An Unwarranted Question.

An Unwarranted Question.

Auberon Herbert, in his paper, Free Life, asks me how I justify a campaign against the right of men to lend and to borrow. I answer that I do not justify such a campaign, have never attempted to justify such a campaign, do not advocate such a campaign, in fact am ardently opposed to such a campaign. In turn, I ask Mr. Herbert how he justifies his apparent attribution to me of a wish to see such a campaign instituted.(65 ¶ 1)

It is true that I expect lending and borrowing to disappear, but not by any denial of the right to lend and borrow. On the contrary, I expect them to disappear by virtue of the affirmation and exercise of a right that is now denied,—namely, the right to use one’s own credit, or to exchange it freely for another’s, in such a way that one or the other of these credits may perform the function of a circulating medium, without the payment of any tax for the privilege. It has been repeatedly demonstrated in these columns that the exercise of such a right would accomplish the gradual extinction of interest without the aid of force, and the nature of this economic process has been described over and over again. This demonstration Mr. Herbert steadily ignores, and the position itself he never meets save by a sweeping denial, or by characterizing it as unphilosophical, or by substituting for it a man of straw of his own creation and then knocking it down.(65 ¶ 2)

The Anarchists assert that interest, however it may have originated, exists to-day only by virtue of the legal monopoly of the use of credit for currency purposes, and they trace the process, step by step, by which an abolition of that monopoly would gradually reduce interest to zero. Mr. Herbert never stops to analyze this process that he may find the weak spot in it and point it out; he simply declares that interest, instead of restin on monopoly, is the natural, inevitable outcome of human convenience and the open market, and then wants to know how the Anarchists justify their attempt to abolish interest by force.(65 ¶ 3)

It is as if Mr. Herbert were to maintain (as I suppose he does maintain) that freedom in the domestic relation would gradually lessen and perhaps abolish licentiousness, and I were to answer him thus: Oh, no, Mr. Herbert, you are unphilosophical; prostitution does not rest on the compulsory marriage system, but is the natural, inevitable outcome of human convenience and desire; how do you justify, I should like to know, a campaign against the right of men and women to traffic in the gratifications of the flesh? In such a case Mr. Herbert, I imagine, would say that I had studied his teaching very carelessly. And this is what I am forced to say to him, much against my will.(65 ¶ 4)

If it be true that interest will exist in the absence of monopoly, then there is some flaw in the reasoning by which the Anarchists argue from the abolition of monopoly to the disappearance of interest, and it is incumbent on Mr. Herbert to point this flaw out, or else admit his own error. It is almost incredible that an argument so often reiterated can have escaped the attention of so old a reader of Liberty as Mr. Herbert, but, lest he should plead this excuse, I will state that it is most elaborately and conclusively set forth in the pamphlet, Mutual Banking, by Col. Wm. B. Greene. If, after mastering the position, he thinks he can overthrow it, I shall be glad to meet him on that issue.(65 ¶ 5)