Francis D. Tandy, “Free Competition” (1896)


By Francis D. Tandy

The vastness of the subject which we are to consider [herein] will compel me to take for granted many theories which are controverted. While I believe that every assertion I shall make is capable of demonstration, yet [space] will not permit me to attempt to demonstrate them. Therefore, I would crave your indulgence in advance for many seemingly unwarranted assertions which I may make.

The great question of the nineteenth century, which has well been called the modern Sphinx, is that of the readjustment of society upon more equitable principles. In spite of the fact that the wealth of the world is greater than it ever has been before, we find unparalleled destitution on the one hand and colossal fortunes on the other. We find that all our wealth guards us not from the periodical recurrence of panics, which shake the business and industrial world to its very center, and leave the rich richer and the poor poorer than before. The perpetually increasing amount of wealth is evidence that the evil in not to be found in production, but in distribution.

Three factors enter into production: land, labor and capital. Labor is incapable of monopolization, because a potentiality of it is resident in every individual. With land and capital this is different. They HAVE been monopolized; and thus, instead of being the servants of labor, they have become its masters. To a person who was unspoiled by the sophistry of modern political economy, the idea of land and capital (inanimate objects) receiving payment for their share in production, would seem absurd. But to us it seems eminently correct, that n very large share of wealth should be paid as rent and interest, end only n comparatively small portion as wages. And we shall not understand the extent to which this is carried, until we consider such fortunes as those of the Astor and Gould families.

There is a large number of millionaires in this country whose income is more than they can use. So, not only do they live in idleness off the toil of others, but also deprive those others of an extra surplus in addition. Thus the workers are unable to purchase as much as they produce, and the non-producers appropriate more than they can use. Hence the world produces more than it consumes. When the accumulation of this surplus reaches a certain point, manufactories shut down. This, by throwing the wage-earners out of work, reduces their already limited power of consumption. They are unable to pay for their usual supply of provisions, etc., and so the retail dealer loses their patronage and is forced to the wall. This effects the wholesale merchants, who, in turn shake the banks. ‘Tis thus that panics often originate.’ If we can return to the cost principle when cost, not value, shall be the limit of price; that is to say, where one hour of A’s labor will be exchangeable for one hour of labor of equal intensity performed by B. If we can establish this principle, wealth will be more equitably distributed and the cause of panics be removed. In other words. wealth is divided into rent, interest and wages. Remove rent and interest and the cost principle will be established. This is substantially the position taken by all socialists, but in their attempt to reach the same goal they have taken very different roads.

As long as the doctrine of free will was generally accepted, it was thought absurd to contemplate a science of sociology. If each man is a creative first cause, and acts regardless of the rest of the universe, it is ridiculous to attempt to generalize his actions. Even if it were possible to form any generalizations of the way in which men have acted, there would be nothing to insure his acting again in a similar manner, under similar circumstances. It is only since John Stuart Mill advanced the theory of Necessity; that is the idea that certain environments, acting on a certain constitution, of necessity produce a certain result; it is only since the philosophic world has accepted this idea that a science of sociology becomes thinkable. Looked at from this point of view, men appear to us as nothing but complicated automatic machines. And if we would understand their workings, we must examine their actions as coolly as if we had not the misfortune to be one of their number. Sentiment is excellent, especially to induce us to study the question; but sentimentalism is abominable, especially when it affects our reasoning in these matters. In order to understand sociology, it is necessary for us to have at least a general knowledge of the laws of development.

It was the ceaseless conflict between the different forces of nature that brought order out of chaos, which evolved the solar system out of nebula. When life appeared upon this planet we find the conflict intensified, and the higher we ascend in the scale of life the fiercer becomes the competition. Furthermore, it is only by means of this struggle that progress is possible. We find one species develops a characteristic which enables it to prey upon another species, because those individuals which have preyed upon the other species have survived in times of famine. We also observe the species preyed upon developing characteristics which enable them to escape. Nor is the conflict restricted to individuals of different species, but rages just as fiercely–nay, more fiercely–between individuals of the same species. This latter phase is a most important factor in sexual selection. A characteristic only becomes fixed in a species by the survival of the individuals who possess that characteristic. Hence, something is only good for the species, because it has proved to be good for the individuals.

Of course, this implies the greatest selfishness. But selfishness seems to be the fundamental principle of nature. When we come to analyze the motive for all actions, we find that it is selfish; an attempt of the individual to place himself in harmony with his environments; in other words, to make himself happy. This is one of those apparently unwarranted assertions that I warned…I should make. Many eminent thinkers will oppose this position. While we have not [space] to discuss it now, yet I cannot refrain from mentioning one or two arguments in its favor. First, it is the only doctrine of psychology which is consistent with evolution. Secondly, if it is not true, then the doctrine of necessity is absurd, If all men’s actions are the result of an attempt to place themselves in harmony with their environments, then a certain individual in certain environments, will invariably act in a certain manner. If, on the other hand, men act sometimes from selfish and sometimes from altruistic motives, we must admit the doctrine of free will. In which case, it is impossible to conceive of a science of sociology. Furthermore, if we admit free will, we are compelled to believe in the existence of an anthropomorphic god. It must not be supposed, however, that because a man always acts from egoistic motives, that he always acts in what is generally called a selfish manner; in fact the truly intelligent man realizes that such a narrow course of action is bound to result in more misery than pleasure to himself–hence he will avoid it from sheer selfishness. hut the doctrine of egoism does rob us of all idea of morality, and abolishes at one stroke our duty towards God and our duty towards our neighbor. If everyone would make the glorious resolution “I will be happy” we would need no code of morals, no sense of duty. For should one man, being constructed on narrow intellectual lines, seek his happiness at the expense of another, that other will be moved to constrain him. We should also be spared a great deal of interference, as nearly every one who pokes his nose in other people’s business does so from a mistaken idea of helping someone. The golden rule must be stated negatively, and made to read: “Mind your own business.” It is owing to an ignorance of this principle of human action, that many reformers are laboring in vain. “Love your neighbor,” and “If he smite thee upon one cheek turn to him the other also,” is a very comforting doctrine for the fellow who is doing the smiting. But the present economic conditions show us that the producers of wealth have been receiving a blow on the other cheek at each turn. It is only when they have adopted other methods that they have gained anything, as we shall see if we examine the history of human society.

In spite of all that has been written to the contrary, there seems to be a widespread belief in the idea advanced by Rousseau, that the State originated in voluntary association. (I use the word state here in its wide sense.) A close examination of the facts shows us that this is entirely a mistaken idea. The state originated in the ability of the mother to govern her children, then the father found he could coerce both mother and children. By perpetually exercising this ability a system would soon be established and a reverence, or rather awe, for the father would be created. This would extend as the descendants increased, and soon become a superstitious veneration for the head of the family or tribe. Should any individual rebel against the tyranny of the chief, the rest would be ready to yell: “He is an anarchist! Hang him!” and not only to yell, but actually to do so. It is from this chat we get our modern idea of treason. A tribe in which this spirit was largely developed, would be more strongly organized than those which possessed it in a less degree, and so would have a better chance of existence in those days of perpetual strife. The fully organized tribe would overcome those who were disorganized, and make slaves of their members. It was thus that all the great powers of the ancient world gained their ascendency. The state was founded in aggression and tyranny and it was only incidentally it afforded its subjects protection against invading tribes. Even this slight advantage was often only gained at the very greatest expense. In fact Spencer tells us: “But though the advantages gained by cooperation presupposes political organization, this political organization necessitates disadvantages;…the evils inflicted by taxation and by tyranny may become greater than the evils prevented. Where, as in the east, the rapacity of monarchs has sometimes gone to the extent of taking from cultivators so much of their produce as to have afterwards to return part for seed, we see exemplified the truth that the agency which maintained order may cause miseries greater than the miseries caused by disorder.

This was the age of militancy, or enforced cooperation, when the state was all in all, and the individual only a subject of the state. All the progress that has been made, has been by restricting the power of the state–that is, abolishing the state to a certain extent. Nor has this been done peacefully, nor by the loving heart of the tyrant prompting him to relinquish his grasp upon his subjects. It is only when a certain degree of intelligence is attained by the subjects, and they realize the evils of their position, that they rise up in their might and demand a little more freedom. It was thus that John was forced to sign Magna Charta. It was thus that England became a constitutional monarchy. It was thus America secured her independence. And it is thus that the toilers will gain their emancipation from the tyranny of the modern system of capitalistic production. It has ever been a curtailing of the power of tyranny as embodied in the state, and a march from militarism, or enforced cooperation, to industrialism, or free competition and voluntary association. For it is only under a system of free competition that voluntary association becomes possible.

The only scientific principle of reform is that which embodies the teaching of biology and physiology, and is in the line of the progress of society from militarism to industrialism. That principle is the law of equal freedom, which declares that every individual should be given the greatest possible liberty of action, and be permitted to do whatever he wills, provided that in the doing thereof he does not directly infringe the equal liberty of any other person. We have seen that the state was founded in aggression; that it is the engine of militarism, and that all the liberty we possess has been wrested from it; so as Tucker says, ‘‘this century’s battle is with the state–the state, that debases man; the state that prostitutes women; the state, that corrupts children; the state, that trammels love; the state, that stifles thought; the state, that monopolizes land; the state, that limits credit; the state, that restricts exchange; the state, that gives idle capital the power of increase, and, through interest, rent, profit and taxes, robs industrious labor of its products.” That labor is robbed is manifest. If it can be shown that when the state is abolished this robbery will cease, we may fairly assume that the state is the cause of the crime.

The question how property will be protected when the state is abolished invariably causes so much perturbation of mind that we are forced to stop and explain this point before we can secure that attention which is necessary to the understanding of the economic phase of freedom. I have invariably found that the less property a man possesses, the more anxious he is upon this point. So, realizing the great worry my audience must feel, I will deal with this first. It is asserted that police duty is the of the main functions of the state. As a matter of fact the policeman s club is used far more often to infringe, than to protect the rights of the individual. The inadequacy of a governmental police is manifest on every hand. Hardly a business man in Denver relies upon it for protection. After paying taxes for police service, he is so impressed with the inadequacy of the system, that he either subscribes to the merchants’ police, or else hires a special night watchman. When the doctrine of egoism is fully understood, each man will protect himself, and if he finds he is not strong enough to do so, then he will combine with others for their mutual protection. The present cheap officialdom will be replaced by a system similar to the Merchant’s Police–yes; “Pinkertonism” if you like. A Pinkerton is not one whit less responsible than some ignorant ward politician in a blue coat. And if a Pinkerton shoot me he has to pay for his own bullets; whereas, if a policeman does so, I have to pay all the expenses. Where the Pinkertons derive their power and source of tyranny is from their state license. Under free competition, the only power which a protective association would have, would be derived from the moral and financial support of the better element of the community. Any association which gave bad service would be crowded out of existence just as the incapable merchant would be.

The protective association would have control of its prisoners, so that competition would be brought to bear upon reformatory institutions. The form of organization which would probably give the best results and so would be most generally used, would be somewhat as follows: When a man subscribed to an association, he would pledge himself to serve as juror whenever his turn came. The jurors would be selected by lot from the subscribers to the association. They would fill the functions of both judge and jury, and would judge, not only the facts, but also of the special merits of the case, and after all things have been taken into a consideration, determine what the punishment would be in case of conviction. This was the original province of the jury, and is absolutely necessary to the preservation of the liberty of the individual, Were such a system reestablished now, it would check much tyranny, and answer all the purposes of the referendum in criminal law at least–without the red tape of that institution. Every juror would have the fear of being tried and condemned unjustly to deter him from setting a precedent by rendering an unjust decision.

The doctrine of necessity deprives us at once of all vindictiveness and all sentimentalism in the treatment of criminals. Society should be organized upon a basis of free contract. When an individual violates that contract, he thereby places himself outside the pale of its protection. Not being a free moral agent, however, we must look upon him simply as a machine which does bad work. So the only questions which we are bound to consider are, how best to repair the damage, and how to prevent a recurrence of the evil. How the machine may like the process is nothing to us. In cases of theft, etc., we would suggest something like this: The prisoner would be given a cell and bread-and-water diet, for which he would be charged the cost price. He would be furnished with work, which he can perform or not, as he choose. If he does not chose to work, keep him on bread and water for a week or so, and if that has not the desired effect some other methods must be used. When he starts to work, the association will give him the full value of his labor, less the cost of his cell and board. Not less than 50 per cent of what he earns will be held by the association as a fund for the reimbursement of his victim, and when this equals the amount stolen, the prisoner will be at liberty. The balance of his wages will be expended in any manner the prisoner sees fit. If he is desirous of living economically and adding to the reimbursement fund, it will shorten the period of his incarceration. Such a system would be perfectly just to the person stolen from, would in all cases fit the punishment to the crime, and inculcate in the criminal habits of industry, thrift and honesty. After all, the question of protection is not so very important, for once the economic question is solved, the main cause of crime will be removed.

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The most important branch of the economic question is the money problem. It is unnecessary at this time, when we are just experiencing the beautiful effects of the present money system, to stop to point out its many evils. But it is advisable to review certain features of it. It is said that 90 per cent of the business of the country is done on credit and only 10 per cent by means of cash. The word credit is here used in a different sense from that in which it is usually understood, so that this statement is often misinterpreted. It would be more true to say, that 90 per cent of the business of the country was carried on by means of individual money and 10 per cent by means of legal money. For example, James, a laborer, receives a check from his employer on Saturday in payment of his week’s wages. He takes it to the bank and deposits it to his credit. When his grocer presents his bill, James pays him with a check, which the grocer endorses and pays to the commission merchant, who in turn deposits it in the bank. And so the transaction proceeds. On Friday the money is placed to the credit of the man for whom James’ employer is building a house, and on Saturday, is again paid over by check to the builder for work performed. Here is the whole circle of exchange and the money has never been taken from the bank. Even if the transaction has involved several banks the result is the same, as it is only the balance of the day’s transactions between the banks that is paid in cash. It is this that is meant when we say that 90 per cent of the business of the country is carried on by means of credit. Surely the checks, which have so circulated, are as much money as greenbacks, treasury notes or bank notes. They serve as a medium of exchange simply because the persons who accept them have confidence that they can be redeemed in coin, and they want that coin because they believe it can be redeemed in goods which they need. Since 90 per cent of the business of the country is transacted by means of checks, and only 10 percent by means of money (only about half of which is coin and the other half paper issued on that coin) there is only about $1 in coin for every $14 in checks. So that it is absurd to suppose that the checks can be redeemed in coin, and whenever a demand is made for the redemption of even 15 per cent of them, a panic is bound to result. If these checks were directly redeemable in commodity, it would not matter to us whether all the gold in the country were exported or not. It is the idea that currency–I use this term in a wide sense–must be redeemable in gold or silver, that is at the bottom of most of the financial evils which beset us. That it must be redeemed is manifest. But why it should be necessary to redeem it in one of two metals, is something for which all the sophistry of the orthodox economists is incapable of offering even A reasonable explanation. No sooner does a man get coin, than he proceeds to purchase something with it–i.e. redeem it in merchandise.

When a person goes to a banker to negotiate a loan, the first thing the banker does is examine the security offered. If it is adequate the loan is made. This generally means that a sum of money is placed to the credit of the borrower and held subject to his check. Then the exchange proceeds as above without any of the money ever being drawn from the bank. So that in reality the banker lends absolutely nothing, but only exchanges his credit for his customer’s credit, after having assured himself that his customer’s credit was good. In other words, he examines the security offered, and, finding it good, proclaims this fact to the world–a transaction as nearly similar to certifying a depositor’s check as can be.

This gives us the key to the situation. A number of men, each having good security–land, houses, machinery, stock, grain, etc,–might organize for the purpose of extending their credit. They form a bank which shall issue notes to any member to the extent of 50 per cent of the value of the security offered. If 50 per cent is too much to insure the bank against possible depreciation, make it 25 or 15 per cent. These notes are to be repaid at the end of a specified time–say six months–or before, at the option of the borrower. Of course the loan might be renewed at the expiration of that time if the security was still good and the borrower so desired. Every member of the bank would be obliged to accept the notes of the bank at par, in payment of all debts due him, and a failure on his part to do so would subject him to immediate foreclosure. Thus every borrower would assume all the responsibility of a shareholder, and would have a direct personal interest in seeing that no notes were issued except upon the very best security. Should he find that risky loans were being made, he would hasten to collect sufficient money to pay off his mortgage and thus release himself from all responsibility. Then he would go to the opposition bank across the street and get what money he needed from them. So that a bank whose currency showed the slightest signs of depreciation could not carry on business.

In order that the notes of the various banks might gain a wider circulation, clearing houses would be established, which would stand in the same relation to the banks that the banks would to the individuals. It would be the bank of the bankers. Each bank belonging to a clearing house would pledge itself to accept all notes bearing the clearing house endorsement. Thus each bank would have the same motive in stopping any irregular practices in another bank as the members of the hank would have. So the clearing houses, in addition to aiding the wider circulation of the notes, would be an extra source of security. Thus every attempt to issue money on poor security would be checked by the selfish business instincts of the community. By working through individual responsibility, we make selfishness of the greatest use. Should one of these banks attempt to charge interest, there being nothing to prevent other banks from opening, it would gain no patronage. When men can use their own credit for the mere cost of book-keeping and insurance, they are not going to pay others 10 per cent interest for letting them use theirs. Thus free competition, relentless and universal, will give us a good sound currency sufficient to meet all the demands of business, and, at the same time abolish interest. It is worth while noting that when the present system broke down during the recent panic, the banks of the large eastern cities took refuge in this idea of mutual organization of credit, and, by means of clearing house certificates, tided themselves over one of the most critical periods of financial history. A system which can stand this strain may be safely trusted.

If this is so simple, why do we not inaugurate the new era at once? Let me read to you the United States law upon the subject:

Every national banking association, state bank, or state banking association, shall pay a tax of ten per centum on the amount of notes of any person, or state, or state banking association, used for circulation and paid out by them.–Sec. 3412 Revised Statutes of the United States, 1878.

And the Statutes of Colorado tell us:

If any person, number of persons, or corporation in this state, without special leave from the legislative assembly, shall emit or utter any bill of credit, make, sign, draw or indorse any bond. promissory note or writing, bill of exchange, or order, to be used as a general circulating medium, and in lieu of money or other currency; every such person or persons, or members of such corporations assenting to such proceedings being thereof duly convicted, shall pay a fine not exceeding $500, or be imprisoned not exceeding one year.—Sec. 866; General Statutes of the State of Colorado, 1883.

This is why we say that the state restricts exchange; that it limits credit; that it gives idle capital the power of increase.

The question that ranks next in importance, is that of land. But in dealing with it we are met at the outset by a great difficulty. We can solve the money question without directly dispossessing anybody, but the land question we cannot. Hence we hear on all hands the howl about the sacredness of property. No one can believe more in the sacredness of property than I do; but the only basis of property which I will recognize is labor. I maintain that there are only four ways of obtaining anything: by labor, by exchange, by free gift, and by theft. Now, since no man has ever created land by his labor, he could not have obtained it by that means: if he gained it by exchange or by gift, he obtained it from a man who did not produce it, it could not primarily have been created by exchange any more than it was by labor, so we are forced to assume that it was first obtained by theft, and those who have purchased it, since are but receivers of stolen property. Consequently we can drop all the ethical sides of the question, as no one has any “right” that we can recognize. But we must have some system of land tenure, or no wealth can be produced, for the word “land,” when used in economics, includes all the natural resources of wealth. It is also manifest that if land is monopolized, those who monopolize it can levy a tribute on the labor of others before they will allow them access to the natural opportunities of the country.

There is, however, a value which attaches to land, which, if it is not the product of labor, is due in a large degree to the presence of the people in the vicinity. This is what our single-tax friends call the economic rent–the price that a person is willing to pay for a piece of land, in addition to what he would be willing to pay for the poorest land in use. This value, it is claimed, being created by the community (this is only partly true) should be taken by the Community and expended for the benefit of the community. It is further claimed that this is necessary to the establishment of a condition of equality of opportunity. I have no time to criticize this theory as it deserves, but I would remind the followers of George that equality of opportunity can never be attained–the most we can hope for is equality of liberty. The George theory is based upon a question of ethics which we cannot recognize. It looks upon the community as a distinct entity and not as merely an aggregation of units. And, in doing so, upholds the state as being of greater importance than the individuals. Hence we must consider this reform as being inconsistent with the true line of development.

If all the laws relating to land tenure were repealed, occupancy and use would constitute the only valid title. What constituted use and occupancy would have to be determined by the courts. As long as the present jury system is in vogue, this would probably necessitate a rigid law upon the subject in each locality. But as soon as the real jury system would be established, the decision of the jury would be on the merits of each individual case under dispute. True, this system would not secure to each individual in the community an equal share in the economic rent of that ton; but it would secure for him a permanency in his abode. It would make it impossible for anyone to tax him for the use of the natural resources of the country. And it would not necessitate an army of non-productive officials, who would have to be supported b, the labor of the producers. Thus rent and interest may be abolished and liberty may be maintained. When this is done, two of the three channels into which wealth flows will be shut off and wages alone will be left to absorb the full product of labor. The cost principle would be reestablished, and free competition, in its fullest sense, be possible for the first time since we emerged from savagery.

In any business which requires very little capital the profits are small, as there is nothing to hinder a large number of persons from engaging in it and cutting prices. This is seen in the bricklaying industry. The capital required is so small that almost any bricklayer can save in a few weeks enough to enable him to become a contractor. The result is that men who have previously worked by the day start into business for themselves. This reduces the competition among the wage-earners, and increases it among the employers. Wages go up and prices go down, till the contractors find that they make very little more than their employees. In occupations which require large capital, the possibility of monopolization increases in direct proportion to the amount of capital needed. So that it is the monopolization of land and money which makes all other forms of industrial monopoly possible. Once let free competition deal with these two matters, and the minor questions, suck as those of transportation, lighting, irrigation, etc,, will take care of themselves. Some writers claim that these industries are of their nature monopolies and should be controlled by the state. To disprove this assertion, it is but necessary to say that, even under the present financial system, we had for several years in Denver two competing water companies, and for over a year the water cost the consumers nothing. To be sure, these companies finally consolidated and raised prices, but the possibility of competition in this line is proved by its existence. Repeal the ordinance which prohibits people from digging wells in their own yards, and the possibilities of competition will be greatly increased. We also have two competing street car companies. This has resulted in better accommodation and an extensive system of transfers, by means of which the distance that can be travelled for five cents is nearly three times as great as it was a few years ago. Meanwhile State interference has fleeced us by taxation and not even cleaned the streets. The much vaunted post office department takes nine years to erect a building half the size of one that is put up a few blocks away in two years. With the development of electricity we may see a marked progress in the possibility of competition. Already the bicycle is affecting the profits of the street car companies. What may we not expect when free competition reduces the price and horseless carriages come to be more generally need. When we begin to speculate on what may be accomplished in this line in the next few years, we are fairly staggered at the prospect. It is not unlikely that, before city ownership of street cars become predictable, there will be no street cars for the city to own.

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All these reforms I have advocated have been on the line of restricting the powers of the state. When men find that they can effect exchange, protect their property and be secure in holding what land they are using, the abolition of the state will be far advanced. This is the revolution of the nineteenth century; the gradual dissolution of the state and a proportionate uplifting of the individual, until we see the future man free from all coercion; and the state dropping into oblivion–a mere dream of barbarous ancestors.

There are many other important questions which I should like to have explained did [space] permit. And as a brief statement of my position on these questions would be apt to leave a false impression, I prefer to say nothing more about them than I unflinchingly apply to them the principles of free competition and individual liberty. Among these questions I may say, those of marriage, restraint of vice in all its forms and copyright, probably attract most attention.

When we say that the state is the main cause of our social evils, we must not forget that the state is nothing but the expression of the average intelligence of the community. Every law is only operative insofar as $t coincides with the average opinion of the community, as may be readily seen in any prohibition state. So we may say the state only exists in the minds of the individual members of society; and, in order to abolish the state, it is necessary to change the opinions of a number of members of society. This being so, the only method of attaining our end is by means of education. False Christs and false prophets arise and cry, “Lo! here is a short cut” or “Lo! There’” but we believe them not. Some say “You wish to abolish the state. Then blow it to pieces.” To these we reply, “The state is an idea which resides in the brains of men, whose skull is usually so thick that an idea can neither be blown in or out, even with a dynamite bomb. Furthermore, force can always be met by force; and it would be extremely imprudent for a small minority to attack a strong and well organized majority, with their own weapons. Should the time ever come when the minority gathers sufficient strength to resist the encroachment of an aggressive majority by means of physical force, my verdict may be different. For as egoists we must lay aside all sentimental moralism and be guided only by the highest expediency.”

Others come to us and urge us to come to the polls. They taunt about our inactivity and call us wild theorists because we will not jump up and follow all our “practical” wild-goose chases. To vote is to submit to the system of state interference. When a democrat is elected, he becomes president, not of the democrats, but of the United States. And every one who has voted, whether for democrat, republican or populist, is bound to obey his mandate. They have submitted in advance to the tribunal; they must not kick if the verdict be given against them. We declare that the state is “a compact with death and a covenant with hell,” and we will not be a party to the infamy. The same reasoning which applies to the revolutionist, applies to the voter, for a ballot is only physical violence in disguise. The result is manifest at the polls; in so far as it coincides with the general consensus of opinion in the community, it is but the result of previous education; and in so far as it does not coincide, it is imperative. Sometimes we are told that a political campaign is educational, but we find that it is during such a period that men’s prejudices run highest. that then above all other times, they are absolutely deaf to the calls of reason, and rush, like a flock of sheep, after the first partisan demagogue who has tact enough to constitute himself their leader. The best of the joke is that those who are most anxious for us to vote are the ones who advocate all sorts of tyrannical legislation: state control of railways, telegraphs, land, fiat money or free silver; and class legislation of all kinds. I say class legislation because I maintain that the tyranny of labor may be as bad as the tyranny of capital. The extent to which this goes is shown in a neighboring state. There a new political party, which gained power through the support of a farmers’ association, enacted all sorts of legislation, allegedly in the interest of labor, and included in every such act a clause which excluded laborers from its “benefits,” because the legislators did not want to take their own medicine. Far from assisting such reforms, we will antagonize them strongly, for we believe with Spencer “that, invariably, each further growth of the instrumentalities which control, or administer, or inspect or in any way direct social forces, increases the impediment to future modifications, both positively by strengthening that which has to be modified, and negatively, by weakening the remainder, until at length the rigidity becomes so great that change is impossible and the type becomes fixed.”

Some tell us that our system is an ideal to be attained, but not practical at present. The highest development of the individual is very desirable but at present we must submit to restraints. This always reminds me of the patriotic old song.

“‘Oh mother may I go out to swim?’
‘Oh yes my darling daughter;
But hang your clothes on a hick’ry limb
And don’t go near the water.”’

Most authorities upon the subject maintain that it is advisable to let people go into the water in order to learn to swim. So we demand that state interference be removed in order that people may have a chance to develop their individuality, instead of hedging them in with more and more restrictions. We must not forget, that new conditions are ever arising, and that the removal of restrictions ever develops an ability to do without them. And should perchance some evils arise, let us take heed to Lord Macaulay: “There is only one cure for the evils which newly acquired freedom produces; and that cure is freedom.” Again we are told, that restraints can only be removed as we become sufficiently moral to do without them. That the laws against robbery will exist as long as robbery is carried on. But we do not desire to remove the laws against robbery and other invasive acts. What we desire is to remove the laws which prevent the individual exercising all his activities; and to maintain that those laws will only be removed when the individual is so moral that he will not want to exercise his faculties, gives us a very gloomy outlook. If free-traders were willing to wait till every citizen of the United States would be so moral that he would give over to the treasury 40 per cent of the value of the goods he might buy elsewhere, without anyone asking him for it, I think William McKinley might very soon be converted to the free trade doctrine. What we want to teach men is, that they can get along very well without paying rent, interest or taxes, not that they should be so moral as to pay them without any compulsion. To illustrate: a few years ago the members of the Land League, by refusing to pay rent, and boycotting those who did, nearly abolished landlordism in Ireland. Had they kept on they were bound to have succeeded, but the “practical” men told them to be moral and pay their rent and fight the question out in Parliament. And we have seen the results! We rely upon selfishness–yes, the most narrow selfishness–to establish our system and keep it going once it is established. How long we may have to wait it is impossible to say. All we know is that progress comes with an ever-increasing rapidity, so we may hope for a relatively early betterment of our condition. To be sure, the night is dark with tyrannical schemes of State Socialism, but the dawn will break and the sun of liberty rise slowly and steadily, until reaching the meridian it will shed its genial warmth over all mankind.


  • Francis D. Tandy, Free competition (Columbus Junction Ia.: E.H. Fulton, 1896).
  • Francis D. Tandy, Free Competition (Golden, CO: Committee Against Repressive Politics, 1989).
About Shawn P. Wilbur 2701 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.