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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 government is a body of people usually notably ungoverned.

– Derrial Book, the Shepard in Firefly episode War Stories

38 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Euan Gray

    “Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government”

    John Jay, Founding Father


  • … and ubiquity of misguided minds.

  • Did the american Indians have a central Government?

  • Euan Gray

    Did the american Indians have a central Government?

    No, but they did have a stone age culture which never invented the wheel. Much better, I’m sure you’ll agree, than paying income tax.


  • Simon Jester

    That’s funny, I hadn’t realised that the wheel was invented by central government.

  • Nick M

    No, but wheel-clamping was.

  • permanent expat

    Some refreshing good humo(u)r…….lovely; made my day.

  • Ron

    Good article today about ID cards in today’s Scottish Evening News:- I am not a barcode .. I am a free man!

    Brian Monteith has, however, missed out one truly terrifying aspect of ID Cards legislation and chips to locate and physically limit speeds of cars – the impact of a terrorist strike on the central databases.

    Once the Government’s Orwellian dreams have been enacted, it would only take the central databases of people’s IDs to be rendered dysfunctional for everyone in the country to be unable to perform any activity beyond that possible in Medieval times.

    Likewise, if an invader, criminals or pranksters set all the speed limits in the Road Speed database to zero (a simple SQL command such as ‘UPDATE SpeedTable SET MaxSpeeds = 0’) then all vehicles would be halted wherever they were – and many crashes would happen where a preceding car had better brakes than the following one.

    On an individual basis, a malevolent or vengeful Council employee could render an enemy or ex-lover economically inactive and perhaps even apply a zero speed limit to the gate and front drive of their house.

    How many John Smiths in the country will find themselves effectively a non-person because of a name confusion?

    This legislation must be stopped, and stopped NOW.

  • Euan

    And how exactly were wheels superior to dog drags for the American Indians anyway? Even when they got horses they carried on using horse drags…


  • SK Peterson

    Some American (North and South) Indians did have central governments (with coercive taxation), some had very loose confederations (a few “voluntary” contributions) and some had no formal systems of govt at all (tax-free development zones).

    The notion that they were stone age cultures is just plain stupid. The Olmecs invented the wheel, and only used it for toys. Why? They lived in swampy, wet lowlands, it made more sense to move about with canoes. The Inka also developed the wheel, but try pulling a wagon up the Andes from the coast. Better just to use a llama and pack it.

    The invention of zero, three interlocking calendar systems that were centuries ahead of anything developed anywhere else, remarkable construction technologies, etc. aren’t the products of stone age societies.

    The Indians were wiped out by the rapid spread of diseases they were evolutionally unprepared for. When populations suffer devastating population losses, they also can lose a lot of the inherent and built-up knowledge of a society, pushing the survivors toward a stone age existence. It’s like viewing a Mad Max movie and remarking on the marginal lives of the characters as representing the highest levels of cultural sophistication they or their ancestors had ever achieved.

  • Midwesterner


    “Did the american Indians have a central Government?”

    I don’t know very much about Native American government, but I do know there were several ‘Nations’ that were in effect a confederate central government.

    I could only recall four nations off the top of my head and it turned out one that I recall was actually a subset of another.

    The ten tribes of the Seneca nation belonged to the Iroquois or Six nations.

    There are at least 7 tribes in the Cherokee nation. I’ve been to their capital in Tahlequah Oklahoma, many times. They’ve enthusiastically embraced 21st century.

    I think there are at least 13 tribes in the Algonquin nation. I think, but I’m not sure, that the tribes in the area I live now belonged to the Algonquin nation.

    Remember that North America is huge. A fully continental sized federation would have been almost unprecedented.

  • “Firefly” is the gift that just keeps on giving when it comes to Samizdata Quote of the Day material.

  • veryretired

    There is enough politically correct BS floating around this world without having shovelfuls dumped into Samizdata.

    The Native tribes in North America were stone age peoples for the very simple reason that they didn’t discover the method of fashioning metal implements by smelting ore. Some tribes did develop agriculture and semi-permanent settlements, while others followed a hunter gatherer culture, and were essentially nomadic across a range of land.

    Control of that territory was a continuous source of friction between tribes, and a form of low level conflict percolated constantly between rival tribes, leading to a culture of “warrior ethos” similar to that which carried into the 20th century in places in Africa, South America, and Asian tribal enclaves such as New Guinea.

    The Central and South American native empires were also stone age for exactly the same reason—they did not master the use of metal ores. Their accomplishments in math and astronomy were impressive, but inspired by some of the most psychotic religious beliefs and practices known to history, which is saying something.

    I’m sorry if I do not grieve overmuch at the downfall of a culture based on slavery and human sacrifice to a set of deities who demanded warm, still beating human hearts before they were satisfied.

    It is one of the great ironies of history that a murderous religious theocracy based on blood sacrifice was destroyed by a variety of pathogens which infected their blood, and brought about the collapse of this deranged edifice which had been responsible for the deaths of uncounted thousands over the centuries of its reign.

    It doesn’t matter how neat their calenders were. If they had gotten their hands on you, they would have sliced you up a treat without a second’s hesitation. All the patronizing fawning of all the PC’ers from now to the end of the calender wouldn’t have helped you a bit.

  • permanent expat

    Apropos PC…..But off-thread a tad, I fear…..I’ve just seen some UK TV news, about the murder of a nurse, in which a police official said that they had arrested a suspect…… a white male.
    I wonder if they are using a (now PC banned ?) ploy once used by the police in the USA to explain ethnicity. I am pretty sure a ‘black’ suspect would not have been mentioned.

  • SK Peterson

    First – Firefly simply kicks ass. Now on to the rest.

    veryretired – I don’t think recognition of a society’s technological advancements is a bunch of PC BS, it just is simply what it is, recognition. Furthermore, I agree, the irony of the downfalls of the various native empires is rich. The Inka by the way did have advanced metallurgy using copper and gold. Which does open up a very good question: why didn’t these societies develop iron and steel technology if they had advanced metallurgical knowledge?

    My original comment was more a reaction against Euan Gray’s blithe dismissal of the variety of Indian nations in the America’s as all “stone age” peoples. A casual and sweeping generalization that is not deserved from the evidence of the historical record.

  • Mr. Joss Whedon is a Hack

    Firefly is the gift that keeps on giving for platitudes, horrible characterisation and boring action scenes.

  • veryretired

    I didn’t mean to start a big fuss about a peripheral issue. I’ve just finished Hanson’s Culture and Carnage, so some of the lunacy of the Aztecs et al was on my mind. You are obviously correct about the use of gold. I was thinking more in terms of implements, esp. weapons.

    Anyway, enough of that subject, at least for me.

  • Uain

    Oh what the heck, I’ll pour some gas on this fire……..

    In the North East USA at least, the Woodland Indians were indeed a Stone Age culture. The Iroquois confederation was formed as protection against the Mohawk Nation, the bad asses of the time with a warrior culture much like the ancient Spartans.
    A North East USA winter is a nasty experience, with deep snow and tempertures well below zero that can last for weeks. The Adirondack mountains of Upstate New York are named from the Indian word for “bark eater” since this is what they were reduced to by the time spring came around.
    As a result, many Americans of the North East have some Indian roots because when the Europeans came with iron tools, Flintlocks and (gasp!) Christianity, many Indians intermarried, converted, to the point that today there are many Indians with blonde hair or blue eyes. And these are those with real Indian blood, not the BS Ward Churchill types.

  • Euan Gray

    Which does open up a very good question: why didn’t these societies develop iron and steel technology if they had advanced metallurgical knowledge?

    Basically because it’s relatively simple to extract copper and gold from their ores but rather harder to extract iron because of the higher temperatures needed. You need more powerful high temperature furnaces. Even bronze technology – a simple alloy of copper and tin – didn’t appear in the Americas until some 4,000 years after most of the rest of the world had figured it out.

    Couple that with the fact that primitive copper and bronze tools are enough to sustain a fairly basic society, and then factor in the lack of innovation which tends to be a feature of societies which don’t suffer population or food pressures – especially when they have an excessive reverence for elders and a rigid social heirarchy – and you will get this type of relatively backward and stagnant civilisation. You get a similar thing in much of black Africa, for much the same reasons.


  • Johnathan Pearce

    No, but they did have a stone age culture which never invented the wheel. Much better, I’m sure you’ll agree, than paying income tax.

    Euan, I would have rather better of that from you. I reject PC nonsense about what a wonderful culture Indians had, but making cracks like that won’t win you any converts around here to your supposedly “pragmatic” views on the world.

    Good point about gold extraction, though. Another point is that gold mines are frequently very deep, and it is only due to modern technology, use of new cutting tools and pumping facilities that makes such mines doable.

  • Euan Gray

    Euan, I would have rather better of that from you

    I suppose it’s a sort of back-handed compliment that many other regular commenters get away with posting the most godawful trite rubbish – whether libertarian or reactionary – with nary a quibble, but the slightest flip remark from me attracts complaint & something not far from “we expect better of you, Gray.” It might even make we wonder if my views are taken rather more seriously than the public responses would suggest.

    Another point is that gold mines are frequently very deep

    True, but the reason for that is that the easily accessible gold deposits which *don’t* require deep mining are long since exhausted.

    it is only due to modern technology, use of new cutting tools and pumping facilities that makes such mines doable

    But it’s only the odd human desire to pin bits of shiny metal to convenient (and sometimes not so convenient) extremities that makes such things viable.

    In 2005, world trade in gold was some 53 billion dollars, of which jewellery accounted for 39 billion.


  • The Aztecs had a central government, and they also engaged in widescale human sacrifice.

  • Euan Gray

    The Aztecs had a central government, and they also engaged in widescale human sacrifice

    It would be somewhat paranoid to assume that the inevitable result of central government is necessarily widespread human sacrifice.


  • meme

    “Firefly is the gift that keeps on giving for platitudes, horrible characterisation and boring action scenes” so wrote “Mr. Joss Whedon is a Hack”… Love to see what drivel this poster watches and imagine it is good in its place. Probably a fan of Emmerdale or Newsnight… both badly acted and full of platitudes.

    Also, I have some sympathy with E Gray. He’s right – on this site there is some trite rubbish (and even downright bile by offensive, narrow minded people) that passes without comment.

    So, fans of liberty, why not allow people to have their say without all the whining about them? Or is that too libetarian for most of you?

  • Meme: I am too busy to watch much of anything but for Firefly I’ll always find time. I do feel sorry that you seem unable to appreciate one of the best series out there.

    We don’t hold with platitudes here and neither we are fond of people who try to label us ‘libetarians’ and tell us what we should do on that basis.

    Euan Gray seems to have delusions of relevance (most of us do as some point or other) and if he wants to vent his opinions, he can certainly do so on his own blog. If he does it here, he has to put up with our opinions, far more so than we have to put up with his. Same goes for you. This is because it is ‘our blog’…

    And being so informed about ‘libetarians’ and all, surely you know how extermely touchy they are about their property.

  • Midwesterner

    “It would be somewhat paranoid to assume that the inevitable result of central government is necessarily widespread human sacrifice.”

    While maybe not totally inevitable, it seems the most reasonable question is’nt ‘if’ but ‘how’. Modern victims generally retain their pulse. Although generally not much else.

  • Mr. Why Do I Even Bother?

    meme is partial to baseless ad hominem attacks, I see. Rest assured, I won’t point out Joss Whedon’s obvious ineptness at pretty much any endeavour he takes on further. All for being perfectly grounded in pre-established rank beliefs and so forth. I suppose you’ll feel the need now to claim I watch mindless soap operas as you so eloquently did already and feel validated as such with further baseless attacks.

    And if it’s any comfort, Adriana, I feel equally sorry for you for believing quite sincerely that Firefly is one of the best series out there, even at present. I also feel sorry if you’re so far stuck up in the apparent Samizdata elitism to not recognise platitudes when you see them. Firefly has only one design, and that is not to encourage actual thought with well-thought out confrontationalism, but to flatter.

  • Alright, give me an example of a platitude from the Firefly series…

    Samizdata.net elitist? Heh, you just made my day. 😛

  • Mr. Rofl or Something or Other

    You’ve quoted one.

    My elitist comment was due to the seemingly perduring presence within this paranoid community of the sort of sentiment which refuses any alternative opinion. I’ve been reading these comments for months now, and of course, I do not deny that there is logic and reason present, don’t get my intentions wrong, and there really is a fairly strong ideal going around that leans towards flattery at best and short-fused denigration at worst. Which is a shame.

    A fair share of my own personal philosophies agree with the general ideas held there, hence my interest in this blog, of course. But Firefly, the topic at hand, serves only to flatter. I hardly find it intellectually stimulating at all. It’s about as clever and thought-provoking as a Wachowski movie. That and as I probably made clear above, it is badly shot and directed, the action scenes are tepid and stale and are only matched by the characters. It’s just Buffy in space, except with a Jack Kirby/Ayn Rand edge. Honestly, Joss Whedon is a one-trick pony.

  • Gotcha. Given my experience the quote has profound meaning to me and to call is a platitude is to know very little of the nature of the government…

    So apart from pomposity, we have ingorance in the air as well…

  • Euan Gray

    Euan Gray seems to have delusions of relevance

    Given that almost every liberal democracy in the world governs more or less along the type of lines I advocate, the differences being of degree rather than of kind, I don’t see it as delusional. If you look at the nature of government in reality rather than in theory, and especially rather than in millenarian political theory of either left or right, you’ll soon see that Hobbes and Machiavelli are FAR more relevant and practically useful that Hayek and Mill.

    By the way, I’m quite happy to post here and take criticism for what I say – it is, after all, Samizdata’s blog and not mine, even if “property” is stretching it a bit for what is in reality little more than a name, some disk space and data bandwidth. My point, which was not at all a complaint, is that I do find it noteworthy that many other regular commenters can post flip remarks without criticism, but I don’t seem able to do this. It’s not a complaint, and I do tend to see it as more of a backhanded compliment than anything else.


  • Nowadays, the widespread sacrifices resemble this.

  • Alex Zeka (from Majority Rights)

    Banned. Spare us the pseudo-science and just stick to your own Nazi site

  • Alex Zeka (from Majority Rights)

    Banned. Spare us the pseudo-science and just stick to your own Nazi site

  • Alex Zeka: Who frickin’ cares…

  • Lurker

    I would like to address SK Peterson’s use of the term “The Inka”.

    Could this be the same thing as the “The Inca”?

    The distance from K to C on the standard keyboard makes me think this is not a mistake. Is the substitution of K for C to denote a new politically correct term? Only dumb hicks like me would still use Inca, is that it? It does have the problem for those trying to score moral superiority points in sounding exactly the same when spoken though.

  • Lurker

    Adriana – “Alex Zeka: Who frickin’ cares…”

    Clearly you do or you wouldnt have bothered to say anything. So I take it your response is a lack of willingnesss to address the the issue rather than a supreme, God-like detatchment from it.

  • Alexander Zeka (from Majority Rights)

    Banned. Spare us the pseudo-science and just stick to your own Nazi site