Anarchism and Force

Excerpted from the book;

Individual Liberty
Selections From the Writings of Benjamin R. Tucker
Vanguard Press, New York, 1926
Kraus Reprint Co., Millwood, NY, 1973.


Because I claim and teach that Anarchism justifies the application of force to invasive men and condemns force only when applied to non-invasive men, Mr. Hugh O. Pentecost declares that the only difference between Anarchism on the one hand and Monarchism or Republicanism on the other is the difference between the popular conception of invasion and my own. If I were to assert that biology is the science which deals with the phenomena of living matter and excludes all phenomena of matter that is not living, and if Mr. Pentecost were to say that, assuming this, the only difference between the biological sciences and the abiological is the difference between the popular conception of life and my own, he would take a position precisely analogous to that which he takes on the subject of Anarchism, and the one position would be every whit as sensible and every whit as foolish as the other. The limit between invasion and non-invasion, life and non-life, are identical? Not at all. The indefinite character of the boundary does no more than show that a small proportion of the phenomena of society, like a small proportion of the phenomena of matter, still resists the respective distinguishing tests to which by far the greater portion of such phenomena have yielded and by which they have been classified. And however embarrassing in practice may be the reluctance of frontier phenomena to promptly arrange themselves on either side of the border in obedience to the tests, it is still more embarrassing in theory to attempt to frame any rational view of society or life without recognition of these tests, by which, broadly speaking, distinctions have been established. Some of the most manifest distinctions have never been sharply drawn.

If Mr. Pentecost will view the subject in this light and follow out the reasoning thus entered upon, he will soon discover that my conception or misconception of what constitutes invasion does not at all affect the scientific differentiation of Anarchism from Archism. I may err grievously in attributing an invasive or non-invasive character to a given social phenomenon, and, if I act upon my error, I shall act Archistically; but the very fact that I am acting, not blindly and at hap-hazard, but in furtherance of an endeavor to conform to a generalization which is the product of long experience and accumulating evidence, adds infinitely to the probability that I shall discover my error. In trying to draw more clearly the line between invasion and non-invasion, all of us, myself included, ar destined to make many mistakes, but by our very mistakes we shall approach our goal. Only Mr. Pentecost and those who think with him take themselves out of the path of progress by assuming that it is possible to live in harmony simply by ignoring the fact of friction and the causes thereof. The no-rule which Mr. Pentecost believes in would amount in practice to submission to the rule of the invasive man. No-rule, in the sense of no-force-in-any-case, is a self-contradiction. The man who attempts to practice it becomes an abettor of government by declining to resist it. So long as Mr. Pentecost is willing to let the criminal ride roughshod over him and me, his "preference not to be ruled at all" is nothing but a beatific reveling in sheerest moonshine and Utopia.


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