Benjamin Tucker

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The Anarchists believe in civil society; only they insist that the freedom of civil society shall be complete instead of partial.

Benjamin Ricketson Tucker (April 17, 1854June 22, 1939) was a journalist, socialist, and the leading proponent of American individualist anarchism in the 19th century.

Quotes[edit]

Education is a slow process, and may not come too quickly. Anarchists who endeavor to hasten it by joining in the propaganda of State Socialism or revolution make a sad mistake indeed.
  • Education is a slow process, and may not come too quickly. Anarchists who endeavor to hasten it by joining in the propaganda of State Socialism or revolution make a sad mistake indeed. They help to so force the march of events that the people will not have time to find out, by the study of their experience, that their troubles have been due to the rejection of competition. If this lesson shall not be learned in a season, the past will be repeated in the future, in which case we shall have to turn for consolation to the doctrine of Nietzsche that this is bound to happen anyhow, or to the reflection of Renan that, from the point of view of Sirius, all these matters are of little moment.
    • Editorial postscript to and edition of State Socialism and Anarchism : How Far They Agree, and Wherin They Differ (11 August 1926)

Liberty's Declaration of Purpose (1881)[edit]

Monopoly and privilege must be destroyed, opportunity afforded, and competition encouraged. This is Liberty's work, and "Down with Authority" her war-cry.
Liberty Vol. 1, No. 1 (6 August 1881)
  • LIBERTY enters the field of journalism to speak for herself because she finds no one willing to speak for her. She hears no voice that always champions her; she knows no pen that always writes in her defence; she sees no hand that is always lifted to avenge her wrongs or vindicate her rights. Many claim to speak in her name, but few really understand her. Still fewer have the courage and the opportunity to consistently fight for her. Her battle, then, is her own, to wage and win. She — accepts it fearlessly and with a determined spirit.
    Her foe, Authority, takes many shapes, but, broadly speaking, her enemies divide themselves into three classes: first, those who abhor her both as a means and as an end of progress, opposing her openly, avowedly, sincerely, consistently, universally; second, those who profess to believe in her as a means of progress, but who accept her only so far as they think she will subserve their own selfish interests, denying her and her blessings to the rest of the world; third, those who distrust her as a means of progress, believing in her only as an end to be obtained by first trampling upon, violating, and outraging her. These three phases of opposition to Liberty are met in almost every sphere of thought and human activity.
  • Monopoly and privilege must be destroyed, opportunity afforded, and competition encouraged. This is Liberty's work, and "Down with Authority" her war-cry.

State Socialism and Anarchism: How Far They Agree, and Wherin They Differ (1888)[edit]

Anarchism … may be described as the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by individuals or voluntary associations, and that the State should be abolished.
Online text. Originally published in Liberty 5.16, no. 120 (10 March 1888), pp. 2-3, 6.
  • Probably no agitation has ever attained the magnitude, either in the number of its recruits or the area of its influence, which has been attained by Modern Socialism, and at the same time been so little understood and so misunderstood, not only by the hostile and the indifferent, but by the friendly, and even by the great mass of its adherents themselves. This unfortunate and highly dangerous state of things is due partly to the fact that the human relationships which this movement — if anything so chaotic can be called a movement — aims to transform, involve no special class or classes, but literally all mankind; partly to the fact that these relationships are infinitely more varied and complex in their nature than those with which any special reform has ever been called upon to deal; and partly to the fact that the great moulding forces of society, the channels of information and enlightenment, are well-nigh exclusively under the control of those whose immediate pecuniary interests are antagonistic to the bottom claim of Socialism that labor should be put in possession of its own.
    • ¶ 1
  • Almost the only persons who may be said to comprehend even approximately the significance, principles, and purposes of Socialism are the chief leaders of the extreme wings of the Socialistic forces, and perhaps a few of the money kings themselves. It is a subject of which it has lately become quite the fashion for preacher, professor, and penny-a-liner to treat, and, for the most part, woeful work they have made with it, exciting the derision and pity of those competent to judge. That those prominent in the intermediate Socialistic divisions do not fully understand what they are about is evident from the positions they occupy.
    • ¶ 2
  • The two principles referred to are Authority and Liberty, and the names of the two schools of Socialistic thought which fully and unreservedly represent one or the other of them are, respectively, State Socialism and Anarchism. Whoso knows what these two schools want and how they propose to get it understands the Socialistic movement. For, just as it has been said that there is no half-way house between Rome and Reason, so it may be said that there is no half-way house between State Socialism and Anarchism.
    • ¶ 4
  • The economic principles of Modern Socialism are a logical deduction from the principle laid down by Adam Smith in the early chapters of his “Wealth of Nations,” — namely, that labor is the true measure of price. But Adam Smith, after stating this principle most clearly and concisely, immediately abandoned all further consideration of it to devote himself to showing what actually does measure price, and how, therefore, wealth is at present distributed. Since his day nearly all the political economists have followed his example by confining their function to the description of society as it is, in its industrial and commercial phases. Socialism, on the contrary, extends its function to the description of society as it should be, and the discovery of the means of making it what it should be.
    • ¶ 6
  • It was at this point — the necessity of striking down monopoly — that came the parting of their ways. Here the road forked. They found that they must turn either to the right or to the left, — follow either the path of Authority or the path of Liberty. Marx went one way; Warren and Proudhon the other. Thus were born State Socialism and Anarchism.
    • ¶ 10
  • First, then, State Socialism, which may be described as the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by the government, regardless of individual choice. Marx, its founder, concluded that the only way to abolish the class monopolies was to centralize and consolidate all industrial and commercial interests, all productive and distributive agencies, in one vast monopoly in the hands of the State. The government must become banker, manufacturer, farmer, carrier, and merchant, and in these capacities must suffer no competition. Land, tools, and all instruments of production must be wrested from individual hands, and made the property of the collectivity. To the individual can belong only the products to be consumed, not the means of producing them. A man may own his clothes and his food, but not the sewing-machine which makes his shirts or the spade which digs his potatoes. Product and capital are essentially different things; the former belongs to individuals, the latter to society. Society must seize the capital which belongs to it, by the ballot if it can, by revolution if it must. Once in possession of it, it must administer it on the majority principle, though its organ, the State, utilize it in production and distribution, fix all prices by the amount of labor involved, and employ the whole people in its workshops, farms, stores, etc. The nation must be transformed into a vast bureaucracy, and every individual into a State official. Everything must be done on the cost principle, the people having no motive to make a profit out of themselves. Individuals not being allowed to own capital, no one can employ another, or even himself. Every man will be a wage-receiver, and the State the only wage-payer. He who will not work for the State must starve, or, more likely, go to prison. All freedom of trade must disappear. Competition must be utterly wiped out. All industrial and commercial activity must be centered in one vast, enormous, all-inclusive monopoly. The remedy for monopolies is monopoly.
    Such is the economic programme of State Socialism as adopted from Karl Marx.
    • ¶ 11 & 12
  • What other applications this principle of Authority, once adopted in the economic sphere, will develop is very evident. It means the absolute control by the majority of all individual conduct. The right of such control is already admitted by the State Socialists, though they maintain that, as a matter of fact, the individual would be allowed a much larger liberty than he now enjoys. But he would only be allowed it; he could not claim it as his own. There would be no foundation of society upon a guaranteed equality of the largest possible liberty. Such liberty as might exist would exist by sufferance and could be taken away at any moment. Constitutional guarantees would be of no avail. There would be but one article in the constitution of a State Socialistic country: “The right of the majority is absolute.”
    • ¶ 13
  • The claim of the State Socialists, however, that this right would not be exercised in matters pertaining to the individual in the more intimate and private relations of his life is not borne out by the history of governments. It has ever been the tendency of power to add to itself, to enlarge its sphere, to encroach beyond the limits set for it; and where the habit of resisting such encroachment is not fostered, and the individual is not taught to be jealous of his rights, individuality gradually disappears and the government or State becomes the all-in-all. Control naturally accompanies responsibility. Under the system of State Socialism, therefore, which holds the community responsible for the health, wealth, and wisdom of the individual, it is evident that the community, through its majority expression, will insist more and more in prescribing the conditions of health, wealth, and wisdom, thus impairing and finally destroying individual independence and with it all sense of individual responsibility.
    • ¶ 14
  • This brings us to Anarchism, which may be described as the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by individuals or voluntary associations, and that the State should be abolished.
    • ¶ 17
  • Laissez Faire was very good sauce for the goose, labor, but was very poor sauce for the gander, capital.
    • ¶ 19
  • Marx, as we have seen, solved it by declaring capital to be a different thing from product, and maintaining that it belonged to society and should be seized by society and employed for the benefit of all alike.
    • ¶ 20
  • If the individual has a right to govern himself, all external government is tyranny. Hence the necessity of abolishing the State.
    • ¶ 28
  • In the matter of the maintenance and rearing of children the Anarchists would neither institute the communistic nursery which the State Socialists favor nor keep the communistic school system which now prevails. The nurse and the teacher, like the doctor and the preacher, must be selected voluntarily, and their services must be paid for by those who patronize them. Parental rights must not be taken away, and parental responsibilities must not be foisted upon others.
    • ¶ 31
  • I will simply call attention to the fact that it is an ideal utterly inconsistent with that of those Communists who falsely call themselves Anarchists while at the same time advocating a regime of Archism fully as despotic as that of the State Socialists themselves.
    • ¶ 34

The Relation of the State to the Invididual (1890)[edit]

He who attempts to control another is a governor, an aggressor, an invader; and the nature of such invasion is not changed, whether it is made by one man upon another man, after the manner of the ordinary criminal, or by one man upon all other men, after the manner of an absolute monarch, or by all other men upon one man, after the manner of a modern democracy.
Distinction between invasion and resistance, between government and defence, is vital.
Address before the Unitarian Ministers' Institute, Salem, Massachusetts (14 October 1890)
  • Anarchism, in dealing with this subject, has found it necessary, first of all, to define its terms. Popular conceptions of the terminology of politics are incompatible with the rigorous exactness required in scientific investigation. To be sure, a departure from the popular use of language is accompanied by the risk of misconception by the multitude, who persistently ignore the new definitions; but, on the other hand, conformity thereto is attended by the still more deplorable alternative of confusion in the eyes of the competent, who would be justified in attributing inexactness of thought where there is inexactness of expression. Take the term "State," for instance, with which we are especially concerned today. It is a word that is on every lip. But how many of those who use it have any idea of what they mean by it? And, of the few who have, how various are their conceptions! We designate by the term "State" institutions that embody absolutism in its extreme form and institutions that temper it with more or less liberality. We apply the word alike to institutions that do nothing but aggress and to institutions that, besides aggressing, to some extent protect and defend. But which is the State's essential function, aggression or defence, few seem to know or care. Some champions of the State evidently consider aggression its principle, although they disguise it alike from themselves and from the people under the term "administration," which they wish to extend in every possible direction. Others, on the contrary, consider defence its principle, and wish to limit it accordingly to the performance of police duties. Still others seem to think that it exists for both aggression and defence, combined in varying proportions according to the momentary interests, or maybe only whims, of those happening to control it.
  • Anarchists, whose mission in the world is the abolition of aggression and all the evils that result therefrom, perceived that, to be understood, they must attach some definite and avowed significance to the terms which they are obliged to employ, and especially to the words "State" and "government." Seeking, then, the elements common to all the institutions to which the name "State" has been applied, they have found them two in number: first, aggression; second, the assumption of sole authority over a given area and all within it, exercised generally for the double purpose of more complete oppression of its subjects and extension of its boundaries.
  • Aggression is simply another name for government. Aggression, invasion, government, are interconvertible terms. The essence of government is control, or the attempt to control. He who attempts to control another is a governor, an aggressor, an invader; and the nature of such invasion is not changed, whether it is made by one man upon another man, after the manner of the ordinary criminal, or by one man upon all other men, after the manner of an absolute monarch, or by all other men upon one man, after the manner of a modern democracy.
  • This distinction between invasion and resistance, between government and defence, is vital. Without it there can be no valid philosophy of politics. Upon this distinction and the other considerations just outlined, the Anarchists frame the desired definitions. This, then, is the Anarchistic definition of government: the subjection of the non-invasive individual to an external will. And this is the Anarchistic definition of the State: the embodiment of the principle of invasion in an individual, or a band of individuals, assuming to act as representatives or masters of the entire people within a given area.
  • Defence was an afterthought, prompted by necessity; and its introduction as a State function, though effected doubtless with a view to the strengthening of the State, was really and in principle the initiation of the State's destruction. Its growth in importance is but an evidence of the tendency of progress toward the abolition of the State.
  • Taking this view of the matter, the Anarchists contend that defence is not an essential of the State, but that aggression is.
  • What relations should exist between the State and the Individual? The general method of determining these is to apply some theory of ethics involving a basis of moral obligation. In this method the Anarchists have no confidence. The idea of moral obligation, of inherent rights and duties, they totally discard. They look upon all obligations, not as moral, but as social, and even then not really as obligations except as these have been consciously and voluntarily assumed. If a man makes an agreement with men, the latter may combine to hold him to his agreement; but, in the absence of such agreement, no man, so far as the Anarchists are aware, has made any agreement with God or with any other power of any order whatsoever. The Anarchists are not only utilitarians, but egoists in the farthest and fullest sense. So far as inherent right is concerned, might is its only measure.
  • The exercise of authority over the same area by two States is a contradiction.
  • "But," it will be asked of the Anarchists at this point in the argument, "what shall be done with those individuals who undoubtedly will persist in violating the social law by invading their neighbors?" The Anarchists answer that the abolition of the State will leave in existence a defensive association, resting no longer on a compulsory but on a voluntary basis, which will restrain invaders by any means that may prove necessary.
  • Why, the very first act of the State, the compulsory assessment and collection of taxes, is itself an aggression, a violation of equal liberty, and, as such, initiates every subsequent act, even those acts which would be purely defensive if paid out of a treasury filled by voluntary contributions. How is it possible to sanction, under the law of equal liberty, the confiscation of a man's earnings to pay for protection which he has not sought and does not desire? And, if this is an outrage, what name shall we give to such confiscation when the victim is given, instead of bread, a stone, instead of protection, oppression? To force a man to pay for the violation of his own liberty is indeed an addition of insult to injury. But that is exactly what the State is doing.

Individual Liberty (1926)[edit]

Online text, Individual Liberty: Selections From the Writings of Benjamin R. Tucker Vanguard Press, New York, 1926
  • Voluntary taxation, far from impairing the "State's" credit, would strengthen it. In the first place, the simplification of its functions would greatly reduce, and perhaps entirely abolish, its need to borrow, and the power to borrow is generally inversely proportional to the steadiness of the need. It is usually the inveterate borrower who lacks credit. In the second place, the power of the State to repudiate, and still continue its business, is dependent upon its power of compulsory taxation. It knows that, when it can no longer borrow, it can at least tax its citizens up to the limit of revolution. In the third place, the State is trusted, not because it is over and above individuals, but because the lender presumes that it desires to maintain its credit and will therefore pay its debts. This desire for credit will be stronger in a "State" supported by voluntary taxation than in the State which enforces taxation.

Anarchism and Crime[edit]

Online text
  • Where crime exists, force must exist to repress it. Who denies it? Certainly not Liberty; certainly not the Anarchists. Anarchism is not a revival of non-resistance, though there may be non-resistants in its ranks. The direction of Mr. Ball's attack implies that we would let robbery, rape, and murder make havoc in the community without lifting a finger to stay their brutal, bloody work. On the contrary, we are the sternest enemies of invasion of person and property, and, although chiefly busy in destroying the causes thereof, have no scruples against such heroic treatment of its immediate manifestations as circumstances and wisdom may dictate. It is true that we look forward to the ultimate disappearance of the necessity of force even for the purpose of repressing crime, but this, though involved in it as a necessary result, is by no means a necessary condition of the abolition of the State.
  • Once for all, then, we are not opposed to the punishment of thieves and murderers; we are opposed to their manufacture.
  • If the defenders of privilege desire to exclude from this country the opponents of privilege, they should see to it that Congress omits the taking of the eleventh census. For the eleventh census, if taken, will undoubtedly emphasize these two lessons of the tenth: first, that foreign immigration does not increase dishonesty and violence among us, but does increase the love of liberty; second, that the population of the world is gradually dividing into two classes, Anarchists and criminals.

Liberty and Politics[edit]

The Anarchists believe in the family; they only insist that free competition and experiment shall always be allowed in order that it may be determined what form of family best secures this object.
Online text
  • The Anarchists believe in the family; they only insist that free competition and experiment shall always be allowed in order that it may be determined what form of family best secures this object.
  • The Anarchists believe in civil society; only they insist that the freedom of civil society shall be complete instead of partial.
  • The Anarchists believe in the State; only they insist that the greater part, if not all, of the necessity for its existence is the result of an artificial limitation of the freedom of civil society, and that the completion of industrial freedom may one day so harmonize individuals that it will no longer be necessary to provide a guarantee of political freedom.
  • The Anarchists most certainly believe in the Church; only they insist that all its work shall be purely voluntary, and that its discoveries and achievements, however beneficial, shall not be imposed upon the individual by authority.

Anarchism and Capital Punishment[edit]

Online text
  • I have also seen it stated that Capital punishment is murder in its worst form. I should like to know upon what principle of human society these assertions are based and justified.
  • But this is not to say that the society which inflicts capital punishment commits murder. Murder is an offensive act. The term cannot be applied legitimately to any defensive act. And capital punishment, however ineffective it may be and through whatever ignorance it may be resorted to, is a strictly defensive act,—at least in theory.
  • I insist that there is nothing sacred in the life of an invader, and there is no valid principle of human society that forbids the invaded to protect themselves in whatever way they can.

Passive Resistance[edit]

Passive resistance is the instrument by which the revolutionary force is destined to secure in the last great conflict the people's rights forever.
Online text
  • It is not wise warfare to throw your ammunition to the enemy unless you throw it from the cannon's mouth. But if you can compel the enemy to waste his ammunition by drawing his fire on some thoroughly protected spot; if you can, by annoying and goading and harassing him in all possible ways, drive him to the last resort of stripping bare his tyrannous and invasive purposes and put him in the attitude of a designing villain assailing honest men for purposes of plunder; there is no better strategy.
  • "Passive resistance," said Ferdinand Lassalle, with an obtuseness thoroughly German, "is the resistance which does not resist." Never was there a greater mistake. It is the only resistance which in these days of military discipline resists with any result. There is not a tyrant in the civilized world today who would not do anything in his power to precipitate a bloody revolution rather than see himself confronted by any large fraction of his subjects determined not to obey. An insurrection is easily quelled; but no army is willing or able to train its guns on inoffensive people who do not even gather in the streets but stay at home and stand back on their rights. Neither the ballot nor the bayonet is to play any great part in the coming struggle; passive resistance is the instrument by which the revolutionary force is destined to secure in the last great conflict the people's rights forever.
  • The idea that Anarchy can be inaugurated by force is as fallacious as the idea that it can be sustained by force. Force cannot preserve Anarchy; neither can it bring it. In fact, one of the inevitable influences of the use of force is to postpone Anarchy. The only thing that force can ever do for us is to save us from extinction, to give us a longer lease of life in which to try to secure Anarchy by the only methods that can ever bring it. But this advantage is always purchased at immense cost, and its attainment is always attended by frightful risk. The attempt should be made only when the risk of any other course is greater.
  • When a physician sees that his patient's strength is being exhausted so rapidly by the intensity of his agony that he will die of exhaustion before the medical processes inaugurated have a chance to do their curative work, he administers an opiate. But a good physician is always loath to do so, knowing that one of the influences of the opiate is to interfere with and defeat the medical processes themselves. He never does it except as a choice of evils. It is the same with the use of force, whether of the mob or of the State, upon diseased society; and not only those who prescribe its indiscriminate use as a sovereign remedy and a permanent tonic, but all who ever propose it as a cure, and even all who would lightly and unnecessarily resort to it, not as a cure, but as an expedient, are social quacks.
  • Passive resistance and boycotting are now prominent features of every great national movement.

Quotes about Tucker[edit]

  • Tucker opposed violent revolution and believed in the achievement of his goals by education: When all are rational egoists, none will submit to exploitation, and by passive resistance they will starve out the state and the monopolists.
    • Robert Anton Wilson, in Everything Is Under Control : Conspiracies, Cults, and Cover-Ups (1998), p. 405

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