The Economics of Anarchy
by Dyer D. Lum
All sociologists claim that progress has consisted in departure from compulsory to voluntary co-operation; from the reign of militant measures to what is termed the industrial type, wherein self-reliance and free co-operation directs; from the inequalities of privileged and restricted classes to the equality of equal freedom to natural opportunities; in short, to use the concise statement of Herbert Spencer, “from a regime of status to a regime of contract.” In the social order militancy and industrialism, therefore, represent past and future types; the first wherein war is the normal direction of human activity; the other where peace must prevail for healthful development. Following this guiding principle let us endeavor to group the salient points of progress from militant rule to industrial requirements in order to see more clearly not only in what direction we are tending, but also what methods are not conducive to that end. Starting with the fact that social evolution is chiefly characterized by a transition from warlike to peaceful pursuits, that from generation to generation activity has been turning from conquest over fellowmen to conquest over nature for men, we see at once that methods characterizing an outgrown phase of life are inappropriate to the end toward which progress has been made.
Before, however, applying to all schemes for reform the crucial test: Do they belong to the militant or industrial type? let us obtain a clearer view of their differences. The one being fixity, the other its abrogation, between the two there can be no golden mean without sacrifice of progress, for compromise in principles is ever incipient suicide. With a clear conception of the historical evolution of society we may be spared the folly everywhere attempted by would-be reformers of mixing incongruous principles; such may be compared with those who would seek a happy medium between daylight and darkness in twilight. Having attained this, to the great delight of sentimental lovers and fledgling poets, they flatter themselves in having solved the eternal contradiction in a state of possessing none of the positive nor negative qualities of either, and which, consequently, can be but temporary in duration.
To state in briefest form the essential distinction between militancy and industrialism, it may be said that the one is a scheme of compulsory co-operation, the other the natural outgrowth of voluntary co-operation. If we look at those States where the militant spirit dominates most largely we find the organization essential to an army extended to the concerns of private life. The whole nation virtually becomes a camp under military discipline; industrial life is subordinated to regulation; the individual exists for the State and a regimental uniformity pervades all social relations. The individual is a subject and with his condition, his residence, his family, enregistered. Of ancient Peru we read that officers “minutely inspected the houses, to see that the man, as well as his wife, kept the household in perfect order, and preserved a due state of discipline among their children.” Ancient Egypt furnishes ample evidence of a like regimentation of its inhabitants, who had to report at fixed intervals to account for the most trivial action. How fully the every-day life of the Hebrews was regulated in the most petty manner the pentateuch illustrates. The iron laws of Sparta are not exceptional illustrations. In every State where activities are chiefly military, even now, we see a greater or lesser degree of enforced discipline; patriotism becomes the highest virtue and disloyalty the deepest crime; no domestic tie is valid against the Frankenstein of the State; the assertion of common rights is hardly known. The State dominates the unit, pervades the household, is present at birth, presides at marriages, buries the dead, and the mass of the population endure life for work, instead of working to enjoy life. In every sphere of social co-operation the motive power is compulsion, not naturally evolved, but artificially instituted. Herbert Spencer says, and it cannot be disputed: “It is the law of all organization that as it becomes complete it becomes rigid,” a remark of profound significance which is earnestly commended to the thoughtful attention of Socialist and semi-Socialist reformers who would institute liberty and still preserve plasticity!
Let us beware the militant assumption that man exists for the State, and trust to theoretical brakes to check the momentum of a body moving with increasing velocity. The social aggregate is not something over and above the units which constitute it. When these units are moral, are intelligent, are secure, only then is social life moral, intelligent and secure. The condition of the units is mirrored in the social reflector. To subordinate the parts to the whole is to destroy that individuality by which the social unity has been attained; to place in the whole that which resides in none of its parts; to make an effect a generative cause and bestow upon a shadow the qualities of a substance. An illustration will make this clearer. College classes frequently have composite photographs taken in which the features of each is superimposed upon the others. The result is a face representing the striking characteristics of all, but in which angularities of character are merged into one. Though the class face represents no living original, yet each has contributed to form it. So in social life individual; peculiarities are merged into the composite social life, and the survival of the fittest determines what remains or sinks. In the class face the stronger the individuality the greater the effect upon the composite whole. As social life is but a composite representation of individual characteristics, how idle to hold that the unit is subordinate to the requirements of the composite reflection in which self has been an integral factor. Yet this is the logic of state-socialism and communism, for both rely upon direction from composite reflection, and directly violate the law of progress in seeking to establish a social structure upon uniformity rather than individuality, upon tendency to similarity rather than increasing variance of parts.
The whole course of modern history has been a perpetual struggle against direction in social relations. Motley calls the Fourteenth century an “Age of Revolt.” Europe everywhere displayed social life under paternal guidance. The very clothes that a man must wear, hours of work and of repose, the time for which a mechanic should be retained, the number of sheep a tenant might keep, limitations upon travel, restrictions upon diet, the hierarchy of ranks, rules regulating social intercourse, the very thoughts one must think,—were all matters for legislative direction in Merrie England. In philosophy, religion, politics and industry law established the standard for belief and action. The crusades by changing vast bodies of men from the narrow boundaries which had heretofore confined their vision, by opening to them new scenes and civilizations, by emancipating multitudes of serfs, by introducing Eastern arts and luxuries; all of which may be summed up in Sismondi’s phrase: “the geography of the pilgrims;” and above all by sowing broadcast the seeds of unbelief;—led to an awakening of intellect that shook the old foundations of social life to their center. Jack Cade and Wickliffe in England, the Artaveldes in Holland, Marcel and the jacquerie in France, the risings of the Swiss cantons, Rienzi at Rome, the Hanseatic League in Germany, and countless sporadic insurrections against authority in philosophy, in religion, in political and economic relations, all testify to the opening of a new era wherein individual sovereignty was posited against collective control. Industry felt the new breath and became arrayed against oppression. The communal struggles in France and the alliance of the Hanse Towns in Germany illustrated the new spirit wherein arms were only resorted to for defence against aggression, a contest wherein feudalism was wounded unto death and its history henceforth but the record of its dying struggles. The renaissance in thought and art, the Protestant revolution in religion, the English, American, and French revolutions in State policies, logically led to the extension of the assertion of the sovereignty of the individual to economic relations, a struggle which essentially characterizes the Nineteenth century. Every step forward has been at the expense of authority by increasing the area of voluntary actions; voluntary co-operation has invariably risen to supply needs as compulsory co-operation was removed. Authority has been shorn of its strength in philosophy and religion and Anarchy therein admitted to be in the line of progress; in the State its sphere has been continually narrowed by the growth of freedom to contract to achieve given ends. Nor have we yet reached the term of progress whatever may be the wishes of militant reactionists or the schemes of twilight reformers. The lines of progress have been so marled that we cannot doubt the ultimate result will be the extinction of all compulsory direction and the triumph of voluntary co-operation in every phase of social intercourse.
The theological age is of the past and we are yet in what may be termed the metaphysical age, in which names are taken for things. The industrial age has yet to come; we linger in the transition period in which old methods are laboriously hashed with the new and presented to twilight adorers as the Mecca of their hopes. Although we may already discern the dawn and hasten its progress by understanding the requirements of equal freedom, and hence equal rights, than which there are no other, it is still neither day nor night; happily however, a state of hazy twilight is unorganizable. The industrial type of social life, based on the law of equal freedom, demands the emancipation of the individual and establishes the desired synthetic harmony of individual and social forces by the removal of legislative interference. Out of this is naturally evolved free co-operation, for social interests being a permanent factor, it will be this seen to be best furthered; in other words, under individual freedom to contract self-interest will be seen to be identical with mutual interest. Only under equal freedom has individuality full scope, unchecked by restrictive interference and in joint concurrence of action where needed social and individual interests will be woven together in harmony, without the conflicts now incident upon their enforced separation. “Society” only then will become a social providence—not to dole out benefits to needs, and thus encourage mediocrity by weakening initiative, but to store the fruits of application, of co-operative effort; and in securing under equal opportunities to each the full reward of all deeds, find wherein to satisfy all needs. Then, and only then, will self-interest find its highest realization in the widely diffused benefits of morality, intelligence, and security.
The history of nations shows us that enforced “law and order” has prevailed largest where there existed similarity of interests. The irruption of the barbarians into Europe destroyed the unity that Rome had so laboriously established by causing diversity of aims between conquering and conquered peoples. Such countries as England and France attained partial equilibrium long before Spain with its mixture of Basque, Celtic, Gothic, Moorish and Jewish subjects, and in whom both religion and natural traits kept alive diversity, which while the result of militancy became the cause of its continuance to preserve the conquerors amid warring factions. Where interests were so diametrically opposite and each seeking vantage ground, where the strong hand could alone preserve the semblance of order by the subordination of all individual interests to those of the State, peace—the condition of industrial progress—could not obtain. Fusion by conquest could not obliterate distinctive characteristics founded in race. Might could silence, but not eradicate them. Discontent might not find expression, but the embers were kept smouldering beneath the ashes.
In the present form of society we find diversity, but of classes rather than of races. While we have no State-created class of priests nor nobles, while all men are theoretically declared “equal before the law,” we see unmistakeable evidence of radical diversity of interests leading to internecine strife, a diversity that manifests itself in countless ways provoking discord and struggle. This strife is no longer either religious or political in its nature; those issues are of the past, our records report no Praise-God-Barebones’ parliaments nor constitution-maker Sieyes’ conventions; those issues were long since threshed. The contest of the present is industrial, and it behooves every thoughtful person to seek out the causes and ponder over the character of the remedies so freely advertised for its cure. Progress requires diversity, but order can never result save as adapted to, not checking, progress. “Progress and Order,” rather than “Law and Order,” is the demand of the industrial type of civilization.
Reliance upon militant measures, trying to curb industrial discontent by legislative coercion, is reactionary in character. However disguised in twilight mixtures it is the spirit of the old regime seeking to dominate the new; as vain as seeking to check an exhaustless flow of water by damming the stream. The remedy cannot lie in enactments, in the organization of systems, in return to simplicity of structure, for industrial civilization demands plasticity of forms which “the law of equal freedom” alone gives, while organization, on the other hand, ever tends to rigidity. As in the physiological realm hybridity ever characterizes unlike organisms, so in sociology no successful progeny has ever resulted from compulsory intermingling of diverse classes; but where, as in sociology, the diverse classes are such because of chartered privileges, involving correlative restrictions, abolition can alone prove remedial. The sacerdotal and noble classes were destroyed as ruling classes, but to-day they stand behind the burgher class animating it with their inherited antagonism to plebeian interests. When Cæsar conquered Greece, he subjugated Olympus, and the gods now measure tape behind counters with Christian decorum. It is useless to seek to domesticate conquered classes for reproductive purposes; it is only in their extinction, the equalization of opportunities by which divers classes cease to exist, that relief can come. Privilege, though not symbolized by tiara and crown, still survives and is the soul of the prevailing economic system, a new incarnation of the ancient fetich. Hence the present contest.
Industrialism means the direction of human activities to conquest over nature, and only by the complete eradication of the militant theorem can the ideal ever become real. From compulsion, artificially induced, to voluntary co-operation, naturally evolved, the star of progress leads and no method of reform embodying any of the elements of the first will answer the end, for in so far as it does it contains the seeds which lead to fixity and choke plasticity. It is not by looking backward to regimentation, but forward to free contract, that the goal will be seen. Whether it be a Bismarck granting State pensions to aged workmen, France and England extending collective control over industrial activities, twilight schemes for instituting liberty by shifting tax burdens, or an appeal to a count of noses by which political alchemy will transform diffused ignorance into concrete wisdom, it is ever putting new wine into old bottles, an attempt to retard day by organizing morning twilight as a permanent condition for ever-varying needs. Voluntary co-operation needs no “direction”; self-interest alone will determine its rise and adaptation, for where the social demand is the supply then must follow. No matter how “advanced” a project may be vaunted to be, in so far as it incorporates militant direction, denies individual secession, forbids ignoring the State be it of what form it may, just so far is such project looking backward when tested by the law of progress, and consequently in disagreement with the requirements of the future. Free contract (once declared utopian in all relations) either is or is not the ideal of industrial civilization. If it is, there can be no permanent halting place between these antagonistic lines notwithstanding metaphysical doctors attempt it in Single Tax and Nationalism. Statecraft may dictate the straddling policy of Ensign Stebbins who announced that he was “in favor of prohibition, but agin’ its enforcement;” or priestcraft direct attention from present ills by preaching resignation coupled with post obit drafts on the Bank of New Jerusalem; but the social student should ever keep his gaze on the ideal end and with voice and pen only advocate such measures as will not only tend thitherward, bit which will remove rather than preserve obstructions. Neither in plethoric nor emasculated tariffs, prohibition, inspection of factories, mines, ships, houses, bakeries, and markets; not in compulsory education nor vaccination, use of ballot prayer-mills, etc., lies the remedy. These, and countless others are but makeshifts to reconcile the new with the old, twilight propositions of those whose eyes do not perceive the beauties daylight alone can fully reveal. They are based on the retained superstition that State authority has no assignable limit, and demanding for it blind faith; it is a survival of past forms of thought, a diluted phase but lineal descendant of the old dogma that “the king can do no wrong”, and involving the fiction of “divine right” in the maxim: “vox populi, vox dei” spread out to cover half the whole plus one! Power no more resides in a definite number than in one, and all alleged “reforms” based upon this superstition derive their weapons from the armories of militancy, from the Bismarckian right wing down to the collectivist left wing of Tax-shifters and Nationalists.
So far we have endeavored to show that the course of progress in social affairs is from the militant type to the industrial, from regnant authority to individual sovereignty, from compulsion to voluntary agreement, from fixity to plasticity. If this be the goal, and this is the foundation stone of Anarchy, we must ascertain why obstacles meet us at every turn, why the law of equal freedom is inoperative, why abstract equity is summoned to give way to concrete privilege, in what forms militant measures still reign. We must seek where privilege still lingers entrenched, in what their correlative restrictions consist, and how they promote discord requiring the exercise of arbitrary force to preserve things as they are and thus subordinate progress to uniformity. We should always seek to first determine what is equitable, then the nature of the difficulties to be overcome, and the desirability rather than the feasibility of attaining such ends. The “practical man” is not the temporary adjustor of relations on false bases. When demands are aligned with progressive development, when ideas are based upon fundamental principles of social rectitude, we may well leave fears of their application to the time-serving crowd whose vision cannot penetrate the twilight. If history shows that in all social evolution ideas have ever worked down from the brain f the thinker to the muscles of the restricted, if the John Browns have always followed the Garrisons, shall we denounce the ideas or the obstacles which prevented their application? Or favor the ideas and be “agin” their realization? Let us consider what these obstacles are. And here we are brought to the consideration of Economics, which dominates the thought of the century and determines the nature of all systems, of all laws, of all institutions.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Militant and Industrial Societies, according to Dyer Lum
annotated version of the text online, and I'm proofing a pamphlet edition for Corvus. I suspect that the Mutualism-to-Come — the "perfection" of the militancies of the present— may actually be a long, harmonian evolutionary step beyond industrial society and the regime of contracts, but the Spencer/Lum distinction certainly seems to point out one of the next mile-posts. Here's the introduction, with Lum's treatment of the militant/industrial distinction: