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Lysander Spooner 19 January — 14 May was an American individualist anarchist , entrepreneur, political philosopher, abolitionist, supporter of the labor movement, and legal theorist of the nineteenth century. It is true that the theory of our Constitution is, that all taxes are paid voluntarily; that our government is a mutual insurance company, voluntarily entered into by the people with each other; that each man makes a free and purely voluntary contract with all others who are parties to the Constitution, to pay so much money for so much protection, the same as he does with any other insurance company; and that he is just as free not to be protected, and not to pay any tax, as he is to pay a tax, and be protected.

But this theory of our government is wholly different from the practical fact. The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: Your money, or your life. And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.

The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the road side, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful. The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act.

The Postal System of the 1840s

He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a "protector," and that he takes men's money against their will, merely to enable him to "protect" those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do.

He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful "sovereign," on account of the "protection" he affords you.

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He does not keep "protecting" you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands.

He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villainies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave. Martin, p Hences its pretty clear that Spooner was against wage labour, and so was no capitalist.

I can but agree with Marshall who indicates that Spooner was a left libertarian, with ideas very close to Proudhon and mutualism. Whether these ideas are relevent now, with the capital needed to start companies in established sectors of the economy is another question. But, as can be seen, Spooner was anti capitalist. Here is the original article, where this theme is explored in greater depth.

Spooner has frequently been referred to as a Libertarian, an anarcho- capitalist and a propertarian anarchist. In fact, Spooner does not claim that governments are inherently illegitimate but only that legitimate governments must be based on the consent of every individual contributing to the maintenance of the government. He thus demands that taxation be voluntary.

From such a position Spooner would seem to assume a minarchist viewpoint more akin to the Libertarian than the anarcho-capitalist. Spooner makes frequent mention of the right of private property.

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Lysander Spooner : Natural Law ()

In addition, as a lawyer, Spooner naturally places considerable stock in legalisms such as binding contracts. Indeed, Spooner devotes considerable discussion to the concept of the Constitution as a contract. Spooner argues that the Constitution may be considered a contract, but that it may only be considered as binding upon those who actually demonstrated their consent to its authority.

He definitively rejects the legitimacy of the Constitution as a contract binding on the descendents of the original signers:. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize.


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In the above Spooner reads more or less like a Libertarian. What is more interesting is his departures from the Libertarian position, and these are rather radical. Check system status. Toggle navigation Menu. Name of resource. Problem URL. Describe the connection issue. SearchWorks Catalog Stanford Libraries.

Lysander Spooner : American anarchist.

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Responsibility Steve J. Imprint Lanham, Md. Physical description xvi, p. Online Available online.