No 'Straw Man' Warfare

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No 'Straw Man' Warfare


Bibliographic Citation

Benjamin R. Tucker, “No ‘Straw Man’ Warfare,” The Radical Review 2 no. 30 (September 6, 1884): 2.


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To The Editors or The Radical Review:

I have no time in which to turn aside from my own aggressive work for Liberty to defend it against such assaults as cannot be met without interfering with my phenomenally rapid onward movement; otherwise, I should frequently break a lance with you or someof yourcorrespoudents. However, most of the criticism in your columns is based upon an at least partial intelligence of its object, and such criticism may be trusted with some degree of safety to work its own way out of its own difficulties. The only criticism really dangerous to a true idea is that stupid criticism based upon ignorance of the thing criticised, which being disinclined through prejudice to self-enlightenment, has no power of self-extrication, besides tending to deepen the ignorance of such persons as

seldom examine anything for themselves. It is the fact that an instance of criticism of this sort, directed against Anarchy, was allowed in your issue of August 23, from the pen of Mr. Albert Chavannes, and the further fact that I can answer it very briefly, that leads me to this diversion. Mr. Chavannes is evidently one of these very men who “know a whole lot of things that ain’t so.”

“A favorite hobby [notice the incidental squirt involved in the use of this word in preference to principle or idea] of the Anarchists,” says Mr. Chavannes, “ is free banking. Its main advocates in this country, Messrs. Tucker and Walker, are probably too young to remember how it worked before the war. I am old enough to recollect, and will try to explain it to your readers. In those times any individual or corporation that could comply with certain regulations [italics mine] could get a charter and start a bank of issue of its own,” and to this is appended a description of the disadvantages of this extraordinary system of” free banking.” Free, forsooth! Free, and yet obliged to “comply with certain regulations “! What does Mr. Chavannes know about free banking? What has he read about it? Possibly such few hints at it as he may have found in Liberty, but no systematic treatise on it, I’ll venture.

Otherwise he would know that free banking, really such, has never been allowed anywhere in this world, so far as history knows.

Otherwise he would know that the principal “regulation” of the banking system which he describes insisted on a specie basis, a certain ratio of notes issued to specie capital (at least such was the case in the Northern states, and I presume in Tennessee also), and that it is precisely this regulation which the champions of free banking denounce as more fatal than any other to industry and commerce.

Otherwise he would know that the principal work on free banking in the English language, Colonel Wi!liam B Greene’s “Mutual Banking,” was written about thirty years ago distinctly in opposition to the system of banks chartered by the States then in vogue, which Mr. Chavannes pretends to call “free banking.”

There is a name in the medical profession for men who attempt to deal with matters. that they know nothing about.

Let Mr. Chavannes read the writings of Col. Greene, Lysander Spooner, Sir Walter Scott, and P. J. Proudhon on banking; then he will be perhaps in a position to discuss the matter with the Anarchists. But the “straw man” method of attack will not be allowed to succeed.

When auswering such a critic, I feel, “young” as I am, as would a teacher who, while explaining some advanced problem in geometry, should receive a set-back from a dull lad at the foot of the class not yet awaie that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles. One of the first duties of a teacher is to keep his temper. But oh! ‘tis hard! I crave your pardon if I have overstepped the bounds.

Boston, August 27, 1884. Benj. R. Tucker.


Benjamin R. Tucker, “No ‘Straw Man’ Warfare,” The Radical Review 2 no. 30 (September 6, 1884): 2.



Tucker, Benjamin Ricketson, 1854-1939, “No 'Straw Man' Warfare,” The Libertarian Labyrinth, accessed March 21, 2019,