Lysander Spooner

Lysander Spooner (January 19, 1808 – May 14, 1887) was an American political philosopher, essayist, pamphlet writer, Unitarian, abolitionist, individualist anarchist, legal theorist and entrepreneur of the 19th century. He was a strong advocate of the labor movement and severely anti-authoritarian and individualist anarchist in his political views.

Spooner's most famous writing includes the seminal abolitionist book The Unconstitutionality of Slavery and No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority which opposed treason charges against secessionists. He is also known for competing with the Post Office with his American Letter Mail Company. However, it was closed after legal problems with the federal government.

Lysander Spooner
BornJanuary 19, 1808
Athol, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedMay 14, 1887 (aged 79)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
SubjectPolitical philosophy
Notable worksNo Treason, The Unconstitutionality of Slavery


Early life

Spooner was born on a farm in Athol, Massachusetts on January 19, 1808 and died on May 14, 1887 in Boston.[1] Spooner's parents were Asa and Dolly Spooner. One of his ancestors, William Spooner, arrived in Plymouth in 1637. He was the second of nine children. His father was a deist and it has been speculated that his father purposely named his two older sons Leander and Lysander after pagan and Spartan heroes, respectively.[2]:viii

Legal career

Spooner's activism began with his career as a lawyer, which itself violated Massachusetts law.[3] Spooner had studied law under the prominent lawyers, politicians and abolitionists John Davis, later Governor of Massachusetts and Senator; and Charles Allen, state senator and Representative from the Free Soil Party.[2]:viii However, he never attended college.[4] According to the laws of the state, college graduates were required to study with an attorney for three years while non-graduates were required to do so for five years.[4]

With the encouragement of his legal mentors, Spooner set up his practice in Worcester, Massachusetts after only three years, defying the courts.[4] He regarded the three-year privilege for college graduates as a state-sponsored discrimination against the poor and also providing a monopoly income to those who met the requirements. He argued that "no one has yet ever dared advocate, in direct terms, so monstrous a principle as that the rich ought to be protected by law from the competition of the poor".[4] In 1836, the legislature abolished the restriction.[4] He opposed all licensing requirements for lawyers, doctors or anyone else that was prevented from being employed by such requirements.[5] For Spooner, to prevent a person from doing business with a person without a professional license was a violation of the natural right to contract.[6] Thus, Spooner advocated natural law, or what he called the science of justice, wherein acts of initiatory coercion against individuals and their property, including taxation, were considered criminal because they were immoral while the so-called criminal acts that violated only man-made arbitrary legislation were not necessarily criminal.[7] After a disappointing legal career and a failed career in real estate speculation in Ohio, Spooner returned to his father's farm in 1840.[4]

American Letter Mail Company

Being an advocate of self-employment and opponent of government regulation of business, Spooner started his own business called American Letter Mail Company which competed with the Post Office, whose rates were notoriously high in the 1840s.[8] In 1844, Spooner founded the American Letter Mail Company, which had offices in various cities, including Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City.[9] Stamps could be purchased and then attached to letters which could be sent to any of its offices. From here, agents were dispatched who traveled on railroads and steamboats and carried the letters in hand bags. Letters were transferred to messengers in the cities along the routes who then delivered the letters to the addressees. This was a challenge to the Post Office's monopoly.[8][10]

As he had done when challenging the rules of the Massachusetts Bar Association, he published a pamphlet titled "The Unconstitutionality of the Laws of Congress Prohibiting Private Mails". Although Spooner had finally found commercial success with his mail company, legal challenges by the government eventually exhausted his financial resources. A law enacted in 1851 that strengthened the federal government's monopoly finally put him out of business. The lasting legacy of Spooner's challenge to the postal service was the three-cent stamp, adopted in response to the competition his company provided.[11]


Spooner attained his greatest fame as a figure in the abolitionist movement. His most famous work, a book titled The Unconstitutionality of Slavery, was published in 1845. Spooner's book contributed to a controversy among abolitionists over whether the Constitution supported the institution of slavery. The "disunionist" faction led by William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips argued the Constitution legally recognized and enforced the oppression of slaves (as for example in the provisions for the capture of fugitive slaves in Article IV, Section 2).[12][13] More generally, Phillips disputed Spooner's notion that any unjust law should be held legally void by judges.[14]

Spooner challenged the claim that the text of the Constitution permitted slavery.[15] Although he recognized that the Founding Fathers had probably not intended to outlaw slavery when writing the Constitution, Spooner argued that only the meaning of the text, not the private intentions of its writers, was enforceable. He used a complex system of legal and natural law arguments in order to show that the clauses usually interpreted as supporting slavery did not in fact support it and that several clauses of the Constitution prohibited the states from establishing slavery.[15] Spooner's arguments were cited by other pro-Constitution abolitionists such as Gerrit Smith and the Liberty Party, whose twenty-second plank of the 1849 platform praised Spooner's book The Unconstitutionality of Slavery. Frederick Douglass, originally a Garrisonian disunionist, later came to accept the pro-Constitution position and cited Spooner's arguments to explain his change of mind.[16]

From the publication of this book until 1861, Spooner actively campaigned against slavery.[17] He published subsequent pamphlets on jury nullification and other legal defenses for escaped slaves and offered his legal services to fugitives, often free of charge.[18] In the late 1850s, copies of his book were distributed to members of Congress sparking some debate over their contents. Even Senator Albert G. Brown of Mississippi, a slavery proponent, praised the argument's intellectual rigor and conceded it was the most formidable legal challenge he had seen from the abolitionists to date. In 1858, Spooner circulated a "Plan for the Abolition of Slavery", calling for the use of guerrilla warfare against slaveholders by black slaves and non-slaveholding free Southerners, with aid from Northern abolitionists.[19] Spooner also "conspir[ed] with John Brown to promote a servile insurrection in the South" and participated in an aborted plot to free Brown after his capture following the failed raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia (now part of the state of West Virginia).[20]

Although Spooner had advocated the use of violence to abolish slavery, he denounced the Republicans' use of violence to prevent the Southern states from seceding during the American Civil War. He published several letters and pamphlets about the war, arguing that the Republican objective was not to eradicate slavery, but rather to preserve the Union by force. He blamed the bloodshed on Republican political leaders such as Secretary of State William H. Seward and Senator Charles Sumner, who often criticized slavery yet would not attack it on a constitutional basis and who pursued military policies seen as vengeful and abusive.[21][22]

Although he denounced the institution of slavery, Spooner recognized the right of the Confederate States of America to secede as the manifestation of government by consent, a constitutional and legal principle fundamental to Spooner's philosophy. In contrast, the Northern states were trying to deny the Southerners that right through military force.[23] He vociferously opposed the Civil War, arguing that it violated the right of the Southern states to secede from a Union that no longer represented them.[20] He believed they were attempting to restore the Southern states to the Union against the wishes of Southerners. He argued that the right of the states to secede derives from the natural right of slaves to be free.[21] This argument was unpopular in the North and in the South after the Civil War began as it conflicted with the official position of both governments.[24]

Later life and death

Lysander Spooner Grave
Spooner is interred in the historic Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston, Massachusetts

Spooner continued to write and publish extensively during the decades following Reconstruction, producing works such as "Natural Law or the Science of Justice" and "Trial by Jury". In "Trial by Jury", he defended the doctrine of jury nullification, which holds that in a free society a trial jury not only has the authority to rule on the facts of the case, but also on the legitimacy of the law under which the case is tried. This doctrine would further allow juries to refuse to convict if they regard the law by which they are asked to convict as illegitimate. He became associated with Benjamin Tucker's American individualist anarchist journal Liberty which published all of his later works in serial format and for which he wrote several editorial columns on current events.[25] He argued that "almost all fortunes are made out of the capital and labour of other men than those who realize them. Indeed, except by his sponging capital and labour from others".[26]

Spooner defended the Millerites, who stopped working because they believed the world would soon end and were arrested for vagrancy.[2]:viii

Spooner was relatively well known and spent much time in the Boston Athenæum.[2]:xv He died on May 14, 1887 at the age of 79 in his nearby residence at 109 Myrtle Street, Boston.[27] He never married and had no children.[28] Tucker arranged his funeral service and wrote a "loving obituary" entitled "Our Nestor Taken From Us", which appeared in Liberty on May 28 and predicted "that the name Lysander Spooner would be 'henceforth memorable among men'".[29]

Political views

Anarchist George Woodcock describes Spooner's essays as an "eloquent elaboration" of American anarchist Josiah Warren and the early American development of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's ideas and associates his works with that of American individualist anarchist Stephen Pearl Andrews.[30] Woodcock also reports that both Spooner and William Batchelder Greene had been members of the socialist First International.[31]

As an individualist anarchist, Spooner advocated for pre-industrial living in communities of small property holders, such that they could pursue life, liberty, happiness and property in mutual honesty without ceding responsibility to a central government. He felt that an expansive government created virtual slaves and its demands of obedience expropriated the role of the individual. By letting the government make and enforce laws, he contends that Americans "have surrendered their liberties unreservedly into the hands of the government". In addition to his extra-governmental post service and views on abolitionism, Spooner wrote No Treason in which he contends that the Constitution is neither a contract nor a text to which citizens are bound. He argued that the national Congress should dissolve and let citizens rule themselves as he held that individuals should make their own fates.[32]

Spooner believed that it was beneficial for people to be self-employed so that they could enjoy the full benefits of their labor rather than having to share them with an employer. He argued that various forms of government intervention in the free market made it difficult for people to start their own businesses. For one, he believed that laws against high interest rates, or usury, prevented those with capital from extending credit because they could not be compensated for high risks of not being repaid, saying the following:

If a man have not capital of his own, upon which to bestow his labor, it is necessary that he be allowed to obtain it on credit. And in order that he may be able to obtain it on credit, it is necessary that he be allowed to contract for such a rate of interest as will induce a man, having surplus capital, to loan it to him; for the capitalist cannot, consistently with natural law, be compelled to loan his capital against his will. All legislative restraints upon the rate of interest, are, therefore, nothing less than arbitrary and tyrannical restraints upon a man's natural capacity amid natural right to hire capital, upon which to bestow his labor. [...] The effect of usury laws, then, is to give a monopoly of the right of borrowing money, to those few, who can offer the most approved security.[33]

Spooner also believed that government restrictions on issuance of private money made it inordinately difficult for individuals to obtain the capital on credit to start their own businesses, thereby putting them in a situation where "a very large portion of them, to save themselves from starvation, have no alternative but to sell their labor to others" and those who do employ others are only able to afford to pay "far below what the laborers could produce, [than] if they themselves had the necessary capital to work with".[34] Spooner said that there was "a prohibitory tax – a tax of ten per cent. – on all notes issued for circulation as money, other than the notes of the United States and the national banks" which he argued caused an artificial shortage of credit and that eliminating this tax would result in making plenty of money available for lending.[34]

Furthermore, Spooner was opposed to wage labor, wanting that social relationship destroyed by turning capital over to those who work in it as associated producers and not as wage slaves, saying:

All the great establishments, of every kind, now in the hands of a few proprietors, but employing a great number of wage labourers, would be broken up; for few or no persons, who could hire capital and do business for themselves would consent to labour for wages for another.[35]


Spooner's influence extends to the wide range of topics he addressed during his lifetime. He is remembered primarily for his abolitionist activities and for his challenge to the Post Office monopoly which had a lasting influence of significantly reducing postal rates.[36] Spooner's writings contributed to the development of both left-libertarian and right-libertarian political theory in the United States and were often reprinted in early libertarian journals such as the Rampart Journal[37] and Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought.[38] His writings were also a major influence on Austrian School economist Murray Rothbard and right-libertarian law professor and legal theorist Randy Barnett. While recognizing such influences, An Anarchist FAQ argues against the idea of Spooner as one precursor to anarcho-capitalism, stating that he was a "left-libertarian who was firmly opposed to capitalism", whose "vision of a free society was fundamentally anti-capitalist".[39] Iain MacSaorsa argues that Spooner was an "anti-capitalist, prefering to see a society of self-employed farmers, artisans and cooperating workers, not a society of wage slaves and capitalists" as he "was opposed to wage labour, wanting that social relationship destroyed by turning capital over to those who work in it, as associated producers and not as wage slaves".[40]

In January 2004, Laissez Faire Books established the Lysander Spooner Award for advancing the literature of liberty. The honor is awarded monthly to the most important contributions to right-libertarian literature, followed by an annual award to the winner.[41] In 2010, the Libertarian, Agorist, Voluntaryist and Anarch Association of Authors and Publishers (LAVA) created the Lysander Spooner Award for Book of the Year which has been awarded annually since 2011.[42] The LAVA Awards are held annually to honor excellence in books relating to the principles of liberty, with the Lysander Spooner Award being the grand prize award.

Spooner's The Unconstitutionality of Slavery was cited in the 2008 Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller which struck down the federal district's ban on handguns. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the court, quotes Spooner as saying the right to bear arms was necessary for those who wanted to take a stand against slavery.[43] It was also cited by Justice Clarence Thomas in his concurring opinion in McDonald v. Chicago, another firearms case, the following year.[44]

In popular culture

In the alternate history novel The Probability Broach (part of the North American Confederacy series) by L. Neil Smith in which the United States becomes a libertarian state after a successful Whiskey Rebellion and the overthrowing and execution of George Washington by firing squad for treason in 1794, Spooner served as the 14th President of the North American Confederacy from 1860 to 1880.


Virtually everything written by Spooner is contained in the six-volume compilation The Collected Works of Lysander Spooner (1971). The most notable exception is Vices are not Crimes, not widely known until its republication in 1977.[2]:xv

Archival material

There are collections of letters written by Spooner in the Boston Public Library and the New York Historical Society.[2]:viii–ix

See also


  1. ^ Tucker, Benjamin (1887). "Our Nestor Taken From Us".
  2. ^ a b c d e f Shone, Steve J. (2010). Lyssnder Spooner, American Anarchist. Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0739144503.
  3. ^ Smith, George H. (1992). The Lysander Spooner Reader. Fox and Wilkes. p. viii.
  4. ^ a b c d e f McKivigan, John (1999). Abolitionism and American Law. pp. 66–67.
  5. ^ "Biography". Archived from the original on June 30, 2012. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  6. ^ Spooner, Lysander (1843). Constitutional Law, Relative to Credit, Currency and Banking. p. 16.
  7. ^ Spooner, Lysander (1882). "Natural Law, or the Science of Justice".
  8. ^ a b "The Challenge To The U.S. Postal Monopoly, 1839–1851". Archived from the original on May 10, 2012. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  9. ^ McMaster, John Bach (1910). A History of the People of the United States. D. Appleton and Company. p. 116.
  10. ^ Adie, Douglas (1989). Monopoly Mail: The Privatizing United States Postal Service. p. 27.
  11. ^ Goodyear, Lucille J. (January 1981). "Spooner vs. U.S. Postal System".; originally published in American Legion Magazine. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012. Retrieved October 25, 2012.
  12. ^ Barnett, Randy E. (February 22, 2010). Whence Comes Section One? The Abolitionist Origins of the Fourteenth Amendment. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network.
  13. ^ "Donald Yacovone, Massachusetts Historical Society: "A Covenant with Death and an Agreement with Hell"". Archived from the original on December 29, 2010. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  14. ^ Phillips, Wendell (1847). Review of Spooner's Essay on the Unconstitutionality of Slavery.
  15. ^ a b "The Unconstitutionality of Slavery". Archived from the original on July 28, 2012. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  16. ^ Cf. Douglass, Frederick (1852). "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?".
  17. ^ "Letters by Lysander Spooner". Archived from the original on June 30, 2012. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  18. ^ "Lysander Spooner, An Essay on the Trial by Jury (1852)". Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  19. ^ "Lysander Spooner – Plan for the Abolition of Slavery". Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  20. ^ a b Raico, Ralph. "Neither the Wars Nor the Leaders Were Great". Ludwig von Mises Institute. March 29, 2011. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  21. ^ a b "Lysander Spooner, Letter to Charles Sumner (1864)". Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  22. ^ "Spooner's Fiery Attack on Lincolnite Hypocrisy by Thomas DiLorenzo". November 26, 2004. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  23. ^ The Lysander Spooner Reader, by George H. Smith, pp. xvii and further
  24. ^ Smith, George H. (1992). The Lysander Spooner Reader. p. xix.
  25. ^ "Lysander Spooner, Tucker & Liberty". Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  26. ^ Quoted in Martin, James J. (1953). Men Against the State. p. 173.
  27. ^ "One of the Old Guard of Abolition Heroes, Dies in His Eightieth Year After a Fortnight's Illness". Archived from the original on July 18, 2009. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  28. ^ "Biography — Lysander Spooner". Retrieved December 3, 2018.
  29. ^ McElroy, Wendy. "Lysander Spooner, Part 2". The Future of Freedom Foundation. November 1, 2005. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  30. ^ Woodcock, George (1962). Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements. Melbourne: Penguin. p. 434.
  31. ^ Woodcock, George (1962). Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements. Melbourne: Penguin. p. 460.
  32. ^ Gay, Kathlyn; Gay, Martin (1999). "Spooner, Lysander". Encyclopedia of Political Anarchy. ABC-CLIO. pp. 193–195. ISBN 978-0-87436-982-3.
  33. ^ Spooner, Lysander (1846). Poverty: Its Illegal Causes and Legal Cure. Boston: Bela Marsh.
  34. ^ a b Spooner, Lysander (1886). "A Letter to Grover Cleveland, on His False Inaugural Address, the Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the Consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People".
  35. ^ Quoted from Spooner's "A Letter to Grover Cleveland, on His False Inaugural Address, the Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the Consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People" (1886) by Eunice Minette Schuster. Native American Anarchism. p. 148.
  36. ^ Krohn, Raymond James (Summer 2007). "The Limits of Jacksonian Liberalism: Individualism, Dissent, and the Gospel of Andrew According to Lysander Spooner". Journal of Libertarian Studies. 21: 2. pp. 46–47.
  37. ^ Spooner, Lysander (1870). No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority. "A Letter to Thomas F. Bayard".Rampart Journal. 1: 1. Spring 1965. With an introduction by Martin, James J. (Fall 1965). Rampart Journal. 1: 3.
  38. ^ Spooner, Lysander (1882). "Natural Law, Or the Science of Justice". Reprinted in Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought (Winter 1967).
  39. ^ An Anarchist FAQ. "Lysander Spooner: right-"libertarian" or libertarian socialist?". June 18, 2009. Retrieved March 21, 2009.
  40. ^ MacSaorsa, Iain. "The Ideas of Lysander Spooner — Libertarian or libertarian socialist?". December 3, 2009. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  41. ^ "Lysander Spooner Award". Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  42. ^ LAVA "First Annual LAVA Awards". The Libertarian, Agorist, Voluntaryist & Anarchs Authors and Publishers Association. November 13, 2010. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  43. ^ Scalia, Antonin. "District of Columbia v. Heller 554 U. S. ____ – US Supreme Court Cases from Justia & Oyez". Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  44. ^ Thomas, Clarence. "Mv. Chicago". Retrieved June 24, 2012.

Further reading

External links

American Letter Mail Company

The American Letter Mail Company was started by Lysander Spooner in 1844, competing with the presumed legal monopoly of the United States Post Office (USPO, now the USPS).

Anarchism in Iceland

Anarchism is a small minority political movement in Iceland, defined by its relationship with other progressive social movements, and its involvement in primarily ideological work.

Anarchist law

Anarchist law is a hypothetical body of norms regarding behavior and decision-making that might be operative in an anarchist community. The term is used in a series of ongoing debates within the various branches of anarchist theory regarding if and how norms of individual and/or collective behavior, decision-making and actions should be created and enforced.


Anti-authoritarianism is opposition to authoritarianism, which is defined as "a form of social organisation characterised by submission to authority", "favoring complete obedience or subjection to authority as opposed to individual freedom" and to authoritarian government. Anti-authoritarians usually believe in full equality before the law and strong civil liberties. Sometimes the term is used interchangeably with anarchism, an ideology which entails opposing authority or hierarchical organization in the conduct of human relations, including the state system.

Bela Marsh

Bela Marsh (1797-1869) was a publisher and bookseller in Boston, Massachusetts, in the 19th century. Authors under his imprint included spiritualists and abolitionists such as John Stowell Adams, Adin Ballou, Warren Chase, Lysander Spooner, and Henry Clarke Wright. Marsh kept offices on Washington Street (ca.1820-1832), Cornhill (ca.1847-1852), Franklin Street (ca.1854-1856), and Bromfield Street (ca.1858-1868). Among his business partners were Nahum Capen, Gardner P. Lyon, T.H. Webb, and George W. Williams. He belonged to the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association and the Physiological Society.Marsh was the defendant in the seminar copyright case, Folsom v. Marsh (C.C.D. Mass. 1841), for publishing a two-volume abridgment of George Washington's letters.

Decentralized planning (economics)

A decentralized-planned economy or decentrally-planned economy (occasionally called horizontally-planned economy due to its horizontalism) is a type of planned economy in which the investment and allocation of consumer and capital goods is explicate accordingly to an economy-wide plan built and operatively coordinated through a distributed network of disparate economic agents or even production units itself. Decentralized planning is usually held in contrast to centralized planning, in particular the Soviet Union's command economy, where economic information is aggregated and used to formulate a plan for production, investment and resource allocation by a single central authority. Decentralised planning can take shape both in the context of a mixed economy as well as in a post-capitalist economic system.

This form of economic planning implies some process of democratic and participatory decision-making within the economy and within firms itself in the form of industrial democracy. Computer-based forms of democratic economic planning and coordination between economic enterprises have also been proposed by various computer scientists and radical economists. Proponents present decentralized and participatory economic planning as an alternative to market socialism for a post-capitalist society.Decentralized-planning has been proposed as a basis for socialism and has been variously advocated by democratic socialists, council communists and anarchists who advocate a non-market form of socialism, in total rejection of Soviet-type central economic planning. Some writers such as Robin Cox have argued that decentralised planning allows for a spontaneously self-regulating system of stock control (relying solely on calculation in kind) to come about and that in turn decisively overcomes the objections raised by the economic calculation argument that any large scale economy must necessarily resort to a system of market prices.

Free-market anarchism

Free-market anarchism, or market anarchism, includes several branches of anarchism that advocate an economic system based on voluntary market interactions without the involvement of the state. A branch of market anarchism is left-wing market anarchism such as mutualists or Gary Chartier and Kevin Carson, who consider themselves anti-capitalists and self identify as part of the socialist movement.On the other hand, people who identify as anarcho-capitalists stress the legitimacy and priority of private property, describing it as an integral component of individual rights and a free-market economy. However, there is a strong current within anarchism which does not consider that anarcho-capitalism can be considered a part of the anarchist movement because anarchism has historically been an anti-capitalist movement and for definitional reasons which see anarchism incompatible with capitalist forms. Thus, the term may be used to refer to diverse economic and political concepts such as those proposed by individualist anarchists and libertarian socialists like Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner, or alternatively anarcho-capitalists like Murray Rothbard and David D. Friedman.


Geolibertarianism is a political and economic ideology that integrates libertarianism with Georgism (alternatively geoism or geonomics), most often associated with left-libertarianism or the radical center.Geolibertarians hold that geographical space and raw natural resources—any assets that qualify as land by economic definition—are rivalrous goods to be considered common property or more accurately unowned, which all individuals share an equal human right to access, not capital wealth to be privatized fully and absolutely. Therefore, landholders must pay compensation according to the rental value decided by the free market, absent any improvements, to the community for the civil right of usufruct (that is, legally recognized exclusive possession with restrictions on property abuse) or otherwise fee simple title with no such restrictions. Ideally, the taxing of a site would be administered only after it has been determined that the privately captured economic rent from the land exceeds the title-holder's equal share of total land value in the jurisdiction. On this proposal, rent is collected not for the mere occupancy or use of land as neither the community nor the state rightfully owns the commons, but rather as an objectively assessed indemnity due for the legal right to exclude others from that land. Some geolibertarians also support Pigovian taxes on pollution and severance taxes to regulate natural resource depletion and compensatory fees with ancillary positive environmental effects on activities which negatively impact land values. They endorse the standard right-libertarian view that each individual is naturally entitled to the fruits of their labor as exclusive private property as opposed to produced goods being owned collectively by society or by the government acting to represent society, and that a person's "labor, wages, and the products of labor" should not be taxed. Along with non-Georgists in the libertarian movement, they also support law of equal liberty, advocating "full civil liberties, with no crimes unless there are victims who have been invaded".Geolibertarians are generally influenced by the Georgist single tax movement of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, but the ideas behind it pre-date Henry George and can be found in different forms in the writings of John Locke, the English True Levellers or Diggers such as Gerrard Winstanley, the French Physiocrats (particularly Quesnay and Turgot), Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Jean-Baptiste Say, Frédéric Bastiat, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Lysander Spooner, Benjamin Tucker, John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer and Thomas Spence. Prominent geolibertarians since George have included Albert Jay Nock, Frank Chodorov and Milton Friedman(on consequentialist grounds). Other libertarians who have expressed support for the land value tax as an incremental reform include John Hospers, Karl Hess and United States Libertarian Party co-founder David Nolan.

Individualist anarchism in the United States

Individualist anarchism in the United States was strongly influenced by Benjamin Tucker, Josiah Warren, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lysander Spooner, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Max Stirner, Herbert Spencer and Henry David Thoreau. Other important individualist anarchists in the United States were Stephen Pearl Andrews, William Batchelder Greene, Ezra Heywood, M. E. Lazarus, John Beverley Robinson, James L. Walker, Joseph Labadie, Steven Byington and Laurance Labadie. The first American anarchist publication was The Peaceful Revolutionist, edited by Josiah Warren, whose earliest experiments and writings predate Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

Libertarian theories of law

Libertarian theories of law build upon classical liberal and individualist doctrines.

The defining characteristics of libertarian legal theory are its insistence that the amount of governmental intervention should be kept to a minimum and the primary functions of law should be enforcement of contracts and social order, though social order is often seen as a desirable side effect of a free market rather than a philosophical necessity.

Historically, the Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek is the most important libertarian legal theorist. Another important predecessor was Lysander Spooner, a 19th-century American individualist anarchist and lawyer. John Locke was also an influence on libertarian legal theory (see Two Treatises of Government).

Ideas range from anarcho-capitalism to a minimal state providing physical protection and enforcement of contracts. Some advocate regulation, including the existence of a police force, military, public land and public infrastructure. Geolibertarians oppose absolute ownership of land on Georgist grounds.

Liberty (1881–1908)

Liberty was a 19th-century anarchist periodical published in the United States by Benjamin Tucker from August 1881 to April 1908.

The periodical was instrumental in developing and formalizing the individualist anarchist philosophy through publishing essays and serving as a format for debate.

Contributors included Tucker, Lysander Spooner, Auberon Herbert, Dyer Lum, Joshua K. Ingalls, John Henry Mackay, Victor Yarros, Wordsworth Donisthorpe, James L. Walker, J. William Lloyd, Voltairine de Cleyre, Steven T. Byington, John Beverley Robinson, Jo Labadie and Henry Appleton. Included in its masthead is a quote from Pierre-Joseph Proudhon saying that liberty is "Not the Daughter But the Mother of Order".

List of films dealing with anarchism

This article is for films both fictional and non-fictional which focus on anarchism, anarchist movements and/or anarchist characters as a theme.

No Treason

No Treason is a composition of three essays, all written in 1867: No. 1, No. 2: "The Constitution", and No. 6: "The Constitution of no Authority". No essays between No. 2 and No. 6 were ever published under the authorship of Lysander Spooner.

Pioneers of American Freedom

Pioneers of American Freedom: Origin of Liberal and Radical Thought in America is a book by the German anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker about the history of liberal, libertarian, and anarchist thought in the United States.

Rudolf Rocker, who had been strongly influenced by Benjamin Tucker, started work on Pioneers of American Freedom during World War II. Professor Arthur E. Briggs started translating the book into English from Rocker's native German in 1941. He took over for Rocker's previous English translator Ray E. Chase as he had died. The book was published with the help of the Rocker Publishing Committee in 1949.The first part of the book consists of a series of essays on the American liberal thinkers Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and Abraham Lincoln. Rocker emphasizes the importance these men assign to individualism, freedom, and the subordination of the state to the welfare of the individual. This, Rocker claims, is a great similarity between anarchist and liberal thought.The second part deals with American anarchists. Among those covered in the book are Josiah Warren, Stephen Pearl Andrews, Lysander Spooner, William Batchelder Greene, Ezra Heywood, and Benjamin Tucker. Rocker argues that these anarchists' emphasis on "free competition of individual and social forces as something inherent in human nature, which if suppressed will inevitably lead to the destruction of the social equilibrium" distinguishes them from authoritarian socialists. He claims that the problem in modern society is not too much competition, but a lack of it as the result of "the destructive forces of monopoly". Further, Rocker seeks to dispel the myth that radicalism in the United States was merely a foreign import, pointing to the fact that most of the thinkers covered by the book were undoubtedly American by descent and born in the New England states. In fact, he argues, they were active "before any modern radical movements were even thought of in Europe" and they were more influenced by the American Declaration of Independence than by any European thinker.Roger Nash Baldwin said of Pioneers of American Freedom: "No American has been able to write such an analysis of our heretics and idealists." The Mississippi Valley Historical Review claimed the essays made no new contribution and considered the discussion of Lincoln inferior. The journal's review does, however, credit Rocker with "bringing together in an orderly discussion of all the important American material on philosophical anarchism before World War I". Joseph Dorfman, in his review in the Journal of Political Economy, credits Rocker with writing one of the first treatments of American radical history, considering it a "welcome supplement" to Eunice M. Schuster's Native American Anarchism.

Restoring the Lost Constitution

Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty is a 2003 book about the United States Constitution written by Randy Barnett, a professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center. In the book, Barnett outlines his theory of constitutional legitimacy, interpretation, and construction. He argues for that the Constitution should be interpreted by its "original meaning", distinct from the Founding Fathers' original intent.Restoring the Lost Constitution was awarded the 2005 Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty by Laissez Faire Books.


Self-ownership (also known as sovereignty of the individual or individual sovereignty) is the concept of property in one's own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to have bodily integrity and be the exclusive controller of one's own body and life. Self-ownership is a central idea in several political philosophies that emphasize individualism, such as liberalism and anarchism.

The Unconstitutionality of Slavery

The Unconstitutionality of Slavery (1845) was a book by American abolitionist Lysander Spooner advocating the view that the United States Constitution prohibited slavery. This view was advocated in contrast to that of William Lloyd Garrison who advocated opposing the constitution on the grounds that it supported slavery. In the pamphlet, Spooner shows that none of the state governments of the slave states specifically authorized slavery, that the U.S. Constitution contains several clauses that are contradictory with slavery, that slavery was a violation of natural law, and that the intentions of the Constitutional Convention have no legal bearing on the document they created. Thus, Spooner's position is one that employs original meaning-styled textualism and rejects original intent-styled originalism.

Victor Yarros

Victor S. Yarros (1865–1956) was an American anarchist, lawyer and author. He was law partner to Clarence Darrow for eleven years in Chicago, husband to the feminist gynecologist Rachelle Yarros (née Slobodinsky) and resident of Hull-House Settlement. He was a prolific contributor to the individualist anarchist periodical in the United States called Liberty.

Yarros' political views evolved significantly over the years, from free-market anarchism to social democracy. He shifted from Spencerian anarchism, to individualist anarchism under Benjamin Tucker and finally to a follower of Lysander Spooner. By the 1930s, Yarros came to believe that the democratic state was useful in the struggle against economic privilege.

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