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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

We’ve got a long way to go

This is from an email Glenn Reynolds received concerning his post on the Afghan beauty contestant:

I have greatly enjoyed your blog and read it daily, but at times such entries are rather telling. I am neither a fundamentalist Christian or Muslim, but sometimes your lack of any semblance of discernment about anything other than pragmatic economics or foreign policy is appalling.

Mr. Reynolds, is there anything other than a particular brand of conservative politics that informs your world view? What is it that informs your understanding of what it good, true, and beautiful? Are goodness, truth, and beauty even a part of your world view? From whence comes your sense of ethics or morality? Have you ever asked yourself these questions?

[emphasis mine :K.]

One would think that any ‘daily’ InstaPundit reader would know not only that Glenn is a libertarian, but that his ‘particular brand of libertarian politics’ is approached from the left. But that is not the case here. Nor, experience tells me, is it in many, many others.

This is why it is important, not only that we keep discussion of such arcane matters as n-dimensional Nolan Charts strictly ‘in house’, but we endeavor to create an even simpler model than the original to annunciate our distinct perspective. As most people, even those who consider themselves ‘intelligent’, see a cartesian grid and mumble “oh, math,” as their eyes glaze over like Homer Simpson, and in their mind’s eye, the chart we are showing them turns into a freshly-cut 9″x9″ tray of fudge brownies.

More on this later.

44 comments to We’ve got a long way to go

  • Kevin: I have no idea what you mean by his particular brand of libertarian politics approached from the left.

    Firstly, I am not clear about the meaning of ‘libertarian politics’. Seems a bit of an oxymoron to me. I am sure many a libertarian will protest but I stand by that.

    Secondly, we as Samizdatistas try very hard to discredit (the very first post on this blog) the crude and pointless distinction between left and right, so describing Glenn in such terms here seems at best irrelevant.

    Finally, what do you mean by endevour to create an even simpler model than the original to annuciate our distinct perspective. I feel a bit left out. Please enlighten me. Otherwise, I shall forever remain awed by the power of doughnut, just like the inimitable Mr Simpson: “Donuts, is there anything they can’t do???”

  • S. Weasel

    Well, I’m happy to report Samizdata remains an eminently readable blog despite many of the things you ‘as Samizdatistas’ try to do with it.

  • Brian Swisher


  • Charles Copeland

    Glenn Reynolds’ conservative critic certainly has a point.

    He writes “Are you sure it is not TALIBAN 0, AMERICA 100? This picture, perhaps more than anything else, will confirm the corruptive influence of American culture to the Islamic world. I can understand at least a passing appreciation of what this picture might represent — a rejection of the gnostic fundamentalist view (both Christian and Muslim) of the human body.

    I remember reading an article in the French left-of-centre ‘Nouvel Observateur’ in summer 2001 concerning the frightful treatment of women by the Taliban. Then right after that article came a full page advertisement for the fragrance ‘Opium’, with a photo of a naked Sophie Dahl apparently in rut or, if you like, in a state of progressive lordosis. It was then that I realised why the Taliban might appeal to quite a number of males.

    Since this advertisement also appeared on billboards right across France, it can fairly be defined as an invasion of privacy, just like fornicating in public at Picadilly Circus. Such images are offensive to many people — not just Muslims or ‘reactionary’ Christians.

    Ditto for the ‘Miss Afghanistan’ image. If you really want the number of Islamic terrorists to increase and multiply, fire away with pics like this.

  • Charles Copeland


    Sorry to breach Netiquette by changing the subject, but I’m just panting to inform the Samizdata community of the following good news.

    Samizdatarian bookworms may be interested to learn that Amazon has just launched a “Search Inside the Book” feature where you can key in any word or phrase into the ‘search’ box and find all books in which that word or phrase occurs. You can then view the page(s) in question on screen, plus a number of pages before and after. Seems to work only on Amazon.com, not Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr or Amazon.de. See here.
    According to Amazon, a total of 120000 books have already been scanned in, but I noted that it contains few of the books I myself have purchased from Amazon – neither extracts from Pinker’s ‘The Blank Slate’, van Crefeld’s ‘Men, Women and War’ nor Adam Smith’s ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’ elicited any hits.

    In frustration, I keyed in ‘erect penis’ – resulting in a whopping total of 6764 findings. The first hit was page 4 of a book entitled ‘Facts and Phalluses: a Collection of Bizarre and Intriguing Truths, Legends and Measurements’. Needless to say, that tied me up for some time. Did you know what the Dayaks of Borneo insert ..?? OK, OK , find out for yourselves. Clearly, the average Amazon Com book purchaser has priorities other than sociobiology, military history or moral philosophy.
    At any rate, it’s a great step forward.
    Credits to Eve Tushnet and The Voloch Conspiracy for that info.

  • Russ Goble

    Maybe I’m the one being simplistic, and I certainly understand there are many grey areas to the libertarian concept, but, as a selling point, how hard is it to get across that libertarians basically believe in less government involvement or control across the board. Wether that’s in the bedroom or the wallet, we want less government than the current powers that be.

  • Rob Read

    State=Coercion=Bad Maybe?

  • George Peery

    Many Westerners, when asked what “informs” their notions of goodness, truth and beauty, might assume the questioner was a crank or someone who had committed a basic category error. But to many people in the world (included some Westerners), the question is legitimate.

    Instapundit is Reynold’s blog, and he’s free to post what he wants. (I might add that I enjoy a pretty girl as much as the next guy.) But when I saw that particular pic on the most famous blog in the world, I groaned. “Well (I thought), so much for ‘hearts and minds’ today.”

  • Kevin L. Connors

    Forgive me if I’M missing something here, Gabriel. But I’m still wiping the sleep from my eyes, and have yet to eat breakfast. But are you being serious, or have you just decided to don an Emmanuel Kant mask and jerk my chain for Halloween?

    Before I go off on a major diatribe about normal groupings and deviations from the mode, please do this for me:

    1) Seek out a Nolan Chart.

    2) Examine it carefully.

    3) Tell me if it has a left side and a right side.

    In the meantime, of off to fry up something to stop my heart. Chao.

  • Charles Copeland: that was an interesting statist paleo-conservative perspective. Presumably you find a huge chunk of the Old Masters such as Rubens or Carravagio equally offensive. I guess you just don’t like looking at women. Fair enough I suppose just so long as you do try and stop me from doing so.

    Frankly I can think of no better way to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world that a constant stream of ‘tits and ass’.

  • Who cares what the ultra-Muslims and -Christians think? She’s a total knockout.

    And as for calling Glenn a libertarian… errrr nazzo fast, Guido.

    He’s a conservative Democrat. (Voted for Gore in 2000, worked on Gore’s presidential campaign in 1988 — as posted on his site.)

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    Perry de Havilland wrote:
    Frankly I can think of no better way to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world that a constant stream of ‘tits and ass’.

    Not if it’s my saggy male breasts and fat ass. 🙂

  • Perhaps nobody noticed but Miss Afghanistan spent an awfully long time in California according to the accompanying article (some of us do read the articles, you know). I just wonder whether the opponents would have liked her not to compete in the name of Afghanistan or would they include burkha duty in California based on birthplace?

    This was an international beauty contest and no doubt the Malaysia and Pakistan contestants were similarly garbed for that portion of the show. The point of the article that some obtusely want to ignore is that under Taliban rule, there would have been no entry from Afghanistan and now there is. That is a win for all lovers of female beauty.

  • The point is, my fellow Libertarians, that whether to strut down an aisle virtually naked displaying a set of gams and other natural resources that any woman on the planet would rightfully envy and any so-inclined man on the planet would rightly admire, at the very least, as a healthy and symmetrical example of human being, is a matter of PERSONAL CHOICE. Whether or not you happen to anjoy the sight of a pretty girl, think it’s a moral thing to do, or are afraid it will scare the horses is a non-issue. The woman has a CHOICE even as YOU have a choice to ignore her and get on with her lives instead of wringing your hands like a bunch of envious spinsters.

    CHOICE and FREEDOM. That’s what it’s all about.

  • Charles Copeland

    Perry de H. writes:
    Charles Copeland: that was an interesting statist paleo-conservative perspective. Presumably you find a huge chunk of the Old Masters such as Rubens or Carravagio equally offensive. I guess you just don’t like looking at women. Fair enough I suppose just so long as you do try and stop me from doing so.

    Either that is an intentional misrepresentation of my views, or I didn’t express myself clearly enough, or Perry doesn’t understand plain English.

    My point is NOT what people do privately, behind closed doors. My point concerns what they do or how they dress in public, where their photons can invade me. My objection to Sophie Dahl in rut was not that the advert appeared in Le Nouvel Obs, but that the advert appeared on public billboards ( and is said to have caused a number of traffic accidents). The advert therefore invaded privacy. It is objectionable on libertarian grounds, quite apart from ‘paleoconservative’ ones. Or does Perry believe that ANYTHING can be displayed in public? Women having sex with Alsatians? Spread beaver? Asian babes with semen on their lips? Either he does, in which case he is a nutter, or he doesn’t, in which case we merely disagree on where to draw the line. Some draw the line at the burqa, others at the thong.

    Perry can view as many tits and bums as he wishes (such as here). Incidentally, I have no objection to doing so myself — though after a certain age one begins to tire. As they say — blue movies are so boring. When you’ve seen 174, you’ve seen them all.

    To conclude, if Perry believes that tits and bums can win the hearts and minds of Muslims, either he has a gauche sensayuma or he is not quite the full shilling.

  • George Peery

    Anyone wondering why libertarianism is a political “no-fly zone” could find out be reading some of the puerile comments here.

  • Kevin L. Connors

    Well, this seems to be developing into a thread without a topic. Or at least, it seems to be branching out like a trident. Let’s hope none of us gets stuck with it.

    For Gabriel’s benefit let me say that first, the fact that the existence of liberty itself is far more important than the question of whether it is attenuated more on the personal or economic fronts, does not reduce the latter comparison to triviality.

    And second, while it is the natural tedency for libertarians to loath the political process, it cannot be simply wished away. Many of us, generally the more pragmatic than dogmatic, feel we should learn from so many other ‘victim classes’ and embrace the political process. As such, the term ‘libertarian politics’ is by no means an oxymoron.

    As for Mr. du Toit: He seems to be falling into a logical fallacy somewhat akin to his conception of being a gun-lover/hunter and a lover of animals as some sort of diachotomy. Again, without going into discussion of such things as normal groupings, I’ll leave it at this: Glenn considers himself a libertarian – ’nuff said.

    As for whether posting pictures of lovely women on a blog, or even the general practice of benign leachery, is a meritorious pursuit, that has nothing at all to do with the subject of my original post. If someone else wishes to blog on the matter, I will be happy to comment. But please, take it elsewhere.

  • Abby

    Why would a libertarian vote for Al “the Green” Gore? I realize that the 2000 election was a choice between evils, but I don’t see how Gore could have been construed as the lesser of the two. I certainly cannot see why a libertarian would actively campaign for the man. Am I just missing something here?

  • Kevin: Lighten up.

    Before I go off on a major diatribe about normal groupings and deviations from the mode...

    I was being serious, I really do not understand what you are writing about…

  • S. Weasel: It’s what we, as Samizdatistas try to do with the blog, that makes the blog. You are barking at the wrong tree.

  • S. Weasel

    Gabriel: define “we”.

  • fnyser

    Abby: unfortunately there a lot of people like Bill Maher that confuse libertarian with libertine (how libertarian could a guy who want to ban SUV’s be?) They keep their eye on the prize of sex with anything anywhere and legal drugs – but of course when your diseased member falls off and your brain looks like pistachio pudding, you are entitled to money forcibly extracted from others.

  • S Weasel: We = The Samizdata.net contributing writers. Whilst commenters come from all manner of views and axiomatic underpinnings, the contributing writers share broadly similar meta-contextual assumptions (though we do not necessarily march in ideological lockstep)… hence ‘we’.

    More broadly: Gabriel was referring to our emphasis on meta-context (the frames of reference within which people understand the world) and our general dislike of left-right tags in instances where they do not really mean anything useful.

    It is hard for me to see how one can describe Glenn as coming from the ‘left’ and expect that to be understood in any predictable manner by a majority of readers… does this mean Glenn sees some virtues in command economics (highly unlikely)?… or is it just a convoluted way of saying ‘Glenn is not conservative’? I suspect that is the root of Gabriel’s dyspepsia.

  • S. Weasel

    Perry: yes, well, I suppose not surprisingly, it is the opinion of the contributors to the blog that the contributors “make the blog”. In the opinion of this consumer-of-blog, that is not entirely the case.

    While there are some really excellent contributors to Samizdata (David Carr alone makes it worth following), this blog is unusual in that the commentary is frequently more interesting than the article it’s attached to.

    No, I don’t mean me. Often, it isn’t even a name I recognize. The number of times a poster I’ve never seen before pops up in a comment block with ideas that send me scurrying Google-wards…well, that’s really unique, in my experience, to Samizdata.

    Dear, dear me. “Meta-contextual assumptions”, indeed! I hope you’ve had that handy phrase endelibly tattooed…someplace tender and prominent.

  • Abby

    Perry, I too find the spacial political metaphor unhelpful. That’s why things such as n-dimensional Nolan charts strike me as barriers rather than aids to analysis.

  • Theodopoulos Pherecydes

    Re the picture, I truly believe sexual frustration in the Islamic world is the wellspring of terrorism. If it weren’t for the fact they want to kill me, have me convert or make me submit whether or not I enjoy pictures of semi-naked women, I might give a damn.

    I think adding the authoritarian/libertarian axis to the political chart is interesting. Not much “libertarian” about our SCOTUS, eh?

  • Kevin L. Connors

    To clarify: there are two meanings to my statement that Glenn approaches his libertarianism “from the left”. The first alludes to his journey of enlightenment, and the fact that he is a reformed Democrat. The second, and that applicable to “deviations from the mode”. deals with his personal opinions on prudent governance. For instance, he supports a limited regulatory regime over matters on commerce, whereas a true ‘first principles’ libertarian would feel businesses should be kept in line purely through torts.

  • Russ Goble

    With apologies to Kevin, I want to respond to several of the threads within this thread.

    On Glenn Reynolds as libertarian from the left, I actually thought that made sense. Reynolds has admitted he was kind of a leftist and a somewhat partisan Democrat at one time. He’s clearly come around to a rather libertarian mindset. I don’t think that means he’s a partial believer in command-economies, but rather he once held an attraction to the idea of government “doing something” when the economy went sour. But, from everything I’ve read on his site, he’s clearly not enamored with that mindset now. So, to say he became libertarian from the left kind of makes since if you are discussing a path to one’s current way of thinking. But, he’s certainly not wishing the political process away.

    Is the left-right concept useful? Not really. But, to paraphrase a post from Kevin Conners above, it can’t simply be wished away. I get a little frustrated trying to explain where liberatarians fit when discussing this with friends and family. I always felt libertarians should be the middle point of the old school political spectrum (if it’s truly meant to describe ideaology regarding the roll of government), but moderates and centrists the world over have soiled the entire concept of being right in the middle. Moderate is sadly synonymous with lacking principles. The center point of the traditional political spectrum seems to mean you believe in a little of both sides instead of meaning you reject most of what both sides believe. Oh well, what are you gonna do.

    As for the Samizdata as a blog, it’s the only one I regularly post on. There are many great blogs out there that have commentable posts, but S. Weasel is right in that the commenters here really add value to this blog. I like mixing it up with the folks here. I post to add a different angle on the discussion I know there will be intellegent responses to anything I or anyone else says. But, I for one believe it’s because the samizdatistas(sp?) are excellent writers, have truly interesting things to say, and seem encourage and welcome a vibrant comment board. I’d be rather shocked if the writers of Samizdata as a whole believe they are the soul value of this blog, and that the commenters are meaningless. It’s the sum total of the whole experience (the posts, the comments, the links, the occassional pictures, the variety and depth of subject matter).

  • S. Weasel: Suffering from a stuffed sphinster syndrome? If not for ‘meta-contextual assumptions’, why on earth do you think we spend so much of our free time and effort running this blog? When Perry set up Samizdata.net, he explained it all here.

    Also, we kind of state the whole thing in the left-hand corner… We do not ridicule your assumptions, well certainly not often enough to warranty such a lack of courtesy to those who devote their time to write here. We may appreciate your eyeballs but frankly what’s the point, if you mock our efforts?

    Russ Goble: With due respect, I do think the writers here are the soul of the blog. Without them, there would be no Samizdata.net. I might see your point, if not for our experience with Samizdata before we had comments enabled. I also know from personal experience, comments sometimes enhance posts, but often they do not. In fact, in my experience they often misunderstand the point and I learnt to deal with it. But I do not think that detracts from the value of the blog itself.

    We do enjoy and value our commenters input, nevertheless there is a big difference between a contributor and a commenter, as many of our contributors (after being long-term commenters here first) can testify.

  • Harry

    I did not find Reynolds’ comments and posting of the Afghani beauty queen anything other than facetious saracastic irony on his part. I read parts of Instapundit most every day and the only conservative talking point consistently banged on by Prof. Reynolds, at least to me, is second admendment rights. I’m not familiar with Prof. Reynolds past political leanings but to me he seems just slightly left of center today. This is probably to be expected from an academic who’s also an attorney. Hell, in America that’s two strikes already.

    I don’t believe Prof. Reynolds wants less government so much as he wants better government. Now that’s an oxymoron. And although he sometimes takes his legal brethren to task for judicial activism he himself occaisonally smacks of that elitist jurist that had Shakespeare’s panties all in a twist. That alone, I believe, takes him out of any libertarian fold.

  • Eamon Brennan

    Well thats us told then.

    I tend to agree with Mr Weasel. The most interesting ideas and directions on this Blog tend to come from the comments section. Gabriel. You could try, as the youth of the day put it, getting over yourself.

    Eamon Brennan

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Phew! Some of you sounded like you got out of the wrong side of the bed!

    I recall reading somewhere that Glenn calls himself a “whig”, rather like Hayek did.

  • The only thing that is clear after all this rhetoric is that most people seem to have forgotten about the pretty girl in the bathing suit.

  • Charles Copeland

    Yep, Colleen,
    Let’s end it all once again with the argumentum ad Hitlerum.

    In 1933, the Nazis banned beauty contests on the grounds that they were incompatible with the proper image of women.


    – paleoconservatives are Nazis, because they are opposed to beauty contests;

    – Muslims are Nazis, because they are opposed to beauty contests;

    – feminists are Nazis, because they are opposed to beauty contests….



  • Guy Herbert


    Though Charles Copeland neatly teases out the idiocy inherent in the pseudo-syllogism, I wouldn’t have said that a false or incomplete inference that the opponent is a Nazi is really an ad hominem argument. It is a defective argument from consequence.

    The ad hominem argument would take the suggestion of Nazi-ness (Naziheit?) as premise:

    “The Nazis were very bad; they banned beauty contests; therefore beauty contests are acceptable.”

    or, more tenuously,

    “My opponent is a Nazi; he is against beauty contests; therefore beauty contests are acceptable.”

  • Snide

    Most of the commenters here are vastly overestimating both their importance and their own savy. I come here for the interesting articles and then to see how spectacularly they will be misunderstood. You guys are the jesters in someone elses court. It is kinda obvious that without Kevin’s article, there would not be any comments sparked by Kevin’s article. Sheesh.

  • Doug Collins

    After about thirty years of trying to find a definitive difference between conservatives (i.e right wingers -not merely people who like things as they are) and liberals (i.e. left wingers – not necessarily people who want to change things), I have come up with a personal litmus test that seems to work on those who have put at least a little thought into their politics.

    I submit it herewith, for the pack to rend and tear if they are so inclined.

    A liberal believes human beings are perfectable (leaving the definition of ‘perfect’ somewhat undefined).

    A conservative believes that they are not.

  • Gosh darn those Nazis!

    If someone ever wants to post pics of the winner of the MR. Afghanistan contest, you won’t get any objection from me.

    As for the incurring the ire of Muslim men, heck, I’ve incurred the ire of Muslim men walking down the streets of Atlanta and Chicago dressed from head to toe in a suit with only my head uncovered. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re wearing decent clothes or an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini, as long as you’re not wearing a burkha, some of them give you lip. I’d understand the reaction in Baghdad, but on my home turf, it kind of wrankles.

    Got accosted by a gang of Pakistanis in Chicago three years ago while on an outing with my sixty year old mother. Miss Afghanistan won’t throw them into any more of a frenzy than they enjoy already, especially if Muslim men take offense at sixty year old women decently dressed in the middle of Chicago.

  • Guy Herbert

    colleen has exactly the right word “enjoy”. Fanatics of all kinds get pleasure from their fury. You can even see it in action in these columns sometimes.

  • Some people are only half alive when they’re not indignant.

  • R. C. Dean

    Doug – perhaps a small amendment to your definition: “A liberal believes human beings are perfectable, provided they are beaten with sufficient force and frequency.

    After all, we wouldn’t want to leave out the essential mechanism by which modern-day liberals want to pursue the perfection of their fellows – the state.

  • Doug Collins

    R.C. Dean-

    I was trying to make a minimalist definition, but I believe you are correct. Perfectable humans aren’t much use unless one perfects them, are they?

    This reminds me of one of my favorite motivational slogans:
    “The floggings will continue until morale improves.”

  • Also, another issue which I didn’t mention in my post is regarding theoretical groundings of information science(s)/studies. Here as well, there are theories regarding separate research focuses (information retrieval, information seeking, information behaviors, etc…). However, these sound like theoretical frameworks for various sub-disciplines of information studies rather than Information Science (singular). What is that ‘thing’ that ties all the information sciences (plural) together, besides for the fact that they all claim to be dealing with the ‘thing’ called ‘information’ – which is not necessarily defined the same across the various concentrations and research areas within information science/studies.

  • Also, another issue which I didn’t mention in my post is regarding theoretical groundings of information science(s)/studies. Here as well, there are theories regarding separate research focuses (information retrieval, information seeking, information behaviors, etc…). However, these sound like theoretical frameworks for various sub-disciplines of information studies rather than Information Science (singular). What is that ‘thing’ that ties all the information sciences (plural) together, besides for the fact that they all claim to be dealing with the ‘thing’ called ‘information’ – which is not necessarily defined the same across the various concentrations and research areas within information science/studies.