The Individualists opposed capitalism as a system of privilege, exploitation, accumulation without limit, theft, abuse, and wage slavery, all supported by the coercive authority of the state. Students of the principles of classical political economy — the ideas of Smith, Ricardo, and Mill, et al. — the Individualists contended that the full realization of those principles and ideas meant an economic paradigm very different from capitalism, which they viewed as the successor of feudalism and mercantilism as a political, rather than economic creature. “Laissez-faire,” they said, had been improperly and spuriously leveraged for the defense of a system of injustices that in fact had nothing to do with legitimate free markets. Capitalists, the idle rich, were only able to profit from the labors of the industrious because they were protected by unfair advantages, embodied in law, that allowed them to escape the natural outcomes and pressures of genuine, full-fledged competition. Here are the Individualists in their own words...

"It cannot fail to be seen how appropriate is the teaching of 'laissez-faire' by the professors and scholars produced by institutions supported and upheld by the very opposite practice. That such institutions do not encourage any investigation of the industrial problem is not to be wondered at. How can they discuss the interest and rent questions when their very existence depends upon the annual tribute capitalized funds and lands enable them to lay upon labor? The perpetual bribe of which they are thus the recipients is too weighty to be overborne by the wail of suffering toil or the appeal of the honest thinker. They can scarce desire the promulgation of a truth which would disestablish their institutions. As little can they desire the survival of the fittest since they are holding up an institution which would fall of itself, and are being held up themselves by a system of capitalism dependent wholly upon laws and customs established and maintained to thwart equal opportunity and to prevent freedom of competition and exchange." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"One need not be an advocate of 'individual resumption,' of 'propaganda by deed,' or even of 'direct action,' in order to prefer the petty bandit who, having a social ideal, seeks to further it by an isolated act of violence, though knowing that thereby he bares his neck to the knife, to the giant bandit who, believing in society as it is and having no ideal but his own aggrandizement, realizes it by forging and wielding the mighty weapon of legal monopoly to despoil a whole people of their products and their liberties, and who, wolfish devourer of the flock, continues, even after his death, to bathe in the Blood of the Lamb." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"Labor reformers well know that capitalistic manipulation of tariff, currency, land, bank, railway & other conspiring 'law' is the 'causing cause' of the poverty of working people." - Ezra Heywood

"We are living under a system of capitalistic aggrandizement, or commercial monarchism, which has no parallel in the history of the race. Our teachers in Economics do not disavow, if they do not expressly put forth, the claim that this impoverishment of the many to enrich the few is in accordance with the orderly evolution of society, and in harmony with the natural laws of trade." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"But ninety-nine times in a hundred the modern possessor of any huge amount of capital has acquired it, not by a willingness to work harder than his fellows, but by a shrewdness in getting possession of a monopoly which makes it needless for him to do any real work at all; not by a willingness to sacrifice his love of spending all he produces, but by a cleverness in procuring from the government a privilege by which he is able to spend in wanton luxury half of what a large number of other men produce. The chief privilege to which we refer is that of selling the people’s credit for a price." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"Our movement is one that can readily dispense with aid of the capitalist class. We have no right to expect their help, for we would deprive them of their power. Neither need we fear their disdain, their contumely, their enmity.

"Their press, their pulpit and their hired men in the universities, will deride our movement, and the legislative and judiciary branches of government will be enlisted in its overthrow. But none of these forces can prevail against our movement, once it is understood." - Herman Kuehn 

"Thus it is, that the capitalist is naked, and behold he becomes sumptuously clothed by the laborer; he would have luxury—another's industry furnishes it; his most trivial caprice is made known—the poor man flies to gratify him. He has gold, and he will let you use it for a time, provided you will place him in possession of its equivalent for a security, and largely increase the amount at the return. All of his life he wants labor; for which he pays the usance of gold and not labor. And if he will be benevolent, the amount of his gift is levied on his tenants and collected from them; or if he supports oppression, his laborers are compelled to supply him with the means to do so. Capital does not increase labor; nor does it develop the resources of the country. But it is the owner of industry, and with the power which society invests in it, is the foe of mankind." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"'The General Statutes' of the Working-People's Association make little, if any, reference, either to profits, or to the fact of wages: they declare no vain war against poverty in the abstract; neither do they denounce capital or the capitalists. They simply denounce that 'subjection of the workingman to capital' which necessitates the existing wage-system, which creates the sovereignty of the capitalists, which makes an iniquitous division of profits inevitable, which causes the poverty of the working-people, and which brings about the existing political, moral, and material servitude of laborers to their employers." - William B. Greene

"We have now to supplement the right of private property with the recognition of the general truth that individual effort is of limited extent; that the wealth of society is the result of the united effort of aggregate labor. And it logically follows that those who represent the labor of the past, or capitalists, and those who do the labor of the present, are equal partners, and should be rewarded in proportion to the labor performed." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"If the community proposes to exercise its right of the strongest, why stop with the collection of economic rent? Why not make the individual its slave outright? Why not strip him of everything but the bare necessities of life? Why recognize him at all, in any way, except as a tool to be used in the interest of the community? In a word, why not do precisely what capitalism is doing now, or else what State Socialism proposes to do when it gets control of affairs?" - Benjamin R. Tucker

“Through usurped dominion of the land, class privilege, and private rights created by arbitrary will, barbaric custom, and chicaneries of trade, rendered possible of achievement by ‘fostering legislation’ and a purblind jurisprudence, labor is compelled to part with its natural wages, and receive in return whatever capitalism and the government vouchsafe it.” – Joshua King Ingalls

"If we are to accept the conclusions of the critics of capitalism,—that is, the existing economic condition society,—we must believe that economic liberty is more impossible now than in pre-capitalistic times. Wage-slavery is merely the modern phase of chattel slavery. Individual freedom is violated by present economic arrangements even more than it was in previous state. . . . We must see now if the belief in evolution together with the facts through which it speaks will warrant us in classifying capitalism as an economic retrogression: determine whether personal freedom has advanced or been retarded in the economic process." - William Bailie

"Capitalism is the systematic reduction of the many to want, that advantage may be taken of their needs." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"We stand ready to give volume, chapter, and page of [Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's] writing for the historical persistence of class struggles in successive manifestations, for the bourgeoisie's appeal to liberty and its infidelity thereto, for the theory that labor is the source and measure of value, for the laborer's inability to repurchase his product in consequence of the privileged capitalist's practice of keeping back a part of it from his wages, and for the process of the monopolistic concentration of capital and its disastrous results." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"The industrial type demanding equitable relations in the realization of its ideal, no privilege can be artificially bestowed upon capital by which he who has it can command an economic advantage over him who lacks it." - Dyer D. Lum

"These lunatics seem to forget that they are the representatives and champions of a standing régime of violence,—a régime which is a perpetual menace levelled at every one who dares to claim his liberty; a régime which ties the hands of laborers while a band of licensed robbers called capitalists picks their pockets." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"Dr. Adam Smith truly describes such a capitalist as the 'person who has a capital from which he wishes to derive a revenue without taking the trouble to employ it himself.' In other words, one who wishes to obtain the services of others without rendering himself any service in return, and without risk." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"Proudhon scoffed at the distinction between capital and product. He maintained that capital and product are not different kinds of wealth, but simply alternate conditions or functions of the same wealth; that all wealth undergoes an incessant transformation from capital into product and from product back into capital, the process repeating itself interminably; that capital and product are purely social terms; that what is product to one man immediately becomes capital to another, and vice versa; that if there were but one person in the world, all wealth would be to him at once capital and product . . . ." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"The 'survival of the fittest' is beneficently inevitable; the capitalist is powerless against labor, unless the State . . . steps in, and helps him catch and fleece his victims. The old plea of despotism, that liberty is unsafe, reappears now in the mistaken notion that competition is hostile to labor." - Ezra Heywood

"As the feudal system retained many of the elements of slavery, modified by the traditions, customs, and practices of the primitive communities, so capitalism retained the essential usurpations of feudalism, though professing to guard personal freedom, and to observe equity between the owner and the occupier of the land, the employer and the employed." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"On one side a dependent industrial class of wage-workers and on the other a privileged class of wealth-monopolizers each becoming more and more distinct from the other as capitalism advances, has resulted in a grouping and consolidation of wealth which grows apace by attracting all property, no matter by whom produced, into the hands of the privileged, and hence property becomes a social power, an economic force destructive of rights, a fertile source of injustice, a means of enslaving the dispossessed. Under this system equal liberty cannot obtain." - William Bailie

"That competition is a potent factor in the regulation of wages we admit, but what we further assert is that, if competition were universal and applied to capitalists as well as laborers, it would regulate wages in accordance with equity. All that we ask is absolutely free play for the economists' boasted law of supply and demand. Why are the capitalists so afraid of the logical extension of their own doctrines?" - Benjamin R. Tucker

"It is true the worker may exchange his share of the product after the division is made, or agree beforehand upon the division, and so accept a payment in the form of wages; but to give such transaction a show of equity, he must be at liberty to employ himself, because, if he be denied his natural opportunity to labor, free access to the soil, he contracts under duress, and the payment of such wages does not conclude him. It is not a free but a compulsory exchange. His claim for settlement still remains good to his share of the product of the partnership work, less what has been paid him, and it is the difference between such share and such payment which constitutes the profits and accumulations of CAPITALISM." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"When we remember that the most conspicuous aspect of competition is to be seen in the struggle for work and existence continually going on among wage-workers, the supply of laborers always apparently exceeding the demand and so keeping wages down to an average that scarcely covers subsistence; and when the competition is not confined to one industry, but spreads itself without respect for persons throughout every class of workers who sell their labor, and in every country in which modern capitalism has arisen; when the immediate effects of machinery and all improvements in the methods of production are observed to intensify the competition of laborers with one another, mechanical invention itself proving an irresistible competitor; when the struggle reduces the skilled and the educated to the common level and adds to the uncertainties and insecurities of the wage-earners' lot, increasing the burden of life by the ever-present dread of failure and starvation,—is it any wonder that competition is looked upon as a monstrous evil, held up by social reformers as the source of all their suffering and together with the whole system of which it is a part, to be forthwith eliminated? . . . But before making up our minds what to do to avert these evils, we must form a clear conception of the nature of the supposed cause." - William Bailie

"That the State originated in aggression [has been] proved. If it now pretends to exist for purposes of defence, it is because the advance of sociology has made such a pretence necessary to its preservation. Mistaking this pretence for reality, many good men enlist in the work of the State. But the fact remains that the State exists mainly to do the will of capital and secure it all the privileges that it demands, and I cannot see that the combination of capitalists who employ lobbyists to buy legislators deserve any milder title than conspirators, or that the term conspiracy inaccurately expresses the nature of their machine, the State." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"Capitalism continues true to its origin and name. It seeks to bring all things to or under one head and to monopolize the sources of production. In politics it is monarchy, not such as the effete institutions now support, but as it appears in an Alexander or a Napoleon. It employs all the military powers of the state and all civil and diplomatic trickery to reduce all men and all nations to its sway. It does not tolerate equality or the existence of equals. 'The universe cannot retain two suns.' No sooner have Octavius and Anthony put down the conspirators than they try issues with each other. This may be said to be the sum of military careers, the establishment of unlimited power in the hands of one. It is the same with capitalistic careers." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"Under any regime capital and labor must be supplementary to each other, though it is true that under present restrictive conditions the one implies the other as a creditor implies a debtor. But under the most perfect form of society, while human need exists, creditors and debtors will remain. The evil does not lie in their existence, but in the undue advantage given whereby one is privileged. Privilege implies restriction, as one end of a stick necessitates the other. So with capital and labor; to abolish one is to wipe out the other, as much as would be an attempt to annihilate one end of a stick.

"What we justly complain of is the special privilege bestowed upon the one that enables it to hold the other subservient to its demands. The remedy for this does not lie in new restrictions, still further legalization through the intermeddling of ignorant officials, but in the wiping out of privileges already usurped." - Dyer D. Lum

"Laws are made directly or indirectly in the interest of the capitalist class, and they are always administered and interpreted by judges and lawyers in the same spirit." - William Bailie

"If, then, the capitalist, by abolishing the free market, compels other men to procure their tools and advantages of him on less favorable terms than they could get before, while it may be better for them to come to his terms than to go without the capital, does he not deduct from their earnings?" - Benjamin R. Tucker

"Such are the laws by which our old state-banks exempted their bills from the salutary influences of competition, and enforced usury, until—a large vampire swallowing the lesser ones—the local banks were taxed out of existence to make room, for that monstrous monopoly, the present national-banking system. Capitalists object to trades-unions of working people, . . . But there is a trades-union of moneylenders, of infinitely greater, more oppressive and fraudulent power, than any combination ever devised among working-people." - Ezra Heywood 

"In anarchy labor and capital would be merged into one, for capital would be without prerogatives and dependent upon labor, and owned by it. The laborer would find that to produce was to enjoy and the nightmare of destitution banished." - Dyer D. Lum

"Public opinion, every one knows, is fickle. It cannot be coaxed or cajoled or even induced by entreaty to look with favor upon the cause of any organization or body of people that does not pay some regard to the capitalist's 'right to a profit.' This profit, this share of the laborers' product which capitalists are able to take but do not earn, is a fetich to which public opinion, ever supple of the knee, gracefully gives homage. And labor is patronizingly admonished to 'pay some regard' to the theft, made possible and abetted by legal restrictions, of a part of its product, in order that it may obtain a modicum of the hypocrisy of subservient public opinion. What insolence!" - Clarence Lee Swartz

"The financial systems of capitalistic countries make increase of debt and depressions a mathematical certainty. This certainty is attempted to be postponed by inflation. But notwithstanding that in America about forty billion dollars being pumped into circulation as buying power, through military expenditures, without a corresponding amount of goods being added to the market, sellers have such difficulty disposing of their goods that they offer them without any down payment, even for as long as six months' time. The eventual consequence of this procedure will be intolerable. But the point is that without the pump-priming via the military machine, financed largely with fiat money, the economy would come to standstill. This fact bulwarks the rationale for an ever larger military establishment, nicely aided by the threat of the communist block." - Laurance Labadie

"If the Carnegies had not an advantage over the wage-workers by means of their monopoly of capital and opportunities for producing wealth,—a superiority inherent in the conditions making the laborers dependent on the monopolists,—then the working classes would have nothing to fear from a refusal to accede to the terms of their masters; but, being so dependent, they are doubly enslaved both by monopoly of the means of labor and by governmental power which the capitalists have at their command to enforce submission." - William Bailie 

"Capitalists of whom [Andrew Carnegie] is a typical representative have placed and kept upon the statute-books all sorts of prohibitions and taxes (of which the customs tariff is among the least harmful) designed to limit and effective in limiting the number of bidders for the labor of those who have labor to sell. If there were no tariffs on imported goods; if titles to unoccupied land were not recognized by the State; above all, if the right to issue money were not vested in a monopoly,—bidders for the labor of Carnegie's employees would become so numerous that the offer would soon equal the laborer's product." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"It is this trick of capitalism, of subjecting labor to competition, while lifted wholly above it by class law itself, that is objectionable." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"He will find that the monstrous thing he calls capitalism can be extirpated by the simple process of withdrawing support from the only prop that upholds it. I could point out the prop for him, but he cannot help finding it for himself when he substitutes research for sentimentalism." - Herman Kuehn

"CAPITALISM.—That system of social or industrial institutions by which an exploiteur is enabled to appropriate to himself the increase resulting from industry, which belongs, and which would otherwise go, to the laborer, or be returned to the land. An abnormal relation of labor to commerce, which subjects labor to the control of an owner of the land, or of any property or goods for which the land will exchange." - Joshua King Ingalls

"Let it be understood that I do not affirm that the competition of to-day results in an equitable distribution of wealth. This book is an endeavour to prove that competition is to-day hindered by vicious State interference, and that the greater part of present social inequity results from this restriction of competition. . . . I aim only at proving the political expediency and ethical justice of free competition." - Henry Meulen

"Political economy has thus far been little more than a series of ingenious attempts to reconcile class prerogative and arbitrary capitalistic control with the principles of exchange." - Joshua King Ingalls