Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Individualist Anarchists All Opposed Employment, Right? Wrong.

Benjamin Tucker:
"If a man has labor to sell, he has a right to a free market in which to sell it.”

" [if the ‘four monopolies’ are ended] it will make no difference whether men work for themselves, or are employed, or employ others. In any case they can get nothing but that wages for their labor which free competition determines."

“Wages is not slavery. Wages is a form of voluntary exchange, and voluntary exchange is a form of Liberty.”

Voltairine de Cleyre:
"the system of employer and employed, buying and selling, banking, and all the other essential institutions of Commercialism, centered upon private property, are in themselves good, and are rendered vicious merely by the interference of the State."

Stephen Pearl Andrews:
“The 'Wages System' is essentially proper and right. It is a right to that one man employ another, it is right that he pay him wages, and it is right that he direct him absolutely, arbitrarily, if you will, in the performance of his labor, while, on the other hand, it is the business of him who is employed implicitly to obey, that is, to surrender any will of his own in relation to a design not his own, and to conceive and execute the will of the other...It is right that the great manufacturer should plan, and either alone, or through the aid of assistants under his direction, organize his mammoth establishment. It is right that he should employ and direct his hundreds, or his five hundred men...It is not in any, nor in all of these features combined, that the wrong of our present system is to be sought and found. It is in the simply failure to do Equity. It is not that men are employed and paid, but that they are not paid justly..”.

Lysander Spooner:
"And if the laborer own the stone, wood, iron, wool, and cotton, on which he bestows his labor, lie is the rightful owner of the additional value which his labor gives to those articles. But if he be not the owner of the articles, on which he bestows his labor, he is not the owner of the additional value he has given to them; but gives or sells his labor to the owner of the articles on which he labors."

"I therefore submit, for your [Grover Cleveland's] consideration, the following self-evident propositions:

That so long as no force or fraud is practised by either party, the parties themselves, to each separate contract, have the sole, absolute, and unqualified right to decide for themselves, what money, and how much of it, shall be considered a bona fide equivalent of the labor or property that is to be exchanged for it. All this is necessarily implied in the natural right of men to make their own contracts, for buying and selling their respective commodities.

That any one man, who has an honest dollar, of any kind whatsoever, has as perfect a right, as any other man can have, to offer it in the market, in competition with any and all other dollars, in exchange for such labor or property as may be in the market for sale.

That any prohibition, by a government, of any such kind or amount of money --- provided it be honest in itself --- as the parties to contracts may voluntarily agree to give and receive in exchange for labor or property, is a palpable violation of their natural right to make their own contracts, and to buy and sell their labor and property on such terms as they may find to be necessary for the supply of their wants, or may think most beneficial to their interests."

Pierre Proudhon:

Thus I do not consider as falling within the logical class division of labor nor of collective force the innumerable small shops which are found in all trades, and which seem to me the effect of the preference of the individuals who conduct them, rather than the organic result of a combination of forces. Anybody who is capable of cutting out and sewing up a pair of shoes can get a license, open a shop, and hang out a sign, “So-and-So, Manufacturing Shoe Merchant,” although there may be only himself behind his counter. If a companion, who prefers journeyman's wages to running the risk of starting in business, joins with the first, one will call himself the employer, the other, the hired man; in fact, they are completely equal and completely free. If a youth of fourteen or fifteen wants to learn the trade, there may be a certain division of labor with him; but this division of labor is the condition of apprenticeship, there is nothing remarkable about it. If orders come in freely, there may be several journeymen and apprentices, besides helpers, perhaps a clerk: then it will be what is called a shop, that is, six, ten, fifteen persons, all doing about the same thing, and working together merely to increase the product, not at all to contribute to its perfection by their different abilities. If suddenly the employer's affairs fall into confusion, and he goes into bankruptcy, they whom he employed will have only the trouble of finding another shop; as for his customers, they run no risk, each of the journeymen, or all of them together, may resume the business.

Mutualist William Greene’s extensive comments on the subject can be found here.

Happy to put an end to this myth.


David Z said...

Good stuff!

FWIW, the red-on-black blockquotes is murder on the eyes. You might consider a different text color...

Cork said...

Thanks for the feedback; I'll do yellow from now on.

Rorshak (1313) said...

Cool ish.

Yellow and black. Market anarchist colors!

Mike Gogulski said...

Of course the yellow text shows up as yellow-on-white when I view it in Google Reader, but it does look fine on the blog itself :)

Jeremy said...

Where has this meme come from that mutualists oppose employment of labor per se? I've been following the conversations around the web on this between you and others and it's baffling. I think people new to mutualism would benefit greatly, as big an undertaking as it is, from actually reading Carson's MPE - it clears up a lot of this stuff.

Call me crazy, as this is the result of merely lurking in the online discussions of this topic that I've seen, but has this meme of "mutualists oppose employment" been advanced primarly by Francois Tremblay?

Cork said...


I believe much of the confusion is a result of the online document "An Anarchist FAQ," which claimed (or at least heavily implied) that mutualists oppose wage labor, private ownership of capital goods, time preference, and entrepreneurial profit.

So it's not just Francois. I would go so far as to say that the majority of self-described "mutualists" (at least the ones I've encountered online) believe these things.