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Instead of a Book; By a Man Too Busy to Write One: a Fragmentary Exposition of Philosophical Anarchism [Paperback]

Benjamin Ricketson Tucker
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 12.39 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

2 Jan 2010
Publisher: New York : B.R. Tucker Publication date: 1897 Subjects: Anarchism Economics Socialism Notes: This is an OCR reprint. There may be typos or missing text. There are no illustrations or indexes. When you buy the General Books edition of this book you get free trial access to where you can select from more than a million books for free. You can also preview the book there.

Product details

  • Paperback: 404 pages
  • Publisher: General Books LLC (2 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1152223283
  • ISBN-13: 978-1152223288
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 22.5 x 15 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,925,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
PROBABLY no agitation has ever attained the magnitude, either in the number of its recruits or the area of its influence, which has been attained by Modern Socialism, and at the same time been so little understood and so misunderstood, not only by the hostile and the indifferent, but by the friendly, and even by the great mass of its adherents themselves. Read the first page
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful. 25 Nov 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is possibly my absolute favourite by all of the anarchists. Tucker writes with stinging wit and precision that give the reader the impression of a very likeable man.
There was much controversy over Tucker's views on children as property, but this came as a result of his embrace of Stirner's egoism (something I was never impressed with), yet Tucker then includes his previous agreement with Clara Dixon Davidson is the first section of this book, which gives me the happy impression that he changed his mind again.
One problem is that Tucker does not unpack how his laissez faire model would deal with law and defense, merely that it could be dealt with locally and voluntarily. Anarcho Capitalists such as Rothbard and Hoppe would later on give attempts themselves, but I have never personally been impressed with them.
The section of money and banking was particularly enjoyable along with his sharp criticisms of Henry George.
I consider this book my anarchist bible.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tucker's one moral law: "Mind your own business!" 11 July 2008
By Steven A. Peterson - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Benjamin Tucker is one of the more interesting American political thinkers. I have earlier reviewed The Federalist Papers, John C. Calhoun, and Herbert Croly, among other important American political tracts, and Tucker deserves to be read as well. His one major book-length work has a beguiling title, "Instead of a Book, by a Man too Busy to Write One." What's that all about? As Tucker says (Pages ix-x): "Anarchism. . .lacks a systematic text-book. . . . [H]owever, I have been too busy, and there is no prospect that I shall ever be less so." In short, he was too busy to write a proper, formal book--but he did publish a volume with his (and others') "greatest hits" from his biweekly journal, "Liberty."

Tucker calls himself an anarchist, but he is probably more aptly called an American libertarian. He reads Kropotkin out of the anarchist camp and adopts a more individualist orientation, consistent with American thinkers like Paine and Jefferson and Spooner and Warren.

The very first essay in this non-book lays out Tucker's basic philosophy. Entitled "State Socialism and Anarchism: How Far They Agree, and Wherein They Differ," he notes the clear dividing line between Marx and his own vision. While he admires Marx' devotion to ordinary people (as per an essay mentioned later) and his attacks on the powerful, he cannot countenance Marx' idea of a strong government to work on behalf of the people (his "dictatorship of the proletariat," for example). He describes state socialism as (Page 7) ". . .the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by the government, regardless of individual choice." Au contraire, Tucker's contrary perspective is anarchism, defined as (Page 9): ". . .the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by individuals or voluntary associations, and that the State should be abolished." He refers to anarchists as (Page 14) "unterrified Jeffersonian Democrats."

Any code of morals? Only one great law, in Tucker's mind (Page 15): "'Mind your own business' is [anarchism's] only moral law. Interference with another's business is a crime, and the only crime, and as such may properly be resisted." The following section, "The Individual, Society, and the State" pulls together a whole series of works from "Liberty" that elaborate on the themes from the rather brief introductory essay.

Quirky elements. (1) Tucker's rather generous assessment of Karl Marx upon Marx' death (see pages 477-480, in which he refers to Marx as "friend and foe"); (2) His strong statement of respect for Lysander Spooner on Spooner's death (pages 491-493).

Interested in American libertarian thinking? Benjamin Tucker must be read, just as Murray Rothbard or Robert Nozick must be read. Will readers agree with Tucker? Many surely will not, but his is a perspective worth confronting.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An America that Might Have Been 20 Aug 2010
By Fritz R. Ward - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Most standard histories of the labor movement in the United States discuss Samuel L. Gompers and the founding of the AFL. They portray this branch of the labor movement as moderate and well suited to American values, while the few studies that portray dissident traditions in American labor history tend to focus on small Marxist or utopian groups. Few are today aware that for much of the 1800s, radical labor was not wedded to statism but instead supported what would be today considered a radical libertarian perspective. The foremost exponent of this distinctly American "philosophical" anarchism was Benjamin R. Tucker, editor of the periodical "Liberty" from 1881 to 1908.

Tucker began his radical career by following Victoria Woodhull, the radical feminist candidate for President in the 1870s. Later, however, he drew on a radical American tradition of voluntary cooperation and free (from state control) money to promote a labor agenda. Creatively mixing the ideas of P.J. Proudhon, Josiah Warren, Stephen Pearl Andrews and later the German existentialist philosopher Max Stirner, Tucker for nearly 30 years provided a consistent voice for liberty and against oppression. He opposed the Spanish American War (imperialism), the rise of the trusts, predecessors to today's corporations, and supported such causes as ending censorhip and birth control. Indeed, he once published the then banned Walt Whitman classic, Leaves of Grass, and dared the Post Office to prosecute him. And all the while, his journal Liberty remained one of the most powerful and intellectually stimulating journals of the era.

Tucker was often asked to write a book describing his political thought, but his commitments never gave him the time he felt the project deserved. Instead of a Book was his offering in lieu of an actual treatise. It is a collection of columns and debates from Liberty, as well as a few speeches Tucker delivered in various labor settings. Modern libertarians tend to dismiss Tucker's economics, but they are foolish to do so. Tucker's keenest insight is that socialists are correct: workers do not receive the full value of their labor, but Tucker recognized what they did not, namely that the full value of one's labor is a property right claim. He recognized, long before the criticisms leveled by von Mises and others, that socialism involved an inherent contradiction and that abolishing private property and communalizing the means of production would lead to tyranny. He was, of course, correct and the history of the 20th century has vindicated his position. But Tucker was no apologist for state capitalism either. He correctly noted that state granted monopolies assist big business by creating profits where none would otherwise exists. He was therefore, unlike many modern libertarians, intensely concerned with giving workers their due and the bulk of this book focuses on this point.

Late in life, Tucker began to question his commitment to anarchism, at least in the short term. By the time of WWI he felt corporations were so powerful that the state may be necessary to offset their gains. Since his death in 1939, the situation has turned out even worse than the then pessimistic Tucker could have imagined. Today the state itself is so powerful that one could almost argue we need large corporations to protect ourselves from the predation of the government. And indeed, an Ebay or even Microsoft does more to empower people than any number of government "health care" initiatives and other bread and circus displays. But to take such a line of argument, though tempting, is also foolish. Corporations themselves exist only through government grants, and they are easily controlled to benefit the state. It seems then unlikely that we will ever recover from the statist direction Gompers took the labor movement in the late 19th century.

That does not mean we should not still read Tucker. Instead of a Book is as engaging as it was a century ago. And it reminds us of the potential future we might have had. One of the more amusing exchanges in the book involves a letter from the English anarchist Woodsworth Donisthrope, who writes a satirical letter making fun of all the petty complaints that lead people to beg for state intervention. Tucker dutifully printed the letter, between tears from laughter, but then noted, "As a choice of blessings, liberty is the greater; as a choice of evils, liberty is the smaller. Then liberty always, say the anarchists." A more concise and clear sighted vindication of the anarchist position will not be found elsewhere. Read it, and see what America could have been.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Get the paper version. 7 July 2013
By Jonathan M. Giardina - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It is with misgivings that I write this review but I want to warn people. The Kindle version omits ALL quotation marks. I know this because I checked out a hard copy from the U.NO. library and just use the Kindle version to highlight and make notes. This is important because there are parts where you wouldn't know who is saying what without the quotation marks. Also, I found one instance where words are left out of the Kindle version. In the physical copy p. 399, it says, "that land and other capital will ever be superabundant in the sense that water, light, and air are superabundant, is inadmissable" In the Kindle version, we have "will ever be superabundant, is inadmissable." How many more "edits" were made I don't know. I'm thankful that this product exists. That's why I gave it 2 stars instead of one but I think that it is flawed for the above reasons. As for the actual material, it is recommended for those who like Murray Rothbard and especially those who like "Power and Market" and "For a New Liberty". Tucker's philosophy is still valid but it's doubtful that an egoist utilitarian would conclude in 2013 that anarchism is ideal. Or maybe they would. Tucker doesn't agree with Rothbard on natural rights so he isn't as dogmatic. To sum it up: The book is good. This version is not.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unsound on economics, but great on liberty 30 Dec 2008
By Tim O - Published on
I disagree with the Labor theory of economics that Mr. Tucker adheres to, but he is spot-on when it comes to the benefits of liberty and the crime that is called "government". I feel if his views on liberty had been realized, the economics would have worked themselves out.
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