The Individualist Anarchists
edited by Frank H. Brooks

The full title is The Individualist Anarchists: An Anthology of Liberty (1881—1908). This is a noticeably well edited book. The selections are arranged by topic so that the discussions can be easily followed. Each topic has an introduction by the editor that sets the scene and clarifies things. However, I must deduct 10 points for his use of feminine pronouns when the gender is irrelevant.

The individualist anarchists were socialists in so far as socialism is a set of theories and demands that proposes to solve the "labor problem." An axiom of the socialists is that labor is the true measure of price. (80) The individualist anarchists who wrote on economics in Liberty essentially had a liberal mind and a socialist heart. (110) They were opposed to patents and copyrights.

The great phrase they used was "the law of equal freedom." They believed that "under Anarchism all rules and laws will be little more than suggestions for the guidance of juries" (160 Tucker)

Herbert Spencer was criticized by the anarchists for not attacking the privileges of the rich. The anarchists believed that the rich were rich because of the special privileges granted to them by the state and that these privileges not only made the rich rich, they also made the poor poor.

John F. Kelly
Kelly went through a phase where he had views like mine. He "felt that egoists had thrown the baby (morality) out with the bathwater (hypocrisy, religion, metaphysics)." (56)

... "For Kelly, human evolution had resulted in the development of an organic moral sentiment, an instinct which provided the essential supplement to human rationality in the actual practice of ethics." (56)

...those groups which acted solidarily were on that account selected for survival; and now, we, the result of this process of selection going on for ages, respect the rights of others, not because we calculate that it is to our benefit to do so, so as to not provoke retaliation, but because we suffer in sympathy with the pains of others, because our moral sense is hurt when injury is done them. It is this feeling that one should so act as not to injure others that Tak Kak attacks as superstitious, merely because most of those possessing it are unable to give any rational explanation of how they come to possess it, though from the nature of the case it is not to be expected that they should have the knowledge required. As a defender of instinct, however, he might have been willing to place the moral instinct on at least as high a plane as the others ... (57 Kelly)

Of course the popular judgment may be in error as to what is really moral; of course priests and others claiming to be the official guardians of morality have committed great outrages in its name; but our very protests against these outrages and errors are proofs of the existence of something just and true, of some standard to which human action ought to conform. (57—58 Kelly)

If we regard, as we may legitimately do, all forces pushing us to action as pleasures,—and all those tending to make us abstain as pains,—deprivation of pleasure being considered a pain,—then it is evident that, however we may act, we act egoistically, since we only act because the pleasures exceed the pains. ... Taking egoism in this broad sense, however, there can be no objection to it. It in no way excludes altruistic motives as determining human actions,—altruism simply becomes one of the forms of egoism. But it is absurd, using the term in the broad sense, to talk of the superiority of egoism, for, in order that egoism should be superior, there must be some kind of action that is not egoistic. It is fair to assume, then, that, when Tak Kak writes of the superiority of egoism, he uses the word in its popular sense, and means that purely self-regarding actions are superior to other-regarding or altruistic ones. Now, if we regard social life as a benefit,—and that we do is self-evident,—this proposition is false; ... egoistic motives of the narrow kind can never be sufficient to restrain men from evil-doing. Some immediate sanction is required, and this sanction is found in the feeling of sympathy with the sufferings of others and the shock to the moral sense at the sight of wrong-doing. (58 Kelly)

Unfortunately, Kelly compared society to an organism and, thereby, subjected his whole scheme to ridicule.

Benjamin R. Tucker
Tucker claimed that might makes right, by which he meant that rights are purely conventional, then he criticized this phrase:

Might is the measure of right everywhere and always, until, by contract, each contracting party voluntarily agrees to measure his right thenceforth, not by his might, but by the equal liberty of those whom he has contracted to protect. (218 Tucker)

"It is more accurate, and it is sufficient simply to say that might is might, and end it there." (63)

Tucker believed that capital is stored up labor that has already received its pay in full and therefore the use of capital should be free of charge. (80) Given this belief, Marx was more logical than Tucker. Marx advocated state ownership of all capital, which seems to be the only way to prevent capital from being sold or rented for money. If capital is allowed to be owned privately, the owners will make deals with others to sell or rent it, which, according to our assumptions, would be unjust, even though the parties to the deal agree to it voluntarily. The only way to prevent such injustice is to not allow private ownership of capital. Since someone always has to decide how capital shall be used, someone has to own and control it. The only way to prevent private ownership of capital is to enforce state ownership of it. Tucker criticizes this because he sees that if the state owns all the capital, no one can employ another. The state would be the only employer. He who will not work for the state must starve or go to prison. All freedom of trade must disappear. Competition must be wiped out. (81)

Tucker was right in pointing out these consequences and being horrified by them, but he was wrong in holding on to the premises that lead logically to these results.

It was never seriously contemplated by the founders of this government that it should be a government of consent. The framers of the Constitution could not have meant that the will of a majority should stand as consent, for they disfranchised a majority of the people to start with. (18 Benjamin Tucker)

He who attempts to control another is a governor, an aggressor, an invader; and the nature of such invasion is not changed, whether it is made by one man upon another man, after the manner of an ordinary criminal, or by one man upon all other men, after the manner of an absolute monarch, or by all other men upon one man, after the manner of a modern democracy. (24 Tucker)

Alas! between the rich knaves and the poor fools there is little to choose. I hate the former as much as I pity the latter, but I fear them both alike. (282 Tucker)

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 them 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. (157 Tucker)

Tucker on anarchism:

"the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by individuals or voluntary associations, and that the State should be abolished." (82)
If the individual has the right to govern himself, all external government is tyranny. (86)
The anarchists are simply unterrified Jeffersonian Democrats. They believe that "the best government is that which governs least," and that that which governs least is no government at all. (86—87 Tucker)
Nor does the Anarchistic scheme furnish any code of morals to be imposed on the individual. "Mind your own business" is its only moral law. Interference with another's business is a crime and the only crime, and as such may properly be resisted. In accordance with this view the Anarchists look upon attempts to arbitrarily suppress vice as in themselves crimes. (87—88 Tucker)
Anarchism is not the doctrine of no subordination; it is the doctrine that none but the invasive should be subordinated. (38 Tucker)
Tucker echoed Hobbes in his opinion that only those who are able to enter into a mutual contract to protect their property have any realistic (i.e. enforceable) claim to it. (210) This allows him to say that children and animals have no rights because they are not capable of entering into contracts. It is similar to my position that rights go with moral agency, except that in my view, if you are a moral agent you have rights without first having to make contracts.
Animals have wills and can make their volitions known, but they do not thereby become owners, and members of society. The necessary qualification for social membership is the power to entertain the simple idea of the social contract. (211 Tucker)
Tucker believed children are owned by their mothers until old enough to own themselves. (88)

Although Tucker claimed to believe in expedience, he wrote with moral passion, and he even used this term:

disgusting as is the perversion of moral passion which finds expression in obscenity, it is much less dangerous to the public morals than the perversion of moral passion which finds expression in government. (225 Tucker)
Tucker used the word "libertarian" in 1896. (302) He was opposed to voting, because he regarded it as an invasive act. (305)

William Bailie on property

To deny a man's right to the fruits of his exertions is a denial of his right to the use of his faculties, both bodily and mental, and finally of his right to life itself. (119)

A man may acquire property—the term including all forms of wealth—by any method consistent with other men's equal liberty. He may work for it by direct labor, he may gamble for it by any kind of speculation provided nobody is coerced, he may obtain it by gift or bequest or through unrestricted exchange, and his claim is equally valid, his right equally undeniable. But he has no just claim to it when procured through the violation of other men's rights, through the limitation or negation of their equal freedom. The same principle which establishes property rights destroys all arbitrary claims, all law-created rights. It denies all property rights due to legal privilege which is an assault upon individual liberty ..." (119)

Unfortunately after this he contradicts it all by forbidding ownership of natural resources, renting land, and charging interest. (119—120)

Quotations from Victor Yarros

Society would cease to exist if life and liberty were not protected against invasion, external or internal; but it would not cease to exist if the governmental method were abandoned. (31 Victor Yarros)

"Right" is but a euphonious equivalent of "might." (193 Victor Yarros)

Bad as private enterprise is, it is integrity itself compared to public enterprise. The main thing that makes for efficiency and honesty is competition, the fear of being outdone, and the necessity of attracting and holding public favor against a number of active rivals. All such motives and incentives disappear when public enterprise annexes a given institution, and nothing else emerges to take their place. (242—243 Victor Yarros)

Quotations from Others

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 peaceful rivalry? (91 Henry Appleton)

Really free currency means, in the first place, no legal-tender laws. Why? Because a really sound currency people will receive on its merits. Only an unsound currency needs a legal-tender law to compel people to take it. Our present currency needs it because it is necessarily unsound; there is supposed to be enough gold to redeem it, but everybody knows that there is not; consequently it requires law to compel people to receive it. Take away the law, and the fact that a currency commands confidence is assurance of the sufficiency of its security. (143 John Beverley Robinson)

The power to maintain one's liberty differs in degree very considerably—no two persons having equal powers. If individual liberty depended upon the power of the individual, equal liberty would be an impossibility. (214 John Badcock Jr.)

What, then, will be a reasonable life under the domination of government, for an Anarchist patriotically loyal to his free society in embryo? He will avoid governing. He will not accept the office of sheriff; he will not protect his licensed business by prosecuting the unlicensed competitor in the next block; he will not, as a striker, call in the anti-trust law against his employer. ... Our Anarchist will disregard the laws of the State, so far as they are not forced upon him: he will do what he thinks best, no matter whether it is legal or illegal, as far as his fear of prosecution permits—and, on the average, a little bit further ... He will disfellowship the State in thought and language. He will not feel or talk as if he had won or lost a battle when it is the United States that has won or lost. He will not speak of the government's doings with a first person plural pronoun, but with a third person. He will not talk of "our" troops in the Philippines, though he may speak of "our government" in the same sense as he speaks of "our climate," "our mosquitoes," "our tramps." This is harder than it looks, but it is useful. It is all right that he should sympathize with the United States in an international dispute in the same way as he may perhaps sympathize with Japan against Russia, but he should throw up his hat for them as an looker-on and not as a member. (253, 254 Steven T. Byington)

Year Read: 1997


Back to Libertarian Essays by Roy Halliday
Back to Nonfiction Book Notes
Back to Fiction Book Notes
Back to Book Notes by Author

This page was last updated on September 26, 2011.
This site is maintained by Roy Halliday. If you have any comments or suggestions, please send them to royhalliday@mindspring.com.