Front Page Titles (by Subject) Section XV. - A Letter to Grover Cleveland, on his false Inaugural Address, the Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People
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Section XV. - Lysander Spooner, A Letter to Grover Cleveland, on his false Inaugural Address, the Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People 
A Letter to Grover Cleveland, on his false Inaugural Address, the Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People (Boston: Benjamin R. Tucker Publisher, 1886).
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But although the monopoly of money is one of the most glaring violations of men’s natural right to make their own contracts, and one of the most effective—perhaps the most effective—for enabling a few men to rob everybody else, and for keeping the great body of the people in poverty and servitude, it is not the only one that our government practises, nor the only one that has the same robbery in view.
The so-called taxes or duties, which the government levies upon imports, are a practical violation both of men’s natural right of property, and of their natural right to make their own contracts.
A man has the same natural right to traffic with another, who lives on the opposite side of the globe, as he has to traffic with his next-door neighbor. And any obstruction, price, or penalty, interposed by the government, to the exercise of that right, is a practical violation of the right itself.
The ten, twenty, or fifty per cent. of a man’s property, which is taken from him, for the reason that he purchased it in a foreign country, must be considered either as the price he is required to pay for the privilege of buying property in that country, or else as a penalty for having exercised his natural right of buying it in that country. Whether it be considered as a price paid for a privilege, or a penalty for having exercised a natural right, it is a violation both of his natural right of property, and of his natural right to make a contract in that country.
In short, it is nothing but downright robbery.
And when a man seeks to avoid this robbery, by evading the government robbers who are lying in wait for him,—that is, the so-called revenue officers,—whom he has as perfect a right to evade, as he has to evade any other robbers, who may be lying in wait for him,—the seizure of his whole property,—instead of the ten, twenty, or fifty per cent. that would otherwise have been taken from him,—is not merely adding so much to the robbery itself, but is adding insult to the robbery. It is punishing a man as a criminal, for simply trying to save his property from robbers.
But it will be said that these taxes or duties are laid to raise revenue for the support of the government.
Be it so, for the sake of the argument. All taxes, levied upon a man’s property for the support of government, without his consent, are mere robbery; a violation of his natural right of property. And when a government takes ten, twenty, or fifty per cent. of a man’s property, for the reason that he bought it in a foreign country, such taking is as much a violation of his natural right of property, or of his natural right to purchase property, as is the taking of property which he has himself produced, or which he has bought in his own village.
A man’s natural right of property, in a commodity he has bought in a foreign country, is intrinsically as sacred and inviolable as it is in a commodity produced at home. The foreign commodity is bought with the commodity produced at home; and therefore stands on the same footing as the commodity produced at home. And it is a plain violation of one’s right, for a government to make any distinction between them.
Government assumes to exist for the impartial protection of all rights of property. If it really exists for that purpose, it is plainly bound to make each kind of property pay its proper proportion, and only its proper proportion, of the cost of protecting all kinds. To levy upon a few kinds the cost of protecting all, is a naked robbery of the holders of those few kinds, for the benefit of the holders of all other kinds.
But the pretence that heavy taxes are levied upon imports, solely, or mainly, for the support of government, while light taxes, or no taxes at all, are levied upon property at home, is an utterly false pretence. They are levied upon the imported commodity, mainly, if not solely, for the purpose of enabling the producers of competing home commodities to extort from consumers a higher price than the home commodities would bring in free and open market. And this additional price is sheer robbery, and is known to be so. And the amount of this robbery—which goes into the pockets of the home producers—is five, ten, twenty, or fifty times greater than the amount that goes into the treasury, for the support of the government, according as the amount of the home commodities is five, ten, twenty, or fifty times greater than the amount of the imported competing commodities.
Thus the amounts that go to the support of the government, and also the amounts that go into the pockets of the home producers, in the higher prices they get for their goods, are all sheer robberies; and nothing else.
But it will be said that the heavy taxes are levied upon the foreign commodity, not to put great wealth into a few pockets, but “to protect the home laborer against the competition of the pauper labor of other countries.”
This is the great argument that is relied on to justify the robbery.
This argument must have originated with the employers of home labor, and not with the home laborers themselves.
The home laborers themselves could never have originated it, because they must have seen that, so far as they were concerned, the object of the “protection,” so-called, was, at best, only to benefit them, by robbing others who were as poor as themselves, and who had as good a right as themselves to live by their labor. That is, they must have seen that the object of the “protection” was to rob the foreign laborers, in whole, or in part, of the pittances on which they were already necessitated to live; and, secondly, to rob consumers at home,—in the increased prices of the protected commodities,—when many or most of these home consumers were also laborers as poor as themselves.
Even if any class of laborers would have been so selfish and dishonest as to wish to thus benefit themselves by injuring others, as poor as themselves, they could have had no hope of carrying through such a scheme, if they alone were to profit by it; because they could have had no such influence with governments, as would be necessary to enable them to carry it through, in opposition to the rights and interests of consumers, both rich and poor, and much more numerous than themselves.
For these reasons it is plain that the argument originated with the employers of home labor, and not with the home laborers themselves.
And why do the employers of home labor advocate this robbery? Certainly not because they have such an intense compassion for their own laborers, that they are willing to rob everybody else, rich and poor, for their benefit. Nobody will suspect them of being influenced by any such compassion as that. But they advocate it solely because they put into their own pockets a very large portion certainly—probably three-fourths, I should judge—of the increased prices their commodities are thus made to bring in the market. The home laborers themselves probably get not more than one-fourth of these increased prices.
Thus the argument for “protection” is really an argument for robbing foreign laborers—as poor as our own—of their equal and rightful chances in our markets; and also for robbing all the home consumers of the protected article—the poor as well as the rich—in the prices they are made to pay for it. And all this is done at the instigation, and principally for the benefit, of the employers of home labor, and not for the benefit of the home laborers themselves.
Having now seen that this argument—of “protecting our home laborers against the competition of the pauper labor of other countries”—is, of itself, an utterly dishonest argument; that it is dishonest towards foreign laborers and home consumers; that it must have originated with the employers of home labor, and not with the home laborers themselves; and that the employers of home labor, and not the home laborers themselves, are to receive the principal profits of the robbery, let us now see how utterly false is the argument itself.
1. The pauper laborers (if there are any such) of other countries have just as good a right to live by their labor, and have an equal chance in our own markets, and in all the markets of the world, as have the pauper laborers, or any other laborers, of our own country.
Every human being has the same natural right to buy and sell, of and to, any and all other people in the world, as he has to buy and sell, of and to, the people of his own country. And none but tyrants and robbers deny that right. And they deny it for their own benefit solely, and not for the benefit of their laborers.
And if a man, in our own country—either from motives of profit to himself, or from motives of pity towards the pauper laborers of other countries—chooses to buy the products of the foreign pauper labor, rather than the products of the laborers of his own country, he has a perfect legal right to do so. And for any government to forbid him to do so, or to obstruct his doing so, or to punish him for doing so, is a violation of his natural right of purchasing property of whom he pleases, and from such motives as he pleases.
2. To forbid our own people to buy in the best markets, is equivalent to forbidding them to sell the products of their own labor in the best markets; for they can buy the products of foreign labor, only by giving the products of their own labor in exchange. Therefore to deny our right to buy in foreign markets, is to forbid us to sell in foreign markets. And this is a plain violation of men’s natural rights.
If, when a producer of cotton, tobacco, grain, beef, pork, butter, cheese, or any other commodity, in our own country, has carried it abroad, and exchanged it for iron or woolen goods, and has brought these latter home, the government seizes one-half of them, because they were manufactured abroad, the robbery committed upon the owner is the same as if the government had seized one-half of his cotton, tobacco, or other commodity, before he exported it; because the iron or woolen goods, which he purchased abroad with the products of his own home labor, are as much his own property, as was the commodity with which he purchased them.
Therefore the tax laid upon foreign commodities, that have been bought with the products of our home labor, is as much a robbery of the home laborer, as the same tax would have been, if laid directly upon the products of our home labor. It is, at best, only a robbery of one home laborer—the producer of cotton, tobacco, grain, beef, pork, butter, or cheese—for the benefit of another home laborer—the producer of iron or woolen goods.
3. But this whole argument is a false one, for the further reason that our home laborers do not have to compete with “the pauper labor” of any country on earth; since the actual paupers of no country on earth are engaged in producing commodities for export to any other country. They produce few, or no, other commodities than those they themselves consume; and ordinarily not even those.
There are a great many millions of actual paupers in the world. In some of the large provinces of British India, for example, it is said that nearly half the population are paupers. But I think that the commodities they are producing for export to other countries than their own, have never been heard of.
The term, “pauper labor,” is therefore a false one. And when these robbers—the employers of home labor—talk of protecting their laborers against the competition of “the pauper labor” of other countries, they do not mean that they are protecting them against the competition of actual paupers; but only against the competition of that immense body of laborers, in all parts of the world, who are kept constantly on the verge of pauperism, or starvation; who have little, or no, means of subsistence, except such as their employers see fit to give them,—which means are usually barely enough to keep them in a condition to labor.
These are the only “pauper laborers,” from whose competition our own laborers are sought to be protected. They are quite as badly off as our own laborers; and are in equal need of “protection.”
What, then, is to be done? This policy of excluding foreign commodities from our markets, is a game that all other governments can play at, as well as our own. And if it is the duty of our government to “protect” our laborers against the competition of “the pauper labor,” so-called, of all other countries, it is equally the duty of every other government to “protect” its laborers against the competition of the so-called “pauper labor” of all other countries. So that, according to this theory, each nation must either shut out entirely from its markets the products of all other countries; or, at least, lay such heavy duties upon them, as will, in some measure, “protect” its own laborers from the competition of the “pauper labor” of all other countries.
This theory, then, is that, instead of permitting all mankind to supply each other’s wants, by freely exchanging their respective products with each other, the government of each nation should rob the people of every other, by imposing heavy duties upon all commodities imported from them.
The natural effect of this scheme is to pit the so-called “pauper labor” of each country against the so-called “pauper labor” of every other country; and all for the benefit of their employers. And as it holds that so-called “pauper labor” is cheaper than free labor, it gives the employers in each country a constant motive for reducing their own laborers to the lowest condition of poverty, consistent with their ability to labor at all. In other words, the theory is, that the smaller the portion of the products of labor, that is given to the laborers, the larger will be the portion that will go into the pockets of the employers.
Now, it is not a very honorable proceeding for any government to pit its own so-called “pauper laborers”—or laborers that are on the verge of pauperism—against similar laborers in all other countries: and all for the sake of putting the principal proceeds of their labor into the pockets of a few employers.
To set two bodies of “pauper laborers”—or of laborers on the verge of pauperism—to robbing each other, for the profit of their employers, is the next thing, in point of atrocity, to setting them to killing each other, as governments have heretofore been in the habit of doing, for the benefit of their rulers.
The laborers, who are paupers, or on the verge of pauperism—who are destitute, or on the verge of destitution—comprise (with their families) doubtless nine-tenths, probably nineteen-twentieths, of all the people on the globe. They are not all wage laborers. Some of them are savages, living only as savages do. Others are barbarians, living only as barbarians do. But an immense number are mere wage laborers. Much the larger portion of these have been reduced to the condition of wage laborers, by the monopoly of land, which mere bands of robbers have succeeded in securing for themselves by military power. This is the condition of nearly all the Asiatics, and of probably one-half the Europeans. But in those portions of Europe and the United States, where manufactures have been most extensively introduced, and where, by science and machinery, great wealth has been created, the laborers have been kept in the condition of wage laborers, principally, if not wholly, by the monopoly of money. This monopoly, established in all these manufacturing countries, has made it impossible for the manufacturing laborers to hire the money capital that was necessary to enable them to do business for themselves; and has consequently compelled them to sell their labor to the monopolists of money, for just such prices as these latter should choose to give.
It is, then, by the monopoly of land, and the monopoly of money, that more than a thousand millions of the earth’s inhabitants—as savages, barbarians, and wage laborers—are kept in a state of destitution, or on the verge of destitution. Hundreds of millions of them are receiving, for their labor, not more than three, five, or, at most, ten cents a day.
In western Europe, and in the United States, where, within the last hundred and fifty years, machinery has been introduced, and where alone any considerable wealth is now created, the wage laborers, although they get so small a portion of the wealth they create, are nevertheless in a vastly better condition than are the laboring classes in other parts of the world.
If, now, the employers of wage labor, in this country,—who are also the monopolists of money,—and who are ostensibly so distressed lest their own wage laborers should suffer from the competition of the pauper labor of other countries,—have really any of that humanity, of which they make such profession, they have before them a much wider field for the display of it, than they seem to desire. That is to say, they have it in their power, not only to elevate immensely the condition of the laboring classes in this country, but also to set an example that will be very rapidly followed in all other countries; and the result will be the elevation of all oppressed laborers throughout the world. This they can do, by simply abolishing the monopoly of money. The real producers of wealth, with few or no exceptions, will then be able to hire all the capital they need for their industries, and will do business for themselves. They will also be able to hire their capital at very low rates of interest; and will then put into their own pockets all the proceeds of their labor, except what they pay as interest on their capital. And this amount will be too small to obstruct materially their rise to independence and wealth.