Instead Of A Book, By A Man Too Busy To Write One : Part 04, Chapter 05 : Will Professor Sumner Choose?

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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.)
• "The evil to which this [tariff] monopoly gives rise might more properly be called misusury than usury, because it compels labor to pay, not exactly for the use of capital, but rather for the misuse of capital." (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....)
• "If the individual has a right to govern himself, all external government is tyranny. Hence the necessity of abolishing the State." (From : "State Socialism and Anarchism," by Benjamin R. Tu....)

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Part 04, Chapter 05

Will Professor Sumner Choose?

[Liberty, November 14, 1885.]


Professor Sumner, who occupies the chair of political economy at Yale, addressed last Sunday the New Haven Equal Rights Debating Club. He told the State Socialists and Communists of that city much wholesome truth. But, as far as I can learn from the newspaper reports, which may of course have left out, as usual, the most important things that the speaker said, he made no discrimination in his criticisms. He appears to have entirely ignored the fact that the Anarchistic Socialists are the most unflinching champions in existence of his own pet principle of laissez faire. He branded Socialism as the summit of absurdity, utterly failing to note that one great school of Socialism says Amen whenever he scolds government for invading the individual, and only regrets that he doesn’t scold it oftener and more uniformly.(123 ¶ 1)

Referring to Karl Marx’s position that the employee is forced to give up a part of his product to the employer (which, by the way, was Proudhon’s position before it was Marx’s, and Josiah Warren’s before it was Proudhon’s), Professor Sumner asked why the employee does not, then, go to work for himself, and answered the question very truthfully by saying that it is because he has no capital. But he did not proceed to tell why he has no capital and how he can get some. Yet this is the vital point in dispute between Anarchism and privilege, between Socialism and so-called political economy. He did indeed recommend the time-dishonored virtues of industry and economy as a means of getting capital, but every observing person knows that the most industrious and economical persons are precisely the ones who have no capital and can get none. Industry and economy will begin to accumulate capital when idleness and extravagance lose their power to steal it, and not before.(123 ¶ 2)

Professor Sumner also told Herr Most and his followers that their proposition to have the employee get capital by forcible seizure is the most short-sighted economic measure possible to conceive of. Here again he is entirely wise and sound. Not that there may not be circumstances when such seizure would be advisable as a political, war, or terroristic measure calculated to induce political changes that will give freedom to natural economic processes; but as a directly economic measure it must always and inevitably be, not only futile, but reactionary. In opposition to all arbitrary distribution I stand with Professor Sumner with all my heart and mind. And so does every logical Anarchist.(123 ¶ 3)

But, if the employee cannot at present get capital by industry and economy, and if it will do him no good to get it by force, how is he to get it with benefit to himself and injury to no other? Why don’t you tell us that, Professor Sumner? You did, to be sure, send a stray shot somewhere near the mark when, in answer to a question why shoemakers have no shoes, you said that, where such a condition of things prevailed, it was due to some evil work of the government,—said evil work being manifest at present in the currency and taxation. But what is the precise nature of the evils thus manifest? Tell me that definitely, and then I will tell you whether you are a consistent man.(123 ¶ 4)

I fancy that, if I should ask you what the great evil in our taxation is, you would answer that it is the protective tariff. Now, the protective tariff is an evil certainly, and an outrage; but, so far as it affects the power of the laborer to accumulate capital, it is a comparatively small one. In fact, its abolition, unaccompanied by the abolition of the banking monopoly, would take away from very large classes of laborers not only what little chance they now have of getting capital, but also their power of sustaining the lives of themselves and their families. The amount abstracted from labor’s pockets by the protective tariff and by all other methods of getting governmental revenue is simply one of the smaller drains on industry. The amount of capital which it is thus prevented from getting will hardly be worth considering until the larger drains are stopped. As far as taxation goes, the great evils involved in it are to be found, not in the material damage done to labor by a loss of earnings, but in the assumption of the right to take men’s property without their consent, and in the use of this property to pay the salaries of the officials through whom, and the expenses of the machine through which, labor is oppressed and ground down. Are you heroic enough, Professor Sumner, to adopt this application of laissez faire? I summon you to it under penalty of conviction of an infidelity to logic which ought to oust you from your position as a teacher of youth.(123 ¶ 5)

If taxation, then (leaving out the enormous mischief that it does as an instrument of tyranny), is only one of the minor methods of keeping capital from labor, what evil is there in the currency that constitutes the major method? Your answer to this question, Professor Sumner, will again test your consistency. But I am not so sure what it will be in this case as I was in the other. If you answer it as most of your fellow-professors would, you will say that the great evil in the currency is the robbery of labor through a dishonest silver dollar. But this is a greater bugbear than the protective tariff. The silver dollar is just as honest and just as dishonest as the gold dollar, and neither of them is dishonest or a robber of labor except so far as it is a monopoly dollar. Both, however being monopoly dollars, and all our other dollars being monopoly dollars, labor is being robbed by them all to an extent perfectly appalling. And right here is to be found the real reason why labor cannot get capital. It is because its wages are kept low and its credit rendered next to valueless by a financial system that makes the issue of currency a monopoly and a privilege, the result of which is the maintenance of interest, rent, and profits at rates ruinous to labor and destructive to business. And the only way that labor can ever get capital is by striking down this monopoly and making the issue of money as free as the manufacture of shoes. To demonetize silver or gold will not help labor; what labor needs is the monetization of all marketable wealth. Or, at least, the opportunity of such monetization. This can only be secured by absolutely free competition in banking. Again I ask you, Professor Sumner, does your anxiety lest the individual be interfered with cover the field of finance? Are you willing that the individual shall be let alone in the exercise of his right to make his own money and offer it in open market to be taken by those who choose? To this test I send you a second summons under the same penalty that I have already hung over your head in case you fail to respond to the first. The columns of Liberty are open for your answer.(123 ¶ 6)

Before you make it, let me urge you to consistency. The battle between free trade and protection is simply one phase of the battle between Anarchism and State Socialism. To be a consistent free trader is to be an Anarchist; to be a consistent protectionist is to be a State Socialist. You are assailing that form of State Socialism known as protection with a vigor equaled by no other man, but you are rendering your blows of little effect by maintaining, or encouraging the belief that you maintain, those forms of State Socialism known as compulsory taxation and the banking monopoly. You assail Marx and Most mercilessly, but fail to protest against the most dangerous manifestations of their philosophy. Why pursue this confusing course? In reason’s name, be one thing or the other! Cease your indiscriminate railing at Socialism, for to be consistent you must be Socialist yourself, either of the Anarchistic or the governmental sort: either be a State Socialist and denounce liberty everywhere and always, or be an Anarchist and denounce authority everywhere and always; else you must consent to be taken for what you will appear to be,—an impotent hybrid.(123 ¶ 7)

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Chronology

November 30, 1896 :
Part 04, Chapter 05 -- Publication.

February 21, 2017 17:24:39 :
Part 04, Chapter 05 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

March 19, 2019 14:00:33 :
Part 04, Chapter 05 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.

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