What We Mean
| Resources Relating to|
|Comprehensive Index to Liberty|
|Benjamin Ricketson Tucker|
What We Mean.
Our purpose is the abolition, not only of all existing States, but of the State itself. Is not this a straightforward and well-defined purpose? There can be no mistaking it, and it admits of no equivocation. The least that our enemies can say of us is that we stand in the market-place of thought and action with a square protest and a square assertion.
And what is the State? It is not a thing that can be especially defined by Russia, Germany, Great Britain, or Massachusetts. The State is a principle, a philosophical error in social existence. The State is chaos, rioting under the guise of law, order, and morality. The State is a mob, posited on unscientific premises. We propose to supplant the mob by that true social order which is pivoted on the sovereignty of individualities associated for mutual well-being under the law or natural attraction and selection,— Liberty.
Under this formula we do not, in the best sense of the word, discard government. On the contrary, it is government that we are after. The State is not government, since it denies Liberty. The State becomes impossible the moment you remove from it the element of compulsion. But it is exactly at this point that government begins. Where the State ceases government begin, and, conversely, where the State begins government ceases.
We often hear of a wise parent governing his children by love. Did anyone ever hear of a monarch conducting a State by love? Did not the State originate in a distrust of love and natural selection as the true motors of government? Was not the very motive of the first rulers of peoples the abolition of government? Were they not designing conspirators, who saw that, under a system of natural association, there would be universal well-being and a just distribution of natural wealth and the rewards of labor? In order to enrich themselves and gratify their vanity and love of power at the expense of others, they took advantage of the superstitions element in man, and erected their thrones under cover of the divinity. Their purpose was to supplant government by force, and their machine the called the State.
Now, wherever force takes the place of natural selection and associative mutualism founded on consent, there a State is inaugurated. It may be in the church; it may be in the political State; it may be in the league, the club, the lyceum, as labor union, or the household. It is a State, in that it posits authority and supplements it by force, thus denying government and substituting despotism.
We assert that delegated authority assumed to be vested in any titled or elected person, not excepting God himself, is, in the very nature of the case, a lie, a fraud, and, moreover, a scientific impossibility, since the individual is the only source of authority, and, even if he would, could not alienate from his personality the control of himself by contract. Hence we regard all popes, kings, emperors, presidents, and persons in authority everywhere as impostors and usurpers, and the constitutions, "vested rights," and other lying parchments under which they claim the right to rule as binding only on such as freely give their consent
When we state as our purpose, then, the abolition of the State, the reader must not have in view a forcible raid upon the palace of some king, or a military expedition against same state house, parliament, or arsenal, even though at some later day circumstances should give rise to such incidents in our warfare. What we mean by the abolition of the State is the abolition of a false philosophy, or, rather, the overthrow of a gigantic fraud under which people consent to be coerced and restrained from minding their own business. The philosophy of Liberty can be applied everywhere, and he who successfully applies it in his family in the place of avenging Gods, arbitrary codes, threats, commands, and whips may easily have the satisfaction of abolishing at least one State. When we have substituted our philosophy in place of the old, then the palaces, cathedrals, and arsenals will naturally fall to pieces through neglect and the rust that is sure to corrupt tenantless and obsolete structures.
We should like to be able to better elucidate our philosophy in a larger and more frequently issued sheet. We do the best that we can in the little space at our command. Meanwhile, all the signs of the times promise well, and we go on with our humble work rejoicing,— conquering and to conquer.
- Benjamin R. Tucker, “What We Mean,” Liberty 1, no. 19 (April 15, 1882): 2-3.