We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Some people will forever be chasing the chimera of better government. This shields them from the idea that the only option is less government
- Peter Gordon

17 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • So true, yet “unlikely”, until the small steps towards less government are seen as “active Gov’t solving a problem”.

    Thus, gov’t vouchers for schools — less gov’t control of spending, while still spending the same amount of gov’t cash for education.

    (I argue for Tax Loans, to be repaid with taxes plus a repayment charge…)

  • Those who argue for vouchers are not necessarily trying to make government “better” or more “efficient” but rather trying to make steps towards a free market in education. I don’t see the quote as arguing against gradualism or incrementalism so much as a caution against a narrow focus on correcting the symptoms instead of the cause.

  • Joseph Olde

    less government is better government

  • Gordon has his finger on the enormous folly of every utilitarian species of argument against government.

    Commies of every stripe will never tire of tweaking the mess, so long as the premise of government is conceded.

    That fight is endless, and it will easily consume the whole life of everyone involved.

  • Euan Gray

    so long as the premise of government is conceded

    Notwithstanding the theological arguments for anarcho-capitalism with their attendant assumption that people are markedly more rational and reasonable than 6,000 years of recorded history suggests, it is not really possible, in practice, to do without some form of government. Whether this government is by bureaucrat, elected official, armed gang or corporate fiat is less important than the fact that some form of government will in any circumstance arise. The ‘premise of government’ must really be conceded, in practice if not perhaps in theory. Interestingly enough, this idea that government is unnatural and can and will disappear is a dogma held in common by communism and anarcho-capitalism.

    No political philosophy which suggests that government is optional as a general principle is ever going to be taken seriously by any but a tiny minority of people. It is therefore reasonable to avoid wasting effort trying to persuade people they don’t need government, and expend it instead on limiting the scope of government and holding it to account.

    Commies of every stripe will never tire of tweaking the mess

    Communism, in theory, is incompatible with government. Socialism, which is a different thing, does assume a powerful centralised government. Communism has never been achieved on anything other than a very small scale, and indeed the concept of a ‘communist state’ is an oxymoron.

    Not everyone who accepts the necessity of a state is a communist, and communists propose the abolition (or rather the obsolescence) of the state.

    EG

  • Richard Easbey

    Euan Gray says:

    “Notwithstanding the theological arguments for anarcho-capitalism with their attendant assumption that people are markedly more rational and reasonable than 6,000 years of recorded history suggests, it is not really possible, in practice, to do without some form of government.”

    Umm….just a thought but I’d sure like to try to do without government. Anyone want to join me?

  • Euan Gray

    I’d sure like to try to do without government. Anyone want to join me?

    I strongly suspect that anarcho-capitalism is as workable in practice (whatever the merits of the theory) as communism – i.e. you can do it on a small scale with a group of like-minded people, but anything else is simply not going to work.

    I sometimes wish it was within my power to grant an island or some such to the a-c people and watch what happens to them. I suspect it would be an interesting experience (at least for those on the outside looking in…)

    However, there is nothing to stop the nascent anarcho-capitalists putting up the money and buying some land or perhaps even an island & putting their theories into practice. In fact, you’d have to do it that way, wouldn’t you – can’t have the state helping you.

    EG

  • Dare I say it: “Statism Sucks!” for a few other interesting slogans on the subject of small government check out Bureaucrash.

    I think that anarcho-capitalism could work in a new entity such as in a space colony. The reason I believe this is that these people will have less baggage, than if one tried to do it in an existing nation. There would be less vested interests. As the colony would be in a necessarily hostile enviroment they would be encouraged to get along as well.

    The main trouble with the “less government is good” line is that it scares alot of people. It shouldn’t but it does, mainly because the statists have tried to paint the limited government meme as a polite way of calling for anarchy.

  • Before we all head off to the anarcho-capitalist colony on the moon (or at least those of us who don’t subscribe to Anarcho-Moon-Blowing-Up-ism!) remember that “less government” doesn’t mean “zero government”. You don’t have to be an anarchist to think that the government does an awful lot more than it should.

  • I agree with the commentator who said anarcho-capitalism probably only works with a small number of like minded people.

    A city or a canton could be anarcho-capitalist I’m sure.

  • toolkien

    I agree with the commentator who said anarcho-capitalism probably only works with a small number of like minded people..

    A city or a canton could be anarcho-capitalist I’m sure.

    Perhaps the scale is the issue in general. Federalism and nationalism is con at this point. The last 100 years has seen the rise of broad Statism. The US Federal government is the largest (or least the most well funded) entity in the history of the world. We have more laws and regulations, especially those enacted from dizzying heights, than we have ever had. And yet life is lived, as it has always been, by discrete individuals. What has changed? Runaway Statism. So anarcho-capitalists throw out an ideal. It is a frame of reference. Just as pure communism is. The question is how far removed is the real world from the ideal and pursuading people to reexamine their views. It asks that people justify the level of Statism that exists.

    Of course when the majority gleefully turn out to pull a lever to unleash a small handful of people who can’t possibly know them from Adam, and unleash a torrent of laws and money and force from on high, there is a long way to go.

    Personally the problem has its roots in technology and communication. People have been prone to superstition throughout our history. It has caused all sorts of destructive behaviors. But there was at least a natural boundary to its effects as memes and concepts could only travel so far, and slowly. Now people, with a few scraps of information via sound bites, can convince themselves that pulling a lever will right all the ills in the world, or enough anyway. Ease of communication is great on the one hand, but I cannot disconnect the rise of Statism and the rise in communication technology.

    Most people want to be conned I guess, and when the con is small, it affects few, especially those who are smart enough to avoid getting involved. But the con is the State, and the State is near all, the individual in such a reality is shit out of luck.

  • Euan Gray

    I don’t see why anarchy would be less implausible on the moon. The environment is not merely hostile, it is lethal, and requires considerable regulation and control of people to stop them doing the sort of really stupid things people tend to do with depressing frequency. Just because private enterprise is better at building cheap efficient moon rockets than the state, it does not logically follow that it is better at governing people once they get there.

    Although, if we’re on that spaceflight of fantasy, would not communism be more workable on the moon than here on Earth? Fewer vested interests, hostile environment to make people pull together for the common good, and so forth.

    And looking further ahead (not entirely seriously, of course), how useful is anarcho-capitalism if there is no capital? It’s possible that the ultimate result of machines doing work is that machines do ALL the work, which means money ceases to be relevant since everything you could want can be provided by unpaid mechanical labour. Perhaps Marx will have the last laugh after all…

    EG

  • Euan Gray

    The question is how far removed is the real world from the ideal

    Very far indeed in this case, I think.

    It asks that people justify the level of Statism that exists

    People want welfare. In a democracy, they can vote for welfare. People will therefore vote for welfare. Welfare requires a very large state infrastructure to ration provision through regulation and control, since there is no pricing mechanism to ration it. Having said that, democracy isn’t the only way this can happen. Rome (not particularly democratic after about 50BC) used a corn dole and free entertainment to pacify the plebs, hence the phrase ‘bread and circuses.’

    But the con is the State

    No, it’s not really. The con is public welfare, and the bloated state is what follows.

    EG

  • Isn’t this a wonderful idea for a reality TV series?! You could have two islands, one with anarcho-libertarians and the other with minarchists working under a constitution written by Samizdata staffers.

    Sit back and see who gets rich first!

  • Euan Gray

    two islands, one with anarcho-libertarians and the other with minarchists

    Nah, more fun would be one bunch of anarchists and one of communists. Then we could see who could generate the most electricity by strapping magnets to their temples and wrapping their revolving eyes in copper wire.

    I think the anarchists would win at 3p/kW-hr simply by having higher speed eyeballs. On the other hand, the communists would likely develop a state first, and would then invade the loonies ^W anarchists and get free electricity to power their Leninist Utopia.

    You know it makes sense.

    EG

  • Isn’t this a wonderful idea for a reality TV series?! You could have two islands, one with anarcho-libertarians and the other with minarchists working under a constitution written by Samizdata staffers.

    I am game for this…

  • Royce

    It is true that there is no case where government is not needed. The whole purpose of our Constitution was for the People to come together in a form that brought their combined might to bear on those activities external to our countries which we alone could not bring into submission. There must be limited government.

    What we have today borderlines on totalitiarian government. The situation has arisen where every aspect of our lives government seeks to direct. By “government” I mean the three branches of government, not THE Government, which is Law, our Law being the Constitution.

    What we need is Constitutional government, not what we have. This Genie can only be returned to the bottle when those who object to the unauthorized taking of power begin to bring those criminals to justice.

    It is time we quit thinking of people as government. When IN one of the three branches, in that position they act as servants for the rest of us–not as rulers. Too many Americans want rulers, and we should send them to Iran where they can get their fill of it.

    We are supposed to be sovereigns on our own land. That means that over the line you are subject to my law, and over your line, I am subject to your law. Were that so, we’d have a much more civil society because those who are intent on creating chaos through their actions would end up dead on somebody’s doorstep.

    The solution is not NO government. The solution is not MO government. The solution is subject government, where servants act according to our will, instead of seeking to line their own pockets, feather their own nests, seek their own will. Those who do so should be punished as the criminals they are.

    Royce