Saturday, March 31, 2007

Van Ornum, Why Government at All? - Part IV, Chapter 7




Going still further in the application of these principles, the simple, natural principles of liberty, principles which every man can easily understand, to all the multitude of human affairs, to all the relations of mankind in society, it solves every question, removes every injustice, and cures every social evil. When the absolute liberty of every individual is once clearly recognized, when no man, and no woman, can bring any sort of physical compulsion to bear upon another one to do anything in this world which he or she does not choose to do, the only way in which any one can secure a given line of conduct on the part of another will be to compel him, or her, by kindness. It cannot fail to increase greatly the sum of human kindness. Men’s selfishness will compel them to be kind, to seek the wellbeing and happiness of others, instead of crushing them as now.

While it must be plain to every one that changes like this must produce very important results, yet we need to examine the subject with considerable care before we can realize how great will be those changes.

First, what will be the condition of labor? Manifestly it will be free; but from what? From rents, from taxes, from interest, from the exactions of monopoly, free to take freely from the earth, the storehouse of nature, the materials upon which to labor, and provide for the satisfaction of desire; free from the necessity of supporting in idleness an employer, or even a lot of stock-holders in the products of labor; and free from the arrogant dictation of others as to hours of labor, or rate of wages. All nature [346] stands beckoning to every man to come and take freely from its exhaustless resources. Are men hungry? Come till the soil, and gather the fruits of it. The beasts of the field and the fishes of the sea are for your use and pleasure. Are you cold, or naked, or homeless? Here in the earth are clay and stone, and minerals of the greatest variety and utility; and in such abundance that all the people of all time cannot exhaust them. In the forest are the woods of every kind to suit the tastes or fancy of men, while the forces of nature are everywhere ready to come at your bidding and perform every service. The law is the only thing that erects a barrier between mankind and its natural and bounteous mother earth. Destroy the law, and the laborer shall plant the vineyard and eat the fruit of it. Nothing shall hinder him from exchanging freely the product of his labor with others, as suits-his convenience. The relation of master and servant, and of mistress and maid will be ended, because no one will serve another when he can just as well serve himself.

As this applies to labor in its broadest sense, it includes every one who does any useful thing in this world,—every one who derives his or her support from their labor of head or hand, as opposed to those who live upon the labor of others, such as landlords, bondholders, money loaners, stockholders in productive enterprises in which they perform no labor, professed employers who subsist upon a profit derived from the inadequate pay of those employed, those living upon royalties derived from patents, copyrights, or other forms of legal privilege, and government officers. Labor does not mean merely those who work at manual labor for stipulated wages. It includes merchants, manufacturers, and professional men, farmers, editors, authors, actors, students, all who seek to increase by their own efforts in any way, the general store of human knowledge, or enjoyment. [347]

But when we have catalogued them all, and found that they are free, it does not itself convey an adequate idea of the enormous change that will have taken place. The first effect, after the suspension of the functions of the law by stopping the appropriations for its execution, will be seen in the immediate relief from the pressure of hard times, first in the stoppage of rents, taxes and interest. People are not so much in love with the landlord as to continue payments when he has no longer the power to compel them. Those who can do so will at once take possession of vacant land and begin the erection of homes. For money, some form of mutual token will be adopted which will be generally accepted, and serve in making settlements.

Such changes in social relations make necessary long lines of changes in architecture, in methods of business, in public amusements, in education, in the learned professions, and in domestic affairs. There are very few buildings, public or private which will not require to be rebuilt. The present residences of the poor are little better than stables, and will not be used longer than until others suited to a much higher degree of comfort can be built. The middle class houses are little better, but on the whole, will remain the longest; while the present mansions of the rich will, for a time, stand as monuments of the arrogance and folly of their builders. It will be impossible to obtain servants to care for them, while for their proprietors to do it, will involve an amount of labor and care they will not long submit to; and they will either be pulled down or transformed to other uses.

Changes in methods of business will also involve changes in structures devoted to business. The great store with its multitude of employees will be a thing of the past, unless conducted on a purely co-operative plan. And the same thing is true of [348] the great manufactories. The improved condition of the people, their freedom from the necessity of constant toil during long hours to get a living, will enormously increase the demand for-public amusements; so that present conveniences bill be found totally inadequate. In education also, methods better adapted to the true purposes of education, and to the development of a high individuality, will certainly supersede present clumsy and vicious methods, and render useless the barn-like structures which now pass as school-houses.

But the changes in the learned professions will be the most radical. With the disuse of the law will necessarily come the disuse of the lawyer. His functions will be at an end. He will no longer find an honorable calling in the promotion, for pay, of the dishonest schemes of his clients. He will no longer study how much unjust advantage he can secure for his client, and still keep within the forms of law. An honorable profession will no longer be based upon making trouble to others. The priests will continue to exercise their calling as long as they can find ignorant and credulous people; but ignorance and credulity cannot last long in the face of such general prosperity. Make a man prosperous, and he becomes self-reliant, and progressive. There is no danger in religion if deprived of the sanctions and support of the law. The medical profession, also, will receive a powerful stimulus. The law will no longer protect incompetence; and physicians will maintain an honorable consideration just as long as they keep to the fore front of medical knowledge, and no longer. College professors will no longer depend for their positions upon their willingness to teach the ancient philosophies long since disproved, and avoid the more dangerous dogmas which incline men to liberty.

But in every department of science investigation will be promoted, because freedom will increase a [349] thousand fold the number of those who can prosecute original investigations. I think it is probable that these original invocators will become the teachers of the future; not as a means of subsistence or for the acquirement of wealth, but in the pursuit of distinction.

Second, what will be the condition of the farmer? Again the answer is, he will be free. From what? From debt, from taxes, from interest, from the exactions of monopoly, free to produce, and free to exchange with whomsoever he will anywhere on the face of the broad earth. There can be no custom house officers to take toll upon his exchanges, and thus reduce his earnings. Even the cost of transportation will be relieved of its greatest burden, because it will immediately destroy the stocks and bonds which now constitute fixed charges against the business of the roads, abolish interest, dividends, and salaries to ornamental officers. The operating expenses of the roads will be the labor involved by the actual workmen, plus the maintenance of the rolling stock and road. But ultimately, with the extinction of private property through universal wealth, railroad men will perform the railroad service just as other men will perform services, for the honor and distinction it will bring them, and not for any reward of wealth, because all will take freely from the common wealth.

This is a rational, tangible relief, which is clearly within reach of the farmers whenever they have the courage and wisdom to grasp it.

Third, how will it help the merchant? Just as it does the workingman, and the farmer; he will be free; free from unjust and ruinous debts, from rents, interest, taxes, and licenses, from injurious interference, and from unequal competition. The sources of advantage which the large dealer, or the department stores, have over him will be destroyed. A great store requires a large number of employees. [350] When the wages of those employees rise from five to ten times as high as they are now, as they certainly must do, these high wages, coupled with a less efficient service than where performed for one’s self, must certainly place the great store at a disadvantage by the side of the small ones operated by individuals almost without expense, or by several individuals working co-operatively. The power of the great corporation or wealthy employer lies in the law which prevent people from employing themselves, and which thus permits the employer to reduce wages to ruinously low prices. Break down the legal fences which bar men from the natural means of self-employment, and the merchant is doing two things: he is destroying the unequal power of his competitor, and, at the same time, increasing the prosperity of those whom he expects to become customers. Think what this increased prosperity means. When all the men, women and children in Chicago, or for that matter, in the whole country, are so prosperous that they can buy anything they want, will not trade be good in every line? Merchants certainly will not want for customers. But when, along with it the expenses of doing business are reduced by abolishing rents, interest, taxes, licenses, high prices for transportation, and monopoly prices for goods, I want some one to tell me how a merchant will go to work to fail in business. He will certainly be an ingenious man who can do it under such circumstances.

Then who can conceive of the inestimable boon such an emancipation will bring to the despised and outcast ones of earth, branded by the injustice of the law as criminals, and prostitutes; or who are condemned by the hard conditions of life to live incomplete and unnatural lives, with all their natural promptings suppressed, sometimes until reason itself is dethroned? The plague-spots of vice and poverty in our cities will vanish like mists before [351] the rising sun. The jails, the penitentiaries, the reformatories, [!] the alms-houses, and the insane asylums will be tenantless, while the waste places will blossom like the rose. Liberty is the true Messiah for whom we wait. We know not yet where he will be born, but his time draws nigh. It may be in the manger, or in the hovel, but when he comes, nature itself will break into singing, “Peace on earth, good will to men. And that song will be heard around the world, speaking hope and deliverance to the oppressed and downtrodden of every name and every clime; while the monopolists, the rulers, the Herods of this world, will send out to slay the young child, in the hope of preserving their power. Oh weak! Oh fools! Oh blind! Do you not know that liberty comes to you with as great a boon as to the slave? Do you not know that the emancipation of the slave is the emancipation of the master? What is all your untold wealth, when the utmost possibility of enjoyment cannot bring you a single day’s unalloyed happiness? What more can you do with it than to buy distinction? And when you have bought it you have only a counterfeit. It is the distinction of possession, instead of personal worth. It brings the idle stare of the multitude, instead of the love and esteem of a community of equals. It surrounds you with base sycophants, and flatterers, whose interest in you is in the crumbs that fall from your tables. Can you develop a personal nobility in an environment of baseness? Can you rear healthy children in an atmosphere of sewer gas? Liberty to you also brings freedom; freedom from anxiety, from care, from false friends, from a ceaseless grind to obtain and keep wealth, from baseness, and from the ingratitude of those whom you have trusted. It offers you an opportunity of attainment, and a capacity for enjoyment, infinitely greater than anything you have ever dreamed of. It invites you to a residence in [352] a society where each separate person will be the highest expression of individual attainment, each in his own way; a society into which, if your wealth would buy it, you would gladly expend it all. Liberty kindles no hatreds of man against man. It is the slavery of ignorance that does that. Liberty is peace, prosperity, and happiness for all; and if for all, none can be unhappy. It is the prime condition of association, of civilization itself.

Then why should not the rich join with us in achieving a real liberty? They give up nothing that is valuable, nothing that does not impede their own progress. Why not cast off the impediments of slavery which hamper not only others, but themselves?

I know that many will be strongly prejudiced by reason of my strictures upon religion, and the church; and will be disposed to condemn this whole work as irreligious and immoral; and for that reason to shun it. But it has been necessary to carry the examination to the full extent to which I have carried it, because religion, as represented by the church, is one of the strongest props to the law; because it necessarily teaches subjection and subordination, which of themselves are vicious; and because it directly prevents the growth of individual self-respect and independence, which are essential to the spirit of liberty. Men must be free in mind before they can achieve or appreciate freedom of the body.

Still, there is nothing in what I propose as a remedy for social ills, nothing in a combination of the people to defeat the appropriation of money to pay the expenses of government, to prevent even the most religious from joining heartily in that movement, while yet practicing all the religious ceremonies, and observances enjoined by their churches. They may reject my theories as to religion, and yet work in perfect accord in the practical measures [353] I have outlined. If I am wrong in my theories of religion, and religion has a real basis of good, the adoption of the social reforms which must result from liberty will give a powerful stimulus to that good. So that, whatever there is of value in religion will be helped, but the evil will be powerless for evil when no longer sustained by the law. In the end I think it will be proved that religion is exactly what I have found it in these pages to be: a form and method of enslavement of the mind, the more perfectly to secure the enslavement of the body. But if it has a natural or rightful basis, it needs no artificial support, and cannot be injured by being thrown upon its own resources. To deny this, is to manifest a serious lack of faith in the inherent power of religion. But religion is harmless so long as there is no law to keep men poor, and therefore ignorant and superstitious.

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