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Samizdata quote of the day

Because he’s a Democrat.

– Overheard by Damian Thompson at the unveiling of the Ronald Reagan statue in London this morning. Someone was explaining why David Cameron gave the event a miss.

27 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Kevin B

    In a list of words I might use to fill in the blank in the phrase: “Because he’s a _________ ” when speaking of Mr Cameron, “Democrat”, (even in the US party sense), would be pretty low down.

  • I don’t think it was used strictly in the US-party sense, Kevin – although there’s an obvious connection.

  • Alisa

    On the contrary, I think that was exactly the sense that was meant.

  • Oh, wait – you are right, I forgot that it most probably wasn’t said by an American…:-)

  • My guess would be an Englishman, if only because an American would be less likely both to know and to say it, as an insult, as it clearly was meant to be, judging by Thompson’s report (“unkind”). When we say “Democrat” here, we mean a supporter of the US Democrat Party. And political people here know just what Democrats in the USA stand for.

  • jdm

    And political people here know just what Democrats in the USA stand for

    What do Democrats stand for? I’ve yet to figure it out… sorry, belaboring the obvious perhaps.

  • jdm

    You just described what Cameron stands for perfectly.

  • The first time I read Brian’s post, I was under the impression the person quoted was suggesting that David Cameron wasn’t at the statue unveiling because Reagan was a Democrat, and Damian/Brian were commenting on the speaker’s woeful ignorance of Reagan.

  • John B

    A confrontation with reality, such as Reagan et al dealt with in the end-1970s/80s, which is going to leave our shrinking-comfort zone realists of today quite startled.
    The only problem at the moment seems to be there are no likely successors to those late-70s greats.
    But. Whatever.
    Cometh the hour . . . ?

  • Kim du Toit

    Compared to Reagan, Cameron IS a Democrat — and probably at the Left edge at that.

  • Kim du Toit

    Also, given how the Left feeds on childish gestures, I’m taking book on the number of days before Reagan’s statue is slimed or otherwise defaced by one of these loons…

  • Paul Marks

    Brian is correct (on the meaning of the original comment).

    As for Mr Cameron….

    The best that can be said of him is that when he uses terms like “social justice” (as something he supports) he does not know what he is saying. For example when Mr Ian Duncan-Smith (a government minister and by no means a stupid man) uses the term “social justice” he really has no idea of its meaning – it was not explained to Mr Duncan-Smith in the army (and he does not have a nonmilitary education). So he just accepts the term as meaning something nice – because everyone seems to assume it means something nice (without actually defining what, specifically, it means).

    However, Mr Cameron has a First Class Degree in P.P.E. from Oxford.

    Now I have a low (some people might say bigoted) opinion of elite education in the humanities and social sciences – but I even I do not believe that someone can get a First Class degree from Oxford and not know what “social justice” means. The doctrine that all income and wealth essentially belong to the collective and are to be “distributed” according to some political (and normally egalitarian) rule.

    So either Mr Cameron is a monster (i.e. he really believes in this), or he is a liar – saying he believes in something he does not believe in.

    Let us hope he is a liar – i.e. he is like the pragmatic wing of the Democratic party (ex Governor Blogo and so on…) rather than the true believers (like Comrade Barack). Such people may cooperate in the same machine (in the case of Blogo and Barack Obama the Chicago Democrat Machine), but they come from very different factions.

    I am quite prepared to believe that Mr Cameron has never read attacks on social justice – such as Hayek’s “The Mirage of Social Justice” (in Law Legislation and Liberty) or the works of Antony Flew (such as “Equality in Liberty and Justice”) or even the short attacks on social justice by Oakeshott and others.

    However, not reading SUPPORTIVE works on social justice (such as “A Theory of Justice” by John Rawls)? Sorry, it is simply not credible that David Cameron has not come upon this stuff.

    One does not get a First Class degree in Oxford whilst remaining totally ignorant of everything – does not happen.

    So monster or liar it is.

    And, I repeat, let us hope it is liar.

    As for policy…..

    I think 50% (top rate – but it does not hit just the very rich) income tax, 20% sales tax, and a deficit that is the biggest in British peace time history tells us quite a lot.

    As does new government spending promises – which come almost every day.

    No doubt “Red Ed” would be worse – but Americans should certainly not fall for the idea that Britain has a conservative government (it does not).

  • James Metcalfe

    So what witty little quote do you give for the fact that Margaret Thatcher missed the event, due to illness?

    It doesn’t matter why anyone missed the dedication of Ronald Reagan’s statue; it just matters than it was unveiled. appropriately, in the climate of a free non-communist government, which would certainly not have happened if that first-class scumbag Gordon Brown was still in power.

  • bloke in spain

    “One does not get a First Class degree in Oxford whilst remaining totally ignorant of everything – does not happen.”

    Looking at the serried ranks of politicians, journalists, commentators etc who have precisely that qualification – could you find a more profoundly ignorant bunch, ignorant of almost anything that relates to the world the rest of us are trying to live in.

  • M. Thompson

    “[The purpose of the public schools] is feeding sham pearls to real swine,” Churchill

    In the case of Dave, it sounds about right.

  • bgates

    What do Democrats stand for?


  • bgates

    So what witty little quote do you give for the fact that Margaret Thatcher missed the event, due to illness?

    It’s unfortunate that a Conservative who had risen to the office of Prime Minister was unable to attend the unveiling due to being a frail old woman, but it’s even more sad to hear Mrs Thatcher couldn’t make it.

  • M

    I think statues of George III should be put up in every major American city. Rather hilarious how so many Americans believe all that rot about how tyrannical he and his ministers supposedly were yet are utterly oblivious to the fact that the vast majority of their presidents were much much worse.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I was there and enjoyed the day. Nice to see so many of the usual Illuminati.

  • David Bouvier

    Any changes to the comments now that you know he was in Afghanistan.

    The irony indeed that the Taliban who fought President Reagan’s proxy war with the USSR today killed a British soldier fighting over there.

    You don’t like him – fine. But cheap shots are, well, cheap.

  • Brian, that was my original point: in my experience, Americans are the ones who tend to use ‘democrat’/’republican’ as pejoratives.

  • Yes, but using it as a pejorative about a British Prime Minister, in Britain, is more likely to be done by an American-politics-savvy Brit than by an American. The Brit is more likely to have this kind of knowledge of and animus against his local Prime Minister than an American.

  • David Bouvier

    I also think Mr Marks, that it rather sterile to refuse to engage with someones point because they don’t agree to start with your choice of definitions into which your preferred answer is embedded.

    I would imagine that any PPE graduate is capable of arguing that social justice is a multi-faceted concept with no non-contested definition that may (a) inform or confuse differnet political debates and (b) which can be used with greater or lesser success as a tool of analysis to explain some features of our political, tax and legal system. Further it can (c) be debated what form and weight it should have as a moral principle or guide.

    It is possible to agree that much of what passes for discussions on this topics, particularly from the Toynbe-tendency, is complete tosh without accepting the Gospel according to Marks that deems “social justice” a s(h)ibboleth.

    In our fallen world there are real and urgent questions such as how in practice to change welfare policies to make incremental improvements to the current situation without excessive suffering, violence, or risk of policy reversal though loss of office.

    PS – I think descending into that kind trite “mad bad or true” argument is a bit sad. Please give it up.

  • Yes. In any case, that was all I meant to say in my original comment: that it was used as a pejorative, not as a strict and straightforward description of ideological affiliation. Which comment may have been based on my misunderstanding of Kevin’s. Sorry about the confusion.

    David, I think cheap shots are fine if they still hit the target. I mean, surely Cameron’s having been in Afghanistan does not make him any less Democrat than he presumably is? That said, I presume that had he in fact attended the ceremony, he would have been labeled ‘an hypocrite’ at least by some – so I guess he simply cannot win through the mere misfortune of being Cameron:-)

  • Laird

    Sorry, David, I’m not buying your argument. True “justice” doesn’t require the modifier. Putting “social” in front of any term is merely an Orwellian means of reversing the word’s normal meaning, sort of like putting a negative sign in front of a numeral. “Social justice” is to real justice as “social science” is to real science.

  • Paul Marks

    David Bouvier.

    Ronald Reagan did not back the Taliban – in fact they hardly exsited at the time. This is not to say that all the people that the Americans backed had the same moral standards as the man who the Taliban killed just about the same time as 9/11 (via a sucide bomber pretending to be a journalist). Indeed some of the people the Americans backed proved to be useless (or worse) and (by their misrule) opened the door for the Taliban.

    But that is a very thing from “Reagan had the Taliban fight his proxy war”.

    As for “social justice”, as Antony Flew spent most of his life carefully explaining – that is NOT a matter of helping the very poor. Not even a matter of the state helping the poor via taxation.

    On the contrary – “social justice” is about income “distribution” (and would apply even in a situation where no person was starving or other such) it is based upon the doctrine that income and wealth rightfully belong to the collective (hence the word “justice” – rightful ownership, which is what “justice” is about) and are to be “distributed”according to some (normally egalitarian) rule.

    This definition is hardly a matter of great conflict – as both people who oppose social justice (such as Hayek) and people who supported it (such as John Rawls) used the same sort of definition.

    One starts from the notion that there is a “social product” (to use the words of John Rawls) and then (again if one believes in this doctrine) concerns oneself with how income and wealth are to be “distributed”.

    As M.J. Oakeshott put it (in On Human Conduct – page 153).

    “And there is, of course, no place in civil association for so-called “distributive” justice; that is, the distribution of desirable substantive goods. Such a “distribution” of substantive benefits or advantages requires a rule of distribution and a distibutor in possession of what is to be distributed; but lex [the latin word Oakeshott choose to use – as “law” has become debased in English] cannot be a rule of distribution of this sort, and civil rulers have nothing to distribute.”

    In short Mr Bouvier….

    PLEASE stop being such a lying cunt.

  • Paul Marks

    To move from history (the lie about Reagan and the Taliban) and poltical philosophy (the spin about how “social justice” does not mean what it means – it now means…. well something vague that is not going to be defined) to “practical politics”.

    The Cameron government has made some very bad choices, on taxes (the tax increases), on government spending (endless wild talk about spending cuts – whereas some budgets have actually gone UP and the overall “cut” hardly exists) and so on.

    The question is does the British “right” (for want of a better term) go down with Mr Cameron?

    On this Senator DeMint’s book “Saving Freedom” is worth reading – for how a misguided sense of loyality greatly damaged American Republicans.

    George Walker Bush became President on January 20th 2001 and almost at once started doing some (not everything he did – but some) things that were very bad (and I am talking about long before the wars).

    The Medicare extention, No-Child-Left-Behind, other interventionism – and a general could-not-care-less attitude to government spending (lots of tough TALK – but not tough action).

    Of course the media did not attack Bush for these things (the only thing they attacked were the tax cuts – and they proved to be the only good idea that Bush had), but American conservatives knew that the interventions would fail so they faced a choice.

    Oppose the President – or not oppose him.

    Tragically the choice was made to not oppose Bush on domestic policy (just as later there would be few Republicans who asked hard questions about the “Progressive Lite”, Woodrow Wilson style wars-to-spread-democracy).

    And this meant that the Republicans sold out their principles – that they became associated (RIGHTLY associated) with the unprincipled (and often corrupt) wild spending and general interventionism of the Federal government.

    An association that the better Republicans are still trying to clean themsleves of – but the stench remains.

    If British Conservatives do not openly (and in clear terms) oppose the Cameron government where it has got things wrong then they are doing themselves no favours.

    Indeed they are doing Mr Cameron no favours – for if he follows the “compassionate conservatism”polices of increasing overseas aid (Lord Peter B. – where are you when we need you?), increasing the money sent to the E.U. (also already done – but more is demanded, once you pay the DaneGelt you….), thinking that adminstrative reorganizations can really make govenrment financed services operate as if they were not part of the government……

    And on and on…….

    Then he will lose the nect election. Surely the “friends” Mr Cameron (who do not point out errors) are not really doing him good service.

    As for the “liar” point.

    I said I hope he is not being truthful.

    Many politicians (perhaps all of them) tell lies from time to time.

    I can even see how it would play…..

    “Let us use the word SOCIAL JUSTICE – of course we do not actually mean it, but the left can hardly complain without letting the cat out of the bad that social justice really means totalitarianism….”

    If you do not like the words “lying” and “liar” I am prepared to use “public relations” and “public relations specialist”.

    That is, after all, the profession of Mr Cameron. And there are vastly worse things in the world.