Instead Of A Book, By A Man Too Busy To Write One : Part 01, Chapter 04 : The Nature of the State

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1897

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(1854 - 1939) ~ American Father of Individualist Anarchism : An individualist Anarchist, Tucker (1854Ð1939) was a person of intellect rather than of action, focusing on the development of his ideas and on the publication of books and journals, especially the journal Liberty: Not the Daughter but the Mother of Order... (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "...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." (From : "State Socialism and Anarchism," by Benjamin R. Tu....)
• "It has ever been the tendency of power to add to itself, to enlarge its sphere, to encroach beyond the limits set for it..." (From : "State Socialism and Anarchism," by Benjamin R. Tu....)
• "Even in so delicate a matter as that of the relations of the sexes the Anarchists do not shrink from the application of their principle. They acknowledge and defend the right of any man and woman, or any men and women, to love each other for as long or as short a time as they can, will, or may. To them legal marriage and legal divorce are equal absurdities." (From : "State Socialism and Anarchism," by Benjamin R. Tu....)

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Part 01, Chapter 04

The Nature of the State

[Liberty, October 22, 1887.]


Below is reprinted from the London Jus the reply of F. W. Read to the editorial in No. 104 of Liberty, entitled Contract or Organism, What’s That to Us?.(5 ¶ 1)

To the Editor of Jus:(5 ¶ 2)

Sir,—Referring to Mr. Tucker’s criticisms on my letters in Jus dealing with Voluntary Taxation, the principle of a State organism seems to be at the bottom of th econtroversy. I will therefore deal with that first, although it comes last in Mr. Tucker’s article. Mr. Tucker asks whether the State being an organism makes it permanent and exempt from dissolution. Certainly not; I never said it did. But cannot Mr. Tucker see that dissolving an organism is something different from dissolving a collection of atoms with no organic structure? If the people of a State had been thrown together yesterday or the day before, no particular harm would come from splitting them into numerous independent sections; but when a people has grown together generation after generation, and century after century, to break up the adaptations and correlations that have been established can scarcely be productive of any good results. The tiger is an organism, says Mr. Tucker, but if shot he will be speedily disorganized. Quite so; but nobody supposes that the atoms of the tiger’s body derive any benefit from the process. Why should the atoms of the body politic derive any advantage from the dissolution of the organism of which they form a part? That Mr. Tucker should put the State on a level with churches and insurance companies is simply astounding. Does Mr. Tucker really think that five or six States could exist side by side with the same convenience as an equal number of churches? The difficulty of determining what State an individual belonged to would be practically insuperable. How are assaults and robberies to be dealt with? Is a man to be tried by the State of which he is a citizen, or by the State of the party aggrieved? If by his own, how is a police officer of that State to know whether a certain individual belongs to it or not? The difficulties are so enormous that the State would soon be reformed on the old lines. Another great difficulty would be that the State would find it impossible to make a contract. If the State is regarded as a mere collection of individuals, who will lend money on State security? The reason the State is trusted at all is because it is regarded as something over and above the individuals who happen to compose it at any given time; because we feel that, while individuals die, the State remains, and that the State will honor State contracts, even if made for purposes that are disapproved by those who are the atoms of the State organism. I have, indeed, heard it said that it would be a good thing if the State did find it impossible to pledge its credit; but good credit seems as useful to a State as to an individual. Again, is it no advantage to us to be able to make treaties with foreign countries? But what country will make a treaty with a mere mass of individuals, a large portion of whom will be gone in ten years’ time?(5 ¶ 3)

But apart from the question of organism or no organism, does not history show us a continuous weakening of the State in some directions, and a continuous strengthening in other directions? We find a gradual disappearance of the desire to furnish invasion instead of protection, and as the State ceases to do so, the more truly strong does it become, and the more vigorously does it carry out what I regard as its ultimate function,—that of protecting some against the aggression of others.(5 ¶ 4)

One word in conclusion as to the restraining power of the State. Of course by restraint I mean legal restraint. For instance, you could not deprive the State of its taxing power by passing a law to that effect. The framers of the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland tried to restrain the power of the State to disestablish the Irish Church; but the Irish Church was disestablished for all that. What Individualists are trying to do is to show the State that, when it regulates factories and coal mines, and a thousand and one other things, it is acting against its own interests. When the State has learned the lesson, the meddling will cease. If Mr. Tucker chooses to call that restraining the State, he can do so; I don’t.(5 ¶ 5)

Yours truly, etc.,

F. W. Read.

In answer to Mr. Read’s statement (which, if, with all its implications, it were true, would be a valid and final answer to the Anarchists) that dissolving an organism is something different from dissolving a collection of atoms with no organic structure, I cannot do better than quote the following passage from an article by J. Wm. Lloyd in No. 107 of Liberty:(5 ¶ 6)

It appears to me that this universe is but a vast aggregate of individuals; of individuals simple and primary, and of individuals complex, secondary, tertiary, etc., formed by the aggregation of primary individuals or of individuals of a lesser degree of complexity. Some of these individuals of a high degree of complexity are true individuals, concrete, so united that the lesser organisms included cannot exist apart from the main organism; while others are imperfect, discrete, the included organisms existing fairly well, quite as well, or better, apart than united. In the former class are included many of the higher forms of vegetable and animal life, including man, and in the latter are included many lower forms of vegetable and animal life (quack-grass, tape-worms, etc.), and most societary organisms, governments, nations, churches, armies, etc.(5 ¶ 7)

Taking this indisputable view of the matter, it becomes clear that Mr. Read’s statement about dissolving an organism is untrue while the word organism remains unqualified by some adjective equivalent to Mr. Lloyd’s concrete. The question, then, is whether the State is a concrete organism. The Anarchists claim that it is not. If Mr. Read thinks that it is, the onus probandi is upon him. I judge that his error arises from a confusion of the State with society. That society is a concrete organism the Anarchists do not deny; on the contrary, they insist upon it. Consequently they have no intention or desire to abolish it. They know that its life is inseparable from the life of individuals; that it is impossible to destroy one without destroying the other. But, though society cannot be destroyed, it can be greatly hampered and impeded in its operations, much to the disadvantage of the individuals composing it, and it meets its chief impediment in the State. The State, unlike society, is a discrete organism. If it should be destroyed to-morrow, individuals would stlil continue to exist. Production, exchange, and association would go on as before, but much more freely, and all those social functions upon which the individual is dependent would operate in his behalf more usefully than ever. The individual is not related to the State as the tiger’s paw is related to the tiger. Kill the tiger, and the tiger’s paw no longer performs its office; kill the State, and the individual still lives and satisfies his wants. As for society, the Anarchists would not kill it if they could, and could not if they would.(5 ¶ 8)

Mr. Read finds it astounding that I should put the State on a level with churches and insurance companies. I find his astonishment amusing. Believers in compulsory religious systems were astounded when it was first proposed to put the church on a level with other associations. Now the only astonishment is—at least in the United States—that the church is allowed to stay at any other level. But the political superstition has replaced the religious superstition, and Mr. Read is under its sway.(5 ¶ 9)

I do not think that five or six States could exist side by side with quite the same convenience as an equal number of churches. In the relations with which States have to do there is more chance for friction than in the simply religious sphere. But, on the other hand, the friction resulting from a multiplicity of States would be but a mole-hill compared with the mountain of oppression and injustice which is gradually heaped up by a single compulsory State. It would not be necessary for a police officer of a voluntary State to know to what State a given individual belonged, or whether he belonged to any. Voluntary States could, and probably would, authorize their executives to proceed against invasion, no matter who the invader or invaded might be. Mr. Read will probably object that the State to which the invader belonged might regard his arrest as itself an invasion, and proceed against the State which arrested him. Anticipation of such ocnflicts would probably result exactly in those treaties between States which Mr. Read looks upon as so desirable, and even in the establishment of federal tribunals, as courts of last resort, by the co-operation of the various States, on the same voluntary principle in accordance with which the States themselves were organized.(5 ¶ 10)

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.(5 ¶ 11)

All the objections brought forward by Mr. Read (except the organism argument) are mere difficulties of administrative detail, to be overcome by ingenuity, patience, discretion, and expedients. They are not logical difficulties, not difficulties of principle. They seem enormous to him; but so seemed the difficulties of freedom of thought two centuries ago. Whta does he think of the difficulties of the existing régime? Apparently he is as blind to them as is the Roman Catholic to the difficulties of a State religion. All these enormous difficulties which arise in the fancy of the objectors to the voluntary principle will gradually vanish under the influence of the economic changes and well-distributed prosperity which will follow the adoption of that principle. This is what Proudhon calls the dissolution of government in the economic organism. It is too vast a subject for consideration here, but, if Mr. Read wishes to understand the Anarchistic theory of the process, let him study that most wonderful of all the wonderful books of Proudhon, the Idée Générale de la Révolution au Dix-Neuvième Siècle.(5 ¶ 12)

It is true that history shows a continuous weakening of the State in some directions, and a continuous strengthening in other directions. At least, such is the tendency, broadly speaking, though this continuity is sometimes broken by periods of reaction. This tendency is simply the progress of evolution towards Anarchy. The State invades less and less, and protects more and more. It is exactly in the line of this process, and at the end of it, that the Anarchists demand the abandonment of the last citadel of invasion by the substitution of voluntary for compulsory taxation. When this step is taken, the State will achieve its maximum strength as a protector against aggression, and will maintain it as long as its services are needed in that capacity.(5 ¶ 13)

If Mr. Read, in saying that the power of the State cannot be restrained, simply meant that it cannot be legally restrained, his remark had no fitness an an answer to Anarchists and voluntary taxationists. They do not propose to legally restrain it. They propose to create a public sentiment that will make it impossible for the State to collect taxes by force or in any other way invade the individual. Regarding the State as an instrument of aggression, they do not expect to convince it that aggression is against its interests, but they do expect to convince individuals that it is against their interests to be invaded. If by this means they succeed in stripping the State of its invasive powers, they will be satisfied, and it is immaterial to them whether the means is described by the word restraint or by some other word. In fact, I have striven in this discussion to accommodate myself to Mr. Read’s phraseology. For myself I do not think it proper to call voluntary associations States, but, enclosing the word in quotation marks, I have so used it because Mr. Read set the example.(5 ¶ 14)

From : fair-use.org

Chronology

November 30, 1896 :
Part 01, Chapter 04 -- Publication.

February 19, 2017 17:38:03 :
Part 01, Chapter 04 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

March 19, 2019 13:45:02 :
Part 01, Chapter 04 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.

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