Charles T. Fowler, “Co-operation” (1885)




Co-operation is as far in advance of civilization, as civilization is in advance of barbarism.

We have, within the last fifty years, made rapid strides in material wealth, but no progress has been made in its more equitable distribution. Horace Mann.

We can calculate the relation of our exports to our imports, and measure the rate of mortality, but we cannot tell how much bread will be needed, or whether the people will be able to get it. Sam’l J. Tilden.

WHAT is co-operation? From two words, con and opera, it means to work together. It is a practical instead of a speculative word, and is fraught with the most fruitful blessings for humanity. It is natural, therefore, that it should be so generally favored as the ultimate solution of the Labor Question.

But in what we are to co-operate, how, when, where, opinion is unsettled. The truth must be sought in the nature of man, as a social being. Already has it co-operated to produce language and society; and through the same laws, by which the world has already been formed, must it be re-formed.


are naturally formulated under three heads.

First, it is obvious, in order to co-operate, that there must be Order. This necessitates a science of Government.

Then there must be Justice, or the science of Economy.

Now, given a Unity of Interest, and we” have Cooperation. And have we not this?—the same eyes, the same hands, the same feet? We laugh with those who laugh and weep with those who weep. We have she same origin, the same destiny and the same law of happiness. Then, may co-operation be regarded as the practical application of the science of Religion.


The first thing, then, to consider, is how to keep order. How far can a person go in his actions without being subject to arrest?

Incapacity.—Can we suffer dictation, on the ground of incapacity? Then by reason of whose capacity? What constitutes the standard capacity? Is not folly the material out of which wisdom is made? Not only are they relative, they are interconvertible terms. Through both runs the same warp of self interest. Self help, at one’s own cost, is the law of growth. Everybody then has a right to the exercise of his incapacity if it does not impose a burden. Every one has a legal right to make a fool of himself, providing he pays the bills.

Opinions.—Should erroneous opinions be suppressed? If so, then who has got the correct one? Is not one’s evidence just as good to him as that of another? Does not the same rule apply, when my opinions seem erroneous to you, to make yours so to me? Then the suppression of another’s opinion warrants the suppression of your own, and the suppression of one calls for the suppression of all. Can an idea be hit by a brickbat, much less be killed? Instead, do not “those who would crush out ideas in turn perish by ideas?”

Morals.—Can bad morals be tolerated? Thought leads to action. Preaching points to practice. A theory is good for nothing if it cannot be put into operation. The people’s morals have their opinions behind them. Opinions cannot be separated from morals. What makes my morals offensive to you, by the same process of reasoning, reversed, makes yours distasteful to me. The suppression business works both ways.

Evils.—Can we harbor evils? To be sure some are great. But if we can suppress the greatest, then we should the next, and so on till all are closed out. But evil is only a ma^-adaptation, beneath it is a soul of goodness; to arbitrarily destroy all evil would destroy the good. To call upon force indicates an utter lack of all faith in virtue itself to cope with vice on equal terms. A resort to force is moral cowardice, a virtual self-surrender. Evil may seem to be suppressed, but it has only been excited to renewed activity. Breaking the thermometer does not alter the weather.

Critical Evils.—But some may think that when an evil gets to such a crisis, that, at any moment, it may break out into a crime and endanger society, it should be suppressed. But upon such an elastic construction, all evils might be turned into crimes. Anger would become murder, houses could be suppressed because they burn, horses, because they kick. No, the name for this indemnity is insurance, not prohibition. Insurance protects the community in case there is any crime, while prohibition suppresses the evil before there is any certainty that it ever will be a. crime! Insurance covers the damages, but under prohibition the evil goes free from paying any damages. Of course insurance cannot cover moral ruin, only moral rectitude can do that. Insurance can only cover damages assessable in dollars and cents.

Crime.—A crime is an overt act of force accompanied with a bad intent. It is unreciprocal in its action, destroying all equality of relationship. It demands what it cannot confer, and should therefore be suppressed. Why? Because in exercising the supreme authority of denying to another the right of habeas corpus, we cannot be too certain of our reasons for so doing.

Not the act itself. —The reason for the arrest of crime arises from its relationship and not from the nature of the act itself. It is not our business to prevent another from visiting his vengeance upon himself, neither is he to be hindered, by mutual consent, from visiting it upon others. It is not because people do wrong, or we think they are doing wrong, that they should be deprived of their liberty. The nature of the act has nothing whatever to do with it. Since our privacy and time belong to us as much as our person and property, an act good in itself, may interfere with our liberty, while a bad one may not.

We have then reached the point which we set out to seek, the


Rule of Reciprocity.—The only justifiable reason then, for taking away another’s freedom, is because another’s acts admit of no reciprocity, demanding for one’s self what one cannot concede, and denying to others what we demand for ourselves. Reciprocity, therefore, is the law of liberty and the basis of harmony in human relations.* Action and reaction being equal, an equilibrium is maintained. This then is the one thing to be subserved. If liberty is arrested, it is only when it usurps that of all. Then it is the arrest of only a limitation of liberty. Where perfect liberty prevails, there will be perfect order, for confusion cannot be conceived, where everyone has his own and attends to it. Therefore, liberty is not, as is generally supposed, ‘the daughter, but the mother of order.’ Not your liberty, solely, or my liberty, for this sect or that party, but a universal, scientific liberty, verifiable by the rule of reciprocity in social relations.

The Rationale of Liberty is that it presupposes the integrity of nature; that it can be trusted; that it is safe to leave the whole of virtue with the whole of vice. As a cure for the evils of liberty, grant more liberty, for evils tend to abolish themselves. There is more hope in freedom for vice, than virtuous conformity in slavery. Activity is at last the only virtue and eternal vigilance its price.


* Confucius, when asked if there was one word which contained the whole duty of man, thinking a moment, said, “The nearest word I can think of is Reciprocity.”


Individuality.—The law of liberty emphasizes individuality. As things differ, they become separate. Every round in the ladder of life, whether as atoms, cells, organs, or persons, rests upon an individual. Everything propagates after its kind, there is no hybrid. Individuality is the condition of expression and of genius. It is as inevitable as that a circle must have a centre, as indestructible as consciousness, without it, we are not. In it we live and move and have our being.

Individual Sovereignty.—Every individual is sovereign in its own sphere, over its own affairs, a law unto itself, over church and state, over treason and blasphemy. Individuals existed before institutions, for them they exist, out of them they are made. The individual has the right to secede, for passive resistance is not a crime. No one else is thereby prevented from giving his or her support. After voluntary representation ceases, taxation should also cease.

Individual sovereignty is the ripe fruit of Democracy. The opposite is a theocracy. One appeals to the equal liberty of all; the other, to a despotic infallibility. In the one case, God created man, in the other, Man is creating God. One is from the Orient, the other is Occidental. One is the Pope, the other, Private Judgment. One is the Kingdom of heaven, the other is the Commonwealth of Man. Already, piety and the Church rest upon voluntary support. It inevitably follows that morality and the State must; for the same arguments adduced in favor of the one are equally as applicable in favor of the other.


Now the sovereignty of each individual implies the sovereignty of all. This then gives ground for government, to guarantee this equal sovereignty. It exists to stop a crime by a crime, but by a defensive, and therefore justifiable one, on the ground that force can withstand force and make way for liberty. But this sphere of government needs to be very jealously guarded, for the moment it goes a step farther, outside of its specific, individual function, it becomes an offensive criminal. The governmental machine, like any other, from its very nature, can do but one kind of work. If it attempts everything, it must leave its own proper work undone. Then, its influence is most disastrous. It not only becomes a thief and a criminal, but the father of them. Its administration is artificial, arbitrary, inefficient, costly and cumbersome. And did not government originate in the offensive? does it not now live by and for aggression? and however pervasive the government of nature is, when the ear marks of authority fade, will not government as a specialized administration entirely disappear? In every atom, organ and star, do we see the egoistic and altruistic balance; shall man, with his sense of justice, constitute the only exception? Certainly, liberty can be entrusted to stand guard over herself.

Now over-government is a relic of the god-idea. For a while, he ruled direct, then delegated his powers to demi-gods, then to kings, by divine right, then to majorities, who could do no wrong. It arises in the worship of power. Offices, officers, legal forms, coins, stamps, ‘Be it enacted,’ as a ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ &c, are its political fetiches. When the people are unable to detect the direct and immediate cause of any display of power, they attribute it to a third person, outside of themselves and nature, which does not exist. “A gross delusion,” says Guizot, “is the belief in the sovereign power of political machinery.”

Theoretically, it exists to protect its subjects, but, actually, it preys upon them. Holding up its law and order, its misplaced authority produces rebellion, for, as Emerson says, “the highest virtue is always against the law.” The greatest respecters of authority are the most depraved. Just as those recently slaves make the most unmerciful masters, so the most ignorant are the most submissive. Rebels, in all ages, have been patriots in disguise, and the paraphernalia of ‘patriotism’ has ever been the delusion of fools.

Now, between a superstition and the government of nature, can there be any doubt as to their jurisdiction? If it is in the constitution of things, what matters it if it is ‘unconstitutional?’ Is not what is the previous question and the one of last resort? Certainly our Anti-slavery struggle should have taught us this lesson, that what is legal must not stand in the way of what is lawful, nor right succumb to anybody’s mere opinion about it.


Co-operative association, then, is free, spontaneous, voluntary, for no organization can rise higher than its source, the individuals who compose it. If these are free, there will be a natural expression of, not only the average intelligence, as under majority rule, but all of it. Of course the product will not be infallible, as under a theocracy, nevertheless, it will be perfect, for it will be the highest and best of which the members are capable. All trusts are delegated to responsible individuals, not to a committee. Its propositions, to gain the broadest assent, are reduced to their simplest terms. Each step is sure, because experimental. The constitution is liberty. It cannot be broken, for it is not made. None can bolt, for nobody is arbitrarily bound. It is a creature of growth, and in the line of evolution. Education, under liberty, does not need the distortion of being made ‘compulsory.’


The importance attached to the doctrine of liberty may perhaps pardon a farther amplification of it, beyond its mere immediate application to government.

Disciplinary.—There are some who fear to trust the masses with liberty. They hold that man’s own nature is incapable of self government, unless aided by a higher power, which is themselves! The boys may go in swimming but they must not go near the water. Liberty, with them, means danger.

Now from what does this fear originate unless it be the unnatural restraints of an arbitrary and external authority? From this, people break away and go to the other extreme; or else blindly submit to its evils, as the will of God. So it is authority instead of liberty which is the breeder of license. Liberty is the source of self help and discipline. As such, it has a right to make mistakes. Yet accountability, responsibility, all the safeguards of action, are on the side of liberty. She is not infallible, yet she is the teacher of infallibility. Law itself is made out of liberty. Indeed, she is the most careful and conservative of mortals.

The Test of Truth.—Accusations for blasphemy and treason are no longer rife, but ‘heretical,’ ‘obscene,’ ‘seditious’ and ‘incendiary’ opinions prevail. But what is heresy and scepticism, except as their derivatives imply, but an effort of the mind to discover truth, constituting a new revelation, opposed to the old only in respect to its limitations? If following one’s convictions be heresy, pray what must orthodoxy be?

And what is obscenity, except such an ignorance of sex as to fear the consequences of its freest discussion? And what is incendiary, except an admission that the so called property is merely nominal, not real? Otherwise, how could the mere expression of an opinion prove incendiary?

Rectifies Conscience.—Without liberty, loyalty is a dangerous thing. For what above all else are we to be loyal? to the Pope, or the King? Or shall we follow our convictions? But what if our convictions differ, and there is a conflict of consciences? None have been greater persecutors than persons under conviction. When consciences differ, there is no alternative but an appeal to the law of equal freedom. Liberty, then, is paramount to loyalty. Let us be loyal to liberty and every other cause will prosper.

The Seal of Love.—Family instinct, through blood relation, first spread into tribal affection. Then single-handed combat brought association and the recognition of certain collective rights. But these rights only applied to certain classes, and a conflict of rights arose. The only solution of this is an equality of human rights, which is the greatest of rights. This ushers in the unity of the race, and in place of parties and sects, the brotherhood of man.

When the headquarters of authority are vested in a theocracy, there exists the supposed government of God over the Devil, or good over evil, and so authority, as a cultus, arises. For while there are the ‘good’ and the ‘bad,’ one will be superior to and above the other. It will become exclusive, patronizing, pharisaical, and dictatorial. One will form a caste, the other will become an outcast.

Now, in routing these pharisaical pretenders to authority and pride, liberty holds a lamp for love, by which it is seen that this personal superiority does not exist; good and bad being interchangeable terms and derived from the same absolute root. Do not doctors now practise medicine on the principle that disease is an effort of nature to overcome an obstruction?

Besides, the authority of ‘character’ as a cult, must go. For both free will and the divine will are subject to law. Simply change places, and saints become sinners, and sinners become saints. The authority therefore, of great men, as political and theological bosses, is not greatly worshiped under co-operation.

So liberty lights up, for love, every crook and cranny of the universe. The highest love it is found is only consistent with the truest democracy. The pale spiritual vanishes, to be sure, with its dogmatism, but “gross, vile, dead, matter” is spontaneously illuminated with miraculous power; the ghosts become living beings. Of course the sacred is lost, but no longer is the secular profane. The divine departs, but the human is transfigured and glorified. By the universal unity of law, this becomes the other world; immortality a necessity, instead of a gift, and God and the Devil are one!

Liberty may be called the physiology of love; one the stem, the other the blossom; one the stream, the other the ocean; one light, the other heat; one the head, the other the heart; one harmony, the other fusion. Liberty is each for all, love is all for each. One is the perfect law and the other is its fulfillment.

We might further trace the relation of liberty to life, to happiness, to progress: show how it is the soul of inspiration, to be preferred before life itself; but it is enough if we have inspired confidence in her as a safe guide to follow, for wherever in the broad earth life and joy are found there is liberty.

Let us then learn this lesson, that liberty is a definite, coherent, scientific principle: that it is regulated by its own reciprocal action of equal freedom: that it is the basis of harmony and the mother of order. If she be encountered by knowledge and the consensus of the competent, let knowledge perish, rather than that liberty should fail. Though her teachings be misleading, even indirectly destructive, yet, let ‘law and order’ perish, rather than that liberty should not prevail. Yea, though the sky be black with vice, and corruption stalk abroad, still, keep burning the lamp of liberty, and darkness will give place to light, and the whole heavens be filled with the sunshine of peace and prosperity.



EQUITY is the application of the principle of liberty to commerce. Without coercion, injustice is impossible. Given perfect liberty, and injustice rights itself. Save as a human equation, there is no such thing as a principle of justice. Political economy, therefore, is a misnomer, and since, in nature, the supply is equal to the demand, charity is the handmaid and nurse of injustice. Without equal liberty, property is robbery and price an extortion.


Is age or legality a final title to property? Upon what does legality rest except somebody’s opinion? And as to age, the older a thing becomes, it goes to decay. If one should go back far enough, he would come to the savage instinct. If a title, originally wrong, can be improved by years, how many years will it take to make it perfect? How many more to make it more than perfect?

On the contrary, legality and age, as titles to property, have been constantly undergoing modification. What was the decline of Feudalism, the Corn Law agitation, the slave Emancipation, but a destruction of legality and age, because incompatible with the equal freedom of all. Even labor’s claim to property would fail, were it not that the right to exist is the most fundamental of all rights and depends upon reaping the results of one’s labor. Moreover, the product of our labor is mixed with the product of nature and there are many things indispensable to possess, such as air, light, land and water, which are wholly disconnected from any labor. How is the tenure of these to be determined, except upon the basis of the equal liberty of all? Liberty, therefore, is the final test.


“Labor was the first price paid for anything. The product of labor constitutes the natural recompense, or wages of labor,” said Adam Smith. Now the question arises, is labor to be the second price, or does something else intervene? Is skill a factor of price? Then how? The product of skilled labor is greater than unskilled, for which reason, the services of such will be in greater demand, and being scarcer, will bring a higher price. But is this to be termed payment for skill? not at all, for, while the reward of personal services cannot be separated from their natural product, the terms of the price are always reckoned from a labor standpoint. The buyer thinks only of the value he is receiving, measured by the cost of reproduction.

Skill vs. Labor.—Suppose an inventor’s machine will do the work of a thousand men, then on the ground of skill, that “a thing is worth what it will fetch,” it should command the services of a thousand lives! But suppose the first inventor is supplanted by another, or the consumers go to manufacturing their own machines, how then could skill get rewarded? Oh, it has patented a principle of nature, and there cannot be but one monopoly of a principle of nature! Either the first. by litigation, must kill off its rival or else combine and divide. In either case, full payment for skill has defeated itself. As competition prevails, it will be entirely lost in labor cost.

Skill cannot be compensated, it is its own reward. Compensation means to weigh back, it is a conservation of force. Skill is natural adaptation, ease of execution. Instead of being compensated, its possessor should be congratulated. Not so with labor, its nature is to lose, lapse, die. That of the body in exposure and fatigue; that of the mind, in anxiety, responsibility and care. These should be compensated. The reason the belief so generally prevails that skill should be rewarded, as the latest refinement of slavery, arises from the fact that through tricks of trade and cunning legislation it is too often rewarded. But the skill of the artist, the artisan, that of the scientist and the inventor, we rarely ever see culminate in a bonanza king, even the Savior of the world had not where to lay his head.

Labor then, is the data from which all just price must be reckoned. That which costs much should bring much; that which costs little should bring less; that which costs nothing should bring nothing. All profit that cannot be calculated in terms of labor is something for nothing. Under no circumstances can skill be preferred before labor in determining price, and after equal liberty has been realized, nothing but labor will ever permanently enter into it.


But this is not saying how much labor shall enter into it. It is natural and proper that the seller should endeavor to get for his labor its full natural product. It is also the privilege of the buyer to get his goods with the least labor. This gives rise to competition, which function is to equalize prices and lower the cost of production. But, that competition may work beneficently, it must be free all round. If the highways are to be blocked by freebooters, if the currency is to be controlled, if a tariff is to destroy private contract, if business is to be run by legislative Philistines, then, all the competition will be among laborers themselves, and woe be their lot! Supply and demand will now become advantage and necessity, producers will become speculators, prices rise, consumption decrease, corners be made, until the demand comes to the supply. And what is this supply? It is a wolf, called capital. And the demand—Heaven save the mark, is labor shivering and starving. And, unwittingly, mistaking a partial liberty for license, it is still calling upon the legislature for more protection!


After a just price, the remaining element in a just exchange, is a just currency. If it does not, in return, guarantee the price paid, the price itself might just as well have been unjust. If the price paid then be a labor one, the currency, which is to represent and guarantee the price, must also be a labor one. A labor statistic cannot be stated in dollars and cents. Gold does not measure labor, labor measures it. If a whole mountain-full of gold should be discovered, the world would be bankrupt; for it would be such an inflation of labor, as to totally repudiate it. Labor is now the currency of the world. Gold and silver are only the counters of the money changers. The merchant and the farmer use no other as the basis of their calculations. For, what is a dollar’s worth of any thing, but that thing compared with the labor in something else—an ideal labor dollar? If then, a gold dollar is but a labor dollar, why not directly say so, and without subterfuge, come to a specific basis?

Do we not all know that gold is but a gambler’s lie? That it costs three times as much to dig it as it is worth, and after it is dug, a leather dollar would serve the purpose better? For while gold is in a currency, it cannot be used as a commodity, and while an article of virtue, it is good for nothing as a currency. As one scarce commodity, so infinitely divisible that a microscopic atom,* locked up in a Jew’s safe with the key thrown away, it will still represent all property and serve as a basis for —? Looking at gold from the side of labor, it is a fiction and a fraud, viewed by itself, it is a fetich, the bead and wampum traffic of savage barter, an ancient prejudice for bits of yellow dross, an antiquated superstition that only the precious metals were wealth.

Unit of Measure.—If then, the real dollar is a labor dollar, what is its unit of measure? Plainly, it must be measured by its duration and intensity, with time as the unit of measure. While there are many kinds of employment, there is but one kind of labor, differing only in degree, so that quality, or intensity, can be measured by quantity, or duration. An hour of severe labor would therefore count two of ordinary labor, or 100 per cent, above par. The labor, by common consent, standing at par, would be that of agriculture. For, it is this which establishes the first price, it is this in which seven tenths of the people are engaged and upon which the subsistence of all depends.


* “Instead of its being the value of the metal that controls the value of money it is the value of the money that governs the value of the metal. The value of money is entirely independent of the substance of which it is made.” Chas. Moran on Money, p. 32. “Increase the scarcity of gold to a certain degree, and the smallest bit of it may become more precious than a diamond, and exchange for a greater quantity of other goods.” Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, B. I, Ch. XI. “Were the currency sufficiently limited, a shilling might he made to do the business, or pass at the value of a guinea,” J. B McCulloch. See Ricardo, Mill, Opdyke, Walker, &c.

A dollar’s worth of nickels is worth eight cents.



RENT, interest, profit and taxes are the four great thieves of history. Rent is the monopoly of land, interest the monopoly of money, profit the monopoly of trade, and government [or] the monopoly of the monopolies.


Under equity, we found price rested on labor. Now what is land, so much dirt void of all improvements, that it should bear a price? It existed before Adam, it will continue to exist after Adam’s descendants have passed away.

Price Absurd.—How can there be a price put on that which costs nothing? It cannot be cancelled by labor. No labor price can be set upon it. There is not so good a title to it as there was under a black skin, for it did cost some labor to raise a slave. To put a price on land, without any labor title, is to deny all property in labor, to confiscate it. It is blasphemy; for it denies the equal paternity of nature, of air, light, water, sun, from the nadir to the zenith! It is inhuman, for it destroys equal opportunity; a man better be owned than free with no land. It is, moreover, in the highest degree criminal; it not only destroys human life, but denies the right of existence; for if the land can be sold, it can be entirely owned by one man.

Incompatible with Use.—Price on land, not only debars many from gaining possession, but having got possession, its use for living purposes, is in no way enhanced by having a price, on the contrary, the less the price the better.

Price cancels Price.—Nor is one benefited when he comes to sell, for he has to pay back again just what he gets. It is supposable that all must have somewhere to stay, and since one lot is only worth another, similarly situated, what matters it whether we get $1. or $1000. a foot? And even if one has a small income from rent, it is more than counterbalanced by the rent paid out again in the enhanced cost of living. Society, then, gains no wealth from price on land. It is as great a delusion as the belief, once prevailing, that only the precious metals were wealth.

Rise in Real Estate.—In America, immigration assists the ‘boom’ by reason of the desirability in new association. But to put a price upon this, is to sell one’s self! Profiting by such a boom necessitates an endless march towards barbarism! The human race cannot always keep going West! Finally it will bring up where it started. The ebb and flow neutralize, producing a calm. There is no longer any rise. And as soon as the people find themselves paying the old selling price, they come to their senses only to find themselves loaded up with values representing nothing! Only a few capitalists, a few drones, the first denizens of this frog pond or that sheep pasture, now called Boston, New York and Chicago, who by squatting in labor’s hive, profit by the rise in real estate.

The Results of Landlordism are antagonism, waste, dilapidation, squalor, disease, conflagrations, poverty and crime. It is an heirloom of war and slavery. It does not guarantee an equal share of what land the people want to use, but, until the pound of flesh is paid, prevents its use. In New York, it once took five acres of ground to support one German gardener, and that by hard work. Now, the ‘unearned increment’ of this plantation commands the services of 5,000 ‘born thralls’ of Wm. Astor. Every 10 years, according to the rate of increase on the investment, the city, from rent, is rebuilt and given to the land-lords! Already, in Fifth Avenue, the ground rent exceeds the improvements, and lo! there are the Five Points! In 10 years, these five acres will call for the labor of 10,000 men; this is London. In 20 years, it takes the labor of 20,000 men. Yet still, the land rises! In 30 years, it takes the labor of 40,000, in 40 years, 80,000, in 50 years, 160,000! Good heavens! where can they all stand? how can they live? They cannot live, twelve are in a room, the sewers give way, life is unbearable, death a boon, home and citizenship are aliens, the city sleeps on a volcano. Was Paradise a gar (lent here is a living hell! Hark, there is the sound of an explosion, the heavens are filled with a lurid glare, revolution has begun! Now shiver the palaces of glass, now shrivel the rainbow colored walls and not a vestige remains of the iniquitous system.*


* There is no foundation in nature, or natural laws, why a set of words on parchment, should convey the dominion of land.—Blackstone’s Commentaries.


Interest is the twin of rent. It has no labor equivalent and denies the right of private property. It is not payment for any service performed, nor, since loans are made on security, is it for any risk incurred. Neither is it payment tor a share in nature’s increase, for this is free and equal to all. Neither is it because capital employs labor, for capital is the child of labor, and when properly organized, can employ itself. Interest is a tax on exchange, through a monopoly of credit.

Republicanizing Credit.—Money is not a ‘tool,’ a ‘medium,’ or even a ‘representative’ of value, it is simply so much water, a floating account. And banking is but a method of securing, or keeping those accounts. It is not a ‘creature of law,’ but of commerce. The right to issue money is as inalienable as the right to produce. It is ‘law’ which has wrought all the mischief with money. If it is not solvent, can it be made so by calling it ‘legal tender?’ If it is already solvent, can it be made more so? If the banks should discard the trade dollar, what could the government do? Then why meddle, why interfere? Only to profit by the monopoly of the currency. The necessity of interest, when National bank notes are issued at one per cent., and greenbacks in London, are above par in gold, is no longer an open question. The only question is, who, and what kind of property, shall share in the benefits of free banking. It seems to us that he who is able to furnish security, of whatever character, with which to redeem another person’s money, is amply able, with proper machinery, to issue his own. Otherwise, the sinner becomes greater than the redeemer.*

How Interest Works.—Suppose the world’s capital is $100,000. at ten per cent, interest, employing 100 men at a dollar a day. The first year, the capital increases to $110,000. But there is only $100,000. of money with which to pay $110,000. How is it to be done? Out of the products of labor. Capitalists never finally pay any interest, they simply charge it over in the form of higher prices. Those who never borrow pay all the interest. The cost of living has now risen 33 per cent., wages are 66 2/3 cents. In ten years, interest and principal double; wages are now 33 1/3 cents a day. In twenty years, interest and principal quadruple and wages are 33 1/3 cents less than nothing!

But, actually, this result is sooner reached. As production advances money must increase. But there is only so much to be had. Credit must therefore be substituted, and debt incurred, until there are many times as much owed as there is cash with which to pay it. So that by the fifth year, whatever the crops, times begin to grow “hard!” By the seventh year, with wages at a minimum, capital fails to make its accustomed dividend. The mills shut down and a corner is made on the consumer, which is facetiously termed “overproduction!” But turning people out of employment is not the quickest way to make them consume. So business becomes blocked, it cannot surmount usury, engagements go by default, failure ensues, confidence is lost, and a panic begins, during which the people are sold out for 33 cents on the dollar. Hard pan is now reached, and at a nominally lower rate, the machine is wound up again!

Power of Usury.—If only one dollar had been loaned, at a simple, 6 per cent. interest, when Christ was born, it would have now more than eaten up the entire world of solid gold! Can anything be more conclusive, that interest is a legal fiction? What an awful gnawing upon the vitals of labor must there have been through every dollar! There is no rate of interest, but what, when compounded, will devour all property, enslave all men and finally destroy itself! If Vanderbilt’s income is $50. per minute, and his brakemen’s $1. per day, what is to become of the train of human destiny by the time W. H. V. Jr. begins to crawl out of his cradle? The public will surely by that time be ‘damned,’ with Malthus to carry. Every $1,000. of water, in Western Union, commands the services of an operator; loaned for 50 years, at 15 per cent., it would be worth more than 20 skilled mechanics, at $3. per day; making them bring but $50. apiece, one twentieth the price of an ordinary negro. Indeed, it was recently reported that Rothschild had an incumbrance on and was about to foreclose the Holy Land!

The monopoly of money is, literally, the monopoly of everything that money will buy. Rent tells where one may work, interest, when, how long, and what one must receive. Between these two mill stones, labor is completely crushed. The more it writhes and struggles, the more deplorable its lot, until it costs less to keep the average worker than the average convict.

“O tell them in their palaces,
These lords of land and money,
They must not kill the poor like bees,
To rob them of life’s honey.”


* THE TRUE INWARDNESS. A Farmer discounts, at the bank, his note of $1000 for $900., what really occurs?

(1) They exchange notes. (2) Both notes promise gold dollars, but neither has any. (8) Intrinsically, one note is as good as the other. (4) In addition, the farmer gives to the banker a deed of trust on a $3X10. farm. (5) In case the farmer fails to pay, the farm can redeem the banker’s (gold?) and if the bank fails, its assets are the solvency of its patrons, therefore, (6) The real specific basis of the bank is the farmer’s security. (7) Redeeming another’s money is equivalent to issuing one’s own. (8)The farmer then gives his money away, to buy it back (9) The banker draws interest on what he owes. (10) The shave of $100. was for handling the farmer’s money. (11) All the farmer lacked to issue it, was the machinery. (12) For questioning the right to monopolize this machine, so that the farmer can save his interest, danger signals are sounded, and you are denounced as a “wild cat,” a “red dog” and a “communist.”

During the war the government desired to move a box of hard tack from an Illinois farmer to a wounded soldier. But there was no medium of exchange. So we go over and borrow from a Jewish broker a lump of gold, giving therefore an interest-bearing bond, with the farmer and soldier as bondsmen, through whom the hard tack has been paid back three times. The interest on all the bonds being many times the value of all the slaves over which the war was waged!

W. H. Vanderbilt owns $47,050,000 in U. S. bonds, bearing interest at the rate of $1,885,000 per annum, or $3.58 per minute.

Congress has 189 bankers to 13 farmers, yet there are four farmers to one banker.

“Pay your National debt in 17 installments of interest, at 6 percent.”—A. Johnson.


We here pass the tariff monopoly of 43 per cent., corners on coal, corn, pork, wheat, sugar, oil and the staples; on transportation, telegraphy, patent rights, &c, to speak of profit making as a system. It is enough to know that society cannot speculate off from itself. If one charges his neighbor something for nothing, it comes back to him again in a circle. Profit thus abolishes profit. While each one gains nothing, all lose. But under the cost system, while none lose, all indirectly gain. Count then the waste under profit. If there is room for but one lealer, he makes a monopoly. Soon there gets to be two, when they have to raise prices. A third comes, and they form a ‘pool’, a fourth causes bankruptcy. Every city directory now illustrates this state of affairs. Moreover, note the cost in display, rent and advertising. The consumer pays all the bills.

But, greatest of all, is the demoralization attending profit. Under cost, the interests of buyer and seller are identical, under profit, antagonistic. One has one price, the measure of justice, the other has many, measuring the gullibility of its customers. One serves, the other trades. Trader, traitor and traducer all come from the same word. Robbery, once the respectable profession of pirates and freebooters, is now the pastime of bulls and bears. Secrecy, deception, lying, cunning, ‘tricks of trade,’ ‘shop-[illegible word] goods,’ adulterations, overproduction, failures, strikes, panics, lawsuits, wars, all are begotten by the profit making system.




BY majority rule, we do not mean a majority vote, which selects between two necessary evils, for nobody’s liberty is thereby infringed. We mean the coercive power of numbers, indeed, a mere comparison of numbers, for what constitutes a majority in one place or at one time is a minority at another place and time. The same number that it takes to elect one to office in one town might defeat him in the next, and if a third candidate be in the field, a minority can elect its man, while the majority go unrepresented. What is the real significance of 8 over 7? Of course the 8 rule and the 7 are ruined until 1 goes over, when the 8 are ruined and the 7 rule, all by a majority of one! What an inviting field, where vested interests are at stake, for bribery, lying, blackmail, bulldozing, jerrymandering and ‘returning boards!’ Some call these the corruption of the ballot box, but they seem to us to logically flow from the rule of the majority.

Now since all admit that there should be some limit to majority rule, the only question is what shall it be if not the equal liberty of all? For, the last minority, by the next step of liberty, is expecting soon to be in the majority. The equal sovereignty of all, will then be the last majority. Politics follow Protestantism; as George the Third was Pope, so now majority rule is our political Bible. But every new protester destroys its authority in favor of equal sovereignty. Vox populi vox Dei, means the voice of Liberty, each and every one of the people, not that of a mere majority. Majorities are always wrong. God speaks only to individuals. “One with God is a majority.”


Co-operation is a natural word, corporation is a legal one. One is free, voluntary, spontaneous: the other is chartered to act as one body. But co-operation has all the strength there is in each individual and, when occasion arises, can act as one man. Why then become incorporated so that, whether you will or not, you are obliged to act as one man? In order to exclusively control, for private gain, nature’s resources and society’s social franchises, such as the use of water, gas, transportation, banking &c. It is an artificial, legal, man of straw, with powers and privileges legislated into him, which are denied to the natural man. In being addicted to stealing from the public, it soon learns, through a ring within a ring, to steal from itself. What possible benefit can the whole people, under co-operation, derive from a charter save what is already granted by nature under the right of private contract? They seek no profit, nor any limitation to their liabilities, If some can live by act of Congress, others will have to steal or starve.


Government control, is offered as a substitute for what is called the ‘corruption of corporations,’ but this would be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Is not the government a corporation, the father and boss of all the rest? Better a thousand ordinary corporations, than one governmental corporation, for there would then be some room for competition. What if the government should run the roads ‘at cost,’ at whose cost? unless it be at the people’s cost.


But, is it asked, are not public functions amenable to government regulation? But the selling of a paper of needles is a social function, which brought A. T. Stewart as exorbitant a revenue as that of any bank president. Publishing the N. Y. Herald is a social function, dependent too upon the small earnings of the poor, yet its editor commands a salary larger than that of all the Presidents combined. Should Bennett and Stewart therefore be regulated by the constable? What principle of liberty have they violated? Whom have they injured? Not then, on socialistic grounds, can governmental interference be justified.

But it may be farther claimed that exclusive monopoly leads to extortion, that there cannot well be but one gas company, one water works, one telegraph and railroad between two points, one pass through mountain canyons, one Hoosac tunnel, one Panama canal, any more than there can be more than one Atlantic ocean or Mississippi river; to block up these, would be a crime, to make exorbitant charges, would be robbery, therefore, they should be regulated. Quite true, but the regulation of a thing implies the legitimacy of the thing regulated. We do not regulate the small pox but quarantine and abolish it. So of corporations, their monopoly rests in legislative privilege; it cannot be regulated, it must be revoked.

But, aside from their legal franchise, corporations are composed of individuals, a natural product, as such, they must be regulated in a natural manner. How can this be done save by letting them alone? To interfere with their business is an unwarranted violation of the right of private contract. Congress cannot regulate nature. Efforts at regulating the rates of interest have only tended to raise the price of money. So of the hours of labor, they can no more be regulated by legislation, than the rising and the setting of the sun. Only the organization of industry can do that. Did every Trades Union in the country to-morrow get ten hours pay for eight hours work, they would relatively be no better off, for the corresponding increase in the cost of production would leave their lot the same. This regulating business is government’s chief delight. Having first created inequality of conditions, it further likes to tinker at them, until like quack doctors, it lives off of the diseases its own medicines make.

Wherein then, upon last analysis, is the touchstone of criminality, for instance, in a railroad corporation, justifying governmental interference? It lies in the monopoly of the roadbed. These are public highways. But, do you ask us if we expect to release this monopoly through a set of lawless bar-room sprawlers on the banks of the Potomac? We answer no. There are more natural, direct and potent agencies, through which to regulate both Congress and the corporations.


If the State cannot regulate nature, can it make her laws? What is a law? We speak of the laws of matter as uniform modes of motion. They are natural, inherent, universal. Thou shalt not injure thy neighbor is the law of justice. It is inherent and born of experience: had it come from outward authority, history would not have presented the spectacle of all progress being a rebellion against authority. If there is no universality in the law of justice there can be no equality before it. The penalty also, for the violation of the natural law of justice follows, as a natural consequence.

Now note the operation and effect of all man-made laws. Since things are intrinsically right and wrong in themselves, any outside calling them so cannot alter the fact, either more or less. Since the authority of the law is internal, not even God himself can add to its obligation. Therefore any declaratory part, however perfect, has not only no force or operation whatever, but to impose its outward authority, violates liberty.

But this is not all, it obstructs the free and full execution of the natural law. Not being inherent, it is inapplicable and gives rise to endless constructions, interpretations, and amendments. Ethics become confused, litigation arises and a legal hierarchy is instituted. Technicalities spread a net for the unwary, allowing the guilty to escape. The interpolation of justice has become its travesty. The law, being no longer universal, saints and sinners, legally speaking, become interchangeable, with the geography of the country.

But, worse still, the penalty of the law, also, becomes most arbitrary and unnatural. For, whoever heard of nature sending the gout, for a sprained ankle? Or for the violation of one member, condemning the whole body!

But, do not the complex relations of our civilization demand certain rules and regulations? Yes, and have we not got them in the customs and usages of the common law? They have not come down from the State house, but up from the people. We certainly do not need any “Be it enacted,” as a “Thus saith the Lord!” Out of the 47 state law factories, with an annual product of about 5000 laws, we are unable to find more than half a dozen that concern the whole State, such as the state alms house, hospital &c., and these could be much more economically provided for, through voluntary co-operation. The rest, omitting those usurping local jurisdiction and amendatory of former blunders, are really for private gain, though professing to be for the public good.

The laws are but the enactment of the peoples’ prejudices and their administration, the enforcement of their wills. Lawyers ought to be saints, if handling the laws makes one such.* There is hardly an epithet too degrading for our neighbor, who is running for office, until he is elected our law-maker!


* There are three kinds of lawyers, first, those who possess a natural sense of justice, second, those who work for a client to win, through hook or crook, third, those legal vultures who prey on innocent people.

John Smith was so troubled with Jones’ turkeys that he put them in the pound. Smith was provoked and sued for damage, which the judge awarded, on the ground ‘hat, while cattle, sheep and geese were specified, turkeys were unmentioned!


After the laws, let us notice what influence the political machinery has upon liberty. Its theory is that of an agency, with the people as principal. But whoever heard of a leading firm becoming partners with Tom, Dick and Harry, on election day? When did ever a business firm ‘set up’ its agent at a primary, or consider itself committed to the verdict of a majority at the polls? What firm allows its agent’s salary to be many times that of its principal? or turns him loose, without bonds or instructions, into his employer’s vineyard? Even though this agent be caught stealing, he can only be whitewashed! However big a scoundrel, he cannot be discharged! whatever be his record, there is no certainty of promotion! Then there is the presidential agent with his 100,000 office seekers. Certainly this kind of an agency is not the one recognized by law or business. What then is it? It is a relic of kingly prerogative and arbitrary power .All further doubt of which will be expelled when it is remembered that, through compulsory taxation, this beautiful agent of ours does not allow his principal even to audit his own accounts! Should he attempt to keep the books of the firm, this sweet angel of an agent would pounce upon his principal with a whole standing army at its back, shouting, “Your money or your life!!” The citizen becomes subordinate to the soldier. The question then seriously arises as to what use any one has for such an agency!


We have seen that government can create nothing; that it does not generate, only eat; that it cannot make character; but in turn is stamped by it; that it contains no moral power; and that without public opinion, it could do nothing. What use, then, has the substance for the shadow? does the weather need the thermometer? Politics do not liberate society, society liberates politics. They simply show how far the people have outgrown their superstition and can govern themselves. *

Now, in this work, there are but two parties. One is the party of liberty, complete and logical, and the other is the party of authority, complete and logical. One points to God in the Constitution, ‘a strong government,’ with an informer and a spy in every house. The other leads to self government, to the Declaration of Independence and Co-operation. Between these two there can be no middle ground. They are as antipodal as the poles. Are there any so toothless as to suppose that there can be a compromise of methods?

But it may be asked, is not the ballot the American method? Did it not free the slave? Is it not the present method of political education? And may not proportional representation be gained through a majority vote?

But proportional representation, instead of being gained by majority rule, is, in so far, its abrogation. As the half-way house however, between tyranny and liberty, it is indefensible. In the face of the principle of liberty, representation, by persons, may be just as tyrannical as that of places. And so far from majority rule being the means of political education, is not rather the end of political education to escape from it?

And as for majority rule having freed the slaves, the opposite occurred. The tyrannical mandate of party faction did bring on the war but it did not free the slave, the slave freed it. As to the method of the ballot being American, it was not used by the Tea Spillers nor does the Declaration seem to countenance it. After a hundred years of voting, the country through this centralized power, is in the clutches of the worst monopolies. What then has the ballot done for labor? What has it done for Ireland? What is it now doing for the negro, for our large cities? Indeed, so vital is the governmental side of co-operation, that it cannot move a step on the majority rule hypothesis, it separates friend from foe. He who would forego co-operative for political methods must be a fool or a knave.

But, to the co-operator, there need come no disappointment. No more promises for him, green in the bud, but blasted in the fulfillment. No more deception of the money power masquerading behind political parties. No more obfuscation of labor that it can get something for nothing through the legislature without having paid for it twice. No more voting for a man you do not know, to do he knows not what. No more waiting, compromising, swapping, deceiving. Vale, then, the “setting up” at the Primary, the imbecile harangue, the “striker”, the political trick! Vale the saloon influence, the demagogue, the lobbyist and the law maker! Have we not the people, public opinion, social and business organization? to seek expression through the legislature, would not only be slavish but suicidal.

When the Church is social worth,
When the State house is the hearth,
Then the perfect state has come,
The republican at home.

The position then, of the co-operator is to rigidly abstain from the polls. He cannot possibly use political methods. Accept what the different parties say of each other, as the truth about all, including the last; for it is majority rule that constitutes every party’s platform. The ballot is the high art of not minding one’s own business. Polling booths are approved appliances for herding American cattle. Every voter is, of necessity, not only a slave, but a slave driver. The people think they vote, when through the machine, they are only voted Because they are allowed a majority vote, is no sign that they are represented. A majority vote, where noses are counted instead of weighed, is only a government of rats. The great American fallacy is in supposing that, having the form for the substance, such is a government of democrats.

But, to be practical, the government exists for property instead of personal rights, does it not? How then can you escape from the dilemma of buying votes? And are not these substantially owned already by being in the clutches of the usury system? Besides, you have got to get a majority of noses all over the States, if it takes a hundred years, before any locality can call its soul its own. And supposing you get the requisite number, numbers do not settle a principle, they rest on force, and where great vested interests are to be jeopardized by the mere triumph of numbers, a resort to force is inevitable On the other hand, where there is an inordinate reverence for the governmental Moloch, civil war ensues! A tie between some future Butler and Blaine, as at Lincoln’s election, will precipitate such a result. The ballot box, then, leads to the cartridge box. They are the rich man’s tool and the poor man’s trap.

Then, in the first place, majority rule for labor cannot be obtained, second, it would not be wanted, if it could. It is worthless in the nature of things. And if it was either desirable or obtainable, it could not be executed under the present business agencies. The labor question, primarily, has nothing whatever to do with politics, but of dollars and cents, of business and book-keeping. And need it further be shown that the organization of the almighty dollar wields a far greater power than the ballot? The seat of government is really no longer in Washington, but in Wall street. The President may be in position, but, whichever party rules, Gould is in power. Steam and electricity already have divested government of its sovereignty. It is then the organization of industry that is needed, and the disorganization of politics.†

If to morrow, government were perfect, and immaculate, it would make no difference, business would all the same have to be reorganized, by the people themselves, before they cease to be cheated. But, the moment this is done, instantly politics become obsolete. They are always on the side of the loaves and fishes. The mill stops running, when the water goes dry.


* There is no need of the national government farther than to protect the national boundary. A wise and frugal government will restrain men from injuring one another, leaving them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, taking not from the month of labor the bread it has earned. Jefferson.

† Politics come from the same word as policy, and demagogue too, is a word in disrepute; politics being tabooed in well ordered society. ‘“As licentious as a priest; as gluttonous as a priest; as greedy as a priest,” was once a current remark. Now, it is “as tricky as a politician; as unreliable as a politician; as corrupt as a politician.” “No man, who has a reputation at stake, will compromise it by running for Congress,” says president Eliot of Harvard college. Congress is the standing joke of the country, “Is that thing running still?” and “Now that it has adjourned, we may expect a season of prosperity,” are heard. Presidential election year is called “the off year” in business.


The methods of liberty are her ends. Instead of voting, petitioning, praying, organize to immediately enter in and take possession of all the rights and immunities of self government. This is the simple, the direct, the peaceable and self respecting way. It is also the concrete way, easily taught and immediately remunerative. It is nature’s way, therefore the necessary and only one. Do you doubt your business ability? That is just what capital says is the matter with you! Are the people not yet ready? That is but confirming the verdict of the aristocrats of all ages!

The way to acquire one’s rights is to use them. Outside government is then impossible. Failing to do this, one deserves to be a slave, for all the abuses of government are thus invited and made necessary. What folly, standing on the outside preaching, while the dog is on the inside eating, or idly complaining of the best there is, while lifting not a finger to supply anything better.

Nothing can cope with the power of peaceable, passive resistance in the exercise of one’s rights. Through an arbitrary law you may ‘drive a coach and four,’ but all the powers of nature reinforce those who co-operate with her. Possession, by exercise, is every point of the law. No outside, arbitrary power can reach it, to attempt it would be like fighting the elements the sea, fire, air, electricity.

Let us cease then, longer leaning on the arms of paternal government; let us no more be deluded with the sophistry of the economists. Let us begin at our own doors and organize business on a labor instead of a usury basis. Let us stop dividing, by closing the holes whereby the producer fails to get what he produces.

Where we now come in contact with the usury system and support it, let us begin, with consumption, and organize a supply department, by pooling our custom, and selling it to ourselves, at cost. This is the outlet of the old and inlet to the new.

Having a place where a solvent currency can be redeemed, in everything that money can buy, upon the property of the members, as a bank of issue, mutual banking begins and interest is abolished. Government cannot prevent the people effecting their own exchanges, while 97 per cent. of them are already being accomplished with commercial paper.

Having a free currency and a store needing supplies, production, manufacturing, self employment, follow. There being no dividends, the interests of labor and capital are identical.

We have now a complete epitome of business, consumption production and exchange: the bank, the store, the farm and factory; whose superior organization must draw all other stores, banks and factories to it.

Let the tariff monopolists keep up their own establishments. If a bonus is to be paid to capital, the consumers must share it.

Let the people organize a blind pool, to build up this road, to bankrupt that, to bid in its stock, get straddle of its directory, squeeze out its water, and run one road at cost. Indeed, they have so lavishly built and given away so many roads, one would suppose that they could afford to build one! Let it run from Kansas to Virginia, via Harper’s Ferry. Of course there would be no tariff on rails, nor interest on bonds, hardly any labor even, for the army of strikers and tramps could lend a hand, and without money, since the farmers have plenty of supplies! Why always dream of free travel when it only requires the guarantee of one’s custom to obtain it? Moreover, selling ‘short’ in Vanderbilt’s lines might leave a handsome bonus besides!

Then, too, the laborers of New York, Boston and Fall River, who have so often in rent, rebuilt those cities, could move down to Fortress Monroe! It does not take forty years of wandering now to find a Paradise. What, the outlook for labor desultory? The air is full of promise. Everything conspires for it to take posesssion of its own. Already the old usury system is asking for a receiver. Fear not then monopoly, the fittest survives, and the monopoly of capital, antagonistically organized with itself, can never compete with labor harmoniously organized. All hail, then, the world’s creators,—nature’s aristocrats; to hell with the drones in the human hive. Fear, force and fraud have had their day. Welcome, Liberty, Equity and Light, harbingers of Universal Co-operation!

“The greatest vantage for humanity
Is this, that each does everything for all,
And each in turn receives from all the same.
How little one contributes to the whole
How much however one receives from all!
How little more is needed after all
For concord bliss and peace,
Than the will of all
To seek in life itself the good of each!”


The NEXT NUMBER of The Sun will be an unusually interesting and important one. It will contain the


of the Principles of Co-operation. It will show how to organize a

National Supply Store

at cost.

It will explain the Mobilization of Credit or how to get immediately into circulation a

Non-interest Bearing Currency. It will also tell how to introduce

Self Employment.

These three, Production, Consumption and Distribution, constitute a nucleus to the complete


on a Labor instead of a Usury basis, the

Monopoly of whose superior organization must eventually absorb the present Profit making system unto itself.

As the Principles of Co-operation contain the

Only Possible Solution

of the Labor Question, and are equally applicable in

Every Country on the Globe, it is therefore highly desirable to get as many of the next number of The Sun into circulation as possible. It will contain reading matter equivalent to five more pages than the present issue, with portrait, and will be sent prepaid to any Address in the World for

Ten Cents.

Address The Sun,

Kansas City, Mo., U. S. A.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.