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

And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.

And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.

And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.

And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.

And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.

And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.

He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.

And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.

Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;

That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.

– 1 Samuel 8 verses 10-20, King James Version

26 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Dave Walker

    Ah, the Bible; probably the most heavily-censored book ever published, and remarkable in that most of the censorship happened around 400 years after the events described…

    Still, the rendering here reminds me how I used to get into trouble when asked to read this stuff aloud at age 9 or so (a couple of years after I’d rejected Christianity, but you know what schools are like…) – for reasons of capitalisation which the Internet drew the same conclusions about, I decided that the word “LORD” had to be *shouted*…

  • Shirley Knott

    How delightful to be reminded of this during the season in which we are deluged with reminders to celebrate ‘our newborn king’…
    Dare I say irony of Biblical proportions? Not that there’s much consistency in that particular book…

    no hugs for thugs,
    Shirley Knott

  • Dave Walker

    Also, at least a king would (hopefully, given appropriate weapons, tactics and numbers) go and kick thine enemy’s ass.

    When it comes to the claiming of 10% of everything, churches would do that *without* any guarantees that their God would even ride out, much less do the “Doctor Manhattan in Vietnam, with added Wagner” thing.

  • John B

    This has been the sad story of the human race, that we have insisted, step, by step, be step, in moving away from God until we no longer know Him nor can communicate with Him.

    These people, who were the children of Abraham and Isaac, Israelites, knew God as a personal and real experience. But rather continue with the system of judges that had been established, they demanded a king so they could be like all the other kids on the block.

    It seems there is something in us that demands that we look away from God and the benefits that come from a close relationship with Him.
    They got their king, and he was a problem for Israel.
    King Saul was eventually replaced by David, whose heart was right with God, even though he did some things that were, indeed, bad – against God’s will.
    And they had a successful and peaceful kingdom until it started falling apart after Solomon’s reign.

    But the kings were not God’s plan, indeed.

  • My father ‘taught’ me that there is a case in the Bible for both sides of any and every argument. [Though he was a kind-hearted individual, on slow days if Jehovah’s Witnesses came to call, he would invite them in for a good baiting.]

    Anyway, it’s nice to see Samizdata reminding us of the Bible’s anarchist libertarian argument.

    Best regards

  • Wolfie

    In those days were not the Israelites a people ruled by judges who settled disputes within the context of the law?
    Samuel was a prophet and his prophesy was quite true although he underestimated the tax rate quite a lot.

    Question for statists: If all God asks for is a tithe, why do you think you are three or four times more worthy of tribute?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    The attitudes in this passage are remarkably like those which I attacked in my post the other day about inheritance. Well they can fuck off, quite frankly.

  • How so and whose attitudes, Jonathan?

  • Alsadius

    Wolfie: Because unlike God, the government at least provides some tangible benefits with its money.

  • For Alsadius: God, if he exists and according to my understanding of what he might be like (as various others have said to me), does not use money: neither for being bribed, nor bribing others, nor for anything else.

    Government, on the other hand, uses money for all these things. And it does definitely exist.

    Best regards

  • John B

    Did post a comment earlier that was smited. It has not returned from the great silence so I risk some repetition.

    The incident in the post is another incident in which the Israelites decided they wanted to turn away from God; do things in a way they thought better. God did not stop them.

    They rejected the established system of judges and demanded that they have a king and be like the tribes around them. Kings were not God’s idea.
    There seems to be some deep drive in us to reject God, even to our own detriment.
    Whether we do it directly, or by turning Him effectively into some kind of fairy tale or allegory. As long as the reality is denied. It can even be accepted as a good moral tale, witness much of the church.
    As long as He is not engaged as reality, or a possible reality.

  • This has been the sad story of the human race, that we have insisted, step, by step, be step, in moving away from God until we no longer know Him nor can communicate with Him.

    Well of course God could fix that by putting in an appearance every now and again. If you believe the bible to be historical, the Israelites lived in a world where God routinely manifested himself, trumped from mountain tops, and so on, so it was probably rather easier to believe in him back then.

    Not a peep out of him though for 2000 years. It’s not a good marketing strategy, is it?

  • People do not reject “God”, but, rather, some (self-appointed) group’s interpretation of what “God” is and the implications of that interpretation.

    Until “God” comes to the individual, puts a case directly and has the case rejected, nobody can assert that people reject “God”.

    Reject YOUR god, perhaps, but then again that is not really the same thing, now, is it?*

    * to not have the awareness to differentiate between belief and potential reality kinda disqualifies one from having any right to control what I should or should not be doing.

  • Jamess

    Dave Walker, isn’t it remarkable that in a book that’s been so heavily censored the passages describing what a disaster the king would be like still stayed in?

    And it would be good, Tim, to consider the potential reality that God did come to us as an individual, put his case directly and got rejected.

    It seems that what most people want here is a strictly limited government – something with sufficient power to enforce contracts, private property, punish those who use force against others, but voluntarily lays aside these powers when it comes to seeking its own interest.

    The Bible gives us a worldview where power is given for the sake of serving others, and where authority is strictly limited by the authority of God (no Government has been given the right to to take private property for the sake of giving it to others “more needy”).

    A Darwinian perspective of the world (which I assume most people here ascribe to) says it’s right (even a moral necessity, if morality exists) to use one’s power for one’s own benefit and survival. If someone can do that through accumulating power in public office, then let those who are weaker be dammed. It’s not surprising that we’ve seen such a rapid rise in the power of the state post-Darwin.

    I’d like to know* what perspective on reality could yield anything like a libertarian society, other than a whiny “society would work better if everyone subscribed to the non-agression axiom” (which sounds awfully like a watered down version of “society would work better if everyone subscribed to sharing all their goods”).

    *Genuinely like to know – I doubt there is a realistic alternative to the biblical perspective – but no doubt someone here will correct me.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Don’t quote long passages of Scripture unless you’re campaigning for the position of village idiot.

  • John B

    Well, Jackthesmilingblack sort of sums up the attitude that rejects even thinking about God: ‘It’s village idiot stuff.’
    As Jamess has sort of mentioned, God did indeed put His case but was rejected then, as He would be now. That nature has not changed.
    Yes, Ian, God did live in a very close relationship in the days of Samuel with people and He was still rejected.
    I don’t think God has moved or concealed Himself. It is us who have taught ourselves not to see Him.

    However. Why not just try the scientific method?
    Working on the hypothesis that God might exist, why not put something to Him and see what response you get?

  • Paul Marks

    An odd thing is how this has been misinterpreted by various political philosphers.

    The lines are easy to understand – beware of Kings (i.e. governments), fight your own battles, do not let someone take military force away from you, because they will plunder you of your goods and even of your very children. You will become little better than a slave – if you alllow the sword to go out of your own hand into the hands of state power to tax and order you about as they see fit.

    But this is NOT how the lines have been presented by some political philosphers.

    For example, Thomas Hobbes interpreted the lines to mean that the King (or whoever – remember the state could be one person or a group of people) had a RIGHT to do all these things. After all they are clearly listed, and this is the Bible so…….

    Talk about “missing the point” (the warning), I suspect deliberatly so.

    But John Locke was not much better – if anything his interpretation is weirder.

    He denies the lines say what they say – I know that sounds odd, but read the “Two Treatises of Government” and I think (if my memory does not play me false – it is many years since I read this stuff) that you will find that Locke’s interpretation of 1st Samuel is even more batwinged than Thomas Hobbes’ interpretation.

  • Paul Marks

    “But not all Kings are unjust plunderers” – Samuel does not commit himself to claiming that they are.

    It is possible for a King to be just – or for other forms of government to be just and to be UNJUST.

    Remember Samuel’s own sons “did not walk in his ways” they were corrupt and took bribes as judges (thus bringing the judge system of govenrment into disrepute and opening the way to monarchy).

    But if people go into a system of government saying that it (the government) will “fight our battles for us” they are lost (utterly lost) for they have put such power into the hands of government (and proved themselves such contemptable slaves in their mentality) that it would take a saint not to plunder and oppress them.

    It is what Aristotle calls the difference between monarchy, aristocracy and “polity” on the one hand and tyranny, oligarchy, and “democracy” on the other.

    How can the be two different sides – surely (for example) aristocracy and oligarchy are two names for the same thing – rule by a group.

    Not so.

    The dividing line is the rule of the natural law – for example under monarchy the ruler obeys the law and the people are his or her strength.

    A classic example would be Marie Theresa – on the death of her father Emperor Charles VI, Frederick “The Great” of Prussia invaded (allied with France) and the armies of the Hapsburgs were defeated.

    The Queen appeared in Budapest, with her child in the arms, to appeal for aid from the people – and the Magyars and others (experienced in fighting from the centuries of struggle against the power of the Ottoman Empire) rose and fell upon the enemy.

    That is a example of monarchy (in the Aristotelian sense) as opposed to tyranny. If an Ottoman Sultan had been defeated in battle, his armies broken, and went to the people to beg for aid – his slaves (for that is what they were) would have torn him to pieces.

    As for the difference beween aristocracy and oligarchy – a good example is 18th century Britain (especially England and Wales).

    A majority of seats in the House of Commons were de facto controlled by big landowners (lords and gentry) not every seat perhaps not even a formal majority – but a working majority.

    Yet slaves and serfs did NOT work their fields in England – and they did not rely on armed men to protect them from their tenants.

    Indeed they depended on ordinary people to protect their property (as did everyone else) they relied upon (if they called for aid) more people (more ordinary people) comming to protect their homes and their lives than came to attack them.

    “False consciousness” scream the Marxists.

    NO – just human beings holding that the wealth of other human beings did not make them enemies (although some kept in their minds the view that wealth did not make others better people either – and rather resented rich people who acted as if it did, but that is another story, they would tend to protect a rich person who was attacked even if they resented his snooty ways).

    So it was an aristocracy (not an oligarchy) in the Aristotelian sense – the law was (mostly) kept. The rich did not tend to use their political power to plunder the poor of what little they had, or to enslave them.

    And “polity” verus “democracy”.

    Technically a “polity” was any city state (any polis) but Aristotle has a special meaning in mind.

    A “democracy” is where most people (most free people – and remember Aristotle says most free people are “poor” and defines a poor man as someone who does not own slaves, a farmer who lived on a family farm without slaves would still be “poor” by this defintion) have the vote and decide on policy (directly or indirectly).

    And a “polity”?

    It looks exactly the same – the free “poor” have the vote and outnumber everyone else.

    So what is the difference?

    In a “democracy” the people support those who promise them the goods of others (either rich men at home – or people in other cities, by tribute and war) they violate the basic law (the natural law) and are govered by their own lusts and desires – and support those who will try and satisfy them.

    And in a “polity” the power of the “poor” (the ordinary people) is EXACTLY THE SAME – but they CHOOSE not to plunder others (either the rich at home – or weaker cities in other places).

    Aristotle disagreed with Plato about a lot – but he agreed that “democracy” (in this defintion of the word a state where the demos allow their desires to overwhelm their reason and morality – and support the plunder of others) leads to tyranny.

    For a strong man (or group) will arrise that will tell the people they will have everything they desire – and that the wicked “rich” (or whoever) will be crushed.

    You will not even have to fight the battles yourselves – just let me form a professional bodyguard (I need them – the rich are plotting to kill me and I am your benefactor) and then let me develop the state machine so that it may serve your needs better.

    You can have lives without care – you do not even need to practice with weapons (indeed they must be confisctated – for the rich are plotting revolts, and even some of the poor are not as intelligent as you my brothers – they have been taken in by the wicked lies of the rich).

    Just leave everything to my professional security forces – we will look after everything and we will be very tolerant as well (do what you like in your life in terms of sex or anything else – just as long as you leave things to us, to carry out your will of course).

    We do not expect much of you – we know you are slaves of your passions (so are we). We will use the machinary of state (that we are now building) to satisfy both your desires as well as our own.

    So just head off down the pub – leave the hard work of governing to the people’s representatives, we will plunder the rich (and the …..) and give the loot to you, without you even having to fight for it.

    Of course later the ordinary people find themsleves conscipted into their rulers wars – but it is too late then.

    How can one tell if a nation is being corrupted?

    Herodotus (the “Father of History”) relates how Cyrus corrupted the Persians (was a free people) he not only offered to lead them against the overlordship of the Medes – but also (the fatal step) offered them the goods of the Medes.

    The Persians were so consumed with desire for the goods of other people – that they did not notice that Cyrus was stealing their freedom and that professional army he was building (under his total control) could be used against any Persian – not just against other people.

    In Athens the corruption was done by Pericles (a man absurdly admired by thousands of years of fools, going all the way down to Boris Johnson – people who look at words, not deeds).

    Pericles promised the ordinary people of Athens not only the good of the “rich” (many of whom had foreign blood – Pericles made his name as a champain of “pure” Athenians against part alien people) but also by the plundering of the allies of Athens in the Delian League – first by moving the treasuary to of the League to Athens (from the island of Delos) then using the money to buy votes.

    Thus was the Athenian polity turned to a “democracy” in the mob rule sense. And also Athens was doomed to defeat – as Pericles had turned the allies of Athens against her, and had prevented (unlike Rome in the future) Athens turning aliens into full citizens.

    “Paul get up to date – how can we tell if Britain is being corrupted”.

    My dear friends (and non friends) – a disarmed population, where everyone is told that their “basic needs” (everything from housing to healthcare) will be met at the expense of everyone else?

    This country was corrupted long ago.

    We ignored “Samual’s warning” when Herbert Spencer, Sir E. Benn, Chief Justice Hewart (and so many others) tried to warn us. It is a bit late for warnings now.

    And the United States?

    Glenn Beck (and many others) believe it is not yet too late – but I suspect it is.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way – an inabilty to tell the difference between monarchy and tyranny is why almost all modern historians (i.e. academics – the children of Plato) are unable to understand what was at stake in the centuries long struggle between the Hapsburgs and the Ottoman Empire.

    The modern “intellectual” just sees two empires – with the Ottoman one actually being more “religiously tolerant” and so on.

    Of course they were more “religiously tolerant”, because their true religion was POWER (what else mattered compared to that). But if one wishes to fight on this ground – the Hapsburgs were normally (not always) far more religiously tolerant than (for example) the rulers of France or Britain (and have gained little credit for it)

    Who cared what the contemptable slaves (i.e. the people) believed or did in their private lives – a few odd Sultans might care (for example they might try to ban X, Y, Z, because they did not like such things), but the system was not interested in the doings of the slaves (so what if the ordinary people even ate each other – so long as there were enough of them to obey the commands of their master the Sultan).

    Private ownership of land? How reactionary (to the modern “intellectual”) all land should be at the dispossal of the wise rulers to distribute for the good of all – just as it was in the Ottoman Empire and the rest of the Islamic world.

    The Hapsburgs for all their faults (indeed their crimes) over the centuries never lost the “reactionary” concepts of the rule of law, and the independence of civil society.

    Not for nothing did Adolf Hitler hate the House of Hapsburg. He was a lifelong student of history – and from his, pro despotism (he became a “despot” a lawless ruler who could violate property by his will – just the same as a Sultan), perspective he was right to hate the Hapsburgs.

    The concept of the higher law (as opposed to the will of the ruler) and the independence of institutions.

    How could a Sultan follow that – every Sultan was the bastard son of a slave (i.e. one of the many women taken, by force and fear, to be slaves of the previous Sultan) and, at first, all brothers of the successful Sultan were murdered (as a matter of course – not as a terrible crime to be ashamed of for centuries) and, later, imprisoned for life (in the same sickly sweet harems that the successful candidate for Sultan came from).

    The words of Samuel – “he will take your daughters” could not be more litterally true.

    But no Holy Roman Emperor (very unlike the old Roman Empire) could commit such crimes without them being seen as what they were – crimes.

    He would ether be punished in this life (standing barefoot in the snow begging for forgiveness) or in the next – no small thing for them (however little it means now) and his memory would be mud in the histories of his own court.

    There is a vast difference between trying to hold to the moral law (and YES failing sometimes over the centuries) and rejecting the law – even though few modern intellectualls will accept the difference.

    Hitler (like other modern Progressives) rejected the law with contempt – but the Hapsburgs (even at their worst, and some over the centuries were very bad indeed) always clung to at least the cloak of it – and that means more than many now seem to understand.

    The dependence on ordinary people (such as the armed peasants in Croatia, or the Saxons (Protestant) and others (Protestant and Catholic) in the endless stuggle in Transylvania. And on and on.

    Ordinary folk – both rich and poor, great lords and humble peasants and shop keepers. Who faught again and again, siege after siege, against seemingly impossible odds in wars of which Europe (that slept far behind them) knew little and cared less.

    Indeed the Princes of Germany and the Kings of France would sometimes make war on the Hapsburgs – either unknowing of the endless war, or seeking to take advantage of it.

    Perhaps they got some sense of it when Andreas Hofer – ordinary free man of the Tyrol led his revolt against the French and the Bavarians.

    Who told you to fight?


    You must have known, given the odds against you, that your revolt would end in your defeat and death – so your revolt was pointless.

    It is never pointless to fight for right against wrong.

    Napolean (and his cronies) were (as far as I know) beyond being effected by a moral argument (after all N. was the man who said “what is even a million lives if their deaths serve my glory”) but the Bavarians were disturbed by these replies – very disturbed.

    “They still executed him Paul” – but they were still disturbed, and that does matter.

  • Kim du Toit

    If all God asks for is a tithe, why do you think you are three or four times more worthy of tribute?

    Because God doesn’t have to build interstate highways or carrier groups. And when unforeseen calamity strikes (e.g. a tsunami), the fleets of U.S. Marines helicopters don’t exactly fly out of Vatican City.

    All that said, the State is worth infinitely less than the tithe times three of four. I put the delta at 7: i.e. the State should get no more than 17%, ever.

  • Laird

    Do you have some mathematical formula to support that, or are you just reverting to the simple fact that post-WW2 US federal tax revenues have consistently averaged around that number?

  • Condor

    I couldn’t help but think of ol’ Obama after reading the 2nd verse. In 2010 we saw him spearheading (pun so intended) the biggest Arms deals in U.S. history. The whole messiah complex,”better world image” hypocrisy is not lost on me. I guess he’s wishing for another “Peace prize”, maybe Santa will give it to him.
    Merit points for using the KJV by the way 😉

    “For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof…” Proverbs 28:2

  • Paul Marks

    One of my comments is still missing – pity as it took some time to write.

    Anyway – before anyone else points it out…….

    The economic advice the Hapsburgs (and everyone else in the German speaking world) got from the “Cameralists” (over the centuries) was indeed terrible – fortunatly insitutional limitations on their power (different in the Holy Roman Empire and non Holy Roman Empire parts of their lands – but generally respected by the Hapsburgs in both) meant that this terrible advice was very hard to put into practice.

    This is why we do not see a Hapsburg equivalent of Louis XIV – a ruler much of the sort that Samuel is describing.

    The German speaking world (even though, yes, they wrote in Latin) had thinkers at least as bad as Colbert – but (at least in the Hapsburg lands) institutional limitations (the much despised “feudal” limitations on the actions of an “enlightened” ruler) meant that such tyranny did not (normally) come to pass – at least before the 20th century.

  • Shorter version: the king will be a fink.

  • Paul Marks

    Kim du Toit.

    The government does not “HAVE TO” build interstate roads either (the Constitution gives Congress the power to build “post roads” – but only if Congress wishes to do so).

    The “corrupt” President Warren Harding carefully explained how demands for Federal government road building were a corrupt scam, and that (therefore) the government should not get involved in such things (Harding’s ability to explain why government should not get involved in XYZ and his ability to get the government OUT of activities that it was already involved in, is the real reason why establishment historians hate him – the corruption in his Administration was actually LESS than the normal level in Washington, it is just used as a excuse for hatred and contempt whose true source is a clash of political beliefs).

    As for the modern (1956) interstate highways scheme – everything that was promised (how much it would cost, when it would end, oh yes it was meant to be a temporary, and so on) has been shown by experience to be false – hardly a great argument for Federal government road schemes.

    As for the defence budget:

    Even at this time of various wars the defence budget is less (much less) than 10% of the economy.

    So there is no excuse, no excuse whatever, for Washington D.C. tax and spend to take more than 10% of the economy.

    After all – even in 1928 (with the vast overhang of the First World War still being paid for) Washington D.C. tax and spend only took up 3% of the economy.

    Indeed all of government put together (Federal, State and local) barely took more than 10% in 1928 (it was about 12%) and the government budget was already bloated with various things that government shouild not do – such as the near monopoly education system.

    “But Paul – things are not so bad now, I have read in the back pages of the Economist magazine that total government taxation in the United States is 24% of the economy”.

    If anyone comes back with that reply, please let me explain something – there is a technical name for what the collectivist establishment are doing when they claim that total taxation (which must include all Federal, State and local taking of money – otherwise it is not “total”) in the United States takes up 24% of the economy.

    The technical description is “telling a lie”. Total taxation is way above “24%”.

    I hope that is clear enough for everyone.

  • Paul Marks

    Alan Henderson.

    The King will sometimes be a fink – if people let him be a fink.