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X.—: 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 am glad Mr. Herbert endeavours to reply to my points seriatim. I will refer to his paragraphs by number.
(1). He begins by contending that, while “compulsory taxation = Socialism,” I, who uphold it, am an Individualist. According to this use of terms, a person who holds a doctrine said to be equivalent to Socialism may be an Individualist. This is somewhat staggering to commence with; but it does not last long. A little further on, we are told that “compulsory taxation” is “a remnant of Socialism.” We are thus enabled to infer, by the aid of Euclid’s first axiom, that Socialism = a remnant of itself. But this unfortunately brings us into collision with another of Euclid’s axioms, which declares that the whole is greater than its part.
This remnant, we are further informd, is equal to about a third or a fourth of the unfortunate being to whom it clings. When he was baptized in the true church, his maladroit God-parents, or whoever else performed the ceremony, left part of his body not immersed, and consequently part of his mind “not perfect in the faith.” Mr. Herbert is perfect in the faith. He has been “dipped in the river Styx” acapite ad calcem. Perhaps this accounts for the fact that he so frequently forgets the proposition he is defending, and starts another.
Now, what does this statement of Mr. Herbert mean? No person is Socialist over the whole field of the possible action of the State. No person would wish the State to dominate over the whole sphere of human life. The most thorough-going of systematic Socialists leave some ground to individual initiative. If, therefore, no one is to be called a Socialist who is fractionally so, there is not a Socialist in existence, and if “that which is not Individualistic is Socialistic,” and vice versa, we may reverse the dictum of Sir Wm. Harcourt, and say: “We are all Individualists now.”
But what is the truth? The power of taxation, for which I contend, is not something lying outside of government, and with or without which a government may exist. It is of the very essence of government. A voluntary association for defence could exist without it; but such an association would not be government. It is, therefore, a piece of bad terminology to class together taxationist and anti-taxationist, and to treat taxation as if it were one of the accidentiæ of politics. It is really the touchstone of Archism and Anarchism—Government or no Government.
Mr. Herbert says (6) his position “cannot be reasonably described as Anarchist.” It cannot reasonably be described as anything else. In order to avoid this, he is obliged to misrepresent Anarchism. He says that the Anarchist “would not retain a definite organization to repress aggression or crime.” I do not pretend to understand what the word “definite” means in this sentence; but this I do know—that there is nothing in Anarchism to prevent those who hold it from retaining any sort of organization for the repression of invasive conduct, so long as that organization is a voluntary one; and in this proviso they do not differ from Mr. Herbert.
I do not say that Mr. Herbert’s Anarchism is not of a peculiar kind. One main singularity is that he has not thought out the consequences of the doctrine. He seems to fancy that, when he had got rid of taxation, there would still be a central legislative and executive power, and that those who had refused to take part in setting it up or maintaining it would still bow to its authority and obey it like lambs. But, even if he would allow those who paid nothing towards its maintenance to share in its electoral control, how could he ensure that there would be no body of citizens who would decline even this?* And if they declined practically to recognize the definition of rights promulgated by this voluntary association in which they took no part, and endeavoured to set up a rival association of their own, with its own executive officers, what would he do? Would he prevent the formation of any such association? If so, does not this mean compulsory submission to the dictates of the association patronized by him? And if he would not interfere with the establishment of rival associations of this kind, with different views from his own association as to rights and methods, this would only defer for a little time the overruling of the weaker party. Where the ideas of such rival organizations clashed there would be conflict. The effective minority would be subdued in one way or another, and for all practical purposes they would be compelled to cooperate with the effective majority or to submit to it.
(6). Mr. Herbert argues that, as Individualism spreads, I will find half of my time taken up in coercing those who dislike my organization.—i.e., the State under Individualism—and decline to pay taxes. The only shadow of a justification for this assertion is derived from a misrepresentation of my position so gross that my friend cannot have apprehended what I have repeatedly said on this point. Mr. Herbert’s last two paragraphs above proceed on the assumption that I contend for a right of the State to tax for purposes outside of what I recognize as Its legitimate functions. I challenge Mr. Herbert to find in what I have written the slightest warranty for this assumption. To take the nearest contradiction of it: only in the last paragraph of my reply to him in the last paragraph save two of section VIII. above,* I said: “I have laboured hard to induce my fellow-citizens to restrict Government interference to the maintenance of the greatest practicable amount of freedom in human relations, and to restrict taxation to the provision of the means necessaryto this end.” I have always held that the sphere of legitimate taxation is that of legitimate Government, and that every farthing taken beyond this is sheer plunder. But right is one thing, and power, unfortunately, is another. Mr. Herbert commenced by asking me whether I “propose to give the majority power to raise taxes for certain specified objects.”† I have nothing to add to or to diminish from my reply to this in section IV. above.
(2). Mr. Herbert defends what I call “ ‘high priori’ mediævalism,” by referring me to the introduction of George Henry Lewes’s “History of Philosophy.” But he is not sure of his reference. Neither am I. He may possibly be thinking of a passage of Duns Scotus or Madame Blavatsky. Under these circumstances, I will wait till he can give me a precise reference. Of this, however, I feel sure—that the kind of pseudoratiocination which I stigmatized will find no support from the writings of Mr. Lewes. Mr. Herbert argues as if I had set my face against deductive reasoning. What I really object to is deduction which has no sound inductive basis. He asserted that “the great natural fact of each person being born in possession of a separate mind and separate body, implies the ownership of such mind and body by each person, and rights of direction over such mind and body.”§ Has he attempted to establish this implication? On the contrary, he entirely deserts the ground of mere implication, endeavours to vindicate his conclusion by reasoning, and ends by throwing that conclusion overboard.
Mr. Herbert argues that a person must own himself, for the alternative that society owns him makes him part owner of another; and it is absurd to suppose that a person who cannot own himself can be part owner of others. Where is the absurdity? The point in dispute is not whether the conclusion is true, but whether Mr. Herbert’s reasoning establishes it; and I maintain that his reductio ad absurdum is a delusion. The question is whether the unit of self-sovereignty is the individual or society. We are agreed that it is the individual. But Mr. Herbert desires to put this on a “philosophic basis,” by arguing that it cannot be society, because such a decision would imply that a man who cannot (totally) own himself can (partly) own another. What canon of logic is violated by the acceptance of this alternative? I know none, and I venture to say neither does Mr. Herbert. This is what I call “high priori” reasoning. It is one of those so-called necessities of thought which are simply intellectual tangles. But this is not all. There is nothing in this reasoning—if I may call it so—which restricts it to any set of human beings. Mr. Herbert’s “A or B” and his “C or D” are not lacking in generality, and we were told that the circumstance which confers self-sovereignty is birth with possession of a separate mind and a separate body. But we are now informed (4) that “the right which an English mind sanctions may* not exist for dwellers in Central Africa.” I think I have read something like this before. “Libbaty’s a kind o’ thing thet don’t agree with niggers.” But niggers have separate minds and separate bodies, and the wonderful reductio ad absurdum is as applicable to them as to possessors of “an English mind.”
(4). Mr. Herbert changes his ground on another point. Instead of the assertion that a man forfeits his own rights in attacking the rights of others, we have it now propounded that he forfeits his rights “to the extent of the aggression he has committed.” It may be very difficult, Mr. Herbert admits, to translate this forfeiture of rights into concrete terms of punishment, and here I heartily agree with him; but he asserts that punishment “should be measured by the amount of aggression.” The aggressor “loses as much liberty as that of which he has deprived others.” That is—for instance—if he has deprived his neighbour of the right to live, by killing him, he should lose his liberty to live, by being killed himself.
Here we have our old friend—or rather our old enemy—the lex talionis. Mr. Herbert has gone back from the mediæval to the antique. I assert that this right and duty—for Mr. Herbert uses the word “should”—to measure punishment by aggression is sheer barbarism. The slightest pang or deprivation inflicted beyond what is necessary to keep freedom at the maximum is totally unjustifiable, however small, in proportion to the offence, punishment thus limited may be. Indeed, Mr. Herbert owns as much (5) without seeing that this admission makes mincemeat of his theory.
There is one more point with which I must deal, in conclusion, In face of my declaration that the aggressor loses not one iota of his right, I send him off to prison. Yes, I do—if leaving him free would result in a still greater loss of liberty. I cannot help myself. I am in this position—that I must decide for some aggression on the aggressor A or greater aggression on B and C; and I choose the lesser evil. It is not my fault that I am shut in to this cruel alternative. I feel sorry for the prisoner. He may have been brought up as a gutter child. He may have inherited a tendency to crime. But I must limit his freedom, not under stress of any fanciful doctrine of proportionate forfeiture of rights, but under penalty of greater loss to others if I act otherwise. This is what I call necessity. Mr. Herbert calls on “Heaven and Powers of Heaven” to defend him from it. He will call in vain. He himself knows how to bend to this necessity; for, after telling us that taxation is wrong, he says he would levy taxes to pay the interest on the national debt. I can, therefore, pass over the rhetoric devoted to denunciation of this necessity, and have no fear in challenging the verdict of lovers of truth, justice, and freedom on our controversy. If Mr. Herbert cares to have the last word, I shall now leave it to him. So far as I am concerned, our discussion is at an end.
[* ] That there would be such persons is not a matter of doubt. Says the Herald of Anarchy of December, 1890:—“Everyone should get the Personal Rights Journal for November, 1890. Amongst other interesting items is a letter from Auberon Herbert on the subject of taxation, and J. H. Levy’s reply. With almost the whole of Mr. Herbert’s letter we are in hearty accord. (A very significant accord this on the part of the Herald of Anarchy). The only point to which we take exception is his contention that voluntary taxation would not lead to the rupture of the State. We think Mr. Herbert is anticipating too great a uniformity of opinion. Surely when once the compulsory element is banished, people would associate for the purpose of competing with the Westminster Institution. Why shouldn’t they”?
[* ] Page 33
[† ] Page 12.
[§ ] Page 24.
[* ] This “may” has been substituted for “does” in the revision.—J. H. L.