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Parsons, A.R. (1887). Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis.


pgs 158-159 missing

government is a superstition, our inheritance from days when kings were gods. The remarks of Lord Macauley on this point always seemed to me extremely pertinent. "It scarcely ever happens that any private man or body of men will invest property in a canal, a tunnel or a bridge, but from an expectation that the outlay will be profitable to them. No work of this sort can be profitable to private speculators unless the public be willing to pay for the use of it. The public will not pay of their own accord for what yields no profit or convenience to them. There is thus a direct and obvious connection between the motive which induces individuals to undertake such a work, and the utility of the work. Can we find any such connection in the case of a public work executed by a government? If it is useful, are the individuals who rule the country richer? If it is useless, are they poorer? A public man may be solicitous about his credit. But the fame of public works is a much less certain test of their utility than the amount of toll collected at them. In a corrupt age, there will be direct embezzlement. In the purest age, there will be abundance of jobbing. In a bad age, the fate of the public is to be robbed outright. In a good age, it is merely to have the dearest and worst of everything. * * We firmly believe that five hundred thousand pounds subscribed by individuals for railroads or canals would produce more advantage to the public than five millions voted by parliament for the same purpose. There are certain old saws about the master's eye and everybody's business in which we place very great faith." These observations are fully borne out by the actual result of State socialistic experiments. In Russia, the land still belongs to the village, and is annually divided among the people by an elective magistrate. And Russia is the only country left in Europe which is periodically scourged by famine. In France, after the revolution of 1848, the government set up workshops known as ateliers, which failed to pay their expenses. In our own country, examples crowd on the memory like shrieking ghosts. The post office, in the more settled portions of America, is only protected against the competition of individuals by penal laws. In the wilder portions, it produces more frauds than any other part of our public institutions, which is saying a great deal. In all, it is the well-known sanctuary of office brokerage and corruption. With the best patronized system of schools in the world, we have, for all the purposes of education, very nearly the worst. The protective tariff, having destroyed our most thriving industries, such as that of shipbuilding, has reduced the laborers in all others to "starvation wages," as we are every day informed. The subsidies and lands granted by the government of the nation, states arid towns, to railroad and other corporations, have reduced the agricultural class to a condition not materially different from that of the serfs in the middle ages. From experience of the State socialistic tendency on a small scale, we may infer bow it would work upon a great. It would at once create a swarming army of officeholders, that is, so many more non-producers, for the rest of us to support. It would create a corresponding multitude of office-seekers, as if we had not far too many of them already. It would entail on all branches of business and trade the slowness, clumsiness, inefficiency and corruption which always characterize officialism. It would reduce the standard of labor to the capacity of the least intelligent, industrious and successful workman. It would either require a system of impressed labor, like that of the Egyptian fellahs, or convert a large portion of the people into State-supported paupers, desiring only "bread and shows." It would paralyze invention, progress arid improvement. It would discourage manufactures, continence and luxury, and promote overpopulation with that slovenly kind of agriculture in which each family lives on the produce of its own garden patch. Of course, famines would be frequent. And finally, we should not all be equal, even in our misery. The new officeholding aristocracy would find means to feather their nests after all. The pons asinorum of the subject is that people do not take the trouble to govern for nothing, nor for the meager wages of republican legislators. Ambition, the love of power, is what calls government into being; in other words, under no form of government can the people really be the masters. That the evil consequences of State socialism, predicted here, as they are also by the bourgeois economists, would not follow from anarchistic socialism, will be demonstrated in due course.

I am ready now to maintain my thesis - that government can be abolished, and that there is no necessity for it to be restored. That it can be abolished is perhaps too readily admitted by most people. We hear the assertion continually repeated that it has been overthrown and restored many times; but the truth is that government in general never was overthrown since it was first established. A government has frequently been overthrown, but always by some hostile, foreign or revolutionary government; and a struggle of two or more rival governments, Such as sometimes followed, is not anarchy, though it has often been so incorrectly called by historians and publicists. To appreciate the feasibility of abolishing government, we must consider the social changes which have taken place since it was instituted. All government rests, as we have said, on armed force, and all governments originated among Savages, except those of new countries, like America, which were imported by the colonists. Now savages have certain propensities predisposing them to establish government, which civilized men have not, at least, in the same degree. They are very warlike, often living on human flesh, by the slave trade or by pillage; while, as wealth increases, war becomes increasingly inconvenient and undesirable. They are very patriotic after a narrow fashion, devoted to the tribe, eager to revenge a family or national wrong, and destitute of any sense of duty toward foreigners. They have an idolatrous reverence both for the personal qualities of a ruler and for all kinds of precedent, custom and authority. The evolutionary philosopher will see in these traits the instincts of a gregarious and imitative animal, which loses power as man becomes a rational and commercial animal, an individualist toward his relations and neighbors; among strangers, a citizen of the world. Accordingly, with the progress of civilization, the sphere of government and the reverence for its authority tend to spontaneously contract. It is true, as a writer in the Encyclopedia Britannica has recently pointed out, that the mere number of laws of the State socialistic type by which modern governments encroach on individual freedom, has, of late, materially increased. But the magnitude of those relations which governments, as a rule, have, at least partially, ceased to regulate, such as religion, contract, foreign trade, speech, literature, bequest, marriage, far exceeds that of their encroachments. And, besides, the State socialistic arrangements of modern times are, at least ostensibly, in the interest of freedom. They are quack remedies for bourgeois tyranny. It by no means follows, therefore, that government, if abolished now, would be reproduced, because savages, who were without it, instituted it. The argument is a familiar fallacy; a case of undistributed middle. A somewhat similar criticism applies to the argument from the restoration of government after the quasi-anarchistic revolutions of modern times. If such events prove anything, they prove, not only that some sort of government, but much the same kind which previously existed, must be restored. But it was the bourgeois class which, in every case, effected the restoration. Nothing, therefore, can be inferred as to what will happen when the reigning of the bourgeois terminates, either by its inherent tendencies to decay or by a forcible revolution. The reign of the bourgeois rests, as we have said, on gunpowder. It cannot survive the vise by the proletariate of a weapon requiring no capital, and against which gunpowder would be as impotent as armor and castles against gunpowder. Stick a weapon is dynamite, using that word by a synecdoche to denote all the cheap and rapid agents of destruction described in Herr Most's now famous pamphlet. In a war with such weapons, the rich man's capital, instead of his tower of strength, would be his vulnerable point. And the same machinery of destruction is destined to remove the prime reason for the existence of government by putting an end to international wars. That war, which has become much less deadly since the invention of long range weapons, will cease when the weapons become too deadly to let sane combatants get together at all, is a commonplace; though, like the others which we have cited, it is applied only by anarchists.

Thus we come to our last thesis, that after the abolition of government, crime, instead of increasing, will be more promptly, humanely and inexorably dealt with than at present; to which we may add that all the social functions, as if relieved of an incubus, will work at increased pressure and with the energy of a new life. There are almost innumerable illustrations of the truth that repression has no tendency to prevent crime, but that freedom has; that liberty, as Proudhon said, is not the daughter, but the mother of order.

Anarchy, being universal liberty, would exercise on the human faculties an effect the reverse of that general paralysis induced by State-socialism, which is universal restraint and regulation. Its practical effect, if it were peaceably, or even forcibly, established to-morrow, would be about as follows: The useless class would at once be driven to work, and the free land would give them abundant opportunities. The farmer, relieved from his mortgages and taxes, would call on the country, merchant for some unaccustomed luxury, as a meerschaum pipe. The answer, at first, would probably be, "We have none,Since law has been abolished, we are afraid of our lives and our property." But the farmer insists, and the merchant at last succeeds in finding a meerschaum, which he exchanges for the farmer's produce. Within four-and-twenty hours a score of other farmers come in inquiring for similar luxuries. The merchant writes to his wholesale house, to report that trade is sensibly reviving. He gets about the same answer which he gave the farmer. "Since law is abolished, we are afraid to import." But, in a few days, similar communications come in from all parts of the country. The wholesale house determines to engage an importing agent; and business resumes with double its accustomed energy. Rent, which seems so great an evil to Mr. George, would be no evil if only actual cultivators received it. Of course, those engaged in trade and transportation could expect no profit beyond the wages of superintendence. But their success to getting that, would depend absolutely upon the value of their services to the public; while, at present, the profits of the capitalist depend, too commonly, not on the value of his work, but on its noxiousness-that is, on his skill in making a "corner," manipulating a legislature, procuring a prohibitory tariff, or in some other way hindering, instead of facilitating production and trade. The hours of labor would be reduced to two or three a day. Increased consumption might raise them, but new machinery would cut them down again. Anarchy, to be short, is but the laissez faire of the economists. pushed to its logical result. It requires no one to work who would rather be idle. It forbids no man to hoard who wants to-if he can stand guard over his own treasure, or get some one else at his own cost, to do so for him. It forbids no one to worship the Virgin-or Mumbo Jumbo, if he likes it better. If one man chooses to get a fine house, while another is content with beer enough and a lodging in a cellar, the anarchist is willing that one man should have his house, and the other his beer. Anarchy allows every one to assume authority so far as others are willing to accept it. Anarchy does not even forbid any one to be a slave, who likes provided his slavery lasts only as long as both slave and master are content. Similarly, it is willing that men and women should contract to live together, for a year, a day, a month, an hour, or as they can agree, provided each expects to take the natural consequences of his or her own wisdom or folly, relieved only by such voluntary compassion as be or she can excite among the more experienced. It has faith enough in women to believe that their absolute freedom would destroy prostitution. It would also remove all the evils which attend on marriage. The Malthusian dilemma would solve itself. We have heard of free trade, free religion, free rum, free love. Anarchy is free everything. It leaves free to commit even arson or murder, those who choose to run the risk of being lynched, or confined as dangerous lunatics. It sees that competition, if really free, might do as much good as it does harm. It antagonizes no natural instinct. Like other systems of philosophy, it recognizes this truth, that all natural instincts have a normal limit-benevolence and ideality just as much as alimentiveness and destructiveness-but it also sees that natural selection reduces them all to this limit ; and that with this beneficent process arbitrary regulation can only interfere; albeit natural selection finally governs after all. Anarchy is Liberty; Liberty is Justice; Justice is Virtue. And it is not the nature of Virtue to hurt any one. "Length of days are in her right hand, and in her left riches and honor; her ways are the ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are PEACE."

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