Tucker rejected the legislative programs of labor unions, laws imposing a short day, minimum wage laws,
forcing businesses to provide insurance to employees, and compulsory pension systems.He believed instead that strikes should be organized by free workers rather than by bureaucratic union officials and organizations. He argued,
Tucker envisioned an individualist anarchist society as
rather than a bureaucratic organization of workers organized into
rank and file unions. However, he did hold a genuine appreciation for labor unions (which he called "trades-union socialism"), and saw it as "an intelligent and self-governing socialism" saying, "[they] promise the coming substitution of industrial socialism
for usurping legislative mobism."
Tucker did not have a utopian vision of anarchy, where individuals would not coerce others.He advocated that liberty and property be defended by private institutions. Opposing the monopoly of the state
in providing security, he advocated a free market of competing defense providers, saying "defense is a service like any other service; ... it is labor both useful and desired, and therefore an economic commodity, subject to the law of supply and demand."
He said that anarchism "does not exclude prisons, officials, military, or other symbols of force. It
merely demands that non-invasive men shall not be made the victims of such force. Anarchism is not the reign of love, but the reign of justice. It does not signify the abolition of force-symbols but the application of force to real invaders."Tucker expressed that the market-based providers of security would offer protection of land that was being
used, and would not offer assistance to those attempting to collect rent:
Tucker abandoned natural rights positions and converted to Max Stirner's Egoist anarchism. Rejecting the idea of moral rights, Tucker said that there were only two rights, "the right of might" and "the right of contract." He also said, after converting to Egoist individualism, "In times past...it
was my habit to talk glibly of the right of man to land. It was a bad habit, and I long ago sloughed it off....Man's only right to land is his might over it."In adopting Stirnerite egoism (1886), Tucker rejected natural rights which had long been considered the foundation of libertarianism. This rejection galvanized the movement into fierce
debates, with the natural rights proponents accusing the egoists of destroying libertarianism itself. So bitter was the conflict that a number of natural rights proponents withdrew from the pages of Liberty in protest even though they had hitherto been among its frequent contributors. Thereafter, Liberty championed egoism although its general content did not change significantly."This led to a split in American Individualism between the growing number of Egoists and the contemporary Spoonerian "Natural Lawyers". Tucker came to hold the position that no rights exist until they
are created by contract. This led him to controversial positions such as claiming that infants had no rights and were the property of their parents, because they did not have the ability to contract. He said that a person, who physically tries to stop a mother
from throwing her "baby into the fire", should be punished for violating her property rights. He said that children would shed their status as property, when they became old enough to contract "to buy or sell a house" for example, noting that the precocity
varies by age and would be determined by a jury in the case of a complaint.
He also came to believe
that aggression towards others was justifiable if doing so led to a greater decrease in "aggregate pain" than refraining from doing so. He said:
Tucker now said that there were only two rights, "the right of might" and "the right of contract." He also said, after
converting to Egoist individualism, that ownership in land is legitimately transferred through force unless contracted otherwise. In 1892, he said "In times past...it was my habit to talk glibly of the right of man to land. It was a bad habit, and I long ago
sloughed it off. Man's only right to land is his might over it. If his neighbor is mightier than he and takes the land from him, then the land is his neighbor's, until the latter is dispossessed by one mightier still."
However, he said he believed that individuals would come to the realization that "equal liberty" and "occupancy and use" doctrines were "generally trustworthy guiding principle of action," and, as a result, they
would likely find it in their interests to contract with each other to refrain from infringing upon equal liberty and from protecting land that was not in use.Though he believed that non-invasion, and "occupancy and use as the title to land" were general rules that people would find in their own interests to create through contract, he said
that these rules "must be sometimes trodden underfoot."
Several periodicals "were undoubtedly influenced
by Liberty's presentation of egoism. They included: I published by C.L. Swartz, edited by W.E. Gordak and J.W. Lloyd (all associates of Liberty); The Egoand The Egoist, both of which were edited by Edward H. Fulton. Among the egoist papers that Tucker followed were the German Der
Eigene, edited by Adolf Brand,
and The Eagle and The Serpent, issued from London. The latter, the most prominent English-language
egoist journal, was published from 1898 to 1900 with the subtitle 'A Journal of Egoistic Philosophy and Sociology'".
In 1906, he opened Tucker's Unique Book Shop in New York City – promoting "Egoism in Philosophy, Anarchism in Politics, Iconoclasm in Art". In 1908, a fire destroyed Tucker's uninsured printing equipment
and his 30-year stock of books and pamphlets. Tucker's lover, Pearl Johnson – 25 years his junior – was pregnant with their daughter, Oriole Tucker. Six weeks after Oriole's birth, Tucker closed both Liberty and the book shop and retired with his family to France. In 1913, he came out of retirement for two years to contribute articles and letters to The New Freewoman which he called "the most
important publication in existence."
Later Tucker became much more
pessimistic about the prospects for anarchism. In 1926, Vanguard Press published a selection of his writings entitled Individual Liberty, in which Tucker added a postscriptto "State Socialism and Anarchism",which stated
But, Tucker argued,
By 1930, Tucker had concluded that centralization and advancing technology had doomed both anarchy and civilization.
According to James Martin, when referring to the world scene of the mid-1930s in private correspondence, Tucker wrote: "Capitalism is at least tolerable, which cannot be said of Socialism or Communism" and went on to observe that, "under any of these regimes a sufficiently shrewd man can feather his nest.".
Susan Love Brown claims that this unpublished, private letter, which does not distinguish between the anarchist socialism Tucker advocated and the state socialism he criticized, served in "providing the shift further illuminated in
the 1970s by anarcho-capitalists."
Tucker died in Monaco in 1939, in the company of his family. His daughter, Oriole, reported, "Father's attitude towards communism never changed one whit, nor about religion.... In his last
months he called in the French housekeeper. 'I want her,' he said, 'to be a witness that on my death bed I'm not recanting. I do not believe in God!"
In the alternate history novel The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith as part of the North American Confederacy Series, in which the United States becomes a Libertarian state after a successful Whiskey Rebellion and
the overthrowing and execution of George Washington by firing squad for
treason in 1794, Benjamin Tucker served as the 17th President of the North American Confederacy from 1892 to 1912.