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Samizdata quote of the day

I think if you searched 435 randomly selected American homes, and 435 Congressional offices, you just might find more evidence of crime in the latter…

Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit.

22 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Bad sampling technique, though. The Congressional population is wildly over-populated with criminals, as compared to the general population.

  • Paul Marks

    Quite so.

    Partly this is the corruption that power tends to bring – so that many people in the postion of being members of Congress would fall into corruption. The existance of such statist power (the power to spend other folks money and to order them about with new “laws” – i.e. statutes and regulations) has led them into temptation.

    However, it is also the sort of person one has to be to get elected in the first place. Of course their are exceptions – but a person who goes around the place (in the endless process that a campaign is) saying “vote for me, I am wonderful” (or words to that effect) is very likely to be a scumbag before he or she ever sees Washington D.C.

    William F. Buckley once said “I would rather be ruled by the first fifty names in the Boston telephone directory than the people they elect” – and there is a lot of truth in that.

    A random group of four hundred and thirty five Americans selected for two years (a big jury – but without any ways to get off jury service) might well do a lot better job than the House of Representatives, and two Americans selected at random from each State might well do a better job than the Senate. Regardless of which party controlled the House or the Senate.

    I suspect this is true of almost every nation on Earth.

    Representative democracy does not tend to work well.

  • Paul Marks

    A missing “by” in “I would rather be ruled [or governed depending on who tells the story of the quote] by the first fifty names in the Boston telephone directory than by the people they elect”.

    For me that goes for any telephone directory – not just the Boston one.

    Although I would prefer it to be 50 (or whatever) names taken at random – rather than the first fifty.

    As long as they were gone every year or so they would not have time to be corrupted that badly.

    “They would be ignorant” – sure they would be. But they would know they were ignorant (and, therefore, take care) politicians think they know stuff and are fit people to order other folk about.

    On the general point of representaive democracy people will often elect people to do things they would not take responsibility for themselves – they can pretend that it is not happening or that it is not their fault.

    To give the classic example – voting Nazi is one thing, voting “yes” to a proposistion that “all the Jews should be killed” is quite another.

    Representative democracy allows (for example) people to vote for politicians who (they hope) will steal money from other people and give it to them – without ever feeling like a thief. It seperates people from responisbility.

    And (or course) as one vote hardly ever makes a difference people have no reason to really study the issues.

    So they vote on image.

    A person who suddenly found himself one of a hundred Senators (by the luck of the draw) would know that his vote did make a difference – he would (perhaps for the first time in his life) really look into things (and with great care).

    Such a person would be far more open to reasoned argument than a politician tends to be.

  • veryretired


    One of the major problems is the entire idea of a “political career”. Holding political office should be an interruption, performed as an onerous duty, in an otherwise productive working life.

    Accepting the proposition that some people should be involved in politics their entire lives, and even for successive generations in a family, is, in and of itself, a sign of corruption.

    I agree that representative democratic systems sometimes don’t work very well. It’s just that other systems seem to work so much worse, both in terms of corruption and in protecting the individual rights of the citizenry.

    There is no perfect system, which is why the flawed and imperfect representative republican system we have needs to be so strictly limited, and the participants held to severe standards of proper behaviour.

    It is our attention to these latter aspects of governance which has slipped. I would hope that when the current ruling generation finally passes into senility and death, some of the needless complexity and corruption brought about by our naval gazing self involvement and taste for statist solutions might be corrected by wiser heirs.

    But, then, I am an incurable optimist about the human condition, and our ability to remedy past mistakes.

  • Quenton

    I tend to favor the early Republican Rome system. Term length is 2 years and NO re-election. Politicians are like a disease, the longer you let them stay the more damage they do.

  • Mike Lorrey

    You are also more likely to catch them in the act.

    It is also overpopulated with lawyers.

    I am surprised that, given the prevalence of cameras across Britain these days, that you blokes don’t insist all MP offices have webcams viewable by the public 24/7. Certainly they are in greater need of watching than the general public.

  • permanent expat

    very retired: Which navy?…………….okay okay; just couldn’t resist it 😉

  • permanent expat

    Mike Lorrey. Yes, but they’re infinitely more disgusting…..& in any case, ‘reality’ shows are the veritable pits.

  • Julian Taylor

    I think I can now, having heard this tonight on Newsnight and checked this here [link] quite honestly be assured that there are indeed no depths that our (UK) government will not plummet to. For those not wishing to click the link may I quote the Early Day Motion in full below,

    That this House notes that senior members of the Labour Party including hon. Members and Government Ministers attended a party fundraising event last week at the Arts Club in Mayfair; further notes that a copy of the official report by Lord Hutton into the death of Government scientist Dr David Kelly, signed by Ms Cherie Booth QC, was auctioned for party funds raising £400; believes this conduct to be in appalling bad taste, arrogant and crassly insensitive in seeking to make money, albeit indirectly, through hawking, as a novelty item, an official Government report into the death of a public servant; regrets the distress caused to the family and friends of the late Dr Kelly; calls on the Labour Party to apologise for such tasteless and offensive conduct and to donate the money raised to an appropriate charity; and deprecates such conduct by hon. Members.

    Verity, oh Verity where are you now?

  • veryretired

    Gaze upon spellcheck and be saved. Om mani padma om…

  • Midwesterner

    Paul, VR, etc,

    If you think willing voters make bad choices, what kind of people will be elected if this happens?

  • marc in calgary

    web cams in the MP’s offices?
    why not just go straight to porn city USA ?
    same thing, less grainy fotos.

  • Jeffrey

    The Buckley quote is as follows:

    “I would rather be governed by the first 2000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty”

    Additional bon mots:

    “The best defense against usurpatory government is an assertive citizenry”.

    “Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive”.

  • permanent expat

    Yes, where is Verity?

  • Uain

    On tonight’s news thay had various Talking Heads complaing about ….. now wait for it …. not the fact that the Hon. Mr Jefferson had 90 Large in his ice box, but the “process” by which the ample criminal evidence was obtained. I wonder if they would so concerned if Mr. Jefferson was, ohh, say a conservative Republican (and maybe even one of those Christians!) rather than a liberal democrat.

  • veryretired


    I’ve always found the complaints about low voter turnout to be meaningless fluff. If the issues and candidates were interesting and clearly drawn, the turnout would improve.

    As it is, people who don’t want to vote, or can’t be bothered, or are even more uninformed than the average, actually do us a favor by staying home.

    The poor quality of political candidates goes back to the comment I made earlier. Only those willing to make a life’s work out of politics can aspire to higher office under the current system.

    Many truly talented and competent people who have lives built around productive work are excluded from any chance of being nominated or elected because the current party system is a national version of Tammany Hall—it does not allow, for the most part, amateurs who have not done their time working for the party to run for major office.

    Once in a while a joker upsets the game, like the recently retired pro wrestler who was elected Governor of Minnesota, and now teaches at Harvard.

    People like that, or celebrities like Ahnold in Calif., don’t need the parties’ mechanisms as much to gain exposure and name recognition, but pay a price because the professional pols generally consider them to be dabblers who needn’t be taken seriously.

    I am hoping that the generational turnover coming up on the horizon will also result in some significant re-alignment and re-invigoration to the entire system, causing a re-evaluation of the many statist assumptions that have held sway for the last century.

    Re-alistically, I find such a hope re-asonable.

    Stop me before I hyphen again—please.

  • I think if you searched 435 randomly selected American homes, and 435 Congressional offices

    Glenn left out the Senate.

  • CFM

    Politicians are like a disease, the longer you let them stay the more damage they do.”

    I’d heard that politicians are like diapers. They should both be changed often, and for the same reason.

    Oh yes. Where is Verity?

  • Paul Marks


    Yes I have been told that it was the Harvard people before.

    However, I clearly remember reading “than by the people they elect”.

    Perhaps he said both things.

    The first quote is hardly worth saying – the majority of academics of any elite college tend to be rapid collectivists (once such folk take control of a college they tend to give jobs to their own kind).

    The point of the quote is to point at the difference between ordinary people and the politicians they vote for. Otherwise the quote is pointless.

    As for selecting people by lot – there is (of course) a long history of this. It is not perfect, but it is a better system than elections.

    In a election whoever wins a politician has won.

    Remember all the talk about the problem being that the Democrats controlled the Congress (or at least the House of Representatives) when Ronald Reagan was President?

    Or remember all the talk about the problem being President Clinton (when the Republicans controlled both House and Senate)?

    Well the Republicans control the White House and Congress – and government has expanded (and expanded at a very fast rate).

    The system does not work.

    It is the same for the Supreme Court.

    The Constitution of the United States is not (contrary to what is often said) a long or complicated document.

    However, if the Supreme Court tried to enforce it they would be denouced as rich “out of touch” judges.

    There is no “general welfare” POWER – the “common defence and general welfare” is the PURPOSE of the powers given to Congress in Section Eight, Article One.

    Also “interstate commerce” means just that – it does not mean allowing the Federal government to regulate commerce that does not cross State lines (on the grounds that it has an influence on commerce that does cross State lines).

    And (of course) it is Congress, not administrative agencies, that is supposed to make Federal regulations.

    The National Recovery Agency (created by the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933) was struck down in 1935 not because it tried to regulate commerce within a given State – but because it was part of the Executive but acting like a legislature (making its own regulations under the vague enabling act that the N.I. R. A. was).

    These days many Federal agencies act like that. Indeed the “modern state” depends on executive agencies making their own regulations under powers delegated to them by vague statutes (which is one of the things that is wrong with the “modern state”).

    So why does the Supreme Court not act?

    Because Justices are appointed by the very government they are supposed to limit – and they are educated in colleges where “interpreting” (i.e. destroying) the Constution of the United States has been normal practice for many decades.

    If they tired to enforce the Constitution they would be denounced as “old men”, “reactionaries”, and so on.

    But ordinary people – hearing the arguments and reading the text (perhaps for the first time in their lives), might actually enforce the Constitution.

  • Paul Marks

    Rabid (not “rapid”) collectivists of course. Although Harvard is hardly the worst place in the United States (though they did get rid of a Clinton Democrat for being “too right wing”).

    I have just seen Midwesterner comment.

    So if a person votes they may win a lottery. Well that is as close to a formal acceptance by the powers-that-be that their system is reached moral bankruptcy as we are likely to get.

    “Come and vote – you might get lots of money”.

    So much for voting “making a difference” – which is what the “civic duty” stuff is supposed to rest on.

  • DuncanS

    In regards to Mr Jefferson,

    It seems some senators on both sides of the aisle are demanding the FBI return certain documents that were taken from Jefferson’s office in a raid… not only returned.. but returned unread!
    … hmmm…

  • veryretired

    Returned unread—like most of the legislation they supposedly write and sponsor.

    Anyway, Paul, where can I get some of those rapid collectivists? The ones around here are so sloooow, they’re no fun at all. It takes them forever to cross the street, and the points for running one over are much lower than for the quicker kind.