“A “Political” Program for Anarchists” by Kevin Carson

INTRODUCTION

In On Community, a recent pamphlet on Gustav Landauer, Larry Gambone suggested the need for an “antipolitical movement” to dismantle the state, in order to eliminate obstacles to non-statist alternatives. It was no longer possible, he argued, merely to act outside the state framework while treating it as irrelevant. To do so entailed the risk that “you might end up like the folks at Waco.” In an earlier work, Sane Anarchy, he suggested a few items for the agenda of such a movement. I now submit a list of my own (after a few pages of preferatory comment), as a basis for discussion.

Many anarchists oppose in principle such use of the political process for anarchist ends. It is unethical, they say, for anarchists to participate in the political process. Voting entails selecting a representative to exercise coercive force in our name; and appealing to such representatives for action is in effect a recognition of their legitimacy. This is a view shared by many varieties of anarchists. At the left end of the spectrum, anarcho-syndicalists prefer to ignore the state; hence the Wobblies’ split with De Leon and the elimination of the “political clause” from the IWW Preamble. Many individualist anarchists, voluntaryists, and right-libertarians (Wendy McElroy, for instance) also take this position. The only acceptable course is to withdraw all consent and legitimacy from the state, until “the last one out turns off the lights.”

The problem with this line of argument is that the state is an instrument of exploitation by a ruling class. And exploiters cannot, as a group, be ethically “educated” into abandoning exploitation, because they have a very rational self-interest in continuing it. If most ordinary people simply withdraw consent and abandon the political process altogether, the ruling class will just drop the pretense of popular control and resort to open repression. So long as they control the state apparatus, a small minority of dupes from the producing classes, along with well-paid police and military jackboots, will enable them to control the populace through terror. A majority of Italian workers may have supported the factory occupations of 1920, but that didn’t stop the black shirts, paid with capitalist money, from restoring the bosses’ control.

But I’m not calling for “anarchist politicians” to run for office and exercise political power, like those who served the Generalitat in Catalonia. Our involvement in politics should take the form of pressure groups and lobbying, to subject the state to as much pressure as possible from the outside.

The answer, then, is active engagement to dismantle the interventionist state, without which exploitation would be impossible. This can be done only by broad-based, ad hoc coalitions, formed on an issue-by-issue basis. A good example is the ACLU-NRA alliance against Janet Reno’s police state. The congressional opposition to the Reichstag Enabling Act (oops–USA Patriot Act) of 2001 includes elements as disparate as Paul Wellstone and Bob Barr. Keith Preston argues that a viable anti-state movement will have to get beyond obsession with right and left:

An entirely new ideological paradigm needs to be developed. One that rejects the traditionalism and economic elitism of the Right and the statism of the Left. One that draws on the best and most enduring elements of classical liberalism, libertarian socialism and classical anarchism but adapts these to contemporary circumstances within a uniquely American cultural framework that appeals to the best within our libertarian and revolutionary traditions. Political and economic decentralization should be our revolutionary battle cry….

The original principles of classical anarchism–elimination of the authoritarian state, control of economies of scale by cooperative partnerships of producers, individualism, genuine liberation of outcast groups, resistance to war and imperialism, decentralization, voluntary association, intellectual and cultural freedom, mutual aid and voluntary cooperation–remain as relevant as ever in today’s world.

Karl Hess argued a long time ago that the flower of liberty should not be disregarded because its petals are red and black, instead of red white and blue. That, in turn, brings to mind David De Leon’s remark in The American as Anarchist that an anarchist movement genuinely native to the United States might prefer the Gadsden flag over the Red-and-Black.

We must also remember that “solidarity” is not something we reserve for our ideological clones. Recently a reader poll at Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed asked, “which of the following should we give solidarity to?” and then listed a number of groups–as if solidarity were some kind of special favor, and not something we were ethically bound to. We must show solidarity for any victim of injustice, when they are in the right, regardless of their overall position. If more of the left had expressed outrage over Ruby Ridge and Waco, it might have been the beginning of a coalition of right and left libertarians against the police state.

But there is a whole cottage industry of obsessive anti-rightists devoted to preventing such cooperation. I recently forwarded, to a Marxist discussion list, an article about a 15-year-old kid who beat a drug rap because of the prosecution’s ignorance of the law. I posted it because I thought the story was inspiring, not because I agreed with (or was even aware of) the right-wing ideological background of the source. An immediate response came from an associate of Chip Berlet, who seized on the opportunity for another “Right Woos Left” screed, without even commenting on the subject of the post. The attitude of such people toward the libertarian and populist right, it seems, is “I agree with what you say, but I’ll fight to the death to stop you from saying it.”

The Internet has opened up exhilirating possibilities for forms of opposition based on large, decentralized associations of affinity groups. The potential for such organization is alarming to those in power. A 1998 Rand study by David Ronfeldt (The Zapatists “Social Netwar” in Mexico, MR-994-A) warned that internet-based coalitions like the pro-Zapatista support network could overwhelm the government with popular demands and render society “ungovernable.” This study was written before the anti-WTO demonstrations, so the post-Seattle movement doubtless has our overlords in a panic. Such forms of organization make it possible to throw together ad hoc coalitions of thousands of affinity groups in a very short time; they can organize mass demonstrations, issue press releases in thousands of venues, and “swarm” the government and press with mass mailings, phone calls and emails. This resembles the “excess of democracy” and “crisis of governability” that Samuel Huntington warned of in the 1970s–but an order of magnitude beyond anything he could have imagined then. In the case of dismantling corporate state capitalism, our allies include not only anarchists and the libertarian left, but populists, constitution- alists, and libertarians on the right.

One important feature of this decentralized form of organization is its resilience in the face of state attempts at repression or decapitation. We should strengthen this feature by organizing redundant telephone, email and Ham radio trees within each radical organization, with similar redundant communications links between organizations, to warn the entire resistance movement as quickly as possible in the event of mass arrests.

And when the state attempts piecemeal arrests of a few leaders, one organization at a time, we should spread the news not only to “radical” groups and alternative press outlets as quickly as possible, but to the mainstream press. If you belong to an organization whose activists have been targeted in this way, spread the news far and wide on the net and in print, with contact information for the officials involved. If you find such a message in your in-box, take the time to call or email the jackboots with your complaints, and pass the news on to others. I recently called a local police force to protest the illegal arrest of some demonstrators after I saw an article in a newsgroup, and was told by a harried operator that they were so overwhelmed that they had to refer callers to the state police. Every crackdown on an organization should result in the state being swarmed with phone calls, and the press being saturated wth letters and press releases.

This is especially urgent in the present atmosphere. As of this writing (February 2002), the state is taking advantage of the 9-11 hysteria to see how much repression the public will tolerate. For example the jackboots forced the shutdown of IRARadio.com by threat-ening their ISP with seizure of assets for “supporting terrorism” (without need of a trial, of course). Since then, left-wing political activists have been subjected to all kinds of harassment. Nancy Oden, a national Green Party organizer, was subjected to humiliating treatment in an airport and denied passage. A group of SOA Watch activists were arrested by the US Border Patrol when they tried to enter Canada for a peaceful demonstration. The FBI has hinted in its literature that right-wing groups too “obsessed” with the constitution, or with monitoring the actions of federal law enforcement, may be added to the list of “terrorists.” As Morris Dees and Chuck Schumer have said, it’s dangerous when people don’t trust their government. Every time the state puts in its toe to test the water, it needs to be badly scalded by public opinion. How long will it be before the gestapo try to resurrect “criminal syndicalism” as a form of terrorism, and shut down the IWW?

At the same time, we must remember that our “political” strategy is only secondary. We are forced to pursue it only because the state actively interferes with our primary activity–what the Wobblies call “building the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.” This means self-organization at the grassroots level to build “alternative social infrastructure”–things like producers’ and consumers’ co-ops, LETS systems and mutual banks, syndicalist industrial unions, tenant associations and rent strikes, neighborhood associations, (non-police affiliated) crime-watch and cop-watch programs, voluntary courts for civil arbitration, community-supported agriculture, etc. The “libertarian municipalist” project of devolving local government functions to the neighborhood level and mutualizing social services also falls under this heading–but with services being mutualized rather than municipalized. (See also Brian A. Dominick, An Introduction to Dual Power Strategy).

Peter Staudenmeier, in a workshop on cooperatives at Ann Arbor, referred to such alternative forms of organization as “social counter-power.” Social counterpower takes the concrete forms of “prefigurative politics” and “counterinstitutions.”

Prefigurative politics is a fancy term that just means living your values today, instead of waiting until “after the revolution”–in fact it means beginning the revolution here and now to the extent possible. This might be called the everyday aspect of social counterpower. And counterinstitutions, of which co-ops are often an example, are the structural aspects of social counter-power.

Jonathan Simcock, on the Total Liberty homepage, described a vision of Evolutionary Anarchism that included

…Worker Co-operatives, Housing Co-operatives, self-employment, LETS schemes, Alternative Currencies, Mutual Banking, Credit Unions, tenants committees, Food Co-operatives, Allotments, voluntary organizations, peaceful protest and non-violent direct action and a host of similar activities are the means by which people begin to “behave differently”, to go beyond Anarchist theory, and begin to build the elements of a new society.

Our emphasis should be on building this society as much as possible without seeking direct confrontation with the authority of the state. But I am not a political pacifist in the sense of ruling out such confrontation in principle. No matter how industriously we work “within the shell of the old” society, at some point we will have to break out of the shell. At that point either the state will initiate force in order to abort the new society, or it will be so demoralized as to collapse quickly under its own weight, like the Leninist regimes in 1989-91. But either way, the final transition will probably be abrupt and dramatic, rather messy, and will almost certainly involve at least some violence.

On the revolutionary question, I think we should have two guiding principles. The first was formulated by Ed Stamm in his statement on the anti-WTO protests of December 1999: “any revolutionary activity must have massive popular support.” This will occur of itself if our educational and organizing efforts are successful. It will never be accomplished by vanguardism or “propaganda of the deed.” Second, it should not be attempted until we have built as much as we can within the existing structure. The birth pangs do not take place until the gestation is completed. There are some aspects of a stateless society–for example complete workers’ control of industry, or land ownership based only on occupancy and use–which cannot be fully accomplished short of final destruction of the present system of power. But we should achieve everything we can short of this before we begin the final push.

Anyway, there’s a lot we can do short of revolution. In attemp-ting to roll back the state, we should remember that our progress doesn’t depend on converting a majority of people to anarchism. We just have to appeal to the values we share with them on particular issues. And we don’t have to segregate ourselves into an ideologiclly pure, separatist movement of “real” anarchists and wait for the other 99 44/100% of society to come around. Progress isn’t all or nothing. As Larry Gambone argued in “An Anarchist Strategy Discussion,”

…a mass (populist) orientation requires that one search for all the various beliefs and activities that are of a general liber-tarian and social nature found among ordinary people. These would consist of any form of decentralism, direct democracy, region-alism, opposition to government and regulation, all forms of vol-untary association, free exchange and mutual aid.

In other words, we must approach people where they are, and make our agenda relevant to the things that concern them (see also Gambone, Sane Anarchy).

Anarchists belong to countless social and political organizations in which they are a decided minority. We can act within these groups to promote a libertarian agenda. That means making common cause with movements that are not anarchist per se, but aim nonetheless at pushing society in a freer and less exploitative direction. Some may be nominally on the right, like home-schoolers and gun rights people. But the divide between populism and elitism, or between libertarianism and authoritarianism, is a lot more important than the fetishism of left and right. To quote Gambone again, in What is Anarchism?

The future of anarchism, if there is one, will at best, involve a few thousand people, as individuals or small groups, in larger libertarian-decentralist organizations. (Some will choose to work alone, spreading the anarchist message through writings and publications.) It is imperative that such people, so few in number, yet with potential influence, should know what they are talking and writing about.

People who call themselves “anarchists” are probably not even one in a thousand, and may never be. But names aren’t important; substance is. Huey Long said that if fascism ever came to America, it would be in the name of “100% Americanism.” If anarchy ever comes, it will probably be in the name of “decentralism,” “participatory democracy,” or “economic justice.”

But why would the ruling classes allow even a piecemeal rollback of the state apparatus? Why would they not prefer repression to even a partial loss of privilege? The answer is that they will use open, large-scale repression only as a last resort. (Even if we are in the opening phase of such a repression in the aftermath of 9-11, the state will likely keep it low-key and sporadic as long as possible). Such repression is unlikely to succeed beyond the short-term, and could well result in a total loss of power under extremely bloody circumstances. Ruling classes are often willing to make short-term bargains to preserve their long-term power. Even though the ruling elites took the initiative in creating the New Deal welfare state, for example, they did so only as a necessary evil, to prevent the far greater evil of public insurrection. And of course, we cannot underestimate the human failings of denial and shortsightedness, the desire to postpone the inevitable a long as possible. Ruling classes are as prone as anyone else to the “boiled frog syndrome.”

Whenever it is strategically appropriate, we should coordinate the political program with the non-political program of alternative institution-building. The social movement can be used to mobilize support for the political agenda and to put pressure on the state to retreat strategically. The political movement can provide political cover for the social movement and make mass repression less feasible.

Even when it is imprudent for the social movement to resort to large-scale illegality, it can act as a “shadow government” to publicly challenge every action taken by the state (much like the shadow system of soviets and workers’ committees before the October Revolution). Even though such “shadow institutions” may be unable to implement their policies in the face of official opposition, that fact in itself is an opportunity to demand, “Why are you using government coercion to stop us from controlling our own schools, community, etc.?” (This can be especially effective in pointing out the hypocrisy of the Republicans’ bogus “populism,” with their appeals to decentralism and local control). The objective is to keep the state constantly off-balance, and force it to defend its every move in the court of public opinion.

Not all reductions in state power are equally important, and it could be disastrous to dismantle state functions in the wrong order. The main purpose of every state activity, directly or indirectly, is to benefit the ruling class. The central or structural functions of the state are the subsidies and privileges by which the concentration of wealth and the power to exploit are maintained. The so-called “progressive” functions of the state (despite Arthur Schlesinger’s fantasies to the contrary) are created by the ruling class, acting through the government as their executive committee, to stabilize capitalism and clean up their own mess.

Therefore it is essential that the state should be dismantled in sequence, starting with the structural foundations of corporate power and privilege; after a genuine market is allowed to destroy the concentration of power and polarization of wealth, and remove the boot of exploitation from the neck of labor, the superfluous welfare state can next be dismantled. This should not be confused with the social-democratic “anarchism” of Noam Chomsky. I do not advocate strengthening the state to break up “private concentrations of power.” Capitalist power could not survive without the state. The only issue is what state functions to dismantle first.

Since I approach this largely (although not entirely) from Benjamin Tucker’s version of mutualism, I begin with the big three forms of statist privilege according to Tucker–the money, patent and land monopolies.

THE PROGRAM

BANKING. As a minimal first step, repeal all market entry bar-riers to credit unions which are more restrictive than regulations for ordinary commercial banks. The ultimate goal is an end to all restrictions on the formation of mutual banks and the private issuance of banknotes, and all state-mandated backing for currency. The banking industry would no doubt heartily oppose this. Its stooges, like Phil Gramm (who normally waxes eloquent on the glories of the “free market”), would shamelessly invoke the public’s right to a government guarantee of “sound money.” As in most cases, the solution is exposure: of the hypocrisy of the New Right according to their own avowed “free market” principles, of the inequity of the privileges they support, and of the extent to which the average person is forced to labor for their benefit. Gary Elkin argued in “Mutual Banking” that the reform might be accomplished throught the back door with LETS or barter clubs, using the pretext that they were only facilitating exchange rather than creating money.

PATENTS. The minimal first steps here are to end patent protections for any product or technology developed with government money, to eliminate the R&D tax credit, and to scale back patent law (including GATT IP protections) to something resembling traditional Anglo-American patent law. The latter means, among other things, significantly reducing the term of protection, and requiring the holder of a patent to work it in every country where privileges are claimed. The ultimate goal is to eliminate all patent laws.

As in the case of banking, the pseudo-“free market” hypocrites will noisily appeal to the need to reward innovation and protect every fledgling Thomas Edison from theft of his hard work. The solution, again, is to proclaim the facts and the opposition’s hypocrisy as loudly as possible. For example, in response to the alleged need to recoup research costs, we point out the high percentage of R&D that is underwritten by government spending. Or the fact that, according to business surveys, 86% of new technology would be developed without patents merely for the sake of maintaining competitiveness. Or that much of the concentration of industry results from buying up patents (for example the U.S. chemical industry being virtually created from scratch when Attorney-General A. Mitchell Palmer gave away seized German chemical patents to a handful of U.S. companies).

LANDLORDISM. Our ultimate goal here is an end to legal guarantees for absentee land ownership, and their replacement with property rights based on occupation and use. This is a case where the new society cannot be built until the shell of the old has been cracked open. There is only a limited amount that can be done in intermediate steps, short of a decisive and final dismantling of state power. Like the right of absentee ownership of industrial means of production, the plutocrats will not surrender the legal principle of absentee land ownership without a political Armageddon.

So long as the state is bound in legal prinicple to enforce property rights of landlords, any victory won by squatters will be only short-term and local, without permanent results of any significance. But the other side of the coin is that squatters are indigent and homeless people with very little to lose–after all, some people reportedly commit some minor crime around first frost every year just to get three hots and a cot until spring. If every vacant or abandoned housing unit in a city is occupied by the homeless, they will at least have shelter in the short term until they are forcibly evacuated. And the political constraints against large-scale brutality (if the squatters restrict themselves to non-violent tactics and know how to use the press to advantage) are likely to be insurmountable. In the meantime, the squatters’ movement performs a major educative and propaganda service, develops political consciousness among urban residents, draws public attention and sympathy against the predatory character of landlordism, and–most importantly–keeps the state and landlords perpetually on the defensive.

Even within the existing legal framework, tenant unions strengthen the hand of occupiers against absentee owners and reduce landlords’ ability to exact rent by monopolizing property. Karl Hess, in Neighborhood Power, referred to tenant strikes which led to the legal expropriation of the landlords. In some cities, the laws regulating collective bargaining between tenants and landlords required tenants to put their rent into an escrow account during a strike. Some slumlords were eventually forced into bankruptcy by rent strikes, and were then bought out with their tenants’ escrow money! The legal branches of the movement, like tenant unions and neighborhood assemblies, can also be used to apply pressure and political cover for squatters. The squatters’ and tenants’ movements can escalate and mutually reinforce pressure on the state.

Some states grant homestead exemptions for average-sized residential properties or family farms. Others provide bankruptcy protections for a principal residence. Both practices should be expanded as widely as possible, perhaps through referenda and initiated acts. As in the case of all other taxation, tax relief should occur from the bottom up, by removing as many ordinary people as possible from the tax rolls.

Government ownership of land should be eliminated as quickly as possible, through a new homesteading policy. This is one case in which property rights based solely on occupation and use can be established without displacing existing prorietors. Parcels of land big enough for subsistence could be provided at no cost, but with perpetual covenants attached to the deed by which absentee ownership would be unenforceable in court, and likewise even possessory rights would be unjusticiable for more than one such parcel in the same hands. This policy may be partially qualified in a couple of instances mentioned below.

IMPERIALISM AND MILITARISM. The national security state, military Keynesianism, foreign imperialism, and state-promoted globalization, all interact massively not only to bolster corporate capitalism at home, but to bring the people and resources of the entire world under the control of transnational corporations. Our ultimate goal, not realizable until the final liquidation of the U.S. government, is to dismantle the armed forces and devolve their functions and resources to decentralized federations of local militias. In the meantime we must press to eliminate all foreign military obligations and limit the mission of the armed forces to defending the territory of the United States.

A military budget commensurate with this mission would be far less than $100 billion, effectively eliminating the military-industrial and military-scientific complexes, and the system of state-planned capitalism at the commanding heights of the corporate economy. Along with it would go the imperial presidency and the whole extra-constitutional structure created by the National Security Act. Also eliminated would be the School of the Americas, the CIA’s Operations Directorate, and the rest of the rabbit warren of agencies which support military dictators, secret police and death squads around the world.

The best way to promote this is to take advantage of every opportunity to expose their evil deeds. We should do everything possible to disseminate the kinds of information available, for instance, in William Blum’s Killing Hope or the Virtual Truth Commission website, and show solidarity with organizations like SOA Watch. Every public statement by someone like Jean Kirkpatrick or Maudlin Albright, about how much the U.S. has done to promote freedom and peace in the world, needs to be challenged. The public needs to see facts–facts by the ream and by the truckload–to see for themselves the hundreds of thousands, the millions of atrocities committed on a global scale since 1945 with active or passive U.S. complicity.

Larry Gambone’s scenario in Sane Anarchy, of mass protests in the capital providing political cover for local libertarian movements, is quite relevant on an international scale. When the U.S. government prepares to crush an uncooperative regime like Guatemala or Nicaragua, the movement here at home needs to undertake mass demonstrations and general strikes in support of the target country’s independence.

Finally under this heading, the U.S. should with all deliberate speed disengage from global agencies of economic governance like the World Bank, IMF, and WTO. Third World debt should be forgiven or eliminated, as quickly as can be done without a total collapse of the banking system. International patent law accords should be abrogated, and the U.S. should scale back its recognition of international patent rights commensurate with the scaleback at home–ideally to the point of eliminating them altogether. In the absence of the U.S. role in bolstering landlord-general oligarchies and encouraging IMF pressure toward corporation-friendly laws, the ordinary people of Third World countries could take their societies in the direction of cooperative or mutualist forms of economic organization.

This is another area in which a mass movement can be used to pressure the state in the proper direction, build solidarity with foreign resistance movements, and educate the American public. The role of anti-globalization demonstrations, in drawing public attention to secret meetings and contesting the authority and expertise of the oligarchy’s pet suits there is priceless. But two caveats are in order. First, the demonstrators should refrain from smashing windows and blocking streets; such tactics only reinforce the public perception that “radicalism” is at odds with the mores of the average person, and needs to be contained in the interest of “public safety.”

Second, we should contest the perception of right-wing anti-globalists (think Perot and Buchanan) and AFL-CIO bureacrats who see globalization as a benefit to the Third World at the expense of the American people. We should draw attention to the fact that globali-zation benefits only corporate elites, at the expense of ordinary people in both the West and the Third World. The best way to fight the “race to the bottom” is through strategic alliances between American labor and workers’ movements in the developing world.

Anarchists should also cooperate with the efforts of people in other countries to organize grass-roots, mutualist alternatives to the state and to capitalism. The collapse of communism left a political vacuum in the former Soviet bloc. The vacuum was filled by an alliance between, on the one hand, transnational corporations and the IMF, and on the other a new authoritarian state dominated by the mafia of former Party apparatchiks. The civil society of Russia had atrophied under seventy years of totalitarian brutality, and there was no tradition of grass-roots organization to replace the authoritarian system.

In society after society, from the Soviet bloc to South Africa and Indonesia, the old authoritarian system of power crumbles only to be replaced by a new form of authoritarianism. The reason is that there is no alternative libertarian system capable of challenging the state. In Argentina right now, the left is calling for the creation of workers’ councils, for a federation of such councils with delegates recallable at will, and for a workers’ militia to defend the councils. But that is the kind of thing you organize the nucleus of in the twenty years before the central government collapses, not afterward. Once a conventional nation-state government is established, no matter how “progressive,” the nation has a new spokesman on whom the transnational corporate order can exert pressure. We can be sure that representa-tives of the IMF and the U.S. State Department have already met behind closed doors in Buenos Aires, and threatened (as they did Allende thirty years earlier) to “squeeze the Argentine economy until it screams” if it repudiates the neoliberal agenda.

The anti-globalization movement here must aid those in the Third World trying to organize unions, peasant cooperatives, and other grass-roots organs of empowerment. Americans today, as in Tocqueville’s day, are an unusually ingenious people when it comes to spontaneous, voluntary forms of social organization. One vitally important aspect of such activity is to encourage the development of intermediate, human-scale technology that can increase the economic productivity and self-sufficiency of peasant communities. A shared set of Appropriate Technology Sourcebook–an indexed collection of 150,000 pages available on fiche or CD-ROM for $495–is probably the best single thing that a cluster of Third World villages could have. (Except for sending all the landlords and generals to Boot Hill–but one thing at a time).

POLICE STATE. We must fight to restore an absolutist understanding of the due process guarantees of the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments, and to dismantle the police state that has grown up in the name of fighting drugs, terrorism, gangs, and other crime. Fighting for an absolutist interpretation of the Bill of Rights is much more important than repealing the substance of drug prohibition, because procedure is generally more important to liberty than substance. I’d much rather live under the substantive drug laws of Turkey or Singapore, enforced according to the ACLU’s standard of due process, than the reverse.

At the highest level, this means eliminating Operation Garden Plot and the entire infrastructure of executive orders providing for martial law and domestic surveillance of “subversives.” It means overturning Jackboot Schumer’s unconstitutional “counter-terrorism” legislation and the USA PATRIOT Act.

It means cutting off the head of civil forfeiture (a doctrine borrowed from the prerogative law of bodies like the admiralty courts that so offended the Revolutionaries) and cauterizing the stump. No one should ever forfeit property to the state without being convicted of a crime, period. This should apply not only to drug law, but to all other forms of regulatory enforcement by “administrative bodies” like the IRS, EPA, etc.

Under the heading of the Fourth Amendment, this means prohibiting “no-knock warrants” merely to prevent destruction of drug evidence; no “sneak-and-peek” searches in which suspects are unable to prevent the planting of evidence; no snooping of bank accounts, email or internet usage without a warrant from a local judge. It means the citizen must be guaranteed a “reasonable expectation of privacy” against warrantless searches by flyovers, infrared or other high-tech means, etc. It means an end to public surveillance cameras mated to biometric technology, along with all attempts to make writing checks and other daily activities dependent on some form of biometric identification system. Court rulings must be overturned that make it unlawful to resist even an unlawful invasion or arrest.

An absolutist reading of the Bill of Rights also means restoring the principle of posse comitatus against domestic police action by the National Guard, and prohibiting cooperation between local police and Delta Force, military intelligence, or other regular military assets. It also means restoring the power of free juries to decide questions of law as well as fact, and to refuse to enforce unjust laws. The erosion of jury rights, like that of much of the rest of our civil liberty, reflects the loss of the Eighteenth Century Commonwealth, or Anglo-republican, understanding of common law due process, and its replacement by a Blackstonian/Mansfieldian/prerogative law framework.

There are several grass-roots movements that could cooperate fruitfully with anarchists. One is the anti-drug war movement, including state level movements to decriminalize cannabis entirely or only for medical purposes. The cannabis front is especially smart tactically, because the feds depend on states and localities (through “joint task forces”) for the overwhelming bulkj of enforcement. Since most drug arrests and seizures are for pot, these state initiatives can throw a monkey-wrency into the gears of the drug war even if pot remains illegal at the federal level. Another tactic is to pressure local police forces not to participate in federal jackboot thuggery–for example, the Portland PD’s recent decision not to cooperate with Ashcroft in racial profiling of Middle Easterners and South Asians. Finally, cop-watch programs of all sorts are a way to serve notice to the police that the public eye is on them, and to expose issues of abuse of power to a wide audience. In all these projects, we can find much common ground with organizations like the Fully Informed Jury Association, the ACLU, and the National Lawyers Guild.

TRANSPORTATION. Our goal is to end all state subsidies to highways, trucking, airlines, railroads, and merchant marines. All infrastructure spending should be funded by user fees, assessed pro rata according to the cost imposed on the system. The state power of eminent domain should be abolished. These policies underwrite the cost of shipping freight, and thus subsidize the centralization of the economy.

This centralization leads to great inefficiency, and could not occur unless it were subsidized. Most factories operate at several times maximum economy of scale. Even when they operate at peak efficiency in terms of unit cost, this is offset (according to Borsodi’s Law) by increased distribution costs. Specialists in economy of scale like Walter Adams estimate that peak efficiency for most firms of manufacturing are reached by plants serving about one percent of the U.S. market. According to Barry Stein, this scale could be reduced by two-thirds with only about a 5% increase in unit cost of production, more than offset by reduced shipping costs. Kirkpatrick Sale believes that most kinds of light consumer goods could be produced by factories of fewer than fifty workers, and that communities of a few thousand could be self-sufficient in everything but the most capital-intensive items. Eliminating the transportation subsidy alone would take us a long way in this direction.

SYNDICALISM. Full-scale worker control of production, like land ownership based on possession, cannot be achieved until the state is finally dismantled by some dramatic and revolutionary process. These are the last bastions of privilege, which the ruling class will never surrender until the final extremity. But much can be done to reduce exploitation, even under formal capitalist ownership. Exploitation of labor–i.e., the extraction of surplus value–is impossible without state intervention. Every system of exploitation has involved a ruling class that controlled access to the means of production, in order to exact a tribute in the form of unpaid labor. In the case of American capitalism, banking laws enforce an artificial scarcity of credit and keep workers in debt slavery–both powerful forms of labor discipline. As a result, workers are forced to sell their labor in a buyer’s market. But without such restrictions on access to cheap capital, and without other forms of exploitation like patents, taxes, etc., the availability of abundant cheap credit would drastically alter the balance of power between capital and labor, and wages would approach value-added.

In such an improved bargaining position, unions can likewise achieve a measure of de facto veto power over decisions affecting the production process. One impediment to such control, however, is federal labor law. All restrictive labor legislation, but most particularly Taft-Hartley, should be dismantled, leaving in effect only Norris-LaGuardia, which removed federal troops and court injunctions from labor disputes altogether. This would mean an end to the federal role in supervising certification votes and guaranteeing the right to organize, true enough. But it would also mean an end to restrictions on secondary sympathy and boycott strikes, general strikes, sit-downs, and other forms of direct action. All these tactics, by which the labor victories of the 1930s were won, are now illegal–a loss for which the paper guarantee of a right to organize is pretty sorry compensation. It was probably easier to organize a union in the 1930s by entering a plant in a flying squadron, and telling workers to “shut her down,” than it is today to persuade people in cold blood to risk their jobs and spend years jumping through all the NLRB’s hoops.

For labor to wage a successful class war, it must think in terms of war, not “rights” or “the law.” The mainstream unions are psychologically addicted to the legacy of the New Deal “social compact.” Their inability to think outside the limits of the NLRB process is a severe handicap. Labor must think in terms of war, using all the means at their disposal, limited only by srategy and by their own sense of justice, without regard to “established procedures.” One of the most effective things we could do would be to send a copy of the Wobbly pamphlet “How to Fire Your Boss” to every union that has just lost a strike. It’s at that point, when they’ve been kicked in the teeth for playing by the bosses’ rules, that they might be interested in learning how to play by their own rules. Instead of organizing and striking according to the bosses’ labor laws (and giving the bosses a chance to break the union and replace them with scabs), workers need to do what works–unannounced one-day strikes at random intervals, “good work” strikes, “open mouth sabotage,” working to rule, etc.

All legislative barriers to union-controlled pension funds, and to investment of pension funds in company stock, should be repealed. Corruption and fiscal accountability are indeed issues; and some union rank-and-file may understandably be afraid to put all their eggs in one basket (Enron, obviously). But control of a major voting bloc of shares is one way for workers to exert control over corporate policy, if they can effectively control the union officers. In some cases, such a bloc of shares might make an employee buyout more feasible.

Most existing “employee-owned” companies don’t go nearly far enough. The shares aren’t equal, managers have more voting power, and shares can be marketed so that the cooperative nature of the enterprise decays. Such enterprises are often organized along the same centralized, top-down lines as capitalist enterprises, only with the board elected by employees. But any step in the right direction is better than what we have now, and we can encourage new forms of cooperative organization with department self-management, election of managers, non-marketable shares, etc. And a union local is a lot more amenable to genuine, grass-roots democratic control than the state. Apologists for capitalism like to crow that we already live under “pension fund socialism,” because workers own so much of the means of production through pension fund stock. Let’s make them crow out the other side of their mouths.

ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY. J.K. Galbraith moralized on the theme of “private opulence and public squalor,” but failed to recognize it as resulting from the very nature of “public” property. State property inevitably becomes squalid because it is administered by bureaucrats; in the absence of private or small group proprietary interests, nobody has any personal reason to take care of it. Most environmental damage takes place on government property. All the despoilation of “public” land by the oil, mining, timber and cattle industries is done by businesses that use their political influence to get access rights or leases far below market value. If the land is auctioned off instead of just leased at sweetheart prices, the bidding is open only to companies in the industry that wants the resources. Just another form of crony capitalism.

But imagine, for example, if the lumber companies actually had to buy the land where the giant redwoods grow. The government would sell the land in publicly advertised auctions, accepting bids over several months by mail and over the Internet. Bidding would be open to all interested parties, including environmental groups, not just a handful of lumber companies. It would hardly be profitable in these circumstances to destroy the trees for lumber at their market price. A similary policy regarding oil industry access to ANWR would make the issue of pollution a moot point.

The status of government land with such resources complicates the issue of homesteading policy. Until large timber or mining companies completely disintegrate under the effect of dismantling subsidies and privileges, such valuable land can hardly be open to ownership based on possession; it would amount to giving it away free to the present despoilers. (Of course, ownership could be awarded to the actual human occupiers working the land, rather than to the fictitious corporate entity; but this would probably be politcally impossible so long as the corporate elite retained any sizable amount of power.) Such land might instead be auctioned off to industry at market prices before any general homestead policy was implemented. Covenants could be attached providing that ownership would be based only on immediate possession and use after the property changed hands for the first time. When workers finally established labor self-management, these resources would become the cooperative property of those working them.

This would still leave the problem of economic rent, with producers cooperatives which controlled valuable land being in a position to extract excessive prices. But I imagine that, in a system of property ownership based on possession, local associations for mutual defense would develop some way to regulate ownership of especially productive land in an equitable way.

FEDERAL DEBT. Although I would prefer to repudiate the federal debt, this would probably be politically impossible in the short run. By the time a majority was convinced of the justice of such a policy, the state would be on the verge of collapse anyway–and that’s a lot of interest to pay in the meantime. So the immediate policy should simply be to retire the debt as fast as possible with budget savings. Short of renouncing the debt enirely, it might be possible to take some intermediate steps along lines advocated by populist and antifederalist groups in the 1780s. For example, some restrictions might be placed on honoring bonds at face value if they were sold to third parties. A distinction might also be made between small-scale bond holders and large scale holdings by the wealthy and by banks and corporations.

TAXES. Military spending, police state spending related to consensual crimes, corporate tax loopholes, and interest on the national debt, probably amount to half of federal revenue. All such savings should be translated into tax reductions. Since the wealth of the plutocracy results from state policies that allow them to live off the labor of producers, the producers should be the first to benefit from tax cuts, and the plutocrats should be the last. All targeted corporate tax exemptions and credits should be eliminated, and the corporate tax rate then lowered to be revenue neutral. All personal income tax cuts should take the form of increases in the personal exemption. This would eliminate the income tax for the overwhelming majority of the population, and let the coupon-clippers pay the full price of their “executive committee.” As the market effects of eliminating state capitalist subsidies are fully felt, the ranks of the plutocrats will quickly thin out. And the differential effects of applying tax cuts from the bottom up, in improving the relative competitive position of those on the bottom, will act as a partial remedy for past wrongs.

DECENTRALIZATION AND MUTUALIZATION OF “PUBLIC” SERVICES. Police, utilities, health and welfare services should all be devolved to the community or neighborhood level, and run whenever possible on a cooperative basis with control by the “customer.” At the same time every population unit of a few thousand people–small towns and urban neighborhoods–should organize government on the pattern of direct democracy, with public meetings and boards of selectmen, to exercise control of such government functions.

City-wide school boards should be eliminated, and each school turned into a consumers co-op, with the principal and staff becoming “selectmen” responsible to the parents. I tried to figure out the minimal tuition for a quality education, on the assumption that the parents of twenty or thirty kids pooled their own money to form a cooperative school. Taking into account things like renting a house for class space, and hiring teacher(s), the annual expense wouldn’t be over $1500 per pupil. Existing “public” schools, on the other hand, spend upwards of $6000. Most of the difference lies in the proliferation of parasitic bureaucrats with prestige salaries, and the fact that the state’s aura of majesty requires specially designed Stalinist architecture on the most expensive real estate in town.

This is a common pattern. When you try to figure out how much it would cost to organize a service for yourself, from the bottom up, and compare it to what you’re paying now, it’s stunning. Where does all the money go? It goes to support parasitic centralized bureaucracies with no incentive to economize. It’s amazing how creative and thrifty ordinary people can be when they’re spending their own money, instead of stolen loot.

“Public” and municipal hospitals should be made public in fact and organized on a cooperative basis, with the trustees directly responsible to those who use them. I’d like to see the reaction of white-collar bureaucrats, who ooze smarmy platitudes about “public service,” when they find out the public really is the boss.

But the issue of control is only a first step. Ultimately, we have to get away from our blind worship of authority in a white coat, and our belief that the “experts” reside in a big glass and steel building. As with schools, decentralization to the neighborhood level would result in massive savings in overhead. And taking responsibility for our own health would reduce the demand on hospitals significantly. I envision a clinic in each neighborhood, owned by its clients, with a minimal staff of MDs and a lot more primary care done house to house by nurses and paramedics. Sort of a cross between the Berkeley Cooperative Clinic and the Chinese “barefoot doctors.” As much as possible, emphasis would be shifted to prevention, and integration of allopathic with naturopathic and nutritional medicine. When such methods were not enough, members of local clinics would have access to more specialized, high-tech equipment owned jointly by all the neighborhood co-ops in a region. The medical school curriculum would resemble something set by Andrew Weil, instead of by the drug companies.

The ultimate goal in every case is to organize these services on a voluntary, cost basis, funded by user fees and dues rather than taxes, and thus eliminate the distinction between state and society. But the feasibility of doing this in the short term varies from case to case, and in some cases must await the final liquidation of the state. Some things, like education, cannot be done on a voluntary, cost basis until the liquidation of privilege results in a more egalitarian distribution of wealth. One candidate for immediate reorganization on a cost basis is utilities. Much of the incentive to urban sprawl lies in the fact that inhabitants of older, central areas are forced to pay higher rates to subsidize those in new developments (along with zoning codes against neighborhood grocers and other mixed-use development, which should also be abolished). The elimination of subsidies to fossil fuels and nuclear power, and to utility companies, along with control by rate-payers in small decision-making units, will be a powerful incentive to conservation and the use of alternative energy. Many will choose to leave the grid in part or altogether, and dig their own wells, generate their own power, or compost waste.

In the case of police and fire service, the trend should be toward incorporating citizen-volunteers in the regular organizations. In a way, this resembles the practice in some co-ops of requiring members to perform services themselves to avoid the creation of a separate caste of wage-workers. The encouragement of widespread firearm ownership as a deterrent is a way to reduce as much as possible the need for an organized police force. The encouragement of armed neighborhood watch organizations, at the expense of “official” police forces, is another step in the right direction. At some point such voluntary organizations should be merged into the “public” organizations, with the posse comitatus entirely supplanting professional law enforcement. Combined with free local juries empowered to judge both law and fact, and with popular militias, this would be in many ways a return to the anglo-republican libertarian ideal of the Eighteenth Century.

Local government and social services are an area in which grass-roots “counterinstitutions” can be especially effective in coordination with the political movement. Neighborhood assemblies, cop watch/ neighborhood watch organizations, tenant unions, etc., are an excellent way to form the nucleus of a future non-statist form of local community organization. Such organizations can coordinate their activities with neighborhood co-ops, mutual banks, and LETS; they can undertake projects in energy and self-sufficiency. Earlier experiments like the Berkeley co-ops, the Black Panther school milk program, or the Adams-Morgan Organization (detailed in Karl Hess’ Community Technology) are excellent models to build on. There is a very broad area in which the decentralist, populist politics of Karl hess overlaps with that of Lorenzo Komboa Ervin; it is far too broad a front for the state to suppress, if the community strongly supports it.

AN END TO PROFESSIONAL LICENSING AND OTHER FORMS OF REGULATORY CARTELIZATION. This means no more use of medical licensing boards to enforce the drug industry’s “standards of practice” and stamp out alternative medicine. That means no more artificial inflation of doctors’ and lawyers’ fees through market entry barriers. That means an end to cartelization of the broadcast industry, and the replacement of the FCC licensing system with something resembling the common law of riparian rights. Such a system would allocate the broadcast spectrum on the basis of “first come, first serve.” The burden of proof would be on the offended party, rather than the accused.

SOURCES

Ken Darrow and Mike Saxenian. Appropriate Technology Sourcebook. Volunteers in Asia/Appropriate Technology Project (Stanford, 1993).
Brian A. Dominick. “An Introduction to Dual Power Strategy,”

http://messmedia.rootmedia.org/dualpower/dpintro.htm

Lorenzo Komboa Ervin. Anarchism and the Black Revolution. Anarchist People of Color website,

http://www.illegalvoices.org/apoc/books/abr/index.htm

Larry Gambone. “An Anarchist Strategy Discussion,” unpublished.

Gambone. On Community (Red Lion Press, 2001).

Gambone. Sane Anarchy (Red Lion Press, 1995).

Gambone. “What is Anarchism?” Total Liberty vol. 1 no. 3 Autumn 1998.

Karl Hess. Community Technology (Breakout Productions reissue, 1995).

Hess, and David Morris. Neighborhood Power: The New Localism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1975).

Keith Preston. “Conservatism is Not Enough: Reclaiming the Legacy of the Anti-State Left” American Revolutionary Vanguard website,

http://www.attackthesystem.com

Jonathan Simcock. “Editorial for Current Edition, TL Homepage,

http://www.spunk.org/library/pubs/tl/sp001872.html

Ed Stamm. “Anarchists Condemn Anti-WTO Riots” The Match! Spring 2000.

Peter Staudenmaier. “Anarchism and the Cooperative Ideal,” The Communitarian Anarchist vol. 1 no. 1.

February 2002; last updated August 2002

Contact author at kevin_carson@hotmail.com

“To the Size of States There Is a Limit” by Kirkpatrick Sale

Yes, Aristotle declared there to be a limit to the size of states: “a limit, as there is to other things, plants, animals, implements; for none of these retain their natural power when they are too large…, but they either wholly lose their nature, or are spoiled,” so he said. But, really, what the hell did he know?  He lived at a time when the entire population of the world was somewhere around 50 million people—about the size of England today—the population of the Greek-speaking city-states, which were not united in a nation, in all may have been 8 million, and Athens, where he lived, considered a large city, would have been under 100,000 people.  Limits?  He couldn’t even imagine a world (ours) of 6.8 billion, a nation (China) of 1.3 billion, or a city (Tokyo) of 36 million.  How is he going to help us?

It is because, firstly,  he did know that there are limits: “Experience shows that a very populous city can rarely, if ever, be well governed; since all cities which have a reputation for good government have a limit of population.  We may argue on grounds of reason, and the same result will follow: for law is order, and good law is good order; but a very great multitude cannot be orderly.” And it doesn’t matter if that city is 1 million or 36 million–political entities at such sizes could certainly not be democratic in any sense, could not possibly function with anything approaching efficiency, and could exist only with great inequities of wealth and material comfort.

And because, secondly,  he did know that  human beings are of a certain limited size of brain and comprehension, and that putting them in the aggregate does not make them any smarter—or as another philosopher, Lemuel Gulliver, once said, “Reason does not extend itself with the bulk of the body.”  There is a human scale to human politics, defined by human nature, that functions well only in such aggregations as do not overstress and overburden the… quite capable and ingenious but limited human brain and human capacity.

So political units, Aristotle said—he thought mostly in terms of cities,  not knowing nations—but even if we may extend those units with the experience of 2000 more years to larger units such as nations, they have to be limited: limited by human nature and human experience. And  it is with that maxim of Aristotle’s that we now may start contemplating what in today’s world would constitute the ideal, or let us say the optimum, size of a state, with these two overriding criteria: “sufficient,” in Aristotle’s words, “ for a good life in the political community”—that would be some form of democracy—and “the largest number which suffices for the purposes of  a good life”—that would be efficiency. Democracy and efficiency.

And hark– this is not some sort of idle philosopher’s quest. It is, or could be, the foundation of a serious reordering of our political world, and a reordering such as the process of secession—indeed, only the process of secession, as I see it—could provide.  We have abundant evidence that a state as large as 305 million people is ungovernable—some scholar said in the paper just this past Sunday that we are in the fourth decade of the inability of Congress to pass a single measure of social consequence.  Bloated and corrupted beyond its ability to address, much less solve, any of the problems as an empire it has created, it is a blatant failure.  So let us be bold to ask, what could replace it, and at what size?  The answer, as will appear, is the independent states, that is to say nations, of America.

Let us start by looking  first at real-world figures of modern-day nations to give us some clue as to population sizes that actually work.

Of all the world’s political entities—there are 223 of them, counting the smallest independent islands—45 are below 250,000 people, 67 below 1 million, 108 below 5 million; in fact 50 per cent of nations are below 5.5 million,  and a full 58 per cent are smaller than Switzerland’s population of 7.7 million (Wikipedia: World populations by rank). That says right there that it is obvious that most countries in the world function with quite relatively small populations.  And looking at the nations that are recognized models of statecraft, there are eight of them even below 500,000—Luxemburg, Malta, Iceland, Barbados, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, and San Marino—and the example of Iceland, with the world’s oldest parliament and an unquestioned beacon of democracy (troubles of its banking aside), suggests that 319,000 people is all you would need. Going up a bit in size, there are another nine models of good governance below 5 million, including Singapore, Norway, Costa Rico, Ireland, New Zealand, Estonia, Luxembourg, and Malta.

Next, let’s look at the size of the most prosperous nations ranked by per capita Gross Domestic Product (Wikipedia: List of countries by GDP, CIA Factbook). (Parenthetically let me say that I realize GDP is a crude and entirely uncritical measure of economic worth, and reflects all kinds of growth, much undesirable, but until we have nations devoted to steady-state economies instead this is the best way to gauge economic performance.)  Eighteen of the top 20 by GDP rank (a total of 27 countries because of ties) are small, under 5 million, and all but one of the top ten are under 5 million (that’s the U.S., at ten, the others being Liechtenstein, Qatar, Luxembourg, Bermuda, Norway, Kuwait, Jersey, Singapore, and Brunei in order); the average size of those nine is 1.9 million. The average size of all 27 of the top economic nations, excluding the U.S., is 5.1 million.

You are beginning to get the picture.

Let’s take another measure—freedom, as reckoned by three different rating sites, Freedom House, the Wall Street Journal, and The Economist, using measures of civil liberties, open elections, free media, and the like.  Of the 14 states reckoned freest in the world, nine of them (64 per cent) have populations below Switzerland at  7.7 million, 11 below Sweden at 9.3 million, and the only sizeable states are Canada, United Kingdom, and Germany, the largest, at 81 million.

There’s one other measure of freedom that is put out by Freedom House, ranking all the nations of the world according to political rights and civil liberties, and there are only 46 nations with perfect scores.  Of those 46, the majority of them are under 5 million in population, and indeed 17 of them are even under l million.  That’s rather astonishing in itself.  And only 14 of the 46 free nations are over 7.5 million.Excluding the United States, whose reputation for freedom is fully belied by its  incarceration of 2.3 million people, 25 per cent of the world’s prisoners, and excluding the United Kingdom, Spain, and Poland, the average population of the free states of the world is approximately 5 million.

Let me finally take several other national rankings.  Literacy: of the 44 countries that claim a literacy rate of 99 or better (I say claim, since it is hard to verify), only 15 are large, 29 (66 per cent) of the 44 below 7.5 million. Health: measured by the World Health Organization, 12 of the top 20 are under 7 million, none over 65 million. In a ranking of happiness and standard of living last year by  sociologist Steven Hales, the top nations are Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland, Denmark, Austria, and Finland, all but Canada and Australia small.  And a “sustainable society index” created by two scholars earlier last year, adding in environmental and ecological factors, ranks only smaller countries in the top 10—in order, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Austria, Iceland, Vietnam, Georgia, New Zealand, and Latvia.

Enough of that—the point I trust is well and simply made.  A nation can be not only viable and sustainable at quite small population sizes, a model of more-or-less democratic and efficient government, but in fact can provide all the necessary qualities for superior living.  Indeed, the figures seem to suggest that, though it is certainly possible to thrive at sizes under a million people, there is a more-or-less optimum size for a successful state, somewhere in the range of 3 to 5 million people.

Next, let us take a quick look at geographic sizes of successful nations. A great many nations are surprisingly small—underlining the point, often missed by critics of secession, that a nation does not have to be self-sufficient to operate well in the modern world. In fact there are 85 political entities out of the 223 counted by the U.N. that are under 10,000 square miles—that is to say, the size of Vermont or smaller—and they include Israel, El Salvador, Bahamas, Qatar, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Singapore, and Andorra.

And if we go back to that measure of economic strength, the Gross Domestic Product per capita, small nations prove to be decidedly advantageous: of the top 20 ranked nations (27 in all including ties), all but eight are small in area, under 35,000 square miles, the global median (the size of South Carolina), and two of those eight include Norway and Sweden, technically large but excluding their empty northern areas effectively small; in other words 77 per cent of the prosperous nations are small.  And most of them are quite small indeed, under 10,000 square miles (Liechtenstein, Qatar, Luxembourg, Bermuda, Kuwait, Jersey, Singapore, Brunei, Guernsey, Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Andorra, San Marino, British Virgin Islands, and Gibraltar).

All this is proof positive that economically successful nations needn’t be large in geographic size, and to the contrary, this is the important point: it is strongly suggestive that large size may in fact be a hindrance. The reason for this is that administrative, distribution, transportation, and similar transaction costs obviously have to rise, perhaps exponentially, as geographic size increases.  Control and communication also become more difficult to manage over long distances, often to the point where central authority and governance become nearly impossible, and as all the lines and signals become more complex the ability to manage efficiently is severely diminished.

Small, let’s face it, is not only beautiful but bountiful.

{Once that important idea is understood, a further logical argument can be derived from it: that in many cases a smallish nation might find it desirable to divide up even farther so as to take advantage of smaller areas for more efficient economic functions.  This might be outright secession in some places, where it would simply be good economic sense—and more,  places where it would make political and cultural good sense as well. But it might also take the form of economic and political devolution, giving smaller areas autonomy and power without outright secession, much as Switzerland is the model of.}

In fact, I wish to propose to you, out of these figures and even moreso out of the history of the world, that there is a Law of Government Size, and it goes like this: Economic and social misery increasers in direct proportion to the size and power of the central government of a nation.

In testing this law in history—Sale’s Law, as I like to think of it—let  let me begin with Arnold Toynbee’s great and justifiably classic study of human civilization, whose primary conclusion is that the next-to-last stage of any society, leading directly to its final stage of collapse, is “its forcible political unification in a centralized state,” and he gives as evidence the Roman Empire, and the Ottoman, Benghal,  and Mongol empires, and the Tokugawa Shogunate, and ultimately the Spanish, British, French, and Portuguese empires.  The consolidation of nations into powerful empires leads not to shining periods of peace and prosperity and the advance of human betterment, but to increasing restriction, warfare, autocracy, crowding, immiseration, inequality, poverty, and starvation.

The reason for all this is not mysterious.  As a government grows, it expands both its bureaucratic might over domestic affairs and its military might over external ones.  Money must be found for this expansion, and it comes either from taxation, which leads to higher prices and ultimately inflation—result, as Mr. Micawber might say, social misery—or from printing new money, which also leads to higher prices and inflation—result, again, social misery.  Wealth is also thought to come from conquest and colonization, enlarging spoils through warfare, but it comes at the price of imposing increased government control and military conscription at home (“War is the health of states,” as Randolph Bourne put it) and increased violence, bloodshed, and misery for one’s own army and civilians and opposing forces abroad.  Result, economic and social misery.

I have detailed much of this in my book Human Scale (available on request from New Catalyst Books),  but let me just give a capsulated version here, concentrating on Europe.  There have been four major periods of great state consolidation and enlargement in the last thousand years:

1.From 1150 to 1300 AD, with the establishment of royal dynasties replacing medieval baronies and city states in England, Aquitaine, Sicily, Aragon, and Castile, resulting in rampant inflation of nearly 400 percent and almost incessant wars, with increasing battle casualties from a few hundred to more than 1 million.

2. From 1525 to 1650, with the consolidation of national power through standing armies, royal taxation, central banks, civilian bureaucracies, and state religions, saw an inflation rate of more than 700 per cent in just 125 years and an unprecedented expansion of wars, a war intensity seven times greater than Europe had seen before, warfare casualties increasing to maybe 8 million, maybe 5 million in the Thirty Years War alone.

3. From 1775 to 1815, the period of modern state government over most of Europe, including national police forces, conscripted armies, centralized state power a la the Code Napoleon, there was an inflation rate of more than 250 per cent in just 40 years, in 1815 the highest at any time until 1920s, and war casualties up to 15 million (maybe 5 million in the Napoleonic Wars) in that short period.

Finally, in period 4, from 1910 to 1970, familiar to us, all European nations consolidated and expanded power, known in many places as totalitarianism (though known in the U.S., though we had all the components of totalitarianism–consolidated central power, national bank, income tax, national police, conscription, imperial presidency– known as freedom and democracy), resulting in the worst depression in history and inflation of 1400 per cent, and of course the two most ruinous wars in all human history contributing to casualties, mostly deaths, of 100 million or more.

Conclusion inevitable: the larger the state, the more economic disaster and military casualties.  The Law of Government Size.

Now that we have established the virtue of smallness worldwide, let’s apply these figures to the United States and see what it tells us.

Of the 50 states, just over half (29) are below  5 million people.  Half the population lives in 40 states that average out to 3.7 million people; the other half is in the 10 largest states.  There are 10 states and one colony in the 3-to-5 million population class that I’m suggesting would be ideal secession candidates—Iowa, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Colorado, and Mississippi—another 13 between 1 to 3 million—Montana, Rhode Island, Hawai’i, New Hampshire, Maine, Idaho, Nebraska, West Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Kansas, and Arkansas—and another eight below a million but larger than Iceland, and that includes beloved Vermont.In other words,  30 of the states (plus Puerto Rico) fall in a range where similar sizes in the rest of the world have produced successful independent nations.  Those are the candidates for successful secession.

Add to that the lessons from geographic size.  We’ve already seen that 84 political areas in the world are smaller than Vermont, the second smallest U.S. state.  Now let’s see how the states measure up to the world figures.  The median size of U.S. state area is roughly 58,000 square miles—25 states are smaller than that, 25 bigger.  If all of those under 58,000 were independent, they would match 79 other nations in the world, among them Greece, Nicaragua, Iceland, Hungary, Portugal, Austria, Czech Republic, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Taiwan.  In other words, size is no hindrance whatsoever to successfully operating as a nation in the world—and, as I’ve suggested,  small size seems indeed to be a virtue.

It needn’t be all about population or geographic sizes–one might factor in cultural cohesion, developed infrastructure, historical identity, and suchlike– but that certainly seems to me to be the sensible place to start when considering viable states.  And since the experience of the world has shown—indeed, over and over again in the formation of nations since the 19th century—that entities in the 3 to 5 million range may be optimum for governance and efficiency, and some within a 1-to-7 million range,  that is how to begin assessing bodies for their secessionist potential and their chances of national success.

I hope all this is Aristotelian examination is not regarded as a mere academic exercise, though a great deal of exercise, I assure you, has gone into it.  I believe that it establishes something in the way of propellant impetus for Americans who understand that their national government (no oxymoron intended) is broke and can’t be fixed (there were 70 per cent of them in a national poll not long ago), and who realize that the only hope to re-energize American politics and recreate the vibrant collection of democracies that the founding generation of the 18th century envisioned, is to create truly sovereign states through peaceful, popular, powerful secession.

Let me underscore that conclusion: the only hope is secession.

MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE PAPER X February 6, 2010

“The Secession Solution” by Kirkpatrick Sale

Aristotle declared that there should be a limit to the size of states. But really, what did he know? He lived at a time when the entire population of the world was somewhere around 50 million—about the size of England today. Athens, where he lived, would have been under 100,000 people. He couldn’t even imagine a world (ours) of 6.8 billion, or a city (Tokyo) of 36 mil­­lion. How is he going to help us?

He, at least, knew this much:

“Experience shows that a very populous city can rarely, if ever, be well governed; since all cities which have a reputation for good government have a limit of population. We may argue on grounds of reason, and the same result will follow: for law is order, and good law is good order; but a very great multitude cannot be orderly.”

So political units, Aristotle said, have to be limited. And it is with that understanding that we now may start contemplating what in today’s world would constitute the ideal, or optimum, size of a political state.

This is not some sort of idle philosopher’s quest but the foundation of a serious reordering of our political landscape, and a reordering such as the process of secession—indeed, only the process of secession—could provide. The U.S. provides abundant evidence that a state as large as 310 million people is ungovernable. One scholar recently said that we are in the fourth decade of the U.S. Congress’ inability to pass a single measure of social consequence. Bloated and corrupted beyond its ability to address any of the problems it has created as an empire, it is a blatant failure. So what could replace it, and at what size? The answer is the independent states of America.

Let us start by looking at modern nations to give us some clue as to population sizes that actually work.

Among the nations that are recognized models of statecraft, eight are below 500,000—Luxembourg, Malta, Iceland, Barbados, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, and San Marino.

Of the 14 states generally reckoned freest in the world, 9 have populations below Switzerland’s, at 7.7 million, and 11 below Sweden’s, at 9.3 million; the only sizable states are Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany (the largest, at 81 mil­­lion).There are other national rankings. Literacy: Of the 46 countries that claim a literacy rate of 99 or better, 25 are below 7.5 million. Health: Measured by the World Health Organization, 9 of the top 20 are under 7 million. In 2009 rankings of happiness and standard of living, the top countries were Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland, Denmark, Austria, and Finland; all but Canada and Australia have small populations.

Enough of that. The point, I trust, is well and simply made. The figures seem to suggest that there is an optimum size of a successful state, somewhere in the range of 3 million to 5 million people.

Surprisingly, a great many countries are also modest in geographic terms—underlining the point, often missed by critics of secession, that a nation does not have to be self-sufficient to operate well in the modern world. In fact, there are 85 countries out of the 195 counted by the United Nations that are under 10,000 square miles—that is to say, the size of Vermont or smaller.

And if we measure economic strength by per capita GDP, small countries prove to be decidedly advantageous. Seventy-seven percent of the most prosperous countries are small. And most of them are quite small indeed: under 10,000 square miles.

Administrative, distribution, transportation, and similar transaction costs obviously rise, perhaps exponentially, as geographic size increases. Control and communication also become more difficult to manage over long distances, often to the point where central authority and governance become nearly impossible.

 

I propose that, out of these figures and even more so out of the history of the world, results a Law of Government Size, and it goes like this: Economic and social misery increase in direct proportion to the size and power of the central government of a nation.

The consolidation of nations into power­ful empires leads not to shining periods of peace and prosperity and the advance of human betterment, but to increasing restriction, warfare, autocracy, crowding, immiseration, inequality, poverty, and starvation.

Small, then, is not only beautiful but also bountiful.

How does all of this apply to the United States today?

Of the 50 states, 29 have populations below 5 million people. Eight states and a colony in the 3 million to 5 million population class would be ideal secession candidates: Iowa, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Alabama. Twelve—Rhode Island, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, Idaho, Nebraska, West Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Kansas, and Arkansas—have between 1 million and 3 million people, and seven, including Vermont, have fewer than 1 million people but more than Iceland.

The argument for secession need not focus exclusively on population or geographic size—one might factor in cultural cohesion, developed infrastructure, historical identity—but that seems to be the sensible place to start in considering viable states. And since the experience of the world has shown that populations ranging from 3 mil­lion to 5 million are optimal for governance and efficiency, that is as good a measure as any to use to begin assessing secessionist potential and chances of success as independent states.

The only hope for reenergizing American politics is to create truly sovereign states through peaceful, popular, powerful secession.

Originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Chronicles magazine.

“The Case for American Secession: Still a Good Idea” by Kirkpatrick Sale

There has always been talk about secession in this country by those variously disgruntled on both the right and left, but, since the last presidential election, which revealed deep-seated divisions in American society over a variety of fundamental issues, that talk has grown exponentially. Such talk is not likely to lead to a dissolution of this country into separate states or regions, but that is by no means inconceivable. The issue should be taken seriously and examined carefully.

The first question is whether secession is legal—whether the Constitution can be read, and history cited, as permitting (or at least not forbidding) a state to declare its independence from the Union. Scholars have come down on both sides of this issue, but that fact alone suggests that there is a legitimate argument to be made. To put it simply: The Tenth Amendment reserves powers not delegated to the United States to the states or the people, so states may act unless specifically prohibited. The Constitution in fact says nothing about secession, and, as Southern states were seceding, Congress considered an amendment forbidding secession—a strong indication that secession is permissible. Three of the original thirteen states (Rhode Island, New York, and Virginia) kept an explicit right to secede when they joined the Union, and, since that was never challenged or questioned, it must be a right that all states enjoy. In the 19th century, before South Carolina began the bandwagon of secession in 1860, seven states (Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Georgia, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Vermont) enacted acts of nullification—refusing to recognize some or all of the powers of the federal government—without any retaliation by Washington.

Of course, Lincoln’s government acted as if secession were illegal and unconstitutional, and its victory established the practical case that states will be punished if they try to secede, and the Constitution is irrelevant. It did not establish a legal case, however, and the legal (not to mention moral) argument for the right to secede remains strong—so strong that, even if it were denied in the U.S. courts, it would likely be defended in the court of international opinion by many of the world’s nations, including those in the European Union and those that have recently exercised that right (in the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia, for example). And that might make it difficult for the federal government to act against a state that has voted for secession, particularly if there were no overriding moral issues (e.g., slavery) and the state proved agreeable to negotiation over federal property and assets within its boundaries.

A second question arises over whether the U.S. government could allow a state (or a group of states) to secede, if this action threatened its sovereignty and power over the remaining states. The federal government might not want to let California go, for fear that Cascadia (Oregon and Washington) and New England (and who knows how many disgruntled others?) would follow suit. If it still had the military means and the loyalty of the remaining troops, it might be expected to contrive a way (a Gulf of Tonkin or WMD excuse) to justify an invasion.

And yet, it is hard to believe that Washington would actually command its troops to mow down Los Angelenos and San Franciscans the way they do the civilians of Fallujah and Najaf, or withstand the barrage of criticism, domestic and international, if it did. Such an act would more likely propel additional secessions than gain support. It is harder still to think that the troops would actually carry out such an order, killing (ex-)Americans on (ex-)American territory. And if the troops did actually succeed in conquering and occupying an independent state, the population would be virtually uncontrollable: If it is not possible to win the hearts and minds of Vietnamese and Iraqis by invasion, think how much less possible it would be to win over people who had voted for secession with the full knowledge that it might lead to war.

It is not fantastic, then, to imagine that, instead of a futile war, Washington would be willing to negotiate a settlement in the hopes that, by giving concessions on, say, autonomy and self-regulation and by demonstrating the extent of federal dollars lost, it could win a secessionist state back into the Union. In some cases, that might well happen, and, if it failed, it would at least show a government intelligent and confident enough to act as a future ally rather than a marauding warmonger. And as an ally, it might be able to establish diplomatic and trade ties that would allow it to continue using such resources and talents of the new state as it wanted, perhaps even the bases it had previously used—with the additional benefit of no longer having to maintain federal offices, regulators, highways, parks, dams, and such, and even presumably with a negotiated fee in compensation for these lost assets.

There is another strategy that a federal government determined to quash secession might take that involves no troops, no war—nothing but a few phone calls. Washington might put pressure on large chain operations—Wal-Mart, Target, McDonald’s, General Motors, Gannett, etc.—to cease doing business in the secessionist state, lest the feds make things difficult for them in all the others. And, unless the secession is so widespread that more states are out than in (a highly unlikely scenario), the corporations will comply. Would such a threat cut the legs out from under a secessionist state and force it to come crawling back to the Union? I think not, for several reasons.

First, a seceding state would already be working toward self-sufficiency in a great many areas and have developed trading links with other nations for those goods and services it could not provide for locally. Such self-sufficiency would have to be carefully planned for and be seen generally as workable and desirable, but, if the secessionist movement did its homework and selling right, it could make local development out to be a deeply patriotic, and possibly profitable, act. Like Japan historically, and a number of other states more recently, a seceding state would adopt a tactic that Jane Jacobs has called “import replacement”—the building of bicycles at home, recycling the metals and materials from the dumps and by the wayside, instead of buying them from abroad. It would certainly not be able to offer bikes for sale as cheaply as Wal-Mart does, at least at first, but it would put many more people to work per bike and strengthen its economy in ways that would eventually enable its people to buy the more expensive product. Imagine this going on for a host of other goods across the state, replacing those that can be made by intelligent recycling and manufacturing; refitting and reusing others; developing handicrafts as a substitute for machinery to create others; refusing to make those that are pointless, wasteful, environmentally harmful, or costly; and foregoing many that turn out, after a while, to be unnecessary or undesirable. Wal-Mart not only wouldn’t be missed but would, upon reflection, be seen as having been a foolish enterprise that foisted too much needless “stuff,” in too many useless varieties, of too shoddy a manufacture, with too many added-in transportation costs, on a gullible and malleable public. Those citizens who really missed the big chain stores would stoically bear that burden as good and loyal patriots.

A second reason that the economic threat would not have much force is that the new state might well start out with more money in its coffers because it would not have to pay federal income, gasoline, telephone, and other taxes; 17 states (12 of them “blue,” interestingly enough) now pay more to the federal government than they get back in federal benefits. California got back just 78 cents in benefits for every dollar she sent to Washington in 2003 (according to the Tax Foundation) and, as the independent Republic of California, would thereby have an extra 22 cents in her pocket for every dollar. That would have meant, in 2004, that the citizens would have kept $88 million that could have been used for local projects.

Of course, not every state is California, and the attempt at some sort of economic independence would work out differently in different places. If a state could not survive on its own economically, it would be very foolish for its people to launch a secessionist movement. A great many states could be economically viable on their own, however, by establishing trade with outside nations, including the United States and Canada. The necessity of economic survival is a very fertile mother, and, like many small nations, an independent state could find ways of making itself useful in the economic world; indeed, some of the richest nations—Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Cayman Islands, Iceland, Belgium, San Marino, and Singapore—are among the smallest (and that is leaving aside the Persian Gulf oil states).

The last reason for being optimistic about small-state viability and the nullity of the Wal-Mart strategy has to be viewed in the context of the economic future of the United States. I happen to be among the growing band of people who believe that extremely difficult times lie ahead—in the nearer rather than further future—as a combination of crises and calamities pushes us to a completely new kind of society. They include the dwindling of cheap oil supplies (which already seems to have begun) and skyrocketing gasoline prices; the collapse of the value of the dollar from the spiraling trade deficit and national debt; the bursting of the real-estate bubble; the effect of global warming on agriculture and fisheries; the rise of sea levels; the spread of diseases old and new; the increase in severe weather (of which Katrina is a foretaste); the diminution of fresh water; the exhaustion of tropical forests; the erosion of arable soils; the continued pollution of air and water; the depletion of mineral resources; and the whole impact of human activity on the global environment.

As a result of all that—or, indeed, of any of several parts of that—the national economy will have to transform itself. What follows will, in fact, be less a national than a local economy, particularly as gasoline supplies diminish and become prohibitively expensive and the dollar becomes an increasingly irrelevant measure of worth. James Howard Kunstler, whose new book, The Long Emergency, demonstrates the likelihood of just such a future, writes that it will require us to downscale and re-scale virtually everything we do and how we do it, from the kind of communities we physically inhabit to the way we grow our food to the way we work and trade the products of our work. . . . Anything organized on the large scale, whether it is government or a corporate business enterprise such as Wal-Mart, will wither as the cheap energy props that support bigness fall away.

And then a small, independent state, which can be more or less buffered from the national emergency and dependent on a relatively self-sufficient economy, makes a lot of sense.

That might be the best argument for secession. If the future is going to be anything like what we alarmists are saying, there would seem to be a need to establish small-scale institutions and enterprises and trading circles as soon as possible, along with revivified community enterprises and cottage craftsmanship, and a statewide level suggests itself as the appropriate scale. And if that can be done in connection with political and cultural independence, such economic independence makes a powerful and attractive package—even, perhaps, a necessary one.

This country simply is not working right—as both the war in Iraq and the bumbling of Katrina (at all levels) make clear—and its corruption and inefficiency are harmful to the bulk of the population. The federal government, aside from being bureaucracy bound and politically hamstrung, is too big and complicated and inherently incompetent, and its attempt to provide for 280 million people and maintain a global empire of 725 military bases has proved to be impossible, placing terrible political and financial burdens on everyone. Secession would allow states to escape this Leviathan, keep their human and financial resources from going down the rathole, avoid association with the failed politics of an ugly empire, and set their own policies (on same-sex “marriage,” abortion, stem-cell research, etc.) without interference from a distant central government increasingly in the hands of corporate interests and neoconservative ideologues. It would allow a blue state a chance to escape from the policies and culture of a red-state government and set its own course. It would, in short, allow people to leave the country they dislike without leaving the homes they cherish. What could make more sense?

Originally appeared in the November 2005 issue of Chronicles magazine.

“Anarchism” from the Encyclopedia Britannica” by Peter Kropotkin

ANARCHISM (from the Gr. an, and archos, contrary to authority), the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government — harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being. In a society developed on these lines, the voluntary associations which already now begin to cover all the fields of human activity would take a still greater extension so as to substitute themselves for the state in all its functions. They would represent an interwoven network, composed of an infinite variety of groups and federations of all sizes and degrees, local, regional, national and international temporary or more or less permanent — for all possible purposes: production, consumption and exchange, communications, sanitary arrangements, education, mutual protection, defence of the territory, and so on; and, on the other side, for the satisfaction of an ever-increasing number of scientific, artistic, literary and sociable needs. Moreover, such a society would represent nothing immutable. On the contrary — as is seen in organic life at large — harmony would (it is contended) result from an ever-changing adjustment and readjustment of equilibrium between the multitudes of forces and influences, and this adjustment would be the easier to obtain as none of the forces would enjoy a special protection from the state.

If, it is contended, society were organized on these principles, man would not be limited in the free exercise of his powers in productive work by a capitalist monopoly, maintained by the state; nor would he be limited in the exercise of his will by a fear of punishment, or by obedience towards individuals or metaphysical entities, which both lead to depression of initiative and servility of mind. He would be guided in his actions by his own understanding, which necessarily would bear the impression of a free action and reaction between his own self and the ethical conceptions of his surroundings. Man would thus be enabled to obtain the full development of all his faculties, intellectual, artistic and moral, without being hampered by overwork for the monopolists, or by the servility and inertia of mind of the great number. He would thus be able to reach full individualization, which is not possible either under the present system of individualism, or under any system of state socialism in the so-called Volkstaat (popular state).

The anarchist writers consider, moreover, that their conception is not a utopia, constructed on the a priori method, after a few desiderata have been taken as postulates. It is derived, they maintain, from an analysis of tendencies that are at work already, even though state socialism may find a temporary favour with the reformers. The progress of modern technics, which wonderfully simplifies the production of all the necessaries of life; the growing spirit of independence, and the rapid spread of free initiative and free understanding in all branches of activity — including those which formerly were considered as the proper attribution of church and state — are steadily reinforcing the no-government tendency.

As to their economical conceptions, the anarchists, in common with all socialists, of whom they constitute the left wing, maintain that the now prevailing system of private ownership in land, and our capitalist production for the sake of profits, represent a monopoly which runs against both the principles of justice and the dictates of utility. They are the main obstacle which prevents the successes of modern technics from being brought into the service of all, so as to produce general well-being. The anarchists consider the wage-system and capitalist production altogether as an obstacle to progress. But they point out also that the state was, and continues to be, the chief instrument for permitting the few to monopolize the land, and the capitalists to appropriate for themselves a quite disproportionate share of the yearly accumulated surplus of production. Consequently, while combating the present monopolization of land, and capitalism altogether, the anarchists combat with the same energy the state, as the main support of that system. Not this or that special form, but the state altogether, whether it be a monarchy or even a republic governed by means of the referendum.

The state organization, having always been, both in ancient and modern history (Macedonian Empire, Roman Empire, modern European states grown up on the ruins of the autonomous cities), the instrument for establishing monopolies in favour of the ruling minorities, cannot be made to work for the destruction of these monopolies. The anarchists consider, therefore, that to hand over to the state all the main sources of economical life — the land, the mines, the railways, banking, insurance, and so on — as also the management of all the main branches of industry, in addition to all the functions already accumulated in its hands (education, state-supported religions, defence of the territory, etc.), would mean to create a new instrument of tyranny. State capitalism would only increase the powers of bureaucracy and capitalism. True progress lies in the direction of decentralization, both territorial and functional, in the development of the spirit of local and personal initiative, and of free federation from the simple to the compound, in lieu of the present hierarchy from the centre to the periphery.

In common with most socialists, the anarchists recognize that, like all evolution in nature, the slow evolution of society is followed from time to time by periods of accelerated evolution which are called revolutions; and they think that the era of revolutions is not yet closed. Periods of rapid changes will follow the periods of slow evolution, and these periods must be taken advantage of — not for increasing and widening the powers of the state, but for reducing them, through the organization in every township or commune of the local groups of producers and consumers, as also the regional, and eventually the international, federations of these groups.

In virtue of the above principles the anarchists refuse to be party to the present state organization and to support it by infusing fresh blood into it. They do not seek to constitute, and invite the working men not to constitute, political parties in the parliaments. Accordingly, since the foundation of the International Working Men’s Association in 1864-1866, they have endeavoured to promote their ideas directly amongst the labour organizations and to induce those unions to a direct struggle against capital, without placing their faith in parliamentary legislation.

The historical development of anarchism

The conception of society just sketched, and the tendency which is its dynamic expression, have always existed in mankind, in opposition to the governing hierarchic conception and tendency — now the one and now the other taking the upper hand at different periods of history. To the former tendency we owe the evolution, by the masses themselves, of those institutions — the clan, the village community, the guild, the free medieval city — by means of which the masses resisted the encroachments of the conquerors and the power-seeking minorities. The same tendency asserted itself with great energy in the great religious movements of medieval times, especially in the early movements of the reform and its forerunners. At the same time it evidently found its expression in the writings of some thinkers, since the times of Lao-tsze, although, owing to its non-scholastic and popular origin, it obviously found less sympathy among the scholars than the opposed tendency.

As has been pointed out by Prof. Adler in his Geschichte des Sozialismus und Kommunismus, Aristippus (430 BC), one of the founders of the Cyrenaic school, already taught that the wise must not give up their liberty to the state, and in reply to a question by Socrates he said that he did not desire to belong either to the governing or the governed class. Such an attitude, however, seems to have been dictated merely by an Epicurean attitude towards the life of the masses.

The best exponent of anarchist philosophy in ancient Greece was Zeno (342-267 or 270 BC), from Crete, the founder of the Stoic philosophy, who distinctly opposed his conception of a free community without government to the state-utopia of Plato. He repudiated the omnipotence of the state, its intervention and regimentation, and proclaimed the sovereignty of the moral law of the individual — remarking already that, while the necessary instinct of self-preservation leads man to egotism, nature has supplied a corrective to it by providing man with another instinct — that of sociability. When men are reasonable enough to follow their natural instincts, they will unite across the frontiers and constitute the cosmos. They will have no need of law-courts or police, will have no temples and no public worship, and use no money — free gifts taking the place of the exchanges. Unfortunately, the writings of Zeno have not reached us and are only known through fragmentary quotations. However, the fact that his very wording is similar to the wording now in use, shows how deeply is laid the tendency of human nature of which he was the mouthpiece.

In medieval times we find the same views on the state expressed by the illustrious bishop of Alba, Marco Girolamo Vida, in his first dialogue De dignitate reipublicae (Ferd. Cavalli, in Mem. dell’Istituto Veneto, xiii.; Dr E. Nys, Researches in the History of Economics). But it is especially in several early Christian movements, beginning with the ninth century in Armenia, and in the preachings of the early Hussites, particularly Chojecki, and the early Anabaptists, especially Hans Denk (cf. Keller, Ein Apostel der Wiedertaufer), that one finds the same ideas forcibly expressed — special stress being laid of course on their moral aspects.

Rabelais and Fenelon, in their utopias, have also expressed similar ideas, and they were also current in the eighteenth century amongst the French Encyclopaedists, as may be concluded from separate expressions occasionally met with in the writings of Rousseau, from Diderot’s Preface to the Voyage of Bougainville, and so on. However, in all probability such ideas could not be developed then, owing to the rigorous censorship of the Roman Catholic Church.

These ideas found their expression later during the great French Revolution. While the Jacobins did all in their power to centralize everything in the hands of the government, it appears now, from recently published documents, that the masses of the people, in their municipalities and `sections’, accomplished a considerable constructive work. They appropriated for themselves the election of the judges, the organization of supplies and equipment for the army, as also for the large cities, work for the unemployed, the management of charities, and so on. They even tried to establish a direct correspondence between the 36,000 communes of France through the intermediary of a special board, outside the National Assembly (cf. Sigismund Lacroix, Actes de la commune de Paris).

It was Godwin, in his Enquiry concerning Political Justice (2 vols., 1793), who was the first to formulate the political and economical conceptions of anarchism, even though he did not give that name to the ideas developed in his remarkable work. Laws, he wrote, are not a product of the wisdom of our ancestors: they are the product of their passions, their timidity, their jealousies and their ambition. The remedy they offer is worse than the evils they pretend to cure. If and only if all laws and courts were abolished, and the decisions in the arising contests were left to reasonable men chosen for that purpose, real justice would gradually be evolved. As to the state, Godwin frankly claimed its abolition. A society, he wrote, can perfectly well exist without any government: only the communities should be small and perfectly autonomous. Speaking of property, he stated that the rights of every one `to every substance capable of contributing to the benefit of a human being’ must be regulated by justice alone: the substance must go `to him who most wants it’. His conclusion was communism. Godwin, however, had not the courage to maintain his opinions. He entirely rewrote later on his chapter on property and mitigated his communist views in the second edition of Political Justice (8vo, 1796).

Proudhon was the first to use, in 1840 (Qu’est-ce que la propriete? first memoir), the name of anarchy with application to the no government state of society. The name of `anarchists’ had been freely applied during the French Revolution by the Girondists to those revolutionaries who did not consider that the task of the Revolution was accomplished with the overthrow of Louis XVI, and insisted upon a series of economical measures being taken (the abolition of feudal rights without redemption, the return to the village communities of the communal lands enclosed since 1669, the limitation of landed property to 120 acres, progressive income-tax, the national organization of exchanges on a just value basis, which already received a beginning of practical realization, and so on).

Now Proudhon advocated a society without government, and used the word anarchy to describe it. Proudhon repudiated, as is known, all schemes of communism, according to which mankind would be driven into communistic monasteries or barracks, as also all the schemes of state or state-aided socialism which were advocated by Louis Blanc and the collectivists. When he proclaimed in his first memoir on property that `Property is theft’, he meant only property in its present, Roman-law, sense of `right of use and abuse'; in property-rights, on the other hand, understood in the limited sense of possession, he saw the best protection against the encroachments of the state. At the same time he did not want violently to dispossess the present owners of land, dwelling-houses, mines, factories and so on. He preferred to attain the same end by rendering capital incapable of earning interest; and this he proposed to obtain by means of a national bank, based on the mutual confidence of all those who are engaged in production, who would agree to exchange among themselves their produces at cost-value, by means of labour cheques representing the hours of labour required to produce every given commodity. Under such a system, which Proudhon described as `Mutuellisme’, all the exchanges of services would be strictly equivalent. Besides, such a bank would be enabled to lend money without interest, levying only something like I per cent, or even less, for covering the cost of administration. Everyone being thus enabled to borrow the money that would be required to buy a house, nobody would agree to pay any more a yearly rent for the use of it. A general `social liquidation’ would thus be rendered easy, without violent expropriation. The same applied to mines, railways, factories and so on.

In a society of this type the state would be useless. The chief relations between citizens would be based on free agreement and regulated by mere account keeping. The contests might be settled by arbitration. A penetrating criticism of the state and all possible forms of government, and a deep insight into all economic problems, were well-known characteristics of Proudhon’s work.

It is worth noticing that French mutualism had its precursor in England, in William Thompson, who began by mutualism before he became a communist, and in his followers John Gray (A Lecture on Human Happiness, 1825; The Social System, 1831) and J. F. Bray (Labour’s Wrongs and Labour’s Remedy, 1839). It had also its precursor in America. Josiah Warren, who was born in 1798 (cf. W. Bailie, Josiah Warren, the First American Anarchist, Boston, 1900), and belonged to Owen’s `New Harmony’, considered that the failure of this enterprise was chiefly due to the suppression of individuality and the lack of initiative and responsibility. These defects, he taught, were inherent to every scheme based upon authority and the community of goods. He advocated, therefore, complete individual liberty. In 1827 he opened in Cincinnati a little country store which was the first `equity store’, and which the people called `time store’, because it was based on labour being exchanged hour for hour in all sorts of produce. `Cost — the limit of price’, and consequently `no interest’, was the motto of his store, and later on of his `equity village’, near New York, which was still in existence in 1865. Mr Keith’s `House of Equity’ at Boston, founded in 1855, is also worthy of notice.

While the economical, and especially the mutual-banking, ideas of Proudhon found supporters and even a practical application in the United States, his political conception of anarchy found but little echo in France, where the Christian socialism of Lamennais and the Fourierists, and the state socialism of Louis Blanc and the followers of Saint-Simon, were dominating. These ideas found, however, some temporary support among the left-wing Hegelians in Germany, Moses Hess in 1843, and Karl Grün in 1845, who advocated anarchism. Besides, the authoritarian communism of Wilhelm Weitling having given origin to opposition amongst the Swiss working men, Wilhelm Marr gave expression to it in the forties.

On the other side, individualist anarchism found, also in Germany, its fullest expression in Max Stirner (Kaspar Schmidt), whose remarkable works (Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum and articles contributed to the Rheinische Zeitung) remained quite overlooked until they were brought into prominence by John Henry Mackay.

Prof. V. Basch, in a very able introduction to his interesting book, L’lndividualisme anarchiste: Max Stirner (1904), has shown how the development of the German philosophy from Kant to Hegel, and `the absolute’ of Schelling and the Geist of Hegel, necessarily provoked, when the anti-Hegelian revolt began, the preaching of the same `absolute’ in the camp of the rebels. This was done by Stirner, who advocated, not only a complete revolt against the state and against the servitude which authoritarian communism would impose upon men, but also the full liberation of the individual from all social and moral bonds — the rehabilitation of the `I’, the supremacy of the individual, complete `amoralism’, and the `association of the egotists’. The final conclusion of that sort of individual anarchism has been indicated by Prof. Basch. It maintains that the aim of all superior civilization is, not to permit all members of the community to develop in a normal way, but to permit certain better endowed individuals `fully to develop’, even at the cost of the happiness and the very existence of the mass of mankind. It is thus a return towards the most common individual ism, advocated by all the would-be superior minorities, to which indeed man owes in his history precisely the state and the rest, which these individualists combat. Their individualism goes so far as to end in a negation of their own starting-point — to say nothing of the impossibility for the individual to attain a really full development in the conditions of oppression of the masses by the `beautiful aristocracies’. His development would remain unilateral. This is why this direction of thought, notwithstanding its undoubtedly correct and useful advocacy of the full development of each individuality, finds a hearing only in limited artistic and literary circles.

Anarchism in the International Working Men’s Association

A general depression in the propaganda of all fractions of socialism followed, as is known, after the defeat of the uprising of the Paris working men in June 1848 and the fall of the Republic. All the socialist press was gagged during the reaction period, which lasted fully twenty years. Nevertheless, even anarchist thought began to make some progress, namely in the writings of Bellegarrique (Caeurderoy), and especially Joseph Déjacque (Les Lazareacute’ennes, L `Humanisphère, an anarchist-communist utopia, lately discovered and reprinted). The socialist movement revived only after 1864, when some French working men, all `mutualists’, meeting in London during the Universal Exhibition with English followers of Robert Owen, founded the International Working Men’s Association. This association developed very rapidly and adopted a policy of direct economical struggle against capitalism, without interfering in the political parliamentary agitation, and this policy was followed until 1871. However, after the Franco-German War, when the International Association was prohibited in France after the uprising of the Commune, the German working men, who had received manhood suffrage for elections to the newly constituted imperial parliament, insisted upon modifying the tactics of the International, and began to build up a Social Democratic political party. This soon led to a division in the Working Men’s Association, and the Latin federations, Spanish, Italian, Belgian and Jurassic (France could not be represented), constituted among themselves a Federal union which broke entirely with the Marxist general council of the International. Within these federations developed now what may be described as modern anarchism. After the names of `Federalists’ and `Anti-authoritarians’ had been used for some time by these federations the name of `anarchists’, which their adversaries insisted upon applying to them, prevailed, and finally it was revindicated.

Bakunin (q.v.) soon became the leading spirit among these Latin federations for the development of the principles of anarchism, which he did in a number of writings, pamphlets and letters. He demanded the complete abolition of the state, which — he wrote — is a product of religion, belongs to a lower state of civilization, represents the negation of liberty, and spoils even that which it undertakes to do for the sake of general well-being. The state was an historically necessary evil, but its complete extinction will be, sooner or later, equally necessary. Repudiating all legislation, even when issuing from universal suffrage, Bakunin claimed for each nation, each region and each commune, full autonomy, so long as it is not a menace to its neighbours, and full independence for the individual, adding that one becomes really free only when, and in proportion as, all others are free. Free federations of the communes would constitute free nations.

As to his economical conceptions, Bakunin described himself, in common with his Federalist comrades of the International (César De Paepe, James Guillaume, Schwitzguébel), a `collectivist anarchist’ — not in the sense of Vidal and Pecqueur in the 1840s, or of their modern Social Democratic followers, but to express a state of things in which all necessaries for production are owned in common by the labour groups and the free communes, while the ways of retribution of labour, communist or otherwise, would be settled by each group for itself. Social revolution, the near approach of which was foretold at that time by all socialists, would be the means of bringing into life the new conditions.

The Jurassic, the Spanish and the Italian federations and sections of the International Working Men’s Association, as also the French, the German and the American anarchist groups, were for the next years the chief centres of anarchist thought and propaganda. They refrained from any participation in parliamentary politics, and always kept in close contact with the labour organizations. However, in the second half of the `eighties and the early `nineties of the nineteenth century, when the influence of the anarchists began to be felt in strikes, in the 1st of May demonstrations, where they promoted the idea of a general strike for an eight hours’ day, and in the anti-militarist propaganda in the army, violent prosecutions were directed against them, especially in the Latin countries (including physical torture in the Barcelona Castle) and the United States (the execution of five Chicago anarchists in 1887). Against these prosecutions the anarchists retaliated by acts of violence which in their turn were followed by more executions from above, and new acts of revenge from below. This created in the general public the impression that violence is the substance of anarchism, a view repudiated by its supporters, who hold that in reality violence is resorted to by all parties in proportion as their open action is obstructed by repression, and exceptional laws render them outlaws. (Cf. Anarchism and Outrage, by C. M. Wilson, and Report of the Spanish Atrocities Committee, in `Freedom Pamphlets'; A Concise History of the Great Trial of the Chicago Anarchists, by Dyer Lum (New York, 1886); The Chicago Martyrs: Speeches, etc.).

Anarchism continued to develop, partly in the direction of Proudhonian `mutuellisme’, but chiefly as communist-anarchism, to which a third direction, Christian-anarchism, was added by Leo Tolstoy, and a fourth, which might be ascribed as literary-anarchism, began amongst some prominent modern writers.

The ideas of Proudhon, especially as regards mutual banking, corresponding with those of Josiah Warren, found a considerable following in the United States, creating quite a school, of which the main writers are Stephen Pearl Andrews, William Grene, Lysander Spooner (who began to write in 1850, and whose unfinished work, Natural Law, was full of promise), and several others, whose names will be found in Dr Nettlau’s Bibliographie de l’anarchie.

A prominent position among the individualist anarchists in America has been occupied by Benjamin R. Tucker, whose journal Liberty was started in 1881 and whose conceptions are a combination of those of Proudhon with those of Herbert Spencer. Starting from the statement that anarchists are egotists, strictly speaking, and that every group of individuals, be it a secret league of a few persons, or the Congress of the United States, has the right to oppress all mankind, provided it has the power to do so, that equal liberty for all and absolute equality ought to be the law, and `mind every one your own business’ is the unique moral law of anarchism, Tucker goes on to prove that a general and thorough application of these principles would be beneficial and would offer no danger, because the powers of every individual would be limited by the exercise of the equal rights of all others. He further indicated (following H. Spencer) the difference which exists between the encroachment on somebody’s rights and resistance to such an encroachment; between domination and defence: the former being equally condemnable, whether it be encroachment of a criminal upon an individual, or the encroachment of one upon all others, or of all others upon one; while resistance to encroachment is defensible and necessary. For their self-defence, both the citizen and the group have the right to any violence, including capital punishment. Violence is also justified for enforcing the duty of keeping an agreement. Tucker thus follows Spencer, and, like him, opens (in the present writer’s opinion) the way for reconstituting under the heading of `defence’ all the functions of the state. His criticism of the present state is very searching, and his defence of the rights of the individual very powerful. As regards his economical views B. R. Tucker follows Proudhon.

The individualist anarchism of the American Proudhonians finds, however, but little sympathy amongst the working masses. Those who profess it — they are chiefly `intellectuals’ — soon realize that the individualization they so highly praise is not attainable by individual efforts, and either abandon the ranks of the anarchists, and are driven into the liberal individualism of the classical economist or they retire into a sort of Epicurean amoralism, or superman theory, similar to that of Stirner and Nietzsche. The great bulk of the anarchist working men prefer the anarchist-communist ideas which have gradually evolved out of the anarchist collectivism of the International Working Men’s Association. To this direction belong — to name only the better known exponents of anarchism Elisée Reclus, Jean Grave, Sebastien Faure, Emile Pouget in France; Errico Malatesta and Covelli in Italy; R. Mella, A. Lorenzo, and the mostly unknown authors of many excellent manifestos in Spain; John Most amongst the Germans; Spies, Parsons and their followers in the United States, and so on; while Domela Nieuwenhuis occupies an intermediate position in Holland. The chief anarchist papers which have been published since 1880 also belong to that direction; while a number of anarchists of this direction have joined the so-called syndicalist movement- the French name for the non-political labour movement, devoted to direct struggle with capitalism, which has lately become so prominent in Europe.

As one of the anarchist-communist direction, the present writer for many years endeavoured to develop the following ideas: to show the intimate, logical connection which exists between the modern philosophy of natural sciences and anarchism; to put anarchism on a scientific basis by the study of the tendencies that are apparent now in society and may indicate its further evolution; and to work out the basis of anarchist ethics. As regards the substance of anarchism itself, it was Kropotkin’s aim to prove that communism at least partial — has more chances of being established than collectivism, especially in communes taking the lead, and that free, or anarchist-communism is the only form of communism that has any chance of being accepted in civilized societies; communism and anarchy are therefore two terms of evolution which complete each other, the one rendering the other possible and acceptable. He has tried, moreover, to indicate how, during a revolutionary period, a large city — if its inhabitants have accepted the idea could organize itself on the lines of free communism; the city guaranteeing to every inhabitant dwelling, food and clothing to an extent corresponding to the comfort now available to the middle classes only, in exchange for a half-day’s, or five-hours’ work; and how all those things which would be considered as luxuries might be obtained by everyone if he joins for the other half of the day all sorts of free associations pursuing all possible aims — educational, literary, scientific, artistic, sports and so on. In order to prove the first of these assertions he has analysed the possibilities of agriculture and industrial work, both being combined with brain work. And in order to elucidate the main factors of human evolution, he has analysed the part played in history by the popular constructive agencies of mutual aid and the historical role of the state.

Without naming himself an anarchist, Leo Tolstoy, like his predecessors in the popular religious movements of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Chojecki, Denk and many others, took the anarchist position as regards the state and property rights, deducing his conclusions from the general spirit of the teachings of the Christ and from the necessary dictates of reason. With all the might of his talent he made (especially in The Kingdom of God in Yourselves) a powerful criticism of the church, the state and law altogether, and especially of the present property laws. He describes the state as the domination of the wicked ones, supported by brutal force. Robbers, he says, are far less dangerous than a well-organized government. He makes a searching criticism of the prejudices which are current now concerning the benefits conferred upon men by the church, the state and the existing distribution of property, and from the teachings of the Christ he deduces the rule of non-resistance and the absolute condemnation of all wars. His religious arguments are, however, so well combined with arguments borrowed from a dispassionate observation of the present evils, that the anarchist portions of his works appeal to the religious and the non-religious reader alike.

It would be impossible to represent here, in a short sketch, the penetration, on the one hand, of anarchist ideas into modern literature, and the influence, on the other hand, which the libertarian ideas of the best contemporary writers have exercised upon the development of anarchism. One ought to consult the ten big volumes of the Supplément Littéraire to the paper La Révolte and later the Temps Nouveaux, which contain reproductions from the works of hundreds of modern authors expressing anarchist ideas, in order to realize how closely anarchism is connected with all the intellectual movement of our own times. J. S. Mill’s Liberty, Spencer’s Individual versus the State, Marc Guyau’s Morality without Obligation or Sanction, and Fouillée’s La Morale, I’art et la religion, the works of Multatuli (E. Douwes Dekker), Richard Wagner’s Art and Revolution, the works of Nietzsche, Emerson, W. Lloyd Garrison, Thoreau, Alexander Herzen, Edward Carpenter and so on; and in the domain of fiction, the dramas of Ibsen, the poetry of Walt Whitman, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Zola’s Paris and Le Travail, the latest works of Merezhkovsky, and an infinity of works of less known authors, are full of ideas which show how closely anarchism is interwoven with the work that is going on in modern thought in the same direction of enfranchisement of man from the bonds of the state as well as from those of capitalism.

“Confiscation and the Homestead Principle” by Murray N. Rothbard

Karl Hess’s brilliant and challenging article in this issue raises a problem of specifics that ranges further than the libertarian movement. For example, there must be hundreds of thousands of “professional” anti-Communists in this country. Yet not one of these gentry, in the course of their fulminations, has come up with a specific plan for de-Communization. Suppose, for example, that Messers. Brezhnev and Co. become converted to the principles of a free society; they than [sic] ask our anti-Communists, all right, how do we go about de-socializing? What could our anti-Communists offer them?

This question has been essentially answered by the exciting developments of Tito’s Yugoslavia. Beginning in 1952, Yugoslavia has been de-socializing at a remarkable rate. The principle the Yugoslavs have used is the libertarian “homesteading” one: the state-owned factories to the workers that work in them! The nationalized plants in the “public” sector have all been transferred in virtual ownership to the specific workers who work in the particular plants, thus making them producers’ coops, and moving rapidly in the direction of individual shares of virtual ownership to the individual worker. What other practicable route toward destatization could there be? The principle in the Communist countries should be: land to the peasants and the factories to the workers, thereby getting the property out of the hands of the State and into private, homesteading hands.

The homesteading principle means that the way that unowned property gets into private ownership is by the principle that this property justly belongs to the person who finds, occupies, and transforms it by his labor. This is clear in the case of the pioneer and virgin land. But what of the case of stolen property?

Suppose, for example, that A steals B’s horse. Then C comes along and takes the horse from A. Can C be called a thief? Certainly not, for we cannot call a man a criminal for stealing goods from a thief. On the contrary, C is performing a virtuous act of confiscation, for he is depriving thief A of the fruits of his crime of aggression, and he is at least returning the horse to the innocent “private” sector and out of the “criminal” sector. C has done a noble act and should be applauded. Of course, it would be still better if he returned the horse to B, the original victim. But even if he does not, the horse is far more justly in C’s hands than it is in the hands of A, the thief and criminal.

Let us now apply our libertarian theory of property to the case of property in the hands of, or derived from, the State apparatus. The libertarian sees the State as a giant gang of organized criminals, who live off the theft called “taxation” and use the proceeds to kill, enslave, and generally push people around. Therefore, any property in the hands of the State is in the hands of thieves, and should be liberated as quickly as possible. Any person or group who liberates such property, who confiscates or appropriates it from the State, is performing a virtuous act and a signal service to the cause of liberty. In the case of the State, furthermore, the victim is not readily identifiable as B, the horse-owner. All taxpayers, all draftees, all victims of the State have been mulcted. How to go about returning all this property to the taxpayers? What proportions should be used in this terrific tangle of robbery and injustice that we have all suffered at the hands of the State? Often, the most practical method of de-statizing is simply to grant the moral right of ownership on the person or group who seizes the property from the State. Of this group, the most morally deserving are the ones who are already using the property but who have no moral complicity in the State’s act of aggression. These people then become the “homesteaders” of the stolen property and hence the rightful owners.

Take, for example, the State universities. This is property built on funds stolen from the taxpayers. Since the State has not found or put into effect a way of returning ownership of this property to the taxpaying public, the proper owners of this university are the “homesteaders”, those who have already been using and therefore “mixing their labor” with the facilities. The prime consideration is to deprive the thief, in this case the State, as quickly as possible of the ownership and control of its ill-gotten gains, to return the property to the innocent, private sector. This means student and/or faculty ownership of the universities.

As between the two groups, the students have a prior claim, for the students have been paying at least some amount to support the university whereas the faculty suffer from the moral taint of living off State funds and thereby becoming to some extent a part of the State apparatus.

The same principle applies to nominally “private” property which really comes from the State as a result of zealous lobbying on behalf of the recipient. Columbia University, for example, which receives nearly two-thirds of its income from government, is only a “private” college in the most ironic sense. It deserves a similar fate of virtuous homesteading confiscation.

But if Columbia University, what of General Dynamics? What of the myriad of corporations which are integral parts of the military-industrial complex, which not only get over half or sometimes virtually all their revenue from the government but also participate in mass murder? What are their credentials to “private” property? Surely less than zero. As eager lobbyists for these contracts and subsidies, as co-founders of the garrison state, they deserve confiscation and reversion of their property to the genuine private sector as rapidly as possible. To say that their “private” property must be respected is to say that the property stolen by the horsethief and the murdered [sic] must be “respected”.

But how then do we go about destatizing the entire mass of government property, as well as the “private property” of General Dynamics? All this needs detailed thought and inquiry on the part of libertarians. One method would be to turn over ownership to the homesteading workers in the particular plants; another to turn over pro-rata ownership to the individual taxpayers. But we must face the fact that it might prove the most practical route to first nationalize the property as a prelude to redistribution. Thus, how could the ownership of General Dynamics be transferred to the deserving taxpayers without first being nationalized enroute? And, further more, even if the government should decide to nationalize General Dynamics—without compensation, of course—per se and not as a prelude to redistribution to the taxpayers, this is not immoral or something to be combatted. For it would only mean that one gang of thieves—the government—would be confiscating property from another previously cooperating gang, the corporation that has lived off the government. I do not often agree with John Kenneth Galbraith, but his recent suggestion to nationalize businesses which get more than 75% of their revenue from government, or from the military, has considerable merit. Certainly it does not mean aggression against privateproperty, and, furthermore, we could expect a considerable diminution of zeal from the military-industrial complex if much of the profits were taken out of war and plunder. And besides, it would make the American military machine less efficient, being governmental, and that is surely all to the good. But why stop at 75%? Fifty per cent seems to be a reasonable

cutoff point on whether an organization is largely public or largely private.

And there is another consideration. Dow Chemical, for example, has been heavily criticized for making napalm for the U.S. military machine. The percentage of its sales coming from napalm is undoubtedly small, so that on a percentage basis the company may not seem very guilty; but napalm is and can only be an instrument of mass murder, and therefore Dow Chemical is heavily up to its neck in being an accessory and hence a co-partner in the mass murder in Vietnam. No percentage of sales, however small, can absolve its guilt.

This brings us to Karl’s point about slaves. One of the tragic aspects of the emancipation of the serfs in Russia in 1861 was that while the serfs gained their personal freedom, the land—their means of production and of life, their land was retained under the ownership of their feudal masters. The land should have gone to the serfs themselves, for under the homestead principle they had tilled the land and deserved its title. Furthermore, the serfs were entitled to a host of reparations from their masters for the centuries of oppression and exploitation. The fact that the land remained in the hands of the lords paved the way inexorably for the Bolshevik Revolution, since the revolution that had freed the serfs remained unfinished.

The same is true of the abolition of slavery in the United States. The slaves gained their freedom, it is true, but the land, the plantations that they had tilled and therefore deserved to own under the homestead principle, remained in the hands of their former masters. Furthermore, no reparations were granted the slaves for their oppression out of the hides of their masters. Hence the abolition of slavery remained unfinished, and the seeds of a new revolt have remained to intensify to the present day. Hence, the great importance of the shift in Negro demands from greater welfare handouts to “reparations”, reparations for the years of slavery and exploitation and for the failure to grant the Negroes their land, the failure to heed the Radical abolitionist’s call for “40 acres and a mule” to the former slaves. In many cases, moreover, the old plantations and the heirs and descendants of the former slaves can be identified, and the reparations can become highly specific indeed.

Alan Milchman, in the days when he was a brilliant young libertarian activist, first pointed out that libertarians had misled themselves by making their main dichotomy “government” vs. “private” with the former bad and the latter good. Government, he pointed out, is after all not a mystical entity but a group of individuals, “private” individuals if you will, acting in the manner of an organized criminal gang. But this means that there may also be “private” criminals as well as people directly affiliated with the government. What we libertarians object to, then, is not government per se but crime, what we object to is unjust or criminal property titles; what we are for is not “private” property per se but just, innocent, non-criminal private property. It is justice vs. injustice, innocence vs. criminality that must be our major libertarian focus.

Originally appeared in The Libertarian Forum Vol. 1, No. 6, June 15, 1969

“Where Are the Specifics?” by Karl Hess

Libertarianism is clearly the most, perhaps the only truly radical movement in America. It grasps the problems of society by the roots. It is not reformist in any sense. It is revolutionary in every sense.

Because so many of its people, however, have come from the right there remains about it at least an aura or, perhaps, miasma of defensiveness, as though its interests really center in, for instance, defending private property. The truth, of course, is that libertarianism wants to advance principles of property but that it in no way wishes to defend, willy nilly, all property which now is called private.

Much of that property is stolen. Much is of dubious title. All of it is deeply intertwined with an immoral, coercive state system which has condoned, built on, and profited from slavery; has expanded through and exploited a brutal and aggressive imperial and colonial foreign policy, and continues to hold the people in a roughly serf-master relationship to political-economic power concentrations.

Libertarians are concerned, first and foremost, with that most valuable of properties, the life of each individual. That is the property most brutally and constantly abused by state systems whether they are of the right or left. Property rights pertaining to material objects are seen by libertarians as stemming from and as importantly secondary to the right to own, direct, and enjoy one’s own life and those appurtenances thereto which may be acquired without coercion.

Libertarians, in short, simply do not believe that theft is proper whether it is committed in the name of a state, a class, a crises, a credo, or a cliche.

This is a far cry from sharing common ground with those who want to create a society in which super capitalists are free to amass vast holdings and who say that that is ultimately the most important purpose of freedom. This is proto-heroic nonsense.

Libertarianism is a people’s movement and a liberation movement. It seeks the sort of open, non-coercive society in which the people, the living, free, distinct people may voluntarily associate, dis-associate, and, as they see fit, participate in the decisions affecting their lives. This means a truly free market in everything from ideas to idiosyncrasies. It means people free collectively to organize the resources of their immediate community or individualistically to organize them; it means the freedom to have a community-based and supported judiciary where wanted, none where not, or private arbitration services where that is seen as most desirable. The same with police. The same with schools, hospitals, factories, farms, laboratories, parks, and pensions. Liberty means the right to shape your own institutions. It opposes the right of those institutions to shape you simply because of accreted power or gerontological status.

For many, however, these root principles of radical libertarianism will remain mere abstractions, and even suspect, until they are developed into aggressive, specific proposals.

There is scarcely anything radical about, for instance, those who say that the poor should have a larger share of the Federal budget. That is reactionary, asking that the institution of state theft be made merely more palatable by distributing its loot to more sympathetic persons. Perhaps no one of sound mind could object more to giving Federal funds to poor people than to spending the money on the slaughter of Vietnamese peasant fighters. But to argue such relative merits must end being simply reformist and not revolutionary.

Libertarians could and should propose specific revolutionary tactics and goals which would have specific meaning to poor people and to all people; to analyze in depth and to demonstrate in example the meaning of liberty, revolutionary liberty to them.

I, for one, earnestly beseech such thinking from my comrades.

The proposals should take into account the revolutionary treatment of stolen ‘private’ and ‘public’ property in libertarian, radical, and revolutionary terms; the factors which have oppressed people so far, and so forth. Murray Rothbard and others have done much theoretical work along these lines but it can never be enough for just a few to shoulder so much of the burden.

Let me propose just a few examples of the sort of specific, revolutionary and radical questions to which members of our Movement might well address themselves.

—Land ownership and/or usage in a situation of declining state power. The Tijerina situation suggests one approach. There must be many others. And what about (realistically, not romantically) water and air pollution liability and prevention?

—Worker, share-owner, community roles or rights in productive facilities in terms of libertarian analysis and as specific proposals in a radical and revolutionary context. What, for instance, might or should happen to General Motors in a liberated society?

Of particular interest, to me at any rate, is focusing libertarian analysis and ingenuity on finishing the great unfinished business of the abolition of slavery. Simply setting slaves free, in a world still owned by their masters, obviously was an historic inequity. (Libertarians hold that the South should have been permitted to secede so that the slaves themselves, along with their Northern friends, could have built a revolutionary liberation movement, overthrown the masters, and thus shaped the reparations of revolution.) Thoughts of reparations today are clouded by concern that it would be taken out against innocent persons who in no way could be connected to former oppression. There is an area where that could be avoided: in the use of government-‘owned’ lands and facilities as items of exchange in compensating the descendants of slaves and making it possible for them to participate in the communities of the land, finally, as equals and not wards.

Somewhere, I must assume, there is a libertarian who, sharing the idea, might work out a good and consistent proposal for justice in that area.

Obviously the list is endless. But the point is finite and finely focused.

With libertarianism now developing as a Movement, it earnestly and urgently requires innovative proposals, radical and specific goals, and a revolutionary agenda which can translate its great and enduring principles into timely and commanding courses of possible and even practical action.

“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.”

—Thomas Jefferson, 1787

 

Originally appeared in The Libertarian Forum Vol. 1, No. 6, June 15, 1969

“Conservative Libertarianism” by Karl Hess

Libertarianism has managed to develop its own form of counter-revolutionary conservatism. Its future as a movement, much less as an influence on future social change, could be crushed by it if unopposed and unanalyzed.

Underlying this conservatism are an undying and undeniable respect for institutionalized, traditional injustice, as opposed to possible future injustice, and the unbeatable contradictions of reformism.

No person even on the fringes of a libertarian discussion can have escaped the explicit wording of the former or the overtones of the latter.

Libertarians, this conservative position holds, cannot take part in revolutionary action because, as it now stands, such action always is dominated by persons with a healthy disrespect for private property and a feverish fondness for communist rhetoric.

The argument is made, time and time again, that “if they get power, they will be worse than what we have.” The notion that they might include libertarians if only libertarians were up there on the barricades working with them either eludes these conservatives or they reject it because of their spotless, yea immaculate conceptions of theoretical purity. But most pernicious is the possibility that such persons truly mean what they say: that they prefer the certainty of the injustices we have to any risk of injustices that we might have. There is a trap here deep enough to engulf freedom itself. Theories do not produce revolutionary action. Rather, revolutionary actions enable theories to become practices. It is from the ferment of the action that the ferment of the idea brews its future impact. Long before Mao or machineguns it was apparent that political thought, without political act, equalled zero and that political ideas born in the minds of men have a chance to grow only after actions by the hands of men. Not even Christianity or Ghandian [sic] resistance grew solely as an idea. All great ideas have grown as the result of great actions.

No example comes to mind of a great teacher who was not also a great exemplar, a personification of and not merely a mouthpiece of his ideas. Take Christ and the money-lenders. He unquestionably had the benefit of sound advice in regard to economic analysis and pedagogy. He could have held classes to expose usury to a few who would go out and expose it to more and so on and on until the entire world was revulsed by the practice and ceased doing business with the usurers. The story, of course, is different. It tells of a decision to teach by acting.

In the more real, or at least contemporary world we can think of the many political and economic theorists—some of them libertarians!—who did not have the act of revolution to spread their thoughts, as did Karl Marx.

If Bakunin or Warren had had a Lenin we might live in a free and anarchistic world today.

The consequence of conservative libertarianism’s concentration on ideas to the exclusion of action is to turn a prudent sense of priority on its head. The priorities, as I see them, are to first participate in social change so that, second, there will be a chance of influencing its direction later on. Unless one can reject flatly the possibility that there is even going to be a change, the priority should not be to fret about what it might be like, the priority is to maintain a position from which or in which you can do something about it.

The impossibility of simple neutrality in this situation should be apparent. You cannot just say “a pox on both of your houses” because, unfortunately, you happen actually to live in one of the houses. By that act alone neutrality is made impossible—except for those very rare few who actually can withdraw totally, to dream out their isolation so long as, and only so long as, the unleashed dogs of the system, against which they have refused to struggle, are not set upon them.

From the conservative position comes the position of libertarian reformism. It holds that, since there is a good base to build upon—the at least lip-service traditions of liberty in this country, for instance—that the way to avoid the dangers that might lurk on the other side of revolutionary change is to opt for evolutionary change. The repeal of certain laws is, in this position, held as crucial and, of course, it probably is true that if the withholding tax were repealed that the government would be bankrupted as millions of taxpayers simply found themselves unable to pay up.

That is, this situation might be true if it were not for the amazing ingenuity of American state-monopoly-capitalism. Few if any corporation heads would stand idly by and see the source of their prosperity—a partnership with the state—seriously jeopardized. One can imagine a “voluntary” tax withholding system going into effect which, if anything, might be more effective than the state system which, after all, is operated by businessmen anyway even though with a lot of wasteful bureaucratic interference. Same with the voluntary or even ‘corporate’ military concepts. A libertarian should be the first to recognize that such systems would, if anything, make imperialism more effective by making its military machine more efficient. Such reforms, in short, would not necessarily end injustices but might merely streamline them.

More pertinent is the central error of reformism as a possible instrument of change. To reform a system you must, first of all, preserve it against attacks more precipitous than those called for in the reformist timetable. This position not only makes neutrality impossible, it makes siding with the system (the state) unavoidable in the long run.

I sum up my concern over these matters in this way: Libertarians are faced with a real, not merely theoretical world in which revolutionary change is at the very least a real possibility everywhere. If libertarians will not participate in that change they cannot influence that change now or later. It is the important characteristic of this journal that it does not intend to relegate the black flag of the most revolutionary of positions, libertarianism, to the sidelines of any revolution, no matter the color of the other banners unfurling.

Originally appeared in The Libertarian Forum Vol. 1, No. 13, October 1, 1969

“U.S. Crisis Springs From Structural, Not Personal Failure” by Karl Hess

The general malaise which seems to grip America these days is often characterized as a “crisis of leadership.”

The implication is that our problem lies in the personalities of our leaders; that if only the right person could be elevated to the Presidency, our problems would be solved, our days brightened and our loads lightened.

Prudence, however, suggests an alternative view of our crisis, for even a cursory look at recent history appears to undercut conventional wisdom. Over the last two generations, surely, the American Presidency has been occupied by remarkably disparate personalities.

Obviously, the problem with America does not derive from personality at all. We’ve had experience with too many different types to seriously believe that. Our trouble is more basic.

The American crisis is one of structure and scale. Our great leaders have not failed, but our great – and huge – institutions are failing, at this very moment. New characters in the same old roles will not solve our problem, for the roles themselves, not the players, are at fault.

Whether one approved or abhorred the war in Indochina, it is clear that the federal establishment, manned by “the best and the brightest” miserably misled the citizenry in conducting that war.

Everybody knows that the federal government promises a lot and delivers damn little, and pays for most of what it does deliver out of the earnings of individuals rather than the profits of great corporations.

Scale is not just a problem of the federal government. Indeed, a classic example of structural failure with which we are all familiar is the contemporary American city. In fact there is no major U.S. city which can point to an increase in governmental scale as ushering in a better life for its citizens.

If big is indeed better, it follows that New York or Los Angeles should be as problem-free as any city in the world. Theoretically, the citizens of both cities should choose to live in the largest, most densely populated areas, rather than in the smaller scale environs of ethnic neighborhoods, as in New York, and the suburban cities-within-the-city, as in Los Angeles.

People do not choose such environments, however, because ordinary common sense provides an intuitive understanding that scale is crucial in social organization; that at every level of enterprise and government in America the advantages of increase sale have long since been passed.

What, then, should be the new focus of social scale? In my view, the tightest and best unit is the neighborhood, the place where people know one another – or at least have the geographical opportunity to know one another – and where most of one’s life is spent.

My own neighborhood, in a so-called ghetto area of Washington, D.C., exemplifies the benefits to be gained by redirecting attention from the largest to the smallest of social organizational units.

For approximately 3,500 of the 31,000 people in the Morgan Adams neighborhood, the most appropriate formal organization for making decisions has turned out to be an unofficial town meeting. This voluntary government by assembly requires each person to participate. No one can dodge responsibility by electing someone to do the job.

Without legal status, this town meeting has organized neighborhoodwide street cleaning; established forums to deal with tenant-landlord disputes; started work on a neighborhood health clinic; taken over the maintenance of some public spaces, and even now is addressing the crucial problem of street crime (with first efforts focused on establishing a shared anticrime culture rather than calls for more police). Indeed, Spanish-speaking residents of our triracial neighborhood have already instituted volunteer escort service and street patrols.

The worker-managed grocery stores we have established not only provide good, cheap food but also show how we can move toward industrial democracy, just as the town meeting points toward real political democracy. Worker-managed bookshops, record stores, alternative schools (including one at high school level), construction “collectives” and even an institute of science, with which I am closely involved – all these have emerged as well in our neighborhood. (Our science institute has successfully developed a way to produce significant crops of vegetables on urban rooftops, and to utilize a network of basement water tanks to produce tons of rainbow trout.)

So with government, which can be treated in much the same way. It too can operate on a human scale, with local interests represented in regional and national federations or forums called for particular purpose.

To do this, Americans might have to sacrifice the office and institution of “The Great Leader.” But since “Great Leaders” seem to be as much a part of the problem as the solution, that would be a small price to pay.

Americans are misguided in their continuing search for new leaders. Rather, they should seek rewarding social institutions to ensure a better life.

In this quest, the first thing to throw out is the old yardstick that measured quality by size and growth.

From the Tri-City Herald May 25, 1975(Originally appeared in the Washington Post)
Original: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=v4U1AAAAIBAJ&sjid=g4kFAAAAIBAJ&dq=karl-hess&pg=930%2C5789569

“What the Movement Needs” by Karl Hess

This may well be a long, cool summer of consolidation. The political establishment will be seeking to consolidate its power behind an advancing wave of law-and-order blue-nose, Constitutional ‘constructionism’. (Constructionism is a new code word for reading the Constitution as instrument of state power rather than individual freedom.)

Radical opponents of the state also will be consolidating. The picture with SDS is now one of building new structures on either side of a schism. YAF is said to be facing a similar task with pro-state “trads” under lively assault from those with at least anti-statist tendencies if not fully fledged libertarian positions. The Resistance, after Staughton Lynd’s moving plea for a “new beginning”, will be attempting to broaden its base far beyond that of fighting the draft. And, of course, the Panthers will simply be trying to stay alive.

For libertarianism, burgeoning now as a movement rather than merely a mood, it will be a crucial time, testing the difference between the dedicated and the dilettante.

The young people in the movement are irrepressible and, in the long term, so is the movement. In the short term, however, much of its velocity will depend upon whether it attracts, along with its great and growing ranks of young militants, those few men of substance who, in the early stages of most movements, can make a difference of years in the movement’s development. Engels’ financial support of Marx is an example. The few who supported the early spokesmen of the New Left are a latter-day example. There are few similar examples on the right, interestingly enough, inasmuch as right-wing support almost exclusively has been toward the institutionalization of a currently vested interest (i. e. anti-Communism, corporate protectionism, class or race privilege, religion) rather than in the development of a new movement.

Because, therefore, there may be a man of substance, and libertarian values, somewhere, who, watching the movement develop, may want to participate in it rather than just talk about it, some words of friendly (dare we say comradely?) advice may be in order.

First there is the simple responsibility to be serious. Taking a pioneering interest without following through could be more destructive of morale than silence. For young people, particularly, the idea of faintheartedness may be the hardest of all to take: There always is hope that heroes will come along and it would be better to have that hope remain unrequited than to have it dashed.

Then there is resistance to a familiar syndrome, the notion of “one thing for sure, we can’t do the whole job alone.” There are two points to make about this to anyone who may appear as a serious supporter of the libertarian movement.

1. You may have to.

2. If so, you can.

The first point, of course, is that it shouldn’t make any difference how many are similarly interested. For an individualist and a libertarian, surely, his own interest should be sufficient to the action. If only one such person appears, that is 100% more than we have now anyway!

The second point is simply a citation of the need of the most effective use of what resources are available rather than any despair that they are limited. If they are all that there is, then prudence says only “use them well.” And courage says, only, “use them!”

One consideration arising from that is the need to use available resources to produce a well-rounded base, if nothing else, hoping that on the base, subsequently, new support will arise. At the same time, securing a base also helps secure the on-going momentum of the movement itself, by recognizing that it is a movement and that it does require not just casual advancement but hard, full-time organizing, propagandizing, crusading and so forth.

If, on the other hand, there already was a more general sort of support available, the movement could afford what is now a luxury: the support of very specific researches or programs. As it stands, the urge to build various superstructures before the movement is firmly based as a movement is to tactically do just what such imprudence would do tectonically: create a top-heavy structure which would topple in any stiff wind.

One course, in forming the base, would be to inventory needs and evaluate priority versus cost and so forth. Practical as well as visionary men should examine this agenda carefully lest the caution of the one extinguish the beacons of the other or the passions of the latter ignore the prudence of the former.

Some of the items which should, in my view, earnestly be considered are these:

—Full-time movement organizers and co-ordinators, at least on a regional basis.

—Creation of even the most modest East Coast ‘center’ for libertarian studies to fill an incredible geographic vaccuum [sic]. Although the West Coast has seen the development of such centers, the East remains barren.

—Support of our own movement activists, the spearhead people whose speaking on campus, pamphleteering, even arrests and trials, provide the sort of excitement centers which, to cite a compelling example, turned the New Left from a phrase by C. Wright Mills into the wedge which has now opened wide the entire range of radical, revolutionary developments in America.

—Entry into new media, such as films, for libertarian ideas as well as on-going encouragement for those who can break into the regular media. How many good libertarian books or articles go down the drain each year simply because potentially productive people cannot take the time, or afford to do the work on a speculative basis? The number, no matter how small, is too large if the libertarian mood is to turn into the libertarian movement.

—A campus organization. Plans for the Radical Libertarian Alliance already are well advanced as plans. But practical organizational work, production of recruiting materials and so forth requires some practical support which the non-existent means of the founding members simply cannot provide. This does not mean that R. L. A. will not move at all, without added support. It will move, indeed, no matter what. Its founding chapters and members are not to be stopped. But its people know full well that they will not move with the summer-lightning speed of, say, SDS or YAF because, as in the one case, it does not have (thankfully) the relatively well-heeled zeal of a Progressive Labor Party to send travelers across the country and keep the literature coming or, as in the other case, it does not offer eccentric millionaires a chance to advance their own quirky causes by buying the energies of the young. R. L. A., to be precise about this point, would rather poop along on pennies than take anybody’s money if it came marked with any word other than LIBERTY.

—Travel support for permitting libertarians with something to say to say it where the action is. The fact that the several outstanding libertarian-SDSers couldn’t even afford the train fare to the Chicago convention is just another evidence of wasting major opportunities for want of minor investments.

Not one of those suggestions is made in a spirit of exclusion or primacy. They cover areas which seem common-sensical but they are intended to convey, first and foremost, a sense of base-building as opposed to panacea-pathing. The libertarian who says that this action or that action is all that should be taken or that this or that will ‘solve’ everything is avoiding action, not taking it.

Fixated, narrowly focused approaches may build egos but they can scarcely build movements. The purpose of a revolutionary, in one of the truisms of our time, is to make the revolution. To a libertarian that should mean that the advancement of liberty and the opposition to coercion by all means possible and necessary. It means each person making his part of the revolution as he can best do it, recognizing always that each part is subsumed under the vision of a movement. Many of us may be always restricted to just doing one job or another in the movement. None of us, happily, if we retain faith with liberty itself, will waste our time seeking to be leaders or wanting to be.

We do not want to lead or be led. We want to be free.

We now sense in a way that gives us ties with men in many lands and in many postures of political development, that being free always will be a chancy, iffy, and very conditional transitory condition until the institutions of coercive power have been brought down.

We have advanced through the stage when many thought that freedom could be found simply by retiring to a hilltop somewhere far distant. We know that such a hilltop may be by next Tuesday the site of another government radar station, just as the valley below it may be a detention camp.

We now know that men who want to be free cannot run forever. Sometime, somewhere they must stand firm — and fight, not as the state’s agents fight, with bloody hands and blazing eyes, but as free men fight, in a movement of resistance, with respect for life, each man as he can and each man as he will.

My overall point is that a movement demands many elements. It requires public heroes and private genius; it must work out in the streets as though it were the confident spearhead of a triumphant cause, it must work in garrets and offices as though there would be no tomorrow, it must sometimes bite its tongue at tactical errors, loving the sinner even while deploring the sin.

It must seek its friends in other lands, creating a new citizenry of un-bordered liberty. It must create and recreate its literature. It must teach its young and, equally important, it must find its young.

It must sustain its weary, heal its wounded, and protect its cadre. And, above all, it must know its own heart and mind and be aware of itself as a Movement. Finally, it must have a sense of time and place, knowing where the world is and not nostalgically looking back at where it was. And if it errs it should err on the side of dedication and vision, not on the side of inaction.

Libertarians are not determinists who feel that unseen, mystic forces move men and history in inexorable patterns, up and down fated graphs. Libertarians, being radicals, know that men can move history, that Man is history, and that men can grasp their own fate, at the root, and advance it.

Interestingly and compellingly, libertarians have been through much of this before in this lovely but looted land. The first American revolution, just as with the Russian, was almost a libertarian and not a statist victory. The victory, instead, of the Federalists, with their glib talk of “legal systems” and of measuring liberty in terms of special favors to those who would best “serve” society, was not a foregone conclusion any more than Stalin’s victory was the end in Russia. Contrary forces now seethe in both lands.

 

Also, in the days before the first American revolution, men heard the same arguments we hear today — that we could never beat the system, so why try; why risk oppression by being uppity; why not keep on trying to go through channels and why not chuck it all because the majority of people don’t want any trouble anyway.

In those days it was erring on the side of militancy and civil disobedience that gave libertarians the opportunity even to speak and to speculate. Caution then would have meant an even deeper gloom today (just look at the Mother Country!).

We are again at such a time and place.

You — whoever you are! — now have it in your power to some extent or another move history and advance libertarianism as a Movement and not a mere moral mutter.

This summer, then, should be the time when you decide just how seriously you actually do take the times — and yourself.

Originally published in The Libertarian Forum, Vol. I, No. VII, July 1st, 1969