Front Page Titles (by Subject) INTRODUCTION. - Taxation and Anarchism: A Discussion between the Hon. Auberon Herbert and J.H. Levy
Return to Title Page for Taxation and Anarchism: A Discussion between the Hon. Auberon Herbert and J.H. Levy
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
INTRODUCTION. - Auberon Herbert, Taxation and Anarchism: A Discussion between the Hon. Auberon Herbert and J.H. Levy 
Taxation and Anarchism: A Discussion between the Hon. Auberon Herbert and J.H. Levy (London: The Personal Rights Association, 1912).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
In January, 1890, I delivered a lecture in the Conference Room of the National Liberal Club, entitled “The Outcome of Individualism.” This was a companion lecture to one on Socialism delivered at the same place by Mr. E. B. Bax. Both lectures have since been extended and published together in a little volume, constituting No. II. of this Series, entitled “Socialism and Individualism.”* My essay was, in the main, an exposition of Individualism, and a defence of it from attack on the Socialistic side. But, with the exception of a notice by Mr. George Bernard Shaw in the Daily Chronicle, it was attacked solely from the side of Anarchism; and the form taken by this Anarchistic assault was almost entirely an onslaught on Taxation, and the advocacy in its stead of a scheme called by its protagonists “Voluntary Taxation.”
In October, 1890, I wrote in the Individualist—then called the Personal Rights Journal—a defence of my position which concluded as follows:
The whole scheme of so-called “Voluntary Taxation” seems to me to show deficiency of analytic power. Its projectors appear to think that they can substitute for the State an organization supported by voluntary contributions, and that forthwith the community will be in a condition of idyllic peace. But this is an illusion. It is the inconsistency of the aims of men, and not the “cussedness” of politicians, which necessitates coercion and justifies coercive co-operation. The overruling or compulsion of some men is a physical necessity, so long as their regulative desires within a given political area clash. Anarchism is no cure for this evil; it would but accentuate it, and exacerbate the other evils which flow from it. I am thoroughly with Mr. Auberon Herbert in the desire to minimize the interference of man with his brother man—to widen the portals of individuality to the utmost practicable limits. This, however, is not to be accomplished by a virtual abolition of the State. The denunciation of all taxation, by placing all taxation on the same level, really acts as a support to unjust taxes; and the association of this wild cry for an impracticable measure with Individualism tends to produce in the minds of the public the idea that Individualists are people whom sober politicians may safely leave out of account.
Taxation must be, potentially at least, co-extensive with government. The way to reduce it is severely to limit the functions of government to the maximizing of liberty, to abolish privilege, and to exercise due vigilance over the expenditure of the State revenue. Such vigilance is becoming every day farther removed from possibility by the growth in complexity of the functions assigned to the State. This is the evil which must be attacked; but, to make this attack effective, there must be a clear recognition of the lines of principle which separate the legitimate activity of the State from Socialism on the one side and Anarchism on the other.
This led to the following discussion between the Hon. Auberon Herbert—the most notable of the champions of Voluntary Taxation—and myself. In February, 1899, Mr. Herbert revised his contributions to the discussion, and left me to do the same to mine, with the intention that the whole should be published; but he wished that the publication should be deferred, and in this I acquiesced. I think he was under the impression that the future course of politics would lend strength to his contention, and that enough had been done at that time.
In 1906, he delivered the Herbert Spencer lecture at Oxford; and a few months later he completed a paper entitled “A Plea for Voluntaryism,” which he intended to circulate for signature by those who agreed with it. He died, however, a few days later; and the design of obtaining the signs-manual of adherents to “this summary of the Voluntaryist Creed” fell through. I was under an engagement to visit him, in the New Forest, at the time of his death. I shall never forget him. He was a unique personality—urbane, generous, talented, eloquent, a remarkable member of a family distinguished by nobility of feeling. My acquaintance with him extended over nearly forty years. He read everything of mine which appeared in print; and, though we often widely differed, and expressed our disagreements publicly, there was never the slightest ruffling of our friendly feeling and esteem for each other. I have never met with a more perfect type of the English gentleman.
I choose the present time for the publication of our controversy on Taxation and Anarchism, as the question of Taxation is a burning one of our day, and I am convinced that Mr. Herbert, were he alive, would have regarded this as the psychological moment for the consideration of the principles on which we differed, as well as those on which we were agreed.
12th March, 1912.
[* ] P. S. King & Son, price 13.