Although Walker and Tucker had a respectful professional relationship and viewed ethical issues similarly, there were significant differences between the two regarding the foundations of political and economic life.
Both considered themselves egoistic or individualistic anarchists. Both considered themselves to be prolabor and anticapital. Both were advocates of free competition and private property. Unlike Tucker, Walker was a thorough, consistent opponent of natural right philosophy and he was highly critical of the notion of equal liberty a s antithetical to the intellectual foundation of egoism and, hence, anarchism . Wal ker a ssailed the notion of right not only in The Philosophy of Egoism, but in several articles, letters, and rejoinders published in Liberty. Tucker was not among his frequent antagonists.
Walker frequently had lengthy exchanges on the notion of rights with John F. and Gertrude B. Kelly, both of whom wrote independently in Liberty.
The Kellys advocated for an individualist anarchism grounded in a natural rights philosophy that was unapologetic about promoting equal liberty to all humans by virtue o f the fact that they are humans. The Kellys repeatedly attacked Wa lker for his refusal to acknowledge that the internal enforcement of moral codes through the individual’s conscience was essential to maintaining social order.
Anarchism, to be successful, needed to demonstrate that it was superior to other political ideologies because it offered both individual liberty and social order. The methodology of anarchist thought was to destroy the state so that individuals could genuinely discover the laws of nature governing human interaction and, thereby, synchronize their thoughts and behaviors with others, reducing conflict and maximizing cooperation. The key to human liberty is to discover natural law and conform with its strictures. The rights o f individuals are established in nature and are revealed a s persons are freed from domination of the state and able to discover natural law. Natural law and natural right were essential to freedom and order. In the absence of natural law and natu ral right, morality was impossible and humans were free to visit all sorts of abuse on their fellows.
By the time the debates over natural rights with the Kellys began in 1 887, Walker had read Stirner and was eager to share his egoistic critiques of morality, natural law, and natural rights with the individualist anarchists associated with Liberty. In several exchanges with the Kellys, Walker argues that the notions of natural law and natural right were only “spooks” that had no referent in the world humans inhabit. If they did exist, natural laws and natural rights are silent and inert. They do not speak to everyone.
They do not speak to anyone. Like theology, natural right philosophy is dependent upon a small group of technical specialists who claim to speak for nature, elaborating the content of law and right that should structure the thoughts, values, and behaviors of persons. Someone always has to speak for the laws and rights that are thought to be grounded in nature. What qualifies a person to speak for nature with any authority? Why are the Kellys and their philosophic companions qualified to define the laws and rights of nature? Why should they be taken as the ultimate arbiters of natural law and natural right and, hence, morality?
The advocates of natural right are quick to point to the importance of morality in human relationships, but they have not succeeded in establishing why the dictates of morality should override the thoughts, goals, agreements that persons establish in everyday life. The philosophy of natural right, despite the pretense that it will free persons a s part of the anarchist rebellion, is in real ity a form of “moralism” that only recreates political domination in a new form, once again appealing to duty, conscience, and justice to ensure that individuals do not develop ideas or assert their power in ways that conflict with moral ity and the laws of nature. Ultimately, natural law, natural right, and morality are antithetical to the sovereignty of the individual.
Egoism initially promotes not external liberty, but internal liberty since it shatters duty, justice, and conscience as internal, ideological mechanisms of social control. The egoist assault on internal social control engenders a type of equal liberty of egoists since it creates a common foundation for the appropriation and use of property and power.
This is quite unlike all political philosophies that are based on a moralist view of human life. Democracy and aristocracy, for example, are based on the commonality of birthright. In democratic theory, participation in the political process and individual liberty a re the “sacred birthright” of each individual . In theory, individuals do not have to earn or assert rights; these are conferred on the individual by God, nature, or the state by virtue of the person’s humanity.
Of course, the actual practice of democracies frequently contradicts the theory or the idea l, but democracies pride themselves on eliminating political, social, and cultural barriers to full and equal participation in the pol itical process. As Walker says, the passport of the individual into a democracy “is his hum anity, not his personal assertion and demonstration of his power and will to command equal liberty.
“Y! Aristocracy, likewise, is a political philosophy founded on birthright since liberty and privilege are the right of a special class; they are not conferred on a l l, which distingu ishes aristocracy from democracy. The problem with Tucker’s notion of equal liberty is that it is also founded in natural right. It is a promise, a gift, a conferral, a birthright, an artifact that is not dependent upon the person’s effort, achievement, assertion, or even interest. Its va lue is established externa lly, apart from the subjectivity of the individual ego, or the person’s active assignment of meaning and value to it.
The egoist understands equ a l liberty as an outcome of the rejection of “old beliefs and indoctrination” which enables individuals to appreciate and assert their powers as individuals . “When each of us has determined to be as free as he can, to yield only to effective force in restraint of the liberty he wills to exercise, there will be more liberty and substantially equal liberty for u s i f we be numerous, even while far from a majority.” Tucker’s concept of equal liberty entails the notion that humanity is sacred, that humans are to be respected only for their humanity. Egoism rejects this notion and bases the claim to equal liberty among egoists on being an individual “who can be known to be neither a tyrant whom they must combat nor s lave incapable of requiting their aid .”
Tucker’s definition of anarchists as “unterrified Jeffersonian democrats,” clearly expresses the democratic commandment to establish and guard an equal status for all. Among the anarchists, democrats, socialists, and humanists, the guardianship of equality is a religion that impedes individual conviction, aspiration, and achievement. The democratic, socialist, communist, and anarchist revolutionaries believe tha t they abolish class domination once they destroy aristocratic and capitalist privileges.
The reality is they merely reduce a l l t o the status o f plebeians before the “composite individuality” of the state. They recreate an aristocracy of those who make and enforce the law. Equal liberty remains a chimera because neither liberty nor equality can be established objectively through the coercion of the “composite individuality.” Instead, efforts by the “composite individuality” to establish liberty and equality as objective facts produces nothing but yokes that bind the egoist and non egoist a like to minimal aspirations, expectations, abilities, and achievements.
Liberty must be divorced from equality. Liberty is impossible without the understanding that each person discovers or reveals his or her own directives through choice and conviction. Society is the field where individuals discover, reveal, and attempt to enforce their will and convictions on those who come into their domain. While equality can be imposed on individuals and society through the coercive reduction of all to the lowest common level, liberty cannot. Liberty can only be chosen. In a social context, liberty is not a right bestowed by an external power, but the assertion of will and conviction by individuals. It can be expressed in the exchange of power, recognition, and aid that egoistic allies provide each other.
Your right and liberty, apart from what you can do for yourself, is that part
of your will and pleasure which receives the support of allies lending you the
aid of their power, as their right and liberty has the same extension by recognition
and aid from you and others.
Egoists are not revolutionaries, although they seek a transformation of human relations. They do not seek the emancipation of a “herd of human cattle,” or those who are uninterested or unwill ing to reveal their own convictions and assert their own power. They are interested in collaborating with persons who are interested and capable of “asserting all attainable liberty.” Despite the derogatory label, egoists do not despise the “herd” but call it what it is. In fact, all egoists arise from the herd. Thus, the herd contains “my precious” potential allies. Those who develop as egoists, Walker will recognize, esteem, and support in equal liberty because the life of the egoist is better with allies than without them.
Differentiating Stirner’s egoism from Nietzsche’s, Walker asserts that egoists do not revere nor do they wait for the Ubermensch. They are the Ubermenschen . Unlike Nietzsche, the egoists oppose aristocracies because of the assignment of individuals to social classes based on birthright. An egoist may derive some pleasure in asserting power and associating with bold colleagues, but despises hereditary systems that force parents to transmit power and wealth to one child, but consign other children to inferior positions.
Nietzsche pretends that the master morality valued in aristocratic social systems transcends the slave morality of Christianity, democracy, and humanism. But aristocracy is just another form of moralism because it, too, is based on a set of preexisting rules that enforce obedience and deprive persons of the ability to establish the rules they live by.
Moralism in all its forms procures subjects who establish their virtue through obedience to the commands and rules of the specific regime. Moralism attempts to establish a course for human thought and behavior which purports to provide both virtue and happiness, social order and individual fulfillment, community and individuality. The egoist resists moralism because virtue and individual happiness tend to be opposites Their conflation is only for the credulous . In modernity, moralism aspires to the perfection of the human, it veers away from individuality and the extant person. Persons are encouraged or required to ” find themselves” in the essence or general idea of the species, the proletarian, the citizen, the master, or the human.
The notion of perfection or perfectibility prompts conformity to presumed exemplary characteristics in others. Perfection and perfectibility are founded on essences or ideal types, and not what is otherwise in persons ” genuinely.” Following Stirner, Walker reports that regimes may succeed in setting up the “true or perfect man,” but individuals are more than what any regime sets up as an ideal .
Each is unique. The uniqueness of individuals cannot be established or known prior to experience with them . It cannot be captured in an essence or an ideal type. Egoism is what persons think, feel, and act out themselves outside of, or in opposition to, ideal types created by social systems or political regimes. The aim of egoism is not to establish ideal men or women but to free them from “any yoke or assigned task, in order to normally possess, enjoy, develop and exhibit himself or herself.”
The moment that persons know themselves to be true, perfect, genuine, and natural is the moment that they are set free to work out their convictions, values, interests, and goals. The reference to the unique one or the individual ego is not a reference to an essence or an ideal type; is the only the point of departure. The discovery and revelation of self is the methodology of egoism. Thus, the reshaping o f individuals to fit political abstractions such as lithe democratic citizen,” “the ideal woman,” or lithe socialist man” are futile and destructive.
Persons appropriate from the species what they find interesting and Useful, but they have no obligation to fulfill any ideal type. They have n o religious, social, o r historical purpose other than w h a t they assign thems elves. Unlike Tucker, Spooner, and the individualist anarchists who based their political theory on natural right, Walker does not view anarchism as a political goal or an ideal political system. Anarchism i s the result of the state imploding because it has been abandoned by a critical m ass of egoists who organize their lives without it. The egoism of Walker and Stirner is not a form of anarchism and it cannot be easily classified into any philosophic taxonomy. It is a practice-oriented philosophy of living for individuals who seek to discover and reveal who they are.
You, as a person of flesh and blood, will not be successfully classified in
“philosophy,” I think, if you grasp the idea and act on it. The old so-called
philosophic egoism was a disquisition on the common characteristics of men,
a sort of generality. The real living egoism is the fact of untrammeled mind
in this or that person and the actions resulting, the end of the tyranny of