A few quotes and comments on them

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the market anarchists (anarcho-capitalists) of the Rothbardian tradition that I forget to mention that there have been many other anarchist intellectuals who have provided us with much ammunition to use in our intellectual battles for the hearts and minds of the common people. So I thought I would quote a few people that I don’t normally mention and make a comment on what that quote means to me.

First up is the famous Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. Wikipedia says that “His conversion from a dissolute and privileged society author to the non-violent and spiritual anarchist of his latter days was brought about by his experience in the army as well as two trips around Europe in 1857 and 1860–61.”

“In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful.” — Leo Tolstoy

Like Tolstoy, I came to anarchism by being vehemently anti-war. Like the quote given, I can not see any war that was not started by a government and usually against the will of its own people. It is like America and WWI. Wilson was re-elected because he “kept your boys out of war” but as soon as he was re-elected he started a propaganda campaign to push the American people into accepting our entry into that disastrous nightmare.

There is little need to introduce Friedrich von Hayek, winner of the 1974 Nobel Prize in economics and famous student of von Mises.

“Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves into complete dependence on a tyrant has made our generation understand that to choose one’s government is not necessarily to secure freedom.” — Friedrich August von Hayek

The Americans have a fetish for democracy. They think that just because they elect their masters that they are free and what a joke that is. Even when the whole game is not rigged in favor of the power elite (not very often) we still have the “tyranny of the majority” problem with democracy. We should have a fetish for liberty and freedom — something worth our affections, but most men seem to yearn to be safe rather than free.

Next up, Peirre-Joseph Proudhon.

“Laws: We know what they are, and what they are worth! They are spider webs for the rich and mighty, steel chains for the poor and weak, fishing nets in the hands of the government.” — Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

I made a post a while back on common law systems being far superior to our present nightmare of legislature made law. Our system is one of injustice and not justice. I think we can learn a lot from the socialist Proudhon, even though his economics was in error. I certainly have to agree with him on the quote above, and so does any thinking man who has been paying attention to our system over the last century or more.

That brings us to Emma Goldman who was a Russian emigrant who became a very famous anarchist and U.S. political activist in the first half of the 20th century.

Anarchism … stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations. ~ Emma Goldman

What a great quote from Ms. Goldman that one is. Anarchism leads to voluntary cooperation which gives the best chance of promoting peace, productivity, and prosperity. We believe in society and social cooperation, but not in the brutal force of the gang of thieves writ large called “government”.

Thomas Paine is, of course, one of the famous leaders of the American war for independence from Britain. He wrote the following in The Rights of Man (1792):

Great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government. It has its origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man. It existed prior to government, and would exist if the formality of government was abolished. The mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has upon man, and all the parts of civilized community upon each other, create that great chain of connection which holds it together. The landholder, the farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant, the tradesman, and every occupation, prospers by the aid which each receives from the other, and from the whole. Common interest regulates their concerns, and forms their law; and the laws which common usage ordains, have a greater influence than the laws of government. In fine, society performs for itself almost everything which is ascribed to government.

What a wonderful description of the ideas of the market anarchists of today even though he wrote that over two hundred years ago. Our common interests will bind us together as a society and the price feedback mechanism is the way we inform others as to how they are doing. If a farmer loves to grow beets but his customers prefer tomatoes, then the price mechanism will let him know that fact. It is amazing our many of our “progressive” or “liberal” friends believe that a small circle of government “experts” should rule over men and decided every last detail of their lives. Even down to how large a soft drink they can buy at a convenience store.


I hope the above quotes were of interest to you, dear reader, as they are too large to tweet and this was the only place I could share them. I need a good title for posts like this one. If you can think of one and would share it with me, please tweet me or leave a comment. Thanks.


8 thoughts on “A few quotes and comments on them

  1. It´s good to look for things in common with socialist anarchists like Proudhon or Goldman (I would have enjoyed a little comment on the anti-property aspects of her quote). Often enough, us market anarchists feel closer to seudo-market lovers (conservatives) than to non-capitalist anarchists. Perhaps it is easier to teach economy to the latter than freedom to the former.

    • I have often wondered which is easier and I honestly don’t know. The socialist-anarchist often has an admirable affinity for the “little guy”. If only he would realize that freed markets helps the “little guy” instead of “the evil big guys” we might make some headway. But you would need them to listen first — that can be hard.

    • Great list you have going there. At this time in my life I know, sadly, that there are just more famous good books than I’ll ever get time to read. I have 3 H. L. Mencken books on my Kindle (and other devices) just now and am enjoying him immensely.

      Thanks for the note.

      • There are more great books than one could read in several lifetimes reading constantly. This may seem saddening at first, but once you realize that it’s a good thing that there are so many books it’s actually quite an uplifting thought. I’ll learn from and enjoy the books (and other things in life) that I can knowing full well that it’s impossible to read a millionth of them, let alone all the good ones.

  2. I think Proudhon’s economics weren’t so terrible for his day (prior to the marginal revolution). He was a defender, in principle, of some form of free market. Based on mutual credit and the labor theory of value rather than a loanable commodity currency and marginal utility, I grant you. His designation as a socialist shouldn’t really prevent free market types from looking into him a little. Obviously, that is the case you are making. You may have seen it already, but if not, check out “Market Anarchy as Stigmergic Socialism”, where Murray Rothbard is described as a Visionary Socialist. Even Proudhon’s opposition to “property” is qualified by what he meant by the term: state-backed grants and protection of title to land merely claimed by the property “owner”, though not necessarily ever homesteaded, let alone actually used by him. My favorite Proudhon quote: Whoever lays his hand on me to govern me is a usurper and tyrant, and I declare him my enemy.

    • I agree with you. We anarchists, even Rothbardian ones, should not overlook any of those greats that came before us. My dad once told me when I was a boy that communism (he really mean socialism) is a “beautiful theory” but unfortunately it does not work due to human nature. I guess dad had a point, we should always realize how enticing socialism was back before we had the theory and the real world experience to show us the fallacies of it.

      Anyway, I find Proudhon to be worthy of our respect and we should remember him for the leadership he showed back in his time.

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