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Samizdata quote of the day

“I am not one of those who have ever flattered the people, or striven to win favour by telling them that from the Crown or from Parliament that could be got which could not be got from themselves, by themselves. I would impress upon you this. What the State gives to you, the State takes from you first; it further charges you with the cost of collection, and with the cost of distribution. Better by far that you should save for yourselves and spend for yourselves, than put into the purse of the State your earnings of which only part can at best come back.”

Charles Bradlaugh, 19th Century British parliamentarian and campaigner on issues such as rights of non-believers, contraception, the case against the monarchy, and as this quotation shows, an opponent of socialism. The quote is taken from a review of a book about Bradlaugh by Bryan Niblett, who is known to some of us at Samizdata. Bryan is an Objectivist (as in an admirer of the philosophy of Ayn Rand) and has worked for many years as a private arbitrator concerning areas such as intellectual property. A very good and smart man all round, in fact.

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6 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • See also this SQotD, from the same book, this time by Niblett himself.

  • Paul Marks

    It did not know this side of Charles Bradlaugh (a hero to leftists in nearby Northampton).

    But, of course, it would not be interests of the leftists tohave it be known that he was radically ANIT socialist.

  • Paul,
    From the machivellian nature of your comment I can tell you know the murky nature of politics!

    The quote I think is quite wonderful. “The rights we are given are ones we already have but we must be grateful to have them ‘give’ those rights to us” is my take on what Bradlaugh is saying which is a wonderful dig at “them”.

    Or to put it shorter, “You ought to thank the thief for not stealing your TV”. Excellent stuff!

    Perhaps the US Declaration of Independence shouldn’t have, “We take these truths to be self-evident” but “This is the truth”. History shows they are hardly self-evident. That would imply strongly they intrinsically obvious to everyone which clear they haven’t been and aren’t. Many things are true that aren’t obvious.

    Now take the Monty Hall Paradox (a veridical paradox). It is a problem in probability theory which is utterly beyond doubt but feels wrong and I have met professional mathematicians who didn’t get it first time (I did).

  • Stonyground

    Being a fully paid up member of the NSS that Bradlaugh founded, I have read a couple of books about him but had not come across this particular quote, or maybe not remembered it. It occurs to me that the statement maybe even more true with regard to the EU. I have often seen building sites that have huge signs up claiming that this project is partly funded by, from memory, the EU regional developement fund. The first thought that enters my head is, how much do we pay into that compared with how much we get back? I suspect that if I knew the answer I would not be happy about it.

  • Stonyground

    Just another thought. Bradlaugh was very good at sticking up for people at the bottom of the heap who were being ruthlessly exploited by those at the top of the heap. He did this by campaigning for laws to protect them or sometimes just by bringing their plight to public attention. I can see why modern left wingers would see this as being admirable. As far as I am aware, he did not advocate simply taking money from those at the top and giving it to those at the bottom.

  • Paul Marks

    Sometimes policies intended to help people at the bottom of the heap make things (unintentionally) worse for them.

    That is why the principles of the policy must be examined.

    For example, laws to increase wages and improve conditions of work (faster than the market does) – create unemployment.

    They are not intended to – but they do.

    And “slum clearence” too often becomes “clearing out the poor”.

    So that impressive public buildings can be put up in the centre of cities – where the slums just to be (for a slum may be all a poor person can afford – especially if his work is in the centre of a city).

    With the poor taken away to out of the centre government housing projects – where finding work (and so on) is almost impossible.

    I am not saying that Charles Bradlaugh made these mistakes.

    Only that one must be careful.