Anarchy, Government, and Liberty

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James L. Walker

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Anarchy, Government, and Liberty.

[ J. L. W. in the Truth Seeker.]

As an Anarchist partisan who does not think himself mentally broad enough to have surrounded all truth, I highly appreciate the work which the "Truth Seeker " is doing. From your intimation that social chaos is what you understand by Anarchy, and from reading many of your articles, I think that there is some difference in the force of certain words to your mind and ours. To me Anarchy is liberty, and liberty is Anarchy. You say that your party is Liberty, — liberty for every one to think, express his thought, and act as he pleases so long as he infringes upon no other's equal right, and curtails no other's equal liberty. Now, this is what I want, too, and with this admitted and intelligently applied we should have that condition which we call Anarchy. But I must ask that by " equal liberty " we are at all events to understand liberty, not equal restriction. In a tantalizing sense, there may be " equal liberty " where there is very little liberty. People do not yet seem to realize that, when they have put themselves under constitutional law, taking away natural liberty, the imposition upon a dissenting minority is not redeemed by the same being submitted to by the makers. They call that equal liberty. We call it equal slavery.

Whether or not we are to condemn government depends upon what is meant by government. Find me a government in which all the citizens have agreed to join together, and where they have the conceded right to individually withdraw from contributing to its support when it ceases to fulfil their aims, as we now have with churches, and I will admit that such government is compatible with Anarchism. Anarchists have no objection to any number of persons having a government, if such government will curtail none of our liberty according to your definition. We say that, when a government levies taxes upon us without our consent, it curtails our liberty and pursuit of happiness by robbing us of our means. As the churches are supported by voluntary contributions, so let the government be supported. That is to say, we have no objection to the subjects of a government voluntarily assuming such obligations and binding themselves as they see fit to contribute and to pay, but let them take nothing from us and interfere in no way with such of our acts as don't infringe upon their natural liberties, and we are content. We believe in preventing and publishing murder and robbery, etc. It is a question of words whether this prevention and punishment shall be called government or not. We refer it, when done by a hired force, to the principle of insurance.

You know that in economic science " rent" has a technical meaning. We give a technical meaning to "government." We do not use it to mean protection, but rulership. Are we not justified logically by the fact that advocates of government are constantly ready to assert that it is impossible for them to carry on their scheme without forcing all natives of the country to be citizens and taxpayers, whether they individually wish to be Bo or not ? They will respect our "equal" liberty, but they cannot afford to respect our liberty, neither our property. We are now in the same stage that you would be in if the idea prevailed that, in order to support the church, the majority might force the minority to be members, — at least, to contribute to it, — and that, their rights of membership, voting, etc., being reserved for them whenever they chose to claim them, they were treated with " equal" religious freedom, but contribute they must and obey they must in no matter what unnecessary things the authority of the majority ordered. We are seeking to enlighten men as to the wrong and absurdity of promiscuous reciprocal tyranny. In proportion as this enlightenment spreads, the way will be prepared for that which, with your habits of thought, you may prefer to call a philosophic Anarchical government, or government of actual consent, but which we call simply Anarchy. Chaos is a theological fiction. In all nature form and order result from the powers in things. Government other than self-government is violence. To have a self-governing state it would be necessary to have the voluntary adhesion of every citizen. We claim that the adhesion and support of a great majority can be had for equitable regulations compatible with and in furtherance of liberty, and that, if any stand out and cannot appreciate the benefits of insurance, we can afford to let them alone so long as they behave themselves. I claim that Anarchy will accomplish in a more true and scientific manner the aim of protection, which is all that attaches republicans to government. I claim this with the same confidence as you claim that natural morality will develop all the virtues, — for which alone some conservative people still cling to their Bibles, — and develop them far better for not having a mixture or leaven of authority foreign to the meritorious element in the case.

  • James L. Walker, “Anarchy, Government, and Liberty,” Liberty 5, no. 6 (October 22, 1887): 6.