In Tucker’s individualist anarchism, profit, rent, and interest are the concrete means by which one social class dominates another. Each is a form of exploitation since it is economic value that capitalists, landowners, and bankers appropriate but do not earn. Viewed from the standpoint of workers, tenants, and borrowers, profit, rent, and interest are forms of usury in which economic value is forcibly expropriated from the individual.
The extraction of surplus value in the forms of profit, rent, and interest certainly generates opposition to capitalism by workers, tenants, and borrowers, but capitalism persists because political and economic elites collude to create monopolies that are legitimated and protected by the state.
There is a profound similarity in the analysis and critique of capitalism by the state socialists led by Marx and the anarchists led by Proudhon and 1 Chapter 4 Warren . Tucker traces the similarity to the mutual recognition that labor does not receive the full value of what it produces. The two movements differ dramatically in how they would reconstruct society. Marxists envision a social revolution in which the proletariat, through its agent, the communists, seize political power and begin the process of “expropriating the expropriators,” socializing the means and outcomes of production . The mutualists or individualist anarchists like Tucker, Proudhon, and Warren, also envision a social transformation, but one that would destroy, not seize, state power and, thereby, destroy the monopolies that produce class inequalities.
Theoretically, the outcome of the individualist anarchist destruction of the state would be a society based on voluntarism and cooperation in which no one would have any special privileges, but all would compete and cooperate as they pursue their individual interests.
All forms of possession and economic value would be based on use, not titles or privileges conferred by the state.
Unlike the Marxists and other state socialists, the individualist anarchists d o not believe that the appropriate response to the exploitation caused by monopoly and authority was the centralization of monopoly and authority in the state. Instead, Tucker and his colleagues believed that competition, the “antithesis of monopoly,” was the means to make liberty, not authority, universal. The individualist anarchists “saw in competition the great leveler of prices to the labor cost of production./I But all prices do not fall to the cost of labor because there is only a one-sidedness to competition under capitalism . Historically, the capitalist class successfully manipulated legislation to provide an unlimited supply of productive labor, “keeping wages down to the starvation point, or as near it as practicable.”
For the capitalists, “almost no competition at all is allowed in sl’pplying capital,” “keeping the rate of interest on money and of houserent and ground-rent as high as the necessities of the people will bear.”
The individualist anarchist solution was to extend the competitive, laissez-faire principle to all aspects of economy and society. In a practical sense, the promotion of absolute free trade meant that four forms of collusion between the state and capital need to be destroyed: the banking monopoly, the land monopoly, the tariff monopoly, and the intellectual property monopoly.
At the base of the individualist anarchist economic philosophy is the search for practices that promote the sovereignty of the individual. Following Warren, Tucker argued that the tendency toward monopoly or building trusts was a major flaw of capitalism because i t signified that individuals were deprived of the right to compete and access to the tools needed to participate in competition. In his speech to the Civic Federation on “industrial combinations,” Tucker lists the basic elements of his critique of capitalism.
1 . The right to cooperate i s as inviolable as the right to compete;
2. The right to compete involves the right to refrain from competition;
3. Cooperation is often a method of competition;
4. Competition is always a method of cooperation;
5. Each is a legitimate, orderly, noninvasive exercise of the individual
will under the law of equal liberty; and
6. Any man or institution attempting to prohibit or restrict either, in
any way, is an enemy of liberty
Tucker argues that the banking or money monopoly was the most significant form of monopoly in terms of the damage to free competition and the exploitation of labor, and, thus, one of the most dangerous enemies of individual liberty. The banking monopoly refers to the “privilege given by the government to certain individuals, or to individuals holding certain kinds of property, of issuing the circulating medium .” Tucker claims that the individuals who hold this privilege “control the rate of interest, the rate of the rent of houses and buildings, and the prices of goods, – the first directly, and the second and third indirectly.”
Tucker’s argument appears somewhat archaic in the United States today largely because of the role of the Federal Reserve and the complexity of both financial and labor markets. A contemporary restatement of Tucker’s position argues that the banking monopoly is a form of privilege controlled by the government in which “the licensing of banks, capitalization requirements, and other market entry barriers enable banks to charge a monopoly p rice for loans in the form of usurious interest rates.”
For Tucker, the extraction of surplus value in the form of interest occurs because of the “money monopoly,” which deprives all individuals and associations of the right to issue promissory notes as currency,
thereby compelling all holders of property other than the kind thus privileged,
as well as nonproprietors, to pay tribute to the holders of the privileged
property for the use of a circulating medium and instrument of credit
which, in the complex stage that industry and commerce have now reached,
has become the chief essential of a competitive market
The individualist anarchist critique of finance capital was historically based on a strand of radical thought in the nineteenth century that emphasized the control of access to capital in the production of class inequality and the role of “mutual” banks as alternative forms of finance. Warren’s Cincinnati Time Store was conceived as a type of mutual bank that extended credit to individuals and associations based on the exchange of labor notes, a type of currency that was created in opposition to the “official” currency established by the United States government. Lysander Spooner also challenged the legitimacy of the money monopoly through a series of pamphlets and articles he published from 1 843 to 1 873 that attacked the presumption that the power to print money does not entail the right to enforce its universal acceptance and use, nor does it preclude alternative forms of currency.28 In 1843, Spooner published Constitutional Law Relative to Credit, a pamphlet that argues that the right of banking and issuance of promissory notes is as much a natural right as any other effort to earn a living. The effort by the government to suppress competition in banking and credit is as foolish as the idea that government should prohibit competition in agriculture and manu acturing.
In his 1861 pamphlet, A New System of Paper Currency, Spooner writes that neither the federal government nor state governments have any authority under the Constitution of the United States to prohibit, limit, or regulate private banking in any form . Consequently, individuals have a natural right to issue, sell, exchange, and loan private currency based on land or capital. The United States government has no right to forbid private commerce or exchange in currency, credit, or banking. In his view, federal law that prohibits, limits, or regulates private commerce in these areas has the effect of conferring special privileges for both making contracts and for avoiding the responsibility of them.Spooner’s analysis of the illegitimate role of government in currency, credit, and banking influenced Tucker’s analysis greatly because it illuminated the ability of the government to generate and protect class inequality through the extraction of surplus value in the form of interest.
Both Warren and Spooner provided an important theoretical foundation for Tucker’s critique of the banking monopoly, but he was enormously influenced by the banking reformer William B. Greene on monetary theory. Greene was a graduate of West Point and Harvard Divinity School. He served in the campaign against the Seminole Indians in Florida du ring 1 8 1 7-1 818. Unlike Warren, Spooner, and Tucker, Green e was not a lifelong theorist and activist for individualist anarchism. He only adopted anarchist ideas during the last decade of his life. He was astonished at the economic collapse that occurred during the Great Panic of 1 837, which has been called America’s first great depression.
The Great Panic of 1 837 was initiated by the collapse of the real estate market and the failures of banks across the country. Estimates are that as many a s 90 percent of the factories in the Unites States went out of business, and hundreds of farms failed for the lack of credit. The country experienced record unemployment and depression for five years. Upon observing the economic devastation, Greene devoted himself to the analysis of money and banking. He articulated his theories in a series of articles that appeared in several 1 849 issues of the Palladium, a newspaper published in Worcester, Massachusetts. Greene’s articles were originally published in book form under the title Equality in 1 849, and appeared again later that same year in a revised form as Mutual Banking.