Dyer D. Lum

On Economy




The author declares himself in favor of overcoming the political economy (dominated by states and factions within the state) with the transition to an economy based on free individuals and voluntary relations, made of productions and exchanges for the satisfaction of human needs.

Source: The Economics of Anarchy, Chapter II: Fundamental Principles, 1890.



Carlyle aptly termed political economy the "Dismal Science,'' but a great change has since been seen coming over its spirit. For reasons already partly outlined Economists themselves have come to recognize that the issue is purely economic and has no more right to be qualified by the adjective "political" than by the adjective ''religious." Consequently, the trend of evolutionary progress, the logic of events, has eliminated the qualifying prefix and the science of society must henceforth be considered in the light of abstract justice rather than in the interests of temporary State requirements. With the obliteration of the misleading qualification our task is much easier and Economics may be so simplified that, being merely a phase of equitable relations, the application of the law of equal freedom to industrial activities, it may be divested of all obscurity which was impossible when complicated with ever shifting political exigencies.

Social relations pertaining to the sphere of industry are independent of both political and religious requirements. In the sphere of philosophy and religion we admit "the right of private judgment" ; in politics we have made great advance along the same path, but the advance but more clearly draws the line of its full recognition. Economics, in replacing political economy, has divorced political interests, ever temporary and fluctuating, from industrial aims. Religion. Politics, and Economics are three separate realms; their boundary lines never intersect. With the sphere of religion and politics, with their respective demands and obligations within the lines of voluntary agreement, the economist has no concern. Every man is free to accept a philosophic criterion or a theological creed according to the dictates of his own judgment or prejudice, or surrender his sovereignty over his own thought to the caprice of the crowd for real or supposed advantages; that is within his sovereignty over himself with which no one else has the right to interfere. So, similarly, you and I with others have equal right to voluntarily co-operate industrially to produce and exchange. We are aware that the State now prescribes certain rules for such relations, but if its lines should not intersect Economics, any regulations which curtail free contract, which grant privileges and create restrictions, are as unwarrantable an interference as religious intermeddling in the sphere of politics three centuries ago. Time adds nothing to a wrong — except accrued interest which, unfortunately, innocent inheritors have to pay.

If our premises are correct, — and how can they be assailed? — neither religious nor political claims can determine economic relations. As to how much would be left to politics does not concern us, if it can find a sphere within the lines of equal freedom without resorting to militant measures it may there remain undisturbed. If they do not harmonize with the lines evolution has established, either economic relations must be subordinated to the ever-changing requirements of religious necessities or political demands (in which case industrial evolution must be adjusted to past conditions), or the pretensions of such assertions of militancy must be denied and ignored. No advocate of twilight schemes can escape this dilemma, and if logical he should at once join his allies of the right wing, but on either horn the Anarchist asks his opponent to rest. But if, and this if covers the whole question, if we have entered upon an economic age, if neither religion nor politics can longer determine equity, nor compel certain relations otherwise than by the exercise of compulsion, they thereby declare themselves incompetent to settle living issues by progressive methods. With these deductions from admitted sociological premises, we will proceed to examine what further liberty a social regime of contract, or voluntary co-operation, yet lacks, or the removal of what restrictions the industrial type requires to introduce that equitable relations to which the silver cord running through historical evolution manifestly leads?

In this light Economics ceases to be a "Dismal Science." It is to be considered as the normal adjustment of industrial relations irrespective of the trammels which religion once, and politics now, interpose to frustrate by foreign and artificial agencies. It may be briefly defined within five sections, and in these are the fundamental principles of Economics. These are: 1. Land;
2. Labor; 3. Capital; 4. Exchange; 5. Insurance, or Security. Let us see if this is not the natural order and then, subsequently, if they are not all sufficient to produce equity in industrial activities without breaking with progress. That is, that Land is the source of all wealth, the basis of all that constitutes social progress. For without access to land labor would be inoperative, capital would not amass, exchange would not result, and civilization would not exist, for primitive societies feel no necessity for security. We may therefore unhesitatingly posit land as the first condition of social existence, the source from which arises civilization, that which in its use distinguishes our species from other animals, and raises us above them.

This granted, and it is indisputable, the second condition of life is the utilization of land, which involves the application of Labor. Land being the source of wealth, labor must be the means of its increase, of adding to what nature gratuitously supplies without cultivation. Labor applied to the soil by augmenting the natural yield of products increases the means of supporting life. If to the primitive man nature yields a living, to him who applies labor the soil yields an increased income, and hence diversity of wants . Experience taught man to gather seed and plant for future need. He realized more by the application of labor than the virgin soil furnished unaided. As men aggregated into tribal organization, as the development of the Tribal Self brought co-operation for defence and compelled the recognition of certain social relations, this would augment. The necessity for provision would in time impose itself on those struggling for existence where the habitat was favorable and necessity urged.
But land and labor conjoined, leading to larger returns, also yields more than man’s temporary requirements exact. Beside what present need required, future need demanded seed for new crops. This supply saved over and above present needs for reproductive purposes, constituted — what?

Capital, undoubtedly. Every seed so saved, every product of labor retained from consumption for reproductive use was taken from wealth had for wealth applied to increase. Every increase being wealth, that portion used to further production gives us our third factor. As this is also self evident let us proceed and see what follows the accumulation of capital.

Labor applied to land having acquired possession of capital, and the supply for the application of labor being inexhaustible, production would increase just so far as demand existed. Only then could Exchange follow, which again would stimulate production by gratifying as well as creating new wants. If exertion applied to the soil can produce more than is immediately required, if man’s productive power is greater than his consumptive capacity, it results that exchange heightens production. This also is self evident.

With access to the soil, with ability to utilize it, with product saved for reproductive use, and new wants brought out through exchange, what remains but Insurance against depredation or loss, or Security for the rewards of exertion, that is, the maintenance of equitable relations? Is there aught else, in equity, to add? Let us see what equity requires, what the industrial type demands, and wherein militancy still lurks to prevent its realization.


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