“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.”
Problems of Anarchism.
6 — True Individualism Means Economic Freedom.
The attack on the principle of private property frequently with Socialists takes the form of an arraignment and denunciation of what they somewhat vaguely term Individualism. In their view it is synonymous with the worst features of the most unscrupulous phases of capitalism. It would seem that private enterprise and all individual effort directed toward acquiring wealth are for a like reason accursed, besides being in themselves unsocial, opposed to the public weal, and therefore unjust.
Harmonizing with such ideas are those which recognize in every extension of collective activity a blow at individualism, and in every encroachment on private property and individual liberty, with a correlative growth of public property and authoritative control, a positive step in social well-being and economic reform. That under the present system the evils exist which Socialists make private property responsible for, and would attempt to abolish by collective control, it were useless to deny. But if, by inductive reasoning, by citing unimpeachable facts, it can be shown that private property and individual enterprise are more conducive to human welfare than public property and collective enterprise, leaving out of consideration the hypothetical evidence of the benefits of the latter furnished by the unstinted imagination of dreamers about future social perfection; if it be established that, taking society as an organism, no scientific grounds exist for believing individualism to be in any way opposed to social progress, but rather that a movement in any other direction, as the abolition of private property, is necessarily and on fundamental principles a social retrogression; if it becomes manifest that the growing demand for governmental interference with the object of diminishing economic evils is due to greater consciousness of their existence and consequent desire for their removal, and not because collective authority is proved to be thus able to remove them; if it be made clear that such action can be but palliative, a mere substitute for the end to be achieved, that the removal of obstructions to free individualism rather than the increase of barriers to its development would bring more desirable results; and, finally, if the proposed remedy of collectivism would intensify the evils it is meant to cure, and is impotent as a permanent method, while freedom of property, of enterprise, and of opportunity offer more hope for a better society, — then the attack on individualism and private property at once falls to the ground.
All these propositions can be demonstrated by evidence which to the unprejudiced thinker will appear conclusive. Though a simple application of the principle which has been developed in the course of this work — namely, equal freedom — would alone clear away all doubts, yet I shall not discard induction where facts lie so near at hand.
In order to make myself perfectly plain and avoid all chance of misconception, I must here explain that where I use the term collectivism I also include in the accompanying arguments the broader conception of Communism. So far as the principles involved in the discussion are concerned, both those terms are of equal value. The adherents of collectivism and Communism respectively draw a dividing line, the former holding that common property in the implements of production — land, capital, etc. — is sufficient to ensure justice, leaving the distribution of the product to take place with some regard for individual merit, according to deed rather than need, while the latter would make everything common property and have distribution simply according to needs, aiming thus at absolute equality. But as both conceptions subordinate the individual to the collectivity, and put equality before liberty, the one being merely an incomplete version of the other, without any fundamental difference, it is not too much to claim that whatever argument or evidence tells against the principle in the one case weighs with no leas force in the other, for in each it is the Communistic principle which is at fault.
The class of social reformers referred to at the beginning of this chapter includes the greater number of modern trade-unionists, labor leaders, and agitators, both in England and America. Many of them are unconscious Socialists, and would hotly repudiate being so called, but from our point of view there is no clear ground of distinction. One can hardly read or hear an utterance today from the sources just mentioned but what the ideas which the avowed Socialist, Mr. Webb, elaborates are met in the most unmistakable form. Let us sample a few of Mr. Webb’s own, for convenience of illustration. He makes economic inequality and individualism identical, and sees no remedy but in the destruction of the latter and the unlimited growth of collectivism. In “Fabian Essays,” page 89, he says: “The record of the century in English social history begins with the trial and hopeless failure of an almost complete individualism,” but “with the progress of political emancipation private ownership of the means of production has been in one direction or another successively regulated, limited, and superseded.” The first proposition displays an utter recklessness in the use of words, as if it was possible for individualism — that is, freedom — to exist when the working people forming the vast majority were entirely disfranchised, forbidden by law to organize for their own protection or to agitate or hold public meetings, and had no means of obtaining education or knowledge that might have enabled them to successfully fight their oppressors, economic and political. Then were they more helpless before their masters than at any subsequent time, and therefore more dependent; yet in the Fabian mind this period represents an “almost complete individualism.”
The second proposition again turns up in another form: “The liberty of the property owners to oppress the propertyless by the levy of the economic tribute of rent and interest began [and continues] to be circumscribed, pared away, obstructed, and forbidden in various directions” (pages 46–7).
In reply it might be pointed out that as to rent his collaborator, G. B. Shaw, argues that private property must be abolished and Socialism established because rent tends to rise till no part of the produce but bare subsistence-wages is left to the producer. (See essay on “Historic Basis.”) And it is indisputable that rents have in fact unceasingly increased, absorbing at present about one-sixth of the total annual product in England. With regard to interest, where competition operates at all, the inevitable tendency of civilization is toward a lower and lower rate of profit and interest, in accordance with economic conditions that operate entirely independent of legislative enactments. Hence the fall in the rate of interest is not due to Socialistic laws.
In earlier chapters there will be found ample data to refute such statements as the following from the same source: “The use of the new motors [speaking of modern machinery] has been for a generation destroying the individualist conception of property,” and “the landlord and capitalist are both finding that the steam engine is a Frankenstein which they had better not have raised, for with it comes Democracy, the study of political economy, and Socialism” (page 88). Continuing the same idea, be says: “Individual liberty in the sense of freedom to privately appropriate the means of production reached its maximum at the commencement of the century” (page 40). All this is nothing but special pleading without foundation in fact. Next follows a piece of downright misrepresentation. We are told that “Mr. Herbert Spencer and those who agree in his worship of individualism apparently desire to bring back the legal position which made possible the ‘white slavery’ of which ‘the sins of legislators’ have deprived us.”
Such are the arguments that are meant to upset the principle of private property. Is it needful to refer to the absurdity of charging those who desire equal freedom for all and the abolition of every form of slavery with wanting to revive the condition of status sad disability existing a century ago?
After enumerating the child labor, long hours, and other abuses which the weakness, ignorance, and legal disabilities of the working classes compelled them to endure, he audaciously concludes: “These and ear nameless iniquities will be found recorded as the results of freedom of contract and Laissez Faire in the impartial pages of successive blue books” (page 41). People who employ methods so loose and inexact in discussing social problems are not likely to be much impressed with the importance of liberty as a factor in their solution. As for freedom of contract, a moment’s thought will make it evident that it can exist only between men who are free and independent in their relations with each other. No person who is really free and independent will contract with others to his own injury; it is only when he is dependent and economically unfree that the principle of contract, or voluntary agreement, can operate injuriously. And the greater part of the laboring portion of society are neither independent nor truly free; so that under the present monopolistic and legally privileged system the contracts they make are forced on them by necessity, their agreements, as in working for wages, are not voluntary, for there is no choice between submission and starvation.
But this result is not directly the outcome of capitalism; it is the consequence of the survival of conditions belonging to pre-capitalistic forms of society. Land monopoly, special legislation creating classes who enjoy privileges at the expense of others, the abnormal power of wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, are consequences of an unfree society and take their part in keeping the producers from obtaining the equivalent of their labor. If capitalism were not thus a superstructure reared upon the past, we should expect to see it develop into the ideal industrial society, in which each unit would be independent, and voluntary agreement between free men would replace the compulsory contracts into which most men are now driven.
Monopoly and privilege, as we have seen, are erroneously called individualism, and the latter is held up as the source of social injustice. Yet individualism, in the sense I have defined it, is the sworn foe to every vestige of privilege and monopoly.
And, after all, the most extreme Socialist is an individualist, and to that end points his whole philosophy. Happiness can be enjoyed only by each individual through sense-impression. Collective happiness otherwise is meaningless and impossible. There is no collective organ of sense, no Socialistic apparatus for distinguishing pleasure and pain, but in each individual alone exists the perceptive power, the possibility of being happy. Wm. Bailie.
“In abolishing rent and interest, the last vestiges of old-time slavery, the Revolution abolishes at one stroke the sword of the executioner, the seal of the magistrate, the club of the policeman, the gunge of the exciseman, the erasing-knife of the department clerk, all those insignia of Politics, which young Liberty grinds beneath her heel.” — Proudhon.
The appearance in the editorial column of articles over other signatures than the editor’s initial indicates that the editor approves their central purpose and general tenor, though he does not hold himself responsible for every phrase or word. But the appearance in other parts of the paper of articles by the same or other writers by no means indicates that he disapproves them in any respect, such disposition of them being governed largely by motives of convenience.
The Lucky Three.
Below is given the result of the second award of books under Liberty’s plan of giving away three books a week:
J. W. Morley, Port Chester, N. Y. — A year’s subscription to Liberty.
D. Muncey, 1808 14th St., N. W., Washington, D. C. — Emerson’s Essays, first series.
Miss Lizzie C. Adams, Westport, MO. — “God’s Image in Man,” by Henry N. Wood.
On receiving from the foregoing successful applicants orders to forward their respective books, the books will be promptly sent, provided the publisher’s list price does not exceed $1.00.
Boycott the World’s Fair Congress.
It is gratifying to be able to state that the numerous letters which I have received congratulating me upon my refusal to address the World’s Fair Labor Congress clearly indicate unanimity of opinion among Anarchists regarding this important matter. Even my former comrade, John F. Kelly, who parted company with me on the question of Egoism, writes that on this point he is in full sympathy with me.
One letter from a trusted friend asks why I favor the exclusion from the independent congress (if one shall be held) of all who take part in the official congress. I answer in the words which I once heard James Parton use in delivering his inaugural address as president of the New York Liberal Club: “Here we tolerate everything but intolerance.” No such effective blow can be struck at the official congress as a boycott directed at those who speak before it. It is of the greatest importance that all branches of the labor movement should present a united front against the effort to narrow the programme of the official congress, and I am sure that, if the effort is persisted in, nearly all the beet men, of whatever school, will declare for the independent congress as soon as they understand the situation. But it should be clearly understood that those who accept the invitation to the official congress thereby exclude themselves from the independent congress. Of course I refer to the platform only. As far as mere admission is concerned, the congress should be free to all.
The admirable action of the women’s committee of the World’s Fair Auxiliary in resigning because of the exclusive policy has furnished an example for us all. This committee was a representative one. On it were such women as Florence Kelly, a State Socialist, A. P. Stevens, a Populist, and Charlotte C. Holt, an Anarchist. But these and all the other members, after working enthusiastically for the official congress, promptly withdrew as soon as they saw what influences would control it. Their letter of resignation was sent in three months ago, but, as it may not have been seen by Liberty’s readers, I give it here:
Chicago, Ill., Dec. 15, 1892. — To the President and Board of Managers of the World’s Congress Auxiliary, World’s Columbian Exposition, and to the President and Officers of the Women’s Branch of the Auxiliary:
We, who upon your nomination accepted membership on the Women’s Labor Committee, World’s Congress Auxiliary, present our resignation.
We have striven to be useful to the auxiliary by presenting for the approval of its president and board our ideas as to what would be a suitable programme for the Labor Congress. In joint session with the Men’s Labor committee a tentative programme was arranged, unanimously adopted, and submitted to the head official of the auxiliary. This programme, the result of a year of bard work, has been ignored. We have been made to see clearly that our ideas as to what subjects should be discussed, and the manner of their presentation at the Labor Congress, are entirely irreconcilable with those of the president of the World’s Congress Auxiliary. We have also learned by experience that there is no hope that the unanimous wishes and desires of this committee will be carried out, for the reasons above given.
We believe that no adequate presentation of the labor question, which now agitates the entire civilized world, is contemplated by the controlling power of the auxiliary, and we are not willing to have any appearance of, connection with what will be offered as a substitute for a real labor congress.
We ask that the use be discontinued of all circulars, letter-heads, etc., bearing our names as members of the Women’s Labor committee.
The reasons why these women resigned are set forth in fuller detail in the following report of a portion of the committee:
To C. C. Bonney, President of the World’s Congress Auxiliary, World’s Columbian Exposition — Dear Sir: We the undersigned members of the Programme and Invitation Committee of the Department of Labor beg leave to submit to you the following report:
Having carefully considered the programme transmit-ted to us December 6, through Mrs. Henrotin, Vice-President of the Women’s Branch of the Auxiliary, we find it utterly impossible to suggest speakers upon the topics therein assigned.
First — We find this programme singularly free from all those expressions and ideas upon which working people are at present founding their hopes of advancement and in the discussion of which they are most interested.
Second — We believe that upon so neutral a programme it would be impossible to secure the coöperation of the leaders representing the various labor organizations and schools of economic thought, and that a labor congress without the coöperation of such leaders would be useless.
Third — We believe that a discussion upon the very general and vague lines therein indicated would be futile and justly arouse the suspicion of laboring people as to the sincerity and good faith of the committee inviting speakers.
Fourth — The committee realizes that a congress held at such a time must be somewhat judicial in character, but we believe that the programme of December 6 is one which would be of interest only to statisticians and specialists, but not to laboring people.
Fifth — The Labor Congress should be of a broad and unsectarian character, and we feel that any reference to the proceedings of any ecclesiastical body, although bearing on the labor question, would not be judicious.
Sixth — The Women’s committees of the W. C. A. and Labor Congress, having carried on an extensive correspondence for months upon a tentative programme which has been submitted to you, and of which no topic or subtopic appears in the programme returned to us, do not believe that any attempt of ours to amend the programme of December 6 would be successful.
Having served for more than a year as members of a harmonious and energetic committee under the leadership of Mrs. J. D. Harvey as chairman, we deemed it but courteous to submit the reasons of our action to the General committee before handing in our resignation to you. Having done this, and our action meeting with their approval, we now beg you to relieve us of further duty.
A. P. Stevens,
C. S. Brown,
C. C. Holt.
This document is one of the most admirable manifestations of healthy independence that has lately come to my notice. I congratulate its authors and assure them of my coöperation. T.
Must We Pay for Life?
One of “Egoism’s” editorial contributors, “G,” has lately been giving expression to her views of the relation of children to parents. If her articles had appeared in any other journal than “Egoism,” they would have made me boiling mad, for the sentiments which they proclaim are literally revolting; in fact, I have never seen anything more so; but the contents of my excellent California ally, including the articles written upon other subjects by “G” herself, are nearly always so much to my liking that even under the present aggravating circumstances sympathy smothers wrath. It had been my intention to examine the arguments advanced by “G” and smash them into smithereens; but Francis D. Tandy of Deaver has saved me the trouble. He has answered “G” in “Egoism” very much as I would have answered her, and her rejoinder is weak and inadequate. Therefore I shall simply give in a few words the gist of “G’s” position and of Tandy’s answer, contenting myself with a comment or two.
“G’s” contention, in brief, is that a child upon whom its parents, at great cost to themselves, have conferred that inestimable blessing, life, is, on reaching maturity, under an obligation, from the standpoint of equal freedom, to either make good to the parents the cost incurred in its production and maintenance, or else show, by committing suicide, that there has been no value received; failing in which obligation, the child should be subjected, by all decent people, to the pains and penalties of the boycott. In elaboration “G” argues that a person who continues to live instead of committing suicide thereby tacitly admits that life to him is not an evil; that, if he still professes to the contrary, he is a liar hiding behind a technicality in order to avoid paying for what he enjoys; and that, whether so professing or not so professing, he is in either case, if he continues to live and declines to pay, a contemptible creature, a violator of the spirit of equal freedom, a fit subject for social ostracism.
There are numerous lines of argument that might be adopted to overthrow this position, but they are needless, because it collapses straightway under the blow that Tandy deals it in these words: “A child receives from its parent at birth an emotion, the instinct of self-preservation, which is generally — nay, almost always — strong enough to override all other considerations; so that many a person wishes that he had never been born, who cannot overcome that emotion sufficiently to destroy his own life. Again, the fear of the hereafter, or even the uncertainty thereof, often deters the laudable ambition of the would-be suicide.” If “G” had appreciated the force of this blow, she would either have acknowledged defeat or else have devoted a large part of her two-column rejoinder to meeting it. But she did neither. Here is her only attempt at a parry, and it amounts to nothing at all: “As regards the hesitating suicide, dread of death can only mean a preference for life as it is, and its conditions are cost; if this is really too much, he chooses the cheaper article.” As I have said, this is revolting, — to the last degree revolting. To say that a man who has been summoned out of the void into life, without consultation of his choice (for of course a nonentity has no choice and cannot be consulted), and who finds life intensely disagreeable, but yet less disagreeable than the only means of getting rid of it, must pay the cost that another has incurred, voluntarily and without solicitation, in conferring upon him the privilege of necessarily confronting this damnable dilemma is an insult that is even worse than the injury. To state “G’s” error in this form is to expose it. Once exposed, all foundation for her claim is gone; for, the simple continuance of life not being a test of the value placed upon life, there can be found no other test without resorting to a systematic investigation of every man’s mind, the inquisitorial impudence of which would instantly disqualify its instigators for the boycotter’s róle by making them the first to be boycotted.
Considering Tandy’s argument final, it is needless for me to fill this number of Liberty, as I easily might, with the reflections prompted by a perusal of “G’s” articles. I will only say in conclusion that from the passages to which I have alluded and from other passages in which she speaks contemptuously of maternal love I am led to suspect that she is a person who, first, finds a supreme satisfaction in living, and, second, is utterly lacking in that passion for motherhood which leads many women — women, too, of the very highest type — to pay a high price for its gratification. In no other way can I account for her declarations that men who say they detest life are liars and that women who love children more than wealth and ease are fools. T.
Monopoly’s Devious Ways.
For cool, insolent, disingenuous statements nothing can surpass the productions of the John Sherman class, the literary and political agents of the money kings. An article by Comptroller Hepburn in the “North American Review” for March is typical in its way. The subject is “National Banking and the Clearing House.”
I do not purpose going through all the argument, the aim of which seems to be to persuade the public that to national banks they might well look for more money of one kind, and give up some of the money that now is, and it is assumed that the public will find nothing amiss in spreading the losses by insolvent banks upon the solvent, provided this be done by a small tax.
I will content myself with quoting and remarking briefly upon a few passages. Hepburn, regarding banks, says: “The function of the government is to regulate by restraining. It seeks to insure good banking by enforcing statutory prohibition against unsafe practices.”
To regulate, by restraining? Let us see. Government regulates weights and measures. Is restraint the primary idea in the process? It may regulate by restraining, but that will generally be when it wants to restrain, and cloaks its action, otherwise unauthorized, under the pretence of regulating.
Prohibition against unsafe banking? Prima-marily it has not been so under the law of Congress which suppressed banks of issue, for it destroyed the good with the bad. There is abundant and unimpeachable testimony that the State banks of New York, Louisiana, and New England were as safe as the present national banks. These are founded upon the plan of the better sort of State banks. The statutory prohibition struck dower banks quite safe and practices identical with those of Mr. Hepburn as a banker.
Now read what Hepburn says of silver: “The silver industry is entitled to no bounty. The policy of the government, in purchasing a commodity which it does not want, for the sole purpose of putting into circulation as money the obligations given therefor, cannot be justified. An equally safe and more elastic currency can be otherwise provided.”
This should be directed to Senator Sherman. The silver mining industry has not asked for a bounty, but for a return to the operation of the mint, to stamp without discrimination between different portions of the same metal. Whatever may have been the policy of “the government,” it is no secret that the policy of the politicians of the gold privilege school, in forcing silver miners to accept purchase instead of free coinage, was to create the very cry and the very argument used by Hepburn and all his tribe, — that such purpose is improper. The Sherman act was passed in order to get the so-called Bland act repealed, and with the idea that the Sherman act, being less defensible in principle, could then be repealed, and this would leave free scope for the gold and bank-charter monopolists.
Mr. Hepburn, coming to State banks, incidentally airs his wisdom as a constitutional lawyer by asking: “Why should Congress delegate the question of bank circulation to the forty-four sovereignties that constitute the United States, with diverse laws, systems, and supervision?”
This is putting the horse behind the hansom. Congress is a body with delegated powers, or a usurping body, whichever Mr. Hepburn prefers. It is not expected therefore to delegate anything of importance. This may not apply to a “question.”
The fact that Congress did not outright suppress banks of issue other than those of its own creation, but reached them by the foul blow of a ten per cent. tax, might have suggested to the receiver that the question with Congress was not what it should “delegate” of its own constitutional authority, but how it could manage to exercise a control which had not been delegated to it.
There are other remarks in Mr. Hepburn’s article which tempt to criticism. One is that “the value of a currency depends upon the extent of country in which it possesses debt-paying power.” If this be true without qualification, I must infer that it is impossible for Belgium to make a currency equal to Russian or Argentine shinplasters, and let the British Empire fall in pieces, the East India rupee will be more valuable than its nominal equivalent in British gold.
Is not Hepburn a free trader of a rather crazy sort? When one can get his wants supplied within a moderate distance, what does he want with buying from a greater distance and incurring debt that must be paid in currency at such distance? But if Hepburn is not a free trader, he argues at random, for certainly the circulation of money implies the circulation of products, and to place the consideration of a universal circulation of one money as the standard of its perfection is to contemplate not merely potential but actual far distant trade. Now, what is desirable should not be obstructed.
But Hepburn unwittingly condemns national bank currency, for it does not possess the debt-paying power of a legal tender note or of silver or gold coin of the government. And as for currency by consent, Mexican dollars are incomparably more widely acceptable than American bank notes or treasury notes. They are money throughout China, and they will pay a debt in any portion of the world in the same way as a British sovereign outside of its local legal tender sphere. Tak Kak.
An Unlabelled Joke.
Lillie D. White, one of the editors of “Lucifer,” has kindly given the following item two insertions in her valuable paper:
Wanted: — Men and women who wish to be properly catalogued in the different doctrines of the day. Labels put on with neatness and dispatch. Come early and avoid the rush; or send specification and application to Liberty, New York.
Mrs. White ought herself to have procured my services as is labeller before printing this delightful bit of humor. I should have “catalogued” it as a “goak,” and perhaps thereby have saved a worthy Nova Scotian the trouble of writing the following letter, which was lately sent to the editor of Liberty, together with a clipping from “Lucifer” of the paragraph above quoted:
Gabarus, Nova Scotia, March 14, 1893
Sir, — I wish to be “properly catalogued” in the Sexual Reform Doctrine of the day, as anent enclosed slip. Would be glad to hear that I am, and receive samples, &c., when convenient. Yours truly,
Andrus W. Herdman.
I had not believed heretofore that the readers of “Lucifer” were as stupid as its editors. But I see now that, barring a few intelligent people who take the paper for sweet charity’s sake, readers and editors are of the same calibre. Alas for Sexual Reform! Alas! Alackaday! T.
They Want to Shine.
[Henry Cohen in Lucifer.]
I cannot but think that the great objection to the “plumb-line” by social reformers who oppose it is in large part a feeling that in their respective schools they are considered “shining lights,” where, if they joined the “plumb-liners,” they would be reduced to the ranks. They think it better to be “a big man in the country than a small man in the city.”
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.