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II.—: By J. H. LEVY. - 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 J. H. LEVY.
I hope that the Symposium suggested by Mr. Herbert will soon be arranged for. But the matter is far too serious to be allowed to wait for this. If Mr. Herbert were to succeed in carrying off any considerable number of Individualists, the result would be to break up what is already but a very small party, and still further to strengthen the forces of Socialism. The occasion is a crucial one. The above letter is in terms a defence of Individualism. In reality, it is an Anarchistic attack on Individualism. It is a direct confirmation of my statement that voluntary taxationists have fallen into Anarchism without knowing it. For now it stands virtually confessed that “voluntary taxation” means the abolition of the State—or the “compulsory State,” as Mr. Herbert tautologically calls it.
I know that Mr. Herbert would contest this. I know he would retain the word State, having first eviscerated it. He says of my statement—that “the co-operation of which the State is an embodiment is essentially compulsory”—that it is “an arbitrary dictum.” In one sense this is true. There are no natural laws connecting certain attributes with certain sounds or visual signs. We, in England, have come to call the colour of snow “white”; but that there is no invariable tie of co-existence between the word and the attribute is shown by the fact that the Frenchman calls the same colour “blanc.” But what I contend is that Mr. Herbert has altered the meaning of the word “State”—that he has taken the compulsory element out of it; and that this extension of the use of the term is productive of nothing but confusion of thought, and darkening of truth. From beginning to end, his argument is against all government; and the absence of government is Anarchism. He has kept the old designation, but changed its meaning. The hands are still the hands of Esau, but the voice is the voice of Jacob.
As Mr. Herbert advocates Anarchism, I ask him to say so. Let us have it out in plain English. There is no need to force the term Individualism to the same level of connotation. We have one term already to signify absence of compulsory co-operation for political purposes. We do not want two; and the word Individualism is wanted for another purpose. It is, of course, open to Mr. Herbert to contend that consistent Individualism lands one in Anarchism. But if so, let us have this avowed. I have no intention of accusing him of insincerity; but I think those of us who have been in the habit of co-operating with him in the past have some reason to complain of what he is doing. As he has changed his profession of faith, he should change its name, and not call his new creed by our old class title.
Mr. Herbert answers my charge that “voluntary taxation” is a self-contradictory term by asserting (1) that it gives peope a little shock; (2) that it has the great merit of telling people in two words what is meant; and (3) that “compulsory co-operation” involves a greater contradiction. Really, this borders on the grotesque. The shock I allow, and cannot pretend that it is such as to shatter one’s nervous constitution. The telling in two words what is meant I deny, and have shown that it does nothing of the sort. And as for the pot and kettle plea, if this were true it would be a reason for rejecting both terms, not for retaining them. But it is not true. No contradiction is involved in “compulsory co-operation.” To take aggravated cases of compulsion—convicts are made to co-operate in driving the treadmill; Russian soldiers are made to act together at grievous personal risk. Working together—which is native English for the naturalized English “co-operation”—may be voluntary or the reverse. Of taxation this cannot be said without altering its meaning; for, as Henry Sidgwick has said, taxes are “compulsory contributions of individuals to the Government.”*
I may be asked—Do you desire to drive Mr. Herbert into the ranks of Anarchism? Most assuredly I do not; and, indeed, he is not the man to be driven. I am of opinion that he has not adequately thought out the matter; and that it is quite on the cards that he may tumble back rapidly in the direction of Governmental Authority. I have no faith in the permanence of opinions which do not rest on a rational basis. Let me illustrate what I mean. Replying recently to a correspondent,† Mr. Herbert expressed his willingness “to protect life and property by force, or, in other words, by government.” So he acknowledges that “government” implies force, and that, where there is no force there is no government. But, before rights of person and property can be defended, they must be defined. By whom? And if persons differ, as they do differ, how is the matter to be decided? “By rival gangs?”—asked another correspondent. No; answered Mr. Herbert. “Being Individualists, and not Anarchists, we admit at once that law (and not rival gangs) must decide where there is a conflict between public right and private right. In these doubtful and complicated matters all that we claim is that the law should decide on Individualistic principles, if these can be shown to be fairer than Socialistic principles.”* —The law must decide! What law? Who made it? On all disputed points, this must be done by a majority, at best. And, if this law is not to be a mere brutum fulmen, it must be enforced. But here we have what Mr. Herbert calls “the master-vice of Socialism—the subjection of one man to the views of another . . . ; though, for the moment, it only produces one or two Socialistic blossoms, and not the whole crop.”
Again, when we come to the question of the ethical basis of property, Mr. Herbert refers us to “the open market.” But this is an evasion. The question is not whether we should be able to sell or acquire in “the open market” anything which we rightfully possess, but how we come into rightful possession. And, if men differ on this, as they do most emphatically, how is this to be settled?
Finally, if the State revenue is to depend on voluntary contributions, what security is the fundholder to have for the payment of the interest on the national debt? Is he to take off his hat and sue each person for his share of it in formâ pauperis? Is he to exchange his present legal right for a dependence on the will to do his part of each person in the nation? And if he is forced to do this, is not this compulsion, and robbery into the bargain? I know Mr. Herbert will tell us that, like the late Mrs. Dombey, we must make an effort; but suppose, like that much-exhorted lady, we fail to do so, or to make our effort effectual? Either the public creditor must be deprived of his legal right to payment, or the taxpayer must be held to his legal duty to pay. There is no escape from this dilemma. And it does not stand alone. All along the boundary line of Individualism and Anarchism such a series of dilemmas are to be found; and it is their existence which forms the justification for that minimum of government which Individualism would allow. It is useless to declaim about taking men by the collar, when the only practical alternative is still worse interference with their personal or proprietary rights.
[* ] Principles of Political Economy, p. 555.
[† ]Free Life, September 19th, 1890, p. 24.
[* ]Free Life, October 17th, 1890, p. 56.