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

A generation from now, Americans will be richer, more leisured, healthier and longer-lived than ever. That sentence could have been written at any time since the Mayflower landed (at least of the settlers; it was a different story for the indigenous tribes). It would always have prompted scepticism; and it would always have been true.

- Daniel Hannan begins his response to America 3.0, an optimistic book about the historic origins of and future consequences of the exceptionalness of America, by James Bennett and Michael Lotus. Hannan shares their optimism.

26 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • RRS

    Not having read the work reviewed (America 3.0), this comment may be premature and inappropriate.

    What seems to be missing, even in the works of optimism, is some identification of the importance in social orders (societies) of how the members, as human beings, come to regard one another.

    We have seen extensive periods of “them and us,” the decreasing regard for the value of individual human life (totalitarianism redux), but little of the return to, or resurgence of, the nature of human regard for other humans that set the foundation for an event such as the Industrial Revolution.

    As is true in many families, efforts are concentrated on forming “correct judgments” of others, rather than seeking to understand them.

  • Laird

    RRS, I haven’t read the book either, so this reply is equally as premature as your comment, but both in Hannan’s review and another one I read much is made of the book’s discussion of the nature of nuclear families and why their prevalence in the Anglosphere (compared with extended families and clans prevalent in most of the rest of the globe) is such an important factor in our individualism and entrepreneurialism. I suspect that this addresses, at least in part, your point about “social orders”.

    This looks like a book worth reading, as is anything recommended by Daniel Hannan; it’s going onto my list. I especially liked his “New Road to Serfdom“, if anyone here hasn’t already read it.

  • Veryretired

    Optimistic yes, but realistically so, I would very much hope.

    The US, and all the western inheritors of judeo-Christian, Greco-roman classical civilization, face extraordinary challenges in extraordinary times— a period when the first global culture will be formed.

    It will require the same level of moral and intellectual steadfastness, and courage, as did the defeat of fascism, militarism, and soviet/Chinese Marxism in the last century.

    For, as is all too clear, the threats to human freedom and liberty are never truly banished, but only go into remission until a new form of collectivist theorizing can be formulated to begin the infection of potential tyranny all over again.

    My generation has failed, in ways too numerous to count , in our duty to advance human freedom, and it is in our children’s hands, and their children’s, to now carry that torch into the future.

    As the book says, we do not know the day, nor the hour, when the moment will come when we are called upon to stand for liberty, and adamantly oppose tyranny. Each must be ready in his own way to meet the inevitable challenge, for there is no doubt that the challenge will come, and to overcome it will require all that we are and hope to be.

    Only then, in freedom, can such optimism as in this book come about in reality.

  • Robert

    In his review, Mr Hannan wonders why declinism is popular.
    I think part of it is because there are some people who are profoundly troubled by the thought that the world will continue to exist after they have gone.
    They hate the idea that the party will carry on in their absence, and prefer to imagine that the world without them, should it still exist at all, will be a vale of woe.
    Pretty mean-spirited to wish that on your children’s and grandchildren’s generations, but there you go.

  • Tarrou

    I have a qualified agreement with the author’s thesis. Over time, life gets better. There are setbacks, some of them long, but humanity has had pretty steady progress for a long time. The Roman Empire increased and expanded for hundreds upon hundreds of years, until it didn’t. So too will America, but not any time real soon, I think.

  • Actually Robert, what some of us are troubled by is the many worrisome signs of decline that are right in front of our eyes. As Tarrou points out, life is cyclical, and so after any decline there is always a period of improvement – this is true in the span of a single person’s life, as well as in the life spans of nations and possibly even entire species. Under any realistic examination, right now things are getting worse, and will continue to do so – before they inevitably begin getting better. None of this has anything to do with whether any of us live to see either stage.

  • Toolkien

    What makes our current situation different, in my opinion, is we are economically conjoined like no other time before. Debt and accrued liabilities under defined benefit programs are equal or greater than estimated individual wealth, and the Nobles are configuring even more benefits for the collective. And too many individual behaviors are warped by this collectivization, the ending of which is not going to be pretty. So it’s easy to be optimistic In the medium to long term, but in the short term things inevitably will have to turn nasty. And so those of us who of a certain age – not old enough to swig from the collective teats or young enough to rebuild equity once the time bomb explodes, are in a jam. We’re the sucker layer in the ponzi scheme(s).

  • RRS

    All periods are periods of transition, so it would be somewhat trite to say “we are observing a period of transition.”

    It is the features that are observed in transitions, and the changes noted in transitions that can give us clues as to our present position in the process and some sense of its direction.

    It seems to me that we can identify changes in the attitudes and regard that people have for one another, the senses of connections and disconnects evidenced in human conduct (and thought) through periods of serious disorders, and in those periods of establishment of degrees of stability. That identification may be somewhat harder to make objectively in these current periods which are experienced subjectively.

    The transitions in the cultural aspects of “Western Civilization” seem currently to indicate wider and more frequent disconnects, than connections. As expressed elsewhere in the comments on this site, in these transitions there has been a developing and increasing tendency not only to accept, but to seek, vicarious resolutions of the complexities of human interactions, rather than find them through direct personal involvement or determinations.

    As a balancing viewpoint, I recommend From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Hannan’s proposition would not have been true in 1906-1914, because a generation later, the U.S. was mired in the Great Depression, with sustained 20% unemployment and spikes to 30%.

    We’ve had some rough patches on the road (not just bumps).

  • The transitions in the cultural aspects of “Western

    Civilization” seem currently to indicate wider and more frequent disconnects, than connections. As expressed elsewhere in the comments on this site, in these transitions there has been a developing and increasing tendency not only to accept, but to seek, vicarious resolutions of the complexities of human interactions, rather than find them through direct personal involvement or determinations.

    Not true, RRS – it greatly depends how and where you look. Any disconnects that are out there are being replaced by other connections, of different nature, through new and different channels.

  • Eric

    The US, and all the western inheritors of judeo-Christian, Greco-roman classical civilization, face extraordinary challenges in extraordinary times— a period when the first global culture will be formed.

    But when wasn’t that true? The great wars of the early 20th Century, the cold war, social upheavals in the 60′s… when was this not the case?

  • RRS

    Alisa –

    “ ’Tis so true, or I would not have written it!”

    But, seriously, you know I don’t purport to know, let alone write, what is “true.”

    To your point, our views probably separate at the concept of “replace” in the matters of disconnects and connections.

    We certainly can observe that other connections arise in human interactions as disconnects occur, they may even take the place of previous connections (if that is the intent of “replace”) but they do not necessarily substitute for the prior functions of the discontinued or disrupted connections.

    You obviously have in mind some disconnections that have been “replaced” by new connections, can you share some examples?

    Hey! how about that second sentence you quoted?

  • Veryretired

    Eric—in the sense that all eras are periods of change and transition, then the current era is one more step in an endless series of steps going back to the pre-historic era. But I would contend that that form of analysis also ends up making the entire subject banal, and trivializes the qualitative aspects of the history of the last few centuries, leading up to our current situation.

    There are an extensive set of basic assertions underlying the modern progressive state, based on theories formulated in the 19th century as a reaction to the profoundly revolutionary claims of the Enlightenment’s emphasis on individual rights and rationality as a social arbiter. (yes that’s shorthand, but it’s a blog comment, not a thesis)

    The progressive state, the blue social model as described by Prof. Mead, has run it’s course, and the fallacies inherent in many of it’s foundational concepts are becoming ever more clear, and the social structures built on those fallacies are tottering badly.

    The most obvious examples are the contentions that enlightened experts are better at guiding society from a position of dispassionate concern for the public interest rather than ordinary people, regardless of their talents, making choices for their own purposes. The former results in and endless series of Solyndras, the latter in Apple or Microsoft or a legion of successful businesses that employ thousands upon thousands without endless subsidies and protections from competition.

    Another is the claim that positive rights are only an extension of human rights as exemplified by the articles in the Bill of Rights, when it is becoming ever more clear that they are an black hole for social resources, pulled from private citizens and transferred to whatever groups have captured the flag in an endless game of political football. A recent thread got totally bogged down about the costs of the military in the US, when any analysis of spending quickly points out the the true budget busters are the endlessly proliferating entitlements which now account for a massive percentage of the yearly expenditures and debt increases.

    The global society that is now developing is different in both depth and width from anything ever seen before. There is a communication and information revolution occurring that is qualitatively different from previous eras, and is even more fundamental than the development of the printing press or radio were in there times. The challenges and complexities of such developments make it imperative that the utterly f ailed progressive claim of better rule by experts be rejected and replaced with a freer and more open social structure founded firmly on individual rights and freedoms.

    These concepts, that the individual is the foundation and source of all rights and powers, are not popular around the globe among the chattering expert elites, but it is no accident that the protesters in Tiannemen Square or in the streets of Tehran used images and references to the rights of man and the Statue of Liberty.

    In surfing terms, we are riding the 7th wave, the wave all true riders wait for. We have the tools to spread the theories of rights and liberties around the world in unstoppable and unblock able formats, to people hungry for the ideas contained in that most revolutionary document, that proclaims that all are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights upon which all other authority is based.

    There are billions who have been told they belong to the state, or their neighbors, or some lunatic deity as channelled by psychotic old men. Isn’t it time they were told they belong to themselves?

  • No no no, my truth is truer, RRS:-)))

    If you give me an example of a specific disconnect you had in mind, I can try and address that with a specific counterexample. It may also help address your second sentence I quoted.

  • Hit ‘post’ too soon…My general point was that the needs which are served by various human relationships remain unchanged, and so do the relationships themselves. What changes is the physical nature of connections that facilitate those relationships – which, as far as I can tell, does not affect the nature of the relationships.

  • Tedd

    We have the tools to spread the theories of rights and liberties around the world in unstoppable and unblock able formats, to people hungry for the ideas contained in that most revolutionary document, that proclaims that all are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights upon which all other authority is based.

    Veryretired, you’ve hit on a subject that often occupies me, and that I’m surprised doesn’t get more discussion. A lot of people — not just Americans — seem obsessed with the future of the United States of America. But what really matters, on a larger scale, is whether or not the ideas that the U.S. historically represents survive and thrive. It doesn’t seem improbable to me that those ideas might be championed by people in other parts of the world, by the end of this century.

    Here on Samizdata, optimism and pessimism about the future of liberty often seem to be connected to optimism or pessimism about the future of the U.S. and Britain. But one of the reasons I tend to be more on the optimistic side is that I don’t view “success” as being tied to any one state. I certainly prefer that my own state maintain and even improve its record of respecting liberty, and I prefer that the U.S. does, too. But I don’t see either of those things as essential to promoting liberty overall. It’s not inconceivable to me that it might be necessary for there to be examples of liberty dying out in some high-profile states for its importance to be widely understood.

    I certainly hope that Americans re-embrace the ideas that made their republic great, and I remain somewhat optimistic that they will. But where the ideas take hold, and from what geographic locations they’re defended, isn’t the most important thing, in the long run. I’m not sure if you meant to imply that, but I think it does follow from what you said.

  • Tedd, although I agree with your larger point, in the long run we are all dead:-| The reason I, and I’m sure many others, dread the demise of the US and the UK is not because the ideas will die with them, but because of the suffering such a demise will cause to great many people in the short and medium-term – not just in those particular countries, but throughout the world.

  • Jake Haye

    Futurology based on the extrapolation of current trends has never been respectable (c.f. climatology).

  • RRS

    Alisa-

    as I recall from reading Vico, years back, he cited two cultural developments in the origination of civilizations: Burial of the Dead and Marriage.

    So I will cite the cultural disconnect Of Marriage; or, put another way, the disconnect Of Marriage in the transition of Western culture.

    That should give you pretty broad range for the approach you suggested after having posted too soon previously.

    Sorry to be so slow in responding but I wanted to check out my understanding from something I have saved that appeared a while back in the June 2009 issue of The New Criterion (Vol. 27, p32 if you have access) Marriage in Our Time by Kenneth Minogue.

    If you don’t have access to that essay, and would like to, I can copy it from my files and send it by email.

    In the meantime rip me up!

  • Veryretired

    Teddy—thank you for your thoughtful response. 2 basic points:

    First, the obituary for the US as a free society is premature. I try not to have any illusions about the depth and pervasiveness of the problems we face, but there are enormous strengths in our people and institutions that can assist in reducing the intrusions of the state.

    The primary factor in any recovery economically, and therefore an atmosphere of calmer debate instead of the hysteria that accompanies economic problems, is the continuing production of reliable energy, not only in the US, but around the world. The various new techniques, and the continuing discovery of possible deposits which can now be reached, is a very hopeful sign that we can maintain an evolving technological economy.

    These energy developments are world wide, and that is a very good thing, as then the incentive to engage in all sorts of skullduggery to secure energy supplies is somewhat curtailed.

    The second most critical element for the US, and the world at large, is ending the growing, indeed mushrooming, problem of corruption, both internally and internationally.

    I was reading some half-witted diatribe against a fantasy straw man of libertarianism the other day that made all the usual nonsensical slurs that allow the conventional minds filled with conventional wisdom to dismiss any possible value in reducing the power of the state, and none of the alleged flaws had anything to do with why I oppose the burgeoning state and am radically in favor of individual liberty.

    I don’t care about corporations, or wealthy people, or despise the poor, etc, etc. I oppose the state and it’s expansion because every where I look in history when that has happened I see massive incompetence, massive corruption, and massive repression against the very kind of contrarian, grouchy, argumentative old farts I know myself to be.

    The greatest failures of the US in the past, and currently, always have the same root causation—failure to scrupulously protect, respect, and expand the rights of the individual

    Native Americans, black slavery and then repressive segregation, women, other racial groups, blue collar people, and on and on. In every single case, if the widest possible respect had been paid to their rights and liberties as individuals, the resultant victimization evaporates instead of dragging on for decades and centuries.

    Freedom is always a remedy. Repression is always a curse. And, inevitably, an expanding state brings expanding incompetence and corruption, as the very flaws and vices the progressives rage about in private action blossom in an ever expanding public sector in which accountability and integrity in a swamp of political string pulling and ass covering.

    The world needs an example of a nation, and a culture, in which government of, by, and for the people functions and grows prosperity and achievement, especially if there own repressive state provides little accomplishment and less freedom.

    If every nation threw open it’s borders and allowed people to just move wherever they pleased, polls have shown that a huge percentage around the world would come to the US. This is an obvious dilemna, and the most comprehensive solution to it is to encourage other nations and other peoples to adopt a freer and more restricted political system, and then allow their economic and cultural development to proceed without the warping and stultifying effect of an authoritarian state.

    The message to any ordinary human being that his or her life has an intrinsic value and dignity that must not be violated or corrupted by any repressive ideology or political structures is a siren song that resonates with people all over the globe. For that very reason, the concepts of individual freedom, rights, and maximized liberty is hated, feared, and despised by the collectivist mentality, and those whose only true desire is for power over their fellow citizens.

    Ever since I was a little boy, I have read what I wanted to read, said what I wanted to say, gone where I wanted to go, attended various religious and civic ceremonies as I saw fit, and lived my life for my own purposes, and to my own satisfaction. Now I’m an old man, and I see my children well into adulthood in some cases, and just entering it in my youngest, and see the bright shining lights that my grandchildren are, and will be more and more as they mature.

    I will not accept a lesser form of life for myself, for them, or for my civilization. I am a human being, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, emphasis on the sapiens. Nothing less will do.

    (I apologize for some of the flaws and typos. It is difficult for me to make corrections on a touch screen with my big clumsy fingertips, and so I let some things slide.)

  • Jacob

    “Futurology … has never been respectable ” – has never rendered accurate predictions.

    We are poor prophets.

    There is one sure prophecy that I can offer: The future will be different from what we can imagine (or predict).

  • Laird

    Excellent post, Veryretired (typos notwithstanding!). I couldn’t agree more.

  • There will be death and taxes. Not necessarily in that order.

  • Andrew Duffin

    “A generation from now, Americans will be richer, more leisured, healthier and longer-lived than ever”

    Not if the greens get their way.

  • Julie near Chicago

    The situation will go from worse to worser as long as people are indoctrinated with this whole Big-Government/Nanny-State/Progressive/Leftist/Entitlement/Welfare-is-a-right/(and, Conservatives/serious-libertarians/the-Elderly/true-capitalists/anyone-who-makes-money are Evil) nonsense.

    Whether the person is 3 or 300, and whether the ideas and misinformation are coming via formal education, the “news” media, entertainment, or just the general culture, this is true.

    But in the case of Formal Education, here’s an example — an excerpt from an article on the Educational Scandal of the Week. The prof, by the way, eats at the trough filled by the People of the Great State of Michigan, namely Michigan State University, and most of his “lecture” is directed at Mitt Romney, although he also gets in his licks at the State of Michigan, the elderly, and those wanting Voter ID in S. Carolina. The article is at

    http://patriotupdate.com/articles/leftwing-indoctrination-exposed/

    It links to a 9-minute video (which really heats up about 5 minutes in) of the professor on the job, or you can skip the article and take your computer and your kidney basin directly to

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=s_4v0FAf0_k

    Leftwing Indoctrination Exposed

    Written on Sunday, September 8, 2013 by John Risselada

    Over the course of the past several months I have written many articles concerning my experience in education and how exposing the extreme left wing bias is essential if we are to retain any semblance of a constitutional republic in the years ahead. I have been very adamant in explaining my beliefs about this. This bias has to be exposed and the leftist professors have to be held to account for the lies they tell. ….

    A student of Professor William Penn, who incidentally is a literature professor not a government professor [video says prof. of Creative Writing -- J.], filmed this…. The student then sent the video to an organization called campusreform.org where it was put on the internet for all to see. …