Auberon Herbert’s aim is to destroy the love of power and the desire to use force against others (1897)

Auberon Herbert

The English radical individualist Auberon Herbert (1838-1906) was a member of a group that called themselves “Voluntaryists” who believed in self-ownership and opposed the use of force in all its forms. This is part of an impassioned speech he gave explaining their views:

What is the work of the voluntaryist? It is to destroy the love of power; to destroy alike in himself and in his fellow-men the desire to force opinions or interests—whatever they may be—upon others; to be content to be a self-ruler, not a ruler of others; to strengthen belief in the moral weapons of reason, discussion and example; to bear patiently many evils rather than to weaken at any point the principle of self-ownership and self-direction; and to live in the faith that there is no evil which cannot be overcome by courage and resolution, no moral failure that cannot be remedied, except the one evil, the one moral failure, of abandoning self-ownership and self-direction.

Auberon Herbert was an English radical individualist who was influenced by the work of Herbert Spencer. Beginning in the early 1880s he began writing a series of essays and giving speeches for groups like the “Personal Rights and Self-Help Association” and the “Liberty and Property Defense League” in favor of individual liberty and voluntary social relations at a time when socialism and the “new liberalism” of Thomas Green were growing in influence. Two of his speeches published just after his death in 1906, “Mr. Spencer and the Great Machine” and “A Plea for Voluntaryism,” are among the greatest speeches in defence of individual liberty ever given, ironically and sadly only a few years before the First World War destroyed the remnants of the liberal order he so passionately defended. This quotation comes from a summary of his views about “voluntarism” (what he called his version of individualism and free market liberalism) which he wrote about the same time as his speeches. Herbert gives a long list of the ideals he wishes to see implemented and the things he wishes to see eliminated from social and political life, in what comprises an appealing view of what a future liberal society might look like. He wants the individual to be a self-ruler not a ruler of others; he wants to see the emergence of a new world of peace, friendliness, and prosperity; to encourage people to use the moral weapons of reason, discussion and example and not coercion; to encourage the principle of self-ownership and self-direction; a belief in the almost unlimited toleration of the actions of others; a belief in free trade in every sphere; and a belief in the removal of all compulsory burdens and services on others. Opposed to these ideals, he has a hatred of the love of power; of any kind of state favor or privilege; the use of the immoral weapons of force; and the building of ever larger “great force machines of the state” which are used to govern others by force.