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I.—: By AUBERON HERBERT. - 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).
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By AUBERON HERBERT.
I am glad that Mr. Levy has raised the question of “voluntary taxation”; for it is time for Individualists to have the grounds placed before them on which it is defended and condemned.
(1) As regards the phrase; “voluntary State contributions in place of taxation” would be a better expression; but then time is short and “life is fleeting.” “Voluntary taxation” has the great merit of telling people in two words—with that little shock which always accompanies new proposals—what is meant. (2) Mr. Levy rejects voluntary taxation because he holds that the co-operation of the State is essentially compulsory. I might note here that there is a greater contradiction in “compulsory co-operation” than in “voluntary taxation”; but I let that pass, as I want to point out that whilst it is true that the instruments which the State uses (magistrates and police) are compulsory in their nature, it is a mere arbitrary dictum to assert that the forming of certain persons into a State is to be a compulsory action. On the contrary, I claim that such a compulsory manufacture of a State has an element of absurdity about it. A is to compel B to co-operate with him, or B to compel A; but in any case cooperation cannot be secured, as we are told, unless, through all time, one section is compelling another section to form a State. Very good; but then what has become of our system of Individualism? A has got hold of B, or B of A, and has forced him into a system of which he disapproves, extracts service and payment from him which he does not wish to render, has virtually become his master—what is all this but Socialism on a reduced scale? The master-vice of Socialism—the subjection of one man to the views of another—lies at the bottom of this system, just as much as it does at the bottom of Social Democracy; though, for the moment, it only produces one or two Socialistic blossoms, and not the whole crop.
What I contend for is that no force-system should over-ride the consent of a man who has not aggressed against the person or the property of his neighbour. I say that a man’s consent as regards his own actions is the most sacred thing in the world, and the one foundation on which all human relations must be built. To me it seems idle to talk of Individualism where this consent is not held sacred. In that case I don’t know what the word means, or by what bond we Individualists are united. As long as that consent is held sacred, I know exactly where I am; but the moment I am told that the individual may be caught by the collar and compelled to form a society, may be compelled to share in making laws, may be compelled to maintain these laws, I feel that I am no longer standing on Individualistic ground, but on Socialistic ground, however carefully for the moment such Socialism may be restricted.
Believing, then, that the judgment of every individual who has not himself aggressed against his neighbour is supreme as regards his own actions, and that this is the rock on which Individualism rests—I deny that A and B can go to C and force him to form a State and extract from him certain payments and services in the name of such State; and I go on to maintain that if you act in this manner, you at once justify State-Socialism. The only difference between the tax-compelling Individualist and the State-Socialist is that whilst they both have vested the ownership of C in A and B, the tax-compelling Individualist proposes to use the powers of ownership in a very limited fashion, the Socialist in a very complete fashion. I object to the ownership in any fashion.
Mr. Levy then passes on to the practical effects of voluntary taxation. They would be, he thinks, the setting up of different Governments, and war between such Governments. But is not the present risk we run greater? You compress all your dangerous elements under one system, and almost force them into conflict. For Monarchist, Republican, Churchman, Atheist, Conservative, Radical Freetrader, Protectionist, State-Socialist, Anarchist, Individualist (of course, some of these are cross-classifications) you say there shall be one governing machine, which may be captured by any section, and which when captured shall be supported by the other sections, however strongly they object to its action. Everybody shall be compelled to support this machine; everybody shall be compelled to take service under it; everybody shall be under its direction. Now I say that this compulsion of the most widely diverging individuals under one system is far more full of danger, as regards civil war, than the possible establishment of different Governments. You may call it one Government; but it is so only in name, just as the Roman Church is Catholic only in name. How can the State Socialist and the Individualist be really part of one Government? It is only possible that they should act together as slave and master; and as soon as ever the slave gains nearly the same strength as the master, he will fly at his throat. What we want is the most easily acting safety valve, and this voluntary taxation offers. I do not say that voluntary taxation insures safety from conflict; but it offers the best chance. We are irremediably separated in opinion; is it not the truest wisdom to make the yoke that unites us as light as possible? As differences between us become more and more accentuated, the danger of the position will be where Government rests on compulsion; its safety will be where it rests on consent.
But will a Government resting on consent split into several Governments? I think not, and I think it is only the influence of some surviving superstitions, which we have inherited from the old doctrine of force, that makes us think so. What induces many of us still to support, to a certain extent, Governments of which we disapprove? Certainly not the fact that Governments compel our assistance—that is always driving us into opposition to them. Is it not rather the sense that, notwithstanding the flagrant abuses of governing power, it is better and wiser for us to act together in certain matters? When foreign trouble comes, does not this feeling act npon many persons who are but lukewarm politicians—does it not even to a certain extent draw rival parties together? This is the true bond of unity, the general civic feeling throughout the country, that we must on certain occasions sink differences and act together; and this feeling would gain, not lose, in strength, as all the better feelings do, with the spread of voluntaryism.
If I am wrong in this, then many an old position that we have gained, must be reconsidered and perhaps abandoned. To believe that men would be better citizens, if compelled to form a State, would be to confess that compulsion obtains truer and fuller service from men, that it develops truer sense and riper qualities, that it unites them more firmly than the free exercise of their own judgment and consent. If this is so—and this is the foundation on which the compulsory State and compulsory taxation must rest, then Individualism seems to me to disappear as a cause; and we had better undo Catholic emancipation, and re-enact all sorts of religious and class disabilities, the repeal of which was our first step in Individualism.
One last remark. There are certain material pledges which will make for the unity of Government. Not only the conduct of foreign affairs, but the ownership of public property—which, notwithstanding, I hope may always be strictly limited—such as streets, roads, and law courts, will exert some influence. But I confess that not much reliance is to placed upon these material bonds; the true bond is the growth of fairness, good sense, and conciliation, which always increase in strength when we leave off compelling each other.
I am very glad Mr. Levy has raised the discussion. I am clear that voluntary taxation is coming to be a big question, when the first little shock of strangeness is worn off from it; and Individualists will have to decide what is to be their attitude towards it. I would propose that a Symposium be held upon the subject, either in the Personal Rights Journal, or in a number of Free Life—a number of which should be especially enlarged for the occasion—or in both. In this paper I have only replied to Mr. Levy, not stated the case for voluntary taxation.