“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.
During the last six weeks many complaints have reached me from subscribers regarding the non-arrival or late arrival of Liberty. These unfortunate people should remember that the Post Office is very busy just now. Republican campaign documents must have a show. Can John Wanamaker be expected to deliver a paper which aims to deprive him of his office when there is an opportunity to circulate tons of literature written to keep him in office? But let my readers take courage, for the campaign is over. Until another begins, a more prompt postal service may be looked for.
R. W. Raymond, in his excellent defence of the wage system reprinted in another column, makes individual liberty and responsibility the backbone of social structure, which, like the vertebrate type of physical structure, cannot be improved upon by evolution. I agree. But when he makes State guardianship of liberty also a permanent factor in the social organism, he goes too far. It seems to me distinctly an evolutionary conception that liberty and responsibility, with the advance of time, will stand less and less in need of guarantee and guard, to the point of finally dispensing with them, and that then Man’s Backbone will be stiffer than ever. It is Anarchism, not Mr. Raymond’s Individualism, that is evolution-proof.
A Fatal Admission, If Allowed.
The following article appears in the November number of the “Engineering Magazine” over the signature, “A Consistent Libertarian,” in comment upon an article by Prof. N. S. Shaler that had appeared in the October number combatting the State licensing of professional men but making an exception in the case of doctors:
There is no surer way to make the human race a tribe of fools than to protect it from the consequences of folly. Such, in brief, is the attitude taken by Professor N. S. Shaler in the “Engineering Magazine” toward the legal regulation of the professions; and with the general considerations which he adduces in support of this position no man can be more in sympathy than I. But in his exception of the doctors from his general rule, I fear he has given the architects and many other professional men a chance to claim the shelter of legal privilege. It is necessary therefore to point out the weakness of his reasons for according special favor to the medical men.
“The man,” he says, “who is taken suddenly ill or who has met with an injury is not in a position to form judgment based on reasonable inquiry as to the professional education of this medical man from whom he seeks help.”
I answer that, if such accident befalls a man at his home, or so near his home that he can at once be taken there, his family will send for that physician whom he, when sound in mind and body, determined, after reasonable inquiry, to employ in such an emergency. A man, when sick, is entitled to the benefit of the judgment which he formed when well. To deprive him of it is not only to interfere with his liberty, but to take a cruel advantage of his helplessness. If, however, the supposed accident befalls him at a distance from home and friends, and his condition is such as to prevent him from deciding for himself, there is nothing to hinder the selection, by the authorities or others taking him in charge, of a physician possessing a diploma from the faculty of a high-class medical college, which ought to be rather more reliable than the certificate of a State board of examiners probably owing their positions to their views of the tariff question or some other problem even leas closely related to the practice of medicine. There is nothing, then, in the suddenness or other peculiar circumstances of this hypothetical patient’s illness, to justify, much less necessitate, even in his own behalf, a denial of the liberty of healing. But even if one exceptional patient were placed in greater danger by the absence of a system of State licensing, must we, to protect him, abridge the liberty of a hundred ordinary patients? For my own part, the little confidence that I have in medical science in its present state is reposed in the Allopathic representatives thereof, but I cannot see that the remote liability to which I am exposed of being treated by a clairvoyant if taken suddenly ill among Spiritualists should deprive Alfred Russell Wallace, an eminent man of science, who, as a Spiritualist, possibly believes in the clairvoyant physician, of the right to summon the unlicensed doctor of his choice when he falls ill.
But, urges Professor Shaler, the sick or injured man, by his error of judgment, endangers not only his property but his life. Precisely; and so does tie man who enters the building planned by en incompetent architect. It is much truer of such a man than of a sick person that he “is not in a position to form judgment based on reasonable inquiry as to the education” of the professional man to whom for the moment he entrusts his life. If danger of this character is sufficient to warrant monopoly in medicine, all the more then does it warrant monopoly in architecture. But in truth it warrants neither. It is a minor consideration sinking out of sight in comparison with the wider and deeper dangers involved, as Professor Shaler shows, in relieving men of the responsibility of choice, depriving them of the advantages of competition, and weakening the incentive to innovation and progress.
It is especially strange that Professor Shaler should single out the profession of medicine for exemption from rivalry, when he admits that valuable contributions to the healing art “have come from men absolutely without schooling.” “Presnitz, the founder of modern hydropathy,” he says, “was an illiterate peasant, yet he invented methods of treatment which have been found most valuable, and which, to a great extent, have been adopted by the medical profession.” Now mark the sentence which immediately follows: “The foregoing considerations seem to lead to the conclusion that any efforts to support our learned professions (except medicine) by a system of government licenses will go against the spirit of our society.” The parenthetical qualification which I italicize constitutes in such a connection the most glaring non sequitur that a man with so logical and philosophical a mind ever permitted to escape its vigilant scrutiny.
Professor Shaler’s first ground of privilege for the doctors being inadequate, and his second ground being illogical, it remains only to consider his third ground, which we shall find to be impertinent. “So far as the practice of medicine is concerned,” he declares, “the argument in favor of legal control seems to have sufficient popular support at present to justify a certain departure from the principle which dictates freedom of contract as the basis of relation between employer and employed, in all the walks of life.” I submit that such a sentence is entirely out of place in a serious discussion of a question of political ethics. Certainly no one needs to be told that the will of the majority necessitates the adoption of whatever possible policy it may favor, but to be told that it justifies it knocks the bottom out of all philosophy. I take it that Professor Shaler, in asking the question: “Shall the Professions be Regulated?” did not intend to inquire whether fifty-one men out of every hundred favor such regulation, but whether, if such is the fact, they are wise in favoring it; and that the object of his paper was to convince at least two of the fifty-one that they are unwise. How absurd, then, to defeat himself by telling the fifty-one that they are justified simply because they are fifty-one. Of course it follows that the architects and their friends — or, for that matter, the hod-carriers and their friends — have only to become fifty-one to be entitled to a monopoly. Quod non erat demonstrandum.
I offer these criticisms simply because I am in hearty accord with Professor Shaler’s main position, and therefore desire to anticipate those friends of monopoly and despotism who are sure otherwise to successfully assail this champion of liberty at his only vulnerable point.
The Prayer of the Pampered Pessimist.
Lord, I cuss my daily cuss,
I don’t believe things could be wuss;
For, if they could, O Lord, I know
They would have been so long ago.
Our life is but a living death:
Champagne bills take away one’s breath.
We’re corpses grinning in a row;
First-class hotels do bleed us so.
Our days are but an idiot’s dreams,
Where nothing is, but only seems;
Where good Havanas cost a quarter,
Twenty a hundred, nothing shorter.
O thou that hearest prayer, ’tis said,
Give me this day my daily bread;
But if I don’t get turkey too,
I’ll cuss things wuss than now I do.
Harry Lyman Koopman.
This is the Nuns’ bell; harsh-toned, like their creed,
It clangs its call to worship; on the ear
It smites like Peter’s sword; wakes rage and fear
In those whose love force is not crushed indeed;
Five hundred years this bell made Nature bleed,
Ringing whilst women found a living grave
In shame of their fair bodies which Jah gave,
Priests said, to lay on an untimely bier
Of passion’s suicide; it did not scream
Aloud to waken when the nightmare shed
Its terrors round their sleep, and in a dream
They bribed a phantom God; it might have said:
“Die, Sisters, rather than take vows which bind
The body when the soul’s outgrown that mind.”
“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.
New York. — Samuel McWhinney, 2361 Eighth Ave.; Justus H. Schwab, 50 First Street.
Boston. — A. H. Simpson, 202 Huntington Ave.
Philadelphia. — Henry Heyne, Corner of Tenth and Market Streets.
Detroit. — Herman Reif. 94 Gratiot Ave.
Chicago. — Geo. A. Schilling, 85 Washington Street.
Denver. — Henry Cohen, 1239 Welton Street.
Canton, O. — Standard News Co.
London, England. — A. Tarn, 124 Temple Chambers; C. Attersoll, 44 Ellington Street, Barnsbury.
Melbourne, Australia. — D. A. Andrade, 213 Russell Street.
We, the undersigned, hereby agree, in case Benj. R. Tucker shall decide to publish in book form a compilation of articles written by him for his paper, Liberty, to purchase of him, at the rate of one dollar each, the number of copies herewith set opposite our respective names, and to pay to Benj. R. Tucker one-half the amount due for these copies whenever be shall call for it, and the balance on the appearance of the book.
|Previously Acknowledged||392 copies.|
|N. Running, Menomonie, Wis.,||1 “|
|Ana Perkin, Cleveland, O.,||1 “|
|John G. Palmer, Upton Pa.||1 “|
|Wm. Stroud, Sturgis, Mich.||5 “|
|James Crosby, Denver, Colo.,||1 “|
|Wm. P. Deardorff, Mendota, Calif.,||1 “|
|Alfred Cross, Scotland, Mass.,||1 “|
|A. Lovell, Worcester, Mass.,||1 “|
|C. L. Swartz, New York,||2 “|
|D. H. S. Holmes, Kearney, N. J.,||2 “|
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To the Editor of Liberty:
I have often seen it claimed that under the Anarchistic organization of society economic rent would disappear, or be reduced to an insignificant amount. But I have never yet been satisfied with any explanation of the way in which this is to be brought about.
Some speak as if the abolition of rent were to be an immediate result of the abolition of interest, apparently taking the ground that rent is a product of the selling price of land and the interest of money. But according to the accepted theory of economists (the only one that I have learned to understand), rent is the independent factor, and the selling price is the product of rent and interest.
I have also seen it claimed that under liberty there will be no great cities, and therefore no city prices for land. I can understand that liberty will make the masses richer, so that they will be better able to choose the home which pleases them; and that it will make them saner, so that they will better appreciate the attractions of country life. But cities will still offer the greatest opportunities for making money, and many social and aesthetic advantages. I cannot believe, therefore, that great cities will disappear.
As to the freeing of vacant land, I do not remember to have heard that this would destroy any but “speculative” rent. There might perhaps be a greater relief at first, while the vacant land was being taken up. But certainly within a short time — within a year, I should say — all land which had any special advantage over ordinary farming land would be occupied, and these special advantages would be in the hands of the occupiers.
On the other hand, it must be remembered that, if any economic rent is left, every advance in prosperity will naturally tend to increase this rent. And liberty is to cause an advance in prosperity.
Again, when vacant laud is free, cities can be settled more compactly. This will intensify the peculiar advantages of city life, and thereby increase the demand for city and suburban land. The effect of free vacant land would, I imagine, be closely analogous to that of rapid transit, which was expected to decrease rent, but has instead increased it.
How, then, is economic rent to be got out of the way? Stephen T. Byington.
Liberty has never stood with those who profess to show on strictly economic grounds that economic rent must disappear or even decrease as a result of the application of the Anarchistic principle. It sees no chance for that factor in the human constitution which makes competition such a powerful influence — namely, the disposition to buy in the cheapest market — to act directly upon economic rent in a way to reduce it. This disposition to buy cheap, which in a free market is fatal to all other forms of usury, is on the contrary the mainstay of economic rent, whether the market be free or restricted. When, through freedom of banking, it shall become possible to furnish money at cost, no one will pay for money more than cost, and hence interest on money, as well as on all capital consisting of commodities which money will buy and to the production of which there is no natural limit, will necessarily disappear. But the occupant of land who is enabled, by its superiority, to undersell his neighbor and at the same time to reap, through his greater volume of business, more profit than his neighbor, enjoys this economic rent precisely because of his opportunity to exploit the consumer’s disposition to buy cheap. The effect of freedom is not felt here in the same way and with the same directness that it is felt elsewhere.
There are other grounds, however, some of them indirectly economic, some of them purely sentimental, which justify the belief of the Anarchist that a condition of freedom will gradually modify to a very appreciable extent the advantage enjoyed by the occupant of superior land. Take first one that is indirectly economic. I agree with my correspondent that great cities are not destined to disappear. But I believe also that they will be able to maintain their existence only by offering their advantages at a lower price than they now exact. When the laborer, in consequence of his increased wages and greater welfare resulting from the abolition of interest, shall enjoy a larger freedom of locomotion, shall be tied down less firmly to a particular employment, and shall be able to remove to the country with greater facility and in possession of more capital than he can now command, and when the country, partly because of this mobility of labor and partly because of the advances in science, shall continually offer a nearer approach to the undoubted privileges of city life, the representatives of commercial and other interests in the great cities will be able to hold their patrons about them only by lowering their prices and contenting themselves with smaller gains. In other words, economic rent will lessen. Here the disposition to buy cheap, not any special commodity, but an easy life, does exert an indirect and general influence upon economic rent. And, under this influence and yielding to it, the city may increase in prosperity simultaneously with the decline of economic rent. Nay, the increase ill prosperity may accelerate this decline, for under liberty increased prosperity means also well-distributed prosperity, which means in turn a lowering of the barriers between classes and a consequent tendency to equalize the different localities of the city one with another.
Upon the sentimental grounds for believing in the evanescence of economic rent it is perhaps not worth while to dwell. I have an aversion to definite speculations based on hypothetical transformations in human nature. Yet I cannot doubt that the disappearance of interest will result in an attitude of hostility to usury, in any form, which will ultimately cause any person who charges more than cost for any product to be regarded very much as we now regard a pick-pocket. In this way too economic rent will suffer diminution.
I think my correspondent fails to understand what is meant by the freeing of vacant land. It does not mean simply the freeing of unoccupied land. It means the freeing of all land not occupied by the owner. In other words, it means land ownership limited by occupancy and use. This would destroy not only speculative, but monopolistic rent, leaving no rent except the economic form, which will be received, while it lasts, not as a sum paid by occupant to owner, but as an extra and usurious reward for labor performed under special advantages.
But even if economic rent had to be considered a permanency; if the considerations which I have urged should prove of no avail against it, — it would be useless, tyrannical, and productive of further tyranny, to confiscate it. In the first place, if I have a right to a share of the ad-vantages that accrue from the possession of superior land, then that share is mine; it is my property; it is like any other property of mine; no man, no body of men, is entitled to decide how this property shall be used; and any man or body of men attempting so to decide deprives Ole of my property just as truly as the owner of the superior land deprives me of it if allowed to retain the economic rent. In fact, still assuming that this property is mine, I prefer, if I must be robbed of it, to be robbed by the land-owner, who is likely to spend it in some useful way, rather than by an institution called government, which probably will spend it for fireworks or something else which I equally disapprove. If the property is mine, I claim it, to do as I please with; if it is not mine, it is impertinent, dishonest, and tyrannical for any body to forcibly take it from the land-occupant on the pretence that it is mine and to spend it in my name. It is precisely this, however, that the Single-Taxers propose, and it is this that makes the Single Tax a State Socialistic measure. There was never anything more absurd than the supposition of some Single-Taxers that this tax can be harmonized with Anarchism.
But I now and then meet a Single-Taxer who allows that the government, after confiscating this economic rent, has no right to devote it to any so-called public purposes, but should distribute it to the people. Supposing the people to be entitled to the economic rent, this certainly looks on its face like a much saner and more honest proposition than that of the ordinary Single-Taxer. But the question at once arises: Who is to pay the government officials for their services in confiscating the economic rent and handing me my share of it? And how much is to be paid them? And who is to decide these matters? When I reflect that under such a Single-Tax system the occupants of superior land are likely to become the politicians and to tax back from the people to pay their salaries what the people have taxed out of them as economic rent, again I say that, even if a part of the economic rent is rightly mine, I prefer to leave it in the pocket of the land-owner, since it is bound to ultimately get back there. As M. Schneider, the Carnegie of France, said in a recent interview with a “Figaro” reporter: “Even if we were to have a collectivist system of society and my property should be confiscated, I believe that I am shrewd enough to find a way to feather my nest just the same.” M. Schneider evidently understands State Socialism better than the State Socialists themselves. The State Socialists and Single-Taxers will have attained their paradise when they are robbed by officials instead of by landlords and capitalists.
In my view it is idle to discuss what shall be done with the economic rent after it has been confiscated, for I distinctly deny the propriety of confiscating it at all. There are two ways, and only two, of effecting the distribution of wealth. One is to let it distribute itself in a free market in accordance with the natural operation of economic law; the other is to distribute it arbitrarily by authority in accordance with statute law. One is Anarchism; the other is State Socialism. The latter, in its worst and most probable form, is the exploitation of labor by officialdom, and at its best is a régime of spiritless equality secured at the expense of liberty and progress; the former is a régime of liberty and progress, with as close an approximation to equality as is compatible therewith. And this is all the equality that we ought to have. A greater equality than is compatible with liberty is undesirable. The moment we invade liberty to secure equality we enter upon a road which knows no stopping-place short of the annihilation of all that is best in the human race. If absolute equality is the ideal; if no man must have the slightest advantage over another, — then the man who achieves greater results through superiority of muscle or skill or brain must not be allowed to enjoy them. All that he produces in excess of that which the weakest and stupidest produce must be taken from him and distributed among his fellows. The economic rent, not of land only, but of strength and skill and intellect and superiority of every kind, must be confiscated. And a beautiful world it would be when absolute equality had been thus achieved! Who would live in it? Certainly no freeman.
Liberty will abolish interest; it will abolish profit; it will abolish monopolistic rent; it will abolish taxation; it will abolish the exploitation of labor; it will abolish all means whereby any laborer can be deprived of any of his product; but it will not abolish the limited inequality between one laborer’s product and another’s. Now, because it has not this power last named, there are people who say: We will have no liberty, for we must have absolute equality. I am not of them. If I can go through life free and rich, I shall not cry because my neighbor, equally free, is richer. Liberty will ultimately make all men rich; it will not make all men equally rich. Authority may (and may not) make all men equally rich in purse; it certainly will make them equally poor in all that makes life best worth living. T.
The Results of “Reform.”
The latest freak of Farmers’ Alliance paternalism is the prohibition of the sale in Boston of oleomargarine in quantities of less than ten pounds. The bringing about of this invasion of Equal Freedom, dealers tell me, was influenced by the farmers, because oleomargarine was being sold and used in the place of butter.
Of course it is being used in the place of butter, and the very fact of their regulation of its sale is evidence of as bad class legislation as the farmers themselves ever complained of. Not only in the abstract is it an interference with individual liberty, but it works the greatest hardship to the poor, to whom it would be a great benefit to be able to use butterine at seventeen cents per pound in place of butter, the price of which ranges between twenty-five and thirty-five cents per pound.
But the farmer thinks lie should be protected in the production of butter, although that commodity never before sold for so high a price as it did in competition with butterine. It is natural, to be sure, that the farmer should wish to be protected, since he has seen another class protected very largely at his expense for so long; but as an act of retaliation this effort is ineffectual, for the simple and very obvious reason that these other protected people would never use oleomargarine anyway, while the comparatively poor and unprotected workingman would be glad to use it, could he buy it at retail. The ten-pound limit will not affect in the least the hotel-keepers and other large consumers of butterine; it is the poor man, — against whom it is to be presumed the farmer has no grievance, — and the poor man alone, who must suffer that the butter producer may be protected.
For private reasons I do not use butterine, but I am perfectly willing to deprive myself of the use of butter so long as the producers of that article demand and succeed in obtaining forcible suppression of the sale of its substitute. C. L. Swartz.
Many and diverse are the opinions that have been passed upon Zola’s recent book, “La Débâcle.” American critics, of course, first eagerly scan its pages for some point of alleged immorality — or obscenity — upon which to condemn it. In this, however, notwithstanding their most Herculean efforts, they are doomed to disappointment. Now, having failed in this, the majority of them are ready to crown this work the author’s masterpiece.
That Zola possesses to an almost illimitable extent the faculty of painting the horrible in its natural colors, no one who has read him will deny. In realism he is certainly in his element, and vivid pictures of life and character flow from his pen as pathos from that of Dickens. Indeed, many compare him to the great English novelist.
No one can follow Jean Macquart and Maurice Levasseur through the weary marches, caused by the vacillating policy of those in command: the battle of Sedan; the captivity on the peninsula of Iges, with all its concomitant horrors; the siege of Paris; the battles in and about that city; and the final fall of the Commune, — no one, I say, with common sense and intelligence, can live those scenes, as Zola forces him to live them, and retain aught but a genuine disgust and repugnance for war and militarism. And it is for the picture itself, not for the painter, that one experiences these sensations. In no sense can it be said to “smell of the sewer and the dungheap,” although the literary editor of the Boston “Transcript” finds in it “the same disgusting old Zola of yore.”
This, however, is somewhat counteracted by the statement in an adjoining column that “Thérèse Raquin,” by the same author, “is probably the greatest study in literature of nervous prostration or mental aberration due to giving one’s self up to . . crime”; with which I am ready to agree, since I believe that the reading of that book would render it well-nigh impossible for a person to commit premeditated murder.
But the man who is probably better equipped than anyone else to criticise Zola and “La Débâcle” intelligently is the Vicomte de Vogue, who served contemporaneously in the same brigade in which the author places his characters and the centre of his action; and, aside from the fact that it brings to life memories that are more than painful, M. de Vogue is unstinted in his praise. Even the editor of the “Review of Reviews,” who would have us believe that some of Zola’s works have been “disfigured,” says that it is “the most remarkable book which has been issued from the press during the summer.”
I do not pretend to say what Zola’s masterpiece is, but I am absolutely certain that, having written “Money,” to produce a greater work Zola must choose some subject other than war.
In a recent number of the “Fortnightly Review” George Moore says his description of the cavalry charge at Sedan “is one of the finest passages in French prose, and the best battle-piece in literature.” That that description is something grand, especially to him who delights in such blood and slaughter, and also to him who can admire the beautiful in literature no matter what the subject, cannot, of course, be gainsaid; but to class it as Mr. Moore classes it is, in my opinion, to forget Hugo and “Les Miserables.”
The story which Zola uses as a thread upon which to hang his historical narrative is unimportant. Besides that, it falls far short of being a well-executed plot. Both as a work of art and as an educator the love affair of Jean and Silvine is practically worthless. The real value of the book lies, not in the story, but, as I have pointed out, in the powerful delineation of the atrocities of that campaign and in its ability to cause even the most callous to realize and detest the infinite horrors of war. In this respect — and it is noteworthy that it is this feature that calls forth the cry of immonde from the censorial critics — it is invaluable, and it will live in the annals of literature so long as human nature retains a semblance of its present status. C. L. Swartz.
The “Wage System” and “Slavery.”
[R. W. Raymond In the Engineering and Mining Journal.]
There is much loose talk, sincere and otherwise, about the wages system: as a form of slavery; as an antiquated and clumsy apparatus, proving itself inadequate to the work of the modern world; or as a transitional stage, on the road to something better. The last view is probably that of the most sincere, intelligent, and disinterested of its hostile critics. It is a handy one to use in speeches and articles; it assails nobody; so long as it is expressed in optimistic generalities only, it cannot easily be refuted, because everybody must admit that everything in the present state of the universe is “transitional,” — hence, why not any given feature of the present social order? Finally, it possesses for many good people the irresistible fascination that it can be stated in terms of “Evolution.” Having but recently got over being shocked by Darwin and Spencer, they are now turning the tables with a vengeance, and shocking the philosophers by their recognition of evolution everywhere, and their use of it as a basis for social prophecies and theories of reform.
But the real analogies of evolution (even if analogy were a safe guide in this field) do not favor the conclusion thus drawn. Darwin could have told his amateur disciples that natural selection has never improved upon the vertebrate type of structure; and Spencer could tell them yet that the highest product of social evolution has been, and will always be, a Man with a Backbone, — in other words, individual liberty and responsibility, guaranteed and guarded, but not replaced, by the activity of the State. If the next development of society is to be into “industrial organisms,” after the fashion of coral-building colonies, the analogy offered by biological evolution is one of retrogression, not advance. Manhood must first die and decay. Then, perhaps, the millennial polyps may be bred in the general remaining ooze!
To my mind, the system of free and responsible contract among men is the vertebrate type of social structure. It permits infinite varieties of form, provided they are not inconsistent with the type. To the largest extent found practicable hitherto, it reconciles the liberty of the individual with the interest of the community; it makes the future a part of the present; it encourages ambition; it rewards pertinent merit (that is, the kind of merit concerned in the competitions it involves); it judges men more fairly on the whole than any learned formula or sage official could do; and it permits the adjustment of men to the inevitable changes of economic conditions with less of incidental suffering and waste than would attend, so far as all precedents indicate, any other social machinery yet devised.
I say these are its natural and proper characteristics. To a much larger extent than seems to be realized by philanthropic reformers, they are its actual results. On every farm, in every household, in the vast majority of industries of every kind, the system of voluntary and responsible contract is working well. Instances to the contrary, so far as I have been able to investigate them, may be, in my judgment, referred to one of three causes, neither of which constitutes a valid ground for the condemnation of the system. Namely, either one or the other of its two fundamental principles, freedom and responsibility, has been lawlessly violated; or else, their operation has been hampered by foolish legislative meddling; or else, the evils complained of are such as no system could remove, and a different system would be likely to aggravate, rather than relieve.
Let me repeat that the system of contract includes all voluntary arrangements between employers and employees, such as profit sharing, cooperation, joint ownership, joint management, sliding scales, arbitration of differences, etc. It will be admitted, however, that the payment of simple wages for work is by far the most common form of voluntary agreement, and that it is almost invariably an element in forms which include other features. The reason is obvious. By the payment of a fixed sum as wages, the employer assumes the risk of business losses; and by the acceptance of such payment the employee waives any claim to share in business profits. This is in most cases, and on many grounds, the most acceptable arrangement for both parties.
Perhaps the chief consideration on both sides is that business men do not like to make agreements the fulfillment of which involves inevitable delay, difficulty, and perhaps dispute. Especially to the man without capital, it is important to know what can be depended upon, and to be insured against unforeseen losses. Any other kind of contract may be made, if the parties so choose; and it seems to me that the universality of this kind is a convincing proof of its fitness, on the whole, to industrial conditions. To those who think they foresee some coining step of “evolution” which will do away with wages, substituting some better system with the consent of the parties, I can only say that I perceive neither analogy nor indication of such a general voluntary change. To those, on the other band, who would force the change by law upon unwilling parties, it is sufficient to say that such a sacrifice of liberty is uncalled for; would be harmful, if it were practicable; and is certainly impracticable, because workingmen are overwhelmingly opposed to it. It ought not to be, and it cannot be, forced upon them against their will.
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.