Posts tagged Lysander Spooner

Happy Lysander Spooner Day!

To-day — 19 January 2013 — is the 205th birthday of the militant abolitionist, philosopher and individualist anarchist Lysander Spooner (b. 19 January 1808, Athol, Massachusetts; d. May 14, 1887, Boston, Massachusetts). In honor of his life and work, the Ministry of Culture in this secessionist republic of one is happy to once again mark to-day as Lysander Spooner Day.

This is from Spooner’s first letter to Thomas F. Bayard: Challenging His Right — and That of All the Other So-Called Senators and Representatives in Congress — To Exercise Any Legislative Power Whatever Over the People of the United States.

1. No man can delegate, or give to another, any right of arbitrary dominion over himself; for that would be giving himself away as a slave. And this no one can do. Any contract to do so is necessarily an absurd one, and has no validity. To call such a contract a ‘Constitution,’ or by any other high-sounding name, does not alter its character as an absurd and void contract.

2. No man can delegate, or give to another, any right of arbitrary dominion over a third person; for that would imply a right in the first person, not only to make the third person his slave, but also a right to dispose of him as a slave to still other persons. Any contract to do this is necessarily a criminal one and therefore invalid. To call such a contract a ‘Constitution’ does not at all lessen its criminality, or add to its validity.

These facts, that no man can delegate, or give away, his own natural right to liberty, nor any other man’s natural right to liberty, prove that he can delegate no right of arbitrary dominion whatever—or, what is the same thing, no legislative power whatever—over himself or anybody else, to any man, or body of men.

. . . All this pretended delegation of legislative power—that is, of a power, on the part of the legislators, so-called, to make any laws of their own device, distinct from the law of nature—is therefore an entire falsehood; a falsehood whose only purpose is to cover and hide a pure usurpation, by one body of men, of arbitrary dominion over other men.

. . . For all the reasons now given, and for still others that might be given, the legislative power now exercised by Congress is, in both law and reason, purely personal, arbitrary, irresponsible, usurped dominion on the part of the legislators themselves, and not a power delegated to them by anybody.

Yet under the pretense that this instrument gives them the right of an arbitrary and irresponsible dominion over the whole people of the United States, Congress has gone on, for ninety years and more, filling great volumes with laws of their own device, which the people at large have never read, nor even seen nor ever will read or see; and of whose legal meanings it is morally impossible that they should ever know anything. Congress has never dared to require the people even to read these laws. Had it done so, the oppression would have been an intolerable one; and the people, rather than endure it, would have either rebelled, and overthrown the government, or would have fled the country. Yet these laws, which Congress has not dared to require the people even to read, it has compelled them, at the point of the bayonet, to obey.

And this moral, and legal, and political monstrosity is the kind of government which Congress claims that the Constitution authorizes it to impose upon the people.

Sir, can you say that such an arbitrary and irresponsible dominion as this, over the properties, liberties, and lives of fifty millions of people—or even over the property, liberty, or life of any one of those fifty millions—can be justified on any reason whatever? If not, with what color of truth can you say that you yourself, or anybody else, can act as a legislator, under the Constitution of the United States, and yet be an honest man?

. . . I trust I need not suspect you, as a legislator under the Constitution, and claiming to be an honest man, of any desire to evade the issue presented in this pamphlet. If you shall see fit to meet it, I hope you will excuse me for suggesting that — to avoid verbiage, and everything indefinite — you give at least a single specimen of a law that either heretofore has been made, or that you conceive it possible for legislators to make—that is, some law of their own device—that either has been, or shall be, really and truly obligatory upon other persons, and which such other persons have been, or may be, rightfully compelled to obey.

If you can either find or devise any such law, I trust you will make it known, that it may be examined, and the question of its obligation be fairly settled in the popular mind.

But if it should happen that you can neither find such a law in the existing statute books of the United States, nor, in your own mind, conceive of such a law as possible under the Constitution, I give you leave to find it, if that be possible, in the constitution or statute book of any other people that now exist, or ever have existed, on the earth.

If, finally, you shall find no such law, anywhere, nor be able to conceive of any such law yourself, I take the liberty to suggest that it is your imperative duty to submit the question to your associate legislators; and, if they can give no light on the subject, that you call upon them to burn all the existing statute books of the United States, and then to go home and content themselves with the exercise of only such rights and powers as nature has given to them in common with the rest of mankind.

— Lysander Spooner, A Letter to Thomas F. Bayard (Boston, May 22, 1882)

And this is from No. 6 (The Constitution of No Authority) of his most famous pamphlet series, No Treason

The payment of taxes, being compulsory, of course furnishes no evidence that any one voluntarily supports the Constitution. . . . [T]his theory of our government is wholly different from the practical fact. The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: Your money, or your life. And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.

The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the road side, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.

The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector,” and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to “protect” those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villanies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.

— Lysander Spooner, No Treason, no. 6: The Constitution of No Authority (1870)

And this is from the end of the same pamphlet:

Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

— Lysander Spooner, Appendix to No Treason, no. 6: The Constitution of No Authority (1870)

See also:

Markets used to be celebrations… .

Like I mentioned yesterday, I’m trying to get some of my accumulated notes, scraps and fragments compiled into the blog. Here’s a beginning of something — it’s the introductory section from my talk, Free Market Anti-Capitalism? Radical Markets, Social Experimentation, and What the Capitalists Left Out, which Gary Chartier very generously arranged for me to give at La Sierra back in February. The middle of the talk pretty heavily cannibalized written material that I’ve presented elsewhere, but the new stuff nicely splits into two or three parts — the introductory stuff here as the setup, and some closing lessons that I’ll be putting up in a separate post.

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Markets used to be celebrations. In classical Athens, the open market, or agora, was famous as a place for conversation, company, and positive human interaction. In medieval Europe, the market fair was a festive occasion, which drew people together from throughout the country. Markets were seen not just as places to meet the needs of the day; they were places to meet people, places to interact with each other on a positive and mutual footing, and places that were central to the best and happiest experiences of social life, and the most distinctive local institutions, entertainment and culture. Socrates’ life work was not speaking to people in the assembly, or the temple, or the academy, but in the marketplace.

But when we speak of “markets” today it’s hard to get the same sense of conviviality. A “marketplace,” as we use the word today, is a place for company, alright – BP, for example, or Ford Motor – but this not the sort of company most of us would care to keep if we had the choice. The “marketplace” today, and “unregulated” or “free” markets most of all, are very widely seen not as spaces of sociality or positive interactions, but as sites of alienation, exploitation, immiseration or cut-throat competition. When you hear “unregulated markets,” what examples do you think of? For most people, the answer is probably something out of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle – crushing labor, starvation wages, and disgusting conditions. In the regulated marketplace that we have here, most people’s experience with the market is one of constraint and grim necessity at best. You have to work to eat, so we have a “labor market” where you deal with your boss, and a “rental market” where you deal with your landlord, and a “stock market” where a handful of insiders make bank while the rest of us can pray that our retirement isn’t crushed beneath the next big collapse. There’s a credit market where folks measure out their lives in a perpetual state of debt and a mass-market media where entertainment exists to sell viewers to commercials.

When the relationships that “markets” make people think of are the “relationships” you have with bosses, landlords, ad-men and collection agents, the last thing we are inclined to think about are mutuality, equality, or positive human interaction – let alone celebration or joy. To talk about freeing markets in this context often strikes people as grotesque – what would free markets mean but free reign for powerful people’s short-sighted greed, unchecked by solidarity or decency?

Even those who are inclined to defend what they call “free enterprise” or “the market economy” hardly ever do so in anything but negative terms – if not for markets we’d probably starve, and in any case we wouldn’t have iPads or jumbo jets. But that’s not to say that they much like the idea of market values, corporate capitalism, or commercialization working its way throughout social life. We are told to reconcile ourselves to vast inequalities of wealth, bureaucratic office culture, hypercommercial mass culture, and the daily grind of debt, rent, and labor as an unpleasant but necessary feature of freedom and prosperity.

Well, I certainly have not come here to defend inequalities of wealth, bureaucracy, corporate capitalism or hypercommercialism. Far from it: I would like to bury capitalism, not to praise it. But the debate over political economy has far too often been constrained by the pervasive notion that it must be seen as a debate between freedom on the one hand and equality on the other, as if the only choice is, which one politicians ought to sacrifice for the sake of the other. Speaking as a libertarian and an individualist Anarchist, I do not intend to intervene in that political debate. When I defend market freedom as not only materially beneficial but socially liberating, what I intend to advocate is not a defense of business as usual, existing concentrations of wealth, or apologetics for “growth” at any costs.

There are three points of difficulty here that need to be unpacked. First, the underlying notion the defense of freed markets is the province of the political Right, or that it involves uncritical apologetics for commercial culture and socio-economic hierarchy. I will argue instead that radical libertarianism – properly understood – is really a doctrine of the radical Left, in favor of achieving social and economic equality by means of unfettered social and economic freedom. The second difficulty is the question of whether business-as-usual in our current capitalist system represents the character or dynamics of a free market, in any meaningful sense. The third difficulty is a failure to make a critical distinction – to recognize an ambiguity in the meaning of “market” itself.

Libertarian defenses of free markets are often characterized as doctrines of the far Right. “Free markets” are seen as a byword for “small-government” conservatism and “pro-business politics;” a libertarian, in particular, is typically seen as someone who carries pro-business politics to its logical extreme, and is ready to shill for any and every thing that a Wal-Mart or a General Motors might do in the interest of protecting their bottom line. Since World War II, many American libertarians have done little to challenge this view of their economic theory. From Frank Chodorov, Ayn Rand, and Murray Rothbard down to the Libertarian Party and the Cato Institute, many American libertarians have repeatedly positioned themselves primarily as defenders of “capitalism,” and as ideological opponents of “egalitarianism,” “socialism,” unions, environmentalism and other movements of the Left. Although some, such as Rothbard, occasionally bristled at the identification with the Right and with business interests, others – such as Rand – embraced it, insisting that libertarianism meant, for example, a full-tilt rhetorical and philosophical defense of what she rather implausibly called “America’s Most Persecuted Minority: Big Business.”

There are reasons why 20th century libertarianism so closely associated with the Right, particularly in the geo-ideological context of the Cold War. But it has not always been so. During the 19th century, libertarians like Benjamin Tucker, Stephen Pearl Andrews, Voltairine de Cleyre, and Lysander Spooner came out of, and closely identified themselves with, the reform causes of their day – especially abolitionism, first-wave feminism, the co-op movement, and the labor movement. They saw themselves not as defenders of big business or American economic institutions, but rather as its most consistent and radical critics. Far from calling themselves “capitalists,” they most frequently referred to themselves as “socialists.” But what did “socialism” mean for a radical libertarian like Tucker, who described his economic program as “Absolute Free Trade … laissez-faire the universal rule,” and who proposed “not to strengthen … Authority and thus make monopoly universal, but to utterly uproot Authority and give full sway to … Liberty, by making competition … universal”? Clearly, Tucker’s “Anarchistic socialism” did not mean government ownership of the means of production; what he meant was, instead, opposition to the practices of actually-existing big business, and a belief that workers should free themselves and organize together so as to better control the conditions of their own labor. But isn’t that just a criticism of the results of market processes? Only if big business practices are the natural result of market processes, and only if worker control can only be achieved through political control of economic life. That is what 20th century libertarians – and their political opponents – both tended to assume; but it is precisely what Tucker intended to deny – for reasons that I’ll come back to soon – and precisely what led him to see laissez-faire as the banner of socioeconomic equality.

Which of these two strands will libertarianism follow in the 21st century? Will “free markets” continue the tradition of the right-libertarianism of the 20th century, or revive the tradition of the left-libertarianism of the 19>th? Well, that remains to be seen: it’s early in the century yet. But let’s say a bit more about what the choice amounts to. Those of us who argue in favor of the left-libertarian view have often summed up our differences from both the political Right, and the non-libertarian part of the Left, by saying that a left-libertarian is someone who believes in “Leftist ends and libertarian means.” We see libertarianism as the natural ally, not the opponent, of many causes traditionally associated with the Left: a humane concern with social equality, civil liberties, the emancipation of women, the relief of poverty, decent healthcare and housing, solidarity among the working class, international peace, environmental sustainability. But the question is the means by which to achieve them: will they be voluntary, or coercive? Will they be brought about by voluntary association among free people – brought about by interactions in the space of markets and civil society? Or will they involve laws, government, mandates and prohibitions, brought about in the space of legislation, the courts, and dictates ultimately backed up by police and military force?

There seem to be obvious prima facie reasons to prefer consensual relationships – associations among equals and grassroots organizing – as the means for bringing about these goals, rather than political mandates and legal enforcement. But how likely is it? How would markets – characterized by competition and profit-chasing business even begin to address these social questions? Why does an ideal of freed markets seem so alien – even hostile – to values of solidarity, compassion, or sustainability?

I think that the answer to these questions is wrapped up in a distinction. When we talk about “markets,” and “freed markets” especially, there are really two different definitions we might be working with – one broad, and one narrow. The distinction between the two is crucial, and both advocates and critics of markets have neglected it far too often. What is a market, ultimately? It is a set of human relationships. But the kind of relationships we have in mind varies, depending on what elements of markets we are focusing on – in particular, whether we focus on the aspects of individual choice, negotiated contracts and free competition; or whether we focus on the aspects of quid pro quo exchanges and commercial relationships.

  1. In the first case, we have markets as free exchange. When libertarians talk about markets, or especially about “the market,” we often mean to refer to the sum of all voluntary exchanges – when we set out to discuss freed markets, we mean the discussion to encompass any economic order based – to the extent that it is based – on respect for individual property, consensual exchange, freedom of association, and the freedom to engage in entrepreneurial discovery. So to say that something ought to be left up to the market is simply to say that it should be handled as a matter of choice and freely negotiated agreements among the people concerned – agreements that people can support or withhold their support from, which they can participate in or withdraw from – rather than by laws, government mandates, or prohibitions that are legally imposed on all.

  2. In the second, we have markets as the cash nexus. We often use the term “market” in a different sense – to refer to a particular form of acquiring and exchanging property, and the institutions that go along with it – to refer, specifically, to commerce and for-profit business, typically mediated by currency or by financial instruments that are denominated in units of currency. Whereas free exchange is a matter of the background conditions behind an agreement, the cash nexus is a matter of the terms of the agreement itself – if the people involved are agreeing to conduct matters on a paying basis, in a relatively impersonal quid-pro-quo exchange.

We’ll return to the importance of this distinction later on; for now, let’s keep it in mind by way of a definition of what we might mean when we start talking about “markets.” But in both cases, we need to make sure that we differentiate between markets, on the one hand, and capitalism on the other. I intend to defend markets as form of social interaction; I have no intention of defending capitalism. Of course, some people merely use the term “capitalism,” or “laissez-faire capitalism,” as a synonym for free exchange. But there are other meanings that have traditionally been associated with the word. “Capitalism,” especially when used by writers on the Left, has often referred, not to the condition of market freedom, but to some common features of the unequal markets that we see today – in particular, the predominance of bosses, wage labor, and corporate jobs in the labor market; large inequalities of wealth between employers and workers; the predominance of landlords and mortgage-holders in the housing market; the predominance of corporations and large, centralized firms in economic life; and the predominance of high finance and extensive networks of business and consumer debt.

These are features of the marketplace we encounter every day. But do they need to be a part of a genuinely freed market? When people are free to experiment with any and every peaceful means of making a living – could other, more mutualistic alternatives, with less inequality, more widely distributed forms of ownership, a marketplace full of co-ops or independent contractors rather than wage labor and corporate jobs, arise and take on an increased role in the economy? Or does corporate capitalism represent a natural tendency that all markets are driven to, which would predominate in any market, no matter how open to free experimentation?

To be sure, the capitalistic arrangements dominate now. But that is reason to believe that markets always tend towards social inequality are the result of a free market if what we have nowis a free market. And the greatest mistake that people make in discussing markets today is to talk as if the capitalistic system that we live under is a free market system – in which people make their choices and do their business because that’s what wins out in a competitive marketplace. But this is not a free or competitive marketplace. There is an alphabet soup of government agencies that monitors and constrains it, and a small library of regulations that they enforce. But the most pervasive and the most significant forms of economic intervention are almost never discussed. To get an idea of how pervasive and how damaging government intervention is – who the weight really falls on – we need to look beyond the air-conditioned offices, to the predicaments faced by ordinary working people, the poor, the jobless, the marginalized, and ask how much they are free to participate in mutual economic exchange, or to explore and devise alternatives to the relationships on offer from the companies that now dominate economic life… .

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More to come.

M@MM for July 2011 and August 2011: Vices, Crimes, Corporate Power, Privatization, and mo’ Problems.

tl;dr. Four more beautiful new booklets are now available for ordering from the ALL Distro — July and Augst’s Market Anarchy zines, with articles on corporate power and privatization — and July and August’s Anarchist Classics, including a lost classic on Individualist property theory from the pages of Liberty, and a very popular, but very hard to find classic from Lysander Spooner. You can get one free sample copy of either series (or both) to check out, if you’re considering a monthly subscription for individual copies or monthly packs to distribute in the radical space of your choice. Sound good? Contact me for details.

Scatter tracts, like randrops, over the land….

— William Lloyd Garrison, The Liberator, March 1831.

To-day, I’m happy to announce this month’s two additions to the Alliance of the Libertarian Left Artwork & Agitprop Distro. In fact, to-day’s announcement is a twofer: as I mentioned in my teaser post earlier there are also a couple of important pieces that came out in July, and were shipped on schedule to subscribers; and now, with a cross-country move and some general nonsense with the Distro’s Internet connection all, apparently, behind me, I can also happily put out the full official announcement for those two. So, then, let us welcome No. 21 of the monthly Market Anarchy Zine Series, the talk that Benjamin Tucker gave before the assembled academics, industrialists, and bigwigs at the Conference on Trusts of the Chicago Civic Federation, on the trust problem, corporate power, and market freedom; No. 22 of the monthly Market Anarchy Zine Series, a short adaptation of an article by Charles Johnson (yeah, me) on the gap between neoliberal privatization and free-market radicalism; and two hard-to-find (until now) individualist classics: No. 9 in the Anarchist Classics Series being an ambitious definition and defense of Individualist property theory by William Bailie, originally serialized in the pages of Liberty which to my knowledge has never before been collected or made available in pamphlet form; and No. 10 in the Anarchist Classics Series being a classic by an Anonymous author, now known to be our own Lysander Spooner, which — in spite of having become one of Spooner’s most popular essays! — has been almost impossible to find in print. Thus:

Market Anarchy #21 (Jul’11). Market Anarchy vs. Corporate Power

The Attitude of Anarchism Toward Industrial Combinations

Benjamin Tucker (1899)

The classic Market Anarchist take on corporate power and the political privileges that prop it up — Tucker’s talk at the Conference on Trusts by the Chicago Civic Federation in September 1899.

The trusts, instead of growing out of competition, as is so generally supposed, have been made possible only by the absence of competition, only by the difficulty of competition, only by the obstacles placed in the way of competition … by those arbitrary limitations of competition which we find in those law­created privileges and monopolies … . The trusts owe their power to vast accumulation and concentration of wealth … But for interest, rent, and monopolistic profit … trusts would be impossible. Now, what causes interest, rent, and monopolistic profit? For all there is but one cause, – the denial of liberty, the suppression or restriction of competition, the legal creation of monopolies… .

Free access to the world of matter, abolishing land monopoly; free access to the world of mind, abolishing idea monopoly; free access to an untaxed and unprivileged market, abolishing tariff monopoly and money monopoly, – secure these, and all the rest shall be added unto you. For liberty is the remedy of every social evil, and to Anarchy the world must look at last for any enduring guarantee of social order.

$1.25 for 1; 75¢/ea in bulk.

A lost classic rediscovered in the pages of Liberty, this essay – never before collected in pamphlet form since its original serialization – is one of the most ambitious attempts to define and defend the Individualist theory of property, and to provide both an Anarchistic defense of private property and market competition, and an attack on the regime of structural violence and legal privilege that sustains capitalism and subjugates the working class.

Modern industry and the accompanying economic conditions have arisen under the régime of status, — that is, under arbitrary conditions in which equal liberty had no place and law-made privileges held unbounded sway,—it is only to be expected that an equally arbitrary and unjust system of property should prevail. On one side a dependent industrial class of wage-workers and on the other a privileged class of wealth-monopolizers each becoming more and more distinct from the other as capitalism advances, has resulted in a grouping and consolidation of wealth which grows apace by attracting all property, no matter by whom produced, into the hands of the privileged, and hence property becomes a social power, an economic force destructive of rights, a fertile source of injustice, a means of enslaving the dispossessed. Under this system equal liberty cannot obtain… .

Can the millionaire capitalist, the labor-robbing idler who lives on interest, the rich thugs of today and their army of parasites, be taken as the outcome of private property? Surely not. They are the direct result of restrictions and privileges, of legal and governmental origin, — causes that render impossible the growth and diffusion of individual property among the mass of wealth-producers. Inequalities in possession exist not so much because of inequalities in the power of individuals to acquire wealth under free conditions, but because political, social, and economic arrangements have always tended to create artificial inequality, to foster and increase whatever natural inequality did exist … .

$2.00 for 1; $1.50/ea in bulk.

Market Anarchists should oppose neoliberalism and its so-called privatization schemes because we are for free markets and private property. What they call privatization means only private profit from political power. What we mean is something entirely different, and it’s time to mint some new language in order to talk about the difference.

Left libertarians, like all libertarians, believe that all State control of industry and all State ownership of natural resources should be abolished. In that sense, libertarian Leftists advocate complete and absolute privatization of, well, everything. Governments, or quasi-governmental “public” monopolies, have no business building or running roads, bridges, railroads, airports, parks, housing, libraries, post offices, television stations, electric lines, power plants, water works, oil rigs, gas pipelines, or any­thing else of the sort… . Governments have no business building or running fire departments, police stations, courts, arm­ies, or anything else of the sort, because governments—which are necessarily coerc­ive and necessarily elitist—have no business existing or doing anything at all.

There is something called privatization which has been a hot topic for the past 15-20 years. It has been a big deal in Eastern Europe, in third world countries under the influence of the IMF, and in some cases in the United States, too. Naomi Klein has a new book on the topic, which focuses on the role that natural and artificial crises play in establishing the conditions for what she calls privatization. But privatization, as understood by the IMF, the neoliberal governments, and the robber baron corporations, is a very different beast from privatization as understood by free market radicals… . What we advocate is the devolution of state-confiscated wealth and state-confiscated industries back to civil society … the socialization of the means of production. Government outsourcing, government-backed monopoly capitalism, and government goon squads, might more accurately be described as privateering.

$1.25 for 1; 75¢/ea in bulk.

This classic attack on political prohibition and moralistic law-making, was first published anonymously in 1875, as a chapter in the anthology Prohibition a Failure: or, the True Solution of the Temperance Question. It was revealed as the work of the radical libertarian legal theorist Lysander Spooner soon after his death in 1887, but it was neglected by posthumous collections and not included in the multi-volume Collected Works published in 1971. After Carl Watner rediscovered and recirculated the essay in 1977, it quickly became one of spooner’s most popular and influential works — but, between editions going out of print (e.g. TANSTAAFL’s 1977 edition), and the occasional useless disaster — it has remained notoriously difficult to find in in print.

Until now.

VICES are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property. Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property or another… . For a government to declare a vice to be a crime, and to punish it as such, is an attempt to falsify the very nature of things. It is as absurd as it would be to declare truth to be falsehood, or falsehood truth… .

IT is only those persons who have either little capacity, or little disposition, to enlighten, encourage, or aid mankind, that are possessed of this violent passion for governing, commanding, and punishing them. If, instead of standing by, and giving their consent and sanction to all the laws by which the weak man is first plundered, oppressed, and disheartened, and then punished as a criminal, they would turn their attention to the duty of defending his rights and improving his condition, … enabling him to stand on his own feet, and withstand the temptations that surround him, they would, I think, have little need to talk about laws and prisons for either rum­-sellers or rum­-drinkers, or even any other class of ordinary criminals. If, in short, these men, who are so anxious for the suppression of crime, would suspend, for a while, their calls upon the government to aid in suppressing the crimes of individuals, and would call upon the people for aid in suppressing the crimes of the government, they would show both their sincerity and good sense in a much stronger light than they do now… .

$2.00 for 1; $1.50/ea in bulk.

As I’ve mentioned before, both the Market Anarchy Zine Series and the Anarchist Classics Zine Series are regular monthly publications, with one issue each being sent out each month. You can always order individual copies online from the Distro page, but if you’d like to save on shipping & handling charges, and to get new orders as soon as they come out, you can always contact me to sign up for a regular subscription. (Subscriptions can be for personal reading, or for bulk orders of material for distributing, tabling, or for stocking your local infoshop and other radical spaces.) If you’re considering subscribing, contact me to request a free sample copy for you to check out, compliments of the Distro; then, if you like it, continue th subscription for the rest of the year at the following rates (all prices already include any shipping and handling costs):

Market Anarchy Zine Series

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Individuals Bulk Distribution Packets
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No. of copies ✕ 80¢/issue
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Anarchist Classics Zine Series

Delivered each month

Individuals Bulk Distribution Packets
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For details on all your options (including ready-to-print electronic versions, customizations of booklets with local contact information for your ALL chapter or local Anarchist activities, discounts for receiving quarterly shipments, etc. etc. etc.), see Market Anarchy Mailed Monthly. If you decide not to continue the subscription, the sample issue is yours to keep. Intrigued? Contact me forthwith, and we’ll get something worked out.

That’s all for now. Next month we’ll be dropping some more science; until then—read and enjoy!

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M@ Mailed Monthly (May 2011): Ideas and Letters, Natural Liberty and Artificial Scarcity

tl;dr. Two beautiful new booklets are available for ordering to-day from the ALL Distro — this month’s Market Anarchy, with an article on intellectual property and this month’s Anarchist Classic with two letters from Lysander Spooner to Congressman Thomas F. Bayard. You can get one free sample copy of either series (or both) to check out, if you’re considering a monthly subscription for individual copies or monthly packs to distribute in the radical space of your choice. Sound good? Contact me for details.

Scatter tracts, like raindrops, over the land….

— William Lloyd Garrison, The Liberator, March 1831.

To-day, I am happy to announce that earlier this week I mailed out the first orders of this month’s newest additions to the Alliance of the Libertarian Left Artwork & Agitprop Distro. Issue #19 (May 2011) of the monthly Market Anarchy Zine Series is a tract from Kevin Carson on the authoritarian nature and structural effects of so-called intellectual property rights. Issue #7 of the Anarchist Classics Zine Series is a fine little edition of a pair of letters to a Congressman — Congressman Thomas F. Bayard, the chosen recipient of two memorable letters from Lysander Spooner, Challenging His Right — and That of All the Other So-Called Senators and Representatives in Congress — to Exercise Any Legislative Power Whatever Over the People of the United States in light of natural justice, natural liberty, and the inalienable equality of every individual person.

Market Anarchy #19 (May’11). Intellectual Property is Theft!

How Copyrights & Patents Impede Competition

Kevin Carson (2009)

In Intellectual Property is Theft! Kevin Carson exposes so-called intellectual property as a law-made monopoly, upholding corporate privilege and consolidating economic control at the expense individual ownership of real, tangible property. Copyrights and patents lock in inefficient, privilege-ridden business models based on command and control, and enable corporations to capture outsize profits from the economic rent on innovations. Copying is not theft. But monopoly is.

Real, tangible property rights result from natural scarcity and follow as a matter of course from the attempt to maintain occupancy of physical property that cannot be possessed by more than one person at a time. Intellectual property, on the other hand, creates artificial scarcity that does not naturally exist and can only be enforced by invading real, tangible property and preventing the owner from using it in ways that violate the supposed intellectual property rights of others …. Intellectual property also serves as a bulwark for planned obsolecence and high-overhead production.

Corporations rely on increasingly authoritarian legislation to capture value from propriety information…. Privileged, state-connected economic interests are becoming increasingly dependent on such controls. But unfortunately for them, such controls are becoming increasingly unenforceable thanks to Bittorrent, strong encryption, and proxy servers…. This has profoundly weakened corporate hierarchies in the information and entertainment industries. In this environment, the only thing standing between the old information and media dinosaurs and their total collapse is their so-called intellectual property rights. … Without intellectual property, in any industry where the basic production equipment is widely affordable, and bottom-up networking renders management obsolete, it is likely that self-managed, cooperative production will replace the old managerial hierarchies.

$1.25 for 1; 75¢/ea in bulk.

Anarchist Classics #7 (May’11). Letters to Thomas F. Bayard

in which an Anarchist writes his Congressman, Challenging His Right — and That of All the Other So-Called Senators and Representatives in Congress — to Exercise Any Legislative Power Whatever Over the People of the United States

Lysander Spooner (1882, 1884)

Lysander Spooner’s first and second Letters to Congressman Thomas F. Bayard (D-DE) challenge all government with the standard of natural law and natural liberty. Spooner’s work was widely circulated and admired among the individualist anarchists in the late 19th and early 20th century. Later, the first letter to Bayard was widely reprinted and became incredibly influential in the intellectual revival of individualist anarchism during the 1960s. Whereas the first Letter to Bayard is one of Spooner’s best known works, the Second Letter to Bayard is a lost treasure recovered from the archives, until now very difficult to find in print. Together, they are one of Spooner’s sharpest attacks on the usurpation of legislators and the fraud of the legal Constitutions that are supposed to authorize, and yet somehow also limit, the arbitrary dominion of the State and the men who control it.

No man can delegate, or give to another, any right of arbitrary dominion over himself; for that would be giving himself away as a slave. And this no one can do. Any contract to do so is necessarily an absurd one, and has no validity. To call such a contract a Constitution, or by any other high-sounding name, does not alter its character as an absurd and void contract. No man can delegate, or give to another, any right of arbitrary dominion over a third person; for that would imply a right in the first person, not only to make the third person his slave, but also a right to dispose of him as a slave to still other persons. Any contract to do this is necessarily a criminal one and therefore invalid. To call such a contract a Constitution does not at all lessen its criminality, or add to its validity…

All this pretended delegation of legislative powr — that is, of a power, on the part of the legislators, so-called, to make any laws of their own device, distinct from the law of nature — is therefore an entire falsehood; a falsehood whose only purpose is to cover and hide a pure usurpation, by one body of men, of arbitrary dominion over other men….

$2.00 for 1; $1.50/ea in bulk.

As I’ve mentioned in past months, both the Market Anarchy Zine Series and the new Anarchist Classics Zine Series have become regular monthly publications. One issue in each series is published every month. New issues are announced during the first week of each month, and mailed out during the third week of the month. You can pre-order individual copies or contact me to sign up for a regular subscription, either for personal reading or bulk orders for distributing, tabling, or stocking local infoshops and other radical spaces. If you’re considering subscribing, you can contact me to request a free sample copy for you to check out, compliments of the Distro; then, if you like it, continue the subscription for the rest of the year at the following rates:

Market Anarchy Zine Series

Delivered each month

Individuals Bulk Distribution Packets
$1.50/issue
(= $18/year)
No. of copies ✕ 80¢/issue
(= N ✕ $9.60/year)
Anarchist Classics Zine Series

Delivered each month

Individuals Bulk Distribution Packets
$2.25/issue
(= $27/year)
No. of copies ✕ $1.25/issue
(= N ✕ $15/year)

For details on all your options (including ready-to-print electronic versions, customization with local contact information, and discounts for quarterly shipments), see Market Anarchy Mailed Monthly.

Prices include shipping & handling costs. If you decide not to continue the subscription, the sample issue is yours to keep. Intrigued? Contact me forthwith and we’ll get something worked out.

That’s all for now. Next month, you can look forward to a Market Anarchist defense of the commons, some bomb-throwing revolutionary mutualism, and (I hope?) an appearance by the ALL Distro at the Los Angeles Anarchist Bookfair. Until then—read and enjoy!

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Monday Lazy Linking