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Benjamin Tucker

Born April 17, 1854(1854-04-17)
Died June 22, 1939 (aged 85)
Monaco
Occupation writer
Nationality American
Genres Nonfiction
Subjects Political philosophy

Benjamin Ricketson Tucker (April 17, 1854 – June 22, 1939) was a leading proponent of American individualist anarchism in the 19th century, and editor and publisher of the individualist anarchist periodical Liberty.

Contents

Summary

Tucker says that he became an anarchist at the age of eighteen.[1] Tucker's contribution to American individualist anarchism was as much through his publishing as his own writing. Tucker was the first to translate into English Proudhon's What is Property? and Max Stirner's The Ego and Its Own — which Tucker claimed was his proudest accomplishment. In editing and publishing the anarchist periodical Liberty, he published the original work of Stephen Pearl Andrews, Joshua K. Ingalls, Lysander Spooner, Auberon Herbert, Victor Yarros, and Lillian Harman, daughter of the free love anarchist Moses Harman, as well as his own writing. He also published such items as George Bernard Shaw's first original article to appear in the United States and the first American translated excerpts of Friedrich Nietzsche. In Liberty, Tucker both filtered and integrated the theories of such European thinkers as Herbert Spencer and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon; the economic and legal theories of the American individualists Lysander Spooner, William B. Greene and Josiah Warren; and the writings of the free thought and free love movements in opposition to religiously-based legislation and prohibitions on non-invasive behavior. Through these influences Tucker produced a rigorous system of philosophical or individualist anarchism that he called Anarchistic-Socialism, arguing that "[the] most perfect Socialism is possible only on the condition of the most perfect individualism." [2]

According to historian of American individualist anarchism, Frank Brooks, it is easy to misunderstand Tucker's claim of "socialism." Before Marxists established a hegemony over definitions of "socialism, "the term socialism was a broad concept." Tucker (as well as most of the writers and readers in Liberty) understood "socialism" to refer to any of various theories and demands aimed to solve "the labor problem" through radical changes in the capitalist economy; descriptions of the problem, explanations of it causes, and proposed solutions (e.g., abolition of private property, cooperatives, state-ownership, etc.) varied among "socialist" philosophies.[3] Tucker said socialism was the claim that "labor should be put in possession of its own,"[4] holding that what "state socialism" and "anarchistic socialism" had in common was the labor theory of value.[5] However, "Instead of asserting, as did socialist anarchists, that common ownership was the key to eroding differences of economic power," and appealing to social solidarity, Tucker's individualist anarchism advocated distribution of property in an undistorted natural market as a mediator of egoistic impulses and a source of social stability.[6][7] Tucker said, "the fact that one class of men are dependent for their living upon the sale of their labour, while another class of men are relieved of the necessity of labour by being legally privileged to sell something that is not labour. . . . And to such a state of things I am as much opposed as any one. But the minute you remove privilege. . . every man will be a labourer exchanging with fellow-labourers . . . What Anarchistic-Socialism aims to abolish is usury . . . it wants to deprive capital of its reward." [8]

Tucker first favored a natural rights philosophy where an individual had a right to own the fruits of his labor and not to be aggressed against, then abandoned it in favor of "egoism" influenced by Max Stirner, where he then believed that only the "right of might" exists until overridden by contract.

He objected to all forms of communism, believing that even a stateless communist society must encroach upon the liberty of individuals who were in it.[9]

The Four Monopolies

Tucker argued that the poor condition of American workers resulted from four legal monopolies based in authority:

  1. the money monopoly,
  2. the land monopoly,
  3. tariffs, and
  4. patents.

His focus for several decades became the state's economic control of how trade could take place, and what currency counted as legitimate. He saw interest and profit as a form of exploitation made possible by the banking monopoly, which was in turn maintained through coercion and invasion. Any such interest and profit, Tucker called "usury" and he saw it as the basis for the oppression of the workers. In his words, "interest is theft, Rent Robbery, and Profit Only Another Name for Plunder." [10] Tucker believed that usury was immoral, however, he upheld the right for all people to engage in immoral contracts. "Liberty, therefore, must defend the right of individuals to make contracts involving usury, rum, marriage, prostitution, and many other things which are believed to be wrong in principle and opposed to human well-being. The right to do wrong involves the essence of all rights."[11]

He asserted that anarchism is meaningless "unless it includes the liberty of the individual to control his product or whatever his product has brought him through exchange in a free market — that is, private property." He acknowledged that "anything is a product upon which human labor has been expended," but would not recognize full property rights to labored-upon land: "It should be noted, however, that in the case of land, or of any other material the supply of which is so limited that all cannot hold it in unlimited quantities, Anarchism undertakes to protect no titles except such as are based upon actual occupancy and use."[12] Tucker opposed title to land that was not in use, arguing that an individual would have to use land continually in order to retain exclusive right to it. If this practice is not followed, he believed it results in a "land monopoly."

Tucker also opposed state protection of the banking monopoly, the requirement that one must obtain a charter to engage in the business of banking. He hoped to raise wages by deregulating the banking industry, reasoning that competition in banking would drive down interest rates and stimulate entrepreneurship. Tucker believed this would decrease the proportion of individuals seeking employment and therefore wages would be driven up by competing employers. "Thus, the same blow that strikes interest down will send wages up."[13] He did not oppose individuals being employed by others, but due to his interpretation of the labor theory of value, he believed that in the present economy individuals do not receive a wage that fully compensates them for their labor. He wrote that if the four "monopolies" were ended, "it will make no difference whether men work for themselves, or are employed, or employ others. In any case they can get nothing but that wages for their labor which free competition determines."[14]

Tucker opposed protectionism, believing that tariffs cause high prices by preventing national producers from having to compete with foreign competitors. He believed that free trade would help keep prices low and therefore would assist laborers in receiving their "natural wage." Tucker did not believe in a right to intellectual property in the form of patents, on the grounds that patents and copyrights protect something which cannot rightfully be held as property. In "The Attitude of Anarchism toward Industrial Combinations," he wrote that the basis for property is "the fact that it is impossible in the nature of things for concrete objects to be used in different places at the same time." Property in concrete things is "socially necessary." "[S]ince successful society rests on individual initiative, [it is necessary] to protect the individual creator in the use of his concrete creations by forbidding others to use them without his consent." Because ideas are not concrete things, they cannot be held and protected as property. Ideas can be used in different places at the same time, and so their use should not be restricted by patents.[15] This was a source of conflict with the philosophy of fellow individualist Lysander Spooner who saw ideas as the product of "intellectual labor" and therefore private property.[16]

According to Victor Yarros:

He [Tucker] opposed savagely any and all reform movements that had paternalistic aims and looked to the state for aid and fulfillment...For the same reason, consistent, unrelenting opposition to compulsion, he combatted "populism," "greenbackism," the single-tax movement, and all forms of socialism and communism. He denounced and exposed Johann Most, the editor of Freiheit, the anarchist-communist organ. The end, he declared, could never justify the means, if the means were intrinsically immoral — and force, by whomsoever used, was immoral except as a means of preventing or punishing aggression.[17]

Tucker rejected the legislative programs of labor unions, laws imposing a short day, minimum wage laws, forcing businesses to provide insurance to employees, and compulsory pension systems.[17] He believed instead that strikes should be composed by free workers rather than by bureaucratic union officials and organizations. He argued, "strikes, whenever and wherever inaugurated, deserve encouragement from all the friends of labour. . . They show that people are beginning to know their rights, and knowing, dare to maintain them." [18] and furthermore, "as an awakening agent, as an agitating force, the beneficent influence of a strike is immeasurable. . . with our present economic system almost every strike is just. For what is justice in production and distribution? That labour, which creates all, shall have all." [19] Tucker envisioned an individualist anarchist society as "each man reaping the fruits of his labour and no man able to live in idleness on an income from capital....become[ing] a great hive of Anarchistic workers, prosperous and free individuals [combining] to carry on their production and distribution on the cost principle." [20] rather than a bureaucratic organization of workers organized into rank and file unions. However, he did hold a genuine appreciation for labor unions (which he called "trades-union socialism") and saw it as "an intelligent and self-governing socialism" saying, "[they] promise the coming substitution of industrial socialism for usurping legislative mobism." [21]

Tucker's concept of the four monopolies has recently been discussed by Kevin Carson in his book Studies in Mutualist Political Economy. Carson incorporates the idea into his thesis that the exploitation of labor is only possible due to state intervention, however, he argues that Tucker failed to notice a fifth form of privilege: transportation subsidies.

One form of contemporary government intervention that Tucker almost entirely ignored was transportation subsidies. This seems odd at first glance, since "internal improvements" had been a controversial issue throughout the nineteenth century, and were a central part of the mercantilist agenda of the Whigs and the Gilded Age GOP. Indeed, Lincoln has announced the beginning of his career with a "short but sweet" embrace of Henry Clay's program: a national bank, a high tariff, and internal improvements. This neglect, however, was in keeping with Tucker's inclination. He was concerned with privilege primarily as it promoted monopoly profits through unfair exchange at the individual level, and not as it affected the overall structure of production. The kind of government intervention that James O'Connor was later to write about, that promoted accumulation and concentration by directly subsidizing the operating costs of big business, largely escaped his notice.

Carson believes that Tucker's four monopolies and transportation subsidies created the foundation for the monopoly capitalism and military-industrial complex of the twentieth century.[22]

Private defense

Tucker did not have a utopian vision of anarchy where individuals would not coerce others.[17] He advocated that liberty and property be defended by private institutions. Opposing the monopoly of the state in providing security, he advocated a free market of competing defense providers, saying "defense is a service like any other service; ... it is labor both useful and desired, and therefore an economic commodity subject to the law of supply and demand." [23] He said that anarchism "does not exclude prisons, officials, military, or other symbols of force. It merely demands that non-invasive men shall not be made the victims of such force. Anarchism is not the reign of love, but the reign of justice. It does not signify the abolition of force-symbols but the application of force to real invaders."[24] Tucker expressed that the market-based providers of security would offer protection of land that was being used, and would not offer assistance to those attempting to collect rent:"The land for the people' . . . means the protection by . . . voluntary associations for the maintenance of justice . . . of all people who desire to cultivate land in possession of whatever land they personally cultivate . . . and the positive refusal of the protecting power to lend its aid to the collection of any rent, whatsoever." [25]

Embrace of "egoism"

Tucker abandoned natural rights doctrine and became a proponent of what is known as "Egoism." This led to a split in American Individualism between the growing number of Egoists and the contemporary Spoonerian "Natural Lawyers". Tucker came to hold the position that no rights exist until they are created by contract. This led him to controversial positions such as claiming that infants had no rights and were the property of their parents, because they did not have the ability to contract. He said that a person who physically tries to stop a mother from throwing her "baby into the fire" should be punished for violating her property rights. He said that children would shed their status as property when they became old enough to contract "to buy or sell a house" for example, noting that the precocity varies by age and would be determined by a jury in the case of a complaint.[26]

He also came to believe that aggressing against other was justifiable if doing so led to a greater decrease in "aggregate pain" than refraining from doing so. He said:

the ultimate end of human endeavor is the minimum of pain. We aim to decrease invasion only because, as a rule, invasion increases the total of pain (meaning, of course, pain suffered by the ego, whether directly or through sympathy with others). But it is precisely my contention that this rule, despite the immense importance which I place upon it, is not absolute; that, on the contrary, there are exceptional cases where invasion--that is, coercion of the non-invasive--lessens the aggregate pain. Therefore coercion of the non-invasive, when justifiable at all, is to be justified on the ground that it secures, not a minimum of invasion, but a minimum of pain. . . . [T]o me [it is] axiomatic--that the ultimate end is the minimum of pain [27]

Tucker now said that there were only two rights, "the right of might" and "the right of contract." He also said, after converting to Egoist individualism that ownership in land is legitimately transferred through force unless contracted otherwise. In 1892, he said "In times past...it was my habit to talk glibly of the right of man to land. It was a bad habit, and I long ago sloughed it off. Man's only right to land is his might over it. If his neighbor is mightier than he and takes the land from him, then the land is his neighbor's, until the latter is dispossessed by one mightier still."[28] However, he said he believed that individuals would come to the realization that "equal liberty" and "occupancy and use" doctrines were "generally trustworthy guiding principle of action," and, as a result, they would likely find it in their interests to contract with each other to refrain from infringing upon equal liberty and from protecting land that was not in use.[29] Though he believed that non-invasion, and "occupancy and use as the title to land" were general rules that people would find in their own interests to create through contract, he said that these rules "must be sometimes trodden underfoot."[30]

Late life

In 1908, a fire destroyed Tucker's uninsured printing equipment and his 30-year stock of books and pamphlets. Tucker's lover, Pearl Johnson — 25 years his junior — was pregnant with their daughter, Oriole Tucker. Six weeks after Oriole's birth, Tucker closed both Liberty and the book shop and retired with his family to France. In 1913, he came out of retirement for two years to contribute articles and letters to The New Freewoman which he called "the most important publication in existence."

Late in life, Tucker became much more pessimistic about the prospects for anarchism. In 1926, Vanguard Press published a selection of his writings entitled Individual Liberty, in which Tucker added a postscript to "State Socialism and Anarchism", which stated "Forty years ago, when the foregoing essay was written, the denial of competition had not yet effected the enormous concentration of wealth that now so gravely threatens social order. It was not yet too late to stem the current of accumulation by a reversal of the policy of monopoly. The Anarchistic remedy was still applicable." But, Tucker argued, "Today the way is not so clear. The four monopolies, unhindered, have made possible the modern development of the trust, and the trust is now a monster which I fear, even the freest banking, could it be instituted, would be unable to destroy. ... If this be true, then monopoly, which can be controlled permanently only for economic forces, has passed for the moment beyond their reach, and must be grappled with for a time solely by forces political or revolutionary. Until measures of forcible confiscation, through the State or in defiance of it, shall have abolished the concentrations that monopoly has created, the economic solution proposed by Anarchism and outlined in the forgoing pages – and there is no other solution – will remain a thing to be taught to the rising generation, that conditions may be favorable to its application after the great leveling. But education is a slow process, and may not come too quickly. Anarchists who endeavor to hasten it by joining in the propaganda of State Socialism or revolution make a sad mistake indeed. They help to so force the march of events that the people will not have time to find out, by the study of their experience, that their troubles have been due to the rejection of competition."

By 1930, Tucker had concluded that centralization and advancing technology had doomed both anarchy and civilization. "The matter of my famous 'Postscript' now sinks into insignificance; the insurmountable obstacle to the realization of Anarchy is no longer the power of the trusts, but the indisputable fact that our civilization is in its death throes. We may last a couple of centuries yet; on the other hand, a decade may precipitate our finish. ... The dark ages sure enough. The Monster, Mechanism, is devouring mankind."[31]

According to James Martin, when referring to the world scene of the mid-1930s in private correspondence, Tucker wrote: "Capitalism is at least tolerable, which cannot be said of Socialism or Communism" and went on to observe that, "under any of these regimes a sufficiently shrewd man can feather his nest."[32]. Susan Love Brown claims that this unpublished, private letter, which does not distinguish between the anarchist socialism Tucker advocated and the state socialism he criticized, served in "providing the shift further illuminated in the 1970s by anarcho-capitalists."[33]

Tucker died in Monaco in 1939, in the company of his family. His daughter, Oriole, reported, "Father's attitude towards communism never changed one whit, nor about religion.... In his last months he called in the French housekeeper. 'I want her,' he said, 'to be a witness that on my death bed I'm not recanting. I do not believe in God!"[34]

Dates, places and events

Born April 17, 1854 in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

  • 1872, age 18 — While a student at M.I.T., Tucker attended a convention of the New England Labor Reform League in Boston, chaired by William B. Greene, author of Mutual Banking (1850). At the convention, Tucker purchased Mutual Banking, True Civilization, and a set of Ezra Heywood's pamphlets. Furthermore, Free-love anarchist, Ezra Heywood introduced Tucker to William B. Greene and Josiah Warren, author of True Civilization (1869). He also started a relationship with Victoria Woodhull at this time, lasting for 3 years.
  • 1876, age 22 — Tucker's debut into radical circles: Heywood published Tucker's English translation of Proudhon's classic work What is Property?.
  • 1877-1878, age 23-24 — Published his original journal, Radical Review, which lasted four issues.

August 1881 to April 1908, age 27 to 54 — published the periodical, Liberty, "widely considered to be the finest individualist-anarchist periodical ever issued in the English language."

  • 1892, age 38 — moved Liberty from Boston to New York
  • 1906, age 52 — Opened Tucker's Unique Book Shop in New York City — promoting "Egoism in Philosophy, Anarchism in Politics, Iconoclasm in Art".
  • 1908, age 54 — A fire destroyed Tucker's uninsured printing equipment and his 30-year stock of books and pamphlets. Tucker's lover, Pearl Johnson — 25 years his junior — was pregnant with their daughter, Oriole Tucker. Six weeks after Oriole's birth, Tucker closed both Liberty and the book shop and moved his family to France.
  • 1913, age 59 — Tucker comes out of retirement for two years to contribute articles and letters to The New Freewoman which he called "the most important publication in existence"
  • 1939, age 85 — Tucker died in Monaco, in the company of his lover Pearl Johnson and their daughter, Oriole, who reported, "Father's attitude towards communism never changed one whit, nor about religion.... In his last months he called in the French housekeeper. 'I want her,' he said, 'to be a witness that on my death bed I'm not recanting. I do not believe in God!"[34]

Online publications

References

  1. ^ Symes, Lillian and Clement, Travers. Rebel America: The Story of Social Revolt in the United States. Harper & Brothers Publishers. 1934. p. 156
  2. ^ cited by Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible, p. 390
  3. ^ Brooks, Frank H. 1994. The Individualist Anarchists: An Anthology of Liberty (1881-1908). Transaction Publishers. p. 75.
  4. ^ Tucker, Benjamin. "State Socialism and Anarchism," ¶ 1.
  5. ^ Brown. Susan Love. 1997. The Free Market as Salvation from Government. In Meanings of the Market: The Free Market in Western Culture. p. 107. Berg Publishers.
  6. ^ Freeden, Michael. 1996. Ideologies and Political Theory: A Conceptual Approach. p. 276. Oxford University Press.
  7. ^ Although Tucker described his views as "Anarchistic Socialism," Freeden and some other scholars do not consider Tucker a socialist anarchist because he supports private control over the means of production as opposed to socialized or community control. Tucker, Benjamin: "Should Labor be Paid or Not?"
  8. ^ [Instead of a Book, p. 404]
  9. ^ Madison, Charles A. Anarchism in the United States. Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol 6, No 1, January 1945, p. 53.
  10. ^ Martin Blatt, Benjamin R. Tucker and the Champions of Liberty, Coughlin, Hamilton and Sullivan (eds.), p. 29
  11. ^ Benjamin R. Tucker, "Right and Individual Rights," Liberty I (January 7, 1882): 3.
  12. ^ Tucker, Benjamin, "Instead of a Book", page 61, footnote.
  13. ^ [1] Libertarian Heritage No. 23. ISSN 0959-566X ISBN 1-85637-549-8, Libertarian Alliance, 2002.
  14. ^ Tucker, Benjamin. "Solutions of the Labor Problem," in Instead of a Book, p. 475.
  15. ^ Tucker, Benjamin: The Attitude of Anarchism toward Industrial Combinations
  16. ^ Spooner, Lysander. The Law of Intellectual Property: or an essay on the right of authors and inventors to a perpetual property in their ideas., Chapter 1, Section VI.
  17. ^ a b c Victor Yarros (1936). "Philosophical Anarchism: Its Rise, Decline, and Eclipse". The American Journal of Sociology 41 (4): 470–483. doi:10.1086/217188. 
  18. ^ Benjamin Tucker, Liberty, 15/4/1881
  19. ^ Benjamin Tucker, Liberty, #19, 1882
  20. ^ The Individualist Anarchists, p. 276
  21. ^ The Individualist Anarchists, pp. 283-284
  22. ^ Kevin Carson. Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Ch. 5. [2]
  23. ^ "On Picket Duty." Liberty. July 30, 1887; 4, 26. p4.
  24. ^ Tucker, Benjamin. Liberty October 19, 1891.
  25. ^ quoted by Martin Blatt, Benjamin R. Tucker and the Champions of Liberty, Coughlin, Hamilton and Sullivan (eds.), p. 299
  26. ^ McElroy, Wendy. 2003. The Debates of Liberty. Lexington Books. pp. 77-79
  27. ^ "Land Tenure Again." Liberty. October 19, 1895; 11, 12; p.3.
  28. ^ Benjamin R. Tucker, "Response to 'Rights,' by William Hansen," Liberty, December 31, 1892; 9, 18; pg. 1
  29. ^ Benjamin R. Tucker, "The Two Conceptions of Equal Freedom," Liberty, April 6, 1895; 10, 24; pg. 4
  30. ^ Tucker, "Land Tenure Again"
  31. ^ Letter to Clarence Lee Swartz, July 22, 1930. In Joseph Ishill (ed.), Free Vistas: A Libertarian Outlook on Life and Letters, II, 300–301. Quoted in James J. Martin, Men Against the State, 1953:260.
  32. ^ James J. Martin, Men Against the State, 1970:275, quoting from the Baskette Collection (1933-1935)
  33. ^ L. Susan Brown, The Free Market as Salvation from Government, Meanings of the Market: The Free Market in Western Culture, page 108
  34. ^ a b Paul Avrich (1996). "Oriole Tucker Riché". Anarchist Voices. Princeton University Press. pp. 11. ISBN 0-691-04494-5. 

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The Anarchists believe in civil society; only they insist that the freedom of civil society shall be complete instead of partial.

Benjamin Ricketson Tucker (April 17, 1854June 22, 1939) was a journalist, libertarian, and the leading proponent of American individualist anarchism in the 19th century.

Contents

Sourced

State Socialism and Anarchism: How Far They Agree, and Wherin They Differ (1888)

Online text. Originally published in Liberty 5.16, no. 120 (10 March 1888), pp. 2-3, 6.

  • Almost the only persons who may be said to comprehend even approximately the significance, principles, and purposes of Socialism are the chief leaders of the extreme wings of the Socialistic forces, and perhaps a few of the money kings themselves. It is a subject of which it has lately become quite the fashion for preacher, professor, and penny-a-liner to treat, and, for the most part, woeful work they have made with it, exciting the derision and pity of those competent to judge. That those prominent in the intermediate Socialistic divisions do not fully understand what they are about is evident from the positions they occupy.
    • SSA.2
  • The two principles referred to are Authority and Liberty, and the names of the two schools of Socialistic thought which fully and unreservedly represent one or the other of them are, respectively, State Socialism and Anarchism. Whoso knows what these two schools want and how they propose to get it understands the Socialistic movement. For, just as it has been said that there is no half-way house between Rome and Reason, so it may be said that there is no half-way house between State Socialism and Anarchism.
    • SSA.4
  • Socialism, on the contrary, extends its function to the description of society as it should be, and the discovery of the means of making it what it should be.
    • SSA.6
  • First, then, State Socialism, which may be described as the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by the government, regardless of individual choice. Marx, its founder, concluded that the only way to abolish the class monopolies was to centralize and consolidate all industrial and commercial interests, all productive and distributive agencies, in one vast monopoly in the hands of the State.
    • SSA.11
  • To the individual can belong only the products to be consumed, not the means of producing them. A man may own his clothes and his food, but not the sewing-machine which makes his shirts or the spade which digs his potatoes.
    • SSA.11
  • Product and capital are essentially different things; the former belongs to individuals, the latter to society.
    • SSA.11
  • All freedom of trade must disappear. Competition must be utterly wiped out. All industrial and commercial activity must be centered in one vast, enormous, all-inclusive monopoly. The remedy for monopolies is monopoly.
    • SSA.11
  • What other applications this principle of Authority, once adopted in the economic sphere, will develop is very evident. It means the absolute control by the majority of all individual conduct. The right of such control is already admitted by the State Socialists, though they maintain that, as a matter of fact, the individual would be allowed a much larger liberty than he now enjoys. But he would only be allowed it; he could not claim it as his own. There would be no foundation of society upon a guaranteed equality of the largest possible liberty. Such liberty as might exist would exist by sufferance and could be taken away at any moment. Constitutional guarantees would be of no avail. There would be but one article in the constitution of a State Socialistic country: “The right of the majority is absolute.”
    • SSA.13
  • The claim of the State Socialists, however, that this right would not be exercised in matters pertaining to the individual in the more intimate and private relations of his life is not borne out by the history of governments. It has ever been the tendency of power to add to itself, to enlarge its sphere, to encroach beyond the limits set for it; and where the habit of resisting such encroachment is not fostered, and the individual is not taught to be jealous of his rights, individuality gradually disappears and the government or State becomes the all-in-all. Control naturally accompanies responsibility. Under the system of State Socialism, therefore, which holds the community responsible for the health, wealth, and wisdom of the individual, it is evident that the community, through its majority expression, will insist more and more in prescribing the conditions of health, wealth, and wisdom, thus impairing and finally destroying individual independence and with it all sense of individual responsibility.
    • SSA.14
  • This brings us 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.
    • SSA.17
  • Laissez Faire was very good sauce for the goose, labor, but was very poor sauce for the gander, capital.
    • SSA.19
  • Marx, as we have seen, solved it by declaring capital to be a different thing from product, and maintaining that it belonged to society and should be seized by society and employed for the benefit of all alike.
    • SSA.20
  • In the matter of the maintenance and rearing of children the Anarchists would neither institute the communistic nursery which the State Socialists favor nor keep the communistic school system which now prevails. The nurse and the teacher, like the doctor and the preacher, must be selected voluntarily, and their services must be paid for by those who patronize them. Parental rights must not be taken away, and parental responsibilities must not be foisted upon others.
    • SSA.31

Address before the Unitarian Ministers' Institute (October 14, 1890)

Online text

  • We designate by the term "State" institutions that embody absolutism in its extreme form and institutions that temper it with more or less liberality. We apply the word alike to institutions that do nothing but aggress and to institutions that, besides aggressing, to some extent protect and defend. But which is the State's essential function, aggression or defence, few seem to know or care.
  • Aggression is simply another name for government. Aggression, invasion, government, are interconvertible terms. The essence of government is control, or the attempt to control. 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 the 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.
  • This distinction between invasion and resistance, between government and defence, is vital. Without it there can be no valid philosophy of politics. Upon this distinction and the other considerations just outlined, the Anarchists frame the desired definitions. This, then, is the Anarchistic definition of government: the subjection of the non-invasive individual to an external will. And this is the Anarchistic definition of the State: the embodiment of the principle of invasion in an individual, or a band of individuals, assuming to act as representatives or masters of the entire people within a given area.
  • Defence was an afterthought, prompted by necessity; and its introduction as a State function, though effected doubtless with a view to the strengthening of the State, was really and in principle the initiation of the State's destruction. Its growth in importance is but an evidence of the tendency of progress toward the abolition of the State.
  • Taking this view of the matter, the Anarchists contend that defence is not an essential of the State, but that aggression is.
  • What relations should exist between the State and the Individual? The general method of determining these is to apply some theory of ethics involving a basis of moral obligation. In this method the Anarchists have no confidence. The idea of moral obligation, of inherent rights and duties, they totally discard. They look upon all obligations, not as moral, but as social, and even then not really as obligations except as these have been consciously and voluntarily assumed. If a man makes an agreement with men, the latter may combine to hold him to his agreement; but, in the absence of such agreement, no man, so far as the Anarchists are aware, has made any agreement with God or with any other power of any order whatsoever. The Anarchists are not only utilitarians, but egoists in the farthest and fullest sense. So far as inherent right is concerned, might is its only measure.
  • The exercise of authority over the same area by two States is a contradiction.
  • "But," it will be asked of the Anarchists at this point in the argument, "what shall be done with those individuals who undoubtedly will persist in violating the social law by invading their neighbors?" The Anarchists answer that the abolition of the State will leave in existence a defensive association, resting no longer on a compulsory but on a voluntary basis, which will restrain invaders by any means that may prove necessary.
  • Why, the very first act of the State, the compulsory assessment and collection of taxes, is itself an aggression, a violation of equal liberty, and, as such, initiates every subsequent act, even those acts which would be purely defensive if paid out of a treasury filled by voluntary contributions. How is it possible to sanction, under the law of equal liberty, the confiscation of a man's earnings to pay for protection which he has not sought and does not desire? And, if this is an outrage, what name shall we give to such confiscation when the victim is given, instead of bread, a stone, instead of protection, oppression? To force a man to pay for the violation of his own liberty is indeed an addition of insult to injury. But that is exactly what the State is doing.

Individual Liberty (1926)

Online text, Individual Liberty: Selections From the Writings of Benjamin R. Tucker Vanguard Press, New York, 1926

  • Voluntary taxation, far from impairing the "State's" credit, would strengthen it. In the first place, the simplification of its functions would greatly reduce, and perhaps entirely abolish, its need to borrow, and the power to borrow is generally inversely proportional to the steadiness of the need. It is usually the inveterate borrower who lacks credit. In the second place, the power of the State to repudiate, and still continue its business, is dependent upon its power of compulsory taxation. It knows that, when it can no longer borrow, it can at least tax its citizens up to the limit of revolution. In the third place, the State is trusted, not because it is over and above individuals, but because the lender presumes that it desires to maintain its credit and will therefore pay its debts. This desire for credit will be stronger in a "State" supported by voluntary taxation than in the State which enforces taxation.
  • The Anarchists never have claimed that liberty will bring perfection; they simply say that its results are vastly preferable to those that follow authority.

Anarchism and Crime

Online text

  • Once for all, then, we are not opposed to the punishment of thieves and murderers; we are opposed to their manufacture.
  • If the defenders of privilege desire to exclude from this country the opponents of privilege, they should see to it that Congress omits the taking of the eleventh census. For the eleventh census, if taken, will undoubtedly emphasize these two lessons of the tenth: first, that foreign immigration does not increase dishonesty and violence among us, but does increase the love of liberty; second, that the population of the world is gradually dividing into two classes, Anarchists and criminals.

Liberty and Politics

Online text

  • The Anarchists believe in the family; they only insist that free competition and experiment shall always be allowed in order that it may be determined what form of family best secures this object.
  • The Anarchists believe in civil society; only they insist that the freedom of civil society shall be complete instead of partial.
  • The Anarchists believe in the State; only they insist that the greater part, if not all, of the necessity for its existence is the result of an artificial limitation of the freedom of civil society, and that the completion of industrial freedom may one day so harmonize individuals that it will no longer be necessary to provide a guarantee of political freedom.
  • The Anarchists most certainly believe in the Church; only they insist that all its work shall be purely voluntary, and that its discoveries and achievements, however beneficial, shall not be imposed upon the individual by authority.

Anarchism and Capital Punishment

Online text

  • I have also seen it stated that Capital punishment is murder in its worst form. I should like to know upon what principle of human society these assertions are based and justified.
  • But this is not to say that the society which inflicts capital punishment commits murder. Murder is an offensive act. The term cannot be applied legitimately to any defensive act. And capital punishment, however ineffective it may be and through whatever ignorance it may be resorted to, is a strictly defensive act, - at least in theory.
  • I insist that there is nothing sacred in the life of an invader, and there is no valid principle of human society that forbids the invaded to protect themselves in whatever way they can.

Passive Resistance

Online text

  • It is not wise warfare to throw your ammunition to the enemy unless you throw it from the cannon's mouth. But if you can compel the enemy to waste his ammunition by drawing his fire on some thoroughly protected spot; if you can, by annoying and goading and harassing him in all possible ways, drive him to the last resort of stripping bare his tyrannous and invasive purposes and put him in the attitude of a designing villain assailing honest men for purposes of plunder; there is no better strategy.
  • "Passive resistance," said Ferdinand Lassalle, with an obtuseness thoroughly German, "is the resistance which does not resist." Never was there a greater mistake. It is the only resistance which in these days of military discipline resists with any result. There is not a tyrant in the civilized world today who would not do anything in his power to precipitate a bloody revolution rather than see himself confronted by any large fraction of his subjects determined not to obey. An insurrection is easily quelled; but no army is willing or able to train its guns on inoffensive people who do not even gather in the streets but stay at home and stand back on their rights. Neither the ballot nor the bayonet is to play any great part in the coming struggle; passive resistance is the instrument by which the revolutionary force is destined to secure in the last great conflict the people's rights forever.
  • The idea that Anarchy can be inaugurated by force is as fallacious as the idea that it can be sustained by force. Force cannot preserve Anarchy; neither can it bring it. In fact, one of the inevitable influences of the use of force is to postpone Anarchy. The only thing that force can ever do for us is to save us from extinction, to give us a longer lease of life in which to try to secure Anarchy by the only methods that can ever bring it. But this advantage is always purchased at immense cost, and its attainment is always attended by frightful risk. The attempt should be made only when the risk of any other course is greater.
  • When a physician sees that his patient's strength is being exhausted so rapidly by the intensity of his agony that he will die of exhaustion before the medical processes inaugurated have a chance to do their curative work, he administers an opiate. But a good physician is always loath to do so, knowing that one of the influences of the opiate is to interfere with and defeat the medical processes themselves. He never does it except as a choice of evils. It is the same with the use of force, whether of the mob or of the State, upon diseased society; and not only those who prescribe its indiscriminate use as a sovereign remedy and a permanent tonic, but all who ever propose it as a cure, and even all who would lightly and unnecessarily resort to it, not as a cure, but as an expedient, are social quacks.
  • Passive resistance and boycotting are now prominent features of every great national movement.

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Benjamin Tucker
Born April 17, 1854
Died June 22, 1939
Monaco
Occupation writer
Nationality American
Genres non fiction
Subjects political philosophy

Benjamin Ricketson Tucker (April 17, 1854June 22, 1939) was a leading proponent of American individualist anarchism in the 19th century, and editor and publisher of the individualist anarchist periodical Liberty.

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Persondata
NAME Tucker, Benjamin
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Tucker, Benjamin Ricketson
SHORT DESCRIPTION American anarchist
DATE OF BIRTH 17 April 1854
PLACE OF BIRTH Dartmouth, Massachusetts, United States
DATE OF DEATH 22 June 1939
PLACE OF DEATH Monaco

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