Author : Benjamin R. Tucker
One of the most interesting papers that come to this office is the Personal Rights Journal of London. Largely written by men like J. H. Levy and Wordsworth Donisthorpe, it could not be otherwise. Virtually it champions the same political faith that finds an advocate in Liberty. It means by individualism what Liberty means by Anarchism. That it does not realize this fact, and that it assumes Anarchism to be something other than complete individualism, is the principal difference between us. This misunderstanding of Anarchism is very clearly and cleverly exhibited in a passage which I copy from a keen and thought-provoking lecture on The Outcome of Individualism, delivered by J. H. Levy before the National Liberal Club on January 10, 1890, and printed in the Personal Rights Journal of January and February:(6 ¶ 1)
If we are suffering from a poison, we find it advantageous to take a second poison, which acts as an antidote to the first. But, if we are wise, we limit our dose of the second poison so that the toxic effects of both combined are at the minimum. If we take more of it, it produces toxic effects of its own beyond those necessary to counteract, so far as possible, the first poison. If we take less of it, the first poison, to some extent, will do its bad work unchecked. This illustrates the position of the individualist, against the Socialist on the one side and the Anarchist on the other. I recognize that government is an evil. It always means the employment of force against our fellow-man, and—at the very best—his subjection, over a larger or smaller extent of the field of conduct, to the will of a majority of his fellow-citizens. But if this organized or regularized interference were utterly abolished, he would not escape from aggression. He would, in such a society as ours, be liable to far more violence and fraud, which would be a much worse evil than the intervention of government needs to be. But when government pushes its interference beyond the point of maintaining the widest liberty equally for all citizens, it is itself the aggressor, and none the less so because its motives are good.(6 ¶ 2)
Names aside, the thing that Individualism favors, according to the foregoing, is organization to maintain the widest liberty equally for all citizens. Well, that is precisely what Anarchism favors. Individualism does not want such organization any longer than is necessary. Neither does Anarchism. Mr. Levy’s assumption that Anarchism does not want such organization at all arises from his failure to recognize the Anarchistic definition of government. Government has been defined repeatedly in these columns as the subjection of the non-invasive individual to a will not his own. The subjection of the invasive individual is not government, but resistance to and protection from government. By these definitions government is always an evil, but resistance to it is never an evil or a poison. Call such resistance an antidote if you will, but remember that not all antidotes are poisonous. The worst that can be said of resistance or protection is, not that it is an evil, but that it is a loss of productive force in a necessary effort to overcome evil. It can be called an evil only in the sense that needful and not especially healthful labor can be called a curse. The poison illustration, good enough with Mr. Levy’s definitions, has no force with the Anarchistic use of terms.(6 ¶ 3)
Government is invasion, and the State, as defined in the last issue of Liberty, is the embodiment of invasion in an individual, or band of individuals, assuming to act as representatives or masters of the entire people within a given area. The Anarchists are opposed to all government, and especially to the State as the worst governor and chief invader. From Liberty’s standpoint, there are not three positions, but two: one, that of the authoritarian Socialists, favoring government and the State; the other, that of the Individualists and Anarchists, against government and the State.(6 ¶ 4)
It is true that Mr. Levy expressly accords liberty of definition, and therefore I should not have said a word if he had simply stated the Individualist position without misinterpreting the Anarchist position. But in view of this misinterpretation, I must ask him to correct it, unless he can show that my criticism is invalid.(6 ¶ 5)
I may add, in conclusion, that very probably the disposition of the Individualist to give greater prominence than does the Anarchist to the necessity of organization for protection is due to the fact that he seems to see less clearly than the Anarchist that the necessity for defence against individual invaders is largely and perhaps, in the end, wholly due to the oppressions of the invasive State, and that when the State falls, criminals will begin to disappear.(6 ¶ 6)
From : fair-use.org.
November 30, 1896 : Part 01, Chapter 05 -- Publication.
February 19, 2017 : Part 01, Chapter 05 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.
March 19, 2019 : Part 01, Chapter 05 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.
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