“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.”
Marx versus Proudhon.*
[Dr. Arthur Mülberger, in the “Jahrbücher für Nationalokönomie und Statistik.”]
More interesting than this book itself is its history. It appeared in 1847 in French as a reply to Proudhon’s “Contradictions Economiques; ou, Philosophie de la Misère,” and remained from the start and for a long time thereafter almost wholly unnoticed. Especially did it fail in accomplishing anything in abatement of the deep interest in Proudhon which at that time and till the beginning of the fifties manifested itself in Germany. The first somewhat imperfect German translation of the “Contradictions” by Karl Grün in 1847 was followed in the same year by the excellent rendering of Wilhelm Jordan. Then there appeared a whole series of translations of other works of Proudhon, of the “Idées Révolutionnaires,” the “Confessions,” the “Révolution Sociale,” the “Banque du Peuple,” and others, unfortunately not always by practised pens. What Proudhon himself thought of the Marxian pamphlet we learn from a letter of September 19, 1847, to his publisher, Guillaumin: “J’ai reçu,” we read, “le libelle d’un docteur Marx, les ‘Misères de la Philosophie,’ en réponse à la ‘Philosophie de la Misère.’ C’est un tissu de grossièretés, de calomnies, de falsifications, de plagiats.” With this Proudhon had once for all done with Marx, never again mentioning him either in his works or in his correspondence. As Proudhon did not understand German, it is to be presumed that he remained in ignorance of Marx’s later writings.
The behavior of Marx toward Proudhon, on the other hand, is the more surprising and remarkable. The admiration for the latter, to which Marx gives unreserved expression in his “Holy Family,” had suddenly changed into its opposite upon the appearance of the “Contradictions.” What had happened? Whoever is familiar with Proudhon knows that the fundamental ideas of the “Contradictions,” in whole or by way of indication, are already contained to his first work, “Qu’est-ce que la Propriété?” which Marx had extolled as a masterpiece of the first order. Entire chapters of the “Contradictions” are nothing but a broader and profounder amplification of the theses contained in the “Property”: I call attention only to the chapters on “Communism,” “the Constitution of Value,” the juxtaposition of the economic and the governmental idea, etc. Especially are the programmatic conclusions at which Proudhon arrives in his first work in essential harmony with the conclusions of the “Contradictions.” And yet the former work was written by a thinker of the first rank, but the “Contradictions” by a miserable bungler? Herr Bernstein, one of the sincerest admirers of Marx, has solved the puzzle of this strange circumstance. When Marx wrote the “Holy Family,” he tells us in “Die Neue Zeit,” he had not yet passed the period of his “economic moulting.” Otherwise, such is the meaning here to be conveyed, he would have been very careful not to bestow such high praise on Proudhon’s first work. In any case Marx has richly atoned for this his youthful sin, for from the appearance of the pamphlet here discussed till his death he seized on every opportunity to asperse the French thinker, and was not at all embarrassed, as I shall show, in the choice of his means.
The almost forgotten work of Marx was translated into German by E. Bernstein and K. Baulky for the first time in 1884, and a second unaltered edition appeared recently. It has gradually advanced to the rank of a code of agitation, a sort of social-democratic catechism, for which for various reasons it is well fitted. In the first place, Proudhon’s work, against which it is directed, is by its very plan and exposition well-nigh inaccessible to the German workingmen, a juxtaposition of the two works consequently not to be feared. In the second place, Proudhon was until very recently entirely unknown in German social science. There was no occasion for revising Marx’s book, therefore. In the third place, finally, the specific trait of Martian erudition is formally and materially so conspicuous in the pamphlet as to secure for it in advance a deep influence on every uncritical reader. Objectively the significance of the work lies in the fact that it yields an exceedingly clear insight into the origin and growth of, the Marxian philosophy. Considering the enormous actual significance secured by Marxism at the present time, this is a point not to be underestimated. For the history of German socialism it is of real value, therefore, however paltry its ideal manta appear in the light of serious criticism.
Aside from a rank pettifoggery which delights in cavilling about a hundred immaterial points, the Martian pamphlet sets forth a series of views which merit a critical consideration. Of these I select of course only the most important.
The “Contradictions” open with the theory of “Value.” Proudhon arrives at the conclusion that the end of economic evolution is “the constitution of value,” an idea which Adam Smith intuitively suspected, but which J. B. Say formulated only in its antithesis. “It is incredible,” be says, “that so many sensible men should struggle for forty years against an idea so simple. But no: the comparison of values is effected without a point of comparison between them and without a unit of measure, — such is the proposition which the economists of the nineteenth century, rather than accept the revolutionary idea of equality, have resolved to maintain against all corners. What will posterity say?” At this point Marx takes up his criticism with great penetration and still greater recklessness, and demonstrates in a commendable way that long before Proudhon English Socialists had drawn equalitarian conclusions from the classical theory of value of Smith and Ricardo. Marx formulates his position most clearly in these words:
In the present society, in the industry based on individual exchange, the anarchy of production, the source of so much misery, is at the same time the cause of all progress.
Therefore of two things one: either we desire the true proportions of former centuries through the means of production of our time, and then we are at once reactionary and utopian:
Or we desire progress without anarchy, and then, in order to retain the productive forces, we must relinquish individual exchange.
Individual exchange is compatible only with the small industry of former centuries, and the “true proportion” peculiar to it, or with industry on the large scale and all its train of misery and anarchy.
From which it follows that the determination of value by labor time — i. e., the formula which M. Proudhon offers as the one that shall regenerate the future — is only the scientific expression of the economic conditions of the present society, as Ricardo has plainly and clearly demonstrated long before M. Proudhon.
On the basis of this argumentation Marx draws the outlines of that ridiculous caricature of the “petty bourgeois” Proudhon which, like most of the other Marxian “truths,” has since become a standing dogma of social democracy. Thereby the great critic meets from the very start with a terrible mishap. As he imagines society, thanks to his communistic illusion, as a large canteen and the State as the sutler who deals out to each citizen his proper share in the consumption, he is wholly unable to conceive of the overthrow of individual exchange, or the socialization of the circulation of commodities, otherwise than in the communistic governmental form. In this way he succeeds in representing Proudhon, the first Socialist who demanded the overthrow of individual exchange and the abolition of anarchic commerce, and who with great penetration demonstrated the necessity of the socialisation of commodity circulation, as a champion of individual exchange and capitalistic commodity circulation. In the “Contradictions” Proudhon’s position is merely hinted at, but it is prominently set forth in a whole series of later works, of which I will mention only the more important ones. Thus his project of the People’s Bank aims at nothing less than the abolition of individual exchange. What Marx does not understand was thoroughly understood by the delegates of the labor corporations of the Luxembourg. “Le syndicat de la consommation,” they say in their report on the “People’s Bank.” “n’est pas un marchand, mais un entrepositaire; cependant il sera obligé, à son début, de se faire marchand en faisant des achats et ventes en gros de merchandises qui seront debitées en détail par des établissements sur lesquels il se réserve un contrôle scrupuleux et incessant.” Furthermore a whole series of articles in the “Peuple” and the “Voix du People” treat of this question. Then Proudhon discusses it in a comprehensive manner in the “Confessions” and the “Idée Générale de la Revolution au Dix-Neuvième Siècle.” Finally he offers a detailed plan for the organization and centralization of commerce in his “Projet d’une Exposition Perpétuelle.”**
How blind Marx and Engels are with regard to all this appears from a classical footnote with which the first critical part closes. “As every other theory,” we read here, “also that of Mr. Bray has found followers who allowed themselves to be deceived by appearances. In London, Sheffield, Leeds, and many other cities of England equitable labor exchange bazars were founded, which, after absorbing considerable capital, all ended in scandalous bankruptcy. The taste for such things has forever been lost. A warning to M. Proudhon.” Now I do not know the history of these bazars. But even if they had failed a thousandfold more scandalously than was actually the case, that would not in the least alter the fact that the idea which called then into existence has continued to live and has already been realized in a great measure. The English coöperative associations with their grand development of which we have no idea in Germany, — are they anything else than equitable labor exchange bazars on a higher plane and a broader foundation, a step in the direction of the abolition of “individual exchange”? Of course these are trifles compared with the Martian “dictatorship of the proletariat,” which will give us in a day in splendid perfection what the obstinate Britons have accomplished only in a poor way in fifty years!
The second part of the pamphlet treats of the “Metaphysics of Political Economy.” Here Marx is in his element. Hardly out of the leading-strings of the Hegelian philosophy, quite intoxicated with the new truth of his “economic materialism,” it is his keenest delight to slaughter the poor Frenchman who has taken the Hegelian juggling with ideas seriously and now attempts to explain the economic relations and antithesis by means of Hegelian formulas. To the initiated three things are plain: First, the attempt to make of Proudhon an ideologic Hegelian is as ridiculous as possible, because Proudhon had actually long ago outgrown Hegelianism, and, as regards its real content, had really never been very close to it. Secondly, it is evident from a hundred places in Marx’s expositions that he has completely missed the fundamental idea of Proudhon’s work. His entire polemic is therefore nothing but a whirlwind of misunderstanding and animosity. But thirdly, — and this is the most amusing part of Marx’s effort, — it is beyond a doubt that the “economic materialism,” on which Marx and his disciples pride themselves in no measured terms; is already contained in Proudhon’s “Contradictions,” although covered up by the abstract formulation and the unhistorical method of the book. Already, in the second memoir on “Property,” Proudhon has furnished a demonstration, as elegant as profound, of this economic materialism in the light of history, and free from all Marxian one-sidedness. “De tout temps,” he says, “la constitution politique a été le reflet de l’organisme économique et la destinée des états reglée en raison des qualités et des défauts de cet organisme.” To him this “materialism” is a self-evident basis and assumption, concerning which there is no seed of wasting words; to Marx it is a dogma which is at once dressed with the “class struggle of the industrial proletariat” in a theoretical strait jacket designed for the conflicts of the present time, and from which, as is well known, he never again freed himself. His “economic materialism” thereby unawares undergoes a change into a cult of the proletariat, while the eagle eye of Proudhon at every moment surveys the ensemble of the social relations. The Maniac conception of history remains purely diagramatic and doctrinaire, and is amazingly barren in its conclusions. Its last word is the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” or, what is the same thing, the leap into the dark, the uncertain.
This is not the place to prove these assertions in detail. Nevertheless a few remarks may be in order. “Si l’activité individuelle,” says Proudhon in the “Contradictions,” “succombe sous l’autorité sociale, l’organisation dégénère au communisme et aboutit au néant. Si au contraire l’initiative individuelle manque de centre-poids, l’organisme collectif se corrompt, et la civilisation se traine sous un régime de castes, d’iniquité, et de misère.” This counterpoise, in accordance with his dogma, Marx seeks in a proletarian government, Proudhon, the greater and freer thinker, in the realisation of a comprehensive solidarity on the basis of economic liberty, under the gradual reduction and simplification of all government whatever. The fundamental idea of the “Contradictions” is that every economic category is an element of the social system made up of two terms tending in opposite ways. Proudhon demonstrates this in the chapters on the division of labor, competition, credit, property, etc. He shows how all of these social ideas, and therefore the institutions that are produced by them, have a positive and a negative side; how they consequently lead to a twofold series of diametrically opposed results; and he always concludes with the necessity of harmony, reconciliation, or synthesis. Social science, when it shall at last find time for the examination of its fundamental conceptions which is so necessary, will not ignore Proudhon’s “Contradictions.” The greatest question of the century has never been more profoundly formulated than in this work.
The supplements of the Marxian book, which the Darman publishers considered necessary to add, also deserve mention. In the preface Engels gives his opinion of Rodbertus. Since the latter agrees with Proudhon on certain points respecting the equalitarian consequences of the classical theory of value, Engels takes occasion to outline a picture of Rodbertus which is designed to serve as a sort of companion-piece to the portrait of Proudhon. Already this classification of the two men reveals the complete misapprehension of Proudhon. For as regards both the fundamental philosophical views as well as the practical attitude towards the social-political problems of the time, there is hardly conceivable a greater difference between two investigators than exists between Rodbertus and Proudhon.
The Brussels speech of Marx on the question of free trade, 1849, with which the book closes, rises in no respect above the prevailing social-democratic level. Only the point of it is interesting, because it makes palpable the absurdity of a famous Marxian formula. “In general,” Marx concludes his speech, “protection is conservative nowadays, while free trade operates destructively. It disintegrates nationalities and forces to a head the antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. In a word, the system of free trade hastens the social revolution. And only in this revolutionary sense, gentlemen, do I favor free trade.” A glance at the history of England in the last fifty years is sufficient to show that in that “classical land” the very opposite of what Marx prophesied has happened. The system of free trade, together with political liberty in general, has saved England from the social revolution. Under the glow of liberty the chasm between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie has become smaller. In no country of Europe has social reform a better prospect than there.
But the jewel among the supplements is undoubtedly the article which Marx published in the “Socialdemokrat” in January, 1865, immediately after the death of Proudhon, and which gathers as in a focus everything of misunderstanding and absurdity lying loose concerning the French thinker. I do not care to say anything here regarding the total misapprehension and misconstruction of the fundamental thought of Proudhon, of the ill-placed scorn with which Marx treats his serious aspirations, of the sorry way in which he corrects his own former opinion of Proudhon. The few points already mentioned may suffice. But there is one thing that I must refer to as characteristic of this article. It is the incredibly slovenly way in which Marx describes the life of this man, who in his own country at any rate has played an exceptionally important part. He has as he writes, “none of Proudhon’s works before him,” but that does not prevent him from putting on paper with apodictical assurance the craziest stuff in order to furnish a picture of Proudhon to the German workingmen. Not only does he not mention his most important works, not even those of the revolutionary period, much less the later, but even his few observations relating to the matter in hand are so thoroughly false and malicious that no other explanation is possible than that Marx did not again take any notice of Proudhon after his valiant attack upon the “Contradictions.” According to his custom, he had placed him where he did not belong, — among the democratic bourgeoisie. A glance at Proudhon’s journalistic career and his position In the February revolution suffices to reveal the absurdity of this classification.
To characterize Marx’s methods I will submit a few points.
In 1837 there appeared in Proudhon’s own printing office a linguistic treatise by the Abbé Bergier: “Les Éléments Primitifs des Langues, Découverts par la Comparaison des Racines de l’Hébreu avec Celles du Grec, du Latin, et du Francais.” Proudhon added to the book an “Esse de Grammaire Generale.” Two years later be revised the work and handed it to the “Institut” in its altered form, to compete for the Volney prize. This new work bore the Greek motto: Taxio ataxian diôkein. There were only four competitors. The prize was not awarded to any of them, but two works, among which was Proudhon’s, received honorable mention. Marx’s account of this matter is as follows: “Proudhon’s first essays I do not remember. His school composition on the ‘Langue universelle’ shows how readily he approached problems for whose solution he lacked the most elementary knowledge.” Worse still is the following: “Shortly before the appearance of his second important work, the ‘Philosophie de la Misère,’” Marx writes, “Proudhon himself announced it to me in a very full letter, containing among others the words: ‘J’attend votre férule critique.’ This soon struck him, however, in a manner (in my book Misère de la Philosophie,’ Paris, 1847) which put an end to our friendship forever.” In the first place, Marx very prudently suppresses the fact that it was not Proudhon who had written to him, but that he had written to Proudhon asking him to become a contributor to the “Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher.” Then he wishes to create the impression by the above form of his words that Proudhon had taken him into his confidence and expressed himself “very fully” concerning his work. But such is by no meant, the case; the “Contradictions” are rather only casually mentioned in Proudhon’s letter as soon to appear. In the third place, finally, this letter of Proudhon’s of May 17, 1847, is so excellent, both as to form and matter, that I cannot forego the pleasure of quoting a few pregnant passages. The letter anticipates in sovereign superiority the future Karl Marx so strikingly, it delineates him so beautifully, in every detail, that it has retained its value to this day. “Let us,” we read there among other things, “if you wish, seek together the laws of society, the manner in which these laws are realized, the progress according to which we discover them; but for God’s sake, after we have destroyed all à priori dogmatisms, let us not think, in our turn, to indoctrinate the people. With all my heart I applaud your project of some day producing all opinions; let us carry on a good and honorable controversy; let us offer to the world the example of a wise and far-sighted tolerance, but let us not, because we are at the head of the movement, make ourselves the leaders of a new intolerance; let us not pose as apostles of a new religion, although this religion be the religion of logic, the religion of reason. Let us welcome, encourage all protestations; let us combat all exclusiveness, all mysticism; let us never consider any question as exhausted, and, when we have used our last argument, let us, if necessary, begin over again with eloquence and irony. On these terms I will join your association with pleasure; if not, not!”
“I have also an observation to make on the following phrase in your letter: ‘At the moment of action.’ Perhaps you are still of the opinion that no reform is at present possible without that which was formerly called a revolution and which is nothing but a shock. This opinion, which I understand, which I excuse, which I should gladly discuss, as I myself held it for a long time, I confess I have been led to abandon by my latest studies. I believe that there is no need of it in order to succeed, and that we should not, consequently, propose revolutionary action as a means of social reform, because this pretended means would simply be an appeal to force, to absolutism, in short, a contradiction. I put the problem thus: to cause to flow back into society, through an economic combination, the wealth which through another economic combination has gone out of society.”
“I must not forget to tell you,” Proudhon closes the most important part of his letter, “that the working class of France seems to me essentially to take the same view; our proletaires have such a thirst for knowledge that he would be badly deceived by them who should offer them nothing but blood for drink. In short, it would In my opinion be bad policy for us to speak as exterminators; there will be enough of violence; the people need not be especially exhorted thereto.”
If Marx, at the close of his article, sees in Proudhon’s “Théorie de l’Impôt” the “genuine petit bourgeois,” or in the “Revolution Sociale Démontrée par le Coup d’État” “a middle-class vulgarity,” such senseless assertions do not deserve a word in refutation. This latter work of Proudhon’s, by the way, which deals with the same subject as the “Eighteenth Brumaire,” is in every respect so infinitely superior to Marx’s book that it would be ridiculous to make a comparison. While Proudhon with unrivaled genius attempts a last hopeless revolt against the governmental principle; while with a bleeding heart he undertakes to demonstrate to himself and his fellow citizens on the basis of the success of the coup d’état the impotence of this principle, and casts the horoscope of the usurper, exactly as it came to pass, — Marx’s book appears as nothing else than a condensed outburst of rage against the powers that be. Marx appears here as the very type of those demagogic politicians of whom Proudhon, looking back upon the excesses of the revolutionary period, says in the “Confessions”: “They spoke of liberty and dreamed of nothing but the dictatorship.” Thus the “eighteenth Brumaire” would not have been such a bad thing if the name of the dictator had been “Karl Marx” and not accidentally “Napoleon Bonaparte.” And such is essentially the position of Marxism still.
That, finally, Marx discovers the key to the personality of Proudhon in “vanity” is the crowning of his work and forms a worthy conclusion to it. Whoever misapprehends the intellectual significance of a man will be still leas able to appreciate his moral greatness.
It is evident that Marx and his disciples could carry on with impunity this enormous humbug with the name of Proudhon only because this name was unknown to German social science. Only since Diehl’s work, especially its second part, have things begun to change for the better. It is amusing to read in Diehl the contradictory opinions which the “historians of socialiam” have pronounced on Proudhon. To this day science is at a loss what to make of him. While the savants are disputing whether to class him with the Socialists or the Communists, I am prepared to prove that social science has not produced a single argument against authoritarian Socialism or Communism in the last thirty years that has not been formulated by Proudhon in a better and a more beautiful way. To Proudhon the word “Socialism” does not signify a dogma, but a protest. He rarely calls himself a “Socialist,” and then always in a definite connection. However, this is quarreling about words. If the conception of a Socialist implies the abolition of private property, inheritances, and the remaining absurdities of Saint-Simonism, Fourierism, and Marxism, then Proudhon is not a Socialist, but rather the most powerful opponent of this theory. But if the belief in the possibility of an adjustment of the social antagonisms on the basis of a progressive reform, which, if indeed not in a day, may yet be quickly and surely realized, entitles one to the name of “Socialist,” then Proudhon is a Socialist, and indeed the most intelligent, consistent, and clearest-headed of all.
* Karl Marx, “Des Elend der Philosophie.” Antwort auf Proudhon’s “Philosophic des Elends.” Deutsch von E. Bernstein und K. Kautsky. Mit Vorwort und Noten von Friedrich Engels. Zweite Aufiage. Stuttgart.: J. H. W. Diets. 1892.
** Reprinted in full in my “Studien über Proudhon.”
“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.
For the list of successful applicants for books see fourth page, it being forced out of its usual position by the necessities of the make-up.
Mr. Hanson Converted.
To the Editor of Liberty:
I hereby admit you have caught me napping, but nothing more. You have not shown that I “reason in a vicious circle,” as you shall presently see.
Morals pertain to social conduct. Morality is good social conduct. Immorality is bad social conduct. One living alone in the world can be neither moral nor immoral, because there is no one beside him whose sovereignty, liberty, or property he can invade. When two, however, live side by side, good and bad morals may obtain between them. If neither invades the sovereignty, liberty, or property of the other, their social conduct is morally perfect. On the other hand, if either invades the sovereignty, liberty, or property of the other, his social conduct is morally bad. It is, therefore, apparent there is right and wrong moral conduct.
Having premised this much, I will now show that, in my letter in Liberty No. 265, I am not guilty of circular reasoning. All that is needed is a proper transposition of the words wrong and injury in the first paragraph of my letter, and the seemingly circular reasoning disappears. I therefore recast the paragraph as follows:
I am antedates might, contract, and social conduct. The sovereignty of the individual is therefore supreme. Hence self-preservation is the first law of nature. Consequently any act done by another which invades the life, liberty, or property of the individual is immediately felt to be more or less destructive of self. Hence the natural rebellion and revenge that arise in the mind of the invaded. This is nature’s testimony that an injury is done. And an injury is a wrong because it militates against social peace and happiness. This answers your question, and also establishes the facts of right and wrong, and morale.
Having made the above explanations and corrections, your allegation that I reason in a vicious circle needs verification.
In writing my previous letter, want of time prevented a proper response to your other questions, which I will now consider. You ask: “Why is one bound to refrain from injuring another; what obligation, apart from motives of expediency, there is upon him to refrain; why a man who does not care for society should respect the essential conditions of society. On none of these points does Mr. Hanson afford me the smallest ray of light.”
Now, sir, I will try to cast some rays of light on your mind, which, I can assure you, I most sincerely and profoundly respect. As reason and sympathy are the main social forces that hold society together, and not might or contract, it becomes obvious that the hater of society should be allowed to live and die alone. This would be perfectly moral, became it would be non-invasive. If, however, he be an invader, and yet a believer in, and an advocate of, society, he should be restrained as the sovereignty of the individual and the law of self-preservation demand or require. And if he be an avowed enemy of society, he has no moral obligations whatever. He is simply a wild beast that should be shot at eight. Society is paramount over an enemy of society, because defence against invasion is always moral.
On the contrary, he who believes in society is morally obliged to conform to the law of society, which is non-invasion. The professed Anarchist who is a believer in non-invasion and the sovereignty of the individual is morally obliged to make his social conduct harmonize with his professed principles. It is his duty. Otherwise he is an arrant hypocrite, to be despised by all pure moralists. Hence moral obligation is the supreme duty of Anarchists, as it is the logical necessity of their professed principles, — viz., the sovereignty of the individual and non-invasion.
Thus have I, a Moralist, demonstrated that all Anarchists and Egoists, who are believers in society, are in duty bound to observe the moral laws of society. I am therefore the victor, and the Egoists are the vanquished. And you, sir, may no longer deny right and wrong, duty, and moral obligation. Wm. Hanson.
I charged Mr. Hanson with reasoning in a circle. Straightway he so recasts his argument that it is no longer circular, and then cries triumphantly: “See! I do not reason in a circle. Your allegation that I do needs verification.” No, you do not now, Mr. Hanson, but you did; and as you admit my allegation that you did, I have not to verify it.
And in fact I have no occasion to carry this discussion any farther, since I am one of those easy-going persons who is perfectly satisfied when he gets all he wants. Mr. Hanson hugs the delusion that he has vanquished the Egoists, but what he has really done is this: he has come over to the Egoistic position, and labelled it Moralism. Mr. Hanson declares without the least qualification that an enemy of society has no moral obligations whatever. Now, this is precisely what I have been insisting on. But because, in my controversy with Mr. Byington, I did insist on this and claimed that there was no reason why a man should refrain from injuring another except the satisfaction of his desire for social peace, Mr. Hanson stepped in and took me to task. Why did he do it? Simply because he understood neither me nor himself. But in consequence of our discussion, he is now beginning to understand himself. Presently he will understand me also, and then he will see that he is what I am, — an Egoist. Even as he now states himself, the only difference between us is that he, after admitting that the enemy of society has no moral obligations, persists in calling the tendency of a believer in society to satisfy his desire for society a moral obligation, while I call it simply what it is, a satisfaction of desire, — that is, Egoism. “He who believes in society,” declares Mr. Hanson, “is morally obliged to conform to the law of society, which is non-invasion.” As well say that a man who desires to preserve his physical integrity is morally obliged to refrain from jumping over Niagara. For me it is enough to say simply that such a man will not jump over Niagara. If Mr. Hanson will have it that such a man is morally bound not to jump over Niagara, but that a man who desires to kill himself is not under such a moral obligation, then I say that he is an Egoist using the phraseology of the Moralist. His terms are unscientific and misleading, but his position is sound.
One word of remonstrance, however, before I am done. Mr. Hanson says that the non-invasive hater of society should be allowed to live and die alone, that the invasive advocate of society should be restrained as the law of self-preservation may require, and that the invasive enemy of society should be shot at sight. So far as obligation is concerned, the Egoist has no exception to take to this view. Certainly he is not so inconsistent as to first assert that an individual is under no obligation to refrain from making war on society, and to then declare that society, or the mass of other individuals, is under obligation not to make war on the avowed enemy. Still, as a matter of policy, the Egoist is disposed to inquire of Mr. Hanson why he discriminates so savagely between invaders. There is clearly good ground for discriminating between invaders according to the degree of their invasion. But why simply restrain the greater invader — a murderer, say — who happens to believe in society, and shoot at sight the lesser invader — a pickpocket, for instance — who happens to be an enemy of society? Why not do in both cases just what the law of self-preservation requires? Why be needlessly cruel or hopelessly summary in either? Perhaps the “wild beast” can be tamed. If so, he may be of valuable service to us all. I appeal in behalf of the enemy of society. Unless the emergency strictly forbids it, let us give him another chance. I think Mr. Hanson is just a trifle harsh. But this is natural. Harshness is a conspicuous attribute of Moralism. Egoism is kinder. Now that Mr. Hanson has become an Egoist, he will soon fall in with his new environment, and then he will be kinder, too. Welcome, brother, welcome! T.
Readers should guard against misapprehension of Dr. Mülberger’s phrases, “anarchic commerce” and “individual exchange,” in his article translated for this issue of Liberty by George Schumm. They should not be construed as a justification of legal restriction of commerce and exchange. The most that can be said is that Proudhon believed that freedom would lead to a generalization of coöperation in production and distribution. But there is some ground for the belief that he laid more stress on this than he would have done had he not desired to gain the adherence of the believers in “national work-shops” to his project for the organization of credit.
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.