this matter of determining whether current notes or checks or drafts shall be employed in a transaction. Broadly speaking, an evidence of credit is wanted wherever one parts with his property. The expense of producing such evidence of credit cannot be too low for the interest of buyer and seller. On the contrary, that expense is a deduction from the gains of industry the same as packages, labels, etc. Now, if gold or silver were required to be used In every transaction, business would be paralyzed for lack of the medium. There is a claim that the relief afforded by existing currency and bank devices still leaves something lacking and that trade halts, naturally unwilling to go far on unsecured credit, and unable to expand under the burden of eight, or ten per cent, interest. If this is paid, it testifies with painful eloquence to the existing necessity. The politicians of one party made the government the banker and those of the other party assented to the suppression of competition in that trade. Thus they prepared the ground for the Alliance plan and rendered its advent inevitable. Their embarrassment is merely beginning.
“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.
E. C. Walker, formerly editor of “Fair Play” and now a regular contributor to the columns of Liberty, is also an authorized agent for Liberty and for all books and pamphlets published by Benj. R. Tucker.
A New Book Given Away With Each Renewal. — Payment of subscriptions and of renewals is required in advance. The names of subscribers not heard from within two weeks after expiration of subscription are removed from the list. But to every subscriber who sends his renewal for one year, accompanied by the cash, so that it reaches the publisher not later than two weeks after it is due, will be sent, postpaid, any book published in the United States that the subscriber may select, provided that its retail price does not exceed 50 cents if published by Benj. R. Tucker, or 25 cents if published by any other publisher. This is a permanent offer, and enables every promptly-paying subscriber to get a new book each year free of cost. But only one book will be given at a time, no matter how low the price of the book selected.
Direct Legislation and Liberty.
Mr. J. W. Sullivan, replying to my article on the Referendum in Liberty of Aug. 15, defends direct government from the point of view, not of equal liberty, but of maximum freedom, and naturally finds himself in opposition to me on several points. From the same standpoint he makes some criticisms upon Anarchism. In dealing with his arguments I purposely refrain from closely examining his general position, hoping to have the opportunity of doing that in connection with his pamphlet on “Political Justice,” which I intend to review in these columns.
Attempting to establish the connection between direct government and honesty, competence, and efficiency in administration, Mr. Sullivan writes:
In saying the Referendum “has made the public services — the post-office, the railroads — the equal of private enterprise in efficiency,” I was safe. In Switzerland, the mail, the telegraph, the telephone, the express business, and what superintendency of the railroads is undertaken by the government, are all united in the post-office department. Hence the chief economy lies in a consolidation not possible to private enterprise. Other economies lie in purchase of materials on the largest scale in the country, in cash discounts, and in certainty of payments. The sort of competition that counts for the good of the service is that between employees for promotion. Besides, the certainty of their retention during good behavior, and a pension on superannuation, insures general loyalty.
But, what, I ask, has all this to do with direct government, with the Referendum? This “consolidation,” and these “economies,” are certainly not impossible under our system of government; nor are they impossible under the German or Russian system. In fact, under a despotism such things are most easily accomplished, as was demonstrated by Spencer long ago, and as is being more and more recognized by men of experience. Possibly the consolidation is not possible to private enterprise, although there can be no doubt that private enterprise can carry consolidation to the highest point desirable, but are the “other economies” likewise inaccessible to private enterprise? No doubt, in the absence of other forms of competition, competition between employees for promotion results in some benefits to the service, but they are slight, and not to be spoken of in the same week with the benefits from the other forms of competition which government monopoly excludes. Promises of retention during good behavior signify little under officialism, while pensions on superannuation, instead of insuring loyalty, have the opposite effect in governmental offices. All these things, however, do count for the good of the service under private management. Mr. Sullivan’s faith in officialism is strong enough to satisfy confirmed State Socialists.
In my disappointment at finding the postal service monopolized under the purest form of democracy I meet with no sympathy from Mr. Sullivan. He says:
State monopoly of the Swiss post-office may well be defended on the score of maximum freedom. In the first place, all Europe being in arms, it is essential to the Swiss nation to be ready at a moment’s warning to mobilize its army. Were it not so, the free institutions of Switzerland might in a day fall under the despotism of Germany. Hence all methods of communication are in the hands of the Government. In the second place, the postal service is so interwoven with other services that to extricate it would raise endless questions of feasibility and justice. No publicist has ever yet explained how highways are to be managed excepting in common. Railways, as to their beds, are highways, and the mails, the telegraph, and the telephone are public works necessitating extensive use of highways. By no consistent principle of equal freedom can the land connected with these institutions be made private property. How, then, administer the institutions themselves?
With Mr. Sullivan’s permission, I leave the railroads, telegraphs, and telephones out of the discussion. As I shall show, they are irrelevant to the points under consideration, and it is better to treat of them separately. It is true, the problem of aerial navigation still remaining unsolved, that the mails necessitate extensive use of the highways, but for the life of me I cannot see why private mail-carrying companies should not be allowed to make terms with the railroads, steamships, and express companies. Oh! there is the consolidation consideration, to be sure; but I fancy that this sort of consolidation involves greater losses than gains to the public. The second point, — that all means of communication must be in the hands of the government because the liberties of the Swiss are threatened by neighboring despotisms, — tacitly assumes that private enterprise is not equal to the task of affording prompt and safe postal service,— an assumption for which I find no warrant in fact. Greater skill, bravery, and intelligence may be counted on in emergencies from private agents than from official “servants.” Then, if governmental monopoly is defensible in Switzerland, is it not equally defensible in these States? A Mexican war is not among the impossibilities, and there’s Canada to look out for in case of differences with England. In short, Mr. Sullivan’s position seems to be that postal monopoly is defensible under any social stage that is not millennial. There’s no nation on earth at present that could safely beat its swords into plowshares. Again I say Mr. Sullivan has too much confidence in officialism and too little appreciation of the advantages of competitive service.
Mr. Sullivan tries to show that I err in holding that the absence of the Referendum would not enable the tariff or any other piece of vicious legislation to survive contrary to the wishes and opinions of a majority. He alleges that imperfect institutions may long baffle the reforms demanded by majorities. “Demanded” is not the proper word. I readily endorse the statement, provided the word “wished” is substituted. However, it is true that reforms have more chances under direct government, and this admission was plainly made in the article reviewed by Mr. Sullivan.
The remarks of Mr. Sullivan on the trial-by-jury alternative are pertinent and intelligent, but I will not meet them here. I will urge Mr. Sullivan instead to read Lysander Spooner’s “Free Political Institutions”; there he will find his queries answered and his difficulties properly canvassed. He will find, besides, much other matter indispensable to those who, like him, are engaged in studying the problem of true political freedom. It would afford me great pleasure to discuss with Mr. Sullivan the positions taken by Spooner in the book mentioned.
Mr. Sullivan mistakes the nature of my “opposition” to the Referendum. Theoretically, as a believer in the principle of equal freedom, I am, of course, bound to oppose any political system which contravenes that principle, in admitting that the Referendum cannot give us complete political freedom, and that majority rule and personal liberty are not synonyms, Mr. Sullivan is himself “opposed “to the Referendum in precisely the same sense in which my attitude may be held to be one of opposition. A believer in equal liberty cannot accept, as a finality, ultimate, ideal condition, anything that falls short of equal liberty. There is, however, another kind of opposition,— practical opposition. Mr. Sullivan considers the Referendum as a necessary stage of development, perhaps as the next step to be taken by nations like this in their gradual progressive advance. It is doubtless from this point of view that be is led to make the following appeal:
One can be no freer than his fellows — the majority — will let him be. This fact recognized, it is the part of wisdom to act upon it. Plainly, then, it is good work to bring government down to its unavoidable limits, its simplest terms. Proudhon himself called direct legislation the “last term” of authority, next to no authority. And late in life Proudhon said:” Reforms always; utopias never.” The scientist accepts proved experiment. So the scientific social reformer, seeing what direct legislation has done in Switzerland toward reforming the common abuses of government, may look for the same beneficial results in another republic.
All of which is perfectly sound. But did it occur to Mr. Sullivan to ask himself why Proudhon, whose aphorism he approvingly quotes, failed to exert himself in the interest of the Referendum, which he never denied to be in the line of true reform? Such a query might have guided Mr. Sullivan to the perception of the real reasons of our indifference toward the Referendum. Proudhon, it is true, desired reform; but he subordinated political reform to economic reform. He thought he could work with greater advantage and success in a different direction. To him the solution of the labor problem was more important, and he gave it precedence over mere political reforms. For the carrying-out of Proudhon’s economic measures the Referendum was not needed, and he naturally devoted himself to the furtherance of that which was needed. The lack of interest in the Referendum exhibited by the Anarchists of today is similarly accounted for. While adopting the motto, “Reforms always, utopias never,” they differ from Mr. Sullivan as to the particular reforms most needful and the ways and means most promising.
“Before finally deciding to oppose direct legislation,” says Mr. Sullivan, the Anarchists will find themselves weighing certain questions, which he proceeds to formulate. As I have explained, the Anarchists do not (in the practical sense) oppose direct legislation: they merely decline to work for it, attending to needs of a more urgent and imperative character. Mr. Sullivan’s questions are as follows:
If, as Proudhon said, and Mr. Yarros and other Anarchists of today concede, direct legislation is. the best legislation, is it not the part of every lover of freedom to strive for whatever measure of freedom for his fellows he sees possible?
The Anarchists see the possibility of acquiring a great measure of economic freedom without the agency of the Referendum, and hence they deem it wise to husband their resources and use them in the interest of the economic reforms.
Is not the peaceful evolution through improvement of institutions surer, better, more profitable, than the risks of revolution? In fact, would not direct legislation carry reform to the last point possible through revolution, — the majority being necessary alike in both methods?
No “revolution” is contemplated by the Anarchists; hence they are absolved from answering these two questions.
Must not trust in mankind be the basis of any movement in social reform?
And in any event, will not the majority, whether right or wrong, rule?
This betrays distrust of mankind. The majority do not insist upon ruling the minority in all activities and relations of life, but allow a large measure of personal liberty. They may be induced to grant a larger measure of liberty, — to observe the principle of equal liberty. It is the part of every believer in equal liberty to reason with them, and to convince them of the superior happiness-producing powers of freedom.
At the goal of progress toward equal freedom, will not many questions of public affairs, especially details, be decided by majority vote? In other words, will not the jury to decide such questions be the whole group interested?
Then is not direct legislation a natural institution, certain in some respects to be practised even in the highest state of freedom possible to mankind?
Very likely. But we are concerned with questions of immediate interest and of supreme importance. We cannot attend to “details” or trouble ourselves about the natural institutions of a remote future.
The theory accepted that there should be no government of man by man, is not the question of means toward the end ever open for discussion?
It is. But, our proximate end being economic and industrial freedom, the Referendum is not our means.
Does not approach to Anarchism necessarily involve, in one form or other, Opportunism?
It does, if by Opportunism is meant willingness to work for parts of the programme and to coöperate with all progressive workers in truly progressive work. If Opportunism means something else, their Anarchism does not involve it. V. Y.
Drops of Cold Water.
Mr. Tucker is so excited, so angry, so sore, so rattled that it would he positively cruel to repay him in his own coin and compel him to swallow his own medicine. I may refrain from the employment of invective. I can afford to be patient and calm, and let the facts and probabilities speak for me.
In the wild accusations of lying no one will take any stock. The readers, on contrasting my coherent, reasonable, probable, and manifestly truthful explanation with Mr. Tucker’s reckless charges, will doubtless be able to form a proper conclusion. In response to my challenge to name a probable motive for my alleged “trick,” he readily offers “the desire to be or to appear smart and cunning.” The absurdity of this is apparent to everybody except Mr. Tucker. I am sure it would be superfluous for me to declare that nothing was farther from ray thoughts than such an attempt. The readers know that the article was fair, temperate, sober, unpretentious, mild, and that no freshness or “smartness” was displayed. I would value Mr. Tucker’s good opinion, and regret his suspicions more, if he were not so lavish in charging people with dishonesty and so ready to impugn motives. What the interested, prejudiced, rattled accuser imagines is a matter of indifference; the verdict of the jury alone is important. And the jury will not fail to take into consideration the fact that in my discussions I am always fair and just, always willing to give credit where it is due and to treat my opponents with respect and courtesy.
After the “audacious pretence” Mr. Tucker takes up what he unhesitatingly calls my “ridiculous claim,” “pure bosh, unadulterated humbug.” He actually has the assurance to tell me that I never supposed he had changed his egoistic views; and inasmuch as I plainly stated that I had supposed him to have done so, we have another charge of gratuitous lying. But Mr. Tucker is very unfortunate, and rushes into a serious difficulty. I can produce at least two witnesses to support me in my averment. These witnesses will testify that I have frequently expressed my firm belief in Mr. Tucker’s emancipation from the follies and fallacies of’87. I never supposed him to be completely emancipated, or converted, bat I did suppose that he was trying, to blend and reconcile some of the old views with new and more philosophical propositions. As to his unqualified endorsement of Mr. Pentecost’s “admirable” discourse, his espousal of what he terms egoism in his lecture, and the other “conclusive” pieces of evidence, I attributed all these bad breaks to the incompleteness of his emancipation and to his infirm grasp of the new ethical principles. I deplored their appearance and felt keen disappointment; ‘but they could not and did not shake my belief that Mr. Tucker was gradually yielding to the influence of science, reason, sense, and fact. Against these occasional and unhappy lapses I placed the systematic admission of editorials antagonistic (I say again) in spirit and letter to the positions defended in ’87. (And here I must protest against the statement that scores of editorials have been altered by Mr. Tucker in order that they might not clash with his “brutal” views. The fact is that only one signed editorial was ever altered in the interest of his egoistic philosophy, and this appeared a week after the opening of this controversy.) My belief in his slow evolution and emergence into the light I have repeatedly expressed to friends, and I can call upon them to bear me witness. As Mr. Tucker was very sure I had lied in this instance as well as in the matter of the prerogative definition, I call the reader’s attention to his peculiar way of indicting his opponents and to the value of his insurances.
But Mr. Tucker attempts to explain away his admission of non-egoistic editorials. It is all a question of interpretation, he alleges. He has admitted nothing that could not, by a liberal construction of the phraseology, be harmonized with his egoistic notions. Well, I sincerely hope he is satisfied with this explanation; I am sure nobody else will be. To pretend that a liberal construction will harmonize (for instance) the clear statement that “the sentiment of justice is the root of all well-ordered social action” with the equally clear and directly opposite statement that self-interest alone induces men to show deference to social rules, or to attempt by liberal construction to reconcile the proposition that “nothing but the slow modification of human nature by the discipline of social life can produce permanently advantageous changes” with the statement that all men must become conscienceless criminals, is to challenge the admiration of the world’s greatest humorists. But, be this as it may, Mr. Tucker’s wonderful juggling with English was all done in the privacy of his office, and I never suspected that his liberality of construction was what I had to thank for the admission of my editorials. To me, and to many others, not so blind, or not so “liberal,” rather, the inconsistency was so obvious and so striking that nothing could account for Mr. Tucker’s course save the supposition now denounced by him as baseless. Then, again, my discussion with Mr. Pentecost was surely calculated to open the eyes of all not hopelessly confused and recklessly “liberal” in interpretation; yet since that discussion I have had editorial articles on ethics, justice, and similar “spooks” in these columns.
If I were to adopt Mr. Tucker’s style, I should describe as “stuff and nonsense,” “audacious pretence,” “ridiculous claim,” and “unadulterated humbug,” his statement that his fundamental opinions have undergone no revolution since he began the publication of Liberty. But I prefer to say simply that his statement is demonstrably contrary to fact. No juggling with words, no liberality of construction, can save Mr. Tucker. In Liberty of July 1, 1880, we find the following editorial utterance: “In these days of boycott trials a great deal of nonsense is being talked and written regarding ‘blackmail.’ This is a question of human rights which the principle of Liberty settles at once. It may be well to state the verdict boldly and baldly. Here it is. Any individual may place any condition he chooses, provided the condition be not in itself invasive, upon the doing or not doing of anything which he has a right to do or not do; but no individual can rightfully be a party to any bargain which makes a necessarily invasive condition incumbent upon any of the contracting parties. . . . Whatever may be the ‘common law’ or the ‘statute law’ of blackmail, this — to use Mr. Spooner’s phrase — is the natural law that governs it.” (Italics not mine.) Is this “fundamentally” consonant with Mr. Tucker’s present beliefs? Or take the “unqualified endorsement,” in Liberty of May 22, of the same year, of these words of a French writer: “Human right is an august thing. Every human being carries it within him, in its entirety, unrestricted, unmodified.” Can this be harmonized with the rights-are-spooks doctrine? Then what are we to understand by the declaration that “there is nothing like a moral principle to inspire heroic conduct”; and how are we to take the rebuke administered to John Swinton because of his eulogy upon Grant, — “the cold-hearted political schemer whose being never felt a thrill of moral indignation”?* I have neither the time nor the inclination to collect all the non-egoistic (in Mr. Tucker’s sense) utterances for which Mr. Tucker is responsible. Every old reader of Liberty knows that in 1886 Mr. Tucker was not an egoist, either in his views or in his phraseology. Yet, when the revolution took place and be became an egoist, he made no formal retraction and took no vow of modesty. (Mr. Tucker will not, for obvious reasons, contend that his conversion to egoism was not a revolution.)
Mr. Tucker says that he has not observed any increase of care, charity, or tolerance in me; but this of course does not prove that there has been no such increase. I may say that some of my friends have expressed astonishment at my moderation and patience in this controversy. Mr. Tucker’s ridiculous cries of “Smart Aleck! Liar! Audacious Humbug!” have doubtless disgusted every intelligent and fair-minded reader. But I am patient, and serenely watch this riot of reckless accusations.
Whether Anarchism not based on Mr. Tucker’s egoism is illogical, I cannot discuss here. Profitable controversy is no longer possible between us. I confine myself to the remark that the question is not what disciples of Mr. Spencer, or even what Mr. Spencer himself, might say, but whether what they say logically follows from the fundamental principles postulated. It is convenient just at present for Mr. Tucker to cite the conclusions of a non-Anarchistic disciple of Mr. Spencer; but he knows that what he has to consider is what a logical Anarchist can show to be the inevitable inference from Mr. Spencer’s premises. If I decide to discuss egoism, I shall address myself to the readers, not to the sore and excited editor who has forgotten that he owes something to himself as well as to me. Mr. Tucker’s insults, accusations, and abuse do not harm me; but I prefer to submit my “evidence” and my arguments to those who can appreciate them. The question is an important one, for any Anarchism that is based on what I have called brutal egoism is unworthy of consideration and sure to fail. I am ready to do my part to put Anarchism upon a philosophical basis, and to divorce it from the nonsensical notions of the new metaphysics. As long as the cries of liar, wretch, humbug, continue, no argument can be carried on. V. Y.
In his previous article Mr. Yarros, after cataloguing my intellectual qualities, closed with the pretence that he had not done so; in his present article be begins by pretending to avoid invective, and then uses invective frequently before he finishes. In both cases the hypocrisy is equally evident, whether the false pretence precedes the patent fact or follows it. Mr. Yarros’s own record in the matter of invective relieves me of all necessity of defending my use of it against him. I can hear in advance the laugh that will rise from a thousand throats when that number of readers shall take in the full absurdity of Mr. Yarros’s claim that he “treats his opponents with respect and courtesy.” If the employment of invective shows that he who uses it is rattled, then Mr. Yarros has been rattled in nearly every controversy in which he has taken part; but as Mr. Yarros will not accept this conclusion for himself, I shall not allow him to impose the consequence of his premise upon me. In written controversy I never get rattled, and am not rattled now; though considerably disgusted, I was never cooler in my life. And I am not sore, unless it is soreness to be sorry for Mr. Yarros’s folly, and of such soreness one need not feel ashamed.
I am in the habit of calling a spade a spade, and cannot consent to change my habit simply because Mr. Yarros is in question. Therefore when in this discussion he departed from the truth, I have not hesitated to declare it and to show it. Let us see how he meets the charge. He said that he supposed me to have changed my egoistic views. I answered that he supposed nothing of the kind. Whereupon he says that two witnesses will testify that he said he supposed so. What of it? I have not denied that he said he supposed so. No witnesses are needed to prove that. In his last article he said he supposed so. What I declare is, not that he did not say he supposed so, but that he did not suppose so. When he can produce witnesses to testify, not as to what he said, but as to what he thought, their testimony will be competent. Until then my argument, fully presented in the last number of Liberty and buttressed by undeniable facts, that he could not by any possibility have supposed that I had altered my views, remains unshaken. I scarcely need point out the absurdity of characterizing my most positive declarations, in consonance with and continuation of my views declared in 1887, as “bad breaks.”
It may be true, as Mr. Yarros says, that I never altered more than one of his signed editorials in the interest of egoism, though my impression is strongly to the contrary; but at any rate I have very frequently altered in that interest the editorial paragraphs which Mr. Yarros has contributed without signature to the “Picket Duty” department. And if the latter, instead of the former, be the fact, the inference is no less obvious than before that such alterations must have shown Mr. Yarros that I insisted upon the “brutally” egoistic view. If I did not alter the signed editorials, it was because I saw my way to harmonize them with my own position. Certainly there was no occasion to alter either of the passages which Mr. Yarros quotes. An egoist may maintain that “the sentiment of justice is the root of all well-ordered social action,” for it is consistent with the position that self-interest is the root of the sentiment of justice; and any one who will re-read Mr. Yarros’s “Reasons Why” and his answers to Mr. Babcock of the same period will see that he even then dwelt quite as emphatically upon the “slow modification of human nature by the discipline of social life” as upon the necessity that men become “conscienceless criminals.” I wonder how “the world’s greatest humorists” felt then. I do not remember that they made any comments. Perhaps their challenged admiration struck them speechless.
As for the discussion with Mr. Pentecost, I interpreted Mr. Yarros’s part in that, as I had interpreted his contributions to Liberty, in the light of his private declarations to his comrades that there was no difference other than verbal between the egoists and the moralists. I knew that my paragraph approving Mr. Pentecost’s discourse did not exactly suit him, but the bias given to my mind by his private assertions led me to think all through the controversy that the difference was one of words. Only very recently did I realize that it was deeper.
Finding that he cannot successfully excuse himself, Mr. Yarros accuses me. He says that, when I became an egoist, my views underwent a revolution, and that I did not make any formal retraction. Even if this were true, how would it help Mr. Yarros’s case? It would be so much the worse for me, that’s all. It would not justify Mr. Yarros in the least. But it is not true. This is the old charge made by the Kellys in 1887, and Mr. Yarros pooh-poohed it then as I pooh-pooh it now. I said in my last article that I have not changed my fundamental opinions since I established Liberty. It is the truth. From the start I have known that self-interest is the mainspring of conduct and that the ego is supreme. I had not, however, carefully thought out or even considered the bearing of this philosophy upon the question of obligation. I took society for granted and assumed the desire of man for society, and it was from this standpoint that I had loosely talked of natural rights. But Stirner’s book caused me to ask myself: If the individual does not wish society, is he under any obligation to act socially? And I no sooner asked it than I answered it in the negative. At no time have I answered it in the affirmative. To show that the quotations which Mr. Yarros culls as affirmative answers were not considered such by me at the time, it is only necessary to quote other things which I said at the same period. Perhaps the most telling of his quotations is my approval of Gramont’s words: “Human right is an august thing.” (Gramont, by the way, is an egoist as “brutal” as myself.) This quotation is from Liberty of May 22, 1886. Now if Mr. Yarros will consult the issue of March 6, 1886, he will find that I accepted in that number Tak Kak’s view that “there are no obligations upon human beings in their relations with each other, except those that are made such by mutual agreement.” It is obvious, then, that, when I later spoke of human right as an august thing, I did not mean by right something superior to contract. I have since seen that my use of the word right in those days was entirely improper, and this, coupled with a steadily-clearing perception of the logic of egoism, is the only change that my ethical opinions have undergone since I started Liberty. If there is any parallel between my case and that of Mr. Yarros, who conducted for months a systematic campaign in favor of “brutal” egoism and now characterizes that campaign as monstrously and deeply wrong, I fail to see it.
I have not called Mr. Yarros a wretch, and I do not think him such. That piece of invective has been hurled only by Mr. Yarros’s moralistic comrades. T.
* “The whole pamphlet [Spooner’s “Natural Law”] is a powerful and closely argued statement of the philosophy of Liberty showing the unrighteousness of government of man by man.” (Liberty, March 18,1882.) “All believers in the State, however much they may try to disguise it, believe that might makes right. . . . They hold . . . that morality is entirely independent of justice, and may be made and unmade by the human will.” (February 18, 1882.) “Morality is the science of the mutual rights and duties of human beings.” (Sept. 17, 1881.) “By however simple a method Mr. Walker and Mrs. Harman may have formed this contract, in claiming it as a legal marriage they fastened upon themselves the duties and obligations of legal marriage and so surrendered their natural rights.” (Dec. 11, 1886.)
Why Not Protection in Home Trade?
Nations do not trade. They contrive to restrict trade a great deal and to destroy a large part of its profits, but they do not trade. Individuals trade, and it is the same whether they live in different countries or in the same country. And an American is just as capable of taking care of his own interests when he is trading with a foreigner as when he is trading with one of his own countrymen. The “vast volume of international trade” has nothing to do with the case. The volume of our trade with other countries is very small as compared with the volume of our inter-State trade. If the people need Mr. Blaine or any other politician to act as their guardian and save them from getting cheated in their international trade, much more do they need a guardian to protect them in their inter-State trade. It may be true that the people of the United States can produce all that the medieval organ says they can. It may be that they can produce everything that they need, and can get along without trading with foreigners at all. But if so, they may be trusted to find it out for themselves. They may be trusted implicitly not to trade with foreigners or among themselves unless they can gain something by trading, and, if they can gain by trading, they should be permitted to trade. To prevent them from trading and gaining all they can by trading is to practise tyranny. The volume of trade, whether domestic or foreign, is nothing but the sum total of individual transactions, and, as the American trader is not a fool, we need not fear that he will trade unless he can gain thereby; and if each trader gains, the aggregate wealth of the country will necessarily be increased. The paternalists who prevent them from trading prevent not only them but the entire nation from accumulating wealth.
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.