Excerpted and edited from the book: ‘The Individual Anarchists, An Anthology of Liberty (1881-1908)’, Frank H. Brooks, editor. Transaction Publishers, 1994
Events from the late 18th and early 19th century, the days of the Robber Barons, continue to haunt America today. The idea of “Government” (the use of aggression against the non-aggressive) as well as “Anarchy” (voluntary contracts between free individuals for all social needs, including defense against aggressors) are just as pertinent.
The cornerstone of government is compulsion, aggression, invasion and violence. The cornerstone of Anarchist philosophy is that of, “every person has a natural right to do what he wills, provided that in the doing thereof he infringes not the equal rights of any other person.” (Spencer)Or, “Anarchy is defined, not as the absence of all physical compulsion, but absence of physical compulsion of the non-aggressive. Individuals would not be left to do as they choose. They would be left to do as they choose only within certain limits – those of equal freedom. Criminals or invaders would be restrained or punished by voluntary organizations for defense, and only non-aggressive persons would be exempt from interference. In other words, Anarchy is synonymous with liberty for all, not with liberty for some…” (Yarros)
Obviously, then, the way to achieve economic freedom would be to eliminate the barriers to the natural wage of labor (the product) by the elimination of monopolies; especially monopolies of interest, land and profit.
‘All who derive income from the natural and just wage labor comes from these three – interest, land and profit. These constitute the trinity of usury and are just different methods of paying tribute for the use of capital. Capital is stored up labor that has already received its pay in full and its use ought to be gratuitous on the principal that labor is the only basis for price; that the lender of capital is entitled to its return intact and nothing more. The only reason the banker, stockholder, landlord, manufacturer and merchant are able to extract usury from labor lies in the fact that they are backed by legal privilege, or monopolies and thus the only way for labor to claim its natural wage, its product, is to strike down monopoly.’ (Tucker paraphrased)
“Whatever … the State Socialists may claim or disclaim, their system, if adopted, is doomed to end in a State religion, to the expense of which all must contribute and at the altar of which all must kneel; a State school of medicine by whose practitioners the sick must invariably be treated; a State system of hygiene prescribing what all must and must not eat, drink, wear and do; a State code of morals which will not content itself with punishing crime, but will prohibit what the majority decide to be a vice; a State system of instruction which will do away with all private schools, academies and colleges; a State nursery in which all children must be brought up in common at the public expense; and finally, a State family, with an attempt at stirpiculture, or scientific breeding in which no man and woman will be allowed to have children if the State prohibits them and no man and woman can refuse to have children if the State orders them. Thus will Authority achieve its acme and Monopoly be carried to its highest power. Such is the idea of the logical State Socialist…
“This is in contrast to Anarchism which may be described as the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by individuals or voluntary associations and that the State should be abolished.” (Tucker)
‘It’s easy to see that capital has manipulated legislation whereby unlimited competition is allowed in supplying labor, thus keeping wages down to a mere subsistence level. However, almost no competition at all is allowed in supplying capital which thus keeps the rate of interest on money, of house rent and ground rent and of manufacturers profits on patent protected and tariff protected gods at as high a level as the people can bear. In this the economist has been inconsistent. They believe in liberty to compete with labor to reduce his wages, but not in the liberty to compete with capitalists in order to reduce his usury!
‘Instead of socializing the ownership of capital perhaps it would be better to socialize its effects by making its use beneficial to all instead of a means of impoverishing the many to enrich the few.
‘This by the natural law of competition, thus bringing the price of its use down to cost. Absolute free trade. Laissez faire the universal rule rather than State protected monopolies. The destruction of the money monopoly [banks and issuers of credit], land monopoly, tariff monopoly and patent monopoly opens the door to the freest competition resting on the fundamental principal of the freedom of the individual, his right to sovereignty over himself, his products and his affairs.’
“The Anarchist does not want to destroy all existing institutions with a crash and then inaugurate the substituting process on their ruins. He simply asks to be let alone in substituting false systems now so that they may be gradually fall to pieces by their own dead weight. He asks the humble privilege of being allowed to set up a free bank in peaceable competition with the government subsidized class bank on the opposite corner. He asks the privilege of establishing a private post office in fair competition with the governmentally established one. He asks to be let alone in his establishing his title to the soil by free occupation, cultivation and use rather than by a title hampered by vested rights which were [are] designed to keep the masses landless. He asks to be allowed to set up his domestic relations on the basis of free love in peaceable competition with ecclesiastically ordered love which is a crime against Nature and the destroyer of love, order and harmony itself. He asks not to be taxed upon what has already been robbed from him under a machine in which he has practically no voice and no choice. In short, the Anarchist asks for free land, free money, free trade, free love and the right to free competition with the existing order at his own cost and on his own responsibility.
“Is there any violence in all this? Is there artificial leveling? Finally, is there any want of readiness to substitute something in the place of what we condemn? No, all we ask is the right to peaceably place Liberty in fair competition with privilege. Existing governments are pledged to deny this. Herein will reside the coming struggle.
“Who is the party of assault and violence? Is it the Anarchist, simply asking to be let alone in minding his own business, or is it the power which, aware that it cannot stand on its own merits, violently perpetuates itself by crushing all attempts to test its efficiency and pretensions through peaceable rivalry?” …..
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 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 regime of spiritless equality secured at the expense of liberty and progress; the former is a regime of liberty and progress with as close an approximation to equality as is compatible therewith. All 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… [S]trength 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 one 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 will certainly make them equally poor in all that makes life best worth living. (Tucker)