Competition and Monopoly Confounded.

Competition and Monopoly Confounded.

[Liberty, September 1, 1888.]

To the Editor of Liberty:(133 ¶ 1)

Does competition mean war? you ask, and then go on to answer:(133 ¶ 2)

The supposition that competition means war rests upon old notions and false phrases that have been long current, but are rapidly passing into the limbo of exploded fallacies.(133 ¶ 3)

Pardon me, Mr. Tucker, but are you quite sure that the supposition in question rests upon nothing more than old notions and false phrases? Go out into the highways and byeways of the work-a-day world, look around you, and then tell us candidly if what you see there is likely to inspire any lover of his kind with a wish to foster competition.(133 ¶ 4)

Ah! but you reply: This is not free competition; this is monopoly and privilege.(133 ¶ 5)

Exactly so, but what is monopoly but the very soul of competition? I venture to submit that it is not for wealth per se men strive, but for the mastership it confers; hence, if you deny the spoils of victory to the victor, you sheathe the sword forever. Monopolies and privileges of every kind are nothing more than resultants of a competition as free as nature could make it, for even the grand old Sphinx herself has not been able to evolve equal liberty from the free competition of unequal forces.(133 ¶ 6)

When the benefits of competition cease to be won by one class at the expense of another, and when they are shared by all at the expense of nature’s forces, competition loses its raison d’être and dies.(133 ¶ 7)

When lower and semi-barbarous economic forms are subjected to the strong solvent action of higher ethical concepts, they disappear; that is to say, when mutual confidence and good-fellowship prevail over hostility and love of mastership, competition must give place to co-operation; hence, to my mind, there is no escape from the conclusion that competition means war so long as it is the economic expression of hostility and mastership, and after that it will mean—nothing. Equal liberty, however, would still remain, for what is it at bottom but community of interest?(133 ¶ 8)

W. T. Horn

What the person who goes out into the work-a-day world will see there depends very much upon the power of his mental vision. If that is strong enough to enable him to see that the evils around him are caused by a prohibition of competition in certain directions, it is not unlikely that he will be filled with a wish to foster competition. Such, however, will not be the case with a man who so misapprehends competition as to suppose that monopoly is its soul. Instead of its soul, it is its antithesis.(133 ¶ 9)

Whatever the reason for which men strive for wealth, as a general thing they get it, not by competition, but by the application of force to the suppression of certain kinds of competition,—in other words, by governmental institution and protection of monopoly.(133 ¶ 10)

Inasmuch as the monopolist is the victor, it is true that to deny him the spoils of victory is to sheathe the sword of monopoly. But you do not thereby sheathe the sword of competition (if you insist on calling it a sword), because competition yields no spoils to the victor, but only wages to the laborer.(133 ¶ 11)

When my correspondent says that all monopolies are resultants of a competition as free as nature could make it, he makes competition inclusive of the struggle between invasive forces, whereas he ought to know that free competition, in the economic sense of the phrase, implies the suppression of invasive forces, leaving a free field for the exercise of those that are non-invasive.(133 ¶ 12)

If a man were to declare that, when the benefits of labor cease to be won by one class at the expense of another and when they are shared by all at the expense of nature’s forces, labor loses its raison d’être and dies, his sanity would not long remain unquestioned; but the folly of such an utterance is not lessened an iota by the substitution of the word competition for the word labor. As long as the gastric juice continues to insist upon its rights, I fancy that neither labor nor competition will lack a raison d’être, even though the laborer and competitor should find himself under the necessity of wresting his spoils from the bosom of his mother earth instead of from the pocket of his brother man.(133 ¶ 13)

In Mrs. Glass’s recipe for cooking a hare, the first thing was to catch the hare. So in Mr. Horn’s recipe for the solution of economic forms in ethical concepts, the first thing is to get the concepts. Now, the concepts of mutual confidence and good-fellowship are not to be obtained by preaching,—otherwise the church militant would long ago have become the church triumphant; or by force,—otherwise progress would have gone hand in hand with authority instead of with liberty; but only by unrestricted freedom,—that is, by competition, the necessary condition of confidence, fellowship, and co-operation, which can never come as long as monopoly, the economic expression of hostility and mastership, continues to exist.(133 ¶ 14)