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.

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Samizdata quote of the day

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

– Winston Churchill

22 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Hugo


    “Reflection of the month

    Communism and Capitalism

    Capitalism depends on certain aspects of the conditions in which we live – on the structure of time and the conservation of matter. The basis of capitalism is that if a tiger rushes towards you, you need a gun. If you acquired a gun at some point in time previous to the tiger’s attack, and have it ready to hand, this is useful. If you have not actually got a gun, but know that you could acquire one at some point in the future, this is not so good. The problem is to survive so as to reach that future.

    The essence of communism is that nobody may have guns unless everybody has guns, and the only way anybody can get guns is if the Collective-at-Large sees fit to make a universal issue. And you may not have a better gun than the Collective sees fit to issue for everybody. So if the Collective does not actually get round to issuing any guns at all, everybody will be equally liable to be eaten by tigers.”

  • David Gillies

    I have been wholly inequitably bestowed with blessings: I am a white, male, heterosexual European with passably regular features and an intelligence sharply skewed northwards of the norm.

    I have been dealt a poor deck in the degenerative disease stakes: despite prophylactic efforts to the contrary, my health is a lot worse than it has any desert in being.

    I am wealthy, well-fed, full of joie de vivre, intellectual curiosity and aesthetic sensibility. I may die young. Who should I credit for the former? Who should I berate for the latter?

    The answer, of course, is that as a minarchist libertarian I owe no-one anything, nor am I owed. The equanimity that derives from such a standpoint is a wonderful thing.

  • Alisa

    Indeed. I wish you long life and good health:-)

  • David Gillies

    Thank you, dear. I wish it too. But if it is not to be I will still refuse to rail against the Universe for having unfairly discriminated against me, and I will not ask for a special dispensation from society for life’s straight flush beating my pair of aces.

  • RRS

    David G. –

    Tell us also what obligations do you have, those you recognize, those you accept, and then those that you always meet – and finally those you find difficult to perform.

  • David Gillies

    RRS: I have an obligation not to despair (truly the sin I acknowledge as deadly despite my atheism). I have the obligation to turn up to work and perform my duties in return for which I am given the means to support myself. I have the obligation to love my family and friends. These I have, recognise, accept and meet.

    I have the societal obligation not to be an overweening intellectual tyrant, despite my abundant qualifications for the role. This is hard – I am hemmed in by idiots, but I accept I am a better person for not always unveiling the depths of my scorn and impatience. I have the concomitant obligation to understand that there are a lot of people a lot smarter than me, and I would do well to listen to them, and enjoy their forbearance in not treating me like a cretin. This is hard too. I have the obligation to walk the fine line between arrogance and pusillanimity.

    I have the obligation not to get too overtly confessional on Samizdata’s comment threads.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    The problem is that capitalism seems to have a natural tendency to degenerate into rent-seeking, as capitalists discover that buying political protection from market forces has a better rate of return than competing. We need some way of preventing this.

  • RRS

    “Socialism” (as defined) is no longer a serious alternative form of political economy.

    In both the U K and the U S, we are entering upon the the New Totalitarianism (once called “The New Fascism” – 45 years ago) through the evolution (decay?) of our mixed economy (which is not, and for some time has not been, Capitalisticly open as a system of choice through pricing).

    What is developing is not the same, but is somewhat similar to that developed in Italy (and a couple of smaller societies) prior to WWII; basically, a politically, directed “Economy.”

    Do we not both have our ” Il Duce?”

    The force for such development then, and even moreso now, stems from the acceptance of the collectivist concept that production is a “social” result, rather than the result of individuals seeking their own self-determined fulfillments (sometimes called “happiness”). That is further supported by the chimera of the “Common Good” as being something other than the panoply of Individual Good, achieved in varying degrees.

    Colin Clarke’s ” National Product” (now GDP), a purely statistical aggregate of disparate indivual actions only, has become a “concept” of how production occurs, and what it represents.

    Startistics do not change the underlying fact that Society, a synthetic entity, does not create anything, individuals do.

    However, we are seeing what was called years ago “Government by Consensus,” as a major part of the movement into the New Totalitarianism.

  • Alisa

    But if it is not to be I will still refuse to rail against the Universe for having unfairly discriminated against me, and I will not ask for a special dispensation from society for life’s straight flush beating my pair of aces.

    Well, for that alone it will be a life well lived, however long or short.

  • Brian Micklethwait

    Can anybody name a single socialist regime where the misery is equally distributed? Where, indeed, it is not distributed with truly grotesque unequalness?

    I think this is a classic case of a would-be critic of socialism giving it far, far too much credit.

  • Alisa

    Let’s put it this way: the distribution of misery under socialism is about as equal as the distribution of blessings under capitalism, which only goes to show that the real point of the quote, of course, is not the equality of distribution, but what is it that is being distributed. And this is where it falls short: in failing to explain what blessings and misery really are. The received wisdom is that ‘blessings’ stand for material wealth, and ‘misery’ stands for lack of it. While the truth is that ‘blessings’ stand for opportunity, and ‘misery’ stand for lack of it.

  • Jacob

    This quote only talks about the material blessings or misery. In this it perhaps accepts implicitly the materialistic world view of Mrxism.

    In a socialist regime – the oppresion, the helplessness one feels vs. the state, the severe limitations on one’s freedom, the everyday banging against obstacles and “authorities” – these are far worse miseries than the material one alone .

  • David Gillies

    “Can anybody name a single socialist regime where the misery is equally distributed?”

    I can’t find the cite, but I recall reading that wage differentials between a factory worker and a foreman were higher in the Soviet Union than in the West. So even with the crude equation of income = freedom, communism was less equal than capitalism.

  • Jan SynáÄek

    Sorry dave but you obviously never lived in a communist country. A “better paid” foreman still has to live in the same communist shithole as the less well paid proles, so the fact he got a bigger bite of the shit sandwich means a whole lot less than you think. Numbers can say a lot less that they seem to. Misery for everyone, really.

  • Nuke Gray!

    To misquote Marx, “The point. though, is to change it.” He was talking about how philosophers describe society, but if you are going to criticise a quote, can you put a new, improved, has-more-meaning quote in its’ place? (This could be the start of a new career, fixing and improving quotes)
    The good point about living in a collective that won’t let you have guns is that there are more targets for the tiger to choose, so YOU have a better chance of staying alive.
    David, if you want to live longer, join a Church! Many studies have shown that Church-goers have longer lives. Don’t let atheism kill you!

  • Churchill’s wrong though. Capitalism, or the free market, anyway, doesn’t unequally share “blessings”. Under the free market system, all you get is what other people actually think you are worth, which is what sticks in so many craws.

  • Alisa

    Nuke, I already did that – read my comment again.

  • Paul Marks

    Brian is correct – socialism does NOT mean equality.

    Even in Cambodia (where one third of the entire population were made equal – i.e. were murdered) the material conditions of life of the rulers were wildly different to those of the ruled (even those among the ruled who remained alive).

    Even when socialists are good hearted people (which the rulers of Cambodia were not) there is no evidence that material equality is produced – for example Nyerere of Tanzania seems to have really cared about the poor, but his conditions of life (jetting off to international conferences) were totally different to their life.

    As for the United States – Barack Obama (with his Marxist background and far left Senate voting record) gave virtually nothing to charity before he started his campaign to be President (his large income was his property – “the system”, i.e. other people, should finance the care of the poor, whose function was to be “organized” to serve his dreams of personal political power) and nor did “Joe” Biden (the man with the third most leftist record in the Senate and now Vice President).

    To put it bluntly, Michelle Obama is not going to give up her 600 Dollar training shoes just so some person can be saved from dying in the gutter.

    Socialism is about power – total control of society (i.e. the destruction of civil society) by the state, it is not about creating material equality.

  • Nuke Gray!

    But, Alisa, yours is not a pithy sound-bite, is it?
    I preferred the Russian joke- under capitalism, man exploited man; under socialism, this is reversed.

  • Paul Marks

    The trouble with that sound0-bite is that it is false – capitalism is not about “exploiting” people.

    Perhaps it is because I am about as witty as lump of rock, but I prefer truth to wit.

  • Nuke Gray!

    Unlike you, Paul, I like wit. I hope to be known as a great wit one day, and my friends kindly tell me I’m halfway there! Those who laugh at my brains will soon find there is nothing to laugh at. You have been warned.

  • Paul Marks

    OK I should not be such a stuffed shirt – good luck N.G.