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Josiah Warren was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1798.
Warren was an inventor, musician, printer, and author in the United States. He is regarded by some as the first American anarchist. Warren chose the path of anarchism and individualism. The 19th century American anarchist, Benjamin Tucker dedicated his collection of essays, Instead of a Book, to the memory of Warren, “my friend and master…whose teachings were my first source of light”. Tucker credits Warren with being “the first man to expound and formulate the doctrine now known as Anarchism.”
Josiah Warren writes:
the forming of societies or any other artificial combinations IS the first, greatest, and most fatal mistake ever committed by legislators and by reformers. That all these combinations require the surrender of the natural sovereignty of the INDIVIDUAL over her or his person, time, property and responsibilities, to the government of the combination. That this tends to prostrate the individual—To reduce him to a mere piece of a machine ; involving others in responsibility for his acts, and being involved in responsibilities for the acts and sentiments of his associates ; he lives & acts, without proper control over his own affairs, without certainty as to the results of his actions, and almost without brains that he dares to use on his own account; and consequently never realizes the great objects for which society is professedly formed.
Josiah Warren termed the phrase “cost the limit of price,” with “cost” here referring not to monetary price paid but the labor one exerted to produce an item.
In his writings, he states, “If cost is made the limit of price, every one becomes interested in reducing COST, by bringing in all the economies, all the facilities to their aid. But, on the contrary, if cost does not govern the price, but every thing is priced at what it will bring, there are no such co-operating interests.
If I am to have my supply of flour at cost, then, any facility I can afford to the wheat grower, reduces the cost to me, and it does the same for all who have any portion of the wheat, I am promoting all their interests while pursuing my own…Now if the wheat were NOT TO BE SOLD TO us AT COST, but at “whatever it would bring” according to our necessities, then none of us would have any interest in affording facilities, repairing breaches, nor in any other way co-operating with the producer of it. The same motive would act in the production, preservation, and use of every thing.”
Josiah Warren purchased Utopia, Ohio, from a failed community. The settlement was reorganized, Utopia, in 1847, as an individualist anarchist colony. Personal invitation from the first settlers was required for admission to the community, with Warren reasoning that the most valuable individual liberty was “the liberty to choose our associates at all times.” Land was not owned communally, but individually, with lots being bought and sold at cost, as required by contractual arrangement. The economy of the community was a system based upon private property and a market economy where labor was the basis of exchange value. Goods and services were traded by the medium of labor notes. By the mid-1850s, the community eventually came to contain approximately forty buildings — about half of which were of an industrial nature. Also present were two time stores.
To learn more about Josiah Warren, pick up a copy of ‘The Practical Anarchist: Writings of Josiah Warren‘ in A Radical Shop.