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

“In general the most important effect of the government attempt to shield itself and its clients from uncertainty and risk is to place the entire system in peril. It becomes at once too rigid and too soft to react resourcefully to the new shocks and sudden challenges that are inevitable in a dangerous world.”

George Gilder, Wealth and Poverty, page 235 (1981). His comment ought to be on the walls of every state regulatory authority and central bank.

14 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • pete

    How long will the government be able to shield itself and all its employees from the current problems?

    A bloated public sector with their gold-plated pensions is an expensive luxury for the rest of us. Such a two tier system of employment is beginning to make us look like some tinpot state where a job with the government is the only way for most people to make ends meet.

  • mandrill

    Pete: And thats the way they want it. Its communism by the back door. Even the unemployed are not safe when ‘voluntary’ community service rears its ugly head.

    The public sector, and those businesses that feed off it (bums on seats ‘training’ establishments are those I have mose experience of, but there are many more) are a way to impoverish anyone who doesn’t work for the state. Far slower than a revolution, Red October style, and far harder to combat when the cry is always ‘but we’re doing it for you, so your life can be better’.

    When it gets to the point where the state runs almost everything and those few things that aren’t state run are in the hands of cronies and government ass kissers then freedom will be dead and only a severe shock will be able to recussitate it.

  • veryretired

    The prevailing orthodoxy around the world is still composed of variations on the 19th century assertion of collectivist ideology, state planning, and the necessity of “social action” in any and all situations more complex than tying one’s shoelaces.

    However, the theories underlying this conventional wisdom were fresh and new and scientific in the 1800’s, when they were untried, and people of many different initial persuasions could be attracted by all the high sounding rhetoric and good intentions.

    After a century and more of repeated social disasters, wars, and famines engineered by the planning geniuses of the various manifestations of the “corporate state”, some of the steam has come out of the movement to march everyone into the next version of utopia.

    Part of the current dilemna facing the collectivists now is the painful fact that many of their schemes are maturing, especially the massive entitlement programs with which the populations of many nations have been bribed over the years.

    Facing the collapse of their most cherished redistibutionist schemes as demographics, and the cruel realities of the workings of “ponzi schemes” in general, make them statistically insupportable within this generation, the result has been a frenzied effort to extend and expand state control before the little dog pulls the curtain back and reveals the man turning all the wizard’s cranks and dials.

    Collectivism in the current age is running on inertia, disguising itself, of necessity, in movements to save the climate or protect undeveloped cultures or any other excuse to get control of people’s social and economic choices and make them the property of the vanguard, whose decisions are, of course, more enlightened.

    The end result of this process is the rigidity that Gilder describes, as an ossified labrynth of bureaus, commissions, boards, committees, and layers of legislators and administrators, try desperately to respond to changing conditions by delaying, stalling, passing the buck, and inventing even more rules, all the time hoping against hope that everything will somehow come out all right, even though none ofthese tactics have ever worked particularly well before.

    And, yes, this byzantine structure also becomes too soft, as the delicate balancing act of robbing some peters to pay other pauls gets ever more complex as competing victim groups and needy constituencies clash over who gets the lion’s share of the spoils.

    The current campaigns of both the major parties’ are eloquent, if unreported, testimonials to that quadratic equation of need.

    So where does this leave us?

    There is a yawning chasm of unfulfilled theory and practical policies waiting to be filled by rational proposals, and their justifications, from those who believe the state is an obstacle, at best, and a dire threat, at worst.

    A generation of young people are being spoon fed the treacle of collectivist mythology as if it were the only plausible explanation for the past, and the only possible path into the future. But this mythology is a fraud, and can be shown to be a fraud by conscientius, careful, thoughtful engagement with the issues, and the presentation of ideas that offer another, non-collectivist, possibility.

    This is, ultimately, the challenge that those who wish to preserve individual liberty must face, accept, and surmount.

    The only response with any chance of continuing success in a dangerous and repressive world is to rescue the coming generations from the tarpits of collectivist ideology and statist politics.

    Climb into the ring. Throw some punches, and be willing to take a few. The future belongs to those bold enough to fight for it.

  • Midwesterner

    This article via Instapundit is about the recent turn around in who works harder, the lower or higher income demographic. The author doesn’t discuss it but I believe it is the inevitable consequence of progressive taxation not just directly on income but also on ‘luxuries’, vacation cottages etc. The logical response to progressive taxation is to not work so hard (productively), and therefore to not contribute to the economy as much.

    So the result is a case of just what the quoted author predicted; the flexibility and the resourcefulness of the higher income group is removed without a replacement. Discretionary income of the entire population as a whole is reduced and a higher proportion of total cash flow is spent on inflexible necessities. The economy becomes progressively more brittle. For example, with elective travel reduced, a small reduction in fuel supply from baseload hits the hard barrier of necessity (causing a huge demand/price hike/functionality reduction) instead of causing a small price hike that cuts down elective fuel consumption. Fuel prices/supplies become extremely brittle once optional travel is priced out of the system.

    I hope that made at least some sense.

  • John McVey

    It made sense to me, at least.

    Graphically, you’re saying that the demand curves for items that have a significant necessities component and as well as a luxuries component are highly concave in the region where the underlying source of demand shifts from predominantly discretionary spending to predominantly necessities spending.

    Numerically, you’re saying that the elasticity of demand crashes in that region, that the price increase rises higher as a percentage of price than the decrease in quantity demanded as a percentage of total quantity demanded.


  • Midwesterner

    Yes. For example, if all fuel goes to trucking companies and the supply drops or demand rises (even by small amounts), they are in a bidding war to avoid going out of business. With a strong discretionary component in the market, the elasticity absorbs it. This is why I didn’t take the motor home on a 2000 mile trip to a family reunion this summer with diesel at about $4.75. A lot of people like me also gave up their optional consumption and the people that absolutely had to have fuel were dealing with higher prices, not parking their trucks and seriously screwing up the distribution network.

  • RRS

    What seems always missing in these commentaries that involve “The Government,” is any kind of premise as to what “The Government” is (whether it conforms to this writer’s analysis or not, being immaterial).

    There is occassional allusion to how and why “Governments” function (often soft versions of the Public Choice Theory) as they do.

    Perhaps this “entity” concept makes the Libertarian viewpoints more easily focused. But, to understand the conditions and relationships generating “governance” extant in any era requires more detailed thought and discussion. Our own era is no exception.

  • But, to understand the conditions and relationships generating “governance” extant in any era requires more detailed thought and discussion. Our own era is no exception.

    RRS, you repeatedly make this point, and yet we all know exactly what we mean by ‘government’, how it came into being, and how it operates. What is your point?

  • RRS


    The “point” is not mine. To me there is the question of mis-shaping thinking and discourse about relations within our social order by accepting the concept that ” The Government” is an organic entity – reification – I believe that is called.

    The “point” may well be that we all do not know exactly what we mean (intensively or extensively) by our own or another’s use of “The Government,” let alone how governments have come into being, and how they have operated or are “operated” in this era. The very use of “it” can frame the discourse.

    Perhaps I have been overwhelmed by the vastness of my own ignorance by reading S.E. Finer’s The History of Government From the Earliest Times (3 Vol. Oxford 1997 ISBN 0-19-820664-X) as well as by trying to digest the works of Gordon Tullock. Possibly my ignorance (or at least its scope) is not as widely shared as I deduce from commentaries.

  • Possibly my ignorance (or at least its scope) is not as widely shared as I deduce from commentaries.

    Possibly:-) In any case, if you do perceive ignorance on the part of any of the commenters, it seems to me that it could have been much more constructive if you addressed the specific point on which you disagree. Then we all could see if that particular ignorance, even if real, has any bearing on the specific subject being discussed. Quite often it does not.

  • RRS


    Perhaps in referring to any “ignorance” other than my own, the term “limitation of knowledge” would be more apt (and closer to the Karl Popper approach).

    But, to respond: What I refer to “so often” is not (to me) a matter of disagreement, it is the effect on discourse involving the administration of relations and human conduct in any social order as they are affected by the concept of any politically generated “facility” as being an entity.

    Some examples of those effects are seen in discussions which proffer: “The County has decided . . .;” “the interest of the State . . .; “Government money available . . .;” etc.

    Take the initial expresion of this thread:

    How long will the government be able to shield itself

    What is implicit in the use of “itself?’ Does that frame the discourse? Does any administration or government have a “self?” Does government have an “interest?” If we are using media shorthand to express how specific individual and group interests are to be represented, protected or advanced through the functions of governments (mainly coercive powers), an open discourse is incomplete if those conditions are omitted.

    Accepting that the term “government” in Britain’s parliamentary system is used to designate an adminstrative assembly, whereby a faction “forms a government” pursuant to the authority of a Chief Magistrate, this discourse would be:

    How long will those comprising and directing the current government be able to shield themselves. . .”

    Is that not really the topic, rather than governance?

  • RRS


    Well, I tried to post an adequate reply but it was smited by Spambot ???.

    Perhaps it may ultimately appear.

  • It will – always does:-)

  • Paul Marks

    RRS people who are involved in state matters often think of the state as a being – and because they think and act on this belief it sort of becomes one.

    A Hungarian writer (whose name, spelling alert, is something like Antony De Jasey) wrote (among many interesting works) a book called “The State”.

    Please read it – it is depressing but interesting.