Front Page Titles (by Subject) VI.—: By J. H. LEVY. - Taxation and Anarchism: A Discussion between the Hon. Auberon Herbert and J.H. Levy
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VI.—: 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 very much desire to clear up Mr. Herbert’s notions on this point of taxation; but there are limits to the demands which I think it right to make on the patience of my readers. He commenced his cross-examination of me by a series of questions which, together with my reply, are to be found in the third and fourth sections of this discussion. These questions, as I pointed out, proceeded on the assumption that I would answer the first in the negative. I showed, as I think conclusively, why I could not do this; but now Mr. Herbert proceeds as if all this were a blank. In his letter above, he again says of me:—“He leaves the present power of taxation intact. He allows A and B the power to tax C for any purpose, and up to any amount”—as if I had not demonstrated that this complaint is based on an illusion. I shall say nothing more, except to refer all whom it may concern to my reply already given.
I do not know whether it is because of the failure of his first attempt at cross-examination, that Mr. Herbert now gives it up, and I am told what he and his school want from me. What they desire “is to get a clear and definite statement” of my creed “and the grounds on which it rests”—a desideratum to which I can take no exception; but Mr. Herbert wants me to give him “some more exact guidance”—“a formula which cannot be read in different senses by different persons.” I can give him nothing of the sort. No enunciation of principle which the greatest master of language has ever conceived can escape the liability to be wrested from its meaning, to be understood in different ways by different persons, who are more anxious to impress on it a sense of their own than to extract from it the sense its author designed to give it. Mr. Herbert’s own principle—the right of a person to be exempt from forced levies for the support of government—has been dealt with in this way. It has been accepted, and then distorted so as to cover the very opposite of what Mr. Herbert means by it.
Let me put the primary political issues clearly to Mr. Herbert. Either we must have some government—some compulsory co-operation for political purposes—or none. If none, this is Anarchism, by whatever fine-spun name its crypt-adherents choose to call it. If some, this must be either Individualism or Socialism; and the problem is to find the dividing line between these two. If its aim be to maintain the utmost degree of freedom, and each of the several measures it adopts be justified by producing a balance on the side of freedom, it is Individualistic. If it increase its activity beyond these bounds, and, therefore, produces a balance against freedom, under plea of increasing the public welfare, it is Socialistic. These are the senses I attach to the terms Anarchism, Individualism, Socialism; and nothing which has been said by Mr. Herbert is likely to disturb me in their use.
The “Anti-taxationists” not only “want Mr. Levy” to propound for them an impossible formula, but also to “translate it into the concrete terms which are intended to be covered by it.” Mr. Herbert well knows that I have been working out applications of Individualist theory, and putting them in print, during the last twenty years; and I hope soon to be able to expand my lecture on “The Outcome of Individualism” into a book or books which will contain some of those translations into the concrete, and many others.
The appearance of greater definiteness in the Crypt-Anarchistic formula of Mr. Herbert and his friends arises from the fact that it is merely negative, and leaves the problems arising out of the abolition of government unsolved. We can always avoid the complexity which is in the nature of things, by this method. In Free Life, of 20th March, 1891, Mr. Herbert was asked some questions which he summarized:—“Shall the non-payer of voluntary taxes (1) share in the benefit and (2) vote?” To this he gave the noteworthy reply:—“There will no doubt be two or more parties in the future amongst the voluntary taxationists on this point—indeed, there are already.” No doubt. But this means that Mr. Herbert’s formula is made to have a finely rounded outline by all the ragged edges, over which “voluntary taxationists” will fight, being thrown into the future. In the same number of Free Life, there are two instructive illustrations of “voluntary taxation” translated into the concrete. In the first place, Mr. Herbert admits that it might be necessary “to continue some form of compulsory taxation simply andexclusively for the payment of debt.” And until when, do my readers think? Until “we could rely for its extinction by voluntary effort.” I quite agree that this is long enough. In the second place, we are told:—“As regards national defence, the difficulty seems greater than in other matters, as everyone shares in the advantage, whether he contributes or not. It would, however, be possible to link the advantage of police protection and the advantages of external defence together, by saying that no person should enjoy either form of protection unless he had contributed to the two systems of defence.” In other words, a person (say a Quaker) may be quite willing to pay for police protection, but he is not to be allowed to do so; he is virtually outlawed, and any gang of ruffians may rob or murder him, unless he voluntarily pays a tax for the support of the army and navy. Either my powers of discrimination are getting a little rusty, or the Voluntary Taxationists are somewhat lacking in a sense of the humorous. The plan of linking the payment of Voluntary Taxation to police protection might, no doubt, be made very efficient all round.