Instead of A Book (1893/1897)

by Benjamin R. Tucker (1854-1939)

[III.] Money and Interest.

[III.2] Reform Made Ridiculous.

[Liberty, September 17, 1881.]

IOB-III-2.1 One of the most noteworthy of Thomas Jefferson’s sayings was that he “had rather live under newspapers without a government than under a government without newspapers.” The Czar of Russia proposes to make this alternative unnecessary by establishing a national weekly journal to be distributed gratuitously in every village, whose carefully-concocted news paragraphs, severely-sifted political items, and rose-tinted editorials shall be read aloud on Sundays by designated officials to the assembled multitudes. This absurd proposal is no more absurd than that of a delegate to the State Convention of the Massachusetts Greenbackers, who desired that the government should add to its functions that of the collection of news to be furnished gratuitously to the daily journals. And this again is no more absurd than some of the proposals actually endorsed by a majority of the delegates to the same convention, nearly all of whose measures and methods, in fact, are quite of a piece with those of the aforesaid Czar.
IOB-III-2.2 For instance, one of the resolutions adopted (and we grieve to say that it was introduced by no less a person than our excellent and earnest friend J. M. L. Babcock of Cambridge) asks the legislature to compel all corporations to distribute their profits on excess of six per cent. among their employees in the proportion of the scale of wages. Saying nothing of the fact that this resolution seriously offends liberty by denying that the equitable distribution of property which the labor movement seeks must result, not from legislative enactment, but from the free play of natural laws, it also offends equity by admitting that capital is entitled to a portion of labor’s product, and that the producer is entitled to exact a profit from the consumer! Yet we are told that only one man in that whole convention had the brains and the courage to rise from his seat and proclaim the great truth that, if labor can claim anything, it can and should claim ALL. What wonder that this half-hearted, half-headed Greenback party excites among intelligent people no sentiment higher than that of a pity akin to contempt! Mr. Babcock’s resolution would take the labor movement off of its basis of right, and degenerate it into an unprincipled scramble for spoils by which the strongest would profit. Take the half-loaf who will; we shall never cease to reiterate that the whole loaf rightfully belongs to those who raise the wheat from the soil, grind it into flour, and bake it into bread, and not the smallest taste of it to the sharpers who deceive the unthinking masses into granting them a monopoly of the opportunities of performing these industrial operations, which opportunities they in return rent back to the people on condition of receiving the other half of the loaf.

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