Cranky Notions

The confusion in thought that arises from the term Anarchist-Communist can certainly be overcome. I see no conflict between Communism voluntarily entered into and Anarchy. For example, suppose there exists Anarchy in all the relations of life,—that is to say, no one has the authority to coerce us into doing what we do not want to do,—and a given number of persons desire to have the results of their labor in a common fund, to which each contributes according to his ability and from which each draws according to his needs,—is there any violation of Anarchy in this? There is no principle of Anarchy that denies the right of free contract, and have I not a right to contract with others to live with them under the principles of Communism? To me it is of little concern what people shall do after Anarchy is the recognized principle for the guidance of human conduct. Anarchy—the sovereignty of the individual over his own actions—is the goal for which we strive. Communism is one of those incidents that come afterwards. But if Authority comes to me and says: You shall put all the results of your labor into the common fund, and you shall take from it only that which you need, then my individual sovereignty is destroyed and Anarchy does not exist.

One of the notions that we should try to make clear to those who are opposed to Anarchy on the supposition that we aim to abolish the State in a week or ten days is that we do not aim to do anything of the kind, and that complete Anarchy, or liberty of the individual in all things, will come from necessity, if we only go in that direction in a few things.

In the first place, we are unequivocally opposed to the doctrine of total depravity. We hold that men are depraved only in so far as their surroundings make them so, and if those surroundings were removed, their depravity would disappear. Men steal because the avenues to healthful, pleasant, and remunerative employments are closed to them. I believe that an nalaysis of our present social-economic condition will reveal the truth that nearly all crimes of all kinds are directly or indirectly traceable to the fact that the avenues to free employment and exchange are practically closed to the mass of mankind. Were these avenues to employment and exchange open to all alike, the incentive to crime would be very largely removed and crime would naturally decrease. The decrease of crime would necessarily lead to the decrease of police forces and courts. They would have but little to do, and the people would not long tolerate a large police force and innumerable courts when there was nothing for them to do. We may find in this fact a most potent reason for the opposition to Anarchy on the part of policemen and judges and their hangers-on. If everybody had the right to use land without cost,—in other words, if the sole title to land was occupancy and use,—and the organization of credit was free to all, it would not be long before the State would fall of its own weight and leave the way clear to higher social conditions and a more vigorous manhood.

A man who is a free trader said to me the other day: Look here, if your Anarchistic notions prevailed, we would have no police force, would we? If we had Anarchy in trade and industry, I answered, there would be no need of a police force. Oh, pshaw! I don’t believe that. Suppose I had a neighbor who was in the habit of getting drunk and creating a disturbance, ain’t it much better for me to call my agent—a policeman—to have the man removed and the disturbance quieted than for me to go and try to do it myself? Possibly, said I, I don’t object to your having an agent to keep your drunken neighbors quiet, if you pay him out of your own pocket, but I object to your putting your hands in my pockets to pay your agent with. But it is right that you be compelled to pay taxes to preserve the peace! Is it? Wherein does that differ from the claim of the protectionist that the tariff is just because it builds up native industry—at the expense, as we claim, of those not protected? He went off scratching his head and with a thoughtful look on his face.

The best evidence in the world that private enterprise can do for the people better than government can is in the government refusing to remove the restrictions to the freest competition.

Joseph A. Labadie.