Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Proudhon on Democracy

P-J Proudhon's understanding of democracy is a classic example of the concerns about the representative democratic process which many classical liberals expressed. The following was written a few weeks after the February (1848) Revolution in Paris had replaced the constitutional monarchy of King Louise-Phillipe with that of a nominally democratic republic.

"The illusion of democracy springs from that of constitutional Monarchy's example--claiming to organize Government by representative means. Neither the Revolution of July (1830), nor that of February (1848) has sufficed to illuminate this. What they always want is inequality of fortunes, delegation of sovereignty, and government by influential people. Instead of saying, as did M. Thiers, the King reigns and does not govern, democracy says, the People reigns and does not govern, which is to deny the Revolution..."

"Since, according to the ideology of the democrats, the People cannot govern itself and is forced to give itself to representatives who govern by delegation, while it retains the right of review, it is supposed that the People is quite capable of at least having itself represented, that it can be represented faithfully...This hypothesis is utterly false; there is not and never can be legitimate representation of the People. All electoral systems are mechanisms for deceit: to know one is sufficient to pronounce the condemnation of all."

"In order that the deputy represent his constituents, it is necessary that he represent all the ideas which have united to elect him...But, with the electoral system. the deputy, the would-be legislator sent by the citizens to reconcile all ideas and all interests in the name of the People, always represents just one idea, one interest. The rest is excluded without pity. For who makes law in the elections? Who decides the choice of deputies? The majority, half plus one of the votes. From this it follows that half less one of the electors is not represented or is so in spite of itself, that of all the opinions that divide the citizens, one only, insofar as the deputy has an opinion, arrives at the legislature, and finally that the law, which should be the expression of the will of the People, is only the expression of half of the People."

"The result is that in the theory of the democrats the problem consists of eliminating, by the mechanism of sham universal suffrage, all ideas save one which stir opinion, and to declare sovereign that which has the majority."

"...In every kind of government the deputy belongs to the powerful, not to the country...[It is required] that he be master of his vote, that is, to traffic in its sale, that the mandate have a specified term, of at least a year, during which the Government, in agreement with the deputies, does what it pleases and gives strength to the law through action by its own arbitrary will..."

"If monarchy is the hammer which crushes the People, democracy is the axe which divides it; the one and the other equally conclude in the death of liberty..."

"By virtue of democratic principle, all citizens must participate in the formation of the law...[and] all must pay their debt to their native land, as taxpayers, jurors, judges and soldiers."

"If things could happen in this way, the ideal of democracy would be attained. It would have a normal existence, developing directly in the sense of its principle, as do all things which have life and grow."

"It is completely otherwise in democracy, which according to the authors exists fully only at the moment of elections and for the formation of legislative power. This moment once past, democracy retreats; it withdraws into itself again, and begins its anti-democratic work."

"In fact it is not true, in any democracy, that all citizens participate in the formation of the law; that prerogative is reserved to the representatives."

"It is not true that they deliberate on all public affairs, domestic and foreign; this is the perquisite, not even of the representatives, but of the ministers. Citizens discuss affairs, ministers alone deliberate them."

"It is not true that citizens participate in the nomination of officials. It is power which names its subordinates, sometimes according to its own arbitrary will, sometimes according to certain conditions for appointment or promotion, the order and discipline of officials and centralization requiring that it be thus..."

"...According to democratic theory, the 'People' is incapable of governing itself; democracy, like monarchy, after having posed as its principle the sovereignty of the People, ends with a declaration of the incapacity of the People!"

"This is what is meant by the democrats, who once in the government, dream only of consolidating and strengthening the authority in their hands."

From Anarchism (New York: Atherton Press, 1970. pp. 40-69) edited by Robert Hoffman.

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

Monday, February 20, 2006

Dr. Paul L. Poirot (7/23/1915-2/17/06)

The only security any person can have lies within himself. Unless he is free to act as an individual, free to be productive in his own behalf, free to determine what part of that production he will consume now and what part he will save, and free to protect his savings, there is no chance that he can find security anywhere.--Paul L. Poirot. The Pension Idea
Dr. Paul L. Poirot (graduated, U. of Illinois, 1936, Ph.D., Agricultural Economics, Cornell University, 1940) was recruited by Dr. F.A. Harper, his former professor at Cornell University and W. M. "Charlie" Curtiss to join the staff of FEE in 1949. He would write, serve as Secretary of FEE's Board and indefatigable managing editor of The Freeman from 1956 until his retirement in 1987. Poirot's work, quietly managing, crafting and expertly editing FEE's periodical was his gift to the libertarian movement and our treasure. Poirot served as Editor Emeritus of The Freeman until his recent death. Poirot was author/editor of The Farm Problem, The Freedom Philosophy, The Morality of Capitalism and many of the earliest FEE booklets: "Agrarian Reform", "Property Rights and Human Rights ", "Bargaining", "Public Housing", "Social Security" and "The Pension Idea". A feschrift was published in 1987 by FEE: Ideas on Liberty: Essays in Honor of Paul L. Poirot (edited by Beth A. Hoffman).As Poirot stated in 1996:
In more recent years, especially at the nudging of Dr. Sennholz, FEE has published a regular series of Freeman “classic” books. Each volume is devoted to a given subject and draws from the wealth of knowledge contained in some forty years of The Freeman. Having started with The Freedom Philosophy, the series contains books covering a wide range of ideas, including: the moral foundations of capitalism, political interventionism, individual spirit, free trade and world peace, the formation and function of market pricing, money, inflation, banking, private property rights, taxation, conservation of resources, education, medical care, agriculture, unionism, crime, and more.

The Freeman since 1950 consistently and continuously has stood against the fallacies and clichés of politics, not by bitter denunciation, but by reasoned and attractive explanations of the better way of limited government, private ownership, voluntary exchange, moral behavior, and self-improvement. The golden rule of the marketplace is that the person who gains most is one who best serves others.Over the last fifteen years, editorial and opinion pages have played an increasingly important role in the discourse of the national political culture. Therefore, FEE has sought to influence public opinion through the placement of shortened Freeman articles as opinion pieces in newspapers in the United States and throughout the world. The articles are chosen to make a principled case for a free society.
Prior to joining Leonard Read at FEE (called "National Foundation for Economic Education" during its inception in 1946, but the "National" portion was dropped early on), Poirot learned the vagaries of government control first-hand. As he said in 1955:
From 1941 to 1945 I was an economist in the Agricultural Chemicals Section of the Office of Price Administration [and for the Grange League Federation in Ithaca, N.Y. from 1945 to 1949--Ken]. Among my duties was the task of determining what the newly developed insecticide, DDT, was worth in dollars and cents to the community at large. Price control presumes many things; but as I now see it, the most important presumption is that the market or subjective theory of value is unworkable—that there is a better method of determining price than through bargaining between willing buyers and willing sellers. Congress had, in effect, outlawed the market method of price determination. In the case of DDT pricing, we tried to substitute a “cost-plus” formula which is a variation of the labor theory of value. According to that theory, the value of a product depends upon how much time and effort the producer puts into it. What could be more reasonable—from a price fixer’s point of view?

At the time, I didn’t see anything wrong with that pricing formula. Of course, there wasn’t enough DDT to begin to satisfy the demand at the official maximum price. But I then believed that it was the responsibility of the War Production Board, or some other agency, to allocate the available supply.I have since learned that there is no substitute for the market method of finding the proper price for anything. The market price serves as an adjustor to bring supply and demand toward a balance, encouraging production or encouraging consumption, whichever is necessary. Occasionally, quite by accident, some other pricing formula such as the “cost-plus” device may result in a price which is the same as the free market price might have been, in which case there would be neither burdensome surplus nor shortage of the goods or services so priced. But what is the sense of a system which cannot work except by accident?...I have a great deal of faith that the market method of price determination will bring forth the optimum supply of any commodity or service. No matter how it is determined, any price other than the free market price is bound to result either in an unmarketable surplus of the item or in an unsatisfied demand for it...

Poirot was one of the premier standard-bearers of FEE's vision of a free, laissez-faire society, protected by a constitutionally-limited government. During the lone years when FEE's future was less than certain, Leonard E. Read, Paul L. Poirot and Edmund Opitz kept their eyes clear and directed by the bright polestar of the freedom philosophy. There were times when FEE could have lost its direction, but with the quiet strength of Paul L. Poirot and the others, FEE continued further than any other libertarian organization of its generation. As his obituary states:
"The sharp wit and lucid prose which characterized his professional writings on the virtues of a free society were also treasured by the many dozens of personal friends with whom he maintained an ongoing letter correspondence."

Just a thought (and hat tip to Lew Rockwell).
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Rev. Edmund Opitz (2/11/1914-2/13/06)

"There is a place for government in the affairs of men, and our Declaration of Independence tells us precisely what that place is. The role of government is to protect individuals in their God-given individual rights. Freedom is the natural birthright of man, but all that government can do in behalf of freedom is to let the individual alone, and it should secure him in his rights by making others let him alone."--Ed Opitz

The libertarian and free-market advocate, Rev. Edmund Opitz, died monday (2/13/06). Founder of The Nockian Society (1963) and The Remnant (1957--a fellowship of conservative and libertarian ministers), Spiritual Mobilization organizer (Director, 1951-54), long-time FEE Senior Staff (1955-92, as well as The Freeman book editor) and author of more than six dozen articles in The Freeman as well as several books (Religion and Capitalism: Allies, Not Enemies, Religion: Foundation of the Free Society, Leviathan at War, The Libertarian Theology of Freedom), Must We Depend Upon Political Protection? (with Robert LeFevre), The Kingdom Without God: Roads End for the Social Gospel (with Gerald Heard) and The Powers That Be: Case Studies of the Church in Politics, he was highly regarded for his lectures and quiet manner.

He will be missed. He was a treasure and fount of wisdom for all who knew him.

Just a thought (and hat tip to Daniel McCarthy).
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

W.C. Owen

"For the last century, or more, we have been experimenting with the rule of democracy--the bludgeoning by governors whom majorities, drunk with power, impose on vanquished minorities. This last is probably the worst of all, for we stand to-day steeped to the lips in a universal corruption that is rotting every nation to the core. Is it not a fact that, whether it be a French Deputy or an English Member of Parliament, a Republican, a Democratic, or a Socialist candidate for office, each and every one of them sings exactly the same siren song: "Clothe me with power, and I will use it for your good "? It has been the song of every tyrant and despoiler since history began."--W.C. Owen, "Anarchism versus Socialism"

W(illiam) C(harles) Owen (2/16/1854-7/9/1929), individualist-anarchist, author of The Economics of Herbert Spencer, "Anarchism versus Socialism" (and here), "Elisée Reclus", "England Monopolised or England Free?", "Full steam astern! Is this progress or the road to ruin?", "The Mexican revolution, its progress, causes purpose and probable results" and numerous other essays was born in Dinapore, India, raised in England, and emigrated to the United States in 1882.

His socialist leanings led him to become a member of the International Workingmen's Association in California. He discovered Kropotkin's writings and translated of several of his works, beginning his travel from socialism to anarchism. He was a contributor to Burnette G. Haskell's (1857-1907) San Francisco Truth (1882-97); editor of Nationalist of Los Angeles (1890) and San Francisco (1891-4); and contributed to Commonweal, organ of the Socialist League (which had been taken over by anarchists in 1890) of William Morris in England. In 1890, in New York, with Italian Saverio Merlino he joined the league and became a founder of the New York Socialist League in 1890. He was expelled from the League in 1892. Owen, now influenced by Benjamin Tucker, became an anarchist-individualist. He contributed to Freedom from 1893 on and returned to California to work as a journalist, where he would become involved in the land question, a subject which he would turn to again and again. Owen also contributed to the libertarian weekly "Free Society" in San Francisco (1897-1904) and Emma Goldman's "Mother Earth".

In 1911, he began his work withRicardo Flores Magón (1874-1922) and his brother, Enrique Flores Magón and becomes editor of the English section of Regeneración (1910-1916) and corresponds throughout the international libertarian press. Many anarchists, both individualist and collectivist, throughout the western United States would actively support the Magón brothers and their revolutionary activities in Baja California. Emma Goldman, in her biographical essay, "Voltairine de Cleyre," said, Voltairine

"fervently took up the fight of the Mexican people who threw off their yoke; she wrote, she lectured, she collected funds for the Mexican cause"
before dying in 1912 (in Sharon Presley and Crispin Sartwell's Exquisite Rebel: The Essays of Voltairine de Cleyre--Anarchist, Feminist, Genius (Albany, SUNY Press, 2005. p. 38). Their offices and activities were centered in Los Angeles and Tijuana where most of their publications were produced. In the 1970's, I tracked down their address in the center of Los Angeles and kept some pieces of the old brick building which had been torn down. Only the foundation was left.

He published his own periodical, "Land & Liberty" (1914-15) and then in 1916 returned to England (1916). At that time, anarchist immigrants, especially activists, in the United States were under severe pressure from the federal government to be deported and the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles was seeking

"a federal indictment against [any anarchists involved]...for conspiring to overthrow the government of the United States and to invade Mexico." (William Preston, Jr. Aliens and Dissenters: Federal Suppression of Radicals, 1903-1933 (NY: Harper & Row, 1963, p. 53).
Congressmen were applauded in Congress for saying such things as
"Now I would execute these anarchists if I could, and then I would deport them, so that the soil of our country might not be polluted by their presence even after the breath had gone out of their bodies. I do not care what the time limit is. I want to get rid of them by some route... or by execution by the hangman. It makes no difference to me so that we get rid of them." (ibid., p. 83).
On February 18, 1916, Enrique & Ricardo Flores Magón were arrested at their Community Farm near Los Angeles, California. Enrique was beaten by the police and hospitalized. The Magón brothers were charged with mailing articles inciting "murder, arson and treason," and go on trial May 21. Both were convicted, given prison sentences and fines.

As Owen's friends and fellow-travelers in the I.W.W. poetically said at the time that WWI was beginning,
I love my flag, I do, I do.
Which floats upon the breeze,
I also love my arms and legs,
And neck, and nose and knees.
One little shell might spoil them all
Or give them such a twist,
They would be of no use to me;
I guess I won't enlist.I love my country, yes, I do
I hope her folks do well.
Without our arms, and legs and things,
I think we'd look like hell.
Young men with faces half shot off
Are unfit to be kissed,
I've read in books it spoils their looks,
I guess I won't enlist.
(ibid., p. 89)

When back in London, he took part in the newspaper "Freedom" (1886-?) and the Freedom Press, joined the Commonwealth League, and wrote for its organ Commonweal. In 1926, he became part of a small co-operative colony close to Storrington (Sussex). W.C. Owen died in Worthing, Great Britain in 1929.

Along with Auberon Herbert, Victor Yarros, Henry Bool, Charles T. Sprading and a few other writers, he would be regarded as among the best of the Spencerian Anarchists, integrating the insights of Herbert Spencer with individualist-anarchism. Marcus Graham (aka Shmuel Marcus, 1893-197?, Romanian-born editor of the anarchist journal Man! (1933-40) would say of Owen that

"He proved to be one of the most interesting men I ever had the good fortune to know. We met often and he was a fountain of knowledge in every respect...Owen's spirit was that of a revolutionary...Owen carried on a long correspondence with me until his death, and his reading and correcting the proofs of the Anthology [of Revolutionary Poetry (New York: The Active Press, 1929)] was of immense value." Marcus Graham, MAN! An Anthology of Anarchist Ideas, Essays, Poetry and Commentaries (London: Cienfuegos Press, 1974. p. 10)

Anarchy versus Socialism


"Anarchy versus Socialism", W.C. Owen's best-known work, was written originally around 1902 at the request of Owen's friend, Emma Goldman, who wanted a work detailing the difference between Anarchism and Socialism, most likely, as a response to Daniel DeLeon's "Socialism versus Anarchism"(Girard, Kansas: People's Pocket Series No. 5; Appeal to Reason. Lecture Delivered at Boston, October 13, 1901. The individualist-anarchist, A.H. Simpson, was in the audience and provided questions for DeLeon which are valuable to read, just as E. Belfort Bax's "'Voluntaryism' versus 'Socialism'", a response to Auberon Herbert, is useful). It was Owen's belief that no honest alliance was possible between the two. As he said,

"either you believe in the right of the Individual to govern himself, which is the basis of Anarchism, or you believe that he must be governed by others, which is the cornerstone of all those creeds which should be grouped generically as Socialism. One or the other must be the road to human progress. Both cannot be."

The following is a condensed version of his essay:

Man is manifestly destined to be master of himself and his surroundings, individually free. His capacity for achievement has shown itself practically boundless, whenever and wherever it has been permitted the opportunity of expansion; and no less an ideal than equal and unfettered opportunity--that is to say, individual freedom--should satisfy him...[A]ll forms of slavery [are] a refusal to recognize Man's dignity or native worth.


[S]o long as the ordinary individual remains unconscious of his proper dignity as the great thinking animal, slavery, in my judgment, will continue. The first essential business, therefore, is to awaken thought; to get men to look at things as they are; to induce them to hunt for truth.

To us the problem is not merely economic...[T]he promotion of individuality, and the encouragement of the spirit of revolt against whatever institutions may be unworthy of humanity, are everything. We are rebels against slavery, and we understand that men will win their way to freedom only when they yearn to be free.

Back of all this infamy stands always the Government machine; dead to all human sympathy, as are all machines; bent only on increasing its efficiency as a machine, and enlarging its power; organized expressly to keep things, in all essentials, precisely as they are. It is the arch-type of immobility, and, therefore, the foe of growth. It is the quintessence of compulsion, and, therefore, the enemy of freedom. To it the individual is a subject, of whom it demands unquestioning obedience. Necessarily we Anarchists are opposed to it. We do not dream, as do the Socialists, of making it the one great Monopolist, and therefore the sole arbiter of life. On the contrary, we seek to whittle away its powers, that it may be reduced to nothingness and be succeeded by a society of free individuals, equipped with equal opportunities and arranging their own affairs by mutual agreement.

[Echoing Herbert Spencer, [t]he Anarchist type of social structure is the industrial type, and for it the true industrialist, the working man, should stand. On the other hand, he who cries for more Government is declaring himself an advocate of the military type, wherein society is graded into classes and all life's business conducted by inferiors obeying orders issued by the superior command. That offers the worker only permanent inferiority and enslavement, and against that he should revolt.

[T]he State...deprives men of personal responsibility, robs them of their natural virility, takes out of their hands the conduct of their own lives, thereby reduces them to helplessness, and thus insures the final collapse of the whole social structure.

[Anarchism i]s based on the conception that the Individual is the natural fount of all activity, and that his claim to free and full development of all his powers is paramount. The Socialist interpretation, on the other hand, is presented as resting on the conception that the claim of the Collectivity is paramount, and that to its welfare, real or imagined, the Individual must and should subordinate himself.

On the correct interpretation of Life everything depends, and the question is as to which of these two conflicting interpretations is correct. Always and everywhere the entire social struggle hinges on that very point, and every one of us has his feet set, however unconsciously, in one or other of these camps. Some would sacrifice the Individual, and all minorities, to the supposed interests of the collective whole. Others are equally convinced that a wrong inflicted on one member poisons the whole body, and that only when it renders full justice to the Individual will society be once more on the road to health.

[T]he existing system is a miserable compromise between Anarchism and Socialism with which neither can be content. On the one hand, the Individual is instructed to play for his own hand, however fatally the cards are stacked against him. On the other hand, he is adjured incessantly to sacrifice himself to the common weal. Special Privilege, when undisturbed, preaches always individual struggle, although it is Special Privilege that robs the ordinary individual of all his chances of success. Let Special Privilege be attacked, however, and it appeals forthwith to the Socialistic principle declaring vehemently that the general interests of society must be protected at any cost.

When a man says he is an Anarchist he puts on himself the most definite of labels. He announces that he is a "no rule" man. "Anarchy"--compounded of the Greek words "ana," without, and "arche," rule--gives in a nutshell the whole of his philosophy. His one conviction is that men must be free; that they must own themselves.

Anarchists do not propose to invade the individual rights of others, but they propose to resist, and do resist, to the best of their ability all invasion by others. To order your own life, as a responsible individual, without invading the lives of others, is freedom; to invade and attempt to rule the lives of others is to constitute yourself an enslaver; to submit to invasion and rule imposed on you against your own will and judgment is to write yourself down a slave.

Anarchism stands for the free, unrestricted development of each individual; for the giving to each equal opportunity of controlling and developing his own particular life. It insists on equal opportunity of development for all, regardless of colour, race, or class; on equal rights to whatever shall be found necessary to the proper maintenance and development of individual life; on a "square deal" for every human being, in the most literal sense of the term.

Moreover, it matters not to the Anarchist whether the rule imposed on him is benevolent or malicious. In either case it is an equal trespass on his right to govern his own life. In either case the imposed rule tends to weaken him, and he recognizes that to be weak is to court oppression.

So, from the exact Greek language the precise and unmistakable word "Anarchy" was coined, as expressing beyond question the basic conviction that all rule of man by man is slavery.

The entire Anarchist movement is based on an unshakeable conviction that the time has come for men--not merely in the mass, but individually--to assert themselves and insist on the right to manage their own affairs without external interference; to insist on equal opportunities for self-development; to insist on a "square deal," unhampered by the intervention of self-asserted superiors.

[U]nder the artificial conditions imposed on them by rulers, who portion out among themselves the means of life, millions of the powerful species known as "Man" are reduced to conditions of abject helplessness of which a starving timber-wolf would be ashamed. It is unspeakably disgusting to us, this helplessness of countless millions of our fellow creatures; we trace it directly to stupid, unnatural laws, by which the few plunder and rule over the many, and we propose to do our part in restoring to the race its natural strength, by abolishing the conditions that render it at present so pitiably weak.

For the last century, or more, we have been experimenting with the rule of democracy--the bludgeoning by governors whom majorities, drunk with power, impose on vanquished minorities. This last is probably the worst of all, for we stand to-day steeped to the lips in a universal corruption that is rotting every nation to the core. Is it not a fact that, whether it be a French Deputy or an English Member of Parliament, a Republican, a Democratic, or a Socialist candidate for office, each and every one of them sings exactly the same siren song: "Clothe me with power, and I will use it for your good "? It has been the song of every tyrant and despoiler since history began.

It is you yourselves, governed by the misrepresentations of superstition, and not daring to lift your heads and look life in the face, who substitute for that magnificent justice the hideously unjust inequalities with which society is sick well-nigh to death. Does not the experience of your daily life teach you that when, in any community, any one man is loaded with power it is always at the expense of many others, who are thereby rendered helpless?

Let us not flatter ourselves that we can shirk this imperative call to self-assertion by appointing deputies to perform the task that properly belongs to us alone. Already it is clear to all who look facts in the face that the entire representative system, to which the workers so fatuously looked for deliverance, has resulted in a concentration of political power such as is almost without parallel in history.

Our representative system is farce incarnate. We take a number of men who have been making their living by some one pursuit--in most cases that of the law--and know nothing outside that pursuit, and we require them to legislate on the ten thousand and one problems to which a highly diversified and intricate industrial development has given rise. The net result is work for lawyers and places for office-holders, together with special privileges for shrewd financiers, who know well how to get clauses inserted in measures that seem innocence itself but are always fatal to the people's rights.

Anarchism concentrates its attention on the individual, considering that only when absolute justice is done to him or her will it be possible to have a healthy and happy society. For society is merely the ordinary citizen multiplied indefinitely, and as long as the individuals of which it is composed are treated unjustly, it is impossible for the body at large to be healthy and happy. Anarchism, therefore, cannot tolerate the sacrifice of the individual to the supposed interests of the majority, or to any of those high-sounding catchwords (patriotism, the public welfare, and so forth) for the sake of which the individual--and always the weakest individual, the poor, helpless working man and woman--is murdered and mutilated to-day, as he has been for untold ages past.

Only by a direct attack on monopoly and special privilege; only by a courageous and unswerving insistence on the rights of the individual, whoever he may be; on his individual right to equality of opportunity, to an absolutely square deal, to a full and equal seat at the table of life, can this great social problem, with which the whole world now groans in agony, be solved.

In a word, the freedom of the individual, won by the abolition of special privileges and the securing to all of equal opportunities, is the gateway through which we must pass to the higher civilisation that is already calling loudly to us.

It is urged that we Anarchists have no plans; that we do not set out in detail how the society of the future is to be run. This is true. We are not inclined to waste our breath in guesses about things we cannot know. We are not in the business of putting humanity in irons. We are trying to get humanity to shake off its irons. We have no co-operative commonwealth, cut and dried, to impose on the generations yet unborn. We are living men and women, concerned with the living present, and we recognize that the future will be as the men and women of the future make it, which in its turn will depend on themselves and the conditions in which they find themselves. If we bequeath to them freedom they will be able to conduct their lives freely.

To overthrow human slavery, which is always the enslavement of individuals, is Anarchism's one and only task. It is not interested in making men better under slavery, because it considers that impossible--a statement before which the ordinary reader probably will stand aghast. It seems, therefore, necessary to remind him once again that Anarchists are realists who try to see Life as it is, here on this earth, the only place where we can study it, indeed the only place whereon, so far as hitherto discovered, human life exists. Our view is that of the biologist. We take Man as we find him, individually and as a member of a species. We see him subject to certain natural laws, obedience to which brings healthy growth while disobedience entails decay and untimely death. This to us is fundamental, and much of Anarchism's finest literature is devoted to it.

Now, from the biological standpoint, Freedom is the all-essential thing. Without it individual health and growth are impossible... Biologically we are all parts of one organic whole--the human species--and, from the purely scientific standpoint, an injury to one is the concern of all. You cannot have slavery at one end of the chain and freedom at the other. In our view, therefore, Special Privilege in every shape and form, must go. It is a denial of the organic unity of mankind; of that oneness of the human family which is, to us, a scientific truth. ...Internationalism is, to us, a biological fact a natural law which cannot be violated with impunity or explained away. The most criminal violators of that natural law are modern Governments, which devote all the force at their command to the maintenance of Special Privilege, and, in their lust for supremacy, keep nations perpetually at war. Back of all this brutal murdering is the thought: "Our governing machine will become more powerful. Eventually we shall emerge from the struggle as rulers of the earth."

This earth is not to be ruled by the few. It is or the free and equal enjoyment of every member of the human race. It is not to be held in fee by old and decaying aristocracies, or bought up as a private preserve by the newly rich--that hard-faced and harder-conscienced mob which hangs like a vulture over every battlefield and gorges on the slain...For, just as the human species is one organic whole, so the earth, this solid globe beneath our feet, is one economic organism, one single store-house of natural wealth, one single workroom in which all men and women have an equal right to labour.

To every Anarchist the right to free and equal use of natural opportunities is an individual right, conferred by Nature and imposed by Life. It is a fundamental law of human existence.

It is a question of intelligence, and to Anarchists the methods generally proposed for restoring the land to the use of the living do not appear intelligent. Clearly Nationalization will not do; for Nationalization ignores the organic unity of the human species, and merely substitutes for monopoly by the individual monopoly by that artificial creation, the State, as representing that equally artificial creation, the Nation. Such a philosophy lands us at once in absurdities so obvious that their bare statement suffices to explode them.

Even Capitalism knows better than that. In theory, as in practice, Capitalism is international, for it recognizes that what is needed by the world at large must pass into the channels of international trade and be distributed.

To all Anarchists, therefore, the abolition of Land Monopoly is fundamental. Land Monopoly is the denial of Life's basic law, whether regarded from the standpoint of the individual or of the species.

In some way or another the Individual must assert and maintain his free and equal right to life, which means his free and equal right to the use of that without which life is impossible, our common Mother, Earth. And it is to the incalculable advantage of society, the whole, to secure to each of its units that inalienable right; to release the vast accumulations of constructive energy now lying idle and enslaved; to say to every willing worker--"Wherever there is an unused opportunity which you can turn to account you are free to use it. We do not bound you. We do not limit you. This earth is yours individually as it is ours racially, and the essential meaning of our conquest of the seas, of air and space, is that you are free to come and go whither you will upon this planet, which is at once our individual and racial home."

The Land Question, viewed biologically, reveals wide horizons and opens doors already half ajar. Placed on the basis of equal human rights, it is nobly destructive, for it spells death to wrongs now hurling civilisation to its ruin. Were free and equal use of natural opportunities accepted as a fundamental law--just as most of us accept, in theory, the Golden Rule--there would be no more territory-grabbing wars. ...Free exchange, so essential to international prosperity, would follow automatically, and with it we should shake off those monstrous bureaucracies now crushing us.

These doors already are standing more than half ajar... Science, annihilating distance, has made, potentially at least, the human family one. What sense is there in fencing off countries by protective tariffs when the very purpose of the railway and the steamship, the cable and the wireless station, is to break through those fences?

All intelligent and courageous action along one line of the great struggle for human rights helps thought and action along other lines, and the contest that is certain to come over the land question cannot but clear the field in other directions. It will be seen, for example, that freedom of production will not suffice without freedom of distribution.

If mankind is ever to be master of itself, scientific thought--which deals with realities and bases its conclusions on ascertained facts--must take the place of guess and superstition. To bring the conduct of human life into accord with the ascertained facts of life is, at bottom, the great struggle that is going on in society.


[War] has thrown us back into barbarism. For the moment it has afflicted us with Militarism and scourged us with all the tyrannies that military philosophy and tactics approve of and enforce. Necessarily Militarism believes in itself and in that physical violence which is its speciality. Necessarily it sympathies with all those barbarisms of which it is the still-surviving representative, and distrusts those larger views that come with riper growth. How could it be otherwise? By the essence of its being Militarism does not argue; it commands. Its business is not to yield but to conquer, and to keep, at any cost, its conquests. Always, by the fundamental tenets of its creed it will invade; drive the weaker to the wall, enforce submission. He who talks to it of human rights, on the full recognition of which social peace depends, speaks a language it does not and cannot understand. To Militarism he is a dreamer, and, in the words of the great German soldier, Von Moltke, it does not even regard his dream as beautiful.

Every Government is a vast military machine, armed with all the resources of modern science. Every Government is invading ruthlessly the liberties of its own "subjects" and stripping them of elemental rights. Resolved on keeping, at any cost, its existing conquests, every Government treats as an outcast and criminal him who questions its autocracy. Obsessed perpetually by fear, which is the real root of military philosophy, every Government is guarding itself against popular attack; and with Governments, as with all living creatures, there is nothing so unscrupulous as fear. When Government punishes the man who dares to express honestly his honest thought, does it pause to consider that it is killing that spirit of enquiry which is the life of progress, and crushing out of existence the courageous few who are the backbone of the nation? Not at all. Like an arrant coward, it thinks only of its own safety. When, by an elaborate system of registration, passports, inspection of private correspondence, and incessant police espionage, it checks all the comings and goings of individual life, does it give a thought to personal liberty or suffer a single pang at the reflection that it is sinking its country...? Not a bit of it. The machine thinks only of itself; of how it may I increase and fortify its power.

Just as the Court sets the fashions that rule "Society," so the influence of the governmental machine permeates all our economic life. The political helplessness of the individual citizen finds its exact counterpart in the economic helplessness of the masses, reduced to helplessness by the privileges Government confers upon the ruling class, and exploited by that ruling class in exact proportion to their helplessness. Throughout the economic domain "Woe to the Conquered" is the order of the day; and to this barbaric military maxim, which poisons our entire industrial system and brutalizes our whole philosophy of life, we owe it that Plutocracy is gathering into its clutches all the resources of this planet and imposing on the workers everywhere what I myself believe to be the heaviest yoke they have, as yet, been forced to bear.

Anarchists ... regard Militarism as a straitjacket in which modern Industrialism, now struggling violently for expansion, cannot fetch its breath. And everything that smacks of Governmentalism smacks also of Militarism, they being Siamese twins, vultures out of the same egg. The type now advancing to the centre of the stage, and destined to occupy it exclusively, is, as they see it, the industrial type; a type that will give all men equal opportunities, as of human right, and not tolerate the invasion of that right, a type, therefore, that will enable men to regulate their own affairs by mutual agreement and free them from their present slavery to the militant employing class; a type that will release incalculably enormous reservoirs of energy now lying stagnant ... That such is the natural trend of the evolution now in process they do not doubt; but its pace will be determined by the vigour with which we shake off the servile spirit now para lysing us, and by the intelligence with which we get down to the facts that really count. At bottom it is a question of freedom or slavery; of self-mastery or being mastered.

Our faith is in Science, in knowledge, in the infinite possibilities of the human brain, in that indomitable vital force we have hitherto abused so greatly because only now are we beginning to glimpse the splendour of the uses to which it may be brought.

[H]ow can Science discover except through free experiment? How can the mind of Man expand when it is laced in the straitjacket of authority and is forbidden independence? This question answers itself, and the verdict passed by history leaves no room for doubt. Only with the winning from Militarism and Ecclesiasticism of some measure of freedom did Science come to life; and if the world were to pass again into a similar thraldom, that life would fall once more into a stupor from which it could be shaken only by some social upheaval far greater and more bloody than the French Revolution ever began to be. It is not the champions of Freedom who are responsible for violent Revolutions, but those who, in their ignorant insanity, believe they can serve Humanity by putting it in irons and further happiness by fettering Mankind. We may be passing even now into such a thraldom, for Democracy, trained from time immemorial to servility, has not yet learned the worth of Freedom and Plutocracy would only too gladly render all thought and knowledge subservient to its own profit-making schemes.

[T]he seven great Anarchist writers...--Tolstoy, Bakunin, Kropotkin Proudhon, Stirner, Godwin, and Tucker--calls special attention to the fact that, although on innumerable points they differ widely, as against the crippling authoritarianism of all governing machines they stand a solid phalanx. The whole body of Herbert Spencer's teaching, once so influential in this country, moves firmly toward that goal. His test of Civilisation was the extent to which voluntary co-operation has occupied the position previously monopolized by the compelling State, which he regarded as essentially a military institution. Habitually we circulate, as one of our most convincing documents, his treatise on "Man versus the State," and in his "Data of Ethics" he has given us a picture of the future which is Anarchism of the purest type.

Every organism struggles with all the vitality at its command against extinction; and every Government, whatever it may call itself, is an organism composed of human beings. It exists, and can exist, only by compelling other human beings to remain a part of it; by exacting service from them, that is to say, by making them its serfs and slaves. The organism's real basis is human slavery, and it cannot be anything else.


[T]he position of to free mankind. The first difficulty, however, lies in the fact that while the word "Anarchy," signifying "without rule," is exceedingly precise, the word "Socialism" is not. Socialism merely means association, and a Socialist is one who believes in associated life and effort. Immediately a thousand questions of the greatest difficulty arise. Obviously there are different ways in which people can associate; some of them delightful, venue quite the reverse. It is delightful to associate yourself, freely and voluntarily, with those to whom you feel attracted by similarity of tastes and pursuits. It is torture to be herded compulsorily among those with whom you have nothing in common. Association with free and equal partners, working for a common end in which all are alike interested, is among the things that make life worth living. On the other hand, the association of men who are compelled by the whip of authority to live together in a prison is about as near hell as it is possible to get.

To be associated in governmentally conducted industries, whether it be as soldier or sailor, as railroad, telegraph, or postal employee, is to become a mere cog in a vast political machine... Under such conditions there would be less freedom than there is even now under the régime of private monopoly; the workers would abdicate all control of their own lives and become a flock of party sheep, rounded up at the will of their political bosses taking what those bosses chose to give them, and, in the end being thankful to be allowed to hold a job on any terms.

Let no one delude himself with the fallacy that governmental institutions under Socialist administration would be shorn of their present objectionable features. They would be precisely what they are to-day. If the workers were to come into possession of the means of production to-morrow, their administration under the most perfect form of universal suffrage--which the United States, for example, has been vainly trying to doctor into decent shape for generations past--would simply result in the creation of a special class of political managers, professing to act for the welfare of the majority. Were they as honest as the day--which it is folly to expect--they could only carry out the dictates of the majority, and those who did not agree slavishly with those dictates would find themselves outcasts. In reality, we should have put a special class of men in absolute control of the most powerful official machine that the world has ever seen, and should have installed a new form of wage-slavery, with the State as master. And the workingman who was ill-used by the State would find it a master a thousand times more difficult to overthrow than the most powerful of private employers.

Socialists declare loudly that the entire capitalistic system is slavery of the most unendurable type, and that landowning, production, and distribution for private profit must be abolished. They preach a class war as the only method by which this can be accomplished, and they proclaim, as fervently as ever did a Mohammedan calling for a holy crusade against the accursed infidel, that he who is not with them is against them. For this truly gigantic undertaking they have adopted a philosophy and pursue means that seem to us childishly inadequate.

To us it is inconceivable that institutions so deeply rooted in the savagery and superstitions of the past can be overthrown except by people who have become saturated to the very marrow of their bones with loathing for such superstition and such savagery. To us the first indispensable step is the creation of profoundly rebellious spirits who will make no truce, no compromise. We recognize that it is worse than useless to waste our breath on effects; that the causes are what we must go for, and that every form of monopoly, every phase of slavery and oppression, has its root in the ambition of the few to rule and fleece, and the sheepish willingness of the many to be ruled and fleeced.

What is the course that the Socialists are pursuing...? In private they will tell you that they are rebels against the existing unnatural disorder as truly as are we Anarchists, but in the actual conduct of their movement they are autocrats, bent on the suppression of all individuality, whipping, drilling, and disciplining their recruits into absolute conformity with the ironclad requirements of the party. They declare themselves occupied with a campaign of education. They are not. In such a contest as this, wherein the lines are drawn so sharply; where on the one side are ranged the natural laws of life, and on the other an insanely artificial system that ignores all the fundamental laws of life, there can be no such thing as compromise; and he who for the sake of getting votes attempts to make black appear white is not an educator but a confidence man. We are aware that there are many confidence men who grow into the belief that theirs is a highly honourable profession, but they are confidence men all the same.

The truth is that the Socialists have become the helpless victims of their own political tactics. We speak correctly of political "campaigns," for politics is warfare. Its object is to get power, by gathering to its side the majority, and reduce the minority to submission. In politics, as in every other branch of war, the entire armoury of spies, treachery, stratagem and deceit of every kind is utilized to gain the one important end--victory in the fight. And it is precisely because our modern democracy is engaged, year in and year out, in this most unscrupulous warfare that the basic and all-essential virtues of truth, honesty, and the spirit of fair play have almost disappeared.

We raise further that if politics could, by any miracle, be purified, it would mean, if possible, a still more detestable consummation, for there would not remain a single individual right that was not helplessly at the mercy of the triumphant majority. It is imperative, and especially for the weaker--those who are now poor and uneducated--that the "inalienable" rights of man be recognized; and that, while he is now "supposed" to be guaranteed absolute right of free speech and assemblage, and the right to think on religious matters as he pleases, in the future he shall be really guaranteed full opportunities of supporting and developing his life--a right that cannot be taken away from him by a dominant party that may have chanced to secure, for the time being, the majority of votes.

This is the rock on which Socialism everlastingly goes to pieces. It mocks at the basic laws of life. It denies, both openly and tacitly, that there are such things as individual rights; and while it asserts that assuredly, as civilized beings the majorities of the future will grant the minority far greater freedom and opportunity than it has at present, it has to admit that all this will be a "grant," a "concession" from those in power. There probably never has been a despot that waded through slaughter to a throne who has not made similar promises.

The way in which a man looks at a subject determines his treatment of it. If he thinks, with the Socialists, that the collectivity is everything and the individual an insignificant cipher, he will fall in willingly with all those movements that profess to be working for the good of the majority, and sacrifice the individual remorselessly for this supposed good. For example: Although he may admit, in theory, as the Socialists generally do, that men should be permitted to govern their own lives, his belief in legislating for the majority, and the scant value he puts on the individual life, will lead him to support such movements as Prohibition, which, in the name of the good of the majority, takes away from the individual, absolutely and in a most important matter--as in the question of what he shall and shall not drink--the command of his own life.

Apparently Socialists cannot conceive of a society run on other than the most strictly centralized principles. This seems to us a profound error.

Locomotion is the industry of all others that seemed, by its very nature, doomed to centralization, yet even in this department the tide of decentralization has set in with extraordinary rapidity. With the advent of the bicycle came the first break the individual machine becoming at once a formidable competitor of the street car companies. The tendency received a further and enormous impetus with the introduction of the motor, which throws every highway open to the individual owner of the machine and does away with the immense advantage previously enjoyed by those who had acquired the monopoly of the comparatively few routes along which it is possible to lay down rails and operate trains. It is obvious that the motor, both as a passenger and freight carrier, is as yet only in its infancy; and when the flying machine comes, as eventually it will come, into general use the individualization of locomotion will be complete.

In short, the philosophy that bases its conclusions on the conditions that happen to prevail at any given moment in the machine industry is necessarily building on quicksand, since the machine itself is undergoing a veritable revolution along the individualistic lines we have indicated.

This delusion respecting machinery has led the Socialists into ridiculous assumptions on the subject of centralization in general, committing them for a couple of generations past to the pipe-dream that under the régime of Capitalism the middle class is doomed, by the natural development of the economic system, to speedy extinction. On the other hand, in proportion as the capitalistic system develops the numbers and influence of the middle class increase, until in America--the country in which Capitalism has attained its greatest growth--it is well nigh omnipotent.

[T]hose who have studied the works of such profound writers as Herbert Spencer, Buckle, Sir Henry Maine, and others too numerous to mention are well aware that the history taught the Socialists through Marx and Engels is partisan history, and that the real movement of humanity has been to get away from the military régime of authority to the domain of individual freedom. It is this movement with which we have allied ourselves, convinced that there is nothing too fine for man, and that it is only under conditions of freedom that man has the opportunity of being fine. The tendency must be toward a finer, which means a freer, more self-governing life.

My own hatred of State Socialism, in all its forms, springs from my conviction that it fosters in the Individual this terrible psychology of invasion; that it denies the existence of Rights which should be secure from assault; that it teaches the Individual that in himself he is of no account and that only as a member of the State has he any valid title to existence. That, as it seems to me, reduces him to helplessness, and it is the helplessness of the exploited that makes exploitation possible. From that flow, with inexorable logic, all wars, all tyrannies, all those despotic regulations and restrictions which to-day are robbing Life of all its elasticity, its virility, its proper sweetness. State Socialism is a military creed, forged centuries ago by conquerors who put the world in chains. It is as old as the hills, and, like the hills, is destined to crumble into dust. Throughout the crisis of the past eight years its failure as even a palliative policy has been colossal.


[O]ur suffering and danger do not come from Free Industrialism but from an Industrialism that is not free because it is enslaved by Monopoly and caught fast in the clutches of that invasive military machine--the State. Monopoly is the enemy, the most dangerous enemy the world has known; and never was it so dangerous as now, when the State has made itself well-nigh omnipotent, Monopoly is State-created, State-upheld, and could not exist were it not for the organized violence with which everywhere the State supports it. At the behest of State-protected Monopoly the ordinary man can be deprived at any moment of the opportunity of earning a livelihood, and thrown into the gutter. At the command of the State, acting always in the interests of Monopoly, he can be converted at any moment into food for powder. Show me, if you can, a tyranny more terrible than that!

I call myself an Anarchist because, as it appears to me, Anarchism is the only philosophy that grips firmly and voices unambiguously this central, vital truth. It is either a fallacy or a truth and Anarchism is either right or wrong. If Anarchism is right, it cannot compromise in any shape or form with the existing State régime without convicting itself thereby of dishonesty and infidelity to Truth. Tyranny is not a thing to be shored up or made endurable, but a disease to be recognized frankly as unendurable and purged out of the social system. Personally I am a foe to all schemes for bolstering up the present reign of violence, and I cannot regard the compulsions of Trade Unionism, Syndicalism, and similar States-within- States, as bridges from the old order to the new, and wombs in which the society of the future is being moulded. Such analogies seem to me ridiculous and fatally misleading. Freedom is not an embryo. Freedom is not a helpless infant struggling into birth. Freedom is the greatest force at our command; the one incomparable constructor capable of beating swords into ploughshares and converting this war-stricken desert of a world into a decent dwelling-place.

Anarchism rests on the conviction that human beings, if granted full and equal opportunity to satisfy their wants, could and would do it far more satisfactorily than can or will a master class. It is inconceivable to us that they could make such a failure of it as the master class has done. We do not believe that the peoples, having once become self-owning, would exhaust all the resources of science in murdering one another.

We are for abolishing Capitalism by giving all men free and equal access to capital in its strictest and most proper sense, viz., the chief thing, the means of producing wealth--that is, the well-being of themselves and the community... The work of their brains--these few who "scorned delights and lived laborious days"--has put into our hands a capacity to produce which is practically illimitable, and a power to distribute which laughs at physical obstacles and could, by the exercise of ordinary humanity and common sense, knit the entire world into one harmonious commonwealth and free it forever from the mean and sordid struggle that keeps it in the sewer. These few, knowing no God but Truth and no religion but loyalty to Truth, have made Nature, which was for ages Man's ruthless master, to-day his docile slave. In all history there is nothing to compare with the Industrial Revolution wrought by Science, but the harvest of that mighty sowing we have not as yet even begun to reap.

This is the dream; but it is not a dream. The abolition of human slavery is essentially the most practical of things. The adjustment of individual and social life to conditions that have been completely revolutionized by the advance of human knowledge is an adjustment that must be made.


Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Frank Chodorov

Frank Chodorov (2/15/1887-12/28/1966) was a libertarian's libertarian. Born in New York's lower East Side and brought up on the lower West Side, his inspiration was his father, an immigrant peddler who worked hard and built a successful department store (his "mother operated a lunch room in the rear of the store"), the bequest to his children by the time of his father's death. During college, Chodorov was attracted to anarchism.

"I don't know whether I took to Kropotkin and Prudon (sic) because they furnished me with arguments with which to refute the socialists on the campus or because they wrote much about individualism, which seems to be ingrained in my make-up. At any rate, I experienced a violent love affair with anarchism, which was terminated only when I looked into the economic doctrines of the various schools of anarchism then extant. All of them took a dim view of the institution of private property, without which, it seemed to me even then, individualism was meaningless." (Out of Step: The Autobiography of An Individualist (New York: Devin-Adair, 1962. p. 104)

Graduating from Columbia University in 1907 and marrying in 1909, he spent the next 30 years working in a variety of jobs, including a stint as an advertising representative and running a clothing factory. At first, he turned to teaching (initially wanting to become a poet) but would not conform to the required curriculum and quit after a year. He decided to write and became involved in copywriting for a Chicago mail order house and, as a sideline, wrote lyrics for a number of years.

"From four to seven years was about all I could take of any occupation throughout my life. I went at each job I undertook with verve, mastered it and when it became routine I lost interest and went looking for something else." (Out of Step, p. 75)

It was a few years after he graduated from Columbia that he had come across Henry George's Progress and Poverty. Upon reading it several times, he had become enthralled with the ideas in it.

"When I returned to New York in 1917 (I had read Progress and Poverty in Chicago) I happened to meet with a group who called themselves the Single Tax Party. Though I knew nothing about politics, and instinctively distrusted politicians, the poverty of the Single Tax Party and the devotion of its members appealed to me, and I threw myself into its work for a couple of years." (ibid., p. 51)

Chodorov traveled to New York by WWI with the intention of copywriting for a clothing house, but the company received a government contract and he wound up managing a factory--one with union problems. Having been around radical circles, Chodorov understood union tactics of the time and was able to fend off potential violent altercations. The notoriety of his success against the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America provided him with an invitation to lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Business in 1923. He found that the Harvard students were moving toward Marxism and unsympathetic to his defense of capitalism.

He decided to go into business for himself. Although he was quite successful, like many free-market advocates of the time, and he realized that the economy was moving toward a depression, he was unprepared for it when it occurred, and his business failed. He tried becoming a travelling salesman for a period until he was offered the position of Director for the struggling Henry George School of Social Science in New York. Being well-experienced in advertising and management, he was a perfect match for their needs. Until December, 1941, that is. With the Pearl Harbor bombardment, his anti-war stance became unpopular with the managing board and he was ousted.

"I learned a lesson from this experience that has caused me to reassess my previous estimate of the behavior of men dedicated to a "cause"; namely, that men do not generally act on principle, but are primarily motivated by considerations of convenience and profit. The trustees were as much opposed to the war as I was but thought that we "should keep quiet" for the duration; that is, their convenience and profit replaced principle." (ibid., p. 79)

Thus Chodorov began analysis, his four-page broad sheet which ran for seven years until its merger with Human Events, which he would write for another four years. After which, he became editor of the Foundation for Economic Education's The Freeman for a couple of years. It is in the essays found in analysis and The Freeman where Chodorov the libertarian poet excels.

Chodorov founded in 1953 the ISI. The original title of the organization was the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists. ISI (now the Intercollegiate Studies Institute) is the oldest national college conservative organization in the country. The organization has an annual budget of $4.7 million and claims more than 55,000 student and faculty members on U.S. campuses. In 1995, the organization assumed control of the Collegiate Network, which funds more than 50 conservative college publications, ranging from the Harvard Salient to the Dartmouth Review to the Oregon Commentator.

When he started ISI, Chodorov patterned it on the Intercollegiate Society of Socialists (ISS). ISS’s founder and first president was Jack London; famed media critic Walter Lippman was an early member. From his perspective in the 1950s, Chodorov believed ISS was a source of the turn of the nation from individualists into collectivists over a half-century

In its struggle to win the minds of American youth, ISI continues to reprint books and distribute them on college campuses. In addition, students can attend ISI summer workshops or lectures sponsored by the group. Students can also read the national magazines ISI publishes and distributes free: Campus: America's

Student Newspaper, with an annual print run of 350,000, and The Intercollegiate Review: A Journal of Scholarship and Opinion.

When I joined ISI in 1968, it had already been converted into a conservative organization and was rapidly shedding its libertarian principles for Burkean/Kirkian conservatism and had already changed its name from the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists. It was disappointing in that respect, but there were still enough libertarian elements in it for me to continue with it for some time. He would later become a lecturer for Robert LeFevre's Freedom School until a debilitating stroke. Chodorov died in 1966.

The following is a reprint my review of his last collection of essays, with a few comments following the review and a list of Chodorov's current essays online.

Chodorov's Fugitive Essays

FUGITIVE ESSAYS: Selected Writings of Frank Chodorov (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1980. 429 pp. Biographical essay, selected bibliography and index), compiled, edited and with an introduction by Charles H. Hamilton.

One of the final acts that Frank Chodorov was to perform as editor of the Henry George School of Social Science journal, The Freeman (Dec. 1942, not to be confused with Albert Jay Nock's The Freeman, 1920-24, or the later The Freeman which was begun by Henry Hazlitt, John Chamberlain and Suzanne LaFollette and later taken over by FEE), was to reprint a classic anti-militarist tract by Henry George, “Our Need of a Navy.”

As George said in the essay, “Standing armies and navies have always proved the ready tools of tyranny, and in every country in which they have been suffered to pass a certain point have proved the death of liberty.” George regarded military establishments akin to “leprosy (that) have developed among a people that might be clean and whole.”

This libertarian theme is one that Chodorov echoed throughout his life, both in his opposition to World War II, the Korean War and to military escapades in general. Fugitive Essays contains many of his finest statements on the subject.

Fugitive Essays is a compilation of Frank Chodorov's later essays gleaned from, mostly, his articles in analysis (about half of the essays are from this source) and The Freeman (in its various reincarnations) with the rest of the essays from an assortment of other places. They cover the major areas of concern for Chodorov—the nature of politics, natural rights, socialism, taxation, foreign policy, strategy—all viewed from the perspective of one who is deeply concerned with liberty. How to nurture and protect liberty are the central themes of these essays and, indeed, of Chodorov's life.

The witty, irreverent essays included in Fugitive Essays direct the attention of the readers to the absurdities of politics, to the vagaries of political life that are too often forgotten by modern libertarians, so called, who try to become a monster without being a monster, try to become a politician without being a politician. As Chodorov said in an essay not included in this collection (possibly, because it was written before 1940), all politicians succumb to a narcotic, and

“that poison is Officitis—that which there is no seductive siren, whiskey nor narcotic more weakening to the moral fibre of a reformer...It is an axiom that politicians prefer office to principle. A statesman (in theory at least) will go down with his policies, but a politician will abandon an entire platform if need be to retain his position...This is not dishonesty of purpose; it is that pardonable human frailty—Officitis. The office overcomes the man.” (“Reformers, Respectability and Officitis,” Land and Freedom Jan.-Feb. 1935, pp. 114-116.)

One can almost hear Chodorov chuckle as he writes of the “psychosis” of Washington and of the “Robespierres” within our midst. It is impossible not to chuckle along with him, for Chodorov was a master craftsman of the written word. His economy of style leads the reader through the intricacies of libertarianism with a clarity few can match.

Just as we can laugh with Chodorov and admire the clarity of his stance on the nature of rights, we can learn from the strength of his position defending the classical liberal view of the military, which has often been tagged as the isolationist impulse of the “Old Right.”

It was perhaps this last issue that brought Chodorov into deepest trouble with the “New Rightists.” For, while they could sympathize with his criticism of the foreign aid programs as bribery, they were totally opposed to the other aspects of Chodorov's (and, indeed, of all libertarians') opposition to the war measures so warmly embraced by the anti-communist witch-hunters of the McCarthyite generation.

What should be done to eliminate the “communists” in the federal posts in Washington? Eliminate the federal posts. How should America prepare for war with Russia? Eliminate inflation and then move forward to a laissez-faire economy, as Chodorov said in his essay, “Free Trade for Preparedness” (included in this collection):

“We have seen how all sorts of plants were turned almost overnight into war machines, and since free trade must increase the productivity of all industry by the simple expedient of widening the market, it is evident that free trade is the best assurance of a ready-made, well-oiled and superior defense potential.”
With the rise of the protective tariff, the greatest navy in the wold, the American merchant marine, began its decline. The cost of this navy to the American taxpayer was minuscule and it brought wealth into the country. This powerful navy was totally private and was, according to Chodorov, “immediately convertible into an auxiliary of the fighting ship, while its personnel [were] graduates of the most important naval academy,” experience.

What of a standing army? Isn't this necessary? As Chodorov said in the same essay,

“Rumor has it that Russia has a standing army of three million—a semi-trained army of millions more. If this is so, Russia is getting weaker day by day. The cost of maintaining a nonproductive institution of anything like that size must be debilitating. But, more than that, every man who marches and drills is a man who not only is not producing, but because of lack of training is incapable of producing when production is most important. In the last war, the comparative technical skills and capacities of the two sides told off in the end. In the next war this factor will be of even more importance...In the final analysis the nation with the biggest and most productive factories will be superior to the one with the biggest and best drilled army. Those factories are the product of a free economy—in which free trade is an essential element.”

Chodorov provided some of the keenest insights into the political realm possessed by libertarians. In his writings, he recognized the central role of consent in justifying the actions of the state. This was a point that he was to make time and time again. The state

“is not a system which creates privileges, it is a number of morally responsible mortals who do so. A robot cannot declare war, nor can a general staff conduct one; the motivating instrument is a man called king or president, a man call legislator, a man called general. In thus identifying political behavior with persons we prevent transference of guilt to an amoral fiction and place responsibility where it rightly belongs.” (“On Doing Something About It,” included in Fugitive Essays.)

Recognizing that the state is a group of individuals who are up to no good, we should then

“treat them accordingly...If someone high in the hierarchy hires a hall, and with your money, stay away; the absent audience will bring him to a realization of his nothingness. The speeches and the written statements of the politician are directed toward influencing your good opinion of political power, and if you neither listen to the one nor read the other you will not be influenced and he will give up the effort. It is the applause, the adulation we accord political personages that records our acquiescence in the power they yield...Without a cheering crowd there is no parade.”

If there is any area of the Fugitive Essays that I have problems with, it is the biographical essay by Mr. Hamilton. He covers the period following 1937, when, at the age of fifty, Chodorov became the director of the Henry George School of Social Science and editor of the HGSSS periodical, The Freeman, somewhat satisfactorily. He does miss several important points, the most important of these was the Bernstein/Chodorov affair.

Bernstein, a pro-war Georgist who had taught at the HGSSS, filed complaints with the New York State Education Department, the F.B.I. And the Treasury Department claiming that the HGSSS (under the direction of Chodorov) “disseminated anti-democratic and pro-appeasement propaganda.” This, and the events at Pearl Harbor, led to Chodorov's banishment from the Henry George School.

But it is the early single-tax career of Chodorov that should not have been left unmentioned, for it is his activities in single-tax politics that led him down the path of libertarianism. What changes took place between the time in 1918 when Chodorov said that he was of the “voting-for-what-we-want” class and when, in 1945, he suggested that we should “stay away from the polls”?

Here is a brief account of this period of Chodorov's life:

In 1918, Chodorov was the State Secretary of the Single Tax Party of New York. From 1920 through 1924, he was a member of the National Executive Committee of the Single Tax Party, helping to do the usual political activities—destroying a rival minor political party, The Committee of Forty-Eight (which had a number of single taxers in its midst), getting State parties on the ballot, petitioning, leafletting, etc., etc., etc...

By 1924, Chodorov had moved from New York City to Springfield, New Jersey and had rapidly become one of the top leaders of the Commonwealth Land Party in that state (by 1924, the Single Tax Party had changed its name to the Commonwealth Land Party), running for Attorney General, becoming one of the slate of presidential electors and performing, again, much of the legwork for the Party.

By 1935, he still believed that political action would eventually be necessary, but that the time was not right, nor was the form determinate. It may be that separate party action, referenda or initiative petition will eventually suffice. But, an important element becomes much more prominent in his writings: Education.

Without educating a significant portion of society, all of the political efforts would come to naught. If legislation were passed, either through the legislature or direct legislation, the reforms would be quickly discredited and either ignored or thrown out, possibly retarding the maintenance of the reform for many years. By the end of the 1920's the Single Tax Party members had learned this lesson well, for their political efforts had only created a backlash, consigning Georgists to the crank file of history.

From this time onward, Chodorov turned further into libertarianism, accepting the anti-statism of Nock, although still disliking landowners, calling them thieves and blackmailers as late as 1937. It was only during his teaching stints at the Freedom School in Colorado in the late 1950's that he would come to finally reject the single tax panacea.

In any event, outside of these caveats on the introductory essay, Fugitive Essays is a delight to read and a must for every libertarian library.

Reprinted from RAMPART INDIVIDUALIST: A Journal of Free Market Scholarship (Vol I, #1&2. Winter & Spring 1981. pp. 97-99)

About Revolutions
As Frank Chodorov Sees It (1/56)
As Frank Chodorov Sees It (2/56)
As Frank Chodorov Sees It (3/56)
As Frank Chodorov Sees It (4/56)
As Frank Chodorov Sees It (11/56)
Bits and Pieces
The Dogma of Our Times and here
From Christmas to Christmas
From Solomon's Yoke to the Income Tax
Grand Street Never Dies
The Great Leader
Henry George and Natural Law
How A Jew Came to God
How Communism Came to America
The Humanity of Trade and here
Imperium in Imperio
The Income Tax: Root of All Evil and here
It's Fun to Fight
Joseph, Secretary of Agriculture
The Kingdom Without God: Roads End for the Social Gospel by Gerald Heard and Edmund A. Opitz and The Powers That Be: Case Studies of the Church in Politics by Edmund A. Opitz
MacArthur: His Rendezvous with History by Major Gen. Courtney Whitney
The Most Precious Heirloom
No Rights Without Property Rights
On Economics
On Promoting Individualism
Remember Robespierre
Return Revolution
The Revolution At Ramah
Socialism By Default
The Sovereign Tax-Collector
Taxation is Robbery
Time for Secession
United We Fall and here
The Unreality of Expediency
The Vision and the Constant Star by A. H. Hobbs
Voltaire and the State by Constance Rowe
The Vulnerable State
A War To Communize America

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

It Usually Begins With...

Jules Verne (2/8/1828-3/24/1905) was the greatest proponent of the enterprising spirit of the 19th century, science and invention, founding father of "hard" science fiction, futurist, and prophet. His father, a prosperous lawyer, wanted him to follow in his footsteps, so Verne moved to Paris where he studied law and managed to get his law degree (licence en droit--master's degree in law) in 1850. He held no interest in pursuing the family practice and tried stockbroking. He would try his hand in writing music as well as fiction until 1863 when Five Weeks in a Balloon was published. As he said the year before, "It struck me one day that perhaps I might utilize my scientific education to blend together science and romance into a work...that might appeal to the public taste.” From then on, and for nearly a quarter of a century, his publisher and life-long friend, Pierre-Jules Hetzel (who also published Proudhon) would publish one or more of his stories every year.

Walter McDougall says:
Verne’s pioneering science fiction (as it would later be called) inspired Robert Goddard, Wernher von Braun, and virtually all the other pioneers of the space age. Indeed, his book From the Earth to the Moon Direct in 97 Hours, first published in 1865, not only anticipated the Apollo program, but also foresaw that it would be done by Americans, that they would quarrel bitterly over the best technological means, that Florida and Texas would compete for the program, that three astronauts would make the journey in a cone-shaped capsule, that they would use rockets to steer and escape the moon’s gravity, and that they would splash down in the Pacific Ocean to be recovered by the U.S. Navy. More impressive still was Verne’s anticipation of the American culture of technology: a mixture of boundless enthusiasm, private initiative, militarism, and P. T. Barnum commercialism.

Verne's son later wrote that he had only three passions in life: freedom, music, and the sea. Verne supported the Revolution of 1848, but as it degenerated into violent class conflict during the June Days he would stand for law and order. When Louis Napoleon then overthrew the republic and made himself emperor, Verne opposed him. He would later support the regime’s active promotion of science and industry. Verne deplored the socialist Paris Commune of 1871. In 1888 he ran for town council on a leftist ticket, but in the 1890s stood with the Right during the bitter, anti-Semitic Dreyfus Affair. Verne’s campaign platform was:
“In social matters my taste is order; in politics my hope is to create within the present government a reasonable party that balances respect for justice and religious belief with consideration for people, the arts, and life itself."

Verne's novels have contrary trends: support for national liberation movements such as the Irish and Polish, but also a strong pacifist streak; paternalism toward colonial peoples, but a hatred of slavery and imperialism (especially British); sympathy for utopian experiments, but resentment toward state power; affirmation of free enterprise, but assaults on big capitalism (especially American); a celebration of loyalty and community, but sympathy for militant individualism.

While Verne was critical of British imperialism, he was willing to accede to his publisher's request, in order not to offend France's then-ally, Russia (and the Russian book market), to change the origin and past of the infamous Captain Nemo (Verne's alter ego--the Latin nemo is a pun meaning no-one--or nobody--or fish) from that of a Polish noble vengeful because of the murder of his family during Russian repression and partitions of Poland, and the death of his family in the January Uprising to that of Prince Dakkar, the Hindu son of an Indian rajah and nephew of the great moslem anti-imperialist, Tippoo Sahib, full of hatred for the British conquest of India. After the Sepoy mutiny, Nemo devotes himself to scientific research and develops an advanced electric submarine, the Nautilus. He and his crew of loyals cruise the seas, battling injustice and slavery.

Translations of his works into english have often "toned down" or excised his more political (or, rather, antipolitical) comments, so that much of Verne's politics is not available to most readers, partly due to publisher assumption of a juvenile readership. As Walter James Miller has said:
in 1978 Crowell published ... a complete new translation of From the Earth to the Moon, with annotations and appendices to show the errors and distortions in [previous] versions... I demonstrated that, properly and completely rendered, this genuine space novel was also an anti-war classic on a level with Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

[Verne] also foresaw the collapse of colonialism, the emergence of new attitudes about gender and androgyny, the industrialization of China, the smoldering of French separatism in Canada, the rise of the American Goliath, the prostitution of science by new power elites: by private financiers and the military-industrial complex... Verne ...explored all varieties of nonconformism, from vagabondism to guerrilla war to philosophical anarchism...[and] gave a voice in his books to every shade of social and political opinion, from utopian socialism to anti-semitism to proto-fascism. Indeed, the great French scholar Jean Chesneaux ranks Jules Verne with H.G. Wells as a major writer of political fiction.

Jules Verne was a true visionary and a writer to be reckoned with.

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Washington's Will

George Washington's Will is a valuable document to examine. One of his first concerns in the will is to free his slaves and to take care of the elderly in whatever way possible:
m Upon the decease my wife, it is my Will & desire th all the Slaves which I hold in own right, shall receive their free. To emancipate them during life, would, tho' earnestly wish me, be attended with such insuble difficulties on account of theiixture by Marriages with the er Negroes, as to excite the most paful sensations, if not disagreeablonsequences from the latter, while descriptions are in the occupancy the same Proprietor; it not being my power, under the tenure by which e Dower Negroes are held, to mant them. And whereas among e who will recieve freedom acding to this devise, there may bme, who from old age or bodily infiities, and others who on account of ir infancy, that will be unable to pport themselves; it is msire that all who & second descriptably cloathed & they live; and that such of the latter description as have no parents living, or if living are unable, or unwilling to provide for them, shall be bound by the Court until they shall arrive at the ag of twenty five years; and in cases where no record can be produced, whereby their ages can be ascertained, the judgment of the Court, upon its own view of the subject, shall be adequate and final. The Negros thus bound, are (by their Masters or Mistresses) to be taught to read & write; and to be brought up to some useful occupation, agreeably to the Laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, providing for the support of Orphan and other poor Children. and I do hereby expressly forbid the Sale, or transportation out of the said Commonwealth, of any Slave I may die possessed of, under any pretence whatsoever. And I do moreover most pointedly, and most solemnly enjoin it upon my Executors hereafter named, or the Survivors of them, to see that thuse respecting Slaves, and every part thereof be religiously fulfilled at the Epoch at which it is directed to take place; without evasion, neglect or delay, after the Crops which may then be on the ground are harvested, particularly as it respects the aged and infirm; seeing that a regular and permanent fund be established for their support so long as there are subjects requiring it; not trusting to the < u>ncertain provision to be made by individuals. And to my Mulatto man William (calling himself William Lee) I give immediate freedom; or if he should prefer it (on account of the accidents which hae befallen him, and which have rendered him incapable of walking or of any active employment) to remain in the situation he now is, it shall be optional in him to do so: In either case however, I allow him an annuity of thirty dollars during his natural life, whic shall be independent of the victuals and cloaths he has been accustomed to receive, if he chuses the last alternative; but in full, with his freedom, if he prefers the first; & this I give him as a testony of my sense of his attachment to me, and for his faithful services during the Revolutionary War.

As the notes state in the online version:
At about the same time that he was drawing up his will, Washington made a list of the adult and child slaves on each of the Mount Vernon farms, usually giving ages, occupations, and other pertinent information. His list of 317 slaves, includes the names of 124 who belonged to him outright and were to be freed when Martha Washington died, 153 who were Martha Washington's dower slaves and at her death would go to the Custis heir-at-law, her grandson George Washington Parke Custis, and forty others leased by GW from his neighbor Penelope Manley French. Of the 277 slaves belonging to Washington in his own right or by marriage, 179 were 12 years old or older, eighteen of whom were "Passed labor." The remaining ninety-eight were children under the age of 12. Of those twelve years old and over, ninety-five were females and eighty-four were males. Shortly after Washington's death, Bushrod Washington recommended to Martha Washington that she get "clear of her negroes" at Mount Vernon. According to Eugene Prussing, she "was made unhappy by the talk in the [slave] quarters of the good time coming to the ones to be freed as soon as she died." He reported that "many did not wait for the event" but took off at once. In any case, all the slaves that Washington owned outright were freed after Martha's death, and the accounts of the executors of Washington's will show an expenditure by 1833 of more than $10,000 to the pensioned former slaves who remained at Mount Vernon or lived nearby (Bushrod Washington to Martha Washington, 27 Dec. 1799, in Fields, Papers of Martha Washington, 328-31; Prussing, Estate of George Washington, 158-60).

He was not particularly trusting of lawyers and desired that any disputes over his will be settled privately through ADR (alternative dispute resolution):
In the construction of which it will readily be perceived that no professional character has been consulted, or has had any Agency in the draught--and that, although it has occupied many of my leisure hours to digest, & to through it into its present form, it may, notwithstanding, appear crude and incorrect. But having endeavoured to be plain, and explicit in all Devises--even at the expence of prolixity, perhaps of tautology, I hope, and trust, that no disputes will arise concerning them; but if, contrary to expectation, the case should be otherwise from the want of legal expression, or the usual technical terms, or because too much or too little has been said on any of the Devises to be consonant with law, My Will and direction expressly is, that all disputes (if unhappily any should arise) shall be decided by three impartial and intelligent men, known for their probity and good understanding; two to be chosen by the disputants--each having the choice of one--and the third by those two. Which three men thus chosen, shall, unfettered by Law, or legal constructions, declare their sense of the Testators intention; and such decision is, to all intents and purposes to be as binding on the Parties as if it had been given in the Supreme Court of the United States.

These both indicate the civil nature of Washington: his desire to free his slaves without any legal interferences by the existing slaveholding state of Virginia (which could have contested his will if manumission were done prior this time) and the desire to keep the courts out of his affairs.

Tip of the hat to Joel Schoenmeyer and Blawg Review #43.

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism