“How to Smash the State” by Fred Woodworth

The sentiment is widespread – the slogan has been tirelessly repeated, but almost nothing has been said about what actually can be done to “smash the State”. Here are a few practical suggestions:

Refuse to work for any agency, department, or bureau of government. Disaffiliate yourself from any employment that furthers coercion, no matter what form. Forget about trying to “change from within”; sure you have to make a living, but if you’re working in a government research laboratory or a Selective Service office, your efforts aid, not hinder, government control. Remember – the State desperately needs to co-opt your talents. If you and thousands like you resigned, far more good could be accomplished than by furthering authoritarianism in fact while opposing it in theory. Build alternatives to the present form of society.

Actively resist the State’s domination over you in whatever ways you are able. But don’t feel guilty when you find there are too many injustices for you to fight them all. The State should feel guilty, not you. Do what you can.

Continually improve your ability to express yourself in at least one language. Strive after perfection in the usage of your native tongue. Learn it well and use it often. It is your one friend, your basic tool, and your fluency and persuasiveness in it will ultimately determine whether or not your ideas are accepted by the people.

Write write write write write. Constantly write and speak to get your thoughts before a wide audience. Set forth what you have to say in as understandable a form as you can contrive. Don’t be afraid to reiterate; the diffuse genius with scores of ideas he expresses once only, will be overlooked and lost in obscurity. The persistent man who expresses, restates, enlarges upon, and expounds his single thought – he stands a chance of being heard. Incessant repetition and doggedness elevates mediocre or false ideas to the stature of truth, and low, mean men to high positions. Now let’s use the technique to get rid of them.

If you oppose authority, you are an Anarchist. The implements of your trade are the typewriter and the printing press. Ignore the secret police provocateurs who will try to persuade you to take up bombs and guns against the State. If every Anarchist in the world killed twenty government agents and dynamited $100,000 worth of government offices, all that would happen would be that every Anarchist in the world would be sentenced to death. The State would not be deflected even an iota from its normal patterns. But with the typewriter and the printing press, you can manufacture articles far more deadly and effective than bombs. Buy a mimeograph machine and learn how to use it. Long after the smoke and destruction of a bomb is forgotten, products of your imagination and creativity can live on, making tiny explosions inside people’s minds.

Running through the streets screaming unintelligibly; giving the clenched fist salute and yelling “power to the people” – are superb gestures. For the insane. But if you think about it, the very thing we want to end is “power”, at least power of people over other people. So a slogan like “power to the people” (What power? Which people? Power to do what? To whom?) essentially has no meaning. Too inexact. And even if it did have any meaning, shrieking and howling it through the streets at night in a mob would be a next to worthless way of communicating that meaning. It might be even worse than worthless, because some individuals who might have taken you seriously will now dismiss you and your ideas as idiocy. Who knows? Maybe they’re right. Reject the pigs who call for trashing and looting. Nine of ten such episodes end in punishment for innocent people, while the pigs who caused it all get safely away. Even if anything does come down on the guilty, they just rip off their friends to pay the fine, or bail or whatever. They never suffer. In fact, they’re probably chortling all the way to the FBI office. Keep away from such people if you really want to smash the State.

Never neglect your education. Learn as much as you can about as many subjects as you can – avoid writing or speaking in ignorance. If you have no idea what’s inside a computer, don’t spout reams of theory about what computers can do or you may be wrong. If you can’t produce a coherent explanation of how an electric doorbell works, don’t extol the virtues of technology, or you may be made to appear ridiculous. Talk about subjects you know, otherwise you will only do harm.

Thoroughly dissect and expose the numberless inconsistencies of governmental theory. Hammer away at the State’s lies, false assurances, mistakes, stupid errors and injustices. The time hasn’t quite arrived when back numbers of newspapers and magazines are altered daily to conform to a legislated view of reality; hence, though politicians strive frantically to maintain an air of infallibility, we can still point out how their hasty, expedient prognostications of yesteryear have not yet been borne out by subsequent facts.

Oppose religion wherever and however possible. When at long last deistic superstition vanishes from the face of the earth, the States of the world will have lost their principal mode of effecting and enforcing subservience and abject humility. Erasure of religion’s mind-befuddling contradictionism will enable individuals to live without fear and psychosis, freely interacting and accepting responsibility for their own actions.

Always fight on your own battlefield. Refuse to be drawn into disadvantageous conflict planned and stacked against you. If pigs stop you when you are alone and push you and call you names, flash a glassy smile and say nothing. Why fight when and where they choose? Wait till you get to the place of your choosing – the typewriter, printing press, or microphone, for instance; then hit them with all you’ve got. If they try to beat you at your own game, they will be as much at a disadvantage as you were in theirs. Basic logic patterns and language fluency you have developed can cast pigs into ridicule and annihilate them.

At some time you will discover that an associate close to you is a secret police agent. People you thought were friends will slowly reveal themselves as latent politicians or thieves trying to rip off movement funds. Don’t tremble or become discouraged – fight on – write on.

Never trust anyone. Nobody but you can be depended upon to carry out projects you conceive, so learn how to do everything yourself. That way, no matter if everyone abandon you, all will continue as before. Propaganda will roll on with no lessening of intensity, and the Anarchist idea will be broadcast without even a moment’s dead air.

Intensify your life. Struggle to cut down on the amount of time you lose by sleeping. Naturally one must rest, but an extra hour of working time a day adds up to more than a whole extra day each month, more time available than most so-called “anarchists” put in during a year of do-nothing ego-trips. Using time wisely, a single fanatic can equal or surpass the efforts of an entire organization of whimps.

Work selflessly and untiringly, give everything you can, do whatever is in your power to aid those unjustly imprisoned by the State. Know, however, that when you are imprisoned, inevitable in this totalitarian society, you and your efforts will be forgotten, and you will languish abandoned.

So live every day as though it is your last. Save time out to look at the trees and stars; to consider what you are doing; to reaffirm your committment to the world of ideas, to propaganda, to non-violence – to Anarchism!

The world will be little changed for what you do. Your work will be misunderstood and grossly misrepresented. You will be detested. But you are smashing the State.

Don’t ever give up.

Originally appeared in the July 1971 issue of The Match

“Geoanarchism” by Fred Foldvary

The name

The American economist and philosopher Henry George began a movement named after him, thus called Georgism or Georgist. Recently his followers have recognized that this name is unsatisfactory, because 1) the basic ideas preceded George, 2) there are other concepts in the movement that George did not concern himself with, 3) the desire is not to follow a particular man but to seek truth and justice. Therefore, many adherents are now calling the doctrine “geoism,” geo standing both for land (as in geography) and for George. I will follow this usage here, having had some part in propagating it since the early 1980s, when I coined the word “geo-libertarian” for an article by that name which appeared in “Land and Liberty”.

The economics

We begin with the classical division of the inputs of production, or “factors” as economists call them. The three classical factors are land, labor, and capital goods.

Land includes all natural resources, and excludes all that is a product of human action. Labor is any human exertion in the production of wealth (goods and services). Capital goods are produced tools, goods which serve to produce other goods. All improvements to a location are capital goods, including clearing, draining, and preparing a site for construction.

The main type of land I will focus on here is real estate – the three-dimensional surface of the earth. What follows regarding land concerns only spatial land and not material land, wildlife, wind, or water. Labor and capital goods tend to be mobile. They can move, and the supply can increase. Spatial land, in contrast, is immobile and fixed. It cannot be moved, imported, or expanded.

“Rent” as used here refers only to the return on land, or the yield of land net of normal expenses. This rent is determined by the supply and demand in the market. The economic rent is not necessarily the same as the financial rent that a tenant may pay a landlord. For example, suppose a highest bidder for a leasehold would bid $1000 per month, but at present, the current tenant is only paying $600. The economic rent is $1000, not the $600. The economic rent is the same whether the land is rented to another person or is occupied by the title holder.

The economic rent can be estimated from recent sales and leases of real estate. In come cases, raw or undeveloped land is sold or leased, or the title to the land is separate from the title to the building, with a different owner. Otherwise, the rent is estimated as a residual: estimate the total property value from recent sales and leases, calculate the replacement value of the buildings and other improvements, subtract actual depreciation, and the remainder of the current property value is land value.

The price of land is related to the rent of land by the equation

p = r/i, where p is price, r is the annual rent (assumed to be constant), and i is the real interest rate (subtracting out inflation). The price is thus the capitalized future rents. If there is a tax or assessment on the land value, then the rent also pays that charge, so

p = r/(i+t), where t is the assessment rate based on p. For example, if the land value is $100,000 and the assessment paid is $2000, then t is .02 or two percent.

Given t, we can calculate the fraction f of the rent paid:

f = t/(i+t), so that if i=.05 and t=.20, 80% of the rent would be paid.

Alternatively, if f is known and we want to find t,

t = fi/(1-f)

Land value or rent arises from two sources. One is the natural advantages of a site relative to other sites. The greater advantages create a higher rent in the better land. The second source of rent is the civic infrastructure serving a location, such as streets, transit, parks, security, and utilities such as street lighting. These add to the demand for land, raising the rent and price.

The produced wealth is distributed as income to the owners of the factors of production. Landowners having title to its income get the rent. Labor gets wages. Capital goods get a rental or return. Each factor gets paid according to its contribution to output.

Anarchist geoism

In a libertarian or anarchist world, some people might be unaffiliated anarcho-capitalists, contracting with various firms for services. But if we look at markets today, we see instead contractual communities. We see condominiums, homeowner associations, cooperatives, and neighborhood associations. For temporary lodging, folks stay in hotels, and stores get lumped into shopping centers. Historically, human beings have preferred to live and work in communities. Competition induces efficiency, and private communities tend to be financed from the rentals of sites and facilities, since this is the most efficient source of funding. Henry George recognized that site rents are the most efficient way to finance community goods because it is a fee paid for benefits, paying back that value added by those benefits. Private communities today such as hotels and condominiums use geoist financing. Unfortunately, governments do not.

Geoist communities would join together in leagues and associations to provide services that are more efficient on a large scale, such as defense, if needed. The voting and financing would be bottom up. The local communities would elect representatives, and provide finances, and would be able to secede when they felt association was no longer in their interest.

Statist geoism

Imposed governments, as all are today, mainly tax income and the sale of goods. These taxes get added to the costs of production, making labor and goods more expensive, while reducing net wages and profits. Such taxes reduce employment, production, and investment. They create a deadweight loss or excess burden on the economy beyond the taxes paid.

Henry George’s main aim was reform within the system. Given that states exist and impose taxation, what would be the way to minimize the oppression and burden. There is a lower excess burden on the economy if the public revenue comes from land rent than if it falls on labor, capital, or goods. The land does not diminish when taxed, so there is no reduction in production. There are also no audits or complicated records to keep. The use of rent is based on benefit: landowners benefit from civic works, and they pay back the increased rents and land values generated by them. While libertarians would prefer that civic works be privatized, so long as they are run by government, the least intrusive way to finance them is from rent.

Within the statist system, the geoist reform consists of abolishing all taxation except on land values or land rents. There would also be user fees where feasible, such as tuition payments for schooling.

The morality of rent

Geoism includes a moral philosophy regarding property. Human beings properly own their own bodies and lives. Henry George therefore stated that it is morally wrong to tax wages and the products of labor. He may have been the first to say that such taxation is theft. But self-ownership does not extend to land. Geoists recognize that markets function well when the owners control the use of property, and so geoism includes individual rights to possess land.

But it is not necessary for the title holder to keep the rent in order to put his land to best use. The rent is a surplus due to its better location, not to any effort by the title holder. Geoists also accept the Lockean view that human beings are morally equal. Therefore, the land rent due to nature ideally should belong to all humanity in equal shares. The land rent for all land that is used by people on the earth is rightfully owned pro-rata by all people on the earth at that time. This extends to previously unoccupied or new lands when they become used by people (example: mining on the moon) and the rent rises above zero.

However, only some of the rental of land is natural rent. Much of the rental is due to the civic infrastructure, and this rental is really a return on these capital goods and labor services. Ideally, that rental would be paid to the providers of the services according to a contract or agreement.

In a statist context, the collection of the site rentals by government is not as morally wrong as the taxation of labor and capital, for two reasons. One, the moral claim to natural rent is not as strong as the moral claim to one’s wages. Second, if the government provides the civic works, it generates rentals, and if the title holder keeps the rentals and workers are taxed, this is a redistribution of income from workers to landowners. So, given that the government provides civic works, the least immoral way to get the revenue is from land rent.

The community collection of rent and rental thus internalizes two externalities: those due to civic infrastructure and services, and that due to natural advantages.

In the anarchist context, private communities and companies would provide the civic works and collect the payments by contract. Geoist communities would try to assess how much of the rental is natural rent, and distribute that equally to the population in those communities. Market anarchists outside the geoist leagues would probably be hostile to this rent-sharing system and might refuse to trade with the geoists, but that would not be much of a problem for geoists, since the efficiency of geoism would attract much of the enterprise.


Geoism is a theory of economic justice and efficiency. Justice is implemented by having each person keep his whole earnings and getting a share of the benefits from nature. Efficiency is obtained by not imposing arbitrary costs and restrictions on human action. The market tends to provide community services the geoist way, while governments tend to restrict and impose costs on human action. Geoism is therefore in accord with liberty, and is the philosophy best suited to a society free of state oppression and tyranny.

Originally appeared at Anti-State.com.

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


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.


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.


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,”


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


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,


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


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

“Factions: Something For Everyone” by Karl Hess

Uniting only on the principle that force should not be initiated to advance a cause, personal, political, or philosophical, members of the Libertarian Party represent widely varying approaches to social action.

The most radical of these approaches, and proudly described as radical by those who follow it, is hard-line insistence that every libertarian action should be an action directly and unambiguously intended to abolish the nation state. The radical libertarian position does not advocate any compromise, any middle-ground, any realpolitik. It urges that the Libertarian Party place the enunciation of principled anti-state arguments foremost. Campaigns for elective office, in the radical view, serve as platforms for the dissemination of radical views.

The radical view is contrasted sharply with the minarchist, or minimum government viewpoint. The position here is that the Libertarian Party, by calling itself a political party, should take “real world” positions aiming at decreasing state power where it cannot abolish it; in short, being political and practical in action even when philosophical in discussion. Actually, to some minarchists, the abolition of the state, root and branch, is not clearly desirable. They hold to a notion of social agreement regarding governance which sees a role for a public agency with at least the scope of a state to protect property rights, reduce the cost of transactions, and, perhaps, even defend the continent. Yet, if they have agreed to join the Libertarian Party, they have also agreed that this arrangement of governance would have to be accomplished without the initiation of force.

A Libertarian Party member holding the radical view would not be likely to campaign on an issue that sought to reduce the economic distortions or garrison-state security measures of the Pentagon, but would prefer to campaign on proposals to abolish the Pentagon altogether and turn continental defense functions over to private military corporations. The other Libertarian Party viewpoint would be to campaign for immediately achievable revisions of existing security laws.

From these two viewpoints, different political styles emerge.

The radical view is represented by Presidential campaigns waged on precise and ideal statements of anti-state positions. The radical style is abolitionist.

The minimum government view is represented by Presidential campaigns waged with what are felt to be practical, achievable, and publicly attractive legislative alternatives to existing policies. Further, this viewpoint animates the actions of many Libertarian Party members who have concentrated on local political campaigns even when they involve only a limited opportunity to state the widest range of libertarian positions. In this localist view, the privatization of a single municipal service is useful even though it is not accomplished in a campaign that seeks the abolition of all public service.

There is developing within the Libertarian Party another political style that could be called one of synthesis. There are those who hold strongly to the radical position as a matter of personal conviction but who are willing to engage in practical political activities, particularly at the local level, which do not or cannot fully express those convictions. Their slogan might be “think radically, act practically.”

There will always, probably, be those in the Libertarian Party who will stand only for an unalloyed radical or an unalloyed minimum government position. Their arguments will constitute some of the most exciting debates of Libertarian conferences and communication. And those arguments will, as they are worked out, form the style of specific Libertarian Party activities, such as Presidential campaigns. The view of synthesis, meanwhile, may set the agenda for many local campaigns beyond the fundamentist debates.

Beyond these positions held internally within the Libertarian Party there are positions external to the Party but vital to the movement toward individual responsibility and liberty.

There is the well-formed view that any political activity, even the act of voting itself, is an endorsement of an over-arching nation state political system which can only be described as coercive. The fact that Libertarian Party members volitionally choose to engage in politics as, one could say, an act of self-defense is not accepted in the anti-party view. In the view of synthesis, the anti-party view is treasured as an expression of liberty itself. All that is asked is that anti-party energy — although certainly not arguments — concentrate its fire as fiercely on the nation state as on “heretical” libertarians. The other side of that street, of course, is that Party members (or partyarchs) follow the equivalent course.

Particularly challenging for members of the Libertarian Party is the anti-party suggestion that any political activity strengthens the nation state system and that the election of a Libertarian school board member, for instance, although it might lead to new freedom for private or home schooling locally, inexorably supports the nationalized school system in the broader sense.

It is not the responsibility of critics to prove this. It is the responsibility of Libertarian Party members to dis-prove it, and it is an implied fundamental proposition of the Party position that this can be done. It is the responsibility of Party members, also, to come to grips with the problem presented by volunteering to engage in the election of a hierarchical internal organization that must always skate on the thin ice of possible bureaucratization. Critics will be quick to point to the problems of such such an organization, mimicking, as it does, many of the features of traditional nation state institutions. Libertarian Party members, rather than responding with anger to such criticism, again, might respond with convincing proof that the spirit of liberty can survive such an organized framework.

There is, also, the totally isolationist view that any action in the public world is an invitation to mischief and to exposure to nation state pressure. There is, of course, no conflict here with the Libertarian Party since Party members choose voluntarily to ignore the isolationist advice, at their own freely chosen risk. A slight variation of the isolationist view is that carefully guarded commercial activities, not colliding with great state power or making claims on it, is the only proper activity for a libertarian. There could hardly be a Libertarian Party position that would oppose this. The Party’s goal includes the eventual freedom for all humans to engage in absolutely unfettered free market transactions. To those who can achieve the goal already, in their personal dealings, all libertarians must say hurray. There is, of course, nothing that bars, in principle or practice, any Libertarian Party member from pursuing their free market goals here and now as zealously as they are able. Local practical political action, it is hoped, can advance that freedom even though it may not be able to perfect it. Many hold the same hope for Presidential-level activities.

The Libertarian Party, with factions within itself, is itself just a faction of libertarianism generally. It is a faction of people who have chosen, of their own free will, to engage in certain political activities which they hold can have a positive effect on the protection of or the spread of liberty. Every Libertarian Party member should be grateful for the critical assaults launched against it by other libertarians. It helps keep them on their toes. And where that criticism proves unassailable and unanswerable then, in good sense, Libertarian Party members should act upon it. Similarly, when critical libertarians outside the Party find good work done by the Party, they may wish to join, support, or at least acknowledge it.

There seem many paths toward liberty, whether those paths are called factions or philosophies. We are each of us the means to our own ends. Perhaps it is just the journey itself that beckons us all.

Originally published in the Libertarian Party News Spring 1986.

“Confessions of a Right-Wing Liberal” by Murray N. Rothbard

TWENTY YEARS AGO I was an extreme right-wing Republican, a young and lone “Neanderthal” (as the liberals used to call us) who believed, as one friend pungently put it, that “Senator Taft had sold out to the socialists.” Today, I am most likely to be called an extreme leftist, since I favor immediate withdrawal from Vietnam, denounce U.S. imperialism, advocate Black Power and have just joined the new Peace and Freedom Party. And yet my basic political views have not changed by a single iota in these two decades!

It is obvious that something is very wrong with the old labels, with the categories of “left” and “right,” and with the ways in which we customarily apply these categories to American political life. My personal odyssey is unimportant; the important point is that if I can move from “extreme right” to “extreme left” merely by standing in one place, drastic though unrecognized changes must have taken place throughout the American political spectrum over the last generation.

I joined the right-wing movement—to give a formal name to a very loose and informal set of associations—as a young graduate student shortly after the end of World War II. There was no question as to where the intellectual right of that day stood on militarism and conscription: it opposed them as instruments of mass slavery and mass murder. Conscription, indeed, was thought far worse than other forms of statist controls and incursions, for while these only appropriated part of the individual’s property, the draft, like slavery, took his most precious possession: his own person. Day after day the veteran publicist John T. Flynn—once praised as a liberal and then condemned as a reactionary, with little or no change in his views—inveighed implacably in print and over the radio against militarism and the draft. Even the Wall Street newspaper, the Commercial and Financial Chronicle, published a lengthy attack on the idea of conscription.

All of our political positions, from the free market in economics to opposing war and militarism, stemmed from our root belief in individual liberty and our opposition to the state. Simplistically, we adopted the standard view of the political spectrum: “left” meant socialism, or total power of the state; the further “right” one went the less government one favored. Hence, we called ourselves “extreme rightists.”

Originally, our historical heroes were such men as Jefferson, Paine, Cobden, Bright and Spencer; but as our views became purer and more consistent, we eagerly embraced such near-anarchists as the voluntarist, Auberon Herbert, and the American individualist-anarchists, Lysander Spooner and Benjamin R. Tucker. One of our great intellectual heroes was Henry David Thoreau, and his essay, “Civil Disobedience,” was one of our guiding stars. Right-wing theorist Frank Chodorov devoted an entire issue of his monthly, Analysis, to an appreciation of Thoreau.

In our relation to the remainder of the American political scene, we of course recognized that the extreme right of the Republican Party was not made up of individualist anti-statists, but they were close enough to our position to make us feel part of a quasi-libertarian united front. Enough of our views were present among the extreme members of the Taft wing of the Republican Party (much more so than in Taft himself, who was among the most liberal of that wing), and in such organs as the Chicago Tribune, to make us feel quite comfortable with this kind of alliance.

What is more, the right-wing Republicans were major opponents of the Cold War. Valiantly, the extreme rightist Republicans, who were particularly strong in the House, battled conscription, NATO and the Truman Doctrine. Consider, for example, Omaha’s Representative Howard Buffett, Senator Taft’s midwestern campaign manager in 1952. He was one of the most extreme of the extremists, once described by The Nation as “an able young man whose ideas have tragically fossilized.”

I came to know Buffett as a genuine and thoughtful libertarian. Attacking the Truman Doctrine on the floor of Congress, he declared: “Even if it were desirable, America is not strong enough to police the world by military force. If that attempt is made, the blessings of liberty will be replaced by coercion and tyranny at home. Our Christian ideals cannot be exported to other lands by dollars and guns.”

When the Korean War came, almost the entire old left, with the exception of the Communist Party, surrendered to the global mystique of the United Nations and “collective security against aggression,” and backed Truman’s imperialist aggression in that war. Even Corliss Lamont backed the American stand in Korea. Only the extreme rightist Republicans continued to battle U.S. imperialism. It was the last great political outburst of the old right of my youth.

Howard Buffett was convinced that the United States was largely responsible for the eruption of conflict in Korea; for the rest of his life he tried unsuccessfully to get the Senate Armed Services Committee to declassify the testimony of CIA head Admiral Hillenkoeter, which Buffett told me established American responsibility for the Korean outbreak. The last famous isolationist move came late in December 1950, after the Chinese forces had beaten the Americans out of North Korea. Joseph P. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover delivered two ringing speeches back-to-back calling for American evacuation of Korea. As Hoover put it, “To commit the sparse ground forces of the non-communist nations into a land war against this communist land mass [in Asia] would be a war without victory, a war without a successful political terminal . . . that would be the graveyard of millions of American boys” and the exhaustion of the United States. Joe Kennedy declared that “if portions of Europe or Asia wish to go communistic or even have communism thrust upon them, we cannot stop it.”

To this The Nation replied with typical liberal Red-baiting: “The line they are laying down for their country should set the bells ringing in the Kremlin as nothing has since the triumph of Stalingrad”; and the New Republic actually saw Stalin sweeping onwards “until the Stalinist caucus in the Tribune Tower would bring out in triumph the first communist edition of the Chicago Tribune.”

The main catalyst for transforming the mass base of the right wing from an isolationist and quasi-libertarian movement to an anti-communist one was probably “McCarthyism.” Before Senator Joe McCarthy launched his anti-communist crusade in February 1950, he had not been particularly associated with the right wing of the Republican Party; on the contrary, his record was liberal and centrist, statist rather than libertarian.

Furthermore, Red-baiting and anti-communist witch hunting were originally launched by liberals, and even after McCarthy the liberals were the most effective at this game. It was, after all, the liberal Roosevelt Administration which passed the Smith Act, first used against Trotskyites and isolationists during World War II and then against communists after the war; it was the liberal Truman Administration that instituted loyalty checks; it was the eminently liberal Hubert Humphrey who was a sponsor of the clause in the McCarran Act of 1950 threatening concentration camps for “subversives.”

McCarthy not only shifted the focus of the right to communist hunting, however. His crusade also brought into the right wing a new mass base. Before McCarthy, the rank-and-file of the right wing was the small-town, isolationist middle west. McCarthyism brought into the movement a mass of urban Catholics from the eastern seaboard, people whose outlook on individual liberty was, if anything, negative.

If McCarthy was the main catalyst for mobilizing the mass base of the new right, the major ideological instrument of the transformation was the blight of anti-communism, and the major carriers were Bill Buckley and National Review.

In the early days, young Bill Buckley often liked to refer to himself as an “individualist,” sometimes even as an “anarchist.” But all these libertarian ideals, he maintained, had to remain in total abeyance, fit only for parlor discussion, until the great crusade against the “international communist conspiracy” had been driven to a successful conclusion. Thus, as early as January 1952, I noted with disquiet an article that Buckley wrote for Commonweal, “A Young Republican’s View.”

He began the article in a splendid libertarian manner: our enemy, he affirmed, was the state, which, he quoted Spencer, was “begotten of aggression and by aggression.” But then came the worm in the apple: the anti-communist crusade had to be waged. Buckley went on to endorse “the extensive and productive tax laws that are needed to support a vigorous anti-communist foreign policy”; he declared that the “thus far invincible aggressiveness of the Soviet Union” imminently threatened American security, and that therefore “we have to accept Big Government for the duration—for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged . . . except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores.” Therefore, he concluded—in the midst of the Korean War—we must all support “large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards and the attendant centralization of power in Washington.”

The right wing, never articulate, has not had many organs of opinion. Therefore, when Buckley founded National Review in late 1955, its erudite, witty and glib editorials and articles swiftly made it the only politically relevant journal for the American right. Immediately, the ideological line of the right began to change sharply.

One element that gave special fervor and expertise to the Red-baiting crusade was the prevalence of ex-communists, ex-fellow travelers and ex-Trotskyites among the writers whom National Review brought into prominence on the right-wing scene. These ex-leftists were consumed with an undying hatred for their former love, along with a passion for bestowing enormous importance upon their apparently wasted years. Almost the entire older generation of writers and editors for National Review had been prominent in the old left. Some names that come to mind are: Jim Burnham, John Chamberlain, Whittaker Chambers, Ralph DeToledano, Will Herberg, Eugene Lyons, J. B. Matthews, Frank S. Meyer, William S. Schlamm and Karl Wittfogel.

An insight into the state of mind of many of these people came in a recent letter to me from one of the most libertarian of this group; he admitted that my stand in opposition to the draft was the only one consistent with libertarian principles, but, he said, he can’t forget how nasty the communist cell in Time magazine was in the 1930’s. The world is falling apart and yet these people are still mired in the petty grievances of faction fights of long ago!

Anti-communism was the central root of the decay of the old libertarian right, but it was not the only one. In 1953, a big splash was made by the publication of Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind. Before that, no one on the right regarded himself as a “conservative”; “conservative” was considered a left smear word. Now, suddenly, the right began to glory in the term “conservative,” and Kirk began to make speaking appearances, often in a kind of friendly “vital center” tandem with Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

This was to be the beginning of the burgeoning phenomenon of the friendly-though-critical dialogue between the liberal and conservative wings of the Great Patriotic American Consensus. A new, younger generation of rightists, of “conservatives,” began to emerge, who thought that the real problem of the modern world was nothing so ideological as the state vs. individual liberty or government intervention vs. the free market; the real problem, they declared, was the preservation of tradition, order, Christianity and good manners against the modern sins of reason, license, atheism and boorishness.

One of the first dominant thinkers of this new right was Buckley’s brother-in-law, L. Brent Bozell, who wrote fiery articles in National Review attacking liberty even as an abstract principle (and not just as something to be temporarily sacrificed for the benefit of the anti-communist emergency). The function of the state was to impose and enforce moral and religious principles.

Another repellent political theorist who made his mark in National Review was the late Willmoore Kendall, NR editor for many years. His great thrust was the right and the duty of the majority of the community—as embodied, say, in Congress—to suppress any individual who disturbs that community with radical doctrines. Socrates, opined Kendall, not only should have been killed by the Greek community, whom he offended by his subversive criticisms, but it was their moral duty to kill him.

The historical heroes of the new right were changing rapidly. Mencken, Nock, Thoreau, Jefferson, Paine—all these either dropped from sight or were soundly condemned as rationalists, atheists or anarchists. From Europe, the “in” people were now such despotic reactionaries as Burke, Metternich, DeMaistre; in the United States, Hamilton and Madison were “in,” with their stress on the imposition of order and a strong, elitist central government—which included the southern “slavocracy.”

For the first few years of its existence, I moved in National Review circles, attended its editorial luncheons, wrote articles and book reviews for the magazine; indeed, there was talk at one time of my joining the staff as an economics columnist.

I became increasingly alarmed, however, as NR and its friends grew in strength because I knew, from innumerable conversations with rightist intellectuals, what their foreign policy goal was. They never quite dared to state it publicly, although they would slyly imply it and would try to whip the public up to the fever pitch of demanding it. What they wanted—and still want—was nuclear annihilation of the Soviet Union. They want to drop that Bomb on Moscow. (Of course, on Peking and Hanoi too, but for your veteran anti-communist— especially back then—it is Russia which supplies the main focus of his venom.) A prominent editor of National Review once told me: “I have a vision, a great vision of the future: a totally devastated Soviet Union.” I knew that it was this vision that really animated the new conservatism.

In response to all this, and seeing peace as the crucial political issue, a few friends and I became Stevensonian Democrats in 1960. I watched with increasing horror as the right wing, led by National Review, continually grew in strength and moved ever closer to real political power.

Having broken emotionally with the right wing, our tiny group of libertarians began to rethink many of our old, unexamined premises. First, we restudied the origins of the Cold War, we read our D.F. Fleming and we concluded, to our considerable surprise, that the United States was solely at fault in the Cold War, and that Russia was the aggrieved party. And this meant that the great danger to the peace and freedom of the world came not from Moscow or “international communism,” but from the U.S. and its Empire stretching across and dominating the world.

And then we studied the foul European conservatism that had taken over the right wing; here we had statism in a virulent form, and yet no one could possibly think these conservatives to be “leftist.” But this meant that our simple “left/total government—right/no government” continuum was altogether wrong and that our whole identification of ourselves as “extreme rightists” must contain a basic flaw. Plunging back into history, we again concentrated on the reality that in the 19th century, laissez-faire liberals and radicals were on the extreme left and our ancient foes, the conservatives, on the right. My old friend and libertarian colleague Leonard Liggio then came up with the following analysis of the historical process.

First there was the old order, the ancien régime, the regime of caste and frozen status, of exploitation by a despotic ruling class, using the church to dupe the masses into accepting its rule. This was pure statism; this was the right wing. Then, in 17th and 18th century western Europe, a liberal and radical opposition movement arose, our heroes, who championed a popular revolutionary movement on behalf of rationalism, individual liberty, minimal government, free markets, international peace and separation of church and state, in opposition to throne and altar, to monarchy, the ruling class, theocracy and war. These—”our people”—were the left, and the purer their vision the more “extreme” they were.

So far so good; but what of socialism, which we had always considered the extreme left? Where did that fit in? Liggio analyzed socialism as a confused middle-of-the-road movement, influenced historically by both the libertarian left and the conservative right. From the individualist left the socialists took the goals of freedom: the withering away of the state, the replacement of the governing of men by the administration of things, opposition to the ruling class and a search for its overthrow, the desire to establish international peace, an advanced industrial economy and a high standard of living for the mass of the people. From the right the socialists adopted the means to achieve these goals—collectivism, state planning, community control of the individual. This put socialism in the middle of the ideological spectrum. It also meant that socialism was an unstable, self-contradictory doctrine bound to fly apart in the inner contradiction between its means and ends.

Our analysis was greatly bolstered by our becoming familiar with the new and exciting group of historians who studied under University of Wisconsin historian William Appleman Williams. From them we discovered that all of us free marketeers had erred in believing that somehow, down deep, Big Businessmen were really in favor of laissez-faire, and that their deviations from it, obviously clear and notorious in recent years, were either “sellouts” of principle to expediency or the result of astute maneuverings by liberal intellectuals.

This is the general view on the right; in the remarkable phrase of Ayn Rand, Big Business is “America’s most persecuted minority.” Persecuted minority, indeed! Sure, there were thrusts against Big Business in the old McCormick Chicago Tribune and in the writings of Albert Jay Nock; but it took the Williams-Kolko analysis to portray the true anatomy and physiology of the American scene.

As Kolko pointed out, all the various measures of federal regulation and welfare statism that left and right alike have always believed to be mass movements against Big Business are not only now backed to the hilt by Big Business, but were originated by it for the very purpose of shifting from a free market to a cartelized economy that would benefit it. Imperialistic foreign policy and the permanent garrison state originated in the Big Business drive for foreign investments and for war contracts at home.

The role of the liberal intellectuals is to serve as “corporate liberals,” weavers of sophisticated apologias to inform the masses that the heads of the American corporate state are ruling on behalf of the “common good” and the “general welfare”—like the priest in the Oriental despotism who convinced the masses that their emperor was all-wise and divine.

Since the early ’60s, as the National Review right has moved nearer to political power, it has jettisoned its old libertarian remnants and has drawn ever closer to the liberals of the Great American Consensus. Evidence of this abounds. There is Bill Buckley’s ever-widening popularity in the mass media and among liberal intellectuals, as well as widespread admiration on the intellectual right for people and groups it once despised: for the New Leader, for Irving Kristol, for the late Felix Frankfurter (who always opposed judicial restraint on government invasions of individual liberty), for Hannah Arendt and Sidney Hook. Despite occasional bows to the free market, conservatives have come to agree that economic issues are unimportant; they therefore accept—or at least do not worry about—the major outlines of the Keynesian welfare-warfare state of liberal corporatism.

On the domestic front, virtually the only conservative interests are to suppress Negroes (“shoot looters,” “crush those riots”), to call for more power for the police so as not to “shield the criminal” (i.e., not to protect his libertarian rights), to enforce prayer in the public schools, to put Reds and other subversives and “seditionists” in jail and to carry on the crusade for war abroad. There is little in the thrust of this program with which liberals can now disagree; any disagreements are tactical or matters of degree only. Even the Cold War—including the war in Vietnam—was begun and maintained and escalated by the liberals themselves.

No wonder that liberal Daniel Moynihan—a national board member of ADA incensed at the radicalism of the current anti-war and Black Power movements—should recently call for a formal alliance between liberals and conservatives, since after all they basically agree on these, the two crucial issues of our time! Even Barry Goldwater has gotten the message; in January 1968 in National Review, Goldwater concluded an article by affirming that he is not against liberals, that liberals are needed as a counterweight to conservatism, and that he had in mind a fine liberal like Max Lerner—Max Lerner, the epitome of the old left, the hated symbol of my youth!

In response to our isolation from the right, and noting the promising signs of libertarian attitudes in the emerging new left, a tiny band of us ex-rightist libertarians founded the “little journal,” Left and Right, in the spring of 1965. We had two major purposes: to make contact with libertarians already on the new left and to persuade the bulk of libertarians or quasi-libertarians who remained on the right to follow our example. We have been gratified in both directions: by the remarkable shift toward libertarian and anti-statist positions of the new left, and by the significant number of young people who have left the right-wing movement.

This left/right tendency has begun to be noticeable on the new left, praised and damned by those aware of the situation.(Our old colleague Ronald Hamowy, an historian at Stanford, set forth the left/right position in the New Republic collection, Thoughts of the Young Radicals (1966). We have received gratifying encouragement from Carl Oglesby who, in his Containment and Change (1967), advocated a coalition of new left and old right, and from the young scholars grouped around the unfortunately now defunct Studies on the Left. We’ve also been criticized, if indirectly, by Staughton Lynd, who worries because our ultimate goals—free market as against socialism—differ.

Finally, liberal historian Martin Duberman, in a recent issue of Partisan Review, sharply criticizes SNCC and CORE for being “anarchists,” for rejecting the authority of the state, for insisting that community be voluntary, and for stressing, along with SDS, participatory instead of representative democracy. Perceptively, if on the wrong side of the fence, Duberman then links SNCC and the new left with us old rightists: “SNCC and CORE, like the Anarchists, talk increasingly of the supreme importance of the individual. They do so, paradoxically, in a rhetoric strongly reminiscent of that long associated with the right. It could be Herbert Hoover . . . but it is in fact Rap Brown who now reiterates the Negro’s need to stand on his own two feet, to make his own decisions, to develop self-reliance and a sense of self-worth. SNCC may be scornful of present-day liberals and ‘statism,’ but it seems hardly to realize that the laissez-faire rhetoric it prefers derives almost verbatim from the classic liberalism of John Stuart Mill.” Tough. It could, I submit, do a lot worse.

I hope to have demonstrated why a few compatriots and I have shifted, or rather been shifted, from “extreme right” to “extreme left” in the past 20 years merely by staying in the same basic ideological place. The right wing, once in determined opposition to Big Government, has now become the conservative wing of the American corporate state and its foreign policy of expansionist imperialism. If we would salvage liberty from this deadening left/right fusion on the center, this needs be done through a counter-fusion of old right and new left.

James Burnham, an editor of National Review and its main strategic thinker in waging the “Third World War” (as he entitles his column), the prophet of the managerial state (in The Managerial Revolution), whose only hint of positive interest in liberty in a lifetime of political writing was a call for legalized firecrackers, recently attacked the dangerous trend among some young conservatives to make common cause with the left in opposing the draft. Burnham warned that he learned in his Trotskyite days that this would be an “unprincipled” coalition, and he warned that if one begins by being anti-draft one might wind up opposed to the war in Vietnam: “And I rather think that some of them are at heart, or are getting to be, against the war. Murray Rothbard has shown how right-wing libertarianism can lead to almost as anti-U.S. a position as left-wing libertarianism does. And a strain of isolationism has always been endemic in the American right.”

This passage symbolizes how deeply the whole thrust of the right wing has changed in the last two decades. Vestigial interest in liberty or in opposition to war and imperialism are now considered deviations to be stamped out without delay. There are millions of Americans, I am convinced, who are still devoted to individual liberty and opposition to the leviathan state at home and abroad, Americans who call themselves “conservatives” but feel that something has gone very wrong with the old anti-New Deal and anti-Fair Deal cause.

Something has gone wrong: the right wing has been captured and transformed by elitists and devotees of the European conservative ideals of order and militarism, by witch hunters and global crusaders, by statists who wish to coerce “morality” and suppress “sedition.”

America was born in a revolution against Western imperialism, born as a haven of freedom against the tyrannies and despotism, the wars and intrigues of the old world. Yet we have allowed ourselves to sacrifice the American ideals of peace and freedom and anti-colonialism on the altar of a crusade to kill communists throughout the world; we have surrendered our libertarian birthright into the hands of those who yearn to restore the Golden Age of the Holy Inquisition. It is about time that we wake up and rise up to restore our heritage.

Originally appeared in Ramparts, VI, 4, June 15, 1968.

“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.


“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.

“Foreword to “The Market For Liberty” by Karl Hess

The most interesting political questions throughout history have been whether or not humans will be ruled or free, whether they will be responsible for their actions as individuals or left irresponsible as members of society, and whether they can live in peace by volitional agreements alone.

The fundamental question of politics has always been whether there should be politics.

Morris and Linda Tannehill, in this book, which has become something of a classic even while being (until now) out of print, answer that politics is not necessary, that the ancient and ongoing contrivance of the marketplace can be substituted for it with ennobling results.

Advocates of state power will of course recoil from the idea and point out that it is all idle dreaming, that the state has always existed and must always exist lest brutal humans descend into, horrors, ANARCHY.  They are correct, of course.  Without the state there would be anarchy for that is, despite all of the perfervid ravings of the Marxist Left and statist Right, all that anarchy means—the absence of the state, the opportunity for liberty.

As for the direction that a world headed for liberty would be taking (descending or ascending) the Tannehills and many others have reviewed the record of the nation state and have discovered a curiously powerful fact.  The nation state has never been associated with peace on earth.  Its most powerful recommendation and record is, as a matter of fact, as a wager of war.  The history of nation states is written around the dates of wars, not peace, around arms and not arts.  The organization of warfare without the coercive power of the nation state is simply unimaginable at the scale with which we have become familiar.

Having shown no capacity whatsoever to bring peace to earth, then what is the claim of the state on our allegiance?  In closely reasoned arguments, the Tannehills maintain that there should be no claim at all; that the state is not needed at any point in our lives and that other, volitional, arrangements can be substituted for every single state function.  They see these arrangements operating in the framework of a truly free market and they carefully explain them.

The benefits, they argue, are as numerous as the problems that now plague us.  Pollution is more easily opposed when it is seen sensibly as an aggression against property rather than as a political cause or licensure.  Monopoly is less likely in a laissez faire world than in a regulated one.  Crime is less likely in communities responsible for their own protection than in those which are simply precinct outposts of the state’s police forces.  And so on and on throughout the entire, dreary record of state activity and through the exciting possibilities of libertarian activity.

Much of what the Tannehills have to say has become familiar to libertarians since the book was first published in 1970.  It is their proposition that it will become familiar to more and more people as the myths of the state topple under the weight of reality.  It is also their proposition that the changed order that will ensue from libertarian ideas will be enduring and beneficent, unlike the changes that have occurred in the past as the result of violence.

Supporting their contention is an analysis of the state which even if it seemed fanciful to some in 1970 must seem almost modest today.  The free economies of the world, the so-called underground economies, are growing at an astonishing rate.  In Italy it is the underground economy that keeps the country afloat.  In America it is the least inflation-prone and probably the fastest growing part of the economy, having elicited from President Reagan the wistful comment that if the underground paid its taxes (tribute) to the state then he could balance the budget.  In the countries of the Soviet police-state the underground economy is at one and the same time a powerful force in keeping people alive and also a powerful force in keeping alive their hopes for freedom.

Meantime, the economy of the least free state, the Soviet, continues to sputter along at a rate so depressed that the subjects of the state tyranny cannot even feed themselves adequately.  And the economy of the most free state, America, drags itself deeper and deeper into state-related debt and depression.  Only, in America at least, a renewed sense of entrepreneurial possibility keeps anything moving ahead.  Seeing such activity should remind us all that the entrepreneurial shine in a state society could become star-bright brilliance in a fully free society.

The importance of re-issuing the Tannehills’ book at this time, it seems to me, is in the probability that it will inspire and enlarge the horizons of young entrepreneurs who may enormously enjoy what they are doing but may not fully appreciate the larger implications of a free market world.  Some will appreciate, from reading the Tannehills, that not only can they make money but that they can help make a new world as they do it.

“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