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

“I had spent most of my life in a world where the Soviet Union had been destroyed. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, we felt that we had finally defeated global Marxism. Ronald Reagan and the United States had taken down the single largest depository of communism on the planet, and we’d done it without firing a direct shot. The whole world could see that communism didn’t work – its failure was on display for the entire globe to look at and say, So much for that. At least that was what we thought.”

- Andrew Breitbart, Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save The World, page 105.

21 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    I have that book about here somewhere.

    Mr Breitbart goes on to say that Marxism had not really been defeated – for example in the universities (including the one he went to) it was stronger than ever. It just went under new names – such as “Critical Theory”.

    Andrew Breitbart also points out that he had been given a whole series of Marxist assumptions (without knowing they were Marxist) before he set foot in a university.

    The rich and the corporations are to blame for……

    “Society” (the assumption being that society is a collective enity not a web of civil interactions) should………..

  • Paul Marks

    I never met Mr Breitbart – but I miss him.

  • Dave Walker

    I’m reminded of a comment reportedly made by Eduard Schevardnadze to (I think…) Casper Weinberger, on the collapse of the Soviet Union:

    “We have done a terrible thing. We have deprived you of an enemy.”

    …and indeed, international affairs seem so much simpler, in retrospect, when you knew that there was one major enemy, whereabouts in the world they lived, and the fact that they made life relatively convenient by wearing a uniform with distinctive insignia.

    Things have got far more complicated since.

  • Sean

    Much like the poor – evil will always be with us.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    I made the mistake of discussing politics with my Brother in Law over lunch yesterday. He’s in a skilled trade and works for a living. Yet he kept coming out with apparently nonsensical statements like “The country’s ruined because the bankers keep getting bonuses”. Over the course of a few rants I was able to characterise his position as: A sense of bitterness coupled with a sense of entitlement.

    Although he was a man who made his own way in the world, somewhere in his mind was the idea that he shouldn’t have to. At some level he was expecting the local apparatchik of the glorious people’s republic to just hand him everything. He talked about the treatment of “working people” a lot, but I got the impression that he didn’t use that term literally, but instead used it refer to a very specific socio-political concept. I’m pretty sure it didn’t include me, for example.

    In one breath he agreed with me when I said that if no one is being hurt, then what other people do is none of my business, and in the very next spoke loudly in favour of coercively funded benefits. He said my suggestion that state benefits should be replaced with voluntarily collected charity was the “funniest thing he had ever heard” and that “you wouldn’t be able to feed your children”. He also believed that people are fundamentally selfish, and would not fund benefits if given a choice.

    It is not just intellectuals into which Marxist ideas have become indoctrinated.

  • YogSothoth

    Your brother in law said …

    He also believed that people are fundamentally selfish, and would not fund benefits if given a choice.

    I wonder, does he donate to charity? Does he ever volunteer his time? The reason I ask is because sometimes when
    folks say things like this, what they’re really telling you is something about themselves. It might be that your brother
    in law is against your voluntary system because he knows that if the average person is like him, it won’t work.

  • Runcie Balspune

    He also believed that people are fundamentally selfish, and would not fund benefits if given a choice.

    Well, he’s right, in a sense. Which is exactly why giving such selfish people absolute power over others is a disaster.

    Of course, he might subscribe to the theory that once a socialist utopia emerges all the nasty selfish people will immediately vaporize, like some kind of absurd capitalist rapture.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    It might be that your brother in law is against your voluntary system because he knows that if the average person is like him, it won’t work.

    I think more what troubled him is the idea that without a coercive government, there are limits to how much support one can reasonably expect to receive. In our society there is no limit to how much taxpayers money the government will spend on keeping you alive, even if you have given up on life yourself. I think a lot of people derive comfort from the idea that even if they become an indigent meth-head with a death wish, the loving arms of the mother-state will still be there.

    History teaches us that there are many government services people will gladly pay for on a voluntary basis, and many that they wont. I would suggest that this is not because people are selfish, but because they have a more realistic idea about what constitutes wasted spending. On the basis of what people funded through historical friendly societies, and what they continue to support through charities, we can deduce that:

    People will fund:
    -Emergency medical care for all
    -Complete medical care for children
    -Emergency financial support for the unemployed
    -Financial support for single mothers
    -Food, clothing and schoolbooks for impoverished children
    -Expensive, once off treatments for rare disorders through targeted fund-raising
    -Funeral expenses and short term financial assistance for families whose primary breadwinner has died.
    -Lifetime care for the seriously disabled

    People will not fund:
    -Unlimited benefits for the workless
    -All the methadone you can eat
    -Cosmetic surgery
    -IVF for those who waited too long to have kids
    -Unlimited medical care for those who refuse to take care of themselves

    Ordinary people’s refusal to pay for these sorts of things (either now or in the past) does not reflect inherant selfishness, but rather that individuals are rather better at identifying what constitutes a waste of money than governments.

  • Andrew Duffin

    Ahem.

    Not just Ronald Reagan and not just the US.

    I think you’ll find that the Pope had quite a lot to do with it, and Mrs. Thatcher (pbuh) also did her bit.

  • RickC

    Jaded, I call this the populist, for lack of a better term, take on life; strong on opinion, short on knowledge. Another aspect of this phenom is the ability to hold two or more completely contradictory opinions.

    Two years ago while helping my dad fix up his small place I listened to him and his brother go on for a couple of hours listing the examples of government corruption they’d witnessed just in their small town and county governments; dirty police chief, dirty mayors they’ve known, etc. They’ve lived there all their lives and so I took them at their word – my dad has his finger on the local pulse believe me. I even knew about a couple of their examples and knew them to be factual.

    Without missing a beat, the conversation turned to fuel prices and how people who owned wholesale operations in the area shouldn’t be “allowed” to own retail gas stations because they were ripping people off with inflated gas prices. Both men looked at me funny when I suggested they go to one of the many competing gas stations in the area. They were really puzzled when I asked which part of the corrupt local government would they empower to decide who was allowed to own a gas station.

  • I never met Mr Breitbart – but I miss him.

    I did meet him and he was a very congenial fellow.

  • Paul Marks

    J.V. – your brother in law is not as bad the Financial Times.

    I looked at its editoral today.

    Leaving aside its smug, superior tone – which always drives me to anger (if they were just reading out the telephone directory I would still want to punch them in the face).

    The United States – the tax increase last month not enough, “there must and will be” another tax increase (that is not even Keynesianism – it is just c.ntism).

    Britain – more monetary expansion, and get the banks lending again (more bonus payments for your half brother to be angry with).

    And, of course, more CORPORATE WELFARE – “infrastructure projects”.

    The “FT” stands for everything that is wrong (indeed that is evil).

    No doubt they will be happy with the victory of the EuroCommunist in the Italian general elections.

    “But Paul – they supported Mr Cameron”.

    I know – I know (only too well).

  • Paul Marks

    Perry – good to hear.

  • veryretired

    The basic progressive/collectivist fallacy—that the individual is a dangerous, greedy, selfish, evil, corrupt, uncaring entity when he has acquired any private economic power, but magically becomes a benign, altruistic, good-hearted, morally upright, compassionate entity when he joins the collective in wielding political power—has been deeply inculcated into the mentality of our society.

    Shannon Love has written some very cogent essays at Chicagpboyz about this issue, the essence of which is that all the above faults are ubiquitous in human beings, so the option that is clearly the least desirable is to augment those flaws with unchecked state power.

    As described by the comments above, ordinary people have been so well indocrinated in the collectivist line that they can easily hold the opinions that the state is badly corrupt, and should be given even more power, at the same time with no comprehension as to the inherent irrationality of such co-existing views.

    The progressive mantra in the US has been:

    1) Here is a serious defect in society that needs immediate attention;

    2) Only the government has the resources or capability (read power) to deal with this issue;

    3) Here is a (seemingly) reasonable, modest sounding program which will begin the process of solving the problem;

    4) The recently enacted program isn’t doing enough to solve the problem and must be expanded with more resources and powers;

    5) Repeat #4 at regular intervals.

    Always included in the endless proposals for program expansion is the angry indictment of any opponents as being callous and uncaring toward the groups supposedly being aided, even if the opposition is based on clear, documented research that shows the program is having serious negative unintended effects, or no positive effects at all.

    This is the “salami” process, or the “ratchet” process, by which the collectivist ideologue turns every good and decent impulse of the ordinary citizen into an acceptence of relentlessly expanding state power, and, with the cooperation of a complicit media, makes any serious examination of the true effects of these allegedly compassionate policies nearly impossible.

    My late step-father, a gruff old Norwegian Lutheran with a heart of gold, could go on for hours about the dangers of having the Pope in control of the spiritual rulebook for Christianity, and then, seamlessly, turn and argue in favor of giving earthly politicians enormous power here on good old earth so they could help the poor or disabled or elderly.

    He, like so many, could not see the discontinuity between his skepticism about giving too much power to one group over the issues of a supernatural realm which couldn’t be seen, while also being supportive of giving steadily increasing power and resources to another group of equally flawed and venal humans in the very real and material world in which we all must live.

    The road back from this world of magical thinking will be a long, tedious, and often dirty, slog through the nuts and bolts of political action, from city councils and school boards to national legislatures and executives.

    Put your gloves and boots on, and, oh yeah, carry a shovel.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I do think that Breitbart the site has gone downhill since the death of Breitbart the man. It seems to be doing less investigative journalism now, and more publishing of squibs – some of them badly outdated – aimed at keeping the troops at the boil. The effect is sort of ‘labor union house organ’ albeit the direction is quite different.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Look, it was not Ronald Reagan or the Pope who tore down the Berlin Wall, it was Forest Gump! I read it in a book, so it must be true! (or maybe the wall had been built to soviet standards, i.e. crummy, and it fell over when someone leaned on it?)

  • Eric

    I think Friedman had it right during his appearance on The Open Mind. Socialism is more facile. Some people have money. Other people need services. Therefore, take some money from the people who have it (leaving them with plenty) and use it to provide services to other people. What could be simpler to explain to a seventeen year old? The other idea I never saw mooted about by non-academics until about a decade ago was what I call neo-Calvanism. The idea that successful people are only successful because they got lucky, and poor people are only poor because of the circumstances of their birth. So high taxes on high wage earners are completely justified.

    People are always seeing the rise of fascism behind every bush and tree. Me, I’m much, much more worried about the siren song of “economic equality”.

  • Midwesterner

    People are always seeing the rise of fascism behind every bush and tree. Me, I’m much, much more worried about the siren song of “economic equality”.

    That siren song does not need to be sung by people who believe it. It is sung for the benefit of the listeners, AKA “useful idiots”. I seriously doubt the Soros, Buffets, and all of the lesser rich singing the song of economic equality, actually believe what they say. If they did, they would be writing checks to poor people, not to astroturf political creations to get more power.

    Look at the choir singing (and funding the singing of) the song of economic equality, Eric. Some of the voices may believe, but the conductors and orchestrators are rich and almost certainly economic fascists.

  • JohnB

    The whole philosophy, deception, attitude that had given rise to the collectivist situation and respectability (the CBI bowed ‘sensibly’ to Union pressure) of the mid 1970s, was shown for the idiocy that it was by the early 1980s. It was evident nonsense and seen as such.
    So how long does it take to rehabilitate a discredited meta context? Looks like about 25 years.

  • Rob

    I think the Financial Times is the ultimate triumph of Entryism. Until they control the Royal Family, that is.

  • Paul Marks

    veryretired – yes indeed.

    JohnB – the old Federation of British Industry was corporatist (orignial meaning – not silly left “libertarian” meaning – they think corporations are in charge, in fact they are NOT) in the 1930s – happy for government to “plan” (i.e. order about business) as long as a few pets (the leading lights in the organisation) got tossed a few bones now and then.

    So the CBI is just walked down the well worn road when it went for Heathism in the 1970s.

    Watching these business pragmatists types makes me despair – the sort of trash who go on CNBC (or Bloomberg) and say “people on minimum wage deserve more” (then pay them more – why have a government regulation to do what you say you want to do anyway?) “but not as much as this”.

    A businessman is very often a haggle-man – always out to “make a deal”.

    The trouble with that attitude is that the statists will eat you alive.

    Once you concede the PRINCIPLE you have lost (skining a cat is not hard – once you have broken the cat’s spine) – but they do not understand that.

    Rob.

    The “FT”.

    Back in old days they actually had Communist Party people on the staff – card carrying ones.

    The business executives who bought the newspaper did not mind – just as they do not seem to mind about the FT being what it is now.

    They are “practical” people you see….

    Ayn Rand was correct about “practical” people.

    So the CBI