Hugh O. Pentecost, “The Anarchistic Method” (1890)


Those who accept the conclusions of Anarchism believe that it is a science; or, if you please, a philosophy supported by facts scientifically discovered and collated. It is not a religion based upon assumptions, unwarranted or contradicted by facts. It is not a system of metaphysics consisting of undemonstrable speculations. They freely admit that Sociology is not yet an exact science; that, strictly speaking, there is no Science of Society. But they speak of Anarchism as a science because its methods of investigation and accomplishment are scientific. In so far as it represents conclusions they have been reached scientifically. If Anarchists have a theory it is because they believe observed facts are best explained by that theory. If a theory does not well account for observed facts it is abandoned, and a new working hypothesis is sought. They do not pursue the theologic or metaphysical method in formulating their postulates.

Anarchists believe there should be no government: by which they mean no government by physical force; no government to prevent persons from thinking, saying or doing what they should be free to think, say or do; no government for the encouragement of those who invade what should be the rights of others, with the protection of such invaders; no government to authorize a few to monopolize what should be the opportunities of all; no government to compel persons to do what they should be free to refuse to do, what it is not necessary for the good of all that they should do; no government in favor of one class as against another class; no government to enrich the idle by impoverishing the industrious. They believe there should be no government that interferes with wholesome individual liberty and wealth-producing exertion. But they believe in well-ordered society, in which the wise, the just, the good will rule by precepts, principles and examples; in which healthful public opinion will utter and morally enforce everything needful for restraint or encouragement. They believe in government, but not government by physical force for the injury of all, or, to use a common expression which means the same, for unjust purposes. They believe in self-control and mutuality.

An Anarchist is not one who wishes to separate himself from his kind, to live independently, to lapse into the individual isolation of the Stone Age. He is an individualist, but also a socialist, a mutualist. He understands that civilized men must co-operate, that co-operation is a social necessity. But he wishes to co-operate voluntarily; to have the privilege of declining to co-operate in one or more or all particulars; of resigning the benefits and obligations of co-operation. He values individual freedom above all other possessions, and protests against any organization of society in which it is not recognized and respected. He does not wish another or a majority of others to decide for liim what he shall or shall not do, unless he agrees beforehand to such an arrangement. If he wishes to live apart from others he desires to be allowed to do so. He believes in society composed of individuals each of whom shall be free from invasive restraints or compulsions. It should be understood that Anarchists abhor the idea of using individual liberty for the purpose of injuring others, and they believe that in society rightly constituted there would be found effective methods of dealing with those who should violate the rights or liberties of others.

It should be understood from this statement of general principles that Anarchists are not bomb-throwers—dynamiters. There are some persons who call themselves Anarchists who believe that circumstances might arise which would justify a resort to destructive warfare, and that good results would follow such a method. But, in my opinion, the clearest thinkers, the most scientific among the Anarchists, understand that what might be achieved by physical force would be subject to reversal by physical force, and would, therefore, have to be conserved by physical force. In my opinion, the most careful thinkers among the Anarchists understand that if some transient “tidalwave” of popular opinion, formed rapidly and by what we call accident, or some sudden uprising of the people, inflamed by discontent but not educated in economic principles, as in the case of the French Revolution, should enable them by political methods or force of arms to secure control of the government, little or nothing would be gained and much might be lost. So that the life of even so hateful a ruler as the Czar is safe from attack by an Anarchist, because it is not the Czar but Czarism that must die before the people can be free; and no Anarchist would think of destroying the property or life of a monopolist, for it is monopolism that is aimed at, and this can be destroyed only by education. Anarchists do not tight with bombs, but with books; nor with pistols, but with pens. They are not thugs; they are thinkers. Not powder, but persuasion, is their weapon. Not by cannon, but by convictions, do they hope to win.

Among non-Anarchists who are sufficiently well informed to understand all this, the objection is urged that Anarchism is a beautiful but utterly impracticable dream. The realization of Anarchism, it is said, would introduce the millennium; and, strange to say, this is a reason why multitudes of Christians who profess to be looking forward toward the millennium with all the fervor of religious hope regard Anarchists with aversion or contempt. It is quite true that to reach an ideally Anarchistic social state would necessitate ideally perfect individuals. But Anarchists are not idealists. They are the reverse of idealists. Every theory has its ideal of perfect consummation. But Anarchists do not expect perfection. Perfection is not necessary to the happy and relatively satisfactory working of Anarchism.

Anarchists are not dreamers, however much they may be so regarded by those who do not understand their beliefs and aims. They regard themselves as very rational, very practical persons. They believe their theories may, in many particulars, be put in practice at once; that some of them are in operation; and that wherever they are employed the results are more satisfactory than where opposite methods are pursued. For example: Fashions are followed by the Anarchistic method. Men, without governmental interference, wear narrow or wide trousers, and women short or long skirts. And this is a distinct advance toward Anarchism, as everyone familiar with the governmental regulations of clothing in the past knows. Men are not governmentally compelled to lift their hats to women or keep to the right on the sidewalk, but they usually do both. An ideal state of society in miniature may be seen in every drawing-room where ladies and gentlemen, as we call wellbred men and women, come together for social intercourse. There is no compulsion. They talk, dance, eat and drink; groups form and disperse; individuals, with freedom and polite regard for the rights of others, move about, come and go. And if one habitually disregards the proprieties of such assemblages he is not arrested and dragged to prison; he is dealt with far more effectively; he is not invited to come again; he is dropped, shunned, boycotted. The “four hundred” as well as the Irish peasantry know the value of the boycott.

The New York Grocers’ Association is an almost purely Anarchistic institution, and may be used as one example of many. I am informed that the wholesale grocers of New York have lost faith in the efficacy of governmental laws for the collection of debts, and have formed an Association which has proved very satisfactory in its results, to protect themselves against loss by bad debts. They no longer depend upon governmental machinery. If a debtor to any grocery house in New York exhibits signs of business weakness or lack of integrity he is visited by a representative of the Association. If this visit has no salutary effect upon him it becomes impossible for him to buy goods, except for cash, anywhere in New York. That is all that happens to him; but out-of-town buyers are said to be much more afraid of the Grocers’ Association than of the government. The staid business-men of New York who compose this Association would, perhaps, be shocked to know that, in one particular, they are true Anarchists; but such is the fact. Their Association does not serve them with ideal perfection, but it is better for them than the system of collecting debts by physical force. And this is all that Anarchists claim for their proposed arrangement of society: that it is practicable, that it is better than government by physical force, and that it is capable of constantly approaching ideal perfection.

Let us now glance briefly at the economic principles of Anarchism.

Anarchists regard poverty as the misfortune that causes most of the unhappiness and crime with which the human race is afflicted. I do not, of course, mean that poverty which individuals might, under any social system, choose to suffer rather than practise virtue and self-control or labor for the production of wealth. I mean involuntary poverty; that poverty which is now, in spite of the virtue, self-control and industry of the poor, so prevalent. Many persons are skeptical concerning the existence of such poverty. It is commonly believed that no one not intemperate or thriftless need be poor. But it is only necessary to open one’s eyes to see that there are millions of human beings in this and all countries who labor unceasingly only to find that their poverty increases. It is unnecessary to dwell upon a fact so patent. Everywhere children are taken from school or play to labor in factories and mines; else why the futile statutes against child-labor? Everywhere is heard the hum of sewing-machines from which hollow-chested women drop into the Potter’s Field; else why all the kind-hearted charitable work among the “worthy poor”?

This social disease of poverty Anarchists believe will disappear when its causes are generally understood. And they believe its causes are much better understood by a few than the causes of small-pox or cholera are understood by any; and that they are removable. They believe that what are popularly supposed to be its causes—ignorance of what is taught in the schools, idleness, drunkenness and crime—are its effects; and that, hence, to attempt to remove it by compulsory education in the common schools, charity-organization societies, model tenement-houses and reformatories, however well-meant such attempts may be and undoubtedly are, is to necessarily fail. The cause of involuntary poverty, Anarchists believe, is the taking away from the laboring people—the producers of wealth—a large part of what they produce. This is accomplished by methods not understood without much observation and reflection but easily perceived by open-minded thinkers.

Anyone can see that there are many persons in every community who do no productive work. Such persons must be supported by what others produce, since there is no other fund from which they may draw. Beggars and tramps are a drain upon the wealth of the industrious. Thieves break through and steal what others earn. Gamblers of all kinds subsist upon what others produce; and so do the inmates of poor-houses and prisons. This is plain to all. Policemen, soldiers, and high-priced government-officials whose services are not worth to the community what they get for them, are certainly not producers, and whether they, in part, serve good purposes or not it remains the same that producers are forcibly taxed for their support. Workers are compelled to give up their wealth to support law-makers and professional destroyers of property and life. All this is evident notwithstanding that part of it, however unfortunate, is inevitable in the present state of social development.

But besides these are other large numbers of persons who receive what they do not produce. Those whose incomes are wholly or partly derived from buying and selling land are regarded by Anarchists, in so far as they are dealers in land, as subsisting upon wealth produced by the labor of others. And to this class of persons belong all those who collect rents — that is, those who receive for the use of their houses, machinery or other personal effects an excess of price over and above what is required to cover compulsory taxes, insurance and necessary repairs upon such property.

Those, also, whose incomes are wholly or partly derived from interest, or the rent of money, are regarded by Anarchists, as appropriating what others produce. And so, too, are those who, in buying and selling or manufacturing for sale, receive as the result of such production and exchange more than what would fairly compensate them in the form of wages for their actual labor in superintending, producing or exchanging.

In plain words, Anarchists regard rent-takers, or landlords, interest-takers, or what Mr. J. K. Ingalls calls lendlords, and profit-takers, or trade-lords, as social parasites. Or, in other words, Anarchists believe, and think they can scientifically prove, that anyone who receives in the process of wealth-distribution more than what represents fair wages for productive labor — that is, more than he actually produces — appropriates something that should belong to others, and thereby helps to bind a load of inevitable poverty upon those who are thus defrauded of the fruits of their industry.

Let us look, for a moment, from the Anarchistic standpoint, at the grounds for this belief.

Land is unproduced. It is not the result of human labor. It is what is sometimes called a natural opportunity. It is the passive factor in the production of wealth. Like air and water it is an absolute necessity of human life. When man appeared, like the open air and water running in the streams or bubbling from the springs, it was free to access by him. Anarchists believe that if, from the beginning of human exertions upon this planet, each man had been content to possess and control only so much land as he could productively use, the supply of land free for use always would have been and now would be practically as unlimited as the supply of air and running water, and that, therefore, it never would have commanded a price and would not now be a thing to buy and sell. They believe that the practice of owning land that one cannot and does not wish to use, excluding others from its use, has given rise to rent, or the price of land; or, to put it in other words, that the monopoly of vacant or unused land is the cause of rent. Rent, therefore, does not represent work performed or wealth produced by the rent-taker. It represents wealth transferred from a producer to a nonproducer as the price of a privilege that should be absolutely free to all. It is evident that rent-takers, as such, are idlers. They produce nothing. If, then, they subsist it must be at the expense of those who labor. And by just 80 much as they are rich others must necessarily be poor. Rent is a tribute that public opinion permits non-producers to levy upon producers by the simple contrivance of holding large quantities of land out of use.

The same reasoning applies when we turn to the subject of interest. Bent is the product of labor paid to idlers for the use of land. Interest is the product of labor paid to idlers for the use of money. Rent is interest for land; interest is rent for money. Both are the products of monopoly. Money is as necessary to a complicated system of trade as air, water and land are to life. If the supply of money were always equal to the demand for it as an implement of exchange, each person would always have as much of it as would represent labor directly performed or products of labor surrendered by him. The only use that money should have is to indicate that so much labor has been directly performed or so much wealth surrendered by the possessor of it; and its value is in that it will insure to its possessor the return of a corresponding amount of service or wealth upon demand. It is not in the least necessary that it should possess any intrinsic value other than that of the paper on which it is written or printed and the labor of writing or printing it.

If men had been sufficiently intelligent from the start, a perfect system of money would have grown with the growth of society, and each person always would have had precisely as much money as he deserved, because he would not have parted with labor or its products without getting a full representative equivalent in money, unless the transaction were made by the simple process of barter, in which case exchange would be made in kind. All this will be more or less unintelligible to the average conservative person, but it will, I think, become plain to anyone who will thoughtfully read Stephen Pearl Andrews’ “Science of Society,” especially that portion of the work devoted to the principle therein formulated as “Cost the Limit of Price,” the original discovery of which Mr. Andrews ascribes to Josiah Warren, with whose works I am not familiar. To this book, the “Science of Society,” I am indebted for clear and satisfactory ideas of the true nature and uses of money.

But contrary to all this men have adopted certain materials for money, the supply of which, relative to the demand, is very limited; and even when paper is used for money a very insufficient quantity is permitted to circulate, being sometimes greater and sometimes less, but always under the control of persons who make their living by handling it, and by whose manipulations producers are see-sawed out of their earnings. Money is monopolized. It is “cornered.” It frequently happens that a man has much valuable property but no money. Such a man is obliged to go to those who control the supply of money and hire what he needs at rates of interest which could not and would not exist if money were not monopolized.

The point is this: Anarchists believe that as rent would not be a natural product of harmoniously organized society, neither would interest. They clearly see that interest-takers, as such, are non-producers, and that, therefore, what they subsist on must in some unjust way have been taken from the industrious persons who produced it.

With regard to profits, Anarchists believe that in a fair exchange of goods for goods there will be gain to both parties to the bargain but “profit” to neither. If I want your cow more than I want my own horse and you want my horse more than you want your own cow we exchange beasts. We each, by the trade, gain something, but neither makes a “profit.” Profit is not as easily separable from wages as interest or rent, because what is called wages of superintendence is an uncertain quantity; but it may be, nevertheless, accurately defined as that portion of the manufacturer’s or merchant’s income over and above what he should receive as compensation for labor actually performed by him. And Anarchists believe that if the land and money monopolies were broken, profits would disappear. This needs further explanation, but the limits of this address do not admit of it. I must leave it for your future reflection or study, if you are not already familiar with the line of thought involved.

Anarchists believe, then, that poverty results from the existence of social parasites — persons who perform no productive labor and who are therefore, necessarily, supported out of what laborers produce. These social parasites are thieves at liberty, criminals in prison, gamblers, whether with cards, dice or stocks; sharpers, whether confidence-men or business-men; paupers, whether abroad or in poor-houses; policemen, when in excess of actual need for the protection of property and life; soldiers, unless actually necessary to repel invasion; collectors of compulsory taxes; politicians and law-makers, unless we are to reject the time-honored belief of many of the wisest and best of men that government by force is, at best, a “necessary evil”; rent-takers, interest-takers and profit-takers, except in so far as it can be scientifically proven that rent, interest and profits are the necessary outcome of absolutely free contracts between persons as free as individuals ever can be under any possible arrangement of society.

In my opinion, the most thoughtful Anarchists are agreed that, in any possible arrangement of society, sporadic cases of rent, interest and profits might arise, but the amounts involved would be too insignificant for serious consideration and the transactions would represent no injustice whatever. But as all these social parasites are the products of a social arrangement that legitimates rent, interest and profits, Anarchists believe that involuntary poverty is the necessary outcome of, and is completely accounted for by the existence of rent, interest and profits. These, therefore, must disappear before the human race can be free, wealthy and happy. With their disappearance secondary causes of poverty will naturally cease.

This explains the opposition of Anarchists to government by physical force. They know that those bits of paper by which non-users hold land vacant are legal documents. They know that if laborers should attempt to exercise what should be their right, by taking possession of vacant land for productive use, the whole machinery of government by physical force would be brought to bear upon them, and if nothing else would avail to drive them from the vacant land they would be shot to death by government powder and balls from government guns in the hands of government troops. And yet the only crime of which such laborers would be guilty would be that of trying to earn an honest living and promote the happiness of the world by increasing its wealth; their only crime would be that of wishing to apply productive labor to what we call natural materials, which, when not in legitimate use, should be free to all. They know, in short, that the man-starving monopoly of vacant land is authorized and maintained by military government.

They know, also, that the monopoly of money is similarly maintained by government. Free competition with the government in the manufacture and uttering of money is forcibly prevented. And because profits arise on account of the monopoly of land and money the government is the creator of rent, interest and profits, the baleful trinity in unity, more powerful than any imaginary bad god to plunge the human race into poverty and so into misery and crime.

Anarchists believe, still further, that all statute laws are necessarily partial and unjust, unless you choose to except laws against violence and theft. It is impossible to devise a statute law that will not favor some persons against others. The very “machinery of justice,” as we call our judicial system, works injustice to the poor, if for no other reason, because as between a litigant with money and a litigant without money the poor man may be defeated by his very inability to bear the expenses of court-procedure.

All this is very briefly and insufficiently stated, but Anarchists believe that it can be scientifically and elaborately proved that, whether government is a “necessary evil” or not, it is necessarily evil as at present constituted anywhere in the world.

It follows, then, that Anarchists desire a cessation of military government. It would not, however, convey the right idea to say that they wish to destroy the government. They desire that society should grow away from the necessity for government by physical force by the gradual and general acceptance of scientific principles of Sociology. The Anarchistic method of regenerating society, therefore, is that of educating the people in scientific principles of social co-operation or mutuality; it is that of propaganda, of calling the attention of the people to facts widely observed and logically collated; of doing just what I am doing at this moment. They understand that all existing governments are the expression of the will of the people. Russia is ruled by a Czar because most of the people of Russia believe that is the best form of government for them. Public opinion prevails in Russia without the ballot as effectually as with us through the ballot. Military protection of social parasites prevails in this country because most of our people believe that the monopoly of vacant land is right and that our present money system is just and fair, precisely as they once believed that chattel slavery was a divine institution. Most of our people are firm believers in the righteousness of rent, interest and profits, and the large owners of real-estate and holders of government-bonds are commonly believed to come by their money honestly and fairly. They are not popularly regarded as monopolists who increase their riches by simply appropriating what others produce. While such beliefs exist society will remain very much as it is. Nothing can bring it into Anarchistic arrangement but a general recognition of the essential injustice of all wealth-getting except by wealth producing. Anarchists, for the present, therefore, have nothing rational to do but to clarify their own ideas, develop their science and teach their principles.

I have already explained why it would be absurd for them to wage war for their principles. They know that nothing is ever settled by being fought out; all right consummations must be thought out. Many Anarchists think, also, that it would be absurd for them to resort to political methods. A ballot means a bullet. The decision of a majority at an election holds because the army is behind it. But Anarchists, even if they were in a majority, would not wish to impose their will on a minority. In the opinion of very many Anarchists, therefore, the ballot is, for their use, a stultifying implement. But even if it were not it would not be employed by them, because they regard it as useless. They believe that when public opinion favors a violation or the ignoring of a statute law it is not necessary to vote that law off the statute-books. It will become inoperative; a dead letter, as we say. And as Anarchists can have nothing to vote for except the abrogation of existing laws, manifestly voting, in their case, would be a work of supererogation.

For example: All Anarchists are necessarily free-traders; but most Anarchists will not vote with the Democrats, because they know that when public sentiment favors free trade custom-houses and custom officers will disappear. No army was ever yet organized that could force a nation to pay duties or do anything else against the public sentiment of that nation.

Anarchists point to the statute-books of every nation and every old State in this nation for evidence that it is unnecessary to fight or vote laws into desuetude. Multitudes of laws which have never been abrogated are absolutely inoperative. They are so dead that it is not worth while to expunge them from the records. I believe the old Connecticut blue-laws have never been repealed, but there is not power enough at the command of the Governor of that State or the President of the United States to enforce them in the present temper of public opinion. There is a law in the District of Columbia providing that an offender shall be bored through the tongue for denying the doctrine of the Trinity, or something of that sort. But it is so paralyzed by public odium that it is impossible to enforce it and unnecessary to abolish it.

The New York Grocers’ Association is a current illustration of how laws against the collection of debts will, I think, fall into disuse. Anarchists object very strongly to laws against the collection of debts. They think a debt is contracted by a private arrangement with which the State should have nothing to do; that State interference for the collection of debts tends to greatly reduce business integrity; that commercial morality would immediately reach a much higher than its present plane if all financial transactions were effected upon individual honor; that the dangerous, the ruinous credit-system of doing business would he desirably modified if laws for the collection of debts by force were abolished. Indeed, some Anarchists think that the abolition of laws for the collection of debts would go very far toward reorganizing society upon a just basis. But, important as this measure is, they deem it unnecessary to vote for it, because, in time, the experience of businessmen will demonstrate that such laws are futile and unnecessary, and when a law goes out of use under the action of popular opinion its disappearance produces no friction, for it ceases because no one desires it any longer.

To fight down slavery was a mistake followed by inevitable unhappy conditions until now. If slavery had been let alone until it crumbled away there would have succeeded its disappearance no sad and vexing negro-problem. This was the wish of Garrison and his friends, very good Anarchists, who denounced the government and burned the Constitution because they upheld chattel slavery as they sustain indirect slavery to-day, and who contemplated the use of no other than intellectual and moral weapons against the abomination. If Garrison’s policy of propaganda and passive resistance had been followed, the institution of chattel slavery would not have disappeared as suddenly as it did, but it would inevitably have fallen to pieces, little by little, without leaving soldier blood and a national debt where it fell. It would have fallen without the use of a bullet or a ballot.

The Anarchist, then, at present is simply a propagandist, by word and passive deed. He talks and writes and, as far as possible, refrains from doing those things that to him are useless and wrong. He ceases to exercise the privilege of the franchise. If he is entirely consistent he will receive nothing that he does not earn, except by gift. If he believes that it is wise for him to become a martyr for purposes of propaganda he will refuse to pay taxes and take the consequences, without physical resistance. Anarchists, however, as a rule are not what is commonly called fanatical. They rely more upon words, for the present, than upon deeds. But when they become more numerous the method of passive resistance will, no doubt, be resorted to.

For example: By general consent among a large number in a given locality, they may refuse to pay, under compulsion, their taxes, offering, of course, to resign all claims to governmental protection, and perhaps offering voluntarily to contribute toward the maintenance of those communal undertakings of which they approve; or they may go upon vacant land to use it, suffering themselves to be evicted, unless public opinion sustains them; or they may attempt to circulate mutual bank or credit money. In two words, the Anarchistic method, for the present, is propaganda, but when they believe themselves to be in sufficient numbers they will probably resort to passive resistance.

Upon this presentation they may appear to be very impractical, but if what I have so briefly said is thoughtfully considered, and if it is remembered that Anarchistic opinion as it grows will constantly be registering itself by the platform-makers and law-makers, I think the conclusion will be reached that Anarchists are not characteristically dreamers, but are sane students of history and human nature.

Let me illustrate what I mean by a case that is before the public mind at this moment. Anarchists are opposed to capital punishment, and they observe with complacent pleasure the growing sentiment against the barbarous practice. A bill for its abolition recently passed the New York Assembly but was defeated in the Senate. The introduction of this bill in the New York Legislature exemplifies the tendency of the politicians to reflect public opinion in the making or unmaking of laws; but the facts regarding the practice of capital punishment also show that it is a matter of no concern whatever what legislatures do or fail to do in the premises. I do not know how many murders were committed in New York State last year, but there were only eight executions; and although there were reported during the same year 3567 murders and homicides as having occurred in the United States, there were but ninety-eight hangings. The death-penalty is gradually abolishing itself, and whether the laws on the subject remain on the statute-books or not, the practice of hanging in this country will soon be given up. This method of abolishing an obnoxious law is Anarchistic or evolutionary; and it should be understood that the Anarchistic method is always and in every particular the application of, or, rather, conformity to, the principles of evolution in the progress of society.

From the presentation that I have made of this subject, it should be seen by the most conservative mind that Anarchism is nothing more nor less than the old-fashioned American idea that that government is best which governs least. The present apparent tendency of thought is toward the idea that that government is best that governs most — State Socialism, or, as it is called in its distinctively American form, Nationalism. Between these two ideas we are slowly but surely being forced to choose. The question is immediately before us: whether government shall, little by little, increase its functions, or little by little decrease its functions; whether government shall become more centralized or society more flexible; whether the individual shall be more and more subordinated to the State or more and more free to pursue in his own way, life, liberty and happiness. Anarchists believe that the State should decrease and the individual increase; that the most harmonious society will be composed of individuals who are controlled by reason, governed by moral considerations; and that the removal of restrictions upon industry and trade, the cessation of partial, monopolistic legislation, will conduce to the development of men who will be able to sustain social relations to each other without necessity for the imaginary terrors of supernaturalism or the real compulsion of military government. Mutualism between free individuals is the doctrine of Anarchism. To rationally and peacefully decrease the powers of compulsory government is the method of Anarchism.

There are two questions which Anarchists are frequently called upon to answer. The first of these is: How can communal undertakings be accomplished without some governmental authority? How can sewers and streets be made and supervised without some centralized restraining or compelling power? How could boundaries to land, and all those matters that are now defined by law,— and disputes about which are settled in the courts,— be determined? To all these questions Anarchists can no more give definite answers than they can tell what the fashion in hats will be in the year 2000. All they can do is to appeal to history and show that men have learned how to do many things without the aid of government, for the doing of which government was once believed to be necessary, and to reason with apparent warrant that men are capable of learning how to do in the future much that now seems difficult or impossible. If it is remembered that Anarchists suppose that men must learn how to do many things by voluntary association better than they are done or can be done by present methods, before they will cease to be done by governmental compulsion, the question will be answered as well as it can be in a single sentence. The best fire-department is that which insurance companies equip for their own interests; the best schools are private schools, else why do they continue in unequal competition with public schools? There is no good reason why men should not yet learn how to build the best roads and sewers and other communal works without the services of armed constables or policemen. To suppose otherwise is to strangely limit the capabilities of the human mind, which has already accomplished enough once apparent impossibilities to warrant very considerable faith in its ability to meet all future social requirements and practically solve all future social problems.

The other question to which I referred is: How long will it be before Anarchism will or may be practically realized? To this the Anarchist replies that it is impossible to tell. Evolution is slow up to a certain point, at which point events shape themselves with astonishing rapidity. We can never tell at just what stage of evolution we are. Unforeseen circumstances often precipitate accomplishments which apparently belong to the remote future. But with the question, “When?” Anarchists do not much concern themselves. What is long to human life is short as a historical period. The Anarchist is a scientist; it is for him to announce his discovery. He is a philosopher; it is for him to earnestly labor and patiently wait. He believes he has discovered certain sociological facts; he believes that all men will in time come to acknowledge them as facts. For what is gained while he lives he rejoices: but if little is accomplished before his work is done he does not despair. He sees of the travail of his soul and is satisfied.


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