Cranky Notions

About three years ago I became connected with a labor paper in Detroit and was to furnish a column or so for it each week. I did not know what head to put over my column, and asked a friend to suggest some name. I really don’t know what to call those cranky notions of yours, said he. That’s it, said I; Cranky Notions is what it will be, and it has been Cranky Notions ever since. I have been asked to furnish a column of notions for each issue of Liberty. This I have promised to try and do. These notions are stray thoughts that come to me at odd times,—in the street cars going and coming from my work, at the printer’s case where I earn my daily bread, in the meetings of working people that I attend, and elsewhere. They are necessarily crude and jerky because they come from an unlearned mechanic who has not the time from the demnition grind to polish them up. I have no other excuse to make for them.

I have distributed the copies of Liberty sent me that had Mr. Kimball’s address in, and have heard several favorable comments on it. I read that sermon over twice, said a member of D.A. 50, K. of L., to me, and I like it very well. I can go the kind of Anarchy he defines. Well, all Anarchists teach substantially the doctrine, said I. Oh, no; I guess not, he retorted; and this man is a type of prominent labor man who in this day of books and papers fails to keep pace with the various thoughts on social questions. I do not expect all in the movement to keep abreast of the times on the subject of social science, but I do expect of the leaders a fair understanding of the various schools of thought on the subject.

The idea that we must be perfect men and women before we can have Anarchy is getting to be a very popular error, and Comrade Yarros’s criticism is pat.

Can we eat our cake before we get it?

Is it reasonable to suppose a prostitute will reform if she continue to live in a house of prostitution?

Will a drunkard ever get sober if he continue in the excessive use of liquor?

Will a child grow up honest in a den of thieves?

Of course not.

We must get the cake before we can eat it. The environments must be removed before the prostitute can reform. The drunkard must stop drinking before he will get sober.

The State is the thing that prevents us from becoming perfect men and women, and it therefore must be removed before we can attain a higher degree of perfection. A good illustration of this is seen in Russia. The State stood in the way of an education of the masses, and, as soon as it removed some of the restrictions, the people began to flock into the schools, and education and a move for the removal of still other restrictions was the result. The restrictions to education are again placed in the way of the people. If Mr. Kimball’s position is correct, then the people must get the education before the restrictions are again removed. And that is impossible. If we wait until we be perfect before we strive for Anarchy, we will never have it; and that is not desirable, because Mr. Kimball admits that it is the central idea of Jesus himself in his doctrine of the Kingdom of God on earth. I hope Mr. Kimball will review this point.

The telegraph monopoly is attracting a good deal of attention now, and the clamor for government monopoly is growing loud and strong just now that congress is in session. It is the prevailing fashion to appeal to the government for protection against monopoly. It is the lamb crying to the wolf for succor. But the evils of telegraph monopoly will not be removed by the government assuming control and monopolizing the telegraph business. A friend of mine, Mr. W. G. Brownlee of Detroit, who is in the business of furnishing telegraph supplies, says that the principal reason why the Western Union telegraph company has so long enjoyed a practical monopoly of the telegraph system is that it requires an enormous capital to build a system that will cover enough territory to compete successfully with it. He says that the cheapest and better way to abolish the present monopoly without government ownership and get the benefit of competition and lower rates for telegraphing is to reduce the cost of building and maintaining telegraph lines, and that can only be done by removing the tariff on the materials that go into the construction of telegraph lines. The tariff on copper wire is forty-five per cent., and increases the cost of construction twelve or fifteen dollars per mile for each wire. Iron wire has a tariff of two to two and one half cents per pound, which makes a tax of about seven dollars per mile on each wire. The tariff on sulphate of copper, of which a large amount is used in the batteries, is three cents per pound; on zinc it is forty-six and one half to seventy-one per cent.; insulators, forty per cent., and every other article used by a telegraph company is increased in price by the tariff. Add to these figures the further monopoly price in the ownership of the mines, the interest on watered railroad stock, the tamara poles, and all those things that are increased in price by virtue of the law, and we get the true reason why the telegraph business can be monopolized.

Joseph A. Labadie.