Voting & Practical Politics

"It is assumed then that existing conditions and inequalities obtain from the operation of the laws of trade. Nothing could be further from the fact. They are the results of barbaric custom, of class domination and legislation, and are upheld by no natural law of trade or natural law of any kind yet discovered; and the wrongs of which the landless laborer so justly complains are wrongs inflicted and sustained by statutes regarding the tenure of land which have no basis in reason, and will be found to be as destitute of any foundation in the science of law as they are of any justification in the science of morals." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"If liberty has a weak-kneed friend who is contemplating a violation of his anarchist principles by voting just for once, may these golden words from John Morley's 'Compromise' recall him to his better self: 'A principle, if it be sound, represents one of the larger expediencies. To abandon that for the sake of some seeming expediency of the hour is to sacrifice the greater good for the less on no more credible ground than that the less is nearer." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"What is to be apprehended, and, if possible, avoided, is the diversion of the minds of the workers themselves. They are liable to be drawn into superficial movements for the adoption of specious remedies for minor evils, and so be made the dupes of political aspirants. Political power is sought mainly for personal or class aims, seldom from a desire to promote the public good. Its attainment is at the expense of industry, and it is idle to suppose that it will be wielded in the interest of labor. In any question as between the worker and the holder of privilege, it is certain to throw itself into the scale with the latter, for it is itself the source of privilege, the creator of class rule. Accumulated in whatever hands, whether politician, capitalist, or ex-workingman, it is certain to be employed to increase itself at the expense of society." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"At its very best, an election is merely an attempt to obtain the opinion of the majority upon a given subject, with the intention of making the minority submit to that opinion. This is in itself a radical wrong. The majority has no more right, under Equal Freedom, to compel the minority, than has the minority to compel the majority. When a man votes he submits to the whole business. By the act of casting his ballot, he shows that he wishes to coerce the other side, if he is in the majority. He has, consequently, no cause for complaint if he is coerced himself. He has submitted in advance to the tribunal, he must not protest if the verdict is given against him. If every individual is a sovereign, when he votes he abdicates. Since I deny the right of the majority to interfere in my affairs, it would be absurd for me to vote and thereby submit myself to the will of the majority." - Francis D. Tandy

“I do not deem it essential to indorse any particular plan to effect the object, as I think it inexpedient to invoke legislation to do anything but take itself out of the way of social progress . . . .” – Joshua King Ingalls

"In fact, any method is justifiable in our war against the invasive and aggressive State. The question is simply one of policy and practical wisdom. . . . [I]n the matter of offering resistance to and using force against the State, the thing to settle is what form of resistance resists best, which is the most forcible of all kinds of force. And, looking at the ballot from this point, nothing can be said in its favor. It is the poorest, the most impotent, the most uncertain of weapons." - Victor Yarros

“The importance of a branch of social science resting upon so flimsy and kaleidoscopic a base as value when economically defined must be seen when we reflect that the causes which give rise to the most extreme fluctuations are not natural but wholly artificial, and are constantly being affected by partial and class legislation and by crudely unjust social and civil customs. We can conceive of the indignation the free trade economists would exhibit should a ‘protectionist’ assert that the high prices under a prohibitory tariff were nothing but the result of the natural laws of trade; but their assumption that, under the commercial monopoly of the land or the ownership of the laborer, we have an equitable or any natural system of exchange, is far more monstrous and truth defying.” – Joshua King Ingalls

"Anarchism is as hostile to the ballot as peace is to gunpowder." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"Now this is notably the error of labor and economic reformers. They give an admirable diagnosis of the derangements of the body politic, and trace them directly, at least, to the immediate cause. But usually they become infatuated over some specific remedy. This often, if not always, takes the form of some statutory provision or positive institution which they feel certain would cure the disease. A prohibitory or restrictive law is the dream of the reformer who seeks to make the world temperate." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"I begin to be a little suspicious of [Herbert Spencer]. It seems as if he had forgotten the teachings of his earlier writings, and had become a champion of the capitalistic class. It will be noticed that in these later articles, amid his multitudinous illustrations (of which he is as prodigal as ever) of the evils of legislation, he in every instance cites some law passed, ostensibly at least, to protect labor, alleviate suffering, or promote the people’s welfare. He demonstrates beyond dispute the lamentable failure in this direction. But never once does he call attention to the far more deadly and deep-seated evils growing out of the innumerable laws creating privilege and sustaining monopoly. . . . Poverty is increased by the poor laws, says Mr. Spencer. Granted; but what about the rich laws that caused and still cause the poverty to which the poor laws add? That is by far the more important question; yet Mr. Spencer tries to blink it out of sight." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"The philosophy of anarchism is not calculated to enlist popular acclaim. . . . It is too practical for ready acceptance by the unthinking. It holds out no promises. It deals with discernments only. The unhampered individual in association with other unhampered individuals will better assure the well-being of each than is possible by any scheme of interference. This, we are told, is a dream that gets us nowhere. Nevertheless, to the extent that we have made any headway at all, it has always been by the lessening of interferences. Meanwhile the numbskull masses will continue to rely on Sovereign powers to keep them decent, while Anarchism proceeds on the hypothesis that unrestricted man is . . . rather friendly and neighborly . . . ." - Herman Kuehn 

"We refer to this incident as typifying the astounding blindness which darkens the senses of even the foremost reformers, with rare, rare exceptions. The very swindle that alone makes the poverty and degradation of labor possible is held up for adoration and glorification in the very house of humanity's friends. It is this very ballot-box itself that only needs to be rolled off the neck of labor in order to put it into the arena of a fair fight with the oppressor. All these grievances of which the reformers complain were born in the very principle of despotism which creates the ballot-box and perpetuates it. The ballot-box itself, as an accepted assertion of the right of a majority to rule a minority, is the very despot that must first be cast out and buried. There is where the reformers still toddle in the very infancy of true reform." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"Yet anarchy will not down, but continues to gain adherents, and says to the statesman: Your surface issues are dead and party questions misguided." - Dyer D. Lum

"It is, it seems to me, a waste of effort to appeal to the plutocratic for relief from political and economic wrongs. And then, too, they may not be so much to blame as their victims for the present dastardly condition of things sociological." - Joseph A. Labadie 

"Be it our part to disabuse at least the few thinkers unbiased by personal ambitions, and show that the ballot, however available as in the past, for salaried privilege and official power, is worthless as an engine for expropriating land and other capitals of production now in the grip of monopolists. . . . The plutocrat is most willing for agitators to amuse the masses with this theoretical means of a power ever waved like the fruited branch before the grasp of Tantalus, thus distracting them from revolutionary acts by revolutionary ideas." - Marx Edgeworth Lazarus

"Is not the very beginning of privilege, monopoly and industrial slavery this erecting of the ballot-box above the individual? Is not the ballot-box unscientific, anti-social, and a simple transposition of the equation of monarchy? . . . The oppressor housed in ballot-boxes is the same deadly genius that lurks in the palaces. . . . [When the enemy is] disguised and parked in the ballot-box . . . [the reformer] is thrown off his wits and glorifies the very arch-devil who has deluded him by a change of base." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"But I think the time for promoting any positive reform of the land system through political ascendency, and by legislative preponderance of an honest purpose to effect a public good, has long since passed away . . . . For it is quite apparent now to clear-headed people that the land question, and all other questions of human interest, will take care of themselves, if governments will let them alone, withdraw their bailiffs, tax-gatherers, detective police, and bandit, mercenary soldiery . . . ." - Joshua K. Ingalls 

"Give up, I beseech you, the search after the remedy for the evils of government in more government. The road lies just the other way,—toward individuality and freedom from all government. . . . It is the inherent viciousness of the very institution of government itself, never to be got rid of until our natural individuality of action and responsibility is restored. Nature made individuals, not nations; and, while nations exist at all, the liberties of the individual must perish." - Stephen Pearl Andrews

"The spirit of Caesar, rendered powerless in religious systems, castrated of divine right in forms of political government, is entrenching itself in the economic system of the age. British and German empires, Spanish and Italian kingdoms, French and American republics, are but dead forms; the animating soul in each is the same. A common (economic) feeling has made them all akin. Statecraft exists for the furtherance of economic interests: forms of government are recognized as of secondary importance to 'vested interests.'" - Dyer D. Lum

"[A]ll human legislation is simply and always an assumption of authority and dominion, where no right of authority or dominion exists. It is, therefore, simply and always an intrusion, an absurdity, an usurpation, and a crime." - Lysander Spooner

"But education is a slow process, and for this reason we must hope that the day of readjustment may not come too quickly. Anarchists who endeavor to hasten it by joining in the propaganda of State Socialism or revolution make a sad mistake indeed. They help to so force the march of events that the people will not have time to find out, by the study of their experience, that their troubles have been due to the rejection of competition. If this lesson shall not be learned in a season, the past will be repeated in the future . . . ." - Benjamin R. Tucker 

"Under a sublime delusion that class-made laws are likely to right his wrongs, the workingman helps load up the gun by voting, despite all experience that, when it is discharged, it is the worker, and not the exploiter, who gets hurt. But he will go on voting just the same for the same regime if not with the same political party." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"Every man who casts a ballot necessarily uses it in offense against American liberty, it being the chief instrument of American slavery." - Benjamin R. Tucker

"It is vain to hope for any improvement through legislation; indeed, it is through legislation, and the superstitious deference paid to legislation, that the trouble has arisen." - John Beverley Robinson

"Civilism, thus far, has hardly done more than to refine and render more subtle the subjection of labor to lordly will. From conquests with bludgeons, swords and spears, as in the earlier ages, it has inaugurated a war of cunning and fraud, whose weapons are technical terms, shrewd devices, [and] class legislation . . . ." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"The majority of the people are not corrupt, but they are too busy and too ignorant to estimate the worth of politicians and officials. The majority of the people are obliged to work for a living and to respect each other's rights. The politicians are made a privileged class and given unlimited opportunity for fraud and tyranny; no wonder they become debased. Not every man is a tyrant; but there are few men who, if made absolute rulers of men, would not soon learn to play the tyrant and to like power. The majority of the people are not corrupt. Give them equal liberty and opportunity, and they will prosper. At the present they live under a system as iniquitous as it is irrational; and things are in a pretty bad state. But they will sooner or later open their eyes and turn over a new leaf. They will declare popular government a failure and resolve to try freedom." - Victor Yarros

"Political methods must be condemned without even these qualifications. The ballot is only a bullet in another form." - Francis D. Tandy

"Our political savants offer us nothing but what is most delusive and contradictory, while servilely bowing to the demands of a dominant plutocracy." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"You assume that the right of arbitrary dominion—that is, the right of making laws of their own device, and compelling obedience to them—is a 'trust' that has been delegated to those who now exercise that power. You call it 'the trust of public power.'

"But, Sir, you are mistaken in supposing that any such power has ever been delegated, or ever can be delegated, by any body, to any body.

"Any such delegation of power is naturally impossible, for these reasons, viz:—

"1. No man can delegate, or give to another, any right of arbitrary dominion over himself; for that would be giving himself away as a slave. And this no one can do. Any contract to do so is necessarily an absurd one, and has no validity. To call such a contract a 'Constitution,' or by any other high-sounding name, does not alter its character as an absurd and void contract.

"2. No man can delegate or give to another, any right of arbitrary dominion over a third person; for that would imply a right of arbitrary dominion over a third person; for that would imply a right in the first person, not only to make the third person his slave, but also a right to dispose of him as a slave to still other persons. Any contract to do this is necessarily a criminal one, and therefore invalid. To call such contract a 'Constitution' does not at all lessen its criminality, or add to its validity.

"These facts, that no man can delegate, or give away, his own natural right to liberty, nor any other man's natural right to liberty, prove that he can delegate no right of arbitrary dominion whatever—or what is the same thing, no legislative power whatever—over himself or any body else, to any man, or body of men." - Lysander Spooner

"Through every form of barbarism, feudalism, and civilism, industry has been mostly enslaved—much of the time in a gross material form; always through force, fraud, and fictions of law and positive class-legislation." - Joshua K. Ingalls

"[W]e ask no privilege, we propose no restriction; nor, on the other hand, will we permit it. We have no new shackles to propose, we seek emancipation from shackles. We ask no legislative sanction, for co-operation asks only for a free field and no favors; neither will we permit their interference." - Dyer D. Lum

“[S]o infatuated are men with the idea of reforming things by legislation, and so superstitious are they in their respect for anything ‘enacted into law,’ that they give no thought to the study of nature’s laws, and have no respect for her silent, yet constant, intimations.” – Joshua King Ingalls