A Shadow in the Path.

A Shadow in the Path.

To the Editor of Liberty:

In reading your article, Anarchy in Alaska, I was in hopes I should learn how government could be abolished without being shortly reproduced. But I confess myself disappointed. Lieutenant Ray, whom you quote, was giving such a rose-colored account of the Alaskans that I thought nothing but its correctness remained to be settled; when, lo, I read that he saw a husband box his wife's ears for supposed infidelity. I suppose that you will agree with me that the husband had no business to do that. But he did; though neither tribe appears to have any marriage ceremony. Small as the incident is, it throws me back upon the old dilemma. It is not the idea of authority, as you say, but unruly passion which is the cause of all injustice. Without law people can be jealous, can box ears and break necks, even as under a system of law they can inflict other penalties for supposed infidelity,—nay, the system of law has the advantage in the comparison, for the law requires the offence to be proved, which lawlessness does not. Men having these unruly passions cannot stay free, for they will fight till the strongest establishes authority; which is not the cause, but the result, as proved by your own example, of his own low passions and high abilities. How these evils are to be remedied, except by the bourgeois Balm of Gilead, Education, or by the still slower process of breeding a better race, I know not. Can you tell?

C. L. James

Eau Claire, Wisconsin, June 1, 1884

It is strange that most men will stumble over shadows in the path, and declare that they have found insurmountable obstacles to progress and cannot possibly go on; but who has ever discussed socialistic questions without observing such phenomena? I gave Lieutenant Ray's description of an Anarchistic society, existing in Alaska among ignorant, untaught barbarians, simply to show that absence of authority does not mean social chaos and disorder; and because an Alaskan boxed his wife's ears for doing that which civilized, government-controlled white men frequently punish with murder, Mr. James despairs of ever achieving social order through Anarchy. The facts that these Alaskans do not rob each other, do not fight, live peaceably, and enjoy the fruits of their own labor seem to be of no importance to Mr. James. A man boxed his wife's ears, and therefore the law of authority is better than the natural laws of human relations, and it is useless to attempt to destroy respect for governments. In other words, Mr. James would maintain a system which enables the few to rob the many, involves wholesale murder and social cannibalism, causes poverty and wealth, breeds crime and builds prisons, for the sake of informing that Alaskan through legislative enactment that he must not box his wife's ears. We have a condition of society which is bad and altogether wrong and which makes men bad. The unruly passions of man, his worst traits and vices, are stimulated, fostered, and exaggerated by the rule of authority and property, and the breeding of a better race under such conditions is an impossibility. Liberty shows us how to adjust the social balance and establish a condition of society which shall discourage avarice, remove the vicious stimulus, and make the breeding of a better race not only possible but inevitable; but because Liberty does not prove that in the absence of authority all men shall be Christ-like in disposition and utterly devoid of temper and other weaknesses of human nature, the mole-hill mountaineers ruefully shake their heads, declare Liberty a chimera, and refuse to accept any improvement that falls short of absolute perfection. There is a world full of injustice, poverty, misery, and crime seething and whirling about them, but they see only an Alaskan boxing the ears of his unfaithful wife. For answer to the questions concerning education, I refer Mr. James to the article headed The Cause of Crime in Liberty of May 31.