I think Tucker is important because he is representative of a flavor of individualism that has amplified itself in the U.S. anarchist tradition in fairly pronounced - if not unique - ways over time, and which continues to do so today. In other words, he is an important part of that canon. In addition, as a publisher and translator, he was also an instrumental and seminal influence in the U.S. movement, bringing truly original and disruptive ideas (such as Nietzsche and Stirner) into the fray. As a consequence of all of this, I would also say that Tucker occupied a singular position in promoting some of the fundamental errors in the thinking of individualists, egoists and anarcho-capitalists over time. These include:
1. Differentiating economic equality from equality of liberty (i.e. from individual or collective agency). We simply can’t do this and remain intellectually honest, because concentrations of wealth always result in concentrations of influence and/or formalized political power. There is simply no precedent for real-world situations unfolding differently (whether government is involved or not). Because of this, liberty is always negatively impacted by economic inequality, which becomes de facto coercion. This is an inescapable truth, and is perhaps best illustrated both the consequences of natural monopolies throughout history, and by Nozick’s theoretical elaboration on the inevitability of “voluntary slavery” in laissez-faire environments.
2. Misunderstanding the relationship between collective agreement in civil society and individual liberty (individual agency). Without the collective agreement expressed in and by civil society and its institutions (and I do not mean the State, but what can be diffused and distributed civic mechanisms), individual liberty either does not exist, or it becomes an arduous process of constant renegotiation that itself is prohibitive to agency. One the one hand, it would be like having to negotiate how to progress in a safe and orderly fashion through each intersection when driving - at each intersection, over and over again, coming to a mutual voluntary agreement about how to proceed. And on the other, the individualist anarchist is simply not recognizing the facilitation of liberty that civil society (again, ideally in diffused and distributed capacities) establishes over time; that liberty is in fact positively created by the very conventions that individualists tend to rail against. As I write in “The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty:”
“It doesn’t require much investigation to realize that… the idealized pinnacle of individual sovereignty in modern society is supported by an endless intersection of facilitative factors, like the majority of mass for an iceberg that lies below the water but is invisible to the casual eye.”
3. Being overly attached to the Labor Theory of Value and its corollary/extension via private property and labor appropriation. For me this is the least subtle problem with individualist variations of anarchism. Firstly, this belief inevitably results in the entire world being fenced off by those actively employing their own precious portion of private land for their own purposes, thus depriving anyone else of the freedom to access and use that land. This is simply an untenable proposition, given (among many other reasons) the fact that land is limited, but human population keeps growing. Secondly, what constitutes labor or utility is entirely subjective. If I spit on a stick, am I adding value? If I plant trees on my property to create artwork that is only viewable from space, can’t I claim utility in perpetuity (or at least as long as the trees are alive)? These are just some of the problems inherent to the LTV and theory of labor appropriation, making their suppositions either absurd, or ultimately dependent on the same institutionalized collective agreements that individualists strive to shirk.
4. A tendency to reject a priori, intuitive, emotional, relational and spiritual dimensions of human cognition and experience - in favor of empiricism, reductionism, solipsism, nihilism and egoistic utility. This has always been - and continues to be - one of the biggest divides in philosophy. In my view, it is inherently problematic to exclude any of the input streams available to human experience and consciousness, or claim - as an arbitrary and capricious value judgment - that only one of them has primacy over all of the others. I have written about what I think the model should be: integrating all available input streams in a balanced, careful and conscious way. You can read about that here: Sector Theory 1.0 – Todd's Take on Epistemology; and here: Managing Complexity with Constructive Integralism. (the full PDFs are also available here: Essays by T.Collins Logan)
At the same time, Tucker’s thinking is so diverse that I also find myself agreeing with at least some of it - such as his description of the Four Monopolies and concerns with what came to be called “rent-seeking” behaviors (i.e. what Tucker calls “usury”).
My 2 cents.
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