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« on: 2016-March-13 07:05:46 PM »

[1966-Summer] Autarchy
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Auto means self. Archy means rule. Autarchy *IS* self-rule. It means that each person rules himself, and no other.

NOTE: Autarchy, published in 1966-Summer is the second article on this subject by Robert LeFevre. In 1965-Winter he published Autarchy Versus Anarchy which follows the current article on this website or may be accessed by the following link:
Rampart Journal of Individualist Thought Vol. 2, No. 2 (Summer, 1966): 1–18


by Robert LeFevre

  • Robert LeFevre is dean of Rampart College, which is being established north of Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is the founder and former president of the Freedom School, parent organization to Rampart College, and principal teacher during that school's summer courses for adults.

All history reveals the existence of the great human struggle for survival and supremacy. This struggle has two arenas: the arena of nature and the arena of political action.

In the arena of nature, man matches his wit, skills, and strength against his natural environment in an effort to wrest from the forces and materials of nature sufficient for his survival and comfort.

In the arena of political action, man arrays his wits, skills, and strength against others of his kind in an effort to obtain supremacy over them and by this means to control them to his advantage.

In both of these arenas, human energy has always been organized. One of the earliest characteristics of man to be discovered is the characteristic of social organization. Although some theorists have held that men in earliest times lived as isolated and unorganized units, no evidence has yet been unearthed to substantiate this theory. As artifacts are uncovered and as scholars continue to probe, a growing mountain of evidence reveals that individual human beings have coordinated their efforts in some kind of social structure for at least a million years of human and near-human existence. They united behind a skillful hunter or trapper. They united behind a shaman or witch doctor. They united behind a man of power or of property. Finally, they united behind political leadership. When men joined forces in hunting, trapping, fishing, trading, or manufacture, they did so because it was clearly to their advantage to do so. Economic necessity is ever present. Life on this planet does not favor the slothful and indolent. To live requires certain basic necessities and a host of comforts most men value far beyond their minimal caloric intake.

When they combined their energies in the hunt or in other economic ventures, they did so motivated by a central desire to stay alive and to stay alive with a full stomach, relative security, and a degree of pleasure and satisfaction. They were motivated by a search for gain or profit. Conversely, they were motivated to escape the grim necessities the nature of the world forces upon men. To prevent the loss of life and of items of value, great effort must be expended. From earliest times and continuing to this day, every human being seeks to add to his gains and to diminish or eliminate his losses. That he acts at all can be attributed to economic necessity and to the fact that man has a sense of uneasiness occasioned by that necessity. If there were no uneasiness, no economic necessity, the chances are excellent that man would not act at all. His ease would become apathy; his apathy, stagnation; his stagnation, death. It is economic necessity and the urge to survive that postpone death, minimize stagnation, and overcome apathy.

When men combine their energies into political organizations, a slightly modified motivation on the part of some can be discerned. Economic organization presumes individual self-seeking and personal interest. Political organization presumes a search for the “common good.” Man, within a political structure, is not always seeking to benefit himself. He is seeking to benefit all. All political organization is nothing more nor less than enforced altruism at the common expense.

It is true, of course, that the professional politician has precisely the same personal motivation as the early hunter, forager, or marauder. He is personally involved with making gains and preventing losses for himself. But he conducts his affairs within a structure which disregards the common nature of man and creates, instead, a class culture in which some men have authority over other men, hence power over other men. This political structure is invariably based upon the ability of some to exploit others to their own advantage by force or the threat of force.

Economic structures so long as they remain strictly economic, lack the ability to coerce anyone. Nature is the general coercer, demanding effort if death is to be postponed. But in economic structures, all men cooperate in one gigantic, desperate effort to escape nature. Their cooperation is voluntary in the face of the common natural enemy, economic necessity. No man is forced to cooperate with any one. He cooperates because it is to his advantage to do so. If it is not to his advantage, as he sees it, he withholds his cooperation. With economic structures, cooperation is sought on a voluntary basis for mutually held interests. If it is not forthcoming in a given case, the project is abandoned or cooperation is sought elsewhere.

Within political structures a mystique is summoned. It is presumed that the total numbers of a given group form a “society.” From this it is but a step to assume that there is a kind of social entity having what has been called general will, social responsibility, social consciousness, social conscience, social awareness, socialism. The presumed “good” of the social whole is contrasted against the actual “good” of each individual within the group. In order to provide for the general “good,” private “good” and private interests are systematically ravaged. Human sacrifice makes its appearance. Any person who does not agree to the “general good” can be forced by the strong or more numerous to help provide for it anyway. Repeated negligence or repeated resistance summons ever larger employment of coercion. The person who will not submit to the theme of “general good” is victimized. He is victimized up to and including his ultimate demise, if this is deemed in harmony with the “general good.” This is the single unvarying characteristic of all political organizations. They require victims. When theocracies flourished, either the shaman and the strong man combined their resources or a single man assumed both mantles. Human sacrifices for the “general good” became the murderous rule. Modern warfare is nothing more than mass sacrifice of opposing nationals for the “general good.”

If Sherman was correct when he suggested that “war is hell,” then all political action is merely purgatory. It is the arena of purge wherein those having power determine the names, the races, or the nationalities and faiths of the next victims.

The mystique of enforced altruism now engulfs the world. Virtually without numerically significant opposition, the masses of humanity, whether they view themselves as “common men,” “aristocrats,” “intellectuals,” or mere observers, adhere to the “common good” mystical illusion.

But it is important here that a fine line of demarcation be made. There are certain things that men do in common. They share a natural desire to live, and to live in relative ease and security. All men seek to own property. They are driven by a mutually experienced sense of frustration and uneasiness. Beyond these areas of common interest, it is a matter of common interest that each person must seek his own personal best interests. Further, in the process of seeking and in the process of keeping, it is a common interest to all that each remain unmolested. Molestation of some by others violates both personal interests and any real “common good” that can be discerned.

The question to be posed is a derivative of the situation men experience. How can a system of procedure be found which will make possible the maximum self-seeking and self-keeping of men individually, without impairing the same maximum self-seeking and self-keeping proclivities of all other men? Must men live in an armed camp, forever engaged in holding back some so that others may prosper? Is there such a scarcity of resources and goods that some must be masters and others slaves? Is our ability to procreate so large and our ability to produce so meager that, as Malthus opined, there will always be those who are pressing upon the food supply and only the fortunate and the strong will eat?

It is against this background that the idea and ideal of autarchy emerges. The fundamental premise of autarchy is rooted in stoicism. (See Zeno, Epicurus, Marcus Aurelius.) The Stoics understood that each man does control his own energy and his own person. Because of this observable fact of nature, and because of the added fact that man has a rational ability to foresee the results of his actions, it follows that each man is responsible for his choices and actions. The preachment of the Stoics can be summed up in this phrase: Control yourself.

To this end, the Stoics were among the first who philosophically supported the idea of individual liberty. Nor did they imagine that liberty was a mere lack of control so that any man could do exactly as he pleased. On the contrary, the requirement was rigid self-discipline. Freedom was not to be construed as license. Liberty could only endure when individuals voluntarily refrained from imposing their wills upon others.

In other areas, the stoic philosophy wanders inexcusably. It counsels a completely rigid submission to the gods; almost makes poverty a virtue; and extols the ability to suffer to the point where self-control becomes self-denial.

Having obtained the stoic virtue of self-control, autarchy passes to the Epicureans and owes them a debt of gratitude. For the Epicureans (see Epicurus) recognized that man is a profit-seeking creature and prefers pleasure to pain. Man will always seek to avoid pain (losses of anything he values) and will always seek to experience as much pleasure (profit, gain) as possible. Nor are pleasure, profit, gain, or even delight and ecstasy forbidden. To live is good. To live well is better. To live in abundance, security, and joy is the acme of living.

Both Stoics and Epicureans saw that a “social whole” is a pleasant fiction. The building material out of which any social unit is created is always the individual. You do not create social perfection by molding a rigid Platonic state in which political (coercive) organization dominates and eclipses the individual. Rather, if you can educate men to control themselves, the social whole will take care of itself.

But the doctrine of autarchy was still incomplete. Granted that each man could and must control himself. Granted that men will seek profit and avoid loss. But is this practical? Isn't it true that men will seek profits by imposing their wills on others? Isn't it true that men will seek to compel others to share in their losses while they reserve their profits for themselves? Isn't it true that some men are fundamentally incapable of self-control and hence, to preserve the “social good” or the common good of non-molestation, an agency of molestation must be created which will hold back the malefactor?

Praxeology offered the answer. Austrian economists, enlarging on the works of Menger and Böhm-Bawerk, were able to define the workings of a free economy in scientific terms. If men are free to pursue their individual economic aims, motivated by grim economic necessity, and if they are unmolested by any agency of coercion, the greatest good for the greatest number will emerge. (See Von Mises, The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality and other writings.)

The Stoics provide the moral framework; the Epicureans, the motivation; the praxeologists, the methodology. I propose to call this package of ideological systems autarchy, because autarchy means self-rule.

It is true that the word autarchy has fallen upon evil times. Usually when the word is employed, it has been given a social complexion. Autarchy (customarily in this usage spelled autarky) is employed to designate the economically self-sustaining state. But this is improper and a corruption of the original meaning. Auto means self. Archy means rule. Autarchy is self-rule. It means that each person rules himself, and no other. The autarchist not only rules himself but operates within a voluntary context respecting economic necessity.

Autonomy is a similar word with similar origins. It, too, supposes self-rule. This word has customarily escaped the economic implication which is found in autarky. It has been employed primarily to denote those communities or nations which practice democracy. An autonomous country is one in which the majority (or a plurality) select the rulers who will impose their wills upon the total population. An autonomist can be construed as one who supports the idea that self-rule is nothing more than majority rule. This, too, is a distortion, with the social coloration impinging upon the original meaning.

The word autocracy likewise has been subjected to social implications. This word, also, means self-rule. But it has been corrupted to mean total rule by one man over others.

The enormous effect of reliance upon political structures and the collective mystique is seen in our vocabulary. Three words, all essentially meaning self-rule and self-control, have been corrupted to imply collective rule of one kind or another. I propose to reclaim autarchy to its original meaning. There are plenty of other words so that communication and expression will not be impaired by reserving this usage and spelling for what was originally intended. As I will use the word, autarchy will signify total self-rule. It will presume a system or social arrangement in which each person assumes full responsibility for himself, proceeds to control himself, exercises authority over himself, supports himself, takes initiative, joins with others or not as he so pleases, and does not in any way seek to impose his will by force upon any other persons whatever.

The matter of uniting with others must receive first consideration. It is often assumed by persons claiming to be individualists and who therefore feel that they are autarchic minded, that organization is both unnecessary and fundamentally immoral or improper. Frequently, we hear such persons claiming that the individualist is he who can support himself without any help from anyone else. The individualist is totally independent, it is claimed. Any organization invariably takes away something of a man's freedom. The moment a person joins in any kind of group endeavor, where two or more persons are involved, then choices and actions are curtailed or harnessed, and individuality is impaired to the degree that this occurs.

Conversely, those who submit gladly to the concept of the “general will” or the “common good” stand opposed to any trace of individualism. The person who seeks profits is narrow and selfish, it is charged. The great pleasures of life come from serving others. It is more blessed to give than to receive. There are a score or more similar platitudes ending with the conviction that “no man is an island” and that he must invariably harness his individualistic impulses or become a societal problem, a sort of anti-social anachronism, carried over from savage times.

Autarchy is more practical than either extreme view. It holds that men control their own energy individually and, hence, whether it is desirable or not, men are individuals. Individuality is one of the great facts of nature. No two persons are alike so far as their respective aptitudes, capacities, energies, or longevities are concerned. Perhaps the closest look man has yet obtained of the universe confirms the fact that individuality is the first rule.

But autarchy does not stop here. Looking at the matter of survival for man, it is at once discernible that no man is strong enough, wise enough, or will live long enough to produce all the products he will need and want for his own existence. The individualist who contends that a strong individual can live without help from others is wrong. The collectivist who denies individuality is wrong.

Autarchy seeks to deal with both realities. To do so, it supports the freedom of each individual to retain his individuality so long as he wishes without threat or force imposed upon him by others. Likewise, autarchy holds that uniting with others in a common objective is not a violation of freedom, but an illustration of it. The only reservation is that all parties to any union must decide individually that they wish to unite. Within the framework of autarchy no individual or group of individuals may properly force any other to do anything against his will.

Autarchy would support the free market because the free market requires no coercion whatever. At any point where either aristocrats or democrats seek to coerce any person or group for any reason whatever, the principles of autarchy vanish and political organization appears.

A person enters the market hoping to sell a product. Some buy the product, but others do not and will not. Autarchy forbids the seller to force a single buyer to his cash register. Likewise, it forbids the buyer to compel the seller to continue selling or to change the price. The seller is free to sell his produce at any price desirable to him. The buyer is free to try to purchase what he wishes at any cost he is willing to assume.

The product or service offered or sought does not alter the rule of procedure. The principle stands. If one person wishes to buy protection, he has only to seek to purchase it. If others agree with him as to the amount and the kind of protection each is willing to buy, they have only to pool their energies or resources and thus procure it. If there are some who do not wish it, they have only to make this decision and they remain unmolested. They cannot be forced into any organization or cooperative endeavor for the “common good.”

Let us suppose that one person wishes to associate with another. When the association is mutually sought, it occurs. If one person rejects an association that another desires, individuality is sustained. Autarchy preserves the right of the individual to say no. The collectivist point of view forbids a no. But individualism sometimes forbids yes. Autarchy favors total freedom of choice so that each individual, acting in his own best interest as he sees it, can say either yes or no. Therefore, with autarchy no voluntary union of any sort is banned. It can and will exist whenever two or more persons wish it to exist. But it will never come into existence unless at least two persons favor it.

This opens the door to any kind of corporate endeavor, provided only that no coercion is employed at any point. Because it opens the door to economic organization of any kind or size, maximum production and distribution can and will occur. To the degree that autarchy has been practiced in this country or elsewhere, enormous advances have been made and great human satisfactions have been experienced.

Each business, industry, or activity profits as it voluntarily attracts people to its wares or services. If it fails to attract enough people, it will not profit. But nothing will be done to compel support of a given business, or to prevent patronage. Competition, in such instance, would be as near maximum as all other natural factors permit.

The practical aspects of autarchy as well as its desirable features are generally understood by many millions of persons except at one point. This is the point relating to possible molestation. It is obvious that the system of self-rule advocated under the name autarchy is both feasible and desirable if molestation does not occur. The problem of autarchy is to deal with molestation in a manner that is consistent with self-rule and that does not, for the sake of expediency, fall into the same trap that has waylaid virtually every culture of which we have knowledge. Whenever in the past the problem of possible molestation has appeared, it has been customary for men to create political and military organizations to deal with this problem. The difficulty here is this: Political and military organizations in themselves are agencies of molestation. Theoretically, they are to be limited to molestation of those who have molested others. Practically, they have never been so limited. The agency on which mankind has relied in all its various forms and guises has proven to be the major source of all trespass and molestation. The “cure” has created deeper problems than the disease. To cure the common cold, we have contracted political pneumonia.

It is not the purpose of this paper to discuss the various and sundry efforts that have been made through the centuries to create a political organization that would limit itself to preventing predation or to punishing the predator. Obviously, protection of life and property is desirable. Efforts to provide for this protection are meritorious, provided that these efforts are limited to protection and do not, in themselves, become predatory.

But there has grown up, largely since the formation of the United States and our “representative” system, the idea that governments can be and are limited by democratic processes. Further, it is believed that the creation of a constitution which binds the hands of lawmakers successfully restrains the state and makes it malleable and adaptable to the “general will.” Yet even a casual glance at the American government will reveal that the central power accumulated here is virtually unlimited. It molests its citizens each year and extracts from them an ever-larger sum of their earnings. It embarks upon enormous economic and military expeditions. It employs millions of personnel, spends billions, intervenes in affairs of other nationals the world around, and truckles and is truculent by turns as it pleases current administrators. Yet the illusion persists that the American government is one of limited powers. From whence comes this illusion?

The American government is largely made up of British antecedents, at least insofar as legal theory is concerned. It is noteworthy that the Whig faction in Britain, the politically liberal (the left), championed the idea of “representative” government. Earlier kings were presumed to hold divine sanction. In most countries this view was supported for a very long time. In Britain, traceable probably to Anglo-Saxon times, the idea of representative government had emerged as an extrapolation from the “folkmoot” or tribal assemblies. As early as 1265 the British had established what is remembered as the Simon de Montfort Parliament. Representation was assured though kings were still viewed as “divinely ordained.”

Following Elizabeth and in the reign of James I, opposition to the unchallenged authority of the monarch gained ground. Men like Sir Edward Coke worked ardently to enhance the prestige of parliament and to curtail the unbridled power of a single ruler. This representative opposition solidified into what was called the “Whig” party in 1679 during the time of James, duke of York. This same political group became the organized political “left” and the source of American resistance to the British crown from as early as 1714 after the accession of George I. The Whigs, or the representatives who opposed divine and unchecked monarchial sway, took the position that no subject of the crown should be taxed without the approval of his representative. While this militant Whig opposition originally was identified with the property-owning or burgher class, it later broadened its base and after 1824 in America was one of the two recognized political parties.

Americans became pre-eminent in the world in supporting the idea that democratically formed representative bodies provided a “limited” government. But this was not the case. From the standpoint of the king, accustomed to total power, parliament definitely tied his hands. And kings opposed the move, but lost the battle. A government with power residing both in an executive and a legislature, was definitely a government of divided power. In America we provided for a third division, and introduced the judicial branch as a separate and distinct repository of coercive force. To the men in government, this division of power always ties down and limits their respective functions. The executive can be checked by the legislature, the legislature by the executive, and either of these by the Supreme Court. This is, in theory, a “limited” government.

But to the men outside of government, a division of power is not a limitation. It makes very little difference to the taxpayer whether he is regimented by an executive decree, steam-rollered by a legislative enactment, or sent to jail by a judicial writ. All the political power that exists is in the political organization. That power is not limited; it is merely channeled into one or another branch. And while it can be contended that this introduction of competition between competing branches serves to check each branch, the rules of competition are such that it will almost invariably stimulate growth. Each branch grows, and all branches combine to consolidate one vast unlimited power that is wholly unchecked. When men compete with each other to provide better mouse traps, the growth of the best firms can be predicted. Such competition stimulates self-discipline, creates superior products, and tends toward price reductions. But when men compete within political organizations, such competition relates to the amassment of power and becomes, in fact, rivalry in taxing and coercive ability. Whichever agency of power gains, the people themselves lose.

But we have been conditioned for so many centuries to suppose that political and military organizations are necessary to deal with molestation that any suggestion to the contrary is apt to fall on deaf ears. By relying on various political organizations to prevent trespass, or, if not to prevent, at least to punish the careless marauder, we have actually created the very condition most feared. Men united in legalized armed bands roam the earth for purposes of imposing molestation upon any who oppose them. In order to pay for the costs of these armed bands, harmless and innocent taxpayers of the world are trespassed constantly, the degree of trespass varying in precise ratio as they are able to bear the burden. The human situation, so far as the true human picture is concerned, is one of chaos and wild disorder. But the nature of this disorder having been legalized, nearly everyone mistakes legal confusion with orderly and peaceful procedures.

It is the height of non-reason to suppose that molestation will be enlarged and enhanced by two systems which are opposite to each other, i.e., autarchy and the political state. If molestation can be put down by political and legal organization, then reliance upon political and legal organization is justified. In that case, a growth of political and legal organization will reduce or eliminate molestation.

For better than six thousand years we have relied upon political and legal organization to put down molestation. The facts are plainly in evidence. Political and legal structures enlarge constantly and as they enlarge, the area of molestation increases. We fancy that we are made secure by law and by police power. But the more the laws multiply and the larger the police power becomes, the less security, the more uncertainty, the larger the invitation to trespass. The crutch upon which we have been taught to lean for our security turns out to be the very device by which we are undone.

We cannot have it both ways, and the evidence is plain. It is scarcely news that governments can and do inflict tyranny. It is hardly a revelation when we discover that big governments lead to big wars, and combinations of governmental structures in one or another form of empire commit more predation and cause more damage among helpless and innocent humans than all the private trespassers combined have ever committed or done. Indeed, it would be safe to say that the trespasses, legal murders, extortions, tortures, and acts of theft and vandalism committed by all private persons in six thousand years could hardly total the like acts of criminality performed during any single generation within the same period by legal and aggressive governments.

But so caught up are we in the mystique of government that somehow we avoid looking at the evidence. We adore the agency that molests us. So fearful are we of the possibility of occasional trespass that we approve trespass organized on a grand scale, performed legally by men who say they “represent” us and who loot us and kill us for the “good” of the social whole.

If molestation on a grand scale is demonstrably the result of reliance upon predatory political organizations, it follows that if such reliance were to be removed, all other factors remaining constant, the worst to be anticipated would be molestation on a small scale. This is not to say that autarchy supports petit molestation. But it is to suggest that if we must choose between grand theft and petit theft, the latter is preferable.

At this point, so pervasive is reliance upon political forms, that the greatest fiction of all emerges. It is presumed, by those who support the status quo, that in order to put down legal molestation, all that is necessary is that the agencies of molestation be put in the hands of “good” men. Then, only “bad” men will be molested and most of us, being “good,” can live in peace and security.

We have so abused our minds with great doses of fiction that we are ready for almost any fiction provided that it comes to us with the seal of government attached. By this process we have been led to believe that the world is divided between the “good” men (us) and the “bad” men (others). If people live within the geographic confines lorded over by our own political satrapies, they are presumed to be “good” in the main. The “bad” men live elsewhere. Our intentions are peaceful and productive; their intentions are rapacious and warlike. Only Americans are pure. Therefore, we must have an agency of predation to keep the rest of the world at bay.

Examine the system we have established for our security. First, an agency is created capable of general spoilation. This is followed at once, not by any protective procedure but by a general act of trespass wherein all men, the innocent and guilty alike, are looted systematically for the wherewithal by means of which this agency can be sustained. This general act of molestation is justified on the grounds that by legal molestation, illegal molestation will cease. But nothing ceases. Molestation occurs.

The victim, already victimized by the political organization, is now injured one way or another by a private and unorganized trespasser.

It is at this point that our mighty political organization springs into action; not to prevent the damage, for it has already occurred, but to take vengeance against the private perpetrator of damage. In some cases, but by no means in every case, the malefactor is identified, arrested, arraigned, held, examined, tried, convicted, and punished.

To pay for the enormous costs involved, the agency of public protection now trespasses all of the taxpayers again.

It has been said that crime does not pay. Surely, it does not pay the criminal. But the system we have established does pay for a host of persons and the maintenance and enlargement of enormous and impressive establishments whereby the petit criminal can be dealt with summarily at the hands of a grand professional class of criminal chasers. The cost of crime now relates largely to the professional anti-criminals. The actual damage performed by the criminal himself is minute in comparison.

This is the system, and it is invoked both locally and nationally. Indeed, it is invoked internationally. In the name of protecting some, everyone is molested. Can a worse system be devised?

If we did not have these politically organized deterrants to petit crime, would not the situation worsen immeasurably? I do not know. I only know that for some six thousand years and more, we have tried organized political force as a means of creating and maintaining security. That force has operated under the management of men who were as kindly and as cruel in turn as those against whom the force was arrayed. Through the years, greater and greater reliance has been placed upon this agency of force. I note that during this period, aggression, violence, murder, and coercion of every description have continued, and in periods when governments expand, coercion expands.

If, as it appears, there is an interaction between criminal actions and political restraint, both enlarging or subsiding side by side, then it follows that if we no longer place our reliance upon political organization but seek for our security in other directions, the incidence of crime ought to diminish. Will it? No one can be certain. But in the interests of truth, in the interests of survival we ought to make certain. We know where reliance upon political organization has always taken us in the past and is in process of taking us now. If we do not know that reliance upon autarchy and self-rule will bring amelioration, at least in theory it does. What little evidence exists where political structures as such have not been relied upon provides a great reservoir of hope. (Read existing evidence concerning the ancient Etruscans and Hebrews. The early Islamic peoples did not rely on political organizations. Neither did the early American colonies, except in very meager doses.)

With several major powers in the world now equipped with devices by means of which the awesome power of the atom can be released for purposes of destruction, I question whether or not reliance upon such potentially dangerous and costly instruments as political organizations can longer be afforded without at least examining alternative procedures.

There is no reason to debate the question as to whether or not mankind made an error when political structures were first devised. The innovation apparently occurred sometime in early barbarism and may be satisfactory for barbaric or savage peoples. But civilization brings its refinements, both in manners and in murders. And a civilized people which clings to instruments of barbarism is doomed to abandon whatever constructive role the future may hold. Civilization may lie before us. But it cannot be based upon barbarous practices. Nor can it be based upon one last holocaust by means of which barbaric tools are employed to win the world from barbarism.

Certainly, most will confess that the system we have is far from ideal, and many will concede that the present direction being taken by virtually all the world as it girds up its zones for war offers a horrifying spectacle. But it will be said that autarchy is too visionary, too ideal, depending entirely upon a virtual alteration of human nature before it could work. Further, it will be repeated that if one human being chose to disregard the principles of non-molestation, the entire concept would come to grief.

But this is the great practical appeal that autarchy has. Because it combines the stoic virtues with the practical aspects found in economic science, not only is no alteration of human nature required, reliance may be placed upon man and the nature he has always exhibited. Autarchy is predicated upon the assumption that men will not always recognize truth; that they will often be narrow in their views; that they will be stubborn, intractable, yet self-seeking to a total degree. The system of autarchy is based upon the human characteristic of profit seeking. It includes the idea that pleasure is more desirable than pain, that each person will always seek to minimize his costs, not only in money and energy, but also in psychic costs. It includes the idea that each of us will always seek to gain more than we have now, or, failing this, each will try to minimize or totally prevent losses. We need not remake the human race in this regard. This is the way men have been; it is the way they are; it is predictable that they will remain this way in the future.

It is essential to point out that autarchy does not require acceptance by every human being. Were this true, prospects for improving the human situation would indeed be bleak. But the story of mankind, if it tells us anything, reveals that human beings are not alike; that they do not march forward out of a grim and savage past shoulder to shoulder. Rather, the evidence shows that men stagger forward behind a few innovators who blaze new trails. In the same world where, at the moment, aboriginals use the boomerang and have flies crawling over the naked eyeball, there are great and enlightened minds fighting disease, learning more and more about physical reality, trying desperately, not always with success, to make human life better, more enriching, more desirable. How can both these conditions exist now on the same planet? They do. They always have. Concurrence in a given belief or practice has never occurred in the past so far as I can learn. It is entirely unlikely that it will occur in the future. Autarchy does not depend upon any such concord. Rather, autarchy means one thing only. It means that the reality of government is placed in the hands of each human being, not to impose upon others but to impose upon himself. It means that we can reverse our present direction and move towards a more desirable future when those who are the true intellectuals stop trying to impose their wills upon others and, instead, impose strict self-rule upon themselves.

History teaches us that men who will not control themselves will invariably serve to justify others who will impose controls upon them. And when our intellectuals champion ideas relating to controlling others, it is inevitable that moves will be made wherein such controls will appear.

Open rebellion against entrenched political authority serves to justify a strengthening of that authority. Force begets force; violence, violence. Government of a political character by strong men creates the pressure to impose another government of a political character by still stronger men.

Governments must not be abolished! They must be abandoned. They will be abandoned when you demonstrate that you can manage your affairs without the supervision of a pater familias. In short, when you abandon your political adolescence and come of age, you will stop seeking to impose your will upon others, and at the same time demonstrate that your will is strong enough to control your own actions within a framework of non-molestation.

Do this in your own case with your own life in your own affairs and no political agent or agency can justify its existence on grounds that you require its help.

Of course autarchy is an ideal. Is there any reason to devote one's self to something that is less than ideal? But is it so ideal as to be impractical? Not at all. Autarchy is being born right now under the noses of political authorities. Already, here and there, far-seeing men, sensing the practical aspects of self-rule as contrasted either to no-rule (anarchy) or political rule of any sort, are making personal, high-spirited resolutions. They are resolving to adjust their affairs in such manner that they no longer require an overseer. They are resolving to do no harm to any man. They are resolving to solve all their problems without political assistance.

No political agent or agency can possibly object to such a procedure. Yet, just such a procedure will reduce political structures to a shadow of their present breadth and scope. Autarchy produces a social solution by the process of individual self-control. It is an individualistic revolution, bloodless and without violence, which simply shifts reliance from group consciousness to individual conscience. Group solutions need not be sought. When the intellectual elite begin, as Zeno suggested, to try to encourage men who will control themselves regardless of provocation or problem, the groups will take care of themselves.

Will men be perfect then? Certainly not. But men will seek their own personal gain within the most practical framework open to them. It will be enormously profitable for rich and poor alike to abandon reliance upon political organizations. Economic science shows that the greatest good for the greatest number will be served in a free market. All that has to be added is the recognition that protection is neither more nor less than a free-market service. Nor is it retributive. It will protect prior to the commission of a crime.

But what if it does not? Would any free-market protective device or practice positively guarantee non-molestation? Of course not. Nor does our present system. The free market can never guarantee any panacea. Do you have a motor car that is guaranteed against possible mechanical failure? No. But do you seek, because an automobile might break down or get a flat tire, to abandon automobiles? Is there a razor blade that will not dull? Is there a battery that will not run down? Is there a medicine that will eliminate all sickness? Is there a house that will never need repair?

Because imperfect man makes imperfect devices does not cause us to abandon the devices. Rather, it encourages us to try again and to seek ever to improve what we have. And with autarchy we need not be confined to systems that continually demonstrate their impracticability. If a particular device proves to be faulty, improve it. If a particular custom does not bring the results sought, invent or devise a new practice.

Autarchy is but human liberty elevated to the status of principle. But autarchy does not suggest a lack of social organization, a lack of cooperative effort. On the contrary, autarchy presumes that men outside of political organizations have at least as much self-interest and mental acumen as men inside such organizations. Autarchy sees nothing mystical nor magical about political structures. Rather, it strips away all pretense and shows them for what they are: monsters of human contrivance capable of predation against all.

The autarchist will control himself in his own best interests. He will cooperate with others, individually or in groups, when he wishes to do so for his own gains. If he does not believe that cooperation in a given case will benefit him, he will refrain from such cooperation. He will not be coerced, and he will refrain from coercing others, even for their own good.

He will replace the apparent necessity for general coercion by clear evidence that he requires no coercion. He will no longer concern himself with what others ought to do because he will be too busy doing what he ought to do.

The autarchist is an intellectual activist. He is a builder, not a destroyer.

Comments by Dennis Wilson

Autarchy,  *IS* the proper foundation for the Covenant of Unanimous Consent.  As it turns out, LeFevre and his “autarchy” were major influences on a young L. Neil Smith. Reading Smith's Covenant of Unanimous Consent is like reading a summary the above article on Autarchy.

« Last Edit: 2016-August-08 09:55:19 PM by DennisLeeWilson » Logged

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[1965-Winter] Autarchy vs Anarchy
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NOTE from Dennis: I have highlighted and inserted some comments of my own in the copy below, mostly to point out some relationships to the Covenant of Unanimous Consent. I also marked one use (there are several others) of “government” that might more accurately be “governance”. Of course, this is pretty minor considering the 50 years since it was written. For the original version without my notations, please use the following link:

Rampart Journal of Individualist Thought Vol. 1, No. 4 (Winter, 1965): 30–49

Autarchy Versus Anarchy
by Robert LeFevre

  • Robert LeFevre is dean of Rampart College Graduate School, which is being established north of Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is the founder and former president of the Freedom School, parent organization to Rampart College, and principled teacher during that school's summer courses for adults.

    His articles, The Stoic Virtues and A Challenge to the Georgists, appeared in the spring and summer editions of the Rampart Journal.

    He was editor and editorial writer for the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph for a number of years.

I recall distinctly the occasion on which I was first accused of being an anarchist. My publisher was entertaining in his home, and among the guests was a college professor who had read some of my essays and editorials on the subject of human liberty.

The position I had taken in those writings was original to me. Without a doubt, what I had written had been said before in other ways. Certainly, my reading had contributed to the formation of a point of view in which I rejected the idea that any man had a right to impose upon me by force. But although I must have been influenced toward them, I had not at that time read anything that provided me with my conclusions.

I had stated, and in my exchange with the professor I repeated, my antipathy to the state as an agency of force. I declared for economic freedom; the fundamental idea that each man ought to be free to produce and enjoy the product of his labor. I believed this freedom should not be impaired, even fractionally, by other men acting within a formalized agency of force.

To my amazement, the professor said: “Why, you're an anarchist.”

The word had an unpleasant sound. I denied the classification automatically.

“But you are,” he insisted. “You may not know it, but you are an anarchist.”

Weren't anarchists people who went around inflicting terror and imposing force on others? Weren't they the ones who believed in throwing bombs and shooting people? I was repulsed by the thought that anyone could confuse my insistence on non-force with people who apparently advocated a use of force. But I had not at that time read the writings of the anarchists, and I confessed this shortcoming to the professor.

“You should find out,” he advised kindly. “You are just an anarchist who doesn't know it yet.”

That evening I went to the Britannica as the most readily available source of information and found a summation of the subject. As I read the first few paragraphs, my heart leaped. The professor had been right. Here, in far more concise terms than I had ever found, was apparently what I believed.

The next few paragraphs were of similar import. Then came the subhead, “Anarchists and the State,” and within a few sentences I was disillusioned. I not only was not an anarchist, I rejected their economic doctrine, and had been opposing it right along without even knowing that what I opposed was the anarchist economic view.

Years of personal involvement in business, news analysis and commentary, and study of what is known as the Austrian school of economics, had convinced me that free and private enterprise was the mainstay of organized society. I favored orderly and peaceful procedures as advocated by the anarchists in the first paragraph which describe their political theories, but I wholeheartedly opposed any attempt to impose some kind of regulatory or confiscatory force uponthose who own property, regardless of the kind or amount of property owned.

As I saw it then, and as I still see it, the anarchist philosophy is internally contradictory. It professes a sparkling and shining individualism, at which point I warm to the arguments. Then it advocates some kind of procedure to interfere with the processes of a free market, e.g., elimination of interest and rents; denial of the right of a man to own land, or to own land beyond some stated amount; abolition of profits; placement of management control in the hands of workers through democratic processes conducted within factories, and so on.

To quote the Britannica again:

Possibly as good a summation of the anarchist view as is available was provided by a manifesto adopted by the Anarchist International in Geneva in 1882:

Shortly thereafter, I wrote an essay setting forth the fact that while I agreed with the anarchists on their antagonism to state authority and on the merit and primacy of the individual, I rejected their arguments in other areas.[5] It was my contention that a man must be free to acquire honestly all the property he can or will, to use it or abuse it as he pleases, once it is his; that he must be free to worship as he pleases or not to worship at all; and that the imposition of force upon him when he is peacefully and harmoniously carrying out his own objectives is destructive of the productive and creative capabilities of the individual.

The accusation that I am an anarchist has continued sporadically. Usually the term is tempered with the qualifying adjective, “philosophical.” A careful check of the writings of those anarchists, both European and American, who have earned this badge of identification leaves me outside their fold. In each case, I find those, so-called, engaged in stating the necessity of some kind of economic intervention or in downgrading some of the conditions which are essential to the operation of a free market. While many of them (Proudhon, Tolstoy, Tucker, Warren, etc.) take a position similar to mine in respect to the evils of state controls imposed upon the creativity and productivity of the individual, they defeat themselves, in my judgment, by calling for arbitrarily imposed or voluntarily accepted extra-market restraints upon property and its ownership.

The lines of thought which have been aired by writers who come under the anarchistic canopy are so many and so contradictory that a whole series of hyphenated terms has been used to designate the various kinds of anarchists. These include individualist-anarchists, philosophic-anarchists, communist-anarchists, union (syndicalist)-anarchists, Christian-anarchists, and nihilist-anarchists.

These qualifications even go to secondary modifications in which there are anarchists who, to accomplish their goals, favor education only, or defensive violence, or passive resistance, or aggressive violence, and so on. In view of all these urgings it becomes questionable whether the term anarchy can find useful employment as a word to identify a particular point of view.

In his excellent study on American anarchists, Dr. James J. Martin states that the term has such ambiguities that today, to many if not most Americans, anarchy simply means disorder, destruction, and chaos.[6,7]

Indeed, my first reaction when I heard myself classified in this manner was a feeling of shock because I, too, had tended to suppose that anarchists were black-bearded radicals carrying bombs and daggers, and intent upon assassination, demolition, and other violent procedures.

Anarchy derives from the Greek. The prefix, an, denotes not or without. Archy denotes rule or ruling. Thus, anarchy means without rule. And in the hyphenations which have proliferated, it appears that few if any wish to be known simply as anarchists. Each person who will accept the label anarchist today probably has in mind a qualification of his position.

It would follow that a word in general usage which cannot be precisely applied to any particular person or doctrine without some type of explanation or modification, is more handy as a term of opprobium and scorn than otherwise.

Personally, I deplore the negativity implicit in the idea of “no rule.” All men are ruled by some one or some thing. The implication of “no rule” is that men are released from all control, all restraint, even all morality, purpose, or responsibility. Such is not desirable. Nor is it possible. As Rose Wilder Lane says in The Discovery of Freedom, “All energy operates under control. Whether it be the energy of an electron, a hurricane, or a man, energy is controlled.”

“This fact makes scientific knowledge possible. Non-living energy--electricity, for example--always operates in the same way in the same conditions. No one knows what controls it, but because it is controlled, men who have observed how it acts can predict, with sufficient accuracy, how it always will act.”

“Living energy is different; it is creative, and variable. It changes ... Yet living energy is controlled ...”[8]

Thus, the idea of “no ruler” must be applied within a limited framework if it is to have any meaning at all. Realistically, each person rules himself. Anarchy might well imply the absence of self-control, yet even the anarchist controls himself in terms of his own beliefs and aims.

Many persons who think of themselves as anarchists, in the sense that they oppose external political control of their property and actions, are seeking a realistic framework in which they can control their own creative and productive procedures. Many other people deprive themselves of entrance into an area of inquiry which would be inspiring to them because the doorway has been labeled “anarchy,” which they reject as it is equated in their minds with violence and destruction.

Nearly everyone today, at least in America, agrees that government of the political variety, and especially the government in Washington, D.C., is far larger, more costly, and more obtrusive than is desirable. As they urge reduction in size or elimination of certain government functions, they are essentially calling for the curtailment of certain powers in the hands of bureaucratic rulers, or even for the creation of areas void of bureaucratic rulers. This trend is as anarchistic, to the degree that it persists, as any other call for the elimination of a ruler in any area or all areas. Yet most do not wish to see disorder, lack of direction, or confusion, a condition they would identify as “anarchy.” [Yes, it SHOULD be correctly identified as CHAOS, but how many times must the correction be made? How many times have you had to stop and make that correction? Dennis]

Personally, I do not want a condition of no rulership. I want a condition in which each man is the absolute ruler of himself and all he rightfully possesses. If this is desirable, then it follows that I must direct my energies so as not to impose my will on others even though they may be imposing their wills on certain properties not their own, or on persons other than themselves. I must not seek to become their ruler even as I cannot condone their efforts to rule me and what is mine.

If a word can be found to convey the meaning I intend, it must mean self-rule; the absolute sovereignty of the individual over himself and all that belongs to him.

Fortunately, there is such a word. It is autarchy.

The prefix, auto, means self. Archy, as we know, means rule or ruling. Autarchy then means self-rule, or the act of self-ruling.[9]

Since I favor total self-control--absolute government [perhaps “governance”? Dennis] of the individual over himself--I believe autarchy more accurately describes, in a positive fashion, the kind of situation I consider most desirable. Some dictionaries define autarchy as a kind of tyranny or despotism, but of necessity it is limited to self-application. Thus, an autarchist may very well be a tyrant over himself, or he might appear tyrannical by refusing to admit others into the sacred precincts of his own mind, person, or property. But if it is tyranny to reject the sycophant, the panhandler, and the central planner, then this kind of tyranny is not reprehensible, to my view.

With the aid of this word to describe a desirable condition of independence, it is possible to explore the anarchistic convolutions of thought and to escape a general advocacy of anarchy while approving some of the philosophic aspects of the doctrine.

Anarchy as it has been advocated in Europe and America contains both socialist and autarchist characteristics. The anarchist is correctly included in the socialist movement because of his central purpose of intervening in the economy. Essentially, the anarchist view is predicated upon both philosophic individualism and economic tampering.

Some autarchists identify themselves as anarchists, but definitively should not be so designated. The peaceful individualist who upholds private ownership of property as a total concept and who sees no merit in the organized coercion of the state, cannot in justice and in common sense be lumped into the same category as the man who opposes property ownership in any of its ramifications and will either violently or peacefully abolish the state in order to collectivize property at any point. Contemporary statists and anarchists (both socialists) apparently believe liberty and anarchy are synonymous. The contrasts provided by the two words are too vast and too basic to crowd them under the same etymological umbrella.

Sharp analysis and direct and pungent verbiage against the state are not the mark of the anarchist per se. An anarchist is an economic interventionist and the efforts of all properly identified anarchists support this assertion.

Traditional anarchistic thinking is inextricably linked with the view of property ownership as evil. Implicit also are the labor theory of value and the concept that anyone who receives profits, rents, or interest is a usurer since such payments are made, not on the basis of labor but on the basis of surpluses which should have gone into the hands of the laborers. Various modifications have developed in contemporary anarchistic thinking.

Few other writings in support of individualism contain the inspiration and philosophic insight of certain anarchists. In this regard, nearly every anarchist of note can be recommended. Yet, if the individualist supports individualist doctrines exclusively and does not favor economic intervention, we should not include such a person within the anarchist structure.

There are a number of famous individualists who escape the general accusation that they are anarchists, by virtue of their preeminence and fame as individualists, even though from time to time they may have inveighed heavily against private property or remained critical of the concept of freedom in economic affairs. In this regard we might be justified in referring to Marcus Aurelius, the dictator of Rome, as a philosophic-anarchist, and to Epictetus as an individualistic-anarchist, although both are properly listed as stoics. If we were to brand as an anarchist every person who provided fundamental individualist thought and at the same time attacked a completely free market, we would have to include even such famous Americans as Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, who both attained the presidential position, thus denying political anarchy, yet whose statements provide milestones in the development of an individualist point of view.

The Autarchists

Autarchy as separate and distinct from anarchy is a relatively current development and perhaps cannot fully be shown as an independent line of thought until it is able to throw off the intellectual shackles attached to it by scholars in the field. Those who wish to preserve the term anarchy as a useful means of identifying anti-statists will be eager to add the names of autarchists to the roll of anarchists, either to extend the latter's influence by placing the names of eminent men within the socialist framework, or to discredit antistatists by linking them with a questionable doctrine. But the line of demarcation should properly be drawn between antistatists who are socialists and antistatists who are in favor of private capitalism.

It is the purpose of this paper to begin the process of this essential cleavage. I will insert the wedge by introducing the man who, in my judgment, might be called the father of modern autarchy, Lysander Spooner (1808–1887). Spooner has often been listed as an anarchist and there is some justification for this classification. Although this famous antistatist reserved nearly all of his talent and energy for criticism of the state, he does reveal occasionally that he was deeply influenced by anarchistic reasoning in respect to his economic position. For example, Spooner says in regard to contracts, “If a man contracts to perform what proves to be an impossibility, the contract is valid only for so much as is possible.” As Dr. Martin shows, this means that “a debt had no legal obligation, and usually no moral one, beyond the means and ability of the debtor to pay at the time the debt became due.”[10] Spooner does set this problem into the market place by suggesting that it is up to the creditor to gauge the risk of the loan before making it. But elsewhere he decries the fact that bankers and others who lend money, tend to furnish lower interest rates to those who are obviously good risks.

Also, there is some evidence that accumulations of capital in large amounts worried Spooner. According to Martin, he believed subversions of natural justice and natural law grew “from an attempt of a portion of mankind to live off the production of the remainder, and extended as far back in history as the period when the systematic cultivation of the soil made possible an accumulation of material wealth in excess of that needed for daily needs on the part of the cultivators.”[11]

Spooner was a noted lawyer in Massachusetts, an authority on the Constitution, a prolific writer, an abolitionist, a critic of legislative processes. In tracing the origin of liberal and radical thought in America, Rudolf Rocker refers to him as “a most militant champion of individualistic anarchism.”[12]

In 1884 he established a private post (the American Letter Mail Company) to prove that a five-cent postage rate was sufficient whereas the government monopoly charged from twelve and one-half to twenty-five cents, and to oppose what he considered an infringement on the rights of free speech as guaranteed by the Constitution.[13-14]

His important works include: The Unconstitutionality of Slavery, Trial by Jury, Poverty: Its Illegal Causes and Legal Cure, “Letter to Grover Cleveland”, Natural Law or the Science of Justice (only Part I extant), No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority[6], “A Letter to Thomas Bayard”, economic pamphlets, and others[15].

In all probability, Spooner believed in the labor theory of value. Theories of Menger, Böhm-Bawerk, and others became available during his lifetime, but it is doubtful that he was acquainted with this literature. Spooner at times indicates that he is no enemy to wealth, and certainly no enemy to private ownership of property. But again he cavils at large capital reserves, feeling apparently, as so many do who do not grasp the full significance of free market economic theory, that large capital must have been accumulated dishonestly or by political favoritism. He reserves his sharpest rebukes for those persons in the market, such as bankers, who insist on dealing with the state. But his economic deviation is so slight as compared with his overwhelmingly effective stance against the state that I elect to think of him as fundamentally autarchic rather than basically anarchistic. Indeed, it could be held that Spooner had no larger socialist leanings than Adam Smith, whose Wealth of Nations, while in the main laissez faire, nonetheless contained the basis for continuing error in respect to value, thus furnishing Ricardo, Marx, and others with the raw materials for the socialist edifice.

The bridge between Spooner and modern-day autarchists was constructed primarily by persons such as H. L. Mencken, Albert Jay Nock, and Mark Twain. There are currently a number of schools of thought more or less widely known in the U.S. which are essentially autarchic since they favor a lassez-faire economic system and oppose the state at those places where in their judgment force is brought to bear to inhibit a free market.


Consensus finds William Godwin as the founder of the school of thought labeled individualist-anarchism. This British subject (1756–1836) laid the intellectual foundations for organized anarchistic thinking. His major work, The Inquiry Concerning Political Justice, and Its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness (1793), took the view that all privately owned property is nothing but a mark of political favoritism. Property itself Godwin viewed as the source of all evil. Wars, murders, theft, slavery, extortion, violence of every description, stemmed from the idea of private property. If men were ever to have a society of justice and right, ownership of property would have to be proscribed. How could this be accomplished? Since, in Godwin's view, ownership was a political favor bestowed upon patronage recipients, the abolition of the state would abolish ownership.

His arguments in favor of a propertyless society, sans government, set into motion a tremendous revolution against the state. Probably Godwin was influenced profoundly by both individualist and collectivist writers. Doubtless, the American Revolution, as well as the French Revolution of 1789, played a part in the development of his point of view.

In America, working independently about the same time, Josiah Warren had no kind words for the state. He was the first of the individualist-anarchists produced in this country. He viewed the ownership of certain types of property, notably the land itself, as a kind of political privilege bestowed upon favored individuals by the government. Further, his economic views were tied irrevocably to the concept of the labor theory of value. He favored labor certificates, as exchange premiums, in place of money. He opposed profits generally, nor did he favor rents or interest payments.

This view generally followed by other American individualist-anarchists, of whom the best known was Benjamin R. Tucker (1854–1939). Tucker is placed prominently among 19th century American literary figures as a result of the outstanding periodical he published entitled Liberty. Tucker decided that the major problem was economic reform (in common with all other true anarchists) and that abolition of the state would follow such reform.[16] As he viewed it, the greatest criminal was the usurer. As far as Tucker was concerned, anyone who received profits, rents, or interest was a usurer, since all of these payments were made, not on the basis of labor but because of surpluses which should have gone into the hands of the laborers.

The ultimate extent of individualist-anarchy is probably found in the doctrines of Henry George (1839–1897). This exponent of land reform and the “single tax” rolled up the most impressive following of any of the individualist-anarchists, a following which is probably larger today than it was while George was alive. George favored the abolition of property in land, with all rents of land going to a central authority which would be the single proprietor of the land. George did not oppose profits or interest. He merely sought the abolition of private ownership of a single type of property, land itself. He viewed land ownership as a kind of monopoly.

Others of the individualist-anarchist school took much the same view. Thus, without question, even the Americans who followed the banner of anarchy were socialists to some degree, for their primary objective was economic reform of some type. Their methodology invariably included the reduction of the state to zero or near zero, either at once or following the accomplishment of certain economic interventions. The anarchist position was essentially contradictory because even though they sought the abolition of the state, the economic adjustments they sought would have to be accomplished by the state. Both George and Tucker (as well as a number of others) glimpsed the necessity and thus either favored a postponement of the abolition of the state until a more favorable moment, or compromised their position and agreed to a retention of the state in a minor capacity.

Count Leo Tolstoy, usually classed as a Christian anarchist, glimpsed such a contradiction in Henry George:


The earliest exponent of philosophic anarchy, a man who probably influenced the development of anarchistic thought more than any other person, was a Frenchman, Pierre Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865). Proudhon was a disciple of Godwin and of Rousseau, and others who favored either individualism or economic social reform.

He modified the Godwinian view with respect to property. He viewed private ownership of property as essentially evil, but conceded that rightful use of property on an exclusive basis was probably necessary. Therefore, he suggested that proprietorship (the immediate use of property) was not evil although ownership per se was evil. If a man owned any property, he was in a position to remove it from all others, even if he was not using it at a given moment. This, as Proudhon saw it, was “robbery.” But if the person did not really “own” the property and merely held it as he used it, he was a temporary proprietor, and this was condoned. Proudhon is remembered for his most important work, Qu'est-ce que la Propriété? He is also remembered because he was the fountainhead from which the world's most famous socialist was first to slake his thirst for economic reform. Karl Marx began his career as a revolutionary as a disciple of Proudhon. His first writings were in unbounded praise of his master.

However, Marx sensed the fundamental ambivalence of anarchy and saw, correctly, that the anarchistic aim to abolish property ownership generally was out of harmony with the view that the state must be abolished. Marx's ambition was to found a world order outlawing private ownership of property, essentially the property of the bourgeoisie (productive property, the tools of production and distribution). Since it was inconceivable that those who owned such property would surrender it without a struggle, Marx recommended the conversion of government into a tool dominated by the workers (those who owned no property), the emergence of a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” He agreed with the anarchist view that private property is nothing but a privilege extended by the state, but he viewed the immediate abolition of the state as wholly impractical. Rather, the state must become the tool of the workers through the employment of democratic processes[18]. The workers will always outnumber the owners. Thus, Marx broke with the anarchist school and established communism (modern socialism).

It is often claimed that Marx favored the ultimate abolition of the state. He is quoted as the author of the phrase that, following the revolution, in which the proletariat would seize power, “the state will wither away.” There is some evidence that a verbal statement to this effect was expressed by Marx at a meeting of workers, largely anarchists, in which he sought to bring the anarchists over to the communist position. Lenin credits Engels with the statement.[19]

The anarchists, however, rejected the overtures of Marx or Engels. Their position was that communism would essentially fail to achieve both their objectives. They could see no reason why a powerful, totalitarian state would ever “wither away.” Further, they took the position that the ownership of the tools by the state (the proletariat as ruling class) would merely provide a new group of owners and would not eliminate the ownership of property. They viewed state ownership of the tools of production as compared with private ownership of the tools of production as a distinction without a difference.

Although anarchists and communists both can rightfully be classed as socialists, they became, and remain today, steadfast enemies. When Lenin seized power in Russia, he ordered cannon turned against the anarchist headquarters, an offense for which the anarchists have never forgiven him. There is probably no more steadfast opponent of communism than the anarchist, even though he and the communist both seek to impose controls, restraints, or adjustments upon laissez-faire capitalism. As the anarchists view communism, it will lead to the abolition of human freedom. In this view they are correct. As the communists view anarchy, the system is impractical and both prongs of the anarchist objective cannot be obtained. In this they are probably correct.


The distinction of founding the particular branch of anarchy called communist-anarchism falls to a Russian, Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876). Bakunin began his career as a disciple of Marx within the communist structure. But as Marx had earlier broken with the anarchists, so Bakunin broke with Marx. In common with other anarchists he rejected the objectives of Marxism (the creation of state capitalism in place of private capitalism) but in contrast to other anarchists he deplored the futility of peaceful propaganda by his co-workers in socialist reform. He openly approved of the methods of Marx which centered on political action of the most direct and, if necessary, violent nature. This appeared to him to provide the magic formula which anarchism had lacked up to that time.

To Bakunin goes the credit for introducing what is called “the propaganda of action.” Since heads of state, heads of industries, bankers and financiers were all “enemies,” Bakunin recommended direct steps to eliminate them. The pistol, the bomb, the dagger became symbols of communist-anarchists. Assassination, demonstration, riot, and violence became the hallmark of their particular efforts. Terrorist acts against heads of state became the central theme of world news for three decades. Sophie Perovskaya assassinated Czar Alexander II in St. Petersburg on March 13, 1881. Santo Caserio, an Italian anarchist, assassinated S. F. Sadi Carnot, president of France, on June 23, 1894. Another Italian anarchist, Luigi Luccheni, killed Elizabeth, empress of Austria, on September 10, 1898. Monza killed Humbert I of Italy, July 29, 1900. On September 6, 1901, Leon Czolgosz assassinated President William McKinley in Buffalo, New York. There is a long list of similar terrorist acts, although many attempts were not successful. The overall result was to produce two different reactions.

Anarchists saw that this method did not obtain the results they sought. Each head of state was merely supplanted by another head. The murder of an industrialist did not abolish industry, it provided a promotion for a vice president.

Public reaction was one of revulsion. Prior to Bakunin, anarchist argument had fallen on many sympathetic ears. With the introduction of terror as a modus operandi, the anarchist wing of socialist reform lost ground. Regardless of whether people are distrustful of politicians or industrial leaders, this method is frightening and distasteful. It can be said that Bakunin's enthusiasm for direct action put the quietus on anarchy in large measure. It is from these excesses that the general view emerges which equates anarchy with disorder, riot, and chaos.

Prince Peter Kropotkin (1842–1921) was a follower of Bakunin. He spent much of his life in an effort to show that while revolution generally was the correct method for all social reformers, individual acts of terrorism were not implicit in anarchy. The effect of his work was to temper in some degree the wide antagonism that Bakunin had engendered. However, since he was an apologist for Bakunin and could not bring himself to abandon violence totally, he is classed as a communist-anarchist.

The most dramatic of all the anarchist excesses occurred in Chicago. On May 3, 1886, communist-anarchists and union-anarchists were demonstrating outside the McCormick Harvester factory, following the proclamation of a general strike. Police were called in by the management and a riot ensued in which several workers were killed and others wounded. The next day at a union meeting at the Haymarket in Chicago, some 180 policemen forced their way into what had been reportedly a “peaceful” meeting. A bomb was thrown into the police ranks. Six officers were killed and a number wounded.

The State of Illinois demanded immediate action and eight leading anarchists were rounded up for trial. Seven were sentenced to be hanged; the other given a fifteen-year prison term. Subsequently, four were hanged, one hanged himself in his cell, and three had their sentences commuted. Finally, the survivors were unconditionally pardoned. A re-examination of the evidence had failed to provide proof that any of the men sentenced had had anything to do with the bombing.

But by this time, journalists were depicting anarchists as small, black-bearded radicals carrying bombs and daggers.


Without a doubt, it was the writings of Proudhon and Marx which inspired the formation of today's trade-union movement. In France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Germany, syndicalist societies were formed. The central theme of this active and aggressive body was that the workers should receive all income from the operation of their respective industries. Profits were viewed as “surplus value” and were to be outlawed. Additionally, the chore of management was to pass into the hands of workers via the democratic process. Workers were to hold elections within their respective plants and elect their own managers from among their number. Then, within a given district, the democratic managers were to meet to establish quotas of production. The distinctive feature of anarchy--antipathy toward both the state and the capitalist--dominated the trade union movement until recently.

A German anarchist, John Joseph Most, came to New York City in 1882 and began an extensive program of propaganda through a series of publications: Arbeiter Zeitung, Alarm, The Voice of the People, The Anarchist. The Knights of Labor was organized to carry on anarchistic objectives in this country. Later, the IWW (International Workers of the World) was set up as a rival body, largely under the influence of the communist-anarchists. The Knights of Labor evolved into the American Federation of Labor and took renewed vigor through the ministering of Samuel Gompers, who did a great deal to further anarchist goals. He brought respectability to the strike and the boycott, which became effective (and legal) techniques.

After World War I, the IWW lost ground and the AFL emerged triumphant. Its pre-eminence was challenged during the 1930s by the governmentally sponsored Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), which ultimately merged with the earlier body to form the present AFL-CIO. In process, laws were enacted which were prejudicially favorable to union-anarchy, the most notable of which was the famous Wagner Act of 1935.

As government became the champion of economic intervention, anarchists within the union movement abandoned their antipathy to the state and became among the strongest defenders of a militant pro-union government. Today, constant efforts are made by union propagandists to disassociate themselves with the source of their intellectual position. Thus, at the moment, the trade union movement is in most respects a protected and pampered political adjunct, while the central theme of anarchy, economic tampering, marches almost unopposed through the American business and industrial community. However, at any point where unionists are opposed by state authority, resistance to the state at once emerges.


Count Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) in Russia and William Lloyd Garrison (1805–1879) in the United States are the best known exponents of this particular brand of anarchy. Their opposition to government is proverbial and both favored major economic reform. Tolstoy, a rich man by inheritance, viewed wealth as an evil, per se, and divested himself of virtually all his possessions. He took as the key to anarchy the Sermon on the Mount and viewed Jesus Christ as the original anarchist.

Garrison, who is usually remembered as an abolitionist in his opposition to slavery, referred to himself as a Christian-anarchist, envisioning the church triumphant as the proper governing body for all men. He urged the abolition of political states and opposed great accumulations of wealth--a position he viewed as essential to the Christian theme. Neither man favored a position of rulerlessness, preferring to support the view of man as a creature under the control of Christian authority. Both frowned upon interest, capital accumulations, profits, and personal luxury.


The best known writer whose views led to the development of nihilist-anarchy is Max Stirner (1806–1856). Possibly there is no more inspiring writer in the field of the ego triumphant than this German anarchist. Stirner, in his writings, would permit nothing to be valued above the individual's own ego. He did not oppose private ownership of property. But he advocated the taking of as much property as any individual was capable of taking.[20] His words, if they can be accepted at face value, indicate that he was not opposed to theft; that no one would ever have more property than he was competent to keep in the face of others who were trying to grab it, so the individual should grab all he wanted for himself. He was not opposed to a temporary “union” with others who would help him grab. But he would remain in the “union” only so long as it pleased him.

Stirner denounced morality[21]. He wanted no moral rules of any kind imposed upon any individual. Thus, in practice, a contract would never really be binding in Stirner's world. For while the individual might enter into a contract, he would remain bound by it only so long as he felt it advantageous. Thus, if his values shifted and he obtained a new objective, he would feel entirely justified in violating any prior commitment.

From Stirner, and a few others who took this view, there arose a school of thought called nihilism. It was particularly notable in Russia. The sum and substance of the nihilistic vieew was essentially that humanity had gotten off the track so far in its civilizing procedures that the only valid course would be to eliminate all known human institutions: state, church, school, business, family. Destruction for its own sake, as a palliative or purge, was viewed as virtuous.

While Stirner is not generally classed as a nihilist, his writings helped to pave the way for the development of this school of thought and I classify him as a nihilistic-anarchist. His best known work is The Ego and His Own. In it he begins by denouncing all good causes: the cause of God, the cause of mankind, the cause of truth, the cause of freedom, the cause of humanity, the cause of justice, the cause of “my people,” the cause even of the mind. He ends his message by stating: “All things are nothing to me.”[22]


This view of the anarchist branch of socialism is brief. There are many well-known anarchists who have been passed by, because the purpose of this work is not to systematize or exhaust the area, but to show that autarchy (self-government) is contrary in major respects to anarchy.

Thus, anarchy is a branch of socialism, whereas autarchy is not. Socialism is always discernible at a single point, intervention in the economy. The autarchist is content to permit the market place to make its own adjustments or revisions, if and when they are needed. He favors human liberty; he believes in property as a total concept, favors moral fulfillment of contracts, and supports profits, rents, and interest without equivocation.

As both the union-anarchists and the Georgist individualist-anarchists have demonstrated, economic reform with no state assistance whatever is probably impossible. Thus, the position of the anarchist is internally in conflict. The reduction of the state, either in whole or in major portions, is unquestionably meritorious and many of the anarchists have provided magnificent arguments in support of this reduction. However, their protestations are perpetually marred by their primary ambition, the revision of the economy and the wiping out of laissez-faire capitalism, in whole or in part.

I have often been inspired and delighted with writings by some of the anarchists when they confine themselves to the political arena. I am distressed and dismayed when they view morality, wealth, money, profits, rents, interest, land ownership, or a voluntary organization as inimical to freedom.

Economic freedom is the implicit right of any individual to own any kind or any amount of property and to unite voluntarily with others for purposes which relate to property in any particular. Impositions by any agency of force, regardless of the end in view, are essentially contrary to freedom. If one believe in freedom, one must believe in economic freedom--full latitude of choice in any and all economic areas, for each person. This can never be accomplished by any procedure, organized or otherwise, which uses violence (even the violence implicit in taxation) to take from an owner anything which is rightfully his.

Nor can one support arguments which are offered within a voluntaryist framework which would lead to controls of an extra-market character imposed at any point of market participation.

Support of freedom is essentially support of self-government in all particulars. Freedom is autarchy--self rule.


[ 1] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 1: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1959 ed., Vol. I, 873. ↩

[ 2] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 2: Ibid. ↩

[ 3] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 3: Ibid. ↩

[ 4] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 4: Ibid., p. 877. ↩

[ 5] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 5: Anarchy and Liberty, Gazette Telegraph (Colorado Springs), January 8, 1956, Sec. E, p. 4. ↩

[ 6] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 6: James J. Martin, Men Against the State (New York: Libertarian Book Club, Inc., 1957), pp. 2, 3. ↩

[ 7] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 7: “Anarchism, n. 1. The theory that all government is an evil. Proudhon (1809-65), “Father of Anarchism,” advocated a social organization based on common ownership and free agreements. At its worst, anarchism stands for terroristic resistance to all present government and social order. 2. Advocacy or practice of anarchistic principles, esp., anarchistic revolution; nihilism; terrorism.”

“Anarchy, n. 1. The state of society where there is no law or supreme power; a state of political disorder. 2. A state of disorder or confusion. Syn. Anarchy, chaos, lawlessness mean a breakdown in law or order. Anarchy implies total absence of or suspension of government; chaos, the utter negation of law or order; lawlessness, a prevalent or habitual disregard of law or order.” Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, Mass.: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1961.) ↩

[ 8] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 8: Lane, The Discovery of Freedom (New York: The John Day Company, 1943), p. xi. ↩

[ 9] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 9: “Autarchy, n. Absolute sovereignty; autocratic rule.” Op. cit. ↩

[10] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 10: Martin, op. cit., p. 173. ↩

[11] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 11: Ibid., p. 191. ↩

[12] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 12: Rocker, Pioneers of American Freedom (New York: J. J. Little & Ives Company, 1949), p. 86. ↩

[13] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 13: Ibid., pp. 87–88. ↩

[14] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 14: Martin, op. cit., p. 170. ↩

[15] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 15: Ibid., pp. 192–201. ↩

[16] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 16: Charles T. Sprading, Liberty and the Great Libertarians (Los Angeles: Golden Press, 1913), pp. 351–352. ↩

[17] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 17: Ibid., p. 328. ↩

[18] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 18: “... the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy.” Marx, The Communist Manifesto (Gateway ed.; Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1954), p. 54. ↩

[19] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 19: V. I. Lenin, State and Revolution (“Little Lenin Library,” XIV [New York: International Publishers, 1932]), p. 15, from Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring, London and New York, 1933. ↩

[20] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 20: “The conflict over the “right of property” wavers in vehement commotion. The Communists affirm that “the earth belongs rightfully to him who tills it, and its products to those who bring them out.” I think it belongs to him who knows how to take it, or who does not let it be taken from him, does not let himself be deprived of it. If he appropriates it, then not only the earth, but the right to it too, belongs to him.” The Ego and His Own, ed. James J. Martin (New York: Libertarian Book Club, 1963), p. 191. ↩

[21] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 21: “I am entitled to murder if I myself do not forbid it to myself, if I myself do not fear murder as a “wrong.” ... There is no right outside me. If it is right for me, it is right. Possibly this may not suffice to make it right for the rest; that is their care, not mine: let them defend themselves. And if for the whole world something were not right, but it were right for me, that is, I wanted it, then I would ask nothing about the whole world. So every one does who knows how to value himself, every one in the degree that he is an egoist; for might goes before right, and that--with perfect right.” Ibid., p. 190. ↩

[22] Autarchy Versus Anarchy, n. 22: Ibid., pp. 3, 366. ↩


Some time ago I “converted”, or more accurately, was convinced by rational arguments, from anarchy to agorism:

On 2016-March-12 I encountered an extremely rational and persuasive argument by Robert LeFerve from 1965 that has even more convincingly “converted” me to AUTARCHY.

Auto means self. Archy means rule. Autarchy *IS* self-rule. It means that each person rules himself, and no other. The autarchist not only rules himself but operates within a voluntary context respecting economic necessity--and personal relationships.

Anarchy means NO rulers whereas Autarchy means SELF rule. It is a fine line but an important one.

Autarchy *IS* the proper foundation for the Covenant of Unanimous Consent. For a person who subscribes to “self-rule”, if that person so chooses, the Covenant can be the unambiguous written rules by which that person chooses to conduct interpersonal relationships.

« Last Edit: 2016-August-08 09:55:46 PM by DennisLeeWilson » Logged

Objectivist & Sovereign Individual
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« Reply #2 on: 2016-October-15 04:03:29 PM »

Indeed! Each person who will accept the label anarchist today probably has in mind a qualification of his position.

It would follow that a word in general usage which cannot be precisely applied to any particular person or doctrine without some type of explanation or modification, is more handy as a term of opprobium and scorn than otherwise.
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