Why care about Lysander Spooner quotes? Because Spooner challenged the most powerful force in the United States – and won.
In the 1840s the United States Post Office charged nearly 19 cents to ship a letter from Boston to Albany. The Western Railroad charged about 28 cents to ship a barrel of flour over the same distance. Had the Western Railroad’s rate been the same as that of the USPS, they would have charged nearer to $220 to ship that same barrel.
Lysander Spooner reasoned the federal government could only get away with this stupendous gouge because of the de facto monopoly it held over postage. He thus founded the American Letter Mail Company in 1844, which drastically undercut the USPS’s rates.
Spooner did not merely intend for his business venture to turn a profit. With the American Letter Mail Company he also meant to illustrate how dearly the government was overcharging – solely because it could.
In response, the federal government resorted to its most effective tactic: bullying. It first threatened to withdraw its business from railroads that participated in Spooner’s scheme. Next, it resorted to pointed legal action. The government codified its monopoly over the mail and put Spooner out of business in 1851.
But by then the damage had been done. The American people had taken Spooner’s lesson in affordable postage to heart and demanded reasonable rates from the USPS. The government’s bureaucrats acquiesced, no doubt cursing under their breaths what a single, determined entrepreneur could do to their pocketbooks.
Spooner is best known for this historic coup over the government, yet he had a long career of sticking it to the man. He broke state law by setting up a legal practice in Massachusetts despite having neither graduated from college nor studied under another attorney for five years.
Though he spent the next 20 years campaigning for the abolishment of slavery, Spooner also recognized the right of the Confederate States of America to secede from the union. Spooner’s nuanced morality would fit with neither side’s position during the Civil War.
Spooner was an individualist anarchist. He believed big government hampers mankind’s pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, and indeed makes said pursuit nigh impossible. He was adamant that the Constitution, for all good it represents, is not a contract into which Americans could be rightfully entered on birth. To Spooner no less than the dissolution of Congress was required to restore man’s God-given autonomy.
Spooner’s legacy doesn’t only endure through affordable postage. He greatly influenced early libertarian theory and the Austrian School of economics. Lysander Spooner quotes taken from The Unconstitutionality of Slavery were cited in District of Columbia v. Heller, a landmark case in which the Supreme Court ruled to preserve Second Amendment rights.
Lysander Spooner Quotes
Lysander Constitution Quote
Thank you for reading Lysander Spooner quotes on Thought Grenades, the blog on Libertas Bella. The next time you send your grandma a Christmas card without having to sell an only marginally vital organ, you’ll know who to thank!
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Who is Ayn Rand? Born to a middle class Russian-Jewish family in 1905, Rand was treated to a front row seat to the wonders of communism in action. Rand fled with her family to the Crimea following the “liberation” of her father’s pharmacy but ultimately returned to Saint Petersburg where she could attend university when she wasn’t busy starving. Due to her life experiences, Ayn Rand quotes are some of the most thought-provoking in the world.
Hans-Herman Hoppe is a German-born Austrian school economist and paleolibertarian anarcho-capitalist philosopher. He did his undergraduate studies at Universität des Saarlandes in Saarbrücken, received his MA and PhD at Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt, and was a postdoctoral fellow at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor before earning his habilitation back at Goethe-Universität. Hoppe immigrated to America in 1986 to study under Murray Rothbard in New York City, with whom he remained close until Rothbard’s death in 1995.