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

Phrenologists were once considered scientists for disseminating the hogwash that a person’s character may be determined by the shape of his head. The fad passed, but in a top-down, Government-controlled economy, where the citizenry gave to the Government the opportunity to rule its actions upon an inchoate and subjective determination (fairness), our tax dollars might still be paying phrenologists. For a government will not and cannot admit mistakes. Its members thrive through taxation and by ever widening their spheres of influence, selling influence to the highest bidder. We are still paying oil and wheat subsidies, and it is mere luck that the phrenologists of that day did not have sufficiently skilled lobbyists to ensure their own eternal subvention. You might say it is absurd to claim to determine a person’s deserts on the basis of the shape of his head. It is equally absurd to make the claim on the basis of the color of his skin.

– The Secret Knowledge, by David Mamet, page 180.

15 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • CaptDMO

    I sorta’ THOUGHT I “knew” what that meant!
    Yes, as a matter of fact I DO “look stuff up”.
    Not really a word in American -English “usage”.

    In reference to rent seekers in “modern economics”, and “Latest University Studies Show…” folk, it sure as HELL will be NOW!

  • Paul Marks

    Sadly government polices that cause terrible results are COPIED by other governments.

    It is not just the case that governments persist with failed policies (for example wild spending on government education in the United States has failed – so government should spend MORE by taking control of all four year olds, the policy advocated by the Economist magazine this week), but other governments (which did not have the terrible policies) COPY them – even after (indeed especially after) their failure has become obvious.

    Government bank deposit “insurance” has cost a fortune (in Ireland and so on – where it was actually established AFTER it became clear that Anglo Irish Bank was going to go bankrupt, work-that-one-out) – and the governments of the Channel Islands observe the mess and then COPY it.

    “Employment laws” cause mass unemployment in country after country – and yet these “workers rights” regulations are then COPIED by countries that do not yet have them (again the Channel Islands at the moment).

    Ditto welfare schemes – and the rest of the “Public Services”.

    As for the race laws and the rest of the “Equality Agenda”.

    In every country that has tried such regulations they have produced terrible results.

    Yet they continue to be COPIED.

    Perhaps the truth is that all these policies are NOT failures – not from the point of view of government folk (not just administrators – but establishment academics and other such).

    After all these policies all have one thing in common – they make government bigger.

    And for government folk that may be a successful outcome (even if countries are reduced to poverty stricken waste lands).

    That late Andrew Breitbart argued it took an especially perverted mentality to come to the wonderful society that California was in the late 1940s and, as the Frankfurt School Marxists did, dedicate oneself to DESTROYING it.

    However, perhaps this mentality is more common (far more common) than he realised – and not confined to Marxists.

    It may be that such works as Anthony de Jasay’s “The State” have a lot to teach us.

    If statist folk (establishment academics and so on) have an agenda of their own (the expansion of the state) NOT dependent either on the “public good” OR “the interests of the rich” (the Marxist view) – just the expansion of the state for the sake of the expansion of the state (even if BOTH rich and poor are hurt by government expansion), then our arguments (economic and moral) are useless in dealing with such folk. Are useless with dealing with “The State”.

  • Tedd


    I think it’s a mistake to attribute the apparently-inevitable expansion of government to professional statists, even though I agree that there is such a thing and that they — like all people — tend to act in their own interest. It is simply a fact that bad policies are often popular with a majority (or sufficiently large minority) of people. Bad economic policy, in particular, seems to be a stellar example of democracy “working.”

  • Laird

    Tedd, bad economic policies are popular with the people who benefit from them. A policy of robbing from Peter is always popular with Paul. You are correct that it is an artifact of democracy, but only democracy of a certain kind: one with near-universal suffrage and insufficient legal protections of the minority from the depredations of the majority. Which pretty much describes all western “democracies” today. It’s a fundamentally unsustainable political system.

  • Laird

    On a separate note, isn’t the transformation of David Mamet, the evolution of his political thought, rather amazing?

  • therealguyfaux

    David Mamet had a screenplay (which he also directed) many years ago, called House Of Games, a film-noir-of-sorts, in which Joe Mantegna plays a sociopathic sort of con man who is so bold, he pretty much seems to be giving away the store to his “pupil” (which is what she thinks she is), a psychiatrist (herself a sociopath of a different sort) played by Lindsay Crouse. Or does he? In any event, one of the lines from the film is to the effect of, he’s a confidence man, not because she will necessarily place all her confidence in him, but that he exudes enough confidence that she is not likely to distrust him; but the trick is to get the mark’s attention in the first place– you can’t bluff someone who pays no attention, is another bit of wisdom from Mr Mantegna’s character.

    We’re from the Government, and we know best.
    Pay attention to us, we’re talking to you.
    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Surely, the phrase ‘skilled lobbyists’ should have been ‘well-skulled lobbyists’?

  • It’s called a confidence game. Why? Because you give me your confidence? No. Because I give you mine.

  • Tedd


    Tedd, bad economic policies are popular with the people who benefit from them.

    With the people who believe they will benefit from them, yes. But I don’t think that’s the important factor. The proportion of people who actually understand who benefits and who does not is fairly small. A much more important factor is people who support a policy in the mistaken belief that they, or people they are concerned about, will benefit. That is a much larger proportion of the population, which means that the problem isn’t greed, it’s ignorance and misunderstanding. Even if all those people acted altruistically you’d end up with much the same result.

  • Julie near Chicago

    realguyfaux, YES! House of Games is a terrific movie.

    I didn’t know Mr. Mamet wrote the screenplay. A good job.

    Changing the subj, it seems to me that the problem with “democracy” is not usually that the majority subjugates (or milks) the minority, but rather that a small, determined, and effective minority gets control of a majority of those who actually vote, by means of either brute force (Russian Revolution), or else via marketing. It’s true that in a reasonably free (“liberal”) democracy, this appears to be “the will of the majority”; but I think that’s merely the result of formalism.

    In logic, if, as I think is generally the case in the U.S., fewer than half of the total eligible voters actually voted for the winner (be it a candidate or a policy or whatever), then it’s not “the majority” that have subjugated anybody. For instance, see the table for the 2012 election at George Mason University’s Election Project, at


    It shows that approximately 222 million persons were eligible to vote, but only about 130.3 million ballots were counted. It would have taken more than 111 million votes, or about 85% of the votes cast, for the majority to have dominated the minority.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Also, what Tedd said.

    Of course, a lot of envy and resentment grow from the ignorance and misinformation. People build up narratives that sometimes get handed down through the generations in their families. And of course, in any given specific case it’s entirely possible that the person or group really was wronged. Still, it’s not greed per se, but ignorance, perhaps mixed with a sense of injury.

  • Mr Ed

    Julie, don’t forget that democracy also gives a voice to those who might not otherwise be heard, like the dead.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Mr Ed, don’t you mean it gives them a vote? And a chance to vote often?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Yes, Mr. Ed and NngG. And their little dogs too.