Voluntary Co-Operation.

Voluntary Co-Operation.

It is questionable whether Herbert Spencer will relish Mr. Donisthorpe’s classification of him as one of four lights of Anarchy. I think he would be justified in putting in a disclaimer. No doubt Anarchy is immeasurably indebted to Mr. Spencer for a phenomenally clear exposition of its bottom truths. But he entertains heresies on the very questions which Mr. Donisthorpe raises that debar him from recognition as an Anarchist. His belief in compulsory taxation and his acceptance of the majority principle, not as a temporary necessity, but as permanently warranted within a certain sphere, show him to be unfaithful to his principle of equal liberty, as Mr. Donisthorpe has convincingly demonstrated in his recent book on Individualism. I am sure that his answers to Mr. Donisthorpe’s questions would widely differ from any that Mr. Yarros or myself could possibly make.(27 ¶ 1)

When it comes to Auberon Herbert, the community of thought is closer, as on practical issues he is pretty nearly at one with the attitude of Liberty. But I fancy that Mr. Donisthorpe would have difficulty in driving all three of us into the same corner. Before he had gone far, the ethical question of the nature of right would arise, and straightway Mr. Yarros and myself would be arrayed with Mr. Donisthorpe against Mr. Herbert.(27 ¶ 2)

As one of the two remaining lights of Anarchy appealed to, I will try to deal briefly with Mr. Donisthorpe’s questions. To his first: How far may voluntary co-operators invade the liberty of others? I answre: Not at all. Under this head I have previously made answer to Mr. Donisthorpe, and as to the adequacy or inadequacy of the answer he has as yet made no sign. For this reason I repeat my words. Then liberty always, say the Anarchists. No use of force, except against the invader; and in those cases where it is difficult to tell whether the alleged offender is an invader or not, still no use of forceexcept where the necessity of immediate solution is so imperative that we must use it to save ourselves. And in these few cases where we must use it, let us do so frankly and squarely, acknowledging it as a matter of necessity, without seeking to harmonize our action with any political ideal or constructing any far-fetched theory of a State or collectivity having prerogatives and rights superior to those of individuals and aggregations of individuals and exempted from the operation of the ethical principles which individuals are expected to observe. This is the best rule that I can frame as a guide to voluntary co-operators. To apply it to only one of Mr. Donisthorpe’s cases, I think that under a system of Anarchy, even if it were admitted that there was some ground for considering an unvaccinated person an invader, it would be generally recognized that such invasion was not of a character to require treatment by force, and that any attempt to treat it by force would be regarded as itself an invasion of a less doubtful and more immediate nature, requiring as such to be resisted.(27 ¶ 3)

But under a system of Anarchy how is such resistance to be made? is Mr. Donisthorpe’s second question. By another band of voluntary co-operators. But are we then, Mr. Donisthorpe will ask, to have innumerable bands of voluntary co-operators perpetually at war with each other? Not at all. A system of Anarchy in actual operation implies a previous education of the people in the principles of Anarchy, and that in turn implies such a distrust and hatred of interference that the only band of voluntary co-operators which could gain support sufficient to enforce its will would be that which either entirely refrained from interference or reduced it to a minimum. This would be my answer to Mr. Donisthorpe, were I to admit his assumption of a state of Anarchy supervening upon a sudden collapse of Archy. But I really scout this assumption as absurd. Anarchists work for the abolition of the State, but by this they do not mean its overthrow, but, as Proudhon put it, its dissolution in the economic organism. This being the case, the question before us is not, as Mr. Donisthorpe supposes, what measures and means of interference we are justified in instituting, but which ones of those already existing we should first lop off. And to this the Anarchists answer that unquestionably the first to go should be those that interfere most fundamentally with a free market, and that the economic and moral changes that would result from this would act as a solvent upon all the remaining forms of interference.(27 ¶ 4)

Is compulsory co-operation ever desirable? Compulsory co-operation is simply one form of invading the liberty of others, and voluntary co-operators will not be justified in resorting to it—that is, in becoming compulsory co-operators—any more than resorting to any other form of invasion.(27 ¶ 5)

How are we to remove the injustice of allowing one man to enjoy what another has earned? I do not expect it ever to be removed altogether. But I believe that for every dollar that would be enjoyed by tax-dodgers under Anarchy, a thousand dollars are now enjoyed by men who have got possession of the earnings of others through special industrial, commercial, and financial privileges granted them by authority in violation of a free market.(27 ¶ 6)

In regard to the various clubs referred to by Mr. Donisthorpe as based on an intolerance that is full of the spirit of interference, I can only say that probably they will cease to pattern after their great exemplar, the State, when the State shall no longer exist, and that meantime, if intolerant bigots choose to make petty tyranny a condition of association with them, we believers in liberty have the privilege of avoiding their society. Doesn’t Mr. Donisthorpe suppose that we can stand it as long as they can?(27 ¶ 7)