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THE INDIVIDUAL, SOCIETY, AND THE STATE.

the propriety of compelling individuals to regard any and all social conventions. Anarchism protects equal liberty (of which property based on labor is simply an expression in a particular sphere), not because it is a social convention, but because it is equal liberty, — that is, because it is Anarchism itself. Anarchism may properly protect itself, but there its mission ends. This self-protection it must effect through voluntary association, however, and not through government; for to protect equal liberty through government is to invade equal liberty.

 

 

TRYING TO BE AND NOT TO BE.

[Liberty, June 9, 1888.]

To the Editor of Liberty:

I do not write this with the idea that you will publish it, for the tardiness with which you inserted my last question indicates that you do not care for any more of me in your paper. You are too good a reasoner to not know that, if it is proper to interfere to compel people "to regard one social convention," it is not improper to force another, or all, providing there is any satisfaction in doing so. If "there are no natural rights," there is no occasion for conscientious or other scruples, providing the power exists. Therefore there is no guarantee that there will be even as much individuality permitted under Anarchistic rule as under the present plan, for the principle of human rights is now recognized, however far removed we may be from giving the true application. The "equal liberty" "social convention" catch-phrase can be stamped out as coolly as any other. There are but two views to take of any proposed action,—that of right and that of expediency,—and as you have knocked the idea of right out, the thing is narrowed to the lowest form of selfishness. There certainly can be no more reason why Anarchists, who deny every obligation on the ground of right, should be consistent in standing by the platform put forward when weak, than that ordinary political parties should stand by their promises made when out of power.

I called "equal liberty" a "catch-phrase." It sounds nice, but when we criticise it, it is hollow. For instance, "equal liberty" may give every one the same opportunity to take freely from the same cabbage patch, the same meat barrel, and the same grain-bin. So long as no one interferes with another, he is not overstepping the principle of "equal liberty," but when one undertakes to keep others away, he is, and you can only justify the proscription by saying that one ought to have liberty there, and the others had not,—that those who did nothing in the production ought not to have "equal liberty" to appropriate. But if nobody has any "natural rights," then the thief not only does not interfere with the "equal liberty" of others, but he does them no wrong. You have done well, considering your opportunity, but your cause is weak. You are mired and tangled in the web you have been weaving beyond material help. Still, I see a ray of hope for Anarchism. Just unite with the Christian Science

metaphysicians, and the amalgamation will be an improvement. As I have looked