Dyer Straits

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

I’ve put the first half of Dyer Lum’s 1890 The Economics of Anarchy online. More to follow!

Dyer Lum I first heard of Dyer Lum from Frank Brooks, best known in libertarian circles today for his 1994 anthology of selections from Benjamin Tucker’s Liberty. When I met Frank, around 1986, we were both grad students at Cornell (he in political science, I in philosophy), and we carpooled together down to my first IHS conference as he told me about this oddly named fellow he was writing his dissertation on. (Though in a movement that includes Lysander Spooner, Wordsworth Donisthorpe, Anselme Bellegarrigue, and Voltairine de Cleyre, perhaps “Dyer Lum” isn’t such an odd name.)

Lum was a mutualist anarchist along lines broadly similar to Tucker’s, a kind of fusion of Spencer and Proudhon, though Lum had a more optimistic view of the prospects for unions as vehicles of the labour movement. (He also preferred Buddhism to Stirnerism – the Absence-of-Ego and Its Own? – but that aspect of his thought doesn’t come out in this work.) Apparently Lum and de Cleyre collaborated on a long anarchist novel, the manuscript for which has been maddeningly lost. Judging from The Economics of Anarchy, I find Lum a less clear writer than either Tucker or deCleyre – but still a fun read.

Coming tomorrow: the Bastiat-Proudhon debate!

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6 Responses to Dyer Straits

  1. Shawn P. Wilbur March 11, 2008 at 8:47 pm #

    More excellent news! I had just recently ordered this through ILL, and received an entirely unreadable pdf. Many of Lum’s religious philosophical writings appeared in places like “The Index” and “The Banner of Light.” I have a number of these that I will eventually transcribe.

    As for great names, don’t forget Eliphalet Kimball, who penned the immortal line, “Anarchy is a good word. It means, ‘without a head.'”

  2. Kevin Carson March 11, 2008 at 10:45 pm #

    This is great! I’ll surely be using this, along with the Proudhon-Bastiat material, in finishing up the draft chapter I’m working on. Thanks a lot for putting it online.

    The unreadable pdf from ILL sounds familiar. I think the people who scan the orders in are kind of like the Soviet transportation workers who got credit for “delivering” their quota of refrigerators even if they totally wrecked them tossing them off the train. Just another in the long list of examples of bureaucracies classifying the consumption of inputs as outputs.

  3. William March 12, 2008 at 12:44 am #

    Thank you!

  4. Shawn P. Wilbur March 12, 2008 at 8:56 am #

    The unreadable pdf might be The Library of the Future, if Google Books is any indication. It’s nice to see so many folks in our little corner of the world putting up carefully archived material. Hats off to Roderick in particular for such a usable set of texts.

    If anybody has access to a complete copy of the De Cleyre translation of “Moribund Society and Anarchy,” I would sure love to fill in the holes from the version of that currently online.

  5. Joel Schlosberg March 12, 2008 at 12:36 pm #

    Voltairine de Cleyre wrote an essay about Lum, called simply “Dyer D. Lum”, which is in Selected Works:
    She quotes extensively from The Economics of Anarchy.

    Also, she refers to (and agrees with) Lum’s quite nasty and insulting characterization of Stirnerian egoists as “dung-beetles” — the idea was that a dung-beetle is more concerned with its little ball of dung than the much larger ball of Earth, so do egoists ignore society for themselves. And for a response to de Cleyre from a Stirnerian, S. E. Parker (in regard to Avrich’s biography of de Cleyre, which also has a lot of material about Lum):

    I’ve always thought it’s interesting that de Cleyre was individualist in economics but rejected ethical egoism, whereas Emma Goldman was communist in economics but embraced Stirnerian/Neitzschean egoism.

    “Miss Goldman is a Communist; I am an Individualist. She wishes to destroy the right of property; I wish to assert it. I make my war upon privilege and authority, whereby the right of property, the true right in that which is proper to the individual, is annihilated. She believes that co-operation would entirely supplant competition; I hold that competition in one form or another will always exist, and that it is highly desirable it should.”

    “The most disheartening tendency common among readers is to tear out one sentence from a work, as a criterion of the writer’s ideas or personality. Friedrich Nietzsche, for instance, is decried as a hater of the weak because he believed in the UEBERMENSCH. It does not occur to the shallow interpreters of that giant mind that this vision of the UEBERMENSCH also called for a state of society which will not give birth to a race of weaklings and slaves.

    It is the same narrow attitude which sees in Max Stirner naught but the apostle of the theory “each for himself, the devil take the hind one.” That Stirner’s individualism contains the greatest social possibilities is utterly ignored. Yet, it is nevertheless true that if society is ever to become free, it will be so through liberated individuals, whose free efforts make society.”

    BTW, Havel’s introduction says that the de Cleyre/Lum collaborative novel was never finished, rather than completed but lost.

  6. Jeremy March 12, 2008 at 1:45 pm #

    I’ve been wanting to read Lum’s work for a while, so thanks very much.

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