Mr. Blodgett’s Explanation

Mr. Blodgett’s Explanation

To the Editor of Liberty:(17 ¶ 1)

I was honest in the questions I asked concerning the foundation on which Anarchism is aiming to build. I had thought considerably on the matter, and read in Liberty as it came in my way, and while the ideal was fair to look upon, it seemed to me one must have a loose method of reasoning to suppose its practical realization possible. I also found that those of my acquaintance who favored the idea reasoned from the standpoint of an imaginary, instead of a real, humanity, which left their arguments on the subject of no practical value.(17 ¶ 2)

I desired to see what showing you could give, if put to the test. I was ready to become an Anarchist, if Anarchism could be made to appear sensible, though I own I believed you would make the failure you have. In one thing I have been disappointed and pleased. You have had the manliness to face the dilemma in which you found yourself, and published my last question, and my summing-up, subsequently. I will give you credit for straight work, and this is more than I expected to be able to do.(17 ¶ 3)

When I wrote my last, I thought I was done, whether you published it or not, and I should have stopped there, if you had not published it, or, if you had published it, and simply made comments thereon, no matter what those comments might have been; but the challenge and threat bring me out once more. I will say on that, that I never thought of finding fault or being displeased with your Tu-Whit! Tu-Whoo! and that I do relish the admixture of satire with argument on fitting occasions. I am as much at home in a sea of controversy and irony as a fish is in water, so there is no occasion for your holding up out of sympathy for me. Just give me the intellectual thumps when you feel like it and can, and you need take no pains to have them sugar-coated.(17 ¶ 4)

And now for a few words on your last remarks. You accept my statement that it is as proper to enforce one social convention as another, provided there is any satisfaction in doing so. I find the difference between an Anarchist and a Governmentalist is nothing here. If there is any difference in the action of the two, it is not a difference in the principles which control it. There might be a difference in method, and a difference in the kind of social conventions which they wish to enforce. On both these points I suppose I should have some sympathy with the Anarchists like you. But when we prevent another from doing as he otherwise would, we govern him in that particular, and I see no advantage in denying it, or in trying to find another term to express the fact. In my judgment it is better to not attempt to beat around the bush, but to state plainly the social conventions and rights (for such as me who believe in rights) we wish to enforce, and such restrictions as we wish to free the world from, and fight it out above board and on that line.(17 ¶ 5)

You say opportunity for all to take freely from the same cabbage patch is not equal liberty. If all have opportunity to take freely, I do not know how any one can have any greater liberty, and if all have all there is, it looks to me equal. And further; I maintain that equal slavery is equal liberty. It is impossible to make one’s slavery complete; and no matter how small an amount of liberty is left, if the same amount is left for all, it is equal liberty. Equal does not mean much or little, but to be on a par with others. Equal liberty is not the phrase to express what you are after, and you will have to try again, or let it go that your ideas are either muddled or inexpressible.(17 ¶ 6)

It is also puzzling to know what you mean by invasion. It cannot be you mean invasion of rights, because you claim there are no rights to invade. But perhaps you are having in view some social convention to be invaded. In any case, equal invasion is equal liberty. Suppose you do not respect another’s sphere of action, that want of respect does not limit his liberty; it is not necessary for him to respect yours, and that leaves equal liberty in that direction.(17 ¶ 7)

I am glad I opened this question as I did, for I think I get from what you have written a clue to your bottom feelings on it; and if I do, we are not so far apart in aim as would appear, and I recognize that you may be of value in the reform world. I certainly hope that you may assist in loosening the grip of Government prerogatives relating to matters purely personal. Here we can work together.(17 ¶ 8)

S. Blodgett.

I am not conscious to have shown any special courage or honesty in my discussion with Mr. Blodgett; perhaps this is because I am unconscious of having been confronted with any dilemma. I have been as badly worsted as he seems to suppose, it is fortunate for my pride and mental peace that I do not know it. The difference in the kind of social conventions which they wish to enforce is the only difference I claim between Anarchists and Governmentalists; it is quite difference enough,—in fact, exactly equal to the difference between liberty and authority. To use the word government as meaning the enforcement of such social conventions as are unnecessary to the preservation of equal liberty seems to me, not beating around the bush, but a clear definition of terms. Others may use the word differently, and I have no quarrel with them for doing so as long as they refrain from interpreting my statements by their definitions. Opportunity for all to take freely from the same cabbage patch is not equal liberty, because it is incompatible with another liberty,—the liberty to keep. Equal liberty, in the property sphere, is such a balance between the liberty to take and the liberty to keep that the two liberties may coexist without conflict or invasion. In a certain verbal sense it may be claimed that equal slavery is equal liberty; but nearly every one except Mr. Blodgett realizes that he who favors equal slavery favors the greatest amount of slavery compatible with equality, while he who favors equal liberty favors the greatest amount of liberty compatible with equality. This is a case in which emphasis is everything. By invasion I mean the invasion of the individual sphere, which is bounded by the line inside of which liberty of action does not conflict with others’ liberty of action. The upshot of this discussion seems to be, by his own confession, that heretofore Mr. Blodgett has misconceived the position of the Anarchists, whereas now he understands it. In that view of the matter I concede his victory; for in all intellectual controversy he is the real victor who gains the most light.(17 ¶ 9)