« AnkstesnisTęsti »
there in the hold, whither the editor has "cleared out" from the battle. He says:
When the proposition was originally stated in Liberty, I understood it to mean that Government is the father of all evil that arises out of our social conditions. Mr. Yarros, the author of it, tells me that he meant precisely that.
Signs, omens, dreams, predictions! What hybrid monster have we here? What do you mean by evils arising "out of our social conditions?" Not, I trust, that any evils are caused by social conditions in general, for what then becomes of the paternity of Government? So, so. We have "evil that arises out of our social conditions," but at the same time, nevertheless, howsomever, Government is the father of that very evil! Then, what relation to the evil do the "social conditions" bear, out of which the evil arose? Sea-foam?
This is better. Social conditions cause certain evil, and Government is the cause of social conditions. But what has Liberty gained by this performance? Once well stowed below decks, the editor should have courted darkness; but here he is out in the light again. Of course, it is unnecessary to say that his alternative proposition - that Government is the only serious obstacle to change for the better in social conditions is not the same thing as the real proposition, to any intent or purpose. I resolutely refuse to engage in a vague speculation as to the future effect of abolishing Government until the past effect of having Government shall have been demonstrated to have fathered all the social evil in the world. This is the proper premise to go with the conclusion that Government is the only serious obstacle to improvement. I deny that Government is the only serious obstacle to improvement.
When Liberty shows that Government is the father of all social evil, it will follow that Government is the only serious obstacle to improvement, and that Government should be abolished. But Liberty will never succeed in showing this, for it is not so. Government is the cause of some evil, which may now be laid hold of and modified
for the better. But the enforcement of justice between individuals is not injurious, and whenever Government does that, as it sometimes does even now, the effect is good, and not evil. Progress lies in this direction.
It appears, then, that this clearing for battle is not very successful. The original proposition I called on Liberty to defend was a metaphorical expression to begin with, and, moreover, a hyperbolic expression. This was its excuse. As a piece of rhetoric, it will pass muster, and needs no further apology. But the trouble is, that this exaggerated declaration is really the required premise for Anarchism, and a great political theory resting on such a foundation is not very secure. Now, all that I want of Liberty is, that the exaggeration should be candidly admitted. This were much better than getting deeper into the scrape, by transforming the expression into a cold statement of fact about causation. "Government is the father of all social evil,"
that does very well as a figure of speech; government is the cause of all social evil," - that is a manifestly exaggerated and false statement. It cannot be detruded from history. Let us dismount this great war-horse of Anarchy and devote ourselves quietly, but firmly and resolutely, to the pedestrian advance of individualism. Leave flights of imagination to the poets. Government as it is, is a social evil, and a cause of evil. Let that suffice for a premise, and let the conclusion be that Government should be transformed by our efforts (how the politicians will giggle at that!) into a social good and a cause of good.
With regard to the attack on Spencer's view of the ethics of majority rule, I would say that it is a very interesting subject, which I should gladly pursue further, did not propriety forbid. I learn with regret from the
Denver Individualist that Mr. Yarros saw fit to ascribe certain motives to Mr. Spencer in writing his criticism of majority rule, thing about wanting to recover the esteem of the "Pillars of Society," or stuff like that. It goes without saying that Mr. Yarros knows nothing about Spencer's motives; that his statement is another flight of the imagination, which may be regarded rather as absurd than as impertinent. Still I cannot pass it over. If he will publicly confess his error, I shall be glad to reply to his remarks on the subject, which are really very much to the point.
THE ABOLITION OF Interest.
The article on "Interest," which appeared in No. 13 of To-DAY, was not intended as a defence of interest. The first intention was to entitle it "Curiosities of Interest," but on further reflection the facts collected did not seem sufficiently curious to warrant this title. Certainly, as the article did not attack the views of those who at present contend that, under different social and political conditions, the practice of paying and receiving interest on loans would cease, it can hardly be made matter of complaint that the facts contained in the article are irrelevant to this issue. Yet Liberty objects on this account, and asserts, moreover, that the facts would be (6 more interesting if less venerable." Why? A person with money to invest would doubtless be more concerned with the present rate of interest than with the rate in the time of Solon; but why the one should throw any more light upon the subject in question is not apparent. There are some persons to whom a fact is very interesting and important if only it is two thousand years old, and others for whom the fact loses all interest if it occurred earlier than the day before yesterday. I am sure that the editor of Liberty belongs to neither class. The general bearing of the facts, mentioned in TO-DAY, together with a great number of other facts of the same kind, is to show that the practice of taking interest has prevailed in many countries and for a long time; that it arose in spite of public opinion, in spite of strenuous opposition from religious leaders and organizations, and often in spite of hostility on the part of governments. To prove that a practice of such long continuance, of such wide extension, a practice which has been treated in almost every way by governments, is the indirect effect of government monopoly, requires very strong evidence.
Liberty charges us with being guilty of stating an economic truism, in saying that the existence of interest depends primarily upon the existence of private property. Surely it is permissible to state a truism incidentally; but the complaint is rather against the supposed implication.
The reader is expected to look upon interest as a necessary result of private property simply because without private property there could be no interest. Now, my hat sometimes hangs upon a hook, and, if there were no hook, there could be no hanging-hat;
but it by no means follows that because there is a hook, there must be a hanging-hat. Therefore, if I wanted to abolish hanging-hats, it would be idle, irrelevant, and illogical to declare that I must first abolish hooks. Likewise it is idle, irrelevant, and illogical to declare that before interest can be abolished, private property must be abolished.
It is conceivable that there might be interest without the existence of private property. Suppose that all things were owned by the State, then the State might certainly lend some of these things to individuals and receive interest for their use. But the great bulk of property that is loaned is private property. Private property and interest coexist, and it is asserted that one depends upon the other. So if one sees a hat hanging on a hook, and says the hat depends upon the hook, this is not equivalent to asserting that the hat could not be supported in any other way. Another illustration given by Liberty is that winter is the cause of water-pipes freezing, "but it is not necessary to abolish winter, to prevent this." To be more accurate, the cause of the freezing is the radiation of heat from the pipes, and it is necessary to prevent radiation beyond a certain extent, or the water will freeze.
TO-DAY is also charged with asserting an economic fallacy, when it says that the amount of currency can have no effect upon the abundance of capital. This must be admitted to be an unfortunate form of statement, since it is susceptible of an absurd interpretation if taken literally. A certain amount of currency is necessary in any country at any time. In this country at present $10,000 would be too little, and $10,000,000,000 too much. Just what amount would be most beneficial cannot be determined; and this is an objection to the Government's attempting to fix the amount. If the Government did not interfere, there is good reason to think that the amount would be regulated by natural causes. The context of the statement, which is given by Liberty, seems to make clear enough the meaning intended.
The real question, however, is, will " a human device, — namely, money and banking, if not restricted, prevent the necessity of borrowing capital as a general thing"? Is it true that, because money is a means for the transfer of capital, the agencies of production, the ability to issue money, secured by their own property, would make it unnecessary for
A is a farmer owning a farm. He mortgages his farm to a bank for $1,000, giving the bank a mortgage note for that sum and receiving in exchange the bank's notes for the same sum, which are secured by the mortgage. With the bank-notes A buys farming tools of B. The next day B uses the notes to buy of C the materials used in the manufacture of tools. The day after, C in turn pays them to D in exchange for something that he needs. At the end of a year, after a constant succession of exchanges, the notes are in the hands of Z, a dealer in farm produce. He pays them to A, who gives in return $1,000 worth of farm products which he has raised during the year. Then A carries the notes to the bank, receives in exchange for them his mortgage note, and the bank cancels the mortgage. Now, in this whole circle of transactions, has there been any lending of capital? If so, who was the lender? If not, who is entitled to any interest? I call upon the editor of TO-DAY to answer this queston. It is needless to assure him that it is vital.
A has obtained capital, farming tools, from B, and the bank has furnished him the means with which to pay for them. The case between him and the bank is precisely the same as if he had borrowed from it $1,000 in gold; the bank-notes are supposed to circulate at their face value. He retains possession of his farm, and gets the tools in addition. Immediately after the first transaction A has $1,000 more and the bank $1,000 less than before. The mortgage is given as security that he will pay the debt at some future time. If this is not borrowing, then some new definition of the word must be discovered. The case certainly would not be different in any essential feature if A had borrowed the farming tools directly of B, giving to him the mortgage as security. The mortgage, to be sure, can be sold, probably for its face value; but only because it bears interest, for most men would prefer $1,000 to-day to the promise of the same sum a year hence.
The article on "Interest" was not intended as a defence of interest, much less as a defence of the present banking system. In common with many of the most authoritative writers on economical subjects, TO-DAY holds that the business of banking should be free and unrestricted. It would go further in this direction than most of these writers, and maintain that the only connection govern
ments should have with banking is the enforcement of contracts. It is ready to admit that free banking would lower the rate of interest, and is willing to be convinced that interest might be abolished altogether; but the evidence for the latter proposition seems insufficient. It seems unlikely that, in general, promises to pay, even though amply secured, will ever be taken on precisely the same terms as actual payment.
I am not done with Mr. T. W. Higginson. So little regard for veracity, to say nothing of accuracy, in his criticism of Spencer's view of the function of government, did he display that he did not hesitate to intimatedistinctly and plainly to intimate that the followers of Spencer were hostile or indifferent to the rights of the inferior races. I will now quote again his exact words:
Thus the great principle of evolution, which in Darwin's hands had no hard or merciless side, since no man better recognized the rights of the more backward races of mankind, has become in the hands of his followers, and especially, I regret to say, among the adherents of Herbert Spencer, a doctrine of merciless cruelty. - Harper's Bazar, July 19.
Elswhere he pretends to an acquaintance with the works of Spencer, by alluding to the phrase "Man versus the State as a "favorite catchword" of Spencer's.
Now, one of two things: either Mr. Higginson is quite ignorant of the text of the essays with which he thus feigns familiarity, or else he is guilty of the most careless and unjustifiable misrepresentation of Spencer's regard for the inferior races. Of course, the matter is entirely beside the question Mr. Higginson was discussing-State education; but I beg him to consider that it was he who dragged in the irrelevant matter. I now demand from him a retraction of his utterly false insinuation that the adherents of Spencer despise the rights of "the more backward races." But first, I will show that the insinuation is false. As far as To-DAY is concerned, or its predecessor, Waterman's Journal, I do not ask him to refer to its pages; I confine myself to the "Man versus the State," with which he has already professed familiarity (page 70).
Little admiration need be felt for the professed sympathies of people who urge on a policy which breaks up progressing societies, and who then look with indifference at the weltering confusion left
behind, with all its entailed suffering and death. Those who, when Boers asserting their independence successfully resisted us, were angry because British "honor" was not maintained by fighting to avenge a defeat, at the cost of more mortality and misery to our own soldiers and their antagonists, cannot have so much "enthusiasm of humanity" as protests like that indicated above would lead one to expect. On other occasions you may hear them, with utter disregard of bloodshed and death, contend that in the interests of humanity at large it is well that the inferior races should be exterminated, and their places occupied by the superior races. ... .. Not worthy of much respect, then, as it seems to me, is this generous consideration of the inferior at home which is accompanied by unscrupulous sacrifice of the inferior abroad.
It will be observed that these reproaches are addressed to pretended philanthropists, and therefore do not touch Mr. Higginson. But the point I wish here to emphasize is this, that the disregard of the rights of the more backward races is visited with express and extreme reprobation. So utterly unworthy of consideration are those persons represented to be who favor disregard of the welfare of the inferior races, that Mr. Spencer calls attention to the fact that they are often the very ones to advocate State education and other compulsory charities. The coincidence of identity between the supporters of compulsory charity and the enemies of the inferior races might be still further insisted on as it has been in Waterman's Journal by me. Not only are pretended philanthropists the foes of the "uncivilized," genuine philanthropists are at this very moment leading the van of the attack on Africa. But it is not the fact to which I now invite attention: it is to the position of Spencer and of his adherents. And I ask of Mr. Higginson how he can justify to himself this gross and gratuitous misrepresentation? I suggest to him that the disparity between Spencer's view and what he insinuates is Spencer's view is so gross and glaring that, in ordinary industrial relations, another case might be added to the docket of a criminal court.
I come now to the second case of misrepresentation, the one relevant to the subject under discussion,- compulsory charity,― and I again insist upon the fact that Mr. Higginson professes familiarity with Spencer's works. To show clearly that he does make this pretence, as well as to exhibit how he misrepresents the views he criticises, I quote what he says at length:
"Man versus the State," in Spencer's favorite catchword, means simply that the individual man shall have absolute power over his own offspring, for good or for evil, without check or interference by the community. He denies all right in collective humanity to see that the next generation is preserved from ignorance and vice, and his followers, carrying out his theories more unflinchingly than himself, hold it to be an express evil of commonschool education that it equalizes the opportunities of rich and poor, inasmuch as it thereby gives the children of the unsuccessful a longer lease of life; whereas the assumption is, that such children, being presumably inferior, ought to be encouraged to die out as soon as possible. The most unflinching advo. cate of slavery, or the most monarchical school of European thought, was never so brutal in its logical results as this last step in what is claimed as science. For slavery and absolutism at least aimed to keep the children of the lower classes alive, that they might serve their superiors. It is only this later doctrine which aims to kill them off for the benefit of the human race. . . .
In other words, the children of every poor widow, of every man made penniless by fraud, by accident, by disease, should be discouraged from long life and killed off as quickly as possible, lest they produce others like themselves; while the children of those who have grown rich, no matter how, may be educated at the parents' expense, and kept alive. Looking at it from the point of view of heredity alone, the children of the swindler and the business despot are to be sedulously preserved, while the children of the man who has perhaps impoverished himself for the good of others, or because he declined to steal, are regarded as "unfit for long life," and "should be left to go the way of nature as quickly as possible, lest they produce others like themselves." (Italics mine.)
Thus, Mr. Higginson, in opposition to the words I have italicized, what is there in this description of Spencer's views to warn the unwary reader that this doctrine, so far as it is correctly described at all, applies only to political conduct, and not at all to personal and voluntary conduct? The single word "collective" just before "humanity" is the only indication Mr. Higginson gives his reader that the view he is describing is, first and last, a political view, and applies only to political action, the very essence of which is compulsion. On the contrary, the whole form of the description, and in particular the words I have italicized, succeed, as though they were specially designed for the purpose, in conveying an injurious and false impression. Of that I leave the reader to judge, by this extract from the " Man versus the State," which Mr. Higginson says is Spencer's "favorite catchword." If this is such a
favorite work. some attention should be paid to its statements. I therefore beg that the following quotation may be closely contrasted with Mr. Higginson's characterization of Spencer's belief:
Still less respectable appears this extreme concern for those of our own blood which goes along with utter unconcern for those of other blood, when we observe its methods. Did it prompt personal effort to relieve suffering, it would rightly receive approving recognition. Were the many who express this cheap pity like the few who patiently, week after week, and year after year, devote large parts of their time to helping and encouraging, and occasionally amusing, those who, in some cases by ill-fortune and in other cases by incapacity or misconduct, are brought to lives of hardship, they would be worthy of unqualified admiration. The more there are of men and women who help the poor to help themselves, the more there are of those whose sympathy is exhibited directly and not by proxy, the more we may rejoice.
What type, what marks of exclamation, will do justice to the slovenly disingenuity of a critic who so recklessly misrepresents the person criticised? In the quotation from Spencer, it happens that I was able to italicize a word identical with one used by Mr. Higginson. I beg that the passages may be compared, and I leave it to any candid person to say after the comparison what estimation Mr. Higginson should be held in as a critic.
TEN MILLION A YEAR.
When Warren, some thirty or forty years ago, wrote that book of his beginning with the sentence, about a mile long, in which the awakening of Mr. Tittlebat Titmouse is so execrably described, TEN THOU SAND A YEAR especially when reckoned in pounds sterling was an income to gratify the fancy of the most avaricious. The biographies of American millionnaires were as yet unwritten; and hereditary fortunes, however agreeable to their possessors, will never have that fascination for the vulgar that the dazzling transformations from poverty to wealth, by a lucky find, have always had, and seem destined to retain. In America, Aladdins and Sinbads have become legion; but some of us, instead of embarking on golden voyages ourselves, or engaging in the profitable exercise
of rubbing magical lamps, are content, perhaps perforce, merely to trace out the seafarer's way on the chart, without performing the journey; or to speculate on the hidden properties of these wonderful charms, leaving their virtues, however, unexploited. The further the inquiry is pushed, the more matter-of-fact, and the less mysterious, the Arabian splendor of American fortunes becomes. Gold hills there are, no doubt, and oil wells- in lieu of lamps and diamond valleys. But we not infrequently find that where nature has left a deficiency of mines and wells, legislators appear, Dei ex machina, with tariffs and franchises. While a kind fate sprinkles the path of some with petroleum, the path of others is sprinkled with laws and licenses.
I have often been deterred from contenting myself with the general conclusion that the colossal fortunes which have been accumulated in America in recent years owed their existence to governmental interference with trade, by reflecting on particular cases in which the mode of interference was not obvious.
In no instance has governmental interference appeared less responsible than in the case of the great Vanderbilt fortune. Here, it has often occurred to me, is a case in which the greatness of the accumulation must surely be attributed to the sagacity of the founder of the fortune, combined with a most extraordinary concurrence of fortuitous circumstances. The sagacity of Cornelius Vanderbilt is well known. And the extraordinary concurrence of circumstances has not hitherto appeared to me to include, as one of the necessary links, governmental interference. True, the State governments have interfered from the very beginning with railroad building and operation. But if the Vanderbilt fortune is to be attributed to governmental interference in this general and undefined manner, the conclusion proves too much. How about the innumerable other cases of interference, the countless other railroads misregulated by governments. If this general and erratic.