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Celia Green (The Human Evasion)

Max Stirner (The Ego and It's Own)

The Case of the Individual Against Authority

Few Americans seem to know much about the great German individualist Johann Caspar Schmidt (1806-1856), who wrote under the pseudonym Max Stirner, in part because his work is almost impossible to find here. Stirner taught history, wrote essays about education, translated works by Adam Smith and J.B. Say into German and produced this radical case for individualism.

First published in 1845, The Ego and His Own isn't elegantly-written like John Stuart Mill's famous On Liberty, but Stirner based his case on bedrock principle. Whereas Mill urged that individuality should be tolerated because of potential usefulness you never know who will contribute to society, Stirner insisted that individuals have rights because they are human beings, regardless what they might contribute. He attacked any doctrine which subordinates individuals to a powerful authority.

"Every State is a despotism, be the despot one or many," he declared. Stirner's opponents dismissed his views as selfishness, but he observed that individualism is hated because it makes individuals sovereign and seeks strict limits on government power: "The own will of Me is the State's destroyer; it is therefore branded by the State as 'self will.'" Stirner displayed awesome insight when he attacked communism, then in its infancy: "loudly as it always attacks the 'State', what it intends is itself again a State... a sovereign power over me."

Jim Powell, Libertarian Thought at Laissez Faire Books

Robert Wright (The Moral Animal)

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This page was first created on --> 13/3/98; 17:40:58 CET
This page was last modified on --> 13/8/98; 7:26:08 CET

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