“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 clown has appeared again in the columns of “Today,” and I conclude that the editor is convalescent.
It ill becomes Gen. M. M. Trumbull to sneer at the services of Walt Whitman in the hospitals during the war. It is more manly work to help to save men’s lives than to help to destroy them as Gen. Trumbull did.
It is thought in some quarters that Liberty has been very severe upon Miss Helen H. Gardener. Possibly, but the Chicago “Unity” has far outstripped us here. That journal suspects her of having written “Valmond the Crank.” Is this your son, my lady?
Mr. Pentecost’s review of Zola’s “Money” is appreciative, just, excellent,— in short, everything that his review of “My Uncle Benjamin” was not. In the field of literary criticism Mr. Pentecost reproduces in his own person the “strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
The “Standard” excuses its high price on the ground that such a paper cannot be made for two dollars a year with less than a hundred thousand circulation. This is sheer humbug. A handsome profit can be made on that paper at two dollars a year with twenty thousand circulation.
“Today” finds fault with “My Uncle Benjamin’s” “brilliant disquisitions” because be now and then indulges in “gratuitous blasphemy.” Is “Today” about to become a theological orthodox organ? If not, the description of Benjamin’s comments on religious shams as “gratuitous blasphemy” is gratuitous hypocrisy and foolishness.
The editor of “Today” professes doubt as to the authorship of the first page of this paper. It is a matter that does not concern him. Nevertheless, I will explain that for all unsigned articles appearing in Liberty in editorial type but one man is responsible,— the editor. He has never had occasion to dodge his responsibility in this respect, which is more than can be said for the editor of “Today.”
“This government of ours,” said President Harrison at Nashville, “is a compact of the people to be governed by the majority.” This is not exactly true; but how much more enlightened is Benjamin Harrison than Edward Bellamy, who talks about this government being the rule of all! Harrison is not a philosopher or scholar, but he can teach the editor of the “New Nation” a great deal about the essence of democracy.
John Beverley Robinson has the following in the “Twentieth Century”: “Somebody asked whether animals, meaning thereby beasts, ought to be free. Tell him — Beasts ought to be free, whatever ought may imply: 1st, when beasts have sense enough to know what they want; 2d, when beasts have sense enough to want freedom; 3d, when beasts have sense enough to achieve freedom. So ought men. Not otherwise.” This is an admirable statement, both in style and substance. I am delighted with it
A labor paper with Greenback tendencies finds satisfaction in Spencer’s expressions on the subject of currency. “Herbert Spencer says” — thus runs the editorial note — “barbarians do not want any other kind of money but hard money; that semi-civilized people want hard money and convertible paper; but that when the world becomes civilized and enlightened no other kind of money will be used but paper money.” The editor has yet to learn that the paper money which Spencer favors is not the government and fiat money of the Greenbackers, but the money of free banks, which the editor doubtless regards with horror.
The Mutual Bank Propaganda of Chicago, “an association whose object is the establishment of an equitable monetary system as an essential factor in economic science,” has just been reorganized and has begun active work by reissuing two pamphlets written by its corresponding secretary, Alfred B. Westrup. These pamphlets are entitled “The Financial Problem” and “Citizens’ Money,” and are advertised on another page in the “Liberty’s Library” column. As I indicate in my answers in this issue of Liberty to the questions of the Propaganda, the teachings of the association are vitiated, in my opinion, by rank heresy regarding the matter of a standard of value; nevertheless in the main it tells the truth about money, and I am heartily glad to see evidence of its increasing activity and influence.
While justly censuring the centralized authority which is the essence of the scheme upon which the Topolobampo colony is founded, the Chicago “Unity” says nevertheless that, since we are privileged to stay away, “Mr. Owen’s plan is in this respect a great improvement on Nationalism, or other forms of State Socialism, which would oblige all citizens, though directly in opposition to their own convictions and wishes, to submit to the new despotism.” This is very true; but I wonder if “Unity” realizes that among these “other forms of State Socialism” which oblige all citizens to submit to their despotism in opposition to the citizens’ wishes, and to which therefore Mr. Owen’s plan, hideous as it is, is in this respect superior, is properly to be classed the existing United States government.
Every day I meet some new man who tells me that Anarchy is the ultimate, but that it is to be reached through Socialism. The Socialists are shrewd enough to encourage this folly, though they laugh in their sleeve as they do so. It is astonishing therefore that the usually cunning Powderly should be so honest and imprudent as to permit the utterance of the real truth about this matter in the editorial columns of the “Journal of the Knights of Labor.” “Oscar Wilde declares that Socialism will simply lead to individualism. That is like saying that the way from St. Louis to New York is through San Francisco, or that the sure way to whitewash a wall is to paint it black. The man who says that Socialism will fail and then the people will try individualism — i. e., Anarchy — may be mistaken; the man who thinks they are one and the same thing is simply a fool.”
The original patent of the Bell Telephone Company expires in March, 1893. “From personal tests in Boston,” says an expert in this matter, “I know they have practical instruments that are one hundred per cent, better than those in use now. They are keeping these instruments in reserve to meet the competition of the future. The Western Union Telegraph Company is doing the same thing.” A paper called the “Canal Dispatch,” commenting on this, indignantly complains that “some of the glorious and useful instruments of the nineteenth century are lying under lock and key as the fruit of ‘free competition.’” This indignation is righteous, but misdirected. It is not free competition that is keeping these improvements locked up, but that form of monopoly known as property in ideas. As the expert points out, as soon as the patent expires and competition arrives, the improvements will be brought to light.
In an excellent editorial article in the May “Arena” Mr. B. O. Flower discusses military Socialism and Nationalism and arrives at the conclusion that State Socialism is undesirable. Liberty takes pleasure in reprinting some extracts from the article, on another page. The only criticism to be made is upon the following sentence: “Socialism and philosophical Anarchism seem to presuppose an ideal civilization, or a commonwealth where the integral parts are truly civilized.” The presence here of the words, and philosophical Anarchism, is inexplicable and illogical, considering that Mr. Flower’s objection to Socialism is that it is impracticable in a society not truly civilized and wholly unnecessary in an ideal civilization. Is, then, philosophical Anarchism wholly unnecessary in an ideal civilization? Why, an ideal civilization is synonymous with Anarchism. On the other hand, do the philosophical Anarchists pretend that the present society is ripe for Anarchism? Do they not insist upon gradual reforms along the lines of individualism, upon the necessity of proceeding wisely and prudently and of beginning with the reforms most needed and practicable?
Mr. Wordsworth Donisthorpe has an unfavorable opinion of the jury system. In a controversy with Mr. J. C. Spence in the London “Herald of Anarchy” he says: “Mr. Spence is convinced that, if my dispute with the vestry about the library rate had been referred to a jury on its merits, they would have found a ‘unanimous verdict in my favor.’ For my part, I think there would have been about ten out of twelve against me, and, perhaps, two on my side. It is all a matter of guess.” Both Mr. Spence and Mr. Donisthorpe seem to forget that not only would a unanimous verdict in Mr. Donisthorpe’s favor not be needed in order to secure his liberty, but that two or even one out of the twelve would be sufficient to prevent him from being punished. If Mr. Donisthorpe is charged with an offence, the question of his guilt is decided by twelve men; but, unless the whole twelve agree that he is guilty, he is held to be not guilty. To be sure, in the event of a disagreement, a new trial may follow, but finally there must be unanimity against Mr. Donisthorpe, or else no penalty can be visited upon him. “Juries ‘hampered by law’ are bad enough,” continues Mr. Donisthorpe, “but juries ‘unhampered by law’ — that is, left without the guidance of generalizations from thousands of cases — would be unbearable.” But who proposes to take away the guidance of generalizations? No sane man that ever I heard of. Will not the lawyers be there to argue, and the judges to deliver their.impartial opinions as experts? All this guidance the jury should have, but it should not be imposed. Mr. Donisthorpe will find this subject profoundly and elaborately discussed in the pamphlet, “Free Political Institutions,” a copy of which I send to him. On behalf of the readers of Liberty, I urgently invite him to express his opinion of the work in these columns.
“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.
Spencer’s Defence of Liberty.
Nothing that Herbert Spencer writes can fail to be healthful, inspiring, and valuable. His “Introduction” to the “Plea for Liberty,” in which he describes the contrast between freedom and bondage, is no exception to the rule. Many of its vigorous and beautiful pages are perfectly satisfactory, are all that can be desired. Nevertheless, in a sense, this essay is a keen surprise, and, if not on account of the things which it contains, then on account of the things which it omits and rejects, it tends to arouse a feeling of perplexity and disappointment. Spencer’s sins are never very grave, are never sins of commission; but it must be confessed that he is not as heedful as he ought to be in guarding himself against sins of omission. In the present case, the principal cause for regret is that, in discussing social evils and in essaying to give a definite answer to the query, What is to be done? Spencer fails to mention some of the most important and urgent reforms properly and persistently kept in the foreground by those whose solution of the social problem coincides with his own.
Spencer begins by directing attention to the paradox that, “the more things improve, the louder become the exclamations about their badness.” After some illustrations from other spheres, the social problem is approached. “Any one,” says Spencer, “who can look back sixty years, when the amount of pauperism was far greater than now and beggars abundant, is struck by the comparative size and finish of the new houses occupied by operatives,— by the better dress of workmen, who wear broad cloth on Sundays, and that of servant girls, who vie with their mistresses,— by the higher standard of living which leads to a great demand for the best qualities of food by the working people: all results of the double change to higher wages and cheaper commodities, and a distribution of taxes which has relieved the lower classes at the expense of the upper classes. He is struck, too, by the contrast between the small space which popular welfare then occupied in public attention, and the large space it now occupies, with the result that outside and inside Parliament plans to benefit the millions form the leading topics, and every one having means is expected to join in some philanthropic effort. Yet while elevation, mental and physical, of the masses is going on far more rapidly than ever before,— while the lowering of the death-rate proves that the average life is less trying, there swells louder and louder the cry that the evils are so great that nothing short of a social revolution can cure them.”
Let no one infer from this that Spencer is at all disposed to deny or make light of the misery most men have to live and die in. It is not Spencer’s habit to ignore facts. “The fates of the great majority,” he testifies, “have ever been, and doubtless still are, so sad that it is painful to think of them. Unquestionably the existing type of social organization is one which none who care for their kind can contemplate with satisfaction; and unquestionably men’s activities accompanying this type are far from being admirable. The strong divisions of rank and the immense inequalities of means, are at variance with that ideal of human relations on which the sympathetic imagination likes to dwell; and the average conduct, under the pressure and excitement of social life as at present carried on, is in sundry respects repulsive. . . . . The system under which we at present live fosters dishonesty and lying. It prompts adulterations of countless kinds; it is answerable for the cheap imitations which eventually in many cases thrust the genuine articles out of the market; it leads to the use of short weights and false measures; it introduces bribery, which vitiates most trading relations, from those of the manufacturer and buyer down to those of the shopkeeper and servant; it encourages deception to such an extent that an assistant who cannot tell a falsehood with a good face is blamed; and often it gives the conscientious trader the choice between adopting the malpractices of his competitors or greatly injuring his creditors by bankruptcy. Moreover, the extensive frauds, common throughout the commercial world and daily exposed in law-courts and newspapers, are largely due to the pressure under which competition places the higher industrial classes; and are otherwise due to that lavish expenditure which, as implying success in the commercial struggle, brings honor. With these minor evils must be joined the major one, that the distribution achieved by the system gives to those who regulate and superintend, a share of the total produce which bears too large a ratio to the share it gives to the actual workers.”
If there are “friends of labor” who accuse Spencer of bourgeois optimism and indifference to the fate of the disinherited and defrauded toilers, the passage just quoted ought to disabuse their minds. The criticism which I think this passage warrants is of quite a different nature. Spencer speaks of the evils fostered by the present system as evils and vices of competition, which is neither correct nor fair. It is utterly inaccurate and misleading to speak of “our competitive system,” especially in connection with the evils which are due, not to freedom, but to the elements of monopoly and legal privilege found in our mixed system. As a writer in the “Personal Rights Journal” says: “This is a heavy indictment. But, in reply, we must be permitted to point out that it is somewhat unfair to lay all at the door of competition. Our present system is only half-free trade at best, and is heavily hampered at every point by excessive taxation, and restricted and hindered in a thousand arbitrary ways by officialism. The licensing and factory laws, in throwing so many trades into the hands of large capitalists, and in keeping down the healthy rivalry of outsiders, lead, on the one hand, to the abuse of power, and, on the other, to all those miserable shifts that always follow from oppression. Law-created monopoly ramifies through all life, and vitiates the morals of trade in almost every sphere of industry. In cases where this monopoly is little felt, the consumer gets both honest treatment and cheap and good articles, as in the case of the printing and publishing trades, for example. It is hardly fair to make free trade responsible for the evils of fettered trade, especially when it is discovered that trade improves as it becomes more free.”
This brings us to the fundamental mistake upon which Spencer’s essay is constructed. To him, the question appears to be one of relative evils,— “whether the evils at present suffered are or are not less than the evils which would be suffered under another system.” And all that he feels called upon to do is to prove that, imperfect as the present system is, it is infinitely superior to State Socialism. But this, though true and important, is not the weightiest and strongest part of the argument against State Socialism. Not only does not Spencer say all there is to be said, but he does not even select the surest weapons for the overthrow of his formidable foe. To most of the radical individualists the question is decidedly not one of relative evils in Spencer’s sense. They are not content with contrasting the evils of State Socialism and the evils of the present system: they discard and oppose Socialism from the higher and more sound position of consistent and logical individualism carried into practical operation. They point out, in addition to the liberties that we enjoy, those we might and should enjoy in obedience to real individualism. After defending the present system against the ignorant and wholesale condemnations and calumnies of the State Socialists, who perversely refuse to appreciate its beauties and advantages, they proceed to picture the present system perfected and improved in harmony with definite principles of unquestionable validity. They invite the Socialists to examine a system not merely superior to State Socialism, but better than the present. As Proudhon would say, they do not choose between the present, which is deplorable enough, and State Socialism, which is far more objectionable; they rise above the alternative and reconcile all by revealing the existence of a system combining the virtues of the present with the advantages of Socialism.
Spencer speaks of the system by which industry is carried on as one of voluntary coöperation. “This voluntary coöperation,” he says, “from its simplest to its most complex forms, has the common trait that those concerned work together by consent. There is no one to force terms or to force acceptance.” In a formal and superficial sense, this is true; but appearances are proverbially deceitful. Voluntary coöperation, generally speaking, is only possible under the fullest realization of the principle of equal liberty. If men, denied liberty and deprived of opportunity, find themselves under the necessity of “working together” with people on terms which they do not consider equitable, they can scarcely be said to be coöperating voluntarily. “It is perfectly true,” adds Spencer, “that in many cases an employer may give, or an employee may accept, with reluctance: circumstances he says compel him. But what are the circumstances? In the one case there are goods ordered, or a contract entered into, which he cannot supply or execute without yielding; and in the other case he submits to a wage less than he likes because otherwise he will have no money wherewith to procure food and warmth.” But are there no other circumstances which compel reluctant acceptance? Suppose the laborer is crippled and robbed of the opportunity to procure food and warmth in any other way than by accepting the employer’s terms? Or suppose the employer is compelled by legislation to submit to the demands of his workmen? Do not such “circumstances” make of “voluntary coöperation” a hollow mockery and a farce? Spencer will not deny that legislation has created such circumstances, and that the capitalists and the laborers, especially the laborers, have abundant ground for charging legislation with responsibility for involuntary coöperation. “The general formula,” sums up Spencer, “is not, ‘Do this, or I will make you’; but it is, I Do this, or leave your place and take the consequences.”’ This formula perhaps correctly enough expresses the actual relation between the employer and employee; but it leaves out the influence of the third party, the State, on both. A system is voluntary when it is voluntary all round, so to speak, not when certain transactions, regarded from certain points of view, appear voluntary. Are the circumstances which compel the laborer to accept unfair terms law-created, artificial, and subversive of equal liberty? That is the question, and an affirmative answer to it is tantamount to an admission that the present system is not voluntary in the true sense.
Near the end of his essay Spencer, u if conscious of the relative weakness of his argument, prudently says: “The present social state is transitional, as past social states have been transitional. There will, I hope and believe, come a future social state differing as much from the present as the present differs from the past. . . . . My opposition to Socialism results from the belief that it would stop the progress to such a higher state and bring back a lower state.” But Spencer has nothing to say upon the methods and ways in which we might hasten the coming of the new society, and he leaves the natural and vital question, What’s to be done? entirely open. I would not be understood as charging that he nowhere throws any light on this subject; but it is precisely because he has elsewhere discussed it amply and explicitly that I find it extraordinary that in this practical argument against Socialism he should have completely neglected it. “Nothing but the slow modification of human nature by the discipline of social life,” he affirms, “can produce permanently advantageous changes.” — “The root of all well-ordered social action is a sentiment of justice, which at once insists on personal freedom and is solicitous for the like freedom of others; and there at present exists but a very inadequate amount of this sentiment. Hence the need for further long continuance of a social discipline which requires each man to carry on his activities with due regard to the like claim of others to carry on their activities.” All of which is perfectly true; but it should be remembered that past and present legislation is responsible for our slow progress to a higher state and for those ingredients in the air and soil which prevent the growth of the sentiment of justice. “It is possible to remove causes which intensify the evils,” says Spencer. Well, what are these causes, and in what manner do they produce their deleterious effects? We are not introduced to them in this “Introduction,” from which one might conclude that, in Spencer’s view, nothing more need be done by the lover of his kind than oppose measures of avowed State Socialists and wait for the glorious time coming. This must be profoundly disappointing and unsatisfactory to true individualists, who realize the importance of carrying on a systematic fight against government and the urgency of alienating the territory it is securely in possession of. Established institutions must be fought at least as vigorously as theoretical proposals. Perhaps even it would be well to pay less attention to State Socialists and more to existing governments, less to would-be tyrants and more to actual exercise of tyranny, less to the dreams of the minority and more to the schemes of the majority. Perhaps when we have eradicated the objectionable elements in the present system, there will be nothing left of the cobwebs of State Socialism. The best way to conquer Socialism is to reform and improve the present system along the lines of logical individualism. V. Y.
Ten Questions Briefly Answered.
Liberty is asked by the Mutual Bank Propaganda of Chicago to answer the following questions, and takes pleasure in complying with the request.
“1. Does the prohibitory tax of ten per cent, imposed by Congress on any issue of paper money other than is issued by the U. S. Treasury limit the volume of money? If not, why not?”
“2. Whence did the State originally derive the ‘right’ to dictate what the people should use as money?”
From its power.
“3. If an association or community voluntarily agree to use a certain money of their own device to facilitate the exchange of products and avoid high rates of interest, has the State the right to prohibit such voluntary association for mutual advantage?”
Only the right of might.
“4. Do not restrictions as to what shall be used as money interfere with personal liberty?”
“5. Has the question of free trade in banking,— i. e., the absence of all interference on the part of the Stats with making and supplying money,— ever been a matter of public discussion?”
“6. What effect does the volume of money have upon the rate of interest?”
I suppose the intention is to ask what effect changes in the volume of money have upon the rate of interest. Not necessarily any; but any arbitrary limitation of the volume of money that tends to keep it below the demand also tends to raise the rate of interest.
“7. Can the business of banking and the supply of money be said to be under the operation of supply and demand where the State prohibits or restricts its issue, or dictates what shall be used as money?”
Inasmuch as they often are said to be so, they evidently can be said to be so, but whoever says them to be so lies.
“8. Is there such a thing as a measure or standard of value? If so, how is it constituted, and what is its function?”
There is such a thing as a measure or standard of value whenever we use anything as such. It is constituted such either by force or by agreement. Its function is implied in its name,— measure of value. Without the selection, deliberate or accidental, conscious or unconscious, of something as a standard of value, money is not only impossible, but unthinkable.
“9. What becomes of the “standard” or “measure” of value during suspensions of specie payment?”
Nothing. It remains what it was before. Certain parties have refused to pay their debts; that’s all.
“10. Are you in favor of free trade in banking, including the issue of paper money? If not, why not?”
No Monopoly of Symbols.
No subject is more important in the agitation for economic reform than that of money. The subject is so seldom seriously discussed that few are conscious of its importance. The fact is — and it has often been dwelt upon in Liberty — that the destruction of State interference in monetary matters would eliminate one of the most burdensome factors in industry, and bring into prominence other economic subjects requiring consideration.
Money is a commercial instrument whereby the exchange of products is facilitated,— as Jevons puts it, “it lubricates the action of exchange.” If by some process the “lubricator” is denied expansion to the point of industrial retirements, the owners of that which does exist are enabled to command a premium for its use. Whence it follows that the premium is high in proportion as the volume is small, and vice versa; and that, when the volume meets the requirements of industry, payment for its use cannot persist.
This view, however, is denied by many, who hold that the volume of money has no appreciable effect upon the price paid for its use; that, if the volume is increased, its purchasing power is decreased; in other words, the ratio of the aggregate purchasing power of money to the commodities in exchange remains unaffected.
Such an opinion plainly indicates a superficial understanding of the subject. If other commodities than gold and silver should suddenly be used as a basis for the further issue of money, the volume might be increased manifold without affecting the purchasing power of gold and silver certificates. All that is necessary is to have a real basis for these “substituted signs.”
An illustration can be made in language which will best serve to show the evil consequences following a disturbance between the volume of money and the products to be exchanged. Social intercourse is facilitated by the use of words, and man uses them with freedom. If by some process it became possible for some favored portion of society to control these symbols, the normal circulation of thought would become disturbed, and the world of thought would present the same congested phenomena that we periodically witness in the world of capital.
Governmental schemes of any kind are as impotent in this matter as they are in any other, and its representatives can do no better service to mankind than to annihilate themselves, leaving the inherent activity of society to work out its own salvation. Wm. Trinkaus.
In a letter to the London “Herald of Anarchy” Mr. J. Greevz Fisher asserts that “government does not, and never can, fix the value of gold or any other commodity,” and cannot even affect such value except by the slight additional demand which it creates as a consumer. It is true that government cannot fix the value of a commodity, because its influence is but one of several factors that combine to govern value. But its power to affect value is out of all proportion to the extent of its consumption. Government’s consumption of commodities is an almost infinitesimal influence upon value in comparison with its prohibitory power. One of the chief factors in the constitution of value is, as Mr. Fisher himself states, utility, and, as long as governments exist, utility is largely dependent upon their arbitrary decrees. When government prohibits the manufacture and sale of liquor, does it not thereby reduce the value of everything that is used in such manufacture and sale? If government were to allow theatrical performances on Sundays, would not the value of every building that contains a theatre rise? Have not we, here in America, just seen the McKinley bill change the value of nearly every article that the people use? If government were to decree that all plates shall be made of tin, would not the value of tin rise and the value of china fall? Unquestionably. Well, a precisely parallel thing occurs when government decrees that all money shall be made of or issued against gold or silver; these metals immediately take on an artificial, government-created value because of the new use which arbitrary power enables them to monopolize, and all other commodities, which are at the same time forbidden to be put to this use, correspondingly lose value. How absurd, then, in view of these indisputable facts, to assert that government can affect values only in the ratio of its consumption I And yet Mr. Fisher makes this assertion the starting-point of a lecture to the editor of the “Herald of Anarchy” delivered in that dogmatic, know-it-all style which only those are justified in assuming who can sustain their statements by facts and logic.
“There seems to be a difference of opinion,” says the editor of the “Labor Leader,” “between Joe Buchanan and Benjamin R. Tucker as to the quality of Annie Besant’s eloquence. The distinguished philosophical Anarchist ungallantly dubs it ‘stultiloquence,’ while Joe’s favorable opinion may be found in another column [of the “Labor Leader”]. A just estimate, we fancy, would be between these two extremes.” Mr. Foster failed to note that “Joe’s favorable opinion” is based entirely on Mrs. Besant’s three lectures on the labor question, none of which I heard, whereas I characterized as “stultiloquence” only her lecture on theosophy, which I did hear, much to my disgust. I believe that Mr. Foster would confirm my “extreme” estimate, if he too had heard the lecture. No one will deny that Mrs. Besant is a fluent and rather forceful orator of a certain type (a type not to my fancy, however); my attack was upon the substance of her lecture, not upon the manner in which it was delivered. It is much easier to agree with Mr. Buchanan in his estimate of her oratory, even if somewhat extravagant, than to endorse his statement that “her views of the social question are the same as they were two years ago.” Two years ago Mrs. Besant was an unqualified Socialist. Now, if the Boston papers correctly reported her lecture on “Dangers Menacing Society,” she thinks that Socialism can accomplish nothing unless the people first become theosophists. This last view is a square denial of the cardinal doctrine of Socialism that the nature of man can be changed only by changing social conditions.
Those who still remember Dyer D. Lum’s silly articles on “scabs” and labor organizations in the Chicago “Rights of Labor,” and his amazingly stupid and dishonest attempt to represent Spencer as condemning the “traitorous scabs” and approving the policy of organized labor “unconsciously” fighting for progress, will be highly amused to read the following extract from Spencer’s introduction- to the “Plea for Liberty”: “How far is this unselfishness now shown in the behavior of workingmen to one another? What shall we say to the rules limiting the numbers of new hands admitted into each trade, or to the rules which hinder ascent from inferior classes of workers to superior classes? . . . . With passive disregard of others’ claims goes active encroachment on them. ‘Be one of us or we will cut off your means of living,’ is the usual threat of each trades union to outsiders of the same trade. While their members insist on their own freedom to combine and fix the rates at which they will work (as they are perfectly justified in doing), the freedom of those who disagree with them is not only denied, but the assertion of it is treated as a crime. Individuals who maintain their rights to make their own contracts are vilified as ‘blacklegs’ and ‘traitors,’ and meet with violence which would be merciless were there no legal penalties and no police.” Poor Lum! He must either confess that he was guilty of an outrageous perversion of Spencer’s ideas, or else pretend that Spencer is an inconsistent and illogical “traitor.”
Prince Torlonia is the richest man in Italy, and he expects his grandson to be the richest man in the world. The father of the present prince has deposited in various banks the sum of twenty million dollars, the interest on which is to be capitalized until the prince shall have a grandson twenty-five years old, at which time this as yet potential personality will receive both principal and interest. As the eldest son of the prince is only twelve years old, probably thirty-three years at least will elapse before there will be a grandson of twenty-five. The sum will then have increased to one hundred and sixty millions. That is, if meantime the unexpected doesn’t happen. But these are times when the unexpected is very liable to happen. Suppose, for instance, the banking monopoly should be abolished in Italy. If Prince Torlonia’s grandson doesn’t want to hustle for a living, he will take my advice and conclude not to be born. For it would seem within his power to come to such a conclusion, since, according to Mrs. Besant, every man exists before he is conceived. Or does the doctrine of the reincarnation of the ego make birth as compulsory as death? In that case, the so-called Theosophic emancipation will be unable to save this incipient Croesus from becoming an industrious and useful citizen.
The “Dawn’s” reviewer recommends the “Plea for Liberty” “to every one,” which is very good of him, though his liberality is evidently due to his failure to comprehend the arguments of the writers. “It is a strange liberty that it supports,” says the innocent reviewer of the book; “a liberty to be ignorant — for the book opposes compulsory education; a liberty to oppress — for the book opposes factory legislation; a liberty to live in filth — for it opposes sanitary regulations; a liberty not to read — for the book even opposes free libraries.” — “If anybody has hesitated between Socialism and Individualism, this book ought to end that hesitation, unless one does not believe in compulsory education, free libraries, factory laws, and sanitary legislation.” The “unless” is charming in its revelation of remarkable artlessness and simplicity. “Socialism is Brotherhood; its result, liberty,” concludes the reviewer. But what are its methods and means? Tell us that, and we will be in a position to discuss the “results” with you.
The Functions of Money.
In the course of an elaborate article on Money, in which there is presented an outline of its history, the New York “Evening Post” brings under consideration the two elements into which its use is resolvable, namely, to be a standard of value and a medium of exchange, remarking: “These two offices are different from each other, and it is necessary to keep the distinction clear. By medium of exchange we mean something that we can pass from one person to another, that will be accepted as an equivalent for any kind of property. By standard of value we mean something that shall serve to measure the value of all other things — goods and services, lands, buildings, securities, annuities — that have economic value.” While this discrimination is instructive, some exception may be taken to the relevancy of the question which the “Evening Post” immediately puts in the following words: “Now, which of the two functions of money is the more important in the present posture of affairs in this country and in the commercial world,— the function of passing from hand to hand or the function of measuring values?” If the functions be inseparable, their relative importance is a subject rather of intellectual analysis than of practical bearing. If, on the other hand, they be separable, it is a question whether the thing which has one function and not the other should be defined as money. And if it were so defined, this would negative the original definition of money as to the two functions. The “Evening Post” presents the following argument as a conclusive answer to the question which it has proposed:
We have shown in a former article that only one-tenth of the business done through the banks of the United States is transacted with money (including in this term both metallic and paper money), and that nine-tenths is done by checks, drafts, etc. Of all the exchanges effected through banks ninety per cent, is effected without any money at all. The only function of money as regards this ninety per cent, is that of a measure of value. When we come to look at international trade — the trade between our own country and the rest of the world — we find the disproportion still greater. Our exports and imports last year amounted to $1,647,139,093, whereas our exports and imports of money amounted to only $30,217,833. All our exports and imports were rated in terms of money, and in gold money alone, the gold dollar being the unit of value by law as well as by commercial usage. The relative importance of the measure-of-value function and of the medium-of-exchange function in our foreign trade was therefore as fifty-five to one. It follows that the measure-of-value function is by far the more important of the two.
Admitting every fact stated, an entirely opposite answer can be given by taking a different criterion to determine importance. Not quantity, but indispensability might be considered as the test. It is manifest that a medium of exchange is absolutely necessary to all trade beyond barter. A standard of value is highly desirable, but perhaps this is as much as can be safely asserted on that question. There are still more important criticisms to be made upon the argument. International commerce practically takes every article of value as a standard in some degree, and this whole process of trade is conducted, avoiding the expense of barter, by means of bills of exchange. The bill of exchange, which is the medium of payment, thus does a work which the standard is not there in quantity to do. No such large commerce could be done without the medium. Is not this some evidence of importance? If in this trade the only function of money is that of a measure of value, the trade is so much the more indebted to that which is not called money, but which does the trade where in a legal sense there is no money — where gold even is simply a commodity. No banker will deny that international trade could be done on a basis of wheat if gold and silver did not exist, but in that case which would be the more important, the idea of taking wheat as a standard or the idea of the bill of exchange to avoid the actual payment of wheat at every turn? In this light the scientific mechanism for evidencing and assuring credit is established as of paramount importance. For the present the question of domestic commerce may rest with the observation that the “Post’s” language is well chosen when it says that only one-tenth of the “business” done “through the banks” of the United States is transacted with money. The “News” will take an early opportunity of showing what is the true significance of this statement, and how this significance differs from the implied inference of the “Post.”
The Survival of the Fittest.
[San Francisco Star.]
In northern zones the ranging bear
Protects himself with fat and hair.
Where the snow is deep and ice is stark,
And half the year is cold and dark,
He still survives a clime like that
By growing fur, by growing fat.
These traits, O Bear, which thou transmittest
Prove the survival of the fittest!
To polar regions waste and wan
Comes the encroaching race of man.
A puny, feeble little lubber —
He had no fur, he had no blubber.
The scornful bear sat down at ease
To see the stranger starve and freeze;
But lo! the stranger slew the bear,
And ate his fat and wore his hair!
These deeds, O Man, which thou transmittest,
Prove the survival of the fittest!
In modern times the millionaire
Protects himself as did the bear,
Where Poverty and Hunger are,
He counts his bullion by the car.
Where thousands suffer still he thrives,
And after death his will survives.
The wealth, O Croesus, thou transmittest,
Proves the survival of the fittest!
But lo! some people, old and funny,
Some men without a cent of money,
The simple, common Human Race,—
Chose to improve their dwelling place!
They had no use for millionaires;
They calmly said the world was theirs;
They were so wise — so strong — so many —
The millionaire? There wasn’t any!
These deeds, O Man, which thou committest,
Prove the survival of the fittest!
Charlotte Perkins Stetson.
Land and Ideas as Property.
In my previous articles on copyright I have shown that the objection urged by my opponents was not really an objection to property in ideas, but to property in certain ideas and in certain cases. I am now prepared to show that the objection is totally irrational and unsound, and that no believer in equal liberty can consistently seek to profit by it. The man who makes a discovery, it is argued, thereby prevents all other men from making the same discovery. “Because one man [as Spooner states the objection] happens to be the first inventor, is no reason why he should have an exclusive and perpetual property in a device or idea which would have been brought forth, before a very long time, by some other mind, if it had not been done by him.” Now, while Spooner meets this argument, he does so in a way which is not entirely satisfactory. I will first give his answer, and then amend and fortify it.
“Admitting,” he says, “for the sake of the argument, that B would have produced a certain idea, if A had not done it before him, the objection is of no more weight in the case of intellectual property than in the case of material property. If A had not taken possession of a certain tract of wild land and converted it into a farm, some one would have come after him and done it.” Indeed, the objection, if valid, destroys the Anarchistic position that occupancy and use constitute a perfect title to land. The man who settles on a piece of land thereby prevents all other men from settling on that piece of land. And since it is considered fair and just to recognize the first comer’s title and direct the others to unoccupied lands, it is clearly fair and just to recognize the first discoverer’s title to his idea and tell the other that he is at liberty to go and discover new ideas, the field being unlimited and “vacant.” Since the occupying owner is entitled, not merely to an arbitrary amount of wages for his labor in cultivating the land, but to the whole product yielded by his lot, how can it be fairly and logically claimed that an author is entitled only to “reasonable remuneration,” and not to the whole amount obtainable by exchange in the open market?
Spooner, to be sure, did not advocate occupying ownership as a title to land. In a certain sense, he defended land monopoly. It may, therefore, be argued that a true “vacant lander” cannot accept his view, but must hold that, as in the matter of land we only allow a man to appropriate as much as be needs for his own use and personally occupies, so in the matter of ideas we should only recognize the right of the author to appropriate as much of his wealth as he needs and can dispose of through exchange without restricting competition. Of course, practically this would result in depriving the author of every advantage save that which he might derive from studying his own book after its publication. His competitors can easily drive him out by underselling him, since they have only to cover the expenses of publication and earn average wages, while his price must include compensation for the capital and labor spent during the years of preparation and research and experimentation. But this consideration need not detain us, the vacant-lander professing anxiety to secure the author equitable remuneration for his labor in some way or other. Theoretically, the claim is that the author enjoys the same rights in his sphere that the occupying owner of land is secured in in his; and the claim, it must be confessed, is good. There is a flaw in the argument, however, and it is here: it is assumed, without inquiry and without reason, that the same natural obstacles and difficulties which, in the case of land, constrain us to rest satisfied with the occupying ownership plan as the nearest approximation to equal liberty possible, exert and operate in the realm of ideas and abstract truths, and necessitate the same compromises. But the truth is that there is absolutely no reason for applying the principle of occupying ownership to the sphere of ideas. In the ownership and control of ideas equal liberty neither requires nor countenances any restrictions. So infinite is the field of intellectual truth and research that the recognition of an author’s exclusive and perpetual property in his ideas and discoveries can in no wise tend to limit the opportunities of any other man. To quote Spooner again: “The first man having done the work, the second man has no need to do it, but is left free to perform some other labor, of which As will enjoy the fruits, in the same way that the first enjoys the fruits of his labor. Where, then, is the injustice?” Even if we assume, then, that an author or inventor does, by the mere fact of publishing his discovery or invention, actually deprive everybody of the liberty and opportunity to originate the same thing or device, we do not find that anybody has ground for complaining or protesting against recognizing the author’s title to absolute property in his discovery. “You cannot discover the same thing,” we may justly say to the objector, “but the field is unlimited and you can still enrich yourself and us by other discoveries. Go, dig, the mine is inexhaustible, and you have ho excuse whatever for attempting to share the benefits of my discovery against my will. There is work enough and room enough for all of us.”
Inasmuch as I have been reproached for my (alleged) habit of “reiterating arguments upon paper with the greatest possible frequency and volume,” presumably to the injury and disgust of those patient sufferers whose space I abuse, I refrain here from elaborating and elucidating this new important point. Unless the champions of communism in ideas hasten to refute this argument, I shall consider the case in favor of property in the produce of the brain as firmly and triumphantly established as the case in favor of so-called “material” property. V. Y.
A New Argument against Copyright.
To the Editor of Liberty:
What is an “idea”? Is it made of wood, or iron, or stone? Possibly of paper? Is it animate or inanimate? Animal, vegetable, or mineral?
Do you see what I am trying to get at? An idea is nothing objective. It is neither produced nor discovered; neither a product of industry, nor unclaimed land, nor a fera naturæ.
Ambiguously as the word bas been used, both by metaphysicians and in common talk, every shade of meaning given to it has been but a variation upon one fundamental sense; that an idea is, after some fashion, an intellectual process.
That is to say, the idea is not any part of the product; it is a part of the producer, or, if you will, a part of the labor of producing.
Ideas are not — cannot be — produced. They “grow.” Given heredity, education, circumstances, and the rest of the environment, and that the man’s ideas will be so and so, whether he builds, or talks, or writes, is determined.
Moreover, there is no reason why we should confine the word “idea” to a mental process so striking in size or quality as to seem to us out of the common. Every act springs from some corresponding idea.
The copyist expresses ideas as truly as does the author. Ideas of arrangement, ideas of appropriate text, script, or engrossing hand; all the ideas which mark the grades of excellence in copyists.
Each one, having used as much thought as the work in hand requires, be it steam-engine-construction or philosophy-writing, has also used a complementary amount of physical exertion; and as a result of his labor he possesses his engine or his manuscript.
Either one he may now destroy, or conceal, or sell.
If he sells, the value is determined for the purchaser largely by the amount of advantageous novelty contained, or, as we metaphorically call it, by the “idea” embodied in it. But the “idea” is not any more the thing sold in the case of a book than it is in the case of a horse-shoe.
In either case the man who has the best “ideas” produces the best work, and every labor product, in that sense, embodies the ideas of the producer, just as it embodies his physical exertion.
The idea is the intellectual exertion made in producing, and, as such, is a part of the body of the producer. The working of the mind cannot be sold; only the material of nature, transformed by labor, whether mental or physical, can be dealt in commercially.
Consequently the “ideas,” the mental processes, like the physical processes, of each one are his own to use as he pleases. If he uses them to labor, the product of his labor is still his.
It is vain to talk of protecting property in ideas as far as he in whom the ideas originate is concerned. He holds his ideas by the same title that he holds his body, wherever chattel slavery is not admitted.
The only legitimate use of ideas is to produce something desirable and therefore exchangeable, be it song, speech, plough, or book. After the product has been exchanged, the producer has nothing more to do with it.
What is really sought by patent and copyright laws is indicated in the very word “copyright.” Not to protect ideas, but to confer the privilege of copying a material product.
It is not in the interest of the poor devils, the author and inventor, but in that of the capitalist and publisher, that they are enacted.
They seek to erect another species of legal property, necessarily and avowedly involving monopoly, ostensibly in the interest of the producer, really in that of the investor and exploiter.
As for the compensation of authors, why should they not be able to get as good compensation for the out-and-ont sale of their labor as anybody else can? When liberty to labor exists, there is no doubt that they will be able.
Nor need the publishers fear liberty.
It is only the excessive pressure of the present slavery that makes it worth anybody’s while to shove worthless, copyrighted books, at a venture, upon an overstocked market.
When we can all of us freely satisfy our desires for books, It will be quite as much as publishers can do to keep up with the demand for new authors, without troubling themselves to run competitors out of the trade.
John Beverley Robinson.
67 Liberty St., New York, April 23, 1891.
Little Blanche, lifting her eyes from her History of France. — “Mamma, Abélard was a great philosopher, wasn’t he?”
The Mother. — “I hope so, for his sake, my child.”
Nationalism: Its Fallacies and Dangers.
[B. O. Flower in the Arena.]
Let us inquire whether the great social evil of the present time, the distorted condition which confronts us, is, as our Socialistic friends would have us believe, chiefly the result of that liberty which has made us in many respects the greatest nation in the world. I think not. If you will subtract from our millionaire aristocracy all the wealth that has accrued from class or protective laws, or from special privileges and land monopoly, you will find how great a part the law-making bodies of our government have had in fostering wealth and producing poverty which today flourishes beneath the shadows of the same spires. Of late it has been popular to saddle upon individualism many burdens which have arisen in whole or in part from governmentalism. To such an extent has this been carried that thousands of people have grown to distrust liberty and place a wholly fictitious value on the very government which has been largely responsible for the evils now calling so loudly for redress.
The lack of faith which the Socialists entertain for the individual is made up In their blind adoration of an all-powerful government, to be composed of these very same individuals. This position appears to me as amazing as it is illogical. If shrewd, unscrupulous, and designing men now so manipulate elections and law-making bodies as to defeat the ends of justice, would the condition of the blind Goddess be bettered by delegating supreme power to a government composed of the same individuals? The object of Socialism is most worthy, but its weakness lies in the fact that it grounds its faith, not in liberty, but in governmentalism, something which during the past and at the present time has exhibited a spirit of tyranny commensurate with the power delegated to it. . . . Many people appear to imagine that tyranny is confined to monarchies, when, as a matter of fact, the most hopeless oppression frequently blossoms forth in republics,, most hopeless because an individual ruler or despot can be removed far more easily than we can overcome the inherited prejudices of a people who have been inflamed by adroit or designing priests, politicians, or representatives of conventional and popular thought. People endure injustices and wrongs from a government which they would not tolerate from an individual. The all-important point which is so often lost sight of in discussion is the fact that it is not a regenerated or an ideal society with which Socialism proposes to deal, but with our own people substantially as we find them at the present time, with their inherited and acquired wickedness, avarice, cunning, intolerance, bigotry, and prejudice. If it was with a society in which the spirit of fraternalism predominated, the Edenic state which Socialism hopes to inaugurate would be present without any governmental compulsion. As a matter of fact, however, it is with our society as we find it today (and which we are frankly informed is controlled by the shrewd, designing, and unscrupulous, who with craft and demagogy delude the masses, or with trickery manipulate laws to further their own ends) that Nationalism must deal in the event of its success, and this being the case, the question naturally arises, what transformation is to take place by which these all-powerful spirits are to be metamorphosed into guileless lambs? What would hinder this same element of craft from soon gaining ascendency over the masses under Nationalism, by appealing to the selfish interests of the voters and supplanting high-minded officials? What means can Socialism invoke which cannot be brought about without a surrender of individualism to this mysterious something called Government, and which has through all ages, as well as at the present time, worked mischief and misery in proportion as despotic power has been delegated to it? Surely, if craft rules and often oppresses now, as Socialists would have us believe, it would be none the less impossible for the same spirit to rule then; indeed, are we not justified in presuming that the evil would be many times greater, for resistance to a tyranny which would be all-powerful, as the government outlined by those who favor military Socialism, would be even more hopeless than resistance to the police power of Russia, which is one of the most striking illustrations of an autocratic political machine in the world.
Humanity seems determined to ignore the great truth which every age has emphasized,— that those scorned and hated by the masses today for their thought are the prophets of tomorrow. Slain in one age, they have monuments to their virtue and worth erected by a succeeding generation. The majority of the world’s most valuable truths, as Dumas has observed, “were in their infancy looked upon as idle dreams” or as poisonous errors which should be stamped out. The vanguard of the ages have always been in the minority. If popular thought or conservatism bad given to the world a tithe of the wealth in scientific discovery, in invention, or in ethics that has come from the despised dreamers, the iconoclasts, and the prophets, Socialism, which looks toward surrendering human liberty or the freedom of the individual to the State, would appear less tragic. It is a terrible thing to hamper the thought, fetter the brain, or check the honest utterances of anyone; but when this wrong carries with it the power of conservatism to say to progress, “Thus far shalt thou go and no further,” the crime becomes colossal.
The censorship of the press, the drama, and the rostrum, or the government control of these great voices of truth, which logically form a part of a paternal government, Such as would be exhibited under Nationalism or military Socialism, means an embargo on independent thought and healthful liberty outside of orthodox or conservative lines.
In the sunlight of liberty I see a growing world. In the radiance of her smile man triumphs over error and superstition. But in the shadow of Paternalism, progress has ever withered, science has been a fugitive, and the vanguard of civilization have suffered ignominious death. No lesson is more impressively taught by the ages than that science, progress, and human unfoldment move in the wake of liberty. I have no faith in any theory of government that distrusts human freedom. I believe that no enduring progress or true civilization can be builded on other foundation than liberty and justice.
“Uncle Benjamin” and “Valmond.”
To the Editor of Liberty:
I have read “My Uncle Benjamin” three times and “Valmond the Crank” twice; therefore I think that I know something about each book. I have an abiding conviction that the former is a book well worthy of the consideration and study of progressive thinkers. M. Tilller, the author, seems to have possessed the faculty of getting near the essence of society’s shams in a marked degree. He is very happy in showing up the foolishness of catering to public opinion in what are popularly supposed to be affairs of honor. Then again he proceeds to show of whom this public consists,— viz., grocers who deal in false measurements and weights, wives with lovers, etc. The points made with regard to the vanity of parents in selecting husbands for their daughters are sound. I have let a number of my friends read my copy, who aim to keep abreast of the times in the world of economic thought. They have invariably pronounced it the best novel that they had read for a long time. The greater part concluded that the author was at his best when criticising the hypocrisy of the medical fraternity.
Regarding “Valmond the Crank,” I believe that there are no degrees of comparison between “My Uncle Benjamin” and it.
The wind-up of the “harum scarum” tale comparing society to a structure and contending that reformers destroy and do not construct is bosh. Just as if it were possible for human beings to erect a social organism, which is a growth, as they would a structure! What is Mr. Pentecost thinking of in giving that book so much push and puff? Byron Millett.
Beauties of Government.
[Clippings from the Press.]
Paris, May 3. The details of the labor troubles at Fourmies immensely heightened the political importance of the incident. The fact that six women, several children, and eight men were killed on the spot, while twenty were seriously wounded, several fatally, gives the affair the character of a massacre. The soldiers were merely exposed to stonethrowing, but they replied with successive volleys from their new Lebel rifles, inflicting frightful wounds on their victims. The houses exposed to the fire were riddled, and there is every sign that reckless and wanton inhumanity was shown by the troops.
Bangor, Me., May 3. The new amendment to the prohibitory law of Maine, providing that the penalty shall be a heavy fine and imprisonment for sixty days in cases of single sale and searches seizure, went into effect today. Formerly the law did not make imprisonment obligatory.
Savannah, Ga., May 3. Prof. Schultz, of this city, or, as he is now better known, Prof. Von der Hoya, and Dr. Lewis Von der Hoya, of Atlanta, are in trouble with the United States government, which has seized twenty thousand dollars’ worth of violins, which, it is claimed, were smuggled by them into this country. The duty on violins is twenty-five per cent. Acting under advices from Washington, the officials here yesterday seized over fifty violins, and inspectors are now busily engaged in searching for others. Among the instruments seized is a bass violin of magnificent tone, valued at three thousand dollars. It is said to be the only one of its kind in this country. The violins, it is stated by the government officers, were brought in as household effects and tools of trade. They believed they were mainly concealed in packing cases containing drawers, in which were presumably nothing but bed clothing and other household articles.
St. Petersburg, May 3. The funeral yesterday of Scholgunow, the Russian political economist, was made the occasion of a great demonstration. The students of both sexes marched through the main thoroughfares in defiance of the prohibitory police order. The police afterward arrested a large number of the students, and several were dismissed from the school and expelled from this city.
Berlin, May 9. The lower house of the Prussian Diet today voted 165,000 marks for Prof. Koch’s institute.
Prof. Virchow opposed the grant and denounced Kochism, claiming that It had proved a failure. He warned the doo-tors who were using the lymph that they ran a great risk if they persisted in treating their patients with the alleged remedy.
If there is one occupation that governments have been concerned with more than another it is fighting,— or getting ready to fight. It may be presumed if a government does not succeed very well in looking after the military affairs of the people that it will make a still greater failure in looking after other affairs; because it is admitted on all hands that the military duties of the government are the most important. So it is not unprofitable every now and then to take a glance at the way the military duty is discharged.
One night, a few weeks ago, the moon was slightly obscured off the Rhode Island coast, when, by a most unprecedented and unaccountable coincidence, a part of the United States Navy came along that way. The part of the navy thus committed to the mercy of the waves consisted of the “Galena,” tonnage not stated, armament uncertain, in tow of the Government tug “Nina.” The commander of the “Galena” set the course, and the captain of the tug tried to steer it. In the light of subsequent disclosures, it appears that the commander of the “Galena” believed that, instead of navigating the best-known waters of the North American coast, he bad been sent to explore some unfrequented African shoals. Leastwise, after the wreck,— I presume a wreck will be taken for granted,— seeing that a ship in command of a United States officer was out overnight,— after the wreck, the captain spoke in glowing terms of the friendliness of the “natives”; so he had apparently been haunted by fears of cannibalism. Well, the “Galena” went aground off Gay Head, and about the same time the tug took up permanent quarters on a rock near by. The next night another Government tug set out from New Bedford to the rescue. The run from New Bedford to the scene of the wreck must be some seventeen or eighteen miles — perhaps twenty.
The second tug went ashore on a beach, five miles from the berths occupied by the “Galena” and the “Nina.” So far, so good: nothing else was to be expected when ships are cast adrift in that reckless manner, with nobody but naval officers aboard. But now those incredible dunces at Washington, who knew no better than to let the “Galena” put to sea in March, and after dark, have proceeded to hold an investigation into the causes of the wreck! A court of inquiry (they call it) has already been held, and it has recommended that a court-martial be summoned to try the commander of the “Galena”! Beautiful simplicity that! No circumlocution there. Whom, in the name of Neptune, did the Secretary of the Navy expect to try,— the ship’s cook or the cabin boy,— that he should need a preliminary court to tell him where the blame lay? Or, if he must have a “court of inquiry,” why not a commission to tell him whether or not to order the inquiry at all, and a preliminary committee to tell him whether to appoint the commission in the first place, etc., etc.? But no; a court of inquiry,— three weeks; a court-martial,— three years. And all for why? Simply because the bottom of the ocean about Vineyard Sound is too near the top. That happens in several parts of the sea, especially near continents, islands, etc.
The boatswain’s mate of a West India merchant can tell them as much; and yet the Secretary of the Navy, not content with casting away three vessels in two nights, must needs spend a hundred thousand dollars “investigating” the causes. But it is plain as day to any disinterested party that the water off Gay Head is not deep enough for the “Galena” to come up within ten fathoms of the shore. If the Secretary believes that it is, let him hire a fisherman to put off in a dory and take the soundings for him. That will cost ten or twelve dollars. Everybody else in North America already knows those soundings, and then the navy will know them. True, the man at the “Galena’s” lead called out six fathoms till after the bottom of the sea came up and struck the ship starboard on. But that is neither here nor there. If the commander, as afterwards appeared, thought he was exploring the coast of Africa, what more natural than for the leadsman to think he had entered the Suez Canal, where the soundings were very even all the way through, thanks to M. Lesseps? Now he sounded six fathoms, and the “Galena’s” keel sounded fifteen feet; and yet the Secretary of the Navy must go and spend another hundred thousand dollars taking that sounding again. Meanwhile, the commander himself has already explained the whole situation. He set the course, but the captain of the tug insisted upon allowing a point too much for the deviation of his compass. There is one thing to be thankful for, after all, even if captains will make a mistake of a point or two in magnetic deviation: by placing half the navy in the Pacific Ocean and the other half in the Atlantic, they can be kept from colliding with each other — until the Panama Canal is completed.
Rochefort Proposes a New Tax.
It is very curious; since the deputies gave their word of honor that they would vote no new tax, they have done nothing but look for articles susceptible of taxation. They have found wine, bread, alcohol, moxas, and cataplasms. But flax-seed not yielding enough, they are racking their brains to discover something else.
Tomorrow some deputy-saviour will triumphally mount the tribune to propose a tax on cups of coffee, bathing-trunks, and corns.
Meanwhile we remark that all the new taxes which they try to establish strike the prolétaire, but never the grand dignitary, the office-holder, the deputy, or the senator. Why, then, have these men, so deeply desirous of balancing our unfortunate budget which is constantly losing its balance, not yet thought of imposing a tax upon their own votes? If every time they ballot, these budget-eaters were obliged to pay two cents for the piece of blue or white pasteboard which they deposit in the urn, in the first place the State would have a pretty sum in its treasury at the end of the session, and in the second place they would be a little more careful to avoid the multiplication of their ballots, five or six of which are sometimes found bearing the same name. But there is no danger that our representatives will adopt this fiscal resource.
How a Peasant Fed Two Generals.
[Translated from the Russian of Stchedrine, through the German, by Sarah E. Holmes.]
There were once two generals, and being, both of them, gay and reckless, it chanced that they found themselves suddenly on a desert island, as if by the magic wand of a fairy queen.
They had spent their whole lives in a register-office, had been born, educated, and had grown old in that life, and bad not the slightest idea of anything else in the world. They were also entirely unfamiliar with any other words than these: “Accept the assurance of my most profound esteem and devotion.”
As the register-office was at last abolished and the generals no longer needed, they were given their liberty, and, as they were already a. D., they both settled in the Podiatscheskaia in St. Petersburg; each had his own quarters and his own servant, and each received a pension. When they suddenly found themselves on a desert island, they awoke to find only a coverlet over each. At first, not realizing in the least the sudden change in their lives, they began to talk together as if nothing had happened.
“What a strange dream I had last night, Your Excellency,” said one general to the other; “it was as if I were on a desert island. . . .”
He had hardly uttered these words when he jumped to his feet. The other general did so at the same moment.
“My God, what is this? Where are we?” they both cried in amazement.
They felt of each other to assure themselves that they were not still dreaming, that it was all reality, this strange thing that had happened. But although each tried to assure the other that it was only a dream, they were forced at last to admit the sad truth.
Before them lay the ocean and behind them a small spot of earth which was likewise surrounded by the boundless expanse of water. They began to weep,— for the first time since the register-office had been closed.
As each contemplated the other, they saw that they bad only their night-shirts for wearing apparel, and that from the neck of each hung a badge of honor.
“Of course we must have our coffee now,” one general observed; but, as he again realized what had happened to him, he began to weep afresh.
“What shall we do!” he exclaimed, through his tears; “we might report this case, but how would that help us?”
“Your Excellency,” answered the other general, “you walk toward the east and I will walk toward the west; towards evening we shall meet here again, and perhaps we shall find something.” But then they wished to know where east and west were; and they remembered that their superior had once said to them; “When you want to find the east, turn your face to the north and you will find what you seek on your right hand.” But when they tried to find the north, they turned to the right and to the left and looked on all sides quite in vain, although they had spent all their lives in a register-office.
“I think, general, you go to the right and I go to the left!” said the one, who had served not only in the register-office, but in the military school as a teacher of caligraphy, and was therefore a little wiser than the other.
So they started. One general went to the right; he saw trees laden heavily with fruit. He would have liked an apple, but they hung so high that one must climb the tree. He tried, but in vain; he only tore his shirt. Then be came to a brook that was full of fishes.
“O, if we only had these fish in the Podiatschesky, how fine that would be!” thought the general, and his month watered.
Then he came to a forest, and saw hazel-hens, heath-pouts, and bares.
“My God! how good they would taste!” he cried, and his hunger increased every moment.
But it was all of no use, he was forced to return empty-handed to the place of meeting. There be found the other general waiting.
“Well, Your Excellency, how is it, have you found anything?”
“Only an old number of a Moscow newspaper, nothing else.”
The two generals lay down again to sleep, but their empty stomachs made sleep impossible. Sometimes they wondered who would receive their pension, and again the thought of the fruit, fish, hazel-hens, heath-pouts, and hares kept them awake.
“Who would ever have imagined, Your Excellency, that the nourishment of human beings in its original form really flew, swam, or grew upon trees!” said the one general.
“It is surely so;” answered the other general, “but I must confess that I have always imagined that even the rolls which they bring us with the coffee every morning came into the world all made and ready for breakfast.”
“And it follows that, if a man wishes to eat a partridge, he must first catch it, kill it, pick it, and roast it. But how can one do all that?”
“Yes, how is one to do all that?” answered the other general.
They were silent and tried once more to go to sleep. But hunger drove sleep away. Before their eyes hovered partridges, ducks, and pigs, all delicately browned and garnished with cucumbers, capers, and pickles.
“I believe I could at this moment eat my own shoes,” said one of them.
“Gloves would not be bad, especially if they had been worn till they were quite soft!” sighed the other.
Then the two generals stared fixedly at each other; in their eyes gleamed an ominous fire, their teeth chattered, and deep groans came from their breasts. Slowly they crawled toward each other and fell into a fearful rage. There arose a scream and a wail, the rags flew about, and the general who had been a teacher of caligraphy bit off the badge of the other general and devoured it. The sight of blood brought him back to his senses.
“God save us!” both cried at once, “it is to be hoped we shall not eat each other. . . . How could we have come to this I What evil genius could have been amusing himself with us?”
“We must try to entertain ourselves somehow, to pass away the time, and save ourselves from murder!” said the one.
“You begin,” answered the other.
“Can you explain to me how it comes that the sun first rises and then sets? Why is it not just the opposite?”
“You are a strange man, Your Excellency; you also rise first, and then go to your office to work, and at night lie down to sleep.”
“Why can’t one take it the other way? First one goes to bed, sees all kinds of visions in his dreams, and then rises?”
“Well, yes, of course. . . But when I was an officer, I always thought about it this way. Now it is morning, next it will be daytime, and last comes supper — then it Is time to go to bed!”
But at the thought of supper, both generals grew so heavy-hearted that the conversation flagged.
“A physician once told me that a man could live a long time from his own juices,” began the one, again.
“How could that be?”
“It is quite simple; his own juices generate new ones, and these again others, and so it goes on until at last all the juices are wasted away.”
“And what happens then?”
“Then one must take nourishment again.”
Whatever subject their conversation started upon, it always came back to that of eating and only increased their hunger. They decided to drop all attempts at talking, and, both remembering the Moscow newspaper which had been found, they fell eagerly to reading.
“At the residence of our most worthy chief a great dinner was given yesterday. The table was set for one hundred persons, and the luxury of the repast surpassed even the highest expectations. The remotest provinces contributed to this meal their costliest gifts, the golden sturgeons from the Scheksna and the silvery pheasants from the Caucasian forests making rendezvous here with the strawberries be rarely seen in this degree of latitude in winter. . . .”
“The devil! . . . For God’s sake, stop, Your Excellency! Couldn’t you find some other subject?” cried the other general in despair. He snatched the paper from his comrade’s hand and read the following;
“From Tula we hear that a sturgeon was caught in the Upa yesterday (an incident unheard of by even the oldest inhabitants, and which is the more curious on account of the striking resemblance this sturgeon bore to the captain of police in that district). The club improved this opportunity to prepare a grand meal. The originator of the feast was served on a large wooden platter, surrounded by pickles and holding a bunch of parsley in its month. Doctor P., who did the honors, saw that each one present had his share. The sauces were unusually Varied and delicate. . . . .”
“Permit me to remark, Your Excellency, that you also seem to select your news items without due care,” interrupted the other general, taking possession of the paper and reading:
“One of the oldest inhabitants of Wiatka has discovered a new and original manner of making fish soup. One takes a living Trüsche (Lota vulgaris), strikes it with a rod until the liver distends with rage. . . .”
The two generals hung their heads; whichever way they looked they were reminded only of eating. Even their own thoughts had become so demoralized that their best efforts to meditate upon something besides beefsteaks and their accompaniments proved ever fruitless.
At last the general who had been a teacher of caligraphy had an inspiration; he cried out joyfully:
“Your Excellency, what would you say to our finding a peasant?”
“A peasant, Your Excellency? What kind of one?”
“O, an ordinary peasant! Just such a peasant as they all are. He would make us rolls and could also catch partridges and fish for us!”
“Yes, a peasant. . . . But where can we find him, since there are no peasants here?”
“How can there be none here? Peasants are everywhere; one has only to look around. He has certainly hid himself somewhere, because he didn’t want to work!”
This thought encouraged the generals so much that they both immediately sprang to their feet to set out in search of a peasant.
For a long time they wandered about without success, until at length a strong odor of black bread and sheep-skin-fur put them on the right track. Under a tree, his head on his arm, lay a giant-like peasant, asleep. It seemed as if he had insolently forgotten that it was his duty to work. The indignation of the generals knew no bounds.
“What, you go to sleep here? You lazy fellow!” they screamed at him. “What, it doesn’t concern you at all that here are two generals almost dead with hunger? March, forward, work!”
The peasant stood up and stared at these severe generals. His first thought was — to take flight; but the generals held him fast.
He must resign himself to his fate, must work.
So he climbed into a tree and picked for the two generals twenty of the finest apples; for himself he kept only a sour one. Then he digged in the ground and brought out potatoes; with two small pieces of wood, which he rubbed together, he made a fire. Then he made a net out of his own hair, and in this caught a partridge. And at last he made a great fire over which he prepared such a variety of good things to eat that the generals began to wonder if they even ought not to offer some of them to this loafer.
Watching all this hard work of the peasant, the generals became very light-hearted; and, quite forgetting that yesterday they had almost died of hunger, they thought only: how fine it is to be a general; a general always comes out all right!
“Are you quite satisfied, worthy generals?” asked the lazy peasant.
“Certainly, my little friend, we recognize your efforts,” answered the generals.
“Then you will perhaps permit me to rest a little?”
“Yes, rest a while, little friend, but first make us a strong cord.”
Then they began to tell the peasant that he ought to get them to the Podiatschesky. And, strangely enough — the peasant knew even where the Podiatschesky was — : he had drank beer there, but — as they say in the fairy tales — it had run along his moustache, but unfortunately not into his mouth.
Then the generals were delighted and said: “We are generals from the Podiatschesky!”
“And I am a — you know? — one of those who sit on a scaffolding with a brush; one of those who crawl about over the walls like flies; I am such a one!” answered the peasant.
And now this peasant set himself to work planning how to secure a great happiness for his generals, who were so gracious to this loafer and never scorned his labor. And he succeeded in making a ship; it was not exactly a ship, but a boat in which one could cross the water and reach the Podiatschesky.
“Take care, you rascal, that you don’t drown us!” said the generals as they saw this queer craft rocking on the waves.
“Don’t be afraid, my worthy generals, we are used to this thing!” said the peasant, and made everything ready.
He found some soft swan’s-down and made a bed for both generals; then he crossed himself and rowed away. How frightened the two generals were on the voyage, how they suffered from storm and tempest, how they scolded the rough peasant for his laziness, can neither be told nor written. But the peasant still rowed on and nourished his generals with herring.
At last they saw the little mother Neva, and soon they were in the beautiful Catherine canal; there is also the great Podiatschesky! When the cooks saw their generals return so gay and plump and well-fed, their delight was unbounded. The generals drank coffee and ate rolls; then they put on their uniforms and were driven to the office; how much money they collected there can neither be told nor written.
But the peasant was not forgotten; the generals sent him a little glass of brandy and five kopecks. Now, peasant, be glad and merry!
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.