The Cause of Crime.
My Dear Kelly:
It is with some trepidation that I venture to approach you with a doubt as to the completeness of your conclusion in Anarchy in Alaska, under which caption I suspect you wrote in the last Liberty. I tremble, because I have found you dreadful Anarchists so fully equipped to disprove the results of my own reasoning, to upset the structures of my thought, and to show me for all my trouble a poor thinker. Yet it does seem as if you are rash in sayinginjustice is the cause of all crime.While I abhor the doctrine of total depravity, I observe that man is rarely perfectly developed in all his features and characteristics. I see that all men, by reason simply of their imperfections, are constantly tending to wrong doing of one kind or other. I do not believe that the restrictions imposed by our social system are effective as a safeguard against crime: but, I ask, does the doctrine of Anarchy offer anything that will tend to protect man from his ignorance and weakness? Modern education is a humbug; but ignorance of self, and the ignoring of the laws of nature, which, miserabile dictu, exist and are accompanied by unerring results in their breaking, are responsible for many crimes against posterity and against the rights of the neighbor. Injustice and authority have nothing to do here, much as may be laid to their door. Will you show me that Anarchy presents an actual, effective help to erring, sinning humanity? That you know some ideal education that shall shame our accursed sham, and absolve individual liberty from its apparent devotion to self, and develop it to the grandest philosophy of unselfishness?
The questions asked by F. R. B. are such as must occur to one whose nature revolts against the manifestly unjust conditions and relations of civilized society, but who has not studied the economic principles involved in Anarchy deeply enough to see their full significance and effects. It is precisely because Liberty does offer that which must emancipate man from ignorance and weakness that I believe it will abolish crime. I think it will be conceded by F. R. B. that poverty is the breeder of ignorance, avarice, and immorality, and that the worst traits of human nature have been produced by the conditions in which man has lived and the influences by which he has been surrounded. Ignorance of the rights and duties of men in their social relationships leads to — is in itself indeed — violation of natural law. Inequality of conditions, opportunities, and fortunes is social disorder, of which crimes against possession are but manifestations. Crimes are committed from motives of avarice and revenge through ignorance of the true principles of association. All this is practically admitted by F. R. B., although perhaps he did not follow out the idea in just this direction. Now, it is easy to prove that injustice is the cause and the sole cause poverty, wealth, inequality, social disorder. It is clearly unjust that one man should live in idleness upon the product of another man's labor, but that is precisely what the institution of property, with its right of increase maintained by authority, permits the proprietor to do. Property thereby restricts production and consumption, makes labor competitive, forbids exchange, and finally destroys society and abolishes itself. Property — possession plus legal privilege — is injustice, and produces all the conditions which make crime possible. Under such conditions it is clearly impossible for man to reach perfect development in mind, morals, or body; or to advance perceptibly toward perfection. He can neither know himself nor understand the laws of nature. The restrictions imposed by our social no-system are not only ineffective as safeguards against crime, but are in a great measure incentives to crime. Man has been legislating against evils for thousands of years, and has not succeeded in curing a single one with all his statutes and prisons and gibbets. The pseudo-homœpathic method of treating diseases of the social system is a gigantic failure, for all this legislating has been in direct violation of natural law. The modern education of which F. R. B. speaks is a sham because it does not even aim to teach the truth or to point out the way to knowledge of the needs of society. If it did teach the truth and encourage man to think, there would be no need for such a journal as Liberty. If Anarchy did not present an actual, effective help to erring and sinning humanity, there would be no excuse for the publication of Liberty. Poverty, ignorance, misery, and crime will disappear when the science of Justice shall have been discovered, for it only needs to be understood to be applied. Natural law needs no authority for its enforcement. Recognition of the facts alone is necessary. The fundamental law of nature is Liberty, and the ideal education is that which leads to an understanding of this grandest of all philosophies.
It would require, it has required, volumes to show F. R. B. all that he asks for, and it has been shown much more clearly than I could hope to show it if I had volumes in which to explain it and the knowledge with which to fill the volumes. And yet one may discover much by diving beneath the surface of things. He may discover what the general character of the bottom of the sea is, even though he does not explore the entire bed and cannot describe every rock and shoal. If one but once realizes what equality of conditions means and what Liberty actually is, he has the foundation upon which to build an ideal and practicable social structure, in which every fact known to him may be used as building material and fitted into its proper place. Conceive a state of social organization in which all men are enabled to enjoy all the products of labor, in which it is more profitable to consume than to hoard, in which no man need labor more than three hours a day, and you will not find it so hard to believe in the possibility of the improvement of human nature.