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Godwin: Communist or Libertarian?

The Enquirer, part 2, essay 2, page 168:
There is no alternative, but that men must either have their portion of labour assigned them by the society at large, and the produce collected into a common stick; or that each man must be left to exert the portion of industry, and cultivate the habits of economy, to which his mind shall prompt him.

The first of these modes of existence deserves our fixed disapprobation[1].

[1] Political Justice, Book VIII, Chap. II, octavo edition
Godwin is saying that communal sharing of labor and of wealth is bad, and that people working and using resources according to their own personal judgment is good.

Let's look up his cite:

It has already appeared(1*) that one of the most essential of the rights of man is my right to the forbearance of others; not merely that they shall refrain from every thing that may, by direct consequence, affect my life, or the possession of my powers, but that they shall refrain from usurping upon my understanding, and shall leave me a certain equal sphere for the exercise of my private judgement. This is necessary because it is possible for them to be wrong, as well as for me to be so, because the exercise of the understanding is essential to the improvement of man, and because the pain and interruption I suffer are as real, when they infringe, in my conception only, upon what is of importance to me, as if the infringement had been, in the utmost degree, palpable. Hence it follows that no man may, in ordinary cases, make use of my apartment, furniture or garments, or of my food, in the way of barter or loan, without having first obtained my consent.
If, by positive institution, the property of every man were equalized today, without a contemporary change in men's dispositions and sentiments, it would become unequal tomorrow. The same evils would spring up with a rapid growth; and we should have gained nothing, by a project which, while it violated every man's habits, and many men's inclinations, would render thousands miserable.
We have already shown,(3*) and shall have occasion to show more at large,(4*) how pernicious the consequences would be if government were to take the whole permanently into their hands, and dispense to every man his daily bread.
The most destructive of all excesses is that where one man shall dictate to another, or undertake to compel him to do, or refrain from doing, anything ... otherwise than with his own consent.
It is therefore right that property ... should be defended, if need be, by means of coercion.
Persuasion, and not force, is the legitimate instrument for influencing the human mind
These quotes show Godwin's commitment to property rights, and against the use of force. If the best use of a piece of property is not with its owner, then he ought to voluntarily donate it to the better usage. If he disagrees, all you may do is offer him your reasons for your belief to try to persuade him. Consent is paramount.

Elliot Temple on March 13, 2009


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