“A Self-employed Society” by Colin Ward

The split between life and work is probably the greatest contemporary social problem. You cannot expect men to take a responsible attitude and to display initiative in daily life when their whole working experience deprives them of the chance of initiative and responsibility. The personality cannot be successfully divided into watertight compartments, and even the attempt to do so is dangerous: if a man is taught to rely upon a paternalistic authority within the factory, he will be ready to rely upon one outside. If he is rendered irresponsible at work by lack of opportunity for responsibility, he will be irresponsible when away from work too. The contemporary social trend towards a centralised, paternalistic, authoritarian society only reflects conditions which already exist within the factory.

Gordon Rattray Taylor, Are Workers Human?
The novelist, Nigel Balchin, was once invited to address a conference on ‘incentives’ in industry. He remarked that ‘Industrial psychologists must stop messing about with tricky and ingenious bonus schemes and find out why a man, after a hard day’s work, went home and enjoyed digging in his garden.’

But don’t we already know why? He enjoys going home and digging in his garden because there he is free from foremen, managers and bosses. He is free from the monotony and slavery of doing the same thing day in day out, and is in control of the whole job from start to finish. He is free to decide for himself how and when to set about it. He is responsible to himself and not to somebody else. He is working because he wants to and not because he has to. He is doing his own thing. He is his own man.

The desire to ‘be your own boss’ is very common indeed. Think of all the people whose secret dream or cherished ambition is to run a small-holding or a little shop or to set up in trade on their own account, even though it may mean working night and day with little prospect of solvency. Few of them are such optimists as to think they will make a fortune that way. What they want above all is the sense of independence and of controlling their own destinies.

The fact that in the twentieth century the production and distribution of goods and services is far too complicated to be run by millions of one-man businesses doesn’t lessen this urge for self-determination, and the politicians, managers and giant international corporations know it. This is why they present every kind of scheme for ‘workers’ participation’, ‘joint management’, ‘profit sharing’, ‘industrial co-partnership’, everything in fact from suggestion boxes to works councils, to give the worker the feeling that he is more than a cog in the industrial machine while making sure that effective control of industry is kept out of the hands of the man on the factory floor.

They are in fact like the rich man in Tolstoy’s fable – they will do anything for the worker except get off his back.In every industrial country, and probably in every agricultural country, the idea of workers’ control has manifested itself at one time or another – as a demand, an aspiration, a programme or a dream. To confine ourselves to one century and one country, it was the basis of two parallel movements in Britain around the First World War, Syndicalism and Guild Socialism. These two movements dwindled away in the early 1920s, but ever since then there have been sporadic and periodic attempts to re-create a movement for workers’ control of industry.

From some points of view the advocates of workers’ control had much more reason for optimism in 1920 than today. In that year the Sankey Report (a majority report of a Royal Commission) advocating ‘joint control’ and public ownership of the mining industry in Britain, was turned down by the government for being too radical, and by the shop stewards for not being radical enough. When the mines were actually nationalised after almost thirty years, nothing even as mild as joint control was either proposed or demanded. In 1920, too, the Building Guilds began their brief but successful existence. In our own day it is inconceivable that large local authorities would let big building contracts to guilds of workers, or that the co-operative movement would finance them.

The idea that workers should have some say in the running of their industries was accepted then in a way that it has never been since.And yet the trade union movement today is immeasurably stronger than it was in the days when workers’ control was a widespread demand. What has happened is that the labour movement as a whole has accepted the notion that you gain more by settling for less.

In most Western countries, as Anthony Crossland pointed out, the unions, ‘greatly aided by propitious changes in the political and economic background, have achieved a more effective control through the independent exercise of their collective bargaining strength than they would ever have achieved by following the path (beset as it is by practical difficulties on which all past experiments have foundered) of direct workers’ management. Indeed ,we may risk the generalisation that the greater the power of the unions the less the interest in workers’ management.’

His observation is true, even if it is unpalatable for those who would like to see the unions, or some more militantly syndicalist kind of industrial union, as the vehicle for workers’ control. Many advocates of workers’ control have seen the unions as the organs through which it is to be exercised, assuming presumably that the attainment of workers’ control would bring complete community of interest in industry and that the defensive role of the unions would become obsolete. (This is, of course, the assumption behind trade union organisation in the Soviet empire).

I think this view is a gross oversimplification. Before the First World War, the Webbs pointed out that ‘the decisions of the most democratically elected executive committees with regard to wages, hours and conditions of employment of particular sections of their fellow workers, do not always satisfy the latter, or even seem to them to be just’. And the Yugoslav scholar, Branko Pribicevic, in his history of the shop-stewards’ movement in Britain, emphasises this point in criticising the reliance on the idea of control by industrial unions:

Control of industry is largely incompatible with a union’s character as a voluntary association of the workers, formed primarily to protect and represent their interests. Even in the most democratic industrial system, i.e. a system in which the workers would have a share in control, there would still be a need for unions . . . Now if we assume that ma1lagers would be responsible to the body of workers, we cannot exclude the possibility of individual injustices and mistakes. Such cases must be taken up by the union . . . It seems most improbable that a union could fulfil any of these tasks successfully if it were also the organ of industrial administration or, in other words, if it had ceased to be a voluntary organisation . . . It was unfortunate that the idea of workers’ control was almost completely identified with the concept of union control . . .

It was obvious throughout that the unions would oppose any doctrine a1ming at creating a representative structure in industry parallel with their own.In fact, in the only instances we know of in Britain, of either complete or partial workers’ control, the trade union structure is entirely separate from the administration, and there has never been any suggestion that it should be otherwise. What are these examples ? Well, there are the co-operative co-partnerships which make, for instance, some of the footwear sold in retail co-operative societies. These are, so far as they go, genuine examples of workers’ control (needless to say I am not speaking of the factories run by the Co-operative Wholesale Society on orthodox capitalist lines), but they do not seem to have any capacity for expansion, or to exercise any influence on industry in general. There are the fishermen of Brixham in Devon, and the miners of Brora on the coast of Sutherland in Scotland. This pit was to have shut down, but instead the miners took it over from the National Coal Board and formed a company of their own. Then there are those firms where some form of control by the employees has been sought by idealistic employers. (I am thinking of firms like Scott Bader Ltd., and Farmer and Co., not of those heavily paternalistic chocolate manufacturers or of spurious co-partnerships). There are also odd small workshops like the factories in Scotland and Wales of the Rowen Engineering Company.

I mention these examples, not because they have any economic significance, but because the general view is that control of industry by workers is a beautiful idea which is utterly impracticable because of some unspecified deficiency, not in the idea, but in those people labelled as ‘workers’. The Labour Correspondent of The Times remarked of ventures of this kind that, while they provide ‘a means of harmonious self-government in a small concern’, there is no evidence that they provide ‘any solution to the problem of establishing democracy in large-scale industry’. And even more widespread than the opinion that workers have a built-in capacity for managing themselves, is the regretful conclusion that workers’ control is a nice idea, but one which is totally incapable of realisation because of the scale and complexity of modern industry.

Daniel Guerin recommends an interpretation of anarchism which ‘rests upon large-scale modern industry, up-to-date techniques, the modern proletariat, and internationalism on a world scale’. But he does not tell us how. On the face of it, we could counter the argument about scope and scale by pointing out how changes in sources of motive power make the geographical concentration of industry obsolete, and how changing methods of production (automation for example) make the concentration of vast numbers of people obsolete too. Decentralisation is perfectly feasible, and probably economically advantageous within the structure of industry as it is today.

But the arguments based on the complexity of modern industry actually mean something quite different.What the sceptics really mean is that while they can imagine the isolated case of a small enterprise in which the shares are held by the employees, but which is run on ordinary business lines – like Scott Bader Ltd. – or while they can accept the odd example of a firm in which a management committee is elected by the workers -like the co-operative co-partnerships – they cannot imagine those who manipulate the commanding heights of the economy being either disturbed by or, least of all, influenced by, these admirable smallscale precedents. And they are right, of course: the minority aspiration for workers’ control which never completely dies, has at the same time never been widespread enough to challenge the controllers of industry, in spite of the ideological implications of the ‘work-in’.

The tiny minority who would like to see revolutionary changes need not cherish any illusions about this. Neither in the political parties of the Left nor in the trade union movement will they find more than a similar minority in agreement. Nor does the history of syndicalist movements in any country, even Spain, give them any cause for optimism. Geoffrey Ostergaard puts their dilemma in these terms:

‘To be effective as defensive organisations, the unions needed to embrace as many workers as possible and this inevitably led to a dilution of their revolutionary objectives. In practice, the syndicalists were faced with the choice of unions which were either reformist and purely defensive or revolutionary and largely ineffective.’Is there a way out of this dilemma? An approach which combines the ordinary day-to-day struggle of workers in industry over wages and conditions with a more radical attempt to shift the balance of power in the factory? I believe that there is, in what the syndicalists and guild socialists used to describe as ‘encroaching control’ by means of the ‘collective contract’. The syndicalists saw this as ‘a system by which the workers within a factory or shop would undertake a specific amount of work in return for a lump sum to be allocated by the work-group as it saw fit, on condition that the employers abdicated their control of the productive process itself’

The late G. D. H. Cole, who returned to the advocacy of the collective contract system towards the end of his life, claimed that the effect would be to link the members of the working group together in a common enterprise under their joint auspices and control, and to emancipate them from an externally imposed discipline in respect of their method of getting the work done’.

I believe that it has, and my evidence for this belief comes from the example of the gang system worked in some Coventry factories which has some aspects in common with the collective contract idea, and the ‘Composite work’ system worked in some Durham coal mines, which has everything in common with it.The first of these, the gang system, was described by an American professor of industrial and management engineering, Seymour Melman, in his book Decision-Making and Productivity, where he sought ‘to demonstrate that there are realistic alternatives to managerial rule over production’. I have been publicising this book for years simply because in all the pretentious drivel of industrial management literature (which may not fool the workers, but certainly fools management) it is the only piece of research I have come across which raises the key question: is management necessary? Melman sought out an identical product made under dissimilar conditions, and found it in the Ferguson tractor made under license in both Detroit and Coventry. His account of the operation of the gang system in Coventry was confirmed for me by a Coventry engineering worker, Reg Wright.Of Standard’s tractor factory (he is writing of the period before Standard sold the plant to Massey-Ferguson in 1956, and before Leyland took over Standard), Melman declares, ‘In this firm we will show that at the same time thousands of workers operated virtually without supervision as conventionally understood, and at high productivity: the highest wage in British industry was paid; high quality products were produced at acceptable prices in extensively mechanised plants; the management conducted its affairs at unusually low costs; also, organised workers had a substantial role in production decision-making.’ The production policy of the firm at that time was most unorthodox for the motor industry and was the resultant of two inter-related decision-making systems, that of the workers and that of management:

‘In production, the management has been prepared to pay a high wage and to organise production via the gang system which requires management to deal with a grouped work force, rather than with single workers, or with small groups . . . the foremen are concerned with the detailed surveillance of things rather than with the detailed control over people . . . The operation of integrated plants employing 10,000 production workers did not require the elaborate and costly hallmark of business management.’

In the motor-car factory fifteen gangs ranged in size from fifty to five hundred people and the tractor factory was organised as one huge gang. From the standpoint of the production workers ‘the gang system leads to keeping track of goods instead of keeping track of people’. For payment purposes the output that was measured was the output of the whole group. In relation to management, Melman points out:

‘The grouped voice of a work force had greater impact than the pressure of single workers. This effect of the gang system, coupled with trade unionism, is well understood among many British managements. As a result, many managements have opposed the use of the gang system and have argued the value of single worker incentive payments.’

In a telling comparison, Melman contrasts the ‘predatory competition’ which characterises the managerial decision-making system with the workers’ decision-making system in which

‘The most characteristic feature of the decision-formulating process is that of mutuality in decision-making with final authority residing in the hands of the grouped workers themselves.’

Emphasising the human significance of this mode of industrial organisation, Reg Wright says:

The gang system sets men’s minds free from many worries and enables them to concentrate completely on the job. It provides a natural frame of security, it gives confidence, shares money equally, uses all degrees of skill without distinction and enables jobs to be allocated to the man or woman best suited to them, the allocation frequently being made by the workers themselves. Change of job to avoid monotony is an easy matter. The ‘gaffer’ is abolished and foremen are now technicians called in to advise, or to act in a breakdown or other emergency. In some firms a ganger will run, not the men, but the job. He will be paid out of gang earnings, and will work himself on a small gang. On a larger gang he will be fully occupied with organisation and supply of parts and materials. A larger gang may have a deputy ganger as a second string and also a gang-steward who, being a keen trade unionist or workers’ man, will act as a corrective should the Ganges try to favour management unduly or interfere with the individual in undesirable ways. Gang meetings are called as necessary, by the latter and all members of the gang are kept informed and may (and do) criticise everything and everybody. All three are subject to recall. Constructive ideas, on the other hand, are usually the result of one or two people thinking out and trying out new things – this is taking place continuously…

He remarks that ‘The fact of taking responsibility in any of these capacities is educative in every sense.’ Certainly the usual methods of work organisation are not only divisive (‘They’d cut your throat for a bit more overtime,’ a Ford worker told Graham Turner) but are profoundly de-educative, reducing the worker, as Eric Gill used to put it, to a ‘subhuman condition of intellectual irresponsibility’.My second example comes from the mining industry in Durham. David Douglass in his book Pit Life in County Durham criticises the attempts of the National Coal Board to introduce more and more supervision into the miner’s work, with the intention of working the mines like factories, remarking that ‘one of the few redeeming features of pit work, and one that the miners will fight to maintain, is that of independent job control’, for while ‘most factory workers would regard the mine purely and simply as a black and filthy hole, funnily enough the miner in turn regards the factory as a prison and its operatives as captives’. In the early days of mining in Durham, he explains, ‘the miner was practically a self-governing agent. The hewers were allowed to manage their own jobs with practically a total lack of supervision. The degree of job control (though necessarily limited by private ownership) was almost complete.’ Douglass describes such traditions as the cavilling system (selection of working place by ballot in order to equalise earning opportunities) as:

the fundamental way in which the Durham miner managed to maintain an equitable system of work, and managed to stave off the competitiveness, bullying and injustice of the hated butty system. In essence it was an embryo of workers’ control, as can be seen from its ability to handle disputes between sets of workers without recourse to outsiders. It was a little Soviet which had grown up within the capitalist system. In a sense it was of necessity restricted in its development. It is, however, a feature of the worker intervening in the productive process in a conscious way to say: this is how I run it, you adapt it accordingly.

The same kind of attempt to run the mines as factories that David Douglass complains of, accompanied the introduction in the post-war years of the ‘long-wall’ system of working. A comparative study was made by the Tavistock Institute of conventional long-wall working with its introduction of the division of labour, and of factory type methods, and the composite long-wall method adopted by the miners in some pits. Its importance for my argument can be seen from the opening words of one of the Tavistock reports:

This study concerns a groups of miners who came together to evolve a new way of working together, planning the type of change they wanted to put through, and testing it in practice. The new type of work organisation which has come to be known in the industry as composite working, has in recent years emerged spontaneously in a number of different pits in the north-west Durham coalfield. Its roots go back to an earlier tradition which has been almost completely displaced in the course of the last century by the introduction of work techniques based on task segmentation, differential status and payment, and extrinsic hierarchical control.

A further report notes how the investigation shows ‘the ability of quite large primary work groups of 40-50 members to act as self-regulating, self-developing social organisms able to maintain themselves in a steady state of high productivity . . .(P. G. Herbst) describes the system of composite working in a way which shows its relationship to the gang system:

 The composite work organisation may be described as one in which the group takes over complete responsibility for the total cycle of operations involved in mining the coal face. No member of the group has a fixed work-role. instead, the men deploy themselves, depending on the requirements of the ongoing group task. Within the limits of technological and safety requirements they are free to evolve their own way of organising and carrying out their task. They are not subject to any external authority in this respect, nor is there within the group itself any member who takes over a formal directive leadership function. Whereas in conventional long-wall working the coal-getting task is split into four or eight separate work roles, carried out by different teams, each paid at a different rate, in the composite group members are no longer paid directly for any of the tasks carried out. The all-in wage agreement is, instead, based on the negotiated price per ton of coal produced by the team. The income obtained is divided equally among team members.

These examples of on-the-job workers’ control are important in evolving an anarchist approach to industrial organisation. They do not entail submission to paternalistic management techniques – in fact they demolish the myths of managerial expertise and indispensability. They are a force for solidarity rather than divisiveness between workers on the basis of pay and status. They illustrate that it is possible to bring decision-making back to the factory floor and the face-to-face group. They even satisfy-though this is not my criterion for recommending them – the capitalist test of productivity. They, like the growing concept of workers’ rights of possession in the job – tacitly recognised in redundancy payment legislation, actively demonstrated by workers taking over physical possession of the workplace as in the ‘work-in’ at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders – have the great tactical merit of combining short-term aims with long-term aspirations.Could the workers run industry? Of course they could. They do already.

Neither of the two examples I have given of successful ‘on the job’ control, exists in the same form today, for reasons which have nothing to do with either their efficiency or their productivity. In the Durham example it has to do with the shift of emphasis in the (publicly-owned) National Coal Board to the coalfields of South Yorkshire and Nottingham, and in the case of Standards with the mergers (sponsored by a Labour government) which led to the formation of British Leyland as a combine large enough to compete for markets with the giant American-owned and European firms.Industry is not dominated by technical expertise, but by the sales manager, the accountant and the financial tycoon who never made anything in their lives except money.For a lucky few work is enjoyable for its own sake, but the proportion of such people in the total working population grows smaller as work becomes either more mechanised or more fragmented Automation, which was expected to reduce the sheer drudgery of manual labour and the sheer mental drudgery of clerical work, is feared because in practice it simply reduces the number of income gaining opportunities. It is a saving of labour, not by the worker, but by the owners or controllers of capital. The lucky few are destined for the jobs which are either created by or are unaffected by automation. The unlucky ma1ority, condemned from childhood to the dreary jobs, find them either diminished or extinguished by the ‘rationalisation’ of work.

Can we imagine that in a situation where the control of an industry, a factory, any kind of workplace, was in the hands of the people who work there, they would just carry on production, distribution and bottle-washing in the ways we are familiar with today? Even within capitalist society (though not within the ‘public sector’ which belongs to ‘the people’) some employers find that what they call job enlargement or job enrichment, the replacement of conveyor belt tasks by complete assembly jobs, or deliberate rotation from job to job in the production process, can increase production simply by reducing boredom. When everyone in an industry has a voice in it, would they stop at this point?In his brilliant essay Work and Surplus, Keith Paton imagines what would happen in a car factory taken over permanently by its workers. ‘After the carnival of revolution come the appeals to return to work’ but ‘to get into the habit of responding to orders or exhortations to raise the GNP would be to sell the pass straight away. On the other hand production must eventually be got going on some basis or other. What basis? Return to what sort of work?’

So instead of restarting the assembly track (if the young workers haven’t already smashed it) they spend two months discussing the point of their work, and how to rearrange it. Private cars ? Why do people always want to go somewhere else? Is it because where they are is so intolerable? And what part did the automobile play in making the need to escape? What about day to day convenience? Is being stuck in a traffic jam convenient? What about the cost to the country? Bugger the ‘cost to the country’, that’s just the same crap as the national interest. Have you seen the faces of old people as they try to cross a busy main road? What about the inconvenience to pedestrians? What’s the reason for buying a car? Is it just wanting to HAVE it? Do we think the value of a car rubs off on us ? But that’s the wrong way round. Does having a car really save time ? What’s the average hours worked in manufacturing industry Let’s look it up in the library: 45-7 hours work a week. What’s the amount of the family’s spending money in a week that goes on cars? 10 3 per cent of all family income. Which means more like 20 per cent if you’ve got a car because half of us don’t have one. What’s 25 per cent of 45 hours ? Christ, 9 hours ! That’s a hell of a long time spent ‘saving time’ ! There must be a better way of getting from A to B. By bus ? OK, let’s make buses. But what about the pollution and that? What about those electric cars they showed on the telly once? Etc., etc.

He envisages another month of discussion and research in complexly cross-cutting groups, until the workers reach a consensus lor eventual self-redeployment for making products which the workers consider to be socially useful. These include car refurbishing to increase the use-value of models already on the road), buses, overhead monorail cars, electric cars and scooters, white bicycles for communal use (as devised by the Amsterdam provos), housing units, minimal work for drop-outs, and for kids and old people who like to make themselves useful. But he sees other aspects of the workers’ take-over, voluntary extra work for example: ‘As work becomes more and more pleasurable, as technology and society develop to allow more and more craft aspects to return at high technological level, the idea of voluntary extra over the (reduced) fixed working week becomes feasible. Even the fixing of the working week becomes perseded.’ The purpose of this voluntary extra? ‘New Delhi needs buses, provide them by voluntary work.’The factory itself is open to the community, including children; -thus every factory worker is a potential “environmental studies” instructor, if a child comes up and asks him how something works.’ The factory in fact becomes a university, an institute of learning rather than of enforced stupidity, ‘using men to a millionth of their capacities’ as Norbert Weiner put it.

The evolution and transformation of the factory envisaged by Keith Paton leads us back to the idea of the Community Workshop envisaged in the previous chapter. We tend to think of the motor industry, for example, as one in which iron ore comes in at one end and a complete car rolls out at the other (though the purchaser of a ‘Friday car’ in today’s society had better watch out, for that car rolled off the assembly line when the workers were waiting for their real life at the weekend to begin). But in fact two thirds of the factory value of a car is represented by components bought by the manufacturers from outside suppliers. The motor industry, like many others, is an assembly industry. The fact that this is so of most consumer goods industries, coupled with the modern facts of widely distributed industrial skill and motive power, means that, as the Goodman brothers said in Communitas:

‘In large areas of our operation, we could go back to old-fashioned domestic industry with perhaps even a gain in efficiency, for small power is everywhere vailable, small machines are cheap and ingenious, and there are asy means to collect machined parts and centrally assemble them.’

 But it also means that we could locally assemble them. It already happens on the individual spare-time level. Build-it-yourself radio, record-playing, and television kits are a commonplace, and you can also buy assemble-it-yourself cars and refrigerators.Groups of community workshops could combine for bulk ordering of components, or for sharing according to their capacity the production of components for mutual exchange and for local assembly.The new industrial field of plastics (assuming that in a transformed future society, people find it a genuine economy to use them) offer many unexploited possibilities for the community workshop. There are three main kinds of plastics today: thermosetting resins which are moulded under heat with very high pressures and consequently require plant which is at present expensive and complex; thermoplastics, which are shaped by extrusion and by injection moulding (there are already do-it-yourself electric thermoplastic injection machines on the market); and polyester resins, used in conjunction with reinforcing materials like glass fibre which can be moulded at low pressures by simple contact moulding, and are thus eminently suitable for the potentialities of the community workshop.

As we are frequently reminded by our own experience as consumers, industrial products in our society are built for a limited life as well as for an early obsolescence. The products which are available for purchase are not the products which we would prefer to have. In a worker-controlled society it would not be worth the workers’ while to produce articles with a deliberately limited life, nor to make things which were unrepairable. Products would have transparency of operation and repair. When Henry Ford first marketed his Model T he aimed at a product which ‘any hick up a dirt road’ could repair with a hammer and a spanner. He nearly bankrupted his firm in the process, but this is precisely the kind of product which an anarchist society would need: objects whose functioning is transparent and whose repair can be undertaken readily and simply by the user.In his book The Worker in an Affluent Society, Ferdynand Zweig makes the entertaining observation that ‘quite often the worker comes to work on Monday worn out from his weekend activities, especially from “Do-it-yourself”. Quite a number said that the weekend is the most trying and exacting period of the whole week, and Monday morning in the factory, in comparison, is relaxing ‘ This leads us to ask – not in the future, but in our present society – what is work and what is leisure if we work harder in our leisure than at our work? The fact that one of these jobs is paid and the other is not seems almost fortuitous. And this in turn leads us to a further question.

The paradoxes of contemporary capitalism mean that there are vast numbers of what one American economist calls no-people: the army of the unemployed who are either unwanted by, or who consciously reject, the meaningless mechanised slavery of contemporary industrial production. Could they make a livelihood for themselves today in the community workshop ? If the workshop is conceived merely as a social service for ‘creative leisure’ the answer is that it would probably be against the rules. Members might complain that so-and-so was abusing the facilities provided by using them ‘commercially’. But if the workshop were conceived on more imaginative lines than any existing venture of this kind, its potentialities could become a source of livelihood in the truest sense. In several of the New Towns in Britain, for example, it has been found necessary and desirable to build groups of small workshops for individuals and small businesses engaged in such work as repairing electrical equipment or car bodies, woodworking and the manufacture of small components. The Community Workshop would be enhanced by its cluster of separate workplaces for ‘gainful’ work.

Couldn’t the workshop become the community factory, providing work or a place for work for anyone in the locality who wanted to work that way, not as an optional extra to the economy of the affluent society which rejects an increasing proportion of its members, but as one of the prerequisites of the worker-controlled economy of the future? Keith Paton again, in a far-sighted pamphlet addressed to members of the Claimants’ Union, urged them not to compete for meaningless jobs in the economy which has thrown them out as redundant, but to use their skills to serve their own community. (One of the characteristics of the affluent world is that it denies its poor the opportunity to feed, clothe, or house themselves, or to meet their own and their families’ needs, except from grudgingly doled out welfare payments). He explains that:

When we talk of ‘doing our own thing’ we are not advocating going back to doing everything by hand. This would have been the only option in the thirties. But since then electrical power and ‘affluence’ have brought a spread of intermediate machines, some of them very sophisticated, to ordinary working class communities. Even if they do not own them (as many claimants do not) the possibility exists of borrowing them from neighbours, relatives, ex-workmates. Knitting and sewing machines, power tools and other do-it-yourself equipment comes in this category. Garages can be converted into little workshops, home-brew kits are popular, parts and machinery can be taken from old cars and other gadgets. If they saw their opportunity, trained metallurgists and mechanics could get into advanced scrap technology, recycling the metal wastes of the consumer society for things which could be used again regardless of whether they would fetch anything in a shop. Many hobby enthusiasts could begin to see their interests in a new light.

‘We do’, he affirms, ‘need each other and the enormous pool of energy and morale that lies untapped in every ghetto, city district and estate.’ The funny thing is that when we discuss the question of work from an anarchist point of view, the first question people ask is: What would you do about the lazy man, the man who will not work? The only possible answer is that we have all been supporting him for centuries. The problem that faces every individual and every society is quite different, it is how to provide people with the opportunity they yearn for: the chance to be useful.

“How Government Solved the Health Care Crisis” by Roderick T. Long

Medical Insurance that Worked — Until Government “Fixed” It

Today, we are constantly being told, the United States faces a health care crisis. Medical costs are too high, and health insurance is out of reach of the poor. The cause of this crisis is never made very clear, but the cure is obvious to nearly everybody: government must step in to solve the problem.

Eighty years ago, Americans were also told that their nation was facing a health care crisis. Then, however, the complaint was that medical costs were too low, and that health insurance was too accessible. But in that era, too, government stepped forward to solve the problem. And boy, did it solve it!

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, one of the primary sources of health care and health insurance for the working poor in Britain, Australia, and the United States was the fraternal society. Fraternal societies (called “friendly societies” in Britain and Australia) were voluntary mutual-aid associations. Their descendants survive among us today in the form of the Shriners, Elks, Masons, and similar organizations, but these no longer play the central role in American life they formerly did. As recently as 1920, over one-quarter of all adult Americans were members of fraternal societies. (The figure was still higher in Britain and Australia.) Fraternal societies were particularly popular among blacks and immigrants. (Indeed, Teddy Roosevelt’s famous attack on “hyphenated Americans” was motivated in part by hostility to the immigrants’ fraternal societies; he and other Progressives sought to “Americanize” immigrants by making them dependent for support on the democratic state, rather than on their own independent ethnic communities.)

The principle behind the fraternal societies was simple. A group of working-class people would form an association (or join a local branch, or “lodge,” of an existing association) and pay monthly fees into the association’s treasury; individual members would then be able to draw on the pooled resources in time of need. The fraternal societies thus operated as a form of self-help insurance company.

Turn-of-the-century America offered a dizzying array of fraternal societies to choose from. Some catered to a particular ethnic or religious group; others did not. Many offered entertainment and social life to their members, or engaged in community service. Some “fraternal” societies were run entirely by and for women. The kinds of services from which members could choose often varied as well, though the most commonly offered were life insurance, disability insurance, and “lodge practice.”

“Lodge practice” refers to an arrangement, reminiscent of today’s HMOs, whereby a particular society or lodge would contract with a doctor to provide medical care to its members. The doctor received a regular salary on a retainer basis, rather than charging per item; members would pay a yearly fee and then call on the doctor’s services as needed. If medical services were found unsatisfactory, the doctor would be penalized, and the contract might not be renewed. Lodge members reportedly enjoyed the degree of customer control this system afforded them. And the tendency to overuse the physician’s services was kept in check by the fraternal society’s own “self-policing”; lodge members who wanted to avoid future increases in premiums were motivated to make sure that their fellow members were not abusing the system.

Most remarkable was the low cost at which these medical services were provided. At the turn of the century, the average cost of “lodge practice” to an individual member was between one and two dollars a year. A day’s wage would pay for a year’s worth of medical care. By contrast, the average cost of medical service on the regular market was between one and two dollars per visit. Yet licensed physicians, particularly those who did not come from “big name” medical schools, competed vigorously for lodge contracts, perhaps because of the security they offered; and this competition continued to keep costs low.

The response of the medical establishment, both in America and in Britain, was one of outrage; the institution of lodge practice was denounced in harsh language and apocalyptic tones. Such low fees, many doctors charged, were bankrupting the medical profession. Moreover, many saw it as a blow to the dignity of the profession that trained physicians should be eagerly bidding for the chance to serve as the hirelings of lower-class tradesmen. It was particularly detestable that such uneducated and socially inferior people should be permitted to set fees for the physicians’ services, or to sit in judgment on professionals to determine whether their services had been satisfactory. The government, they demanded, must do something.

And so it did. In Britain, the state put an end to the “evil” of lodge practice by bringing health care under political control. Physicians’ fees would now be determined by panels of trained professionals (i.e., the physicians themselves) rather than by ignorant patients. State-financed medical care edged out lodge practice; those who were being forced to pay taxes for “free” health care whether they wanted it or not had little incentive to pay extra for health care through the fraternal societies, rather than using the government care they had already paid for.

In America, it took longer for the nation’s health care system to be socialized, so the medical establishment had to achieve its ends more indirectly; but the essential result was the same. Medical societies like the AMA imposed sanctions on doctors who dared to sign lodge practice contracts. This might have been less effective if such medical societies had not had access to government power; but in fact, thanks to governmental grants of privilege, they controlled the medical licensure procedure, thus ensuring that those in their disfavor would be denied the right to practice medicine.

Such licensure laws also offered the medical establishment a less overt way of combating lodge practice. It was during this period that the AMA made the requirements for medical licensure far more strict than they had previously been. Their reason, they claimed, was to raise the quality of medical care. But the result was that the number of physicians fell, competition dwindled, and medical fees rose; the vast pool of physicians bidding for lodge practice contracts had been abolished. As with any market good, artifical restrictions on supply created higher prices — a particular hardship for the working-class members of fraternal societies.

The final death blow to lodge practice was struck by the fraternal societies themselves. The National Fraternal Congress — attempting, like the AMA, to reap the benefits of cartelization — lobbied for laws decreeing a legal minimum on the rates fraternal societies could charge. Unfortunately for the lobbyists, the lobbying effort was successful; the unintended consequence was that the minimum rates laws made the services of fraternal societies no longer competitive. Thus the National Fraternal Congress’ lobbying efforts, rather than creating a formidable mutual-aid cartel, simply destroyed the fraternal societies’ market niche — and with it the opportunity for low-cost health care for the working poor.

Why do we have a crisis in health care costs today? Because government “solved” the last one. Δ

David T. Beito. “The ‘Lodge Practice Evil’ Reconsidered: Medical Care Through Fraternal Societies, 1900-1930.” (unpublished)

David T. Beito. “Mutual Aid for Social Welfare: The Case of American Fraternal Societies.” Critical Review, Vol. 4, no. 4 (Fall 1990).

David Green. Reinventing Civil Society: The Rediscovery of Welfare Without Politics. Institute of Economic Affairs, London, 1993.

David Green. Working Class Patients and the Medical Establishment: Self-Help in Britain from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to 1948. St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1985.

David Green & Lawrence Cromwell. Mutual Aid or Welfare State: Australia’s Friendly Societies. Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1984.

P. Gosden. The Friendly Societies in England, 1815-1875. Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1961.

P. Gosden. Self-Help: Voluntary Associations in the 19th Century. Batsford Press, London, 1973.

Albert Loan. “Institutional Bases of the Spontaneous Order: Surety and Assurance.” Humane Studies Review, Vol. 7, no. 1, 1991/92.

Leslie Siddeley. “The Rise and Fall of Fraternal Insurance Organizations.” Humane Studies Review, Vol. 7, no. 2, 1992.

S. David Young. The Rule of Experts: Occupational Licensing in America. Cato Institute, Washington, 1987.

Originally appeared in Formulations, Winter 1993-94 issue.

“Four Worlds In Economics” by Mildred J. Loomis

Many people commonly identify nations by their geographical location, along with their degree of industrial development. In this naming, the Western “advanced” industrial nations (U.S. Canada and Europe) are the first world; Russia and her satellites are the second world; and the third world includes the relatively undeveloped countries in Asia, Africa and South America. Organizers of the Fourth World conference refer to nations small in size or which hopefully can be made small, if they are now large. In this paper I use another method for numbering worlds 1, 2, 3 or 4.

I propose a nation be identified by the essence and nature of the economic structure under which differing peoples live. Economics is the science of survival–SOS an old distress signal. Economics almost everywhere today is in distress, facing sink or swim; life or death. A more explicit definition is “Economics is the science of the production and distribution of wealth”; it deals with land, the surface of the earth; with labor, i.e., the physical-mental energy which produces and distributes goods; and with capital, or the tools and equipment which assist that production and distribution. From my lifelong studying, observing and experimenting in economic practices, it1s clear that there are at least four distinguishable ways of dealing with land, labor and capital. One of them is capitalism.


Much of the world is influenced by the Western world’s capitalism. They welcome the remarkable technology and affluence it has produced. Many nations in the rest of the world envy it, and want to copy it. Other people criticize and deplore it.

Any serious student of economic affairs knows that freely choosing one’s life is needed, and should result from economic arrangements. Any serious student of Western capitalism recognizes that (while independence and liberty are said to attend Capitalism) fundamental freedom is in shambles. Most of the Western world — assuredly the United States — has become increasingly governmental. More laws, more regulations, more bureaus, more federal control coming from Washington DC at the loss of local and direct-community action. Why?

Why did this trend appear (circa l800s) and why has it proliferated since the 1900s and 1930s? Largely because the capital-individual approach to economics and survival did not extend its comfort and affluence to everyone. Involuntary unemployment appeared; bank failures, economic depressions and failure to find jobs were part of every decade. Too many families were without a pay check or lived in fear of being without a paycheck.

What can a person do who is unemployed; — who has no regular source of work or survival? Most people prefer to work and earn — but when this is not available in an “economic collapse”, what then? Such victims have three options — l) turn to stealing and crime, personal violence;) 2) he can be assisted by charity, 3) but if charity-benevolence is not adequate, then government support is turned to. This, a perceptive reader will point out, is legal violence. A legal agency, government, taxes and takes by force from those who have, and turns it over to those who haven’t a means of survival.

Some people approve this third system, noting that recipients of charity or government pensions and social security welcome it. Is this true? Many – most — Americans resisted early social security. Their pride and integrity were threatened. Dependence was an insult; they wanted survival of course, but they wanted it by their own efforts.

But necessity made it a habit. Necessity and repetition can even change self-confidence. So in America, government-help has to a notable degree, become the accepted, even the desired, the sought-after, along with its drop in integrity. A whole school of thought now supports the governmental answer. In many parts of the world, people think it is a good and proper answer to “How shall people survive?” They say, “In a complex world, government help is necessary. Justice can and should be attained by laws, regulating the distribution of wealth.”

Some countries have moved full-scale into that pattern. The Russians did it by fiat, government edict and violence. They call it Communism. In my list, I name it the “second world in economics”. Most of Russia’s people accept, praise, promote and presumably enjoy it. They feel that its resulting guaranteed livelihood is better than the enforced poverty and riches under the Czars. Books and journals the world around explain, extol and criticize it. Enforced, collective ownership of land and capital, i.e. Communism, is a second answer to the universal problem of “How shall a human being’ survive?”

A Third Economic World

Another alternative moves in a similar direction. It would do this by vote of the electorate and first teaching the people the means and methods of public ownership of survival goods and services. They avoid armies, violence and government edict. This more gradual and temperate approach to the governmental answer to survival, many call Socialism. A dozen kinds of third-world Socialism exist: Domestic Socialism, Workers’ Socialism, Peoples’ Socialism, etc. Many countries have organized their economic and political systems socialistically — in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and some in the Western continent, including some provinces in Canada.

Let’s return to the first world, Capitalism. From its beginning Western capitalism was geared to avoid governmental action. America’s founders fled the tyranny of a monarchial system where rulers and parliaments controlled and owned the land and goods. Western capitalism stressed idividualism, attained through private property, i.e, one’s own title to land and earnings; to business and factories title to capital and wages. They had come to the land of the free; they wanted both independence and security; and essentially they had it until about 1800.

What went wrong? Why the bank panics and economic depressions? Why the Great Depression of the Thirties, followed by wholesale turning to government to bail out banks, businesses, farms and home-owners from debt? Why the failure of the American Dream? Why has capitalism changed to a predominantly government-oriented “socialistic” system? Why the welcome to this system, by so many people? Why is a strong opposition developing to it? What are ethical alternatives?

Analysis of Ethical Alternatives

A fourth way is available, long espoused and championed by a few great American economists and philosophers. Let’s carefully note the root aspects of the economy by underlying a fourth and more ethical handling of land, labor and capital,. For this let’s agree on definitions of these terms.

Every person in the world is affected by the way his society handles land, labor and capital. Most people see but two ways — to treat everything individually (including cooperative), or to treat everything governmentally.

Factor No. 1 Land, of course, is the natural world — the earth, water, air; plains, valleys, seashores, mountains from which all food and shelter are attained by labor. Labor is No. 2 — the mental and physical energy people use with No. 3, the tools or capital, on the land. Who should own (have title to) these things?

We can quickly agree that humans own our own Life, our energy. It belongs to us; we say we have ‘rights’ (title) to our own energy — that is, to our own labor. Then it follows that what we produce from and by our own labor is also ours. Do not the products of labor belong, by ethical right, to those who produce them? Would it therefore be wrong – unethical — for one person to claim what another produced? O.K. Labor (human energy) and capital (tools) belong to the individual. No wonder American forebearers had such strong devotion to private property. It was their base for getting out from under tyrants, rulers and government to their own independence and security.

Rights to Land?

But what about land? What about rights and title to natural resources? Did any humans produce them? Think carefully here. Sure, people produce from and on the land, in both urban and rural settings. But the land itself? Who has natural title to that? Here’s where promoters of a fourth alternative economic system make obvious and ethical conclusions. They emphasize that all natural resources are Nature- (or God-) created. By their differing fertilities, natural resources yield differing amounts to the same labor on differing sites. Non-manmade fertility makes a difference. Land and its value responds, too, to community factors. The value and yield of land goes up when it is near good streets, sewers, schools, fire and police protection. Did the holder-owner create this value in his land? Obviously, no. Should he then pocket this value in sale or rent of that land? Watch your answer. For centuries the Old World said “Yes”.

The Old World, especially Merrie England, has been the historic scene for struggle around this problem. Before the Roman conquest, in the early days, English land was free. Sheep could graze anywhere. But lords and nobles changed that. Especially after the invention of the spinning wheel and loom, were their changes crucial. They passed the Enclosure Acts, giving possession and title to any person of all land which he could claim, fence or “enclose” with boundaries. Then a sheep-owner must pay rent for its use to a land-lord. Many of them were forced to move into cities to become weavers and wage-workers in factories. Rack rents increased; wages fell. After payment for access to the land, how much production is left to pay for labor and capital? It was this economic oppression, not primarily religious domination, that early dissidents were fleeing in coming to America.

In America, for the most part in the early days, they found a new freedom. Why? They had all the land they could use and more. Some tried to practice “common land” — witness Boston Commons. But the old habit of profit and property in land asserted itself. Individuals “bought up” land (more than they needed) to hold and sell to newcomers. Private property in, and sale of, land became an American ideology.

As land values soared in Eastern cities people could “escape” to cheap or free land farther west. Cheap and free land were the root of liberty. For how long? For so long as any free land remained. But land is a limited resource. More people need and demand it than the supply can meet. That time is now. All American land is held — much of it, sad to say — held idle, awaiting a higher price.

The sorry land holding statistics in America show, to the informed, an exploitative situation. Here in the U.S, a handful of corporations own a land area larger than Spain and Japan. About 5% of the population own 55% of all American land. The top 1% owns more land than the rest of the population together. During the past 50 years, 40% of the farm population has been squeezed out of their livelihood by land prices, mortgages, taxes and insurance. Today small and medium-sized farmers are leaving their land at the rate of 2,000 per week. 25 landowners hold over 16% of California’s private land. All this because land is considered property, subject to private title, buying and selling.

A Fourth, Property-Trusterty System

Perceiving the crucial difference between land and products of labor, promoters of a fourth solution to economic survival arrange treating land as a common heritage. They separate land and land-value from the value in the products from the land. These persons suggest that the unearned value from natural fertility and the land value due to the community-services available to the land, be turned to the use of the community. Leave the value of the products of labor — crops, trade, wages, etc. — to the producers and workers. The community-land-value would then pay for the community’s common needs — the streets, schools, protection, sewers, etc, The value of the buildings, equipment, wages, income — would be private, subject not even to taking by taxation.

With good results, citizens and voters in many places have implemented this system — in Alberta, Canada; in New Zealand, Australian cities, partially in Denmark. in Scranton, Pittsburgh and other Pennsylvanian cities. Their salubrious effects are widely discussed; articulate promoters urge its wider use.

Observers note that a confirmed American pattern of separating land from improvement in assessment and taxation is in this fourth dimension. Agreed; this partial approach accounts for much of the existing democracy and independence in American history. Its extension and increase would be a welcome, ethical and crucial step.

The Community Land Trust

A group of American decentralists implement the common heritage of land in another fourth-approach via the Community Land Trust. The Community Land Trust is a cooperative association of persons who are convinced that the land should be held as a trust for future, as well as present, generations, free of buying and selling. They join in a non-profit corporation, procure an urban or rural land-site, and in charter and by-laws, dedicate it to trust-use. Contracting parties use the land for an agreed-on annual rental (to the trust) rather than a sale price. A group of American decentralists implement the common heritage of land in another fourth-approach via the Community Land Trust.’ The Community Land Trust is a cooperative association of persons who are convinced that the land should be held as a trust for future, as well as present, generations,- free of buying and selling. They join in a non-profit corporation, procure an urban dr rural land-site, and in charter and by-laws, dedicate it to trust-use9 Contracting parties use the land for an agreed-on annual rental (to the trust) rather than a sale price.

Ralph Borsodi, founder of the School of Living, in a life-time (1886-1977) of work initiated the community land trust as early as 1932; repeated it in 1935-45 at the Suffern, N.Y. School of Living and several intentional communities. In 1968, the concept was internationalized and registered at Luxembourg. Borsodi recognized the validity of private property in lab-or products; similarly he recognized the trust-nature of land. He named trust-holding of land, “trusterty”. The fourth economic-political system of property-trusterty is welcome, and is being implemented. Hundreds of groups are studying and working toward it; some thirty community land trusts are guided by The Institute of Community Economics, 120 Boylston St., Boston, Mass.

“Ralph Borsodi’s Principles for Homesteaders” by Mildred J. Loomis

RALPH BORSODI (1886-1977) was the author of 13 books and 10 research studies. He was also physically active, a productive homesteader and a real doer who practised what he preached. He experimented and implemented on many levels-from good nutrition, through building his own home and garden; weaving his clothes and furnishings; organizing experimental small communities, a School of Living for a new adult education, and developing new social institutions-the Community Land Trust and a non-inflationary currency, which he called Constants.

No one of today’s specialty-labels encompass Ralph Borsodi. I am pushed to use more general and abstract terms-decentralist, liberator and human benefactor. This article will concentrate on his efforts to implement the community-use of socially-created values in land as part of his plan to encourage people to leave cities for more rural living. .

Ralph Borsodi was never in public school, infrequently in private schools, and did not attend college. (Yet St. Johns College of Annapolis later conferred on him a Masters, and the University of New Hampshire, a Doctorate.) He was educated mostly by wide readings in libraries, and by his father, a publisher in New York City. Borsodi Sr. wrote the introduction to Bolton Hall’s A Little Land and Living, which encouraged living on, and intensive production on, small plots of land, and the public collection of site-values.

Ralph Borsodi, Jr. joined the Single Tax Party which grew out of popular enthusiasm for Henry George and his two campaigns for the mayoralty in New York in the 1880s. Borsodi mounted his soap box in Union Square to exhort people to vote for the land-value tax. The Party named Borsodi editor of The Single Taxer. In it he discussed the need for a school to teach economics as George presented it, placing land in a category separate from capital, showing how the law of rent determined the law of wages, and how private use of land values resulted in the disparity of wealth-poverty on the one hand and riches on the other.

When still a young man, in 1910, Borsodi was sent by his father to dispose of some Texas land holdings. What to do with several hundred acres of land in the Houston area? He knew that this land was part of a “great Savannah” — in the path of progress. His errand brought him both conflict and guilt. As people would come to this area, the value of the Borsodi land would rise. What price should he ask for it? Should be accept money which he had not earned? “Don’t be foolish, man,” a local hotel-keeper advised him. “Hang on to that land and who knows you might become a millioriaire!”

Troubled, Borsodi bought a small-town paper, The Rice City Banner, wrote editorials, printed news, and discussed the land problem. After a year, he made a decision. He would sell the land at a modest price to a realtor. But Borsodi would go on to find ways to “solve” the land problem. The realtor would not worry about unearned increment from the land, and doubtless went on to pocket a large sum.

Borsodi returned to the East with a mission. Now, 1911, he saw Megalopolis with new eyes. More than ever he was conscious of ground space. On Manhattan’s 22 square miles, two million people were rushing to and fro, on, above and beneath its surface, needing space and giving to land its fabulous value.

At that time New York City represented 20 billions of dollars worth of wealth. Half of it was in land, most of the value concentrated in a small core at the centre. A few blocks away was an ocean of squalor, filth and poverty. Who had title to that land? Certainly not the two million people working there. Probably a few large holders with familiar names — Rockefeller, Astor, Vanderbilt. Land bought and sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars a front foot! Millions of tenants paid rent each month with barely enough left over to keep body and soul together. To Borsodi, New York was a devouring ugly monster.

His friendship deepened with Myrtle Mae Simpson, a Kansas farm girl. They married in 1912, and Borsodi’s father assigned them to a job in Chicago. Chicago’s Loop was even more concentrated, though with more over-all sprawl, destitution, slums and ugliness than in New York.

Borsodi contacted Louis Post, editor of The Public, a journal devoted to Henry George’s principles. Borsodi used its columns to challenge Socialist and Marxist ideas.

The Borsodis took other radical steps. Myrtle Mae’s anemia, the children’s coughs, and Borsodi’s rheumatism led them to investigate natural therapies. They turned to whole foods. Explaining it as best they could to the two boys, Ralph and Myrtle Mae gathered up the loaves of white bread and boxes of white sugar and packaged cereals and chucked it all into the garbage pail. In 1920 they left the city and moved to 16 wooded acres in Rockland county. They built temporary shelters and settled down to modern “homesteading”.

They used rock to build shelters for chickens, rabbits, goats and a pig; and for the first of a three-sectioned home for themselves. They added a craft section for looms and weaving; a breeze-way for pool and billiards. They planted, tilled, harvested and processed vegetables, and in a few years berries and fruit. They were 80% self-maintaining in food. They felled trees and cut wood for fireplaces and furnace. They built a swimming pool and tennis court, and installed a linotype in their basement — Borsodi had things to say about the modern crisis and what to do about it.

In 1928 Borsodi startled the world by publishing This Ugly Civilization, America’s first documented critique of over-centralized industrialism. which was widely read during the ensuing Great Depression. Because of it Borsodi was invited to Dayton, Ohio, in 1932, to deal with their overwhelming unemployment. Borsodi saw this as a way to extend “homesteading” as a social movement, and a way to implement a trustee-ship, rental-form of land-tenure.

He proposed that families should return to the land: “Ring Dayton with many small communities of from 30 to 50 families, each producing their food and shelter on 2 to 5 acre plots. Let a Homestead Association of families hold title to the land; let each family pay an annual rental fee to their association rather than pay an outright purchase price.”

Persons involved agreed. Social agencies advanced money to buy 80 acres. Independence bonds were issued to provide loans to families for buildings and equipment. Families applied, plots were assigned, individuals instructed in gardening and building: construction was begun. Suddenly the funds were exhausted.

To obtain more financial support, the only alternative seemed to he: “Borrow from the Federal Government.” Borsodi advised against it. “Government money usually means government supervision and control. Government is to protect persons and property from harm-not to build homes. Keep Government out of business'” Borsodi concluded that if the homesteaders chose government aid, he would withdraw and return to his homestead.

The homesteaders chose government funds. Borsodi withdrew, saying: “If we in the U.S. are to get a proper balance between city and country, and learn the proper function of government, we will need a new education.” Family and friends helped him plan and establish the School of Living in 1936, near Suffern, New York. On its four-acre homestead, the school was at the centre of 16 family homesteads, on a 40 acre plot called Bayard Lane Community. Here, too, Borsodi initiated the group-title to land, with member-families paying an annual rental rather than a fee for outright private ownership.

Affairs went well; sixteen lovely homesteads surrounding the School of Living, where gardening, home-production and workshops in adult education were continuous. Educators, authors, homesteaders, and social-changers attended, from 1936 to 1945. After college degrees and social work in Chicago’s slums, I studied with, and assisted, the Borsodis for the year 1939-1940.

One Bayard Lane homesteader, H.M., had good results with his homestead flock of chickens. He envisioned a thriving business of 1,000 laying hens in a 3-storey chicken house. But his contract under group-title to land prevented this. He would change the land-tenure back to private ownership. He was determined and energetic. By a narrow margin of votes, these homesteaders rejected group-tenure and reverted to fee-simple.

Borsodi resorted to writing and travel. In 1939 he analyzed predatory economics in Prosperity and Security. He described and advocated modern homesteading in Agriculture in Modern Life. Reluctantly he sold the School of Living building to a homesteader, and in 1945 moved its library and activities to the Loomis homestead in Ohio. He travelled to Mexico and India, studying and lecturing at a Gandhian University in Ambala. There he examined the village-title to land, wrote A Decentralist Manifesto, and began his magnum opus, a curriculum for adult education –the definition and analysis of Seventeen Major Problems of Living, along with alternative (including decentralist) solutions.

Returned to the United States, now past 80 years, Borsodi had a new opportunity to achieve his two most cherished ideas of land and money reform. A younger friend, Robert Swann, was in Georgia — hoping to prevent the racial tension from erupting into violence. Swann was appalled by the poverty, the helplessness and the illiteracy of both blacks and whites. “What these people need is an economic base,” he decided, and turned to Borsodi for guidance.

“What shall we do?” he asked.

“Get the families on the land!” Borsodi replied.

“But how?”

For weeks Borsodi and Swann worked on what in 1966 was registered in Luxembourg as The International Independence Institute (I.I.I.) — to teach and help establish the trusteeship of land. I.I.I. is a quasi-public cooperative corporation, in which individuals become members and in which they may invest funds. The I.I.I. secures land, by purchase or gift, and then declares the land in trust, never to be sold again. The I.I.I. is taking land, now, and making it available to users for an annual rental to the Trust. It does not wait until voters in a country, state or nation are persuaded to use the socially-created value of land for the community in lieu of taxes. It proceeds to secure land and turn it as a “gift to mankind” for users who contract to use it ecologically.

The history and goals of this effort are described in a book, The Community Land Trust, A New Land Tenure for America. Some 100 community land trusts, with impartial, non-land-holding trustees from the communities in which they exist, are now operating. The first Community Land Trust, New Communities, Inc. (Atlanta, Ga.), took 5,000 acres out of the speculative market into a community trust.

In almost every region of the U.S. — in Maine, in the mid-Atlantic, in the Great Lakes Region, Oregon, California, and even in Washington, D.C. — urban trusts are assisting people to learn and practise the concept that land is the common heritage of all people, that freedom and security require that land be not a commodity for buying, selling and profit-making.

Originally appeared in Land & Liberty, November-December 1978.

“A Practice in Social Change” by Mildred J. Loomis

THE term “land trust” is a new phenomenon in social change. Young people in great numbers are discussing and forming “communes.” In December 1969 I took part in two conferences attended largely by the “new generation.” Discussion and planning sessions were long and earnest. The Peacemakers, an action group for peace, now see the relevance of free land to a peaceful world. They determined to constitute an incorporated Peacemaker Land Trust which would act as a receiver of donated land – the land to be placed in trust would not be reconvertible into property, but would remain in trust in perpetuity. Owners of other land would not be eligible as trustees (users) and no trust land would be leased or subleased when it was no longer in use. Under no circumstances would legal coercion be brought to bear – only moral suasion was to be the guiding influence.

Ralph Borsodi was one of the first to declare, in This Ugly Civilization (1928), that “land is a trust.” In 1936 he founded the School of Living in Suffern, New York, in which I participated. Hundreds of families who wanted “a little land and a living” were encouraged to incorporate as nonprofit, land-holding, homesteading associations. An Independence Foundation provided loans at low interest rates. Families were to build and own their individual homes and homesteading buildings. Each was to possess and occupy its acre or two on a 999 year lease from the Association on terms indicated in a legal document called Indenture for the Possession of Land.

The indenture spelled out the new concept of land as a trust rather than as private property. It transferred to each homesteader possession of a certified plot, subject to “productive and creative work in the home, shop and on the land, primarily for family use,” on monthly payment of a small annual assessment to the Homestead Association.

In Israel a similar move has been widely implemented. The Jewish National Fund has been buying and holding title to land since 1948, making it available to groups of settlers on long term leases. Instead of selling the land or giving title to individuals and groups, the land remains the property of the Fund in the name of “all the people,” free from speculative landlordism. Thus land users get a start without the prohibitive cost of buying land. A wide variety of Israeli communities and specific holding agreements have developed, but in recent years the trend is toward group trust-holding of land and individual- and family-holding of buildings and produced goods. This gives a balance of individual and communal interests so necessary to a healthy growth of both individual persons and community interaction.

Gramdan (village trust-holding of land) was begun in India in 1949 by Vinoba Bhave, Gandhi’s successor. It is a massive application of the land-trust idea. Gramdan means village trusteeship of land, allotted to users in town meeting. The movement now includes more than half of all the land in Bihar previously held by private landlords. Bihar is one of India’s poorest states. Expectation is that Gramdan will take over three to six more of the remaining fifteen Indian states by 1975.

In 1967 the land-trust ideas and practices in the early School of Living communities were revived. Robert Swann, after working with evicted share croppers – feeding them, finding jobs and helping them find homes — decided that “free land” or land as a trust, was a primary need. With Ralph Borsodi’s help a new International Foundation for Independence was instituted for the purpose of securing funds and making loans at low rates to groups of families who would hold title in common, on long term leases, and pledge never to turn the land back into speculative private ownership. To date the Foundation’s small capital has assisted groups in Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico and Mexico.

Related to this Foundation is an International Independence Institute for teaching the Foundation’s concepts and practices to communities, colleges and government agencies. It has been instrumental in initiating an independent action group – New Communities, Inc. One of its first projects in Southern Georgia will be to assist some 500 families to resettle a 5000 acre tract on a lease-hold, trust holding, common possession pattern. Thus one large plantation will become a self-maintaining, diversified, homesteading, non-speculative community of families. The anticipation of course is that this will become an on-going, dynamic method with enduring benefits, both to participants and to non-participants, in reduced land values. It aims to help rural people maintain and develop successful communities on the land and thus eliminate some of the rural roots of the urban crisis. This work is directed by Robert Swann assisted by Erick Hansch. Information is available from them at RFD 1, Voluntown, Connecticut.

The Indenture for the Possession of Land has been termed a remarkable document in legalizing trust or common title to land. If that had become a much more widely-used pattern of land development, important social results could have been realized. Hundreds of thousands of families moving into such communities when it was introduced thirty years ago would have benefited from lower costs and indenture holding, and land values would have dropped in surrounding areas. But instead government and regular real estate development continued to be the pattern, and the general impact of this ethical trust holding was not felt.

Originally appeared in the Henry George News, February 1970. 

“Who is the Somebody?” by Benjamin R. Tucker

Somebody gets the surplus wealth that labor produces and does not consume. Who is the Somebody? Such is the problem recently posited in the editorial columns of the New York Truth. Substantially the same question has been asked a great many times before, but, as might have been expected, this new form of putting it has created no small hubbub. Truth’s columns are full of it; other journals are taking it up; clubs are organizing to discuss it; the people are thinking about it; students are pondering over it. For it is a most momentous question. A correct answer to it is unquestionably the first step in the settlement of the appalling problem of poverty, intemperance, ignorance, and crime. Truth, in selecting it as a subject on which to harp and hammer from day to day, shows itself a level-headed, far-sighted newspaper. But, important as it is, it is by no means a difficult question to one who really considers it before giving an answer, though the variety and absurdity of nearly all the replies thus far volunteered certainly tend to give an opposite impression.

What are the ways by which men gain possession of property? Not many. Let us name them: work, gift, discovery, gaming, the various forms of illegal robbery by force or fraud, usury. Can men obtain wealth by any other than one or more of these methods? Clearly, no. Whoever the Somebody may be, then, he must accumulate his riches in one of these ways. We will find him by the process of elimination.

Is the Somebody the laborer? No; at least not as laborer; otherwise the question were absurd. Its premises exclude him. He gains a bare subsistence by his work; no more. We are searching for his surplus product. He has it not.

Is the Somebody the beggar, the invalid, the cripple, the discoverer, the gambler, the highway robber, the burglar, the defaulter, the pickpocket, or the common swindler? None of these, to any extent worth mentioning. The aggregate of wealth absorbed by these classes of our population compared with the vast mass produced is a mere drop in the ocean, unworthy of consideration in studying a fundamental problem of political economy. These people get some wealth, it is true; enough, probably for their own purposes: but labor can spare them the whole of it, and never know the difference.

Then we have found him. Only the usurer remaining, he must be the Somebody whom we are looking for; he, and none other. But who is the usurer, and whence comes his power? There are three forms of usury: interest on money, rent of land and houses, and profit in exchange. Whoever is in receipt of any of these is a usurer. And who is not? Scarcely any one. The banker is a usurer; the manufacturer is a usurer; the merchant is a usurer; the landlord is a usurer; and the workingman who puts his savings, if he has any, out at interest, or takes rent for his house or lot, if he owns one, or exchanges his labor for more than an equivalent, — he too is a usurer. The sin of usury is one under which all are concluded, and for which all are responsible. But all do not benefit by it. The vast majority suffer. Only the chief usurers accumulate: in agricultural and thickly-settled countries, the landlords; in industrial and commercial countries, the bankers. Those are the Somebodies who swallow up the surplus wealth.

And where do the Somebodies get their power? From monopoly. Here, as usual, the State is the chief of sinners. Usury rests on two great monopolies, — the monopoly of land and the monopoly of credit. Were it not for these, it would disappear. Ground-rent exists only because the State stands by to collect it and to protect land-titles rooted in force or fraud. Otherwise the land would be free to all, and no one could control more than he used. Interest and house-rent exist only because the State grants to a certain class of individuals and corporations the exclusive privilege of using its credit and theirs as a basis for the issuance of circulating currency. Otherwise credit would be free to all, and money, brought under the law of competition, would be issued at cost. Interest and rent gone, competition would leave little or no chance for profit in exchange except in business protected by tariff or patent laws. And there again the State has but to step aside to cause the last vestige of usury to disappear.

The usurer is the Somebody, and the State is his protector. Usury is the serpent gnawing at labor’s vitals, and only liberty can detach and kill it. Give laborers their liberty, and they will keep their wealth. As for the Somebody, he, stripped of his power to steal, must either join their ranks or starve.

Originally appeared in Liberty, August 6, 1881.

“State Socialism and Anarchism: How Far They Agree, And Wherein They Differ” by Benjamin R. Tucker

Probably no agitation has ever attained the magnitude, either in the number of its recruits or the area of its influence, which has been attained by Modern Socialism, and at the same time been so little understood and so misunderstood, not only by the hostile and the indifferent, but by the friendly, and even by the great mass of its adherents themselves. This unfortunate and highly dangerous state of things is due partly to the fact that the human relationships which this movement—if anything so chaotic can be called a movement—aims to transform, involve no special class or classes, but literally all mankind; partly to the fact that these relationships are infinitely more varied and complex in their nature than those with which any special reform has ever been called upon to deal; and partly to the fact that the great moulding forces of society, the channels of information and enlightenment, are well-nigh exclusively under the control of those whose immediate pecuniary interests are antagonistic to the bottom claim of Socialism that labor should be put in possession of its own.

Almost the only persons who may be said to comprehend even approximately the significance, principles, and purposes of Socialism are the chief leaders of the extreme wings of the Socialistic forces, and perhaps a few of the money kings themselves. It is a subject of which it has lately become quite the fashion for preacher, professor, and penny-a-liner to treat, and, for the most part, woeful work they have made with it, exciting the derision and pity of those competent to judge. That those prominent in the intermediate Socialistic divisions do not fully understand what they are about is evident from the positions they occupy. If they did; if they were consistent, logical thinkers; if they were what the French call consequent men,—their reasoning faculties would long since have driven them to one extreme or the other.

For it is a curious fact that the two extremes of the vast army now under consideration, though united, as has been hinted above, by the common claim that labor shall be put in possession of its own, are more diametrically opposed to each other in their fundamental principles of social action and their methods of reaching the ends aimed at than either is to their common enemy, the existing society. They are based on two principles the history of whose conflict is almost equivalent to the history of the world since man came into it; and all intermediate parties, including that of the upholders of the existing society, are based upon a compromise between them. It is clear, then, that any intelligent, deep-rooted opposition to the prevailing order of things must come from one or the other of these extremes, for anything from any other source, far from being revolutionary in character, could be only in the nature of such superficial modification as would be utterly unable to concentrate upon itself the degree of attention and interest now bestowed upon Modern Socialism.

The two principles referred to are Authority and Liberty, and the names of the two schools of Socialistic thought which fully and unreservedly represent one or the other of them are, respectively, State Socialism and Anarchism. Whoso knows what these two schools want and how they propose to get it understands the Socialistic movement. For, just as it has been said that there is no half-way house between Rome and Reason, so it may be said that there is no half-way house between State Socialism and Anarchism. There are, in fact, two currents steadily flowing from the center of the Socialistic forces which are concentrating them on the left and on the right; and, if Socialism is to prevail, it is among the possibilities that, after this movement of separation has been completed and the existing order have been crushed out between the two camps, the ultimate and bitterer conflict will be still to come. In that case all the eight-hour men, all the trades-unionists, all the Knights of Labor, all the land nationalizationists, all the greenbackers, and, in short, all the members of the thousand and one different battalions belonging to the great army of Labor, will have deserted their old posts, and, these being arrayed on the one side and the other, the great battle will begin. What a final victory for the State Socialists will mean, and what a final victory for the Anarchists will mean, it is the purpose of this paper to briefly state.

To do this intelligently, however, I must first describe the ground common to both, the features that make Socialists of each of them.

The economic principles of Modern Socialism are a logical deduction from the principle laid down by Adam Smith in the early chapters of his Wealth of Nations,—namely, that labor is the true measure of price. But Adam Smith, after stating this principle most clearly and concisely, immediately abandoned all further consideration of it to devote himself to showing what actually does measure price, and how, therefore, wealth is at present distributed. Since his day nearly all the political economists have followed his example by confining their function to the description of society as it is, in its industrial and commercial phases. Socialism, on the contrary, extends its function to the description of society as it should be, and the discovery of the means of making it what it should be. Half a century or more after Smith enunciated the principle above stated, Socialism picked it up where he had dropped it, and in following it to its logical conclusions, made it the basis of a new economic philosophy.

This seems to have been done independently by three different men, of three different nationalities, in three different languages: Josiah Warren, an American; Pierre J. Proudhon, a Frenchman; Karl Marx, a German Jew. That Warren and Proudhon arrived at their conclusions singly and unaided is certain; but whether Marx was not largely indebted to Proudhon for his economic ideas is questionable. However this may be, Marx’s presentation of the ideas was in so many respects peculiarly his own that he is fairly entitled to the credit of originality. That the work of this interesting trio should have been done so nearly simultaneously would seem to indicate that Socialism was in the air, and that the time was ripe and the conditions favorable for the appearance of this new school of thought. So far as priority of time is concerned, the credit seems to belong to Warren, the American,—a fact which should be noted by the stump orators who are so fond of declaiming against Socialism as an imported article. Of the purest revolutionary blood, too, this Warren, for he descended from the Warren who fell at Bunker Hill.

From Smith’s principle that labor is the true measure of price—or, as Warren phrased it, that cost is the proper limit of price—these three men made the following deductions: that the natural wage of labor is its product; that this wage, or product, is the only just source of income (leaving out, of course, gift, inheritance, etc.); that all who derive income from any other source abstract it directly or indirectly from the natural and just wage of labor; that this abstracting process generally takes one of three forms,—interest, rent, and profit; that these three constitute the trinity of usury, and are simply different methods of levying tribute for the use of capital; that, capital being simply stored-up labor which has already received its pay in full, its use ought to be gratuitous, on the principle that labor is the only basis of price; that the lender of capital is entitled to its return intact, and nothing more; that the only reason why the banker, the stockholder, the landlord, the manufacturer, and the merchant are able to exact usury from labor lies in the fact that they are backed by legal privilege, or monopoly; and that the only way to secure labor the enjoyment of its entire product, or natural wage, is to strike down monopoly.

It must not be inferred that either Warren, Proudhon, or Marx used exactly this phraseology, or followed exactly this line of thought, but it indicates definitely enough the fundamental ground taken by all three, and their substantial thought up to the limit to which they went in common. And, lest I may be accused of stating the positions and arguments of these men incorrectly, it may be well to say in advance that I have viewed them broadly, and that, for the purpose of sharp, vivid, and emphatic comparison and contrast, I have taken considerable liberty with their thought by rearranging it in an order, and often in a phraseology, of my own, but, I am satisfied, without, in so doing, misrepresenting them in any essential particular.

It was at this point—the necessity of striking down monopoly—that came the parting of their ways. Here the road forked. They found that they must turn either to the right or to the left,—follow either the path of Authority or the path of Liberty. Marx went one way; Warren and Proudhon the other. Thus were born State Socialism and Anarchism.

First, then, State Socialism, which may be described as the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by the government, regardless of individual choice.

Marx, its founder, concluded that the only way to abolish the class monopolies was to centralize and consolidate all industrial and commercial interests, all productive and distributive agencies, in one vast monopoly in the hands of the State. The government must become banker, manufacturer, farmer, carrier, and merchant, and in these capacities must suffer no competition. Land, tools, and all instruments of production must be wrested from individual hands, and made the property of the collectivity. To the individual can belong only the products to be consumed, not the means of producing them. A man may own his clothes and his food, but not the sewing-machine which makes his shirts or the spade which digs his potatoes. Product and capital are essentially different things; the former belongs to individuals, the latter to society. Society must seize the capital which belongs to it, by the ballot if it can, by revolution if it must. Once in possession of it, it must administer it on the majority principle, though its organ, the State, utilize it in production and distribution, fix all prices by the amount of labor involved, and employ the whole people in its workshops, farms, stores, etc. The nation must be transformed into a vast bureaucracy, and every individual into a State official. Everything must be done on the cost principle, the people having no motive to make a profit out of themselves. Individuals not being allowed to own capital, no one can employ another, or even himself. Every man will be a wage-receiver, and the State the only wage-payer. He who will not work for the State must starve, or, more likely, go to prison. All freedom of trade must disappear. Competition must be utterly wiped out. All industrial and commercial activity must be centered in one vast, enormous, all-inclusive monopoly. The remedy for monopolies is monopoly.

Such is the economic programme of State Socialism as adopted from Karl Marx. The history of its growth and progress cannot be told here. In this country the parties that uphold it are known as the Socialistic Labor Party, which pretends to follow Karl Marx; the Nationalists, who follow Karl Marx filtered through Edward Bellamy; and the Christian Socialists, who follow Karl Marx filtered through Jesus Christ.

What other applications this principle of Authority, once adopted in the economic sphere, will develop is very evident. It means the absolute control by the majority of all individual conduct. The right of such control is already admitted by the State Socialists, though they maintain that, as a matter of fact, the individual would be allowed a much larger liberty than he now enjoys. But he would only be allowed it; he could not claim it as his own. There would be no foundation of society upon a guaranteed equality of the largest possible liberty. Such liberty as might exist would exist by sufferance and could be taken away at any moment. Constitutional guarantees would be of no avail. There would be but one article in the constitution of a State Socialistic country: The right of the majority is absolute.

The claim of the State Socialists, however, that this right would not be exercised in matters pertaining to the individual in the more intimate and private relations of his life is not borne out by the history of governments. It has ever been the tendency of power to add to itself, to enlarge its sphere, to encroach beyond the limits set for it; and where the habit of resisting such encroachment is not fostered, and the individual is not taught to be jealous of his rights, individuality gradually disappears and the government or State becomes the all-in-all. Control naturally accompanies responsibility. Under the system of State Socialism, therefore, which holds the community responsible for the health, wealth, and wisdom of the individual, it is evident that the community, through its majority expression, will insist more and more in prescribing the conditions of health, wealth, and wisdom, thus impairing and finally destroying individual independence and with it all sense of individual responsibility.

Whatever, then, the State Socialists may claim or disclaim, their system, if adopted, is doomed to end in a State religion, to the expense of which all must contribute and at the altar of which all must kneel; a State school of medicine, by whose practitioners the sick must invariably be treated; a State system of hygiene, prescribing what all must and must not eat, drink, wear, and do; a State code of morals, which will not content itself with punishing crime, but will prohibit what the majority decide to be vice; a State system of instruction, which will do away with all private schools, academies, and colleges; a State nursery, in which all children must be brought up in common at the public expense; and, finally, a State family, with an attempt at stirpiculture, or scientific breeding, in which no man and woman will be allowed to have children if the State prohibits them and no man and woman can refuse to have children if the State orders them. Thus will Authority achieve its acme and Monopoly be carried to its highest power.

Such is the ideal of the logical State Socialist, such the goal which lies at the end of the road that Karl Marx took. Let us now follow the fortunes of Warren and Proudhon, who took the other road,—the road of Liberty.

This brings us to Anarchism, which may be described as the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by individuals or voluntary associations, and that the State should be abolished.

When Warren and Proudhon, in prosecuting their search for justice to labor, came face to face with the obstacle of class monopolies, they saw that these monopolies rested upon Authority, and concluded that the thing to be done was, not to strengthen this Authority and thus make monopoly universal, but to utterly uproot Authority and give full sway to the opposite principle, Liberty, by making competition, the antithesis of monopoly, universal. They saw in competition the great leveler of prices to the labor cost of production. In this they agreed with the political economists. The query then naturally presented itself why all prices do not fall to labor cost; where there is any room for incomes acquired otherwise than by labor; in a word, why the usurer, the receiver of interest, rent, and profit, exists. The answer was found in the present one-sidedness of competition. It was discovered that capital had so manipulated legislation that unlimited competition is allowed in supplying productive labor, thus keeping wages down to the starvation point, or as near it as practicable; that a great deal of competition is allowed in supplying distributive labor, or the labor of the mercantile classes, thus keeping, not the prices of goods, but the merchants’ actual profits on them down to a point somewhat approximating equitable wages for the merchants’ work; but that almost no competition at all is allowed in supplying capital, upon the aid of which both productive and distributive labor are dependent for their power of achievement, thus keeping the rate of interest on money and of house-rent and ground-rent at as high a point as the necessities of the people will bear.

On discovering this, Warren and Proudhon charged the political economists with being afraid of their own doctrine. The Manchester men were accused of being inconsistent. The believed in liberty to compete with the laborer in order to reduce his wages, but not in liberty to compete with the capitalist in order to reduce his usury. Laissez faire was very good sauce for the goose, labor, but was very poor sauce for the gander, capital. But how to correct this inconsistency, how to serve this gander with this sauce, how to put capital at the service of business men and laborers at cost, or free of usury,—that was the problem.

Marx, as we have seen, solved it by declaring capital to be a different thing from product, and maintaining that it belonged to society and should be seized by society and employed for the benefit of all alike. Proudhon scoffed at this distinction between capital and product. He maintained that capital and product are not different kinds of wealth, but simply alternate conditions or functions of the same wealth; that all wealth undergoes an incessant transformation from capital into product and from product back into capital, the process repeating itself interminably; that capital and product are purely social terms; that what is product to one man immediately becomes capital to another, and vice versa; that if there were but one person in the world, all wealth would be to him at once capital and product; that the fruit of A’s toil is his product, which, when sold to B, becomes B’s capital (unless B is an unproductive consumer, in which case it is merely wasted wealth, outside the view of social economy); that a steam-engine is just as much product as a coat, and that a coat is just as much capital as a steam-engine; and that the same laws of equity govern the possession of the one that govern the possession of the other.

For these and other reasons Proudhon and Warren found themselves unable to sanction any such plan as the seizure of capital by society. But, though opposed to socializing the ownership of capital, they aimed nevertheless to socialize its effects by making its use beneficial to all instead of a means of impoverishing the many to enrich the few. And when the light burst in upon them, they saw that this could be done by subjecting capital to the natural law of competition, thus bringing the price of its own use down to cost,—that is, to nothing beyond the expenses incidental to handling and transferring it. So they raised the banner of Absolute Free Trade; free trade at home, as well as with foreign countries; the logical carrying out of the Manchester doctrine; laissez faire the universal rule. Under this banner they began their fight upon monopolies, whether the all-inclusive monopoly of the State Socialists, or the various class monopolies that now prevail.

Of the latter they distinguished four of principal importance: the money monopoly, the land monopoly, the tariff monopoly, and the patent monopoly.

First in the importance of its evil influence they considered the money monopoly, which consists of the privilege given by the government to certain individuals, or to individuals holding certain kinds of property, of issuing the circulating medium, a privilege which is now enforced in this country by a national tax of ten per cent., upon all other persons who attempt to furnish a circulating medium, and by State laws making it a criminal offense to issue notes as currency. It is claimed that the holders of this privilege control the rate of interest, the rate of rent of houses and buildings, and the prices of goods,—the first directly, and the second and third indirectly. For, say Proudhon and Warren, if the business of banking were made free to all, more and more persons would enter into it until the competition should become sharp enough to reduce the price of lending money to the labor cost, which statistics show to be less than three-fourths of once per cent. In that case the thousands of people who are now deterred from going into business by the ruinously high rates which they must pay for capital with which to start and carry on business will find their difficulties removed. If they have property which they do not desire to convert into money by sale, a bank will take it as collateral for a loan of a certain proportion of its market value at less than one per cent. discount. If they have no property, but are industrious, honest, and capable, they will generally be able to get their individual notes endorsed by a sufficient number of known and solvent parties; and on such business paper they will be able to get a loan at a bank on similarly favorable terms. Thus interest will fall at a blow. The banks will really not be lending capital at all, but will be doing business on the capital of their customers, the business consisting in an exchange of the known and widely available credits of the banks for the unknown and unavailable, but equality good, credits of the customers and a charge therefor of less than one per cent., not as interest for the use of capital, but as pay for the labor of running the banks. This facility of acquiring capital will give an unheard of impetus to business, and consequently create an unprecedented demand for labor,—a demand which will always be in excess of the supply, directly to the contrary of the present condition of the labor market. Then will be seen an exemplification of the words of Richard Cobden that, when two laborers are after one employer, wages fall, but when two employers are after one laborer, wages rise. Labor will then be in a position to dictate its wages, and will thus secure its natural wage, its entire product. Thus the same blow that strikes interest down will send wages up. But this is not all. Down will go profits also. For merchants, instead of buying at high prices on credit, will borrow money of the banks at less than one per cent., buy at low prices for cash, and correspondingly reduce the prices of their goods to their customers. And with the rest will go house-rent. For no one who can borrow capital at one per cent. with which to build a house of his own will consent to pay rent to a landlord at a higher rate than that. Such is the vast claim made by Proudhon and Warren as to the results of the simple abolition of the money monopoly.

Second in importance comes the land monopoly, the evil effects of which are seen principally in exclusively agricultural countries, like Ireland. This monopoly consists in the enforcement by government of land titles which do not rest upon personal occupancy and cultivation. It was obvious to Warren and Proudhon that, as soon as individualists should no longer be protected by their fellows in anything but personal occupancy and cultivation of land, ground-rent would disappear, and so usury have one less leg to stand on. Their followers of to-day are disposed to modify this claim to the extent of admitting that the very small fraction of ground-rent which rests, not on monopoly, but on superiority of soil or site, will continue to exist for a time and perhaps forever, though tending constantly to a minimum under conditions of freedom. But the inequality of soils which gives rise to the economic rent of land, like the inequality of human skill which gives rise to the economic rent of ability, is not a cause for serious alarm even to the most thorough opponent of usury, as its nature is not that of a germ from which other and graver inequalities may spring, but rather that of a decaying branch which may finally wither and fall.

Third, the tariff monopoly, which consists in fostering production at high prices and under unfavorable conditions by visiting with the penalty of taxation those who patronize production at low prices and under favorable conditions. The evil to which this monopoly gives rise might more properly be called misusury than usury, because it compels labor to pay, not exactly for the use of capital, but rather for the misuse of capital. The abolition of this monopoly would result in a great reduction in the prices of all articles taxed, and this saving to the laborers who consume these articles would be another step toward securing to the laborer his natural wage, his entire product. Proudhon admitted, however, that to abolish this monopoly before abolishing the money monopoly would be a cruel and disastrous policy, first, because the evil of scarcity of money, created by the money monopoly, would be intensified by the flow of money out of the country which would be involved in an excess of imports over exports, and, second, because that fraction of the laborers of the country which is now employed in the protected industries would be turned adrift to face starvation without the benefit of the insatiable demand for labor which a competitive money system would create. Free trade in money at home, making money and work abundant, was insisted upon by Proudhon as a prior condition of free trade in goods with foreign countries.

Fourth, the patent monopoly, which consists in protecting inventors and authors against competition for a period long enough to enable them to extort from the people a reward enormously in excess of the labor measure of their services,—in other words, in giving certain people a right of property for a term of years in laws and facts of Nature, and the power to exact tribute from others for the use of this natural wealth, which should be open to all. The abolition of this monopoly would fill its beneficiaries with a wholesome fear of competition which would cause them to be satisfied with pay for their services equal to that which other laborers get for theirs, and to secure it by placing their products and works on the market at the outset at prices so low that their lines of business would be no more tempting to competitors than any other lines.

The development of the economic programme which consists in the destruction of these monopolies and the substitution for them of the freest competition led its authors to a perception of the fact that all their thought rested upon a very fundamental principle, the freedom of the individual, his right of sovereignty over himself, his products, and his affairs, and of rebellion against the dictation of external authority. Just as the idea of taking capital away from individuals and giving it to the government started Marx in a path which ends in making the government everything and the individual nothing, so the idea of taking capital away from government-protected monopolies and putting it within easy reach of all individuals started Warren and Proudhon in a path which ends in making the individual everything and the government nothing. If the individual has a right to govern himself, all external government is tyranny. Hence the necessity of abolishing the State. This was the logical conclusion to which Warren and Proudhon were forced, and it became the fundamental article of their political philosophy. It is the doctrine which Proudhon named An-archism, a word derived from the Greek, and meaning, not necessarily absence of order, as is generally supposed, but an absence of rule. The Anarchists are simply unterrified Jeffersonian Democrats. They believe that the best government is that which governs least, and that that which governs least is no government at all. Even the simple police function of protecting person and property they deny to governments supported by compulsory taxation. Protection they look upon as a thing to be secured, as long as it is necessary, by voluntary association and cooperation for self-defence, or as a commodity to be purchased, like any other commodity, of those who offer the best article at the lowest price. In their view it is in itself an invasion of the individual to compel him to pay for or suffer a protection against invasion that he has not asked for and does not desire. And they further claim that protection will become a drug in the market, after poverty and consequently crime have disappeared through the realization of their economic programme. Compulsory taxation is to them the life-principle of all the monopolies, and passive, but organized, resistance to the tax-collector they contemplate, when the proper time comes, as one of the most effective methods of accomplishing their purposes.

Their attitude on this is a key to their attitude on all other questions of a political or social nature. In religion they are atheistic as far as their own opinions are concerned, for they look upon divine authority and the religious sanction of morality as the chief pretexts put forward by the privileged classes for the exercise of human authority. If God exists, said Proudhon, he is man’s enemy. And in contrast to Voltaire’s famous epigram, If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him, the great Russian Nihilist, Mikhail Bakunin, placed this antithetical proposition: If God existed, it would be necessary to abolish him. But although, viewing the divine hierarchy as a contradiction of Anarchy, they do not believe in it, the Anarchists none the less firmly believe in the liberty to believe in it. Any denial of religious freedom they squarely oppose.

Upholding thus the right of every individual to be or select his own priest, they likewise uphold his right to be or select his own doctor. No monopoly in theology, no monopoly in medicine. Competition everywhere and always; spiritual advice and medical advice alike to stand or fall on their own merits. And not only in medicine, but in hygiene, must this principle of liberty be followed. The individual may decide for himself not only what to do to get well, but what to do to keep well. No external power must dictate to him what he must and must not eat, drink, wear, or do.

Nor does the Anarchistic scheme furnish any code of morals to be imposed upon the individual. Mind your own business is its only moral law. Interference with another’s business is a crime and the only crime, and as such may properly be resisted. In accordance with this view the Anarchists look upon attempts to arbitrarily suppress vice as in themselves crimes. They believe liberty and the resultant social well-being to be a sure cure for all the vices. But they recognize the right of the drunkard, the gambler, the rake, and the harlot to live their lives until they shall freely choose to abandon them.

In the matter of the maintenance and rearing of children the Anarchists would neither institute the communistic nursery which the State Socialists favor nor keep the communistic school system which now prevails. The nurse and the teacher, like the doctor and the preacher, must be selected voluntarily, and their services must be paid for by those who patronize them. Parental rights must not be taken away, and parental responsibilities must not be foisted upon others.

Even in so delicate a matter as that of the relations of the sexes the Anarchists do not shrink from the application of their principle. They acknowledge and defend the right of any man and woman, or any men and women, to love each other for as long or as short a time as they can, will, or may. To them legal marriage and legal divorce are equal absurdities. They look forward to a time when every individual, whether man or woman, shall be self-supporting, and when each shall have an independent home of his or her own, whether it be a separate house or rooms in a house with others; when the love relations between these independent individuals shall be as varied as are individual inclinations and attractions; and when the children born of these relations shall belong exclusively to the mothers until old enough to belong to themselves.

Such are the main features of the Anarchistic social ideal. There is wide difference of opinion among those who hold it as to the best method of obtaining it. Time forbids the treatment of that phase of the subject here. I will simply call attention to the fact that it is an ideal utterly inconsistent with that of those Communists who falsely call themselves Anarchists while at the same time advocating a regime of Archism fully as despotic as that of the State Socialists themselves. And it is an ideal that can be as little advanced by Prince Kropotkine as retarded by the brooms of those Mrs. Partingtons of the bench who sentence them to prison; an ideal which the martyrs of Chicago did far more to help by their glorious death upon the gallows for the common cause of Socialism than by their unfortunate advocacy during their lives, in the name of Anarchism, of force as a revolutionary agent and authority as a safeguard of the new social order. The Anarchists believe in liberty both as an end and means, and are hostile to anything that antagonizes it.

I should not undertake to summarize this altogether too summary exposition of Socialism from the standpoint of Anarchism, did I not find the task already accomplished for me by a brilliant French journalist and historian, Ernest Lesigne, in the form of a series of crisp antithesis; by reading which to you as a conclusion of this lecture I hope to deepen the impression which it has been my endeavor to make.

There are two Socialisms.

One is communistic, the other solidaritarian.

One is dictatorial, the other libertarian.

One is metaphysical, the other positive.

One is dogmatic, the other scientific.

One is emotional, the other reflective.

One is destructive, the other constructive.

Both are in pursuit of the greatest possible welfare for all.

One aims to establish happiness for all, the other to enable each to be happy in his own way.

The first regards the State as a society sui generis, of an especial essence, the product of a sort of divine right outside of and above all society, with special rights and able to exact special obediences; the second considers the State as an association like any other, generally managed worse than others.

The first proclaims the sovereignty of the State, the second recognizes no sort of sovereign.

One wishes all monopolies to be held by the State; the other wishes the abolition of all monopolies.

One wishes the governed class to become the governing class; the other wishes the disappearance of classes.

Both declare that the existing state of things cannot last.

The first considers revolutions as the indispensable agent of evolutions; the second teaches that repression alone turns evolutions into revolution.

The first has faith in a cataclysm.

The second knows that social progress will result from the free play of individual efforts.

Both understand that we are entering upon a new historic phase.

One wishes that there should be none but proletaires.

The other wishes that there should be no more proletaires.

The first wishes to take everything away from everybody.

The second wishes to leave each in possession of its own.

The one wishes to expropriate everybody.

The other wishes everybody to be a proprietor.

The first says: ‘Do as the government wishes.’

The second says: ‘Do as you wish yourself.’

The former threatens with despotism.

The latter promises liberty.

The former makes the citizen the subject of the State.

The latter makes the State the employee of the citizen.

One proclaims that labor pains will be necessary to the birth of a new world.

The other declares that real progress will not cause suffering to any one.

The first has confidence in social war.

The other believes only in the works of peace.

One aspires to command, to regulate, to legislate.

The other wishes to attain the minimum of command, of regulation, of legislation.

One would be followed by the most atrocious of reactions.

The other opens unlimited horizons to progress.

The first will fail; the other will succeed.

Both desire equality.

One by lowering heads that are too high.

The other by raising heads that are too low.

One sees equality under a common yoke.

The other will secure equality in complete liberty.

One is intolerant, the other tolerant.

One frightens, the other reassures.

The first wishes to instruct everybody.

The second wishes to enable everybody to instruct himself.

The first wishes to support everybody.

The second wishes to enable everybody to support himself.

One says:

The land to the State.

The mine to the State.

The tool to the State.

The product to the State.

The other says:

The land to the cultivator.

The mine to the miner.

The tool to the laborer.

The product to the producer.

There are only these two Socialisms.

One is the infancy of Socialism; the other is its manhood.

One is already the past; the other is the future.

One will give place to the other.

Today each of us must choose for the one or the other of these two Socialisms, or else confess that he is not a Socialist.

“FBI and CIA” by Karl Hess

Washington power struggles are off and squirming. We note that H. E. W. and Agriculture are vying for control of the programs with which to feed, and also co-opt, the hottest current item among political constituencies, hungry Americans. We hear that the Army, sensing a danger that the endless ground war in Vietnam might not be endless after all and certainly can’t be victorious anyway, is looking for new frontiers on which to place its guidons and that chemical-bacteriological warfare may be just the ticket. (A ticket which, incidentally, may also gain it a better seat than ever at the game of riot control.) All the other services, of course, want their own bug battalions.

We sense, also, that the jet setters of the aero-space conglomerates are pitted in some sort of dinosaurian battle against the graying herd-elders of the industrial establishment for control of not only the available soul of the Administration itself but for the control of the more wordly [sic] goodies to be found in taking over government programs (at cost-plus) as we move from the vilified practice of a welfare state run from the White House to the now panegyrized practice of a welfare state, run for fun and profit, from corporate board rooms with the White House just signing the checks and setting the goals. There is little change in who pays the bills, of course.

Libertarians have every reason to view all of these matters with knowledgeable horror. They could predict any enormity of the state simply because they know that enormities are the nature of the state, enormities and crimes against liberty.

There is one area of struggle in Washington, however, that may be viewed with special horror. It is the struggle between the CIA and the FBI for covert control of the government, the world, the galaxy or whatever else comes along.

Talk of the rivalry between these two agencies, or baronies, is a Washington commonplace. Most comments on the struggle, however, reflect mainly from the exotic persons and bureaucratic principalities involved, with endless speculation, for instance, upon whether there were more FBI or CIA informers and paid provocateurs involved in our recent spate of political assassinations. Actually these arguments are rather like parsing scaldic verse, almost entirely academic, in that they concentrate on bureaucratic commas and semi-colons without attending much at all to content.

The content of the struggle mainly involves the weapons with which it is being fought, and the styles of the wielders of the weapons. There is no basic difference beyond that inasmuch as both factions are merely symptoms of an inevitable sickness of the State itself.

The CIA has far and away the greater edge in economic power and in freedom of violent movement. Assassination has been its business overseas all along. There are obvious restraints on its use at home. There also are obvious opportunities for its selective and discreet employment; particularly against the more obscure obstructionists in any situation, persons who mightn’t be widely missed but who might be the crucial difference between one policy or another in its early, intimate stages. The political murder of private citizens has never really caught on here but that is not to say that an imaginative man might not have a go at it anyway—particularly with the vast conspiratorial depths of the CIA upon which to draw.

When it comes to money the CIA has no equal. Although the FBI does have some special and very confidential funds to spend on informers and other covert employees, and even though some cynics might suspect that it could even keep for its own uses some of the vast criminal funds which it regularly, and pridefully, “recovers” when busting bandits, the Bureau has got to come in second. The Agency is not audited at all. There is a Congressional group that is supposed to supervise it but no one really imagines that they can do anything like a thorough job. For one thing, the personnel of the CIA is carried on the payrolls of other agencies and its continual involvement with “national security” means that official secrecy cloaks its daggers and its doings quite effectively.

It is from the CIA’s money-power that much of its realpolitik powers derive. Its subsidy of everything from publishing houses to labor organizations is now well known. No newsman to whom I have recently spoken doubts for a moment that this subsidized estate within a subsidized state is not still thriving. Even if the excuse for the subsidy is, as it always is claimed, exclusively for activities of the person or group outside of the country, these CIA subsidies provide a selective means of encouraging persons or groups who, despite international activities, almost invariably must have some domestic clout as well. This clout, do not misunderstand, is not used on direct behalf of the CIA. But it can be used on behalf of those policies of which the CIA approves and which ultimately will enhance its power.

Where the CIA uses dough, the FBI uses data. Its chief influence, as opposed to outright pressure, derives from the selective use of its files. It is not imaginable, for instance, that even a President could get an item from the FBI’s files if the Director specifically did not want him to have it. After all, it is employees of the Director, not of the President, who tend those files and everyone knows how easy it is for a piece of paper to either appear or disappear in a bureaucracy.

Thus, from President to legislator to syndicated columnist, the FBI can offer data not as something that may be demanded but as a boon which may be conferred—upon the helpful. President Johnson’s

notorious use of FBI data to persecute political foes is another Washington press corps conversational commonplace as is the mock dismay at the fact that J. Edgar Hoover should have found in or made of Lyndon Johnson one of his most eloquent supporters despite the fact that, at the outset of The Great Society, it was assumed that the President and the Director followed somewhat different muses.

Thus, in this modern Machiavellian melodrama, we see directly pitted against one another the old-fashioned money and muscle. Florentine intrigue, cloak-and-daggerism of the CIA and the more American, corporate-organizational, file-case, computer-card snoop-and-snitchism of the FBI.

Libertarians, for what small comfort it may bring to a group which probably occupies a special place in files of both the Agency and the Bureau, happen to have the only sure solution to the disease of secret-policism which is what both CIA and FBI represent in a germicidal sense: cure the disease by curing the cause, the State. Every State, sooner or later, has had an urge to defend itself against foes real or imagined, foreign or domestic. This has always resulted in some form of secret or political police organization. There are no exceptions to this iron law of the dungeon.

So long as nation states exist, so long will political police prowl amongst us.

All of which brings us to the remarkable story, recently revealed in the press, of how, according to Nikita Krushchev, the top cop of the Soviet Union, Lavrenti Beria, was done in.

Director Beria, it is now said, made the mistake of entering a Kremlin meeting without his bodyguard whereupon Krushchev, a genuine genius at getting to the nitty gritty of any situation, shot him.

It is predictable that conservatives, particularly, are still clucking and tushing about this latest revelation of the brutality of politics in a totalitarian state. It could not happen, they may exult, in a safe and civilized land such as ours.

And that is precisely the point.

In democratic America there has appeared no way to relieve the head of the political or secret police of his command. In short, what this great Republic lacks in vivid personnel relations, it more than makes up for in tenure.

Originally appeared in The Libertarian, Vol. 1, No. 1, April 1, 1969.

“The Real Rebels” by Karl Hess

Now, officially, I am an enemy of the state. Now, technically, I am a fugitive from one of the state’s national police agencies. Now, fundamentally, I am convinced that in the confrontation between the state and freedom there can be no middle ground, no safe haven, no neutral corner, nook, or cranny.

My own situation is not offered as in any way an exemplary model. It is not a course to be recommended, but simply to be reported. I have for some time refused to sanction or support the state system of this or any nation by the payment of taxes. The Internal Revenue Service’s police force is, as a result, now in the process of attempting to seize all property belonging to me. Since my property consists of the tools and books needed to make a living, this action is not simply one of administrative punishment but involves an aspect of survival. I believe in self-defense. Therefore, I will surely attempt to thwart them. This is civil disobedience. Fine.

Also, wherever and whenever possible I have been speaking out against the state and attempting to rally opposition to it. One result has been that the Federal Bureau of Investigation apparently has given to various “conservatives” information from government files which they consider derogatory but which, frankly, I do not inasmuch as it simply attempts to make the point that I tend to be extreme in my political views. True enough. I do believe, as a matter of fact, that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice and that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. (Incidentally, I am rather painfully aware of the technique in which the FBI uses its files to defame political dissenters because, when I was on ‘the right side’, I was given, as were many of my colleagues, substantial FBI data to be used against rebels, reds, and resisters.)

As a result of becoming a rebel in active fact as well as a rhetorical rebel, certain notions regarding resistance to the state have come into sharper focus for me. (Needless to say, I do not mean that a purely rhetorical rebel cannot be a real one also. It really depends on whether the rhetoric is, in fact, rebellious or merely windy. My colleague, for instance, is as true a rebel as you will find even though he has not, so far as I know, even been arrested for jaywalking.)

I am more convinced than ever that the state must be resisted, not just debated or evaded. The debate, which has raged in the legislature and even in the courts for generations, has achieved nothing but momentary changes in the velocity of state power development. The direction has never changed. Every year, regardless of the rhetoric of our supposed representatives, the direction of state power has been upward. This has proven to be a dynamic of the system itself and not merely a function of factions within the system. There is every reason to believe that the development of central power will virtually reach critical mass under the present highly defensive, repression-minded, centralist ‘moderate’ or ‘progressive’ Administration (which is supported, do not forget, by the Conservative establishment as well).

The simplest fact of the improbability of representational reform is that in order to get elected, as all agree, a man must promise to “do” something for his constituents. Then, to stay in office, he must actually do something, or at least appear to. This hardly makes it feasible for the man to resist the state. He must, instead, use it, curry favor with it, or so play the bureaucratic game as to even outpoint it, as in the case of elderly committee chairmen.

Some say, however, that the voters could be ‘educated’ to elect anti-statist candidates. Since all organs of mass media are either controlled by the state or its state-capital ‘partners’, and since almost all schools, also, are either owned or controlled by the state, from elementary grades through the university, the means of reaching, in order to educate, tens of millions of voters is obscure at the very best.

Others say that in a time of crisis, at any rate, people might turn to ‘anti-statist’ candidates for their own self-preservation. Skipping the fact that the notion of an anti-statist candidate is a contradiction in itself, it should be recalled that in this example it is the crisis, not the candidacy that would be the decisive factor. There may be a lesson in that for those who will struggle to learn it.

That I prefer resistance to reform does not, however, mean that I prefer a particular kind of resistance. My kind, civil disobedience and sounding off, might not be appropriate for many others. I certainly do not claim that it is the most effective course. It just happens to be what I can do, therefore I do it.

Would not retreat from government be just as effective? Perhaps so, if that is what one can do best, or all that one can do. It should be borne in mind, however, that all such retreat is done, ultimately, at the sufferance of the state and under the Damoclean sword of the state. When, or if the retreat irks the state, it will end the retreat. The same applies to those who feel that they can coexist with the state because they measure liberty purely in terms of personal property and profit and highly regard or at least tolerate the state so long as it protects that. The point to remember is the same: all property in a state system exists at the sufferance of the state. When it wishes to take the property, it can.

As a radical American politician once put it: “The state that is powerful enough to give you all you want is powerful enough to take it all away.” No better comment could be made upon the illusory hopes of having a state that is both powerful enough to protect you against all ills foreign and domestic and also somehow weak enough never to threaten you.

Finally, there is the matter of alliances. With whom does an enemy of the state make alliances? There may be a million answers of contentious detail. There is only one answer of overall principle: You do not make alliances with the state itself, you do not make alliances with agents of or supporters of the state—even though you may attempt to change them. The range of alliance, therefore, is restricted to those who also oppose the state.

Within that range there may be many variations of principle, many different goals. Those differences should and must determine future actions. Present actions, however, should be determined by present needs. No need is greater than opposition to the state and reduction of its power. Without that reduction of power all meaning of other differences must remain purely academic.

To refuse to oppose the state we have because we fear, for instance, the state we might have, is to refuse to grasp reality while trembling before ghosts. (Why not, instead, lay the groundwork for resistance to all state power even while resisting the one at hand?)

Today, everywhere in the world, it is established and coercive authority that is called into question, that is under siege. Literally, one cannot even go to the moon to avoid it.

How then neutrality here on earth?

The timeless revolutionary question is timely again: which side are you on? Are you an enemy or friend of liberty? Are you an enemy or friend of the state? Will you be content to act as an agent of the state, or hide as a refugee from it? Or will you resist it where you can, as you can, when you can?

It is liberty that is the idea most threatening to the state. And all men who hold it as an ideal are enemies of the state. Welcome!

Originally appeared in The Libertarian Forum Vol. 1, No. IX, August 1, 1969

“Geoism and Libertarianism” by Fred Foldvary

Libertarianism is the philosophy of live and let live. Its ethic is that it is morally wrong to coercively harm others, and not morally wrong to do what is not harmful to others. This ethic is a natural law, due to human nature as beings that can choose their actions. We therefore have a natural right to do whatever is peaceful and honest.

In libertarian political philosophy, government should not be imposed on people by force. The proper role of government is to protect our natural rights. To the extent that government instead violates our rights, government is morally illegitimate. Where government is imposed, it should have the limited role of protecting the territory from outside attack and providing for internal justice. Otherwise, government should let people be themselves.

Libertarian government policy therefore consists of these elements: 1) No intervention in the affairs of other countries; 2) A pure free market with no restrictions on peaceful and honest production, exchange, and consumption; 3) full civil liberties, with no crimes unless there are victims who have been invaded; 4) Public finance from user fees, pollution charges, and very limited taxation, if any.

Geoism is the philosophy of sharing the benefits of the land (geo), while respecting the equal self-ownership of persons. Self-ownership implies that one owns one’s body and life, and therefore one’s labor and wages and the products of labor. These should be unrestricted and untaxed, and traded without taxation or restriction. The benefits of land have their economic manifestation as rent, which can be shared either as public revenues, community financing, or as dividends to the members of a community. Geoism draws much of its inspiration from the thought of the economist and social reformer, Henry George. It is thus often called “Georgism,” although the basic ideas were present long before George.

We can see that the two movements and philosophies have much in common and have no inherent conflicts between them. There are adherents to both movements, geolibertarians who identify with both geoism and libertarianism. But for the most part, these have remained distinct movements with different cultures. Libertarians stress individualism, while many geoists emphasize community.

Many libertarians have little knowledge about the economics of land and rent. Those who favor minimal taxation think of limited income or sales taxes and are not aware of the option of using land rent. Libertarians think all taxes are bad, and do not consider the economic reality that different types of taxes have quite different effects.

Geoists are focused on land, rent, and taxes, and mostly ignore other freedom issues such as victimless crimes, regulations, excessive litigation, and free-market schooling. Many geoists don’t fully understand free trade, or that regulation is a type of tax, so that true free trade would deregulate as well as untax.

Libertarianism and geoism are complements. Geoism fills the lack of an adequate view of public finance in conventional libertarianism, while libertarianism provides a more complete view of the geoist aim of free trade.

It is mostly ignorance and separate historical traditions that keep the two movements apart. But there are geolibertarians who strive to bring the two movements together. As the intersection grows, it will indeed create a more powerful and appealing philosophy and policy.

If you do a web search on “geolibertarian” or “geo-libertarian” you will already find many entries. The term “geolibertarian” has been around since the early 1980s. Now the “geolib” movement has taken off, and efforts to join together both movements are growing worldwide. May the day come when “geoism” and “libertarianism” are synonyms, meaning the same thing!

Originally appeared in The Progress Report.

“History of the Libertarian Movement” by Samuel Edward Konkin III

Before 1969

Prior to 1969, there was no “organized” Libertarian Movement. In the 1800s, circles formed around Lysander Spooner’s individualist abolitionism in Massachusetts, followed by Benjamin Tucker and his Liberty magazine (not to be confused with the Seattle ‘zine of the 1980s & 1990s) which upheld the black banner of individualist anarchy from 1870s to 1907. In that year, the entire stock of back issues and books were burned and Tucker left America to live obscurely in France until his death in 1939.

The orgy of statism peaked first with World War I and then receded. Randolph Bourne uttered the memorable line, “War is the health of the State” just before his death in 1918 and the Roaring Twenties saw a brief revival of freedom. The two main spokesmen were Albert Jay Nock and his Freeman magazine (where Suzanne LaFollette first came to prominence) from 1920-24, and then H.L. Mencken and his American Mercury in the late 1920s and through the 1930s until the approach of the second statist orgasm, World War II.

Nock’s student, Frank Chodorov, was responsible for the first proto-libertarian student organization in the 1950s, the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists (still around, but now called the Intercollegiate Studies Institute). Murray Rothbard, a political fan of Chodorov (but disagreeing with his Georgist deviation on “The Land Question”), formed the Circle Bastiat in the late 1950s after being purged from William Buckley’s National Review. (Buckley was a fan of Nock himself, and had described himself as a “philosophical anarchist” before anointing himself the avatar of modern American conservatism, having “seen a Dream Walking.”)

Robert LeFevre and Leonard Read, like Rothbard and Chodorov, evolved from the “Old Right” alliance against the ultra-statist New Deal war machine of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Classical liberals (like John T. Flynn) and anarchists and even socialists like Norman Thomas joined in the great America First crusade against U.S. imperialism between 1939 and 1941 with never less than 80% of the people behind them…until Pearl Harbor.

LeFevre had a fling at running for Congress with the likes of Richard Nixon in 1948, but soon realized that one could not build a movement for freedom without first re-informing the American people what freedom was, something they had lost in five decades of non-stop statism. He formed the Freedom School in Colorado and his youthful graduates became the original activists in the student movement. Older people attended Read’s Foundation for Economic Education in upstate New York.

Rothbard was attracted to the growing student movement and actually entered the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) with his small following. He broke with those libertarians still clinging to an alliance with the anti-New-Deal Right by opposing Barry Goldwater in 1964 and beginning publication of Left & Right in 1965. He actively attended New Left meetings, wrote for Ramparts magazine, and even formed tactical alliances at the Freedom & Peace Party conventions with Maoists against old-line socialists.

LeFevre’s students began the Libertarian American in Texas and Liberal Innovator (then just Innovator) in California but, when Kerry Thornley became editor, also pursued a pro-New Left alliance. The Innovator leafletted Goldwater delegates at the 1964 Republican Convention at the San Francisco Cow Palace. Innovator also published the first articles concerning underground market activity which was later to be known as Counter-Economics. Alas, the Innovator contributors went underground just as the Libertarian Movement was about to explode aboveground.

Daniel Rosenthal, Sharon Presley, Tom McGivern and others broke from the Youth for Goldwater campaign to form the Alliance of Libertarian Activists, the first explicitly libertarian activist organization at the end of 1964 at the University of California at Berkeley. Meanwhile, the earlier 1960 Youth for Goldwater which had reformed at Buckley’s Sharon, Connecticut estate continued to attract libertarian students largely unaware of the other groups. The new student group, Young Americans for Freedom, had one libertarian chair, the founder, Bob Schuchman, who rejected the label “Young Conservatives.”

Thus, while the early libertarian activists following Rothbard and LeFevre mostly fought on the side of the New Left, the later and much larger group of hard-core campus activists who sympathized with liberty found themselves on the opposite side in the largest anti-New Left group, YAF, in the summer of 1969.

A Word About Ayn Rand

Jerome Tuccille’s claim (in his book title and elsewhere) that It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand was not accurate, but was indicative. Tuccille himself joined Rothbard and others in the early pre-St. Louis attempt to create a Libertarian movement out of YAF and SDS chapters, the Radical Libertarian Alliance (RLA). Rand herself opposed independent political activism, always supported Republican candidates (going back to Wendell Willkie) or no one, and strongly rejected any association with libertarianism. She called her followers Students of Objectivism and they operated on campuses independently. (For example, at the University of Wisconsin in 1968-70, around 300 of them were called Committee to Defend Individual Rights, or CDIR.) But it is true that many YAF members were influenced by reading Rand, and chapters in Pennsylvania and Maryland were openly Randist. Don Ernsberger and David Walters of Pennsylvania formed the Libertarian Caucus within YAF with Dana Rohrabacher and Bill Steele of California (LeFevrians). According to David Nolan of Colorado, an earlier Libertarian Caucus was tried at the previous National YAF Convention of 1967.

Another of Rand’s following who contributed to early libertarianism was Jarrett B. Wollstein, who created Students for Rational Individualism and The Rational Individualist magazine. Along with Rothbard’s new Libertarian, which he changed when he found the name was used by an obscure newsletter to Libertarian Forum, and LeFevre’s Rampart Journal, Rational Individualist became the leading libertarian publication until 1971. Also influenced by Rand was Lanny Friedlander, who began a fanzine called Reason in 1968.

Writing for RI and Rampart Journal was anarcho-objectivist Roy Childs. Childs wrote an “Open Letter to Ayn Rand” which obtained no response from her other than the usual purge for questioning her ideology. But its case that objectivism lead naturally to free-market anarchy left unanswered provided a conduit for many conversions to libertarianism by such as philosopher and friend of Childs, George H. Smith.

In 1968, Ayn Rand split with her chief disciple, Nathaniel Branden, who had run her activist organization, Nathaniel Branden Institute or NBI. Ex-objectivists filled the ranks of YAF and SRI.

At the end of 1968, Rothbard attempted a Left-Right Anarchist supper club in New York with anarchocommunist Murray Bookchin which lasted two meetings. Rothbard was joined by the former speechwriter for Barry Goldwater, Karl Hess, in Libertarian Forum and in SDS activism. Hess went so far as to join the Black Panthers; his article in early 1969 in Playboy, “The Death of Politics,” was second only to Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is A Harsh Mistress (published serially 1967-68) with its portrayal of a largely successful libertarian revolution on the moon in swelling the ranks of the about-to-be-born libertarian movement.


If the Libertarian Movement has a golden age, it ran from August 1969 through around August 1974. The SDS convention split several ways, purging the anarchists before the other delegates even arrived. The Young Americans for Freedom began purging racist and Randist chapters in July, and both sides, libertarians and traditionalists or “trads,” engaged in “papering” their chapters with members to maximize delegate strength in St. Louis for the National Convention over the Labor Day Weekend. Assisting the libertarians was the proximity of the World Science Fiction convention, also that weekend in St. Louis, and the number of Heinlein fans who would be attending and available to accept delegate status.

The trads, already in power, succeeded in stripping most of the libertarian delegates of credentials, but about 200 hard-core libertarians retained delegate status and many who came as trad supporters (such as the founding editor of NEW LIBERTARIAN) switched to the Libertarian Caucus when they saw the repressive treatment of the authoritarian trads. Agitating additionally was the small Anarchist Caucus of RLA and the Student Libertarian Action Movement, or SLAM. The AC peaked at about 30 delegates, and could not get more than that for self-styled “philosophic anarchist” Michael Ingallinera. Karl Hess led a rally under the famous St. Louis arch which was dispersed by the police.

Dana Rohrabacher, the “Johnny Grass-Seed” of the Libertarian Caucus, could not get more than 220 votes and was most popular of the pure libertarians. Harvey Hukari of Stanford, running independent of both the “National Office” trad slate and the LC, did better but still could not win. James Farley, claiming to be a libertarian running on the NO slate, on the other hand, received the highest delegate vote total (around 500 out of 800). Samuel Edward Konkin III, a Wisconsin delegate, and his anarchist friend Tony Warnock (both rightly suspected of having been won over by Rohrabacher and Rothbard) found they had been replaced by alternates when they had gone for a late breakfast, even though they arrived back an hour or more before their state’s votes were to be declared.

The most spectacular moment at the St. Louis YAF convention of 1969 occurred when an AC member lit a xerox of his draft card in front of television cameras and was attacked by YAF trads football-style. Libertarians tried to form a line to protect him and the subsequent physical battle radicalized a lot of “fusionist” libertarian-conservatives. Though some like Jared Lobdell tried to mollify libertarians with a strong anti-draft minority plank, and unopposed Chairman David Keene appealed to both sides for unity, the purges continued after the convention.

That fall, the Libertarian Caucus and the Students for Rational Individualism merged into the Students for Individual Liberty, dually based in Pennsylvania and Maryland around Ernsberger/Walters and Wollstein/Childs. Rohrabacher and Steele, after their purge, formed the California Libertarian Alliance, and announced a huge convention in early 1970. Rothbard and Hess jumped the gun with a Left-Right Conference at the Hotel Diplomat in October 1969 (Columbus Day Weekend).

The RLA conference did attract New Left individualists and former YAF anarchists, but the free-marketeers stayed to hear Rothbard and his Circle Bastiat brothers, Leonard Liggio and Joseph Peden, discuss economics and revisionist history, while Hess led a contingent to join the March on Fort Dix of New Leftists. When the latter returned pursued by FBI agents, the RLA collapsed and Rothbard swung right.

In February 1970, backed by Riqui and Seymour Leon of LeFevre’s relocated Rampart Institute (in Santa Ana, California), the California Libertarian Alliance hosted the Left-Right Festival of Mind Liberation at USC. Nearly 500 activists showed up to hear LeFevre, SDS former president Carl Oglesby, Hess, Rohrabacher, SEK3, and most of the early activists. Press coverage of libertarians (such as the con coverage in the LA Free Press) was growing, peaking with the 1971 color cover on the New York Times Magazine (see below).

Libertarian Alliances and SIL chapters spread to every major campus during 1970. The Madison, Wisconsin, UW Libertarian Alliance sprouted chapters in neighboring high schools and started the newsletter, Laissez Faire. Its five issues were the first volume of what was to become NEW LIBERTARIAN. During the Cambodia demonstrations in May, UWLA rallied former YAFers and YIPpies and was attacked by both National Guard tear gas units and Maoist Progressive Labor heavies.

During the summer of 1970, SEK3 established contacts with Eastern libertarians, and brought Columbia students Stan Lehr and Lou Rossetto (now publisher of Wired) into the Movement. They formed the Columbia Freedom Conspiracy. SEK3 moved to New York University and formed the NYU Libertarian Alliance, changing the newsletter name to NYU/New Libertarian Notes (in ironic homage to New Left Notes) and recruiting most of the NYU Science Fiction Society as the kernel of NYULA. Quickly seeding LA’s on other campuses, he formed the New York Libertarian Alliance, but in deference to the older group, formed from the objectivist Metropolitan Young Republican Club (MYRC), called by Gary Greenberg the New York Libertarian Association, NY LA was seldom used publically, leaving “NYLA” to the association. NYLA was part of SIL while the Libertarian Alliance was strongly identified with the California LA.

NYLA and the New York LA worked together on Libertarian Conferences such as Freedom Conspiracy’s Columbia Libertarian Conference of 1971 where Milton Friedman was confronted by SEK3 as to his responsibility for the withholding feature of income tax. Friedman’s ready embrace of the “credit” excused as needed to fight World War II (which was questioned by most of the revisionist-historical libertarians there) discredited him and his Chicago School throughout the Libertarian Movement and put Ludwig von Mises (and Murray Rothbard)’s Austrian School of Economics in the forefront of free-market theory. NYULA attended Mises Circle meetings at NYU and Mises was guest of honor at subsequent East Coast Libertarian Conferences hosted by SIL at Drexel Campus in Pennsylvania.

By 1972, NYU Libertarian Notes had evolved from a mimeoed fanzine into a typeset semi-prozine; with the growing infrequency of The Radical Individualist (now just The Individualist) it became the major cross-factional publication with its credo, “Everybody appearing in this publications disagrees.” Still influential was SIL’s SIL Notes, but it too began skipping issues. In New York, RLA’s Abolitionist was expanded into Outlook even as RLA changed its name to the Citizens for a Restructured Republic (CRR) and abandoned Weatherman tactics for electoral alliances. Rothbard urged support for Mark Hatfield or William Proxmire as anti-war candidates, but when they were eliminated, he balked at supporting George McGovern.

On the west coast, Rohrabacher, Leon and LeFevre published two issues of Pine Tree which became Rap magazine. As usual, the California Libertarians were far too early and hip for the rest of the movement or the market. Most ambitiously, Leon Kaspersky tried to distribute a monthly libertarian tabloid, Protos but gave up. All failed within a year. The earliest libertarian bookstore attempt was made by Berl Hubbel in Long Beach, the prophetically-named Agora Black Market Bookstore.

Lanny Friedlander, based in Massachusetts, sold Reason to minarchist (term coined by SEK3 in 1970 and appearing in Newsweek in 1972) Robert Poole and anarchist Manny Klausner who along with objectivist philosopher Tibor Machan moved it to California and relentlessly rightward, eventually out of the Libertarian Movement altogether. It did achieve the highest circulation of any publication calling itself libertarian at 10,000 (it continued to grow after it embraced neoconservatism); second was Robert Kephart’s Libertarian Review which peaked at 7,000 under its subsequent ownership by Charles Koch and control by Ed Crane.

In 1971, the New York Times published its cover story on Rossetto & Lehr of Columbia. In 1972, Edith Efron referred to Libertarianism as a third position distinguished from Liberal and Conservative in TV Guide. Libertarian media recognition began to drop because of a new organization appearing in early 1972 to the near-universal scorn of the highly anti-political and even revolutionary libertarian movement, the “Libertarian” Party or LP. To everyone’s amazement, including the few LP supporters, it won an electoral vote for its presidential candidate John Hospers, and its vice-presidential candidate, Toni Nathan, the first woman to get an electoral vote. As a reward for his defection from Virginia’s all-Nixon electoral college delegation, Roger McBride was given the 1976 LP nomination and nearly brought it back down to total obscurity.

In October 1972, Samuel Edward Konkin III and LP founder David Nolan debated the morality of voting in NEW LIBERTARIAN NOTES.

The real crucial election turned out to be the New York mayoral election of 1973; SEK3 and the LA had agreed to join the Free Libertarian Party of New York though explicitly urging the LP’s destruction; SEK3 won election to the Executive Committee and promptly built a coalition of upstate minarchists and Manhattan radicals who matched in strength the New York City “anarchists” who were willing to oppose the state but embraced party politics: partyarchs (also coined by SEK3 in NLN). The only campaign which all participated in was Fran Youngstein for Mayor. Unfortunately, Murray Rothbard was attracted to Youngstein and his scornful opposition to the LP (he supported Nixon in ’72 as did Rand) ended. The NLN anarchists, who were Rothbardian in most respects but adhered to the California Libertarian Alliance (LeFevre) anti-political position as most consistent, were forced to split and walked out of the 1974 FLP Convention just as their coalition partners were winning control, leaving a stalemate. However, enough won delegate status to the Dallas National LP convention to ally with the moderate Reformers of E. Scott Royce who ran against Edward H. Crane III and the Nolan National Office.

After Royce’s defeat, Crane created an authoritarian machine and purged several state newsletters as sympathetic to SEK3 and the “radical caucus.” Those campus LAers who resisted the LP and the LPrc who worked outside the party as a revived SLAM, now called for a New Libertarian Alliance which was announced in 1974 after Dallas. As partyarchs geared up for the 1974 congressional elections (which produced nothing), the NLA surged up only to go…underground. SEK3’s response to electoral politics was refusal to pay taxes, obey regulations or in any way give the State vampire its blood — Counter-Economics — combined with Libertarian Theory. In other words, politically-aware black marketeers, or agorists.


Aboveground, the Party was left with the dregs and vacillators of the Libertarian Movement; underground the NLA built its counter-economy. But still another factor entered in 1975: the vast fortunes of Charles and David Koch, and the Cato Institute they endowed. Ed Crane, already in control of the LP, became chair of Cato and disburser of funds. A complex of offices was set up in San Francisco and Cato bought Libertarian Review from Kephart, keeping Roy Childs as editor but hiring Jeff Riggenbach to keep LR actually running. Riggenbach wrote for NL as well.

NEW LIBERTARIAN NOTES had come a long way; it serialized an interview that J. Neil Schulman had got with Robert A. Heinlein, the first such interviewed published in decades. NLN’s circulation took off and it nearly hit a thousand at the 1974 World Science Fiction Convention in Washington, D.C. with the final installment of the Heinlein interview. In 1975, SEK3 finally gave up on the East and with the hardest core (except for John Pachak, the long-time layout artist), piled into a Toyota for a legendary three-week trip across the U.S. to relocate in Los Angeles.

Between December 1976 and January 1978, SEK3 and those who had come from New York with him (Andy Thornton, J. Neil Schulman, Bob Cohen) plus Southern Californians like Victor Koman and Chris Schaefer put out NEW LIBERTARIAN WEEKLY — 101 issues of NLW before finally retreating to monthly and less frequent publication. Ironically, the publication with the best history of on-time frequent publication (even better than reason which delayed and skipped several issues early in its publication career) burned itself out in weekly production and never returned to regular on-time publication again. During that time, NLW not only became the premier publication of anti-party libertarians and “journal of record” of the Movement, but also took up the cause of opposing “monocentrism,” the monopolization of the Libertarian Movement by Koch money and power, the legendary “Kochtopus.”

Just as NLW sputtered down in frequency to just plain NEW LIBERTARIAN magazine, Rothbard broke with the Kochtopus. Relations between MNR and SEK3 were maximally strained during 1977 when Rothbard joined the Kochtopus and moved to San Francisco. Rothbard was described as the “Darth Vader” of the Movement (Star Wars had just been released). Rothbard lashed back with his attack on the “space cadets” of science-fiction oriented libertarians, and was attacked himself within the LP by “space cadets” who labeled his faction “grubeaters.” But Rothbard had a falling out during the 1980 Clark for President campaign with Crane who controlled the campaign, and his “shares” in Cato were confiscated by the other Board members. NL promptly supported Rothbard in his cry, “They stole my shares” and relations were largely repaired.

Edward Clark and his vice-presidential running mate, David Koch, did get the highest number of votes ever for the LP (nearly 900,000) but at an incredible cost per vote. And the few thousand votes Hospers had received in 1972 had at least got him an electoral vote. The LP began its long decline. (Hospers himself turned against the LP.)


With Rothbard’s opposition to the Kochtopus, Crane’s control slipped fast. Students for a Libertarian Society quickly collapsed and its handpicked leader, Milton Mueller, dropped out of the Movement. Cato’s attempt to reach out to Left-Liberals, Inquiry magazine, plateaued in circulation and was combined with Libertarian Review, which could not break the 5,000 level of circulation. At the 1983 LP National convention, Crane lost a close battle with the combined Right-Center coalition who put California state apparatchik David Bergland up against CFR member turned mild isolationist, Earl Ravenal. Koch’s money was pulled out for the 1984 election and Ed Crane turned on the Libertarian Party.

In 1985, at the Libertarian International convention in Oslo, Norway, Crane and Konkin were to debate the validity of the Libertarian Party for libertarians. After SEK3’s demolition job, Crane got up and refused to defend the party, even shaking Konkin’s hand. Alas, Crane was moving rightward.

Rothbard, too, lost interest in the Libertarian Party with no one left of consequence to fight over it. A feeble attempt was made to stop Rothbard’s candidate, Republican U.S. Representative from Texas, Ron Paul, from getting the 1988 nomination., mostly from the Association for Libertarian Feminists (ALF) who strongly opposed him on abortion. When Paul’s vote continued the decline from the Clark high, Rothbard blamed the “Left” Libertarians (apparently still in the LP) and luftmenschen with no visible means of support (Agorists and other counter-economists?), and quit the party. With Llewellyn Rockwell, Rothbard formed the Ludwig von Mises Institute and announced an alliance with Rockford Institute’s Thomas Fleming and his paleoconservatives as an attempt to revive the Old Right.

While the LP declined schism by schism, the New Libertarian Alliance sprouted to aboveground entities. In 1978, the Movement of the Libertarian Left was formed out of remaining aboveground activists to restore and continue the alliance Rothbard and Oglesby had begun between the New Left and Libertarians against foreign intervention or imperialism. MLL’s internal newsletter was Tactics of the MLL; it also began a theoretical journal after the publication of SEK3’s long-delayed New Libertarian Manifesto. The responses by Rothbard, LeFevre, and anti-voting/anti-activist Erwin “Filthy Pierre” Strauss and Konkin’s replies became the basis of Strategy of the New Libertarian Alliance #1. SNLA#2 began SEK3’s Agorism Contra Marxism serialization and George Smith’s criticism of Rothbard’s “Leninist” Libertarianism. Within a decade, Rothbard had swung right and the Berlin Wall had fallen. (Agorism had made the East European Marxist journals and was vigorously debated in the early 1980s.)

On December 31, 1984 The Agorist Institute was formed on that symbolic date and with the logo of “the tip of the iceberg.” So in 1985 MLL was turned over to Victor Koman and Mike Gunderloy while SEK3, J. Kent Hastings and John Strang concentrated on AI. The New Isolationist newsletter combined the editorial skills and writings of Konkin and Royce, with Alexander Cockburn and Noam Chomsky from the New Left, Thomas Fleming and Charles Reese from the Old Right, and many other anti-interventionists.

Meanwhile, NEW LIBERTARIAN brought forth its long-awaited time capsule of the new generation of Science Fiction Authors of the 1980s in 1990. The triple-sized issue, first with a color cover, mutated into a tribute to Robert A. Heinlein who had just died. Contributors included Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Shea, Victor Koman, Brad Linaweaver, L. Neil Smith, J. Neil Schulman, Oyvind Myhre of Norway and Chris Shaefer on the films based on Heinlein writings. Libertarian science-fiction fans (frefen) had turned their parties into “Heinlein Wakes” in the late 1980s, and that culminated in the largest, most international gathering of libertarian writers at The Hague over the “Bank Holiday” weekend in late August where NL All-SF Triple Issue premiered. Final copies were not available until the NASFiC in San Diego the following weekend.

The Libertarian Party was in such bad shape that SEK3 called for a ceasefire and re-direction of energy in the previous issue of NL; with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, key libertarians “retired” to engage in a personal life for a couple of years.


Reason had drifted further and further away from mainstream, let alone radical, libertarianism in the 1970s so that by 1985 only Libertarian Review and NEW LIBERTARIAN remained with plus-1000 circulations. When LR and Inquiry quit, NL was not left alone. Bill Bradford, a lifetime subscriber to NL, started his own Centrist Libertarian magazine, Liberty. Briefly, it was inclusive, but soon it purged Rothbard and Konkin (Bradford claimed an Editorial Board he created had the responsibility, not him) and it defined itself between agorist/inclusive NL, paleolibertarian Rothbard-Rockwell Report, and the neoconservative Reason. In 1991, Reason under its new editor Virginia Postrel crossed the line and became the only publication to be viewed by some as libertarian to endorse the Gulf War. Even Reason‘s former editor Robert Poole and Cato’s Ed Crane opposed the naked imperialist maneuver.

When the agorists returned to activism in 1994, they found a changed Movement — but not victorious, as they had assumed it would be. Liberty was rehashing objectivism and Ayn Rand’s personal life over and over with the vapid sneering attacks by cowardly nom-de-plume “Chester Alan Arthur” substituting for political (or anti-political) analysis; the Libertarian Party had run an out-and-out scoundrel and party-funds embezzler, Andre Marrou, for President in 1992; Jeff Friedman was editing a “theoretical journal” claiming that Libertarianism was based on Egalitarianism (one of Murray Rothbard’s essays and book titles was Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature) and embracing chunks of deconstructionism, postmodernism, and even Liberalism; and, rather than rallying the demoralized, de-socialized Left to the Libertarian (black) banner, nearly all factions were cozying up to (different) parts of the already victorious and thus scornful statist Right. Reason was gone completely from Libertarianism, as was Reason.

With Chris Hitchens and Alex Cockburn calling for a revived New Left/Libertarian Alliance on CSPAN and in Left publications, SEK3 and the revived MLL answered them positively with the pamphlet “What’s Left?” and subsequent meetings of the Karl Hess Club (successor of the anti-Party Libertarian Supper Club of Los Angeles and Albert J. Nock/H.L. Mencken Fora). But the Original Gang Libertarian ranks thinned considerably. Robert LeFevre had died in 1986; Karl Hess left us in 1994 and Murray Rothbard in January 1995. The struggle for the minds (what was left of them) and hearts of the Libertarian Movement was thus engaged.

New Isolationist revived first; then the long-awaited Agorist Quarterly, the theoretical journal of The Agorist Institute, challenged J. Friedman’s Critical Review and began the development of the foundations of Counter-Economics and the rest of Agorism. Finally, NEW LIBERTARIAN returned to set the movement straight again with NL187 in December 1996 (dated April 1997.) Deviationists, sell-outs and compromisers fled in terror; the hard-core and unyielding defenders of freedom, as well as those who had been shut out of dominant libertarian publications for their individualist, non-conforming viewpoints, rejoiced.

And they all turned into .PDF files (Adobe AcrobatTM), moved to the World Wide Web of libertarian cyberspace, and lived happily ever after . . .