For a long time I have turned over in my own mind some of the extreme deductions of Anarchy, and have come to the conclusion they will not stand. In other words, I have come to the conclusion that the question of social organization is as much a question of geography as of numbers, and that therefore compulsion, not necessarily invasion, is unavoidable; that is to say, I cannot think of Chicago as a mere voluntary society. There she stands, with her splendid harbor, her many public streets, with her million and a half of citizens crossing and recrossing each other at a thousand points. I cannot think life possible under such circumstances except by recognizing the municipality, the corporate body which has the power over a certain territory, to enfroce order and secure protection. Mind you, I am willing to admit that perhaps nine-tenths of the political functions might be dropped, but after that there is still a sentiment at the bottom of the problem which refuses to yield to purely voluntary influence. Take as simple a question as throwing a banana peeling on the sidewalk, thereby jeopardizing the limbs and lives of pedestrians.... It seems to me that among our rights is that of free locomation accompanied with the smallest possible amount of danger. If this be true, then why should the municipality be restrained from passing an ordinance prohibiting careless people from throwing their peelings on the sidewalk?
Tell me, have you never had any doubts lately along the same lines as that expressed above?
The above is an extract from a letter to a friend. The questions which the extract contains, however, need, it seems to me, to be discussed by Anarchists so as to clarify the atmosphere and make plain the how and the when of the establishment of Anarchism. Following is the answer which I make to my friend. It does not cover the whole ground, but other readers of Liberty may do that more fully.
No, my views about Anarchism have not changed for several years. The doubts you indicate never entered my mind, because I am a firm believer in progress, and that progress, to insure social harmony, must be towards individual sovereignty, towards Anarchism. The reason why, probably, I have had no doubts of the soundness of the doctrines of Anarchism is because I have not assumed that its ultimate realization would be in your day or mine, but that by gradual and, I hoped, easy steps it would be attained sometime; when, I have never dared to predict.
The fundamental concepts of Anarchism are absolutely sound. To me they present three things,—viz., that each individual should exercise the right of complete sovereignty, that each individual should own absolutely all the results of his own efforts, and that nothing which is not the result of human effort should be subject to unlimited ownership, or, in other words, that the results of human effort only should be property.
I never assumed that with our limited knowledge of today any Anarchist could, or would, dare attempt to settle all the objections, real or hypothetical, which might be made. Only the State Socialists, the authoritarians, can do that. The Anarchist is frank enough to admit that he is not gifted with supernatural foresight. He is willing to leave the problems of a hundred years hence to those who will live then. What is it they say about sufficient unto the day are the evils thereof?
To me Anarchism is not a dream; that all we have to do is to go to sleep and let it come. Come it will, of course, in obedience to the law of necessity. A sphere will roll down hill in obedience to the law of gravity, but its speed may be accelerated by human effort.
Anarchism is the most practical problem of today. We are now writhing in misery and in mental agony over the injustices that are practised on every side due to laws that invade our social and industrial rights. What more practical thing for relief than to remove these laws?Ah! but how?I am asked?Any way,is my reply. Each individual must himself choose his own way. The democrat (not the political bastard who throws up his hat for the party, but the real democrat, he who believes that the best government is that which governs least), who struggles for the repeal of bad laws; the dynamiter, who resists the encroachments of governments with violence; the non-resistant, who believes that evil contains the germ of its own destruction; the plumb-line Anarchist, the practical opportunist, who accepts every opportunity to give government per se a blow near its vitals,—are all factors in the struggle for liberty and equity.
The admission you make—that nine-tenths of the political functions might be dropped—may bring us so much relief that the other tenth would be of very little concern, provided the nine-tenths included those things which are invasive and meddlesome.