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

I know, my friends, that you are concerned about corporate power. So am I. So are many of my free-market economist colleagues. We simply believe, and we think history is on our side, that the best check against corporate power is the competitve marketplace and the power of the consumer dollar (framed, of course, by legal prohibitions on force and fraud). Competition plays mean, nasty corporations off against each other in a contest to serve us. Yes, they still have power, but its negative effects are lessened.  It is when corporations can use the state to rig the rules in their favor that the negative effects of their power become magnified, precisely because it has the force of the state behind it.  The current mess shows this as well as anything ever has, once you realize just what a large role the state played. If you really want to reduce the power of corporations, don’t give them access to the state by expanding the state’s regulatory powers.  That’s precisely what they want, as the current battle over the $700 billion booty amply demonstrates.

This is why so many of us committed to free markets oppose the bailout. It is yet another example of the long history of the private sector attempting to enrich itself via the state. When it does so, there are no benefits to the rest of us, unlike what happens when firms try to get rich in a competitive market. Moreover, these same firms benefited enormously from the regulatory interventions they supported and that harmed so many of us. The eventual bursting of the bubble and their subsequent losses are, to many of us, their just desserts for rigging the game and eventually getting caught. To reward them again for their rigging of the game is not just morally unconscionable, it is very bad econonmic policy, given that it sends a message to other would-be riggers that they too will get rewarded for wreaking havoc on the US economy. There will be short-term pain if we don’t bailout these firms, but that is the hangover price we pay for 15 years or more of binge lending. The proposed bailout cannot prevent the pain of the hangover; it can only conceal it by shifting and dispersing it among the taxpayers and an economy weakened by the borrowing, taxing, and/or inflation needed to pay for that $700 billion. Better we should take our short-term pain straight up and clean out the mistakes of our binge and then get back to the business of free markets without creating an unchecked Executive branch monstrosity trying to “save” those who profited most from the binge and harming innocent taxpayers in the process.

What I ask of you my friends on the left is to not only continue to work with us to oppose this or any similar bailout, but to consider carefully whether you really want to entrust the same entity who is the predominant cause of this crisis with the power to attempt to cure it. New regulatory powers may look like the solution, but that’s what people said when the CRA was passed, or when Fannie and Freddie were given new mandates. And the very firms who are going to be regulated will be first in line to determine how those regulations get written and enforced. You can bet which way that game is going to get rigged.

I know you are tempted to think that the problems with these regulations are the fault of the individuals doing the regulating. If only, you think, Obama can win and we can clean out the corrupt Republicans and put ethical, well-meaning folks in place. Think again. For one thing, almost every government intervention at the root of this crisis took place with a Democratic president or a Democratic-controlled Congress in place. Even when the Republicans controlled Congress, President Clinton worked around it to change the rules to allow Fannie and Freddie into the higher-risk loan market. My point here is not to pin the blame for the current crisis on the Democrats. That blame goes around equally. My point is that hoping that having the “right people” in power will avoid these problems is both naive and historically blind. As much as corporate interests were relevant, they were aided and abetted, if unintentionally, by well-meaning attempts by basically good people to do good things.The problem is that there were a large number of undesirable unintended consequences, most of which were predictable and predicted. It doesn’t matter which party is captaining the ship: regulations come with unintended consequences and will always tend to be captured by the private interests with the most at stake. And history is full of cases where those with a moral or ideological agenda find themselves in political fellowship with those whose material interests are on the line, even if the two groups are usually on opposite sides.

– Professor Steven G. Horwitz, writing in late September 2008, in a piece entitled An Open Letter to my Friends on the Left. This evening, Horwitz will be giving a talk at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, entitled An Austrian Perspective on the Great Recession 2008-2009.

29 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Trotting out my favourite cliche…

    The driving force of the anglo-left (and perhaps of all utopian movements, but that is too big a topic) is a distorted religious impulse. A religious person believes that God is inherently good. A Progressivist replaces God with another Higher Power- the government. They cannot comprehend government as anything other than Good. When faced with clear evidence of government doing bad, they intepret this as a distortion or perversion of government, like a priesthood “gone bad” that is disobeying the will of God.

    There is a quote attributed to GK Chesterton which, like most such quotes, cannot be found in his works and is presumably misattributed. Nonetheless, it is a good quote-

    “When men cease to believe in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything”.

    We are up against men who, having lost their faith in the transcendent, turned to the worship of a shoddy brass cow they made with their own hands, and called The State. They will never listen to reason; and neither will they ever bring themselves to doubt their shoddy cow- because it is all they have.

  • Tedd


    A religious person believes that God is inherently good.

    Not to contradict your overall point, which I think is otherwise completely valid, but this is a pet peeve of mine: The notion of God as inherently good is not a feature of religion, in general, it is mainly a feature of the Abrahamic religions. Many, if not most, non-Abrahamic religions have a more holistic notion of God (or gods) that includes both good and evil, or at least all of humanity’s vices along with its virtues. There’s even a branch of the Abrahamic religions, Gnosticism, that conceives of God this way.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Tedd, you haven’t thought it through. The Creator God concept carries with it the concept that an all-powerful, all-knowing God would know what was best for all, in any case. Gnosticism claimed that an all-knowing God gave the job of creating the Universe to a lesser being, who stuffed up. Since an all-knowing God would know that this would happen, He would have known better than to do it! Gnosticism thus falls into a paradox of its’ own making.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I am actually meeting the fellow this evening. Should be interesting.

  • PeterT

    People (or ‘sheeple’ as Ian calls them) often dislike what they see as disorder. That is, outcomes that were not intended (I don’t mean unintended outcomes of intended actions – just that stuff often happens apparently for no reason). This might inspire a belief in God – the leader in the sky. In a way this is a resignation. It is not possible to excert control – but at least somebody (God) has a plan. Of course, people do try to influence the course of events of the world by becoming priests, or just by praying.

    I would say that it is the same kind of people that then become state worshippers – but it is no longer ‘faith’ as such. Unless it is faith in reason – which is often misguided. So I think it falls into a different category.

  • ManikMonkee

    The notion of God as inherently good is not a feature of religion, in general, it is mainly a feature of the Abrahamic religions

    That god that hangs out in the Torah, Bible and Koran seemed like a pretty nasty piece of work according to my morality
    genocide, capital punishment, homophobia, misogyny…
    I mean we all have our faults but that particular bearded sky fairy seemed to have alot more than the Greek or Hindu gods. They just seemed to be plying out a surrealist soap-opera but “Teh Jahwed” past his time vindictively harassing and abusing neolithic tribesmen which isn’t the most noble of hobbies for any supreme being

  • Andrew Duffin

    Jonathan, you’re meeting God this evening?


    Let us know how that goes, eh?

  • ManikMonkee
    “according to my morality…” Well, that’s just it. You’re not supposed to have your own morality.

    If you’re, say, a Christian, your morality is whatever God says it should be. If God is homophobic, then you have to take your cue from that. Homophobia can be presumed to be part of the Divine Plan.

    Similarly (and I think IanB is right about this), being a statist implies, for many, surrendering any independent judgement to the superior wisdom of the Collective. Government is simply (I am quoting verbatim from a local socialist rag) the “incarnation of the Will of the People”. Therefore, to disagree with government is to set yourself against the Majority – which is practically the definition of Original Sin. In socialist parlance, disagreeing with the majority about anything at all is “selfish”.

    It’s only when you get to join the Inner Party that you learn that, given that “the people” are actually quite notoriously dumb, there have to be a few independent minded individuals at the top to make everything work. This secret knowledge belongs to the Arcana of the Left. You will need to practice your handshakes quite a lot before you are allowed to graduate to this level.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Andrew, I meet God regularly. He lives in a funny shed at the bottom of my garden.

  • Tedd

    ‘Nuke’ Gray:

    Tedd, you haven’t thought it through.

    I’m not a Gnostic. What was it about my post that made you think I was?

  • Tedd

    I want to apologize profusely for deflecting this discussion about corporations and free markets into a discussion about religion. That was not my intent! I was just picking a very minor nit. Sorry.

  • Me too. My point was about faith in government, not religion itself. Sorry.

  • Tedd


    Damn, I always thought that was a genuine Chesterton quote. There’s another one I like that I always thought was Chesterton, too, but which I can’t confirm and so may also be misattributed.

    “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.”

  • PeterT

    And that quote links us back very nicely to Brian’s earlier post on the subject of making it more difficult to pass laws.

  • Tedd

    And that quote links us back very nicely to Brian’s earlier post on the subject of making it more difficult to pass laws.

    So it does. I’m a fan of the sunset clause idea. I’d like to see every statute other than the criminal code automatically expire at some predetermined date — ten years, or whatever. If the criminal code is decent in the first place (no, I can’t point to any real-world examples) then it shouldn’t have to change much, and it shouldn’t go out of date ever, for the most part.

    Interestingly, these posts about corporations and the free market the past few days haven’t generated much comment, and what comment there has been is mainly about peripheral subjects. Is that because nobody’s interested, or because we’re all pretty much in agreement with the original posts?

  • We’re libertarians. What haven’t we said a thousand times about the free market?

    I don’t think attempts to impose procedural restraints on standing/professional legislatures are much use. They’ll always find a way around. Like, if you have automatic sunset clauses, they’ll bring in bulk renewals.

    “All those in favour of renewing all the laws on this list say aye.”

    If you say they can only pass 5 laws per year, you’ll get just 5 laws, each 2000 pages long.

    And so on. The only way I can see to stop the torrent of legislation is to abolish the legislators. It’s the inherent weak spot.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Tedd- I just don’t like Gnosticism.
    Ian B.- Why not have a new house, the house of Delegislation? It’s job would be to repeal any laws it chose. If you had fixed terms for all houses. then they could be elected half a term apart.

  • It’d get taken over by the Parties. I’m looking for ways here to have governance without any professional politicians or career paths in it, or at least to minimise them. I’m strongly in favour of some kind of appointment by lottery, for instance, at least to a second chamber with veto powers.

    But ideally, we need to get to the principle of never passing any laws. There is no logical reason to do it. Let’s stop.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Ian B., i have a solution, which has not previously been tried. I call it time-share government. If you choose to be a citizen of your local government or shire, you should be required to serve some time in militia or other volunteer bodies, intermitently throughout the year, and then, for one month, you, and 1/12th of the population would be the local government! If we attach seniority to the concept, then longest-lasting members would be the Council, able to put their pet ideas first. One could appoint a consenting citizen as an envoi to other counties, to co-ordinate the militias.
    This way, there would be no professional politicians.

  • Roue le Jour

    Pass laws in a court of law. Government prosecutes, opposition defends. If you can’t convince twelve of your peers of the utility of a piece of legislation, out it goes.

  • Ian F4

    It’d get taken over by the Parties. I’m looking for ways here to have governance without any professional politicians or career paths in it, or at least to minimise them.

    Abolish parties, specifically _exclusive_ membership political parties. Representation by individuals only, not football team mentality, as soon as someone tries to form an exclusive power block of more than 6 MPs, it gets outlawed.

    I think we should have professional politicians, I’m not talking about the carpetbagging scoffers forever sucking at the teat of public funding, I’m talking about the trained and qualified who don’t subscribe to an overall party doctrine (but perhaps to a number of single issue doctrines).

    And have more of them, over 3,000 I’d guess, which would reduce the individual political power of each one and lead to better representation overall. They’d all be on fixed salaries, no expenses, and work 5 days/week all year round, like the majority of the working population.

    Oh, and it is a mandatory requirement to arm yourself whilst in the voting chamber, makes for good TV.

    Yes, nut-case ideas, but look at the convoluted legalese being devised just to avoid collaborative partisan politics, which is only one stop short of tyranny.

  • Paul Marks

    What Brian quotes is very good – and such things must be said AGAIN AND AGAIN – A MILLION TIMES A DAY IF NEED BE.

    Because the left (who, to use my favourate point, control most of the MSM and the education system) teach people that free market people are in favour of cash for bankers and other corporate welfare. That this the only way that our evil “capitalist” system can survive (till it comes to the inevitable final crises and is replaced by “econonic, social and environmental JUSTICE – an end to exploitation”).

    Of course it is a lie – but people will not know it is a lie unless we tell them that it is a lie.

    And that means making the effort to get the informatio to people.

    Shouting at the television set is not going to the job.

    Open Letters and speeches are some of the things that need to be done, and need to be done well.

    Ian B.

    Some statists were religious – sone were not religious, and some were hostile to religion.

    Some pro freedom people were religous – some were not religous, and some (although very few actually) were hostle to religion.

    As for statism in the English speaking world – it was not a free standing thing (that needs to be explained by religion or anything else).

    Most statist thought (both in Britain and in the United States) can be traced back to German thought.

    Not always German practice (the old insitutitions of disunited Germany held up a lot of “reform” at least till the time of Bismark) but certainly to the thought of the German speaking world.

    To the Cameralists and so on.

    With the Fabians and the Progressives of the 19th and 20th centuries it is particularly obvious.

    In the United States there was harldy a single statist who did not actually go off and study in Germany – or, at least, sit at the feet of some “great intellectual” such as Richard Ely (who had).

    Actually traditional religious people despised the Progressives.

    The “Fundementals” essays were not about evolution (as is now thought) in fact some of the writers were evolutionary biologists themselves – it was in fact about defending Christianity (the fundementals of it – hence the name) against athiests who wished to subvert it for statist ends.

    The statists were not led to statism by their relgion – on the contrary they observed an incredibly powerful thing (American Christiainty) and knew they had to control it (or at least subvert it) if they wanted to get anywhere.

    In Britain things are even less complicated – as most of the statists were openly filled with contempt for religion.

    All the above being said…….

    Glenn Beck (and others) are still WRONG to claim that religion is the only possible basis for libertarianism – that “if our rights do not come from God, they must come from the government – and what the government gives it can take away”.

    It is quite possible to think up non religious philosphical justifications for libertarianism – as athiest libertarians have told Beck (sometimes live – on the show).

    What Glenn Beck can claim is that if you want a very large number of people (a mass movement) to reject the idea that goverment has the right to take away their liberty – then argueing that liberty comes from God (and no man has the right to take what he did not give) is the most simple way of doing it – and that the one with an historical record of success.

    The struggle for American independence and the struggle against slavery were (contrary to the drivil of the modern elite) RELIGOUS movements – based on “fundementalist” Christianity (as was the nonsocialist wing of the Civil Rights movement).

    But this is a TACTICAL, POLITICAL arguement – not a philosophical one.

    It is saying (if I may put words in Glenn’s mouth) “I can get millions of people in a movement (going to gatherings and so on) by appealing to God and reason – you can get a couple of dozen people by appealing to reason alone”.

    But that is a political argument – not a philosphical one.

    I must stress that I am NOT saying that Glenn Beck (or others like him) are insincere in their belief in God (quite the contrary), but there is the historical, political, tactical side to them – and it is very real.

    Nor is it ignoble – they are defending freedom by the only means they think has any practical chance of working.

    “But that will not work in Britain”.

    I agree – but then I suspect nothing else will work here either.

  • Paul-

    The Clapham Sect. William Wilberforce. Henry Mayhew. John Wesley. William Booth. Barnardo. Josephine Butler.

    All devoutly religious. These are the people who shaped the Victorian social reform era. These are the people who defined the job of society, and thus of the state, to be that of saving people from themselves. You can’t keep blaming everything on some mysterious foreign influence. Let alone “atheism”.

    The American experience is just as clear. I daresay you’re aware of Rothbard’s excellent historical work on it, so I don’t know why you ignore it, other than a kneejerk defensiveness regarding religion.

    We live in Christendom, and our society has been shaped by that. History is a matter of facts, not of that which we wish were true.

  • Paul Marks

    Wilberforce – anti slavery. His main political interest – I am supposing you are attacking Wliverforce for his political work (not just for being a Christian) so your attack makes no sense.

    It makes no sense because you are not pro slavery Ian B.

    John Welsey – a pro private property man (like Wilberforce – he understand that property was about THINGS not PEOPLE), and a philosophical liberatarian (he was even anti predestination).

    Josephene Butler – a passionate pro liberty person (campaigned aganist the Act of Parliament that allowed women to be dragged in for compulsory medical exams).

    Booth (Salvation Army) and Bernardo – as in looking after young children (rather than having them starve on the streets).

    These people engaged in massive voluntary effort, a huge work of civil cooperation (civil society).

    The alternative to voluntary action is THE STATE – so you either support the work of these people or you look to THE STATE.

    Of course there is another alternative – that you like the idea of children starving to death on the streets. But I simply do not believe you do.

    The examples you have chosen would seem to indicate that religious people are good, pro freedom people. Who wanted to help with their own hands – and called upon others to do so.

    Rather than said “it is not my job – THEY must do something” (like modern, athiest, Guardian readers).

    Actually there WERE AND ARE statist religous people about (although normally the statism was a means to an end, not an end in itself – for the real end-in-its-self statists one normally has to go to statists).

    You just have got (mostly) the wrong names.

    Nothing “mysterious” about overseas influence – British statists were quite open about the German (and French) works they read and how these things influenced them.

    There are volumes and volumes of this information – and you say it is “mysterious” (oh for Pete’s sake….).

    As for Murry Rothbard…..

    He argues that some denominations were inclined to statism and others were not (for example even the Lutherians were split).

    And THE SAME ROTHBARD (the person you have cited Ian) carefully explains the vast influence of German educated economists in the United States in turning.
    American in a statist direction.

    As for Britain.

    Even in the mid 19th century the best read liberal writer was J.S. Mill

    A man who was fond of saying “everyone agreed” that the state (local or national) should do X, Y, Z, (see his “Principles of Political Economy” or even his “On Liberty” – once one has got past the high sounding language to actually working it out what it MEANS for buying to be a “self regarding act”, but selling to be an “other regarding act” and so on).

    Even though Mill knew that many people had written against the Labour Theory of Value – he claimed (Principles of Political Economy).

    And even though he knew that many people dissented from the view that the state should supply X, Y, Z (at least at the local level) his writings suggested the opposite.

    Was Mill devoutly religous?

    Pull the other one – it has got bells on.

    There is a lot of EVIL in the Christian story – right from the days of Rome to the present day. I could write about if I had a mind to – if Christianity (of a certain sort) were a major threat I WOULD ATTACK IT.

    In fact it would be my CHRISTIAN DUTY to attack it (that may confuse people – but it is not one of my typing mistakes, sometimes it is the duty of a Christian to attack certain forms of Chritianity).

    But, by and large, you attack the wrong people and blame Christianity for things it is not responsible for.

    By the way one of my favourate quotes is from an early 19th century German “theologian” (one of the people who turned most of the German church into de facto athiesm).

    “Belief in God, as an individual reasoning being, and in personal survival after death, are signs of lack of religion”.

    “lack” of religion.

    See how radically they had redefined what “religion” meant.

    By the 1920s (a century later) this sort of thing was utterly dominant in mainstream German Protestantism.

    Bonhoeffer (and others like him) denounced it – in utterly savage terms.

    Bonhoeffer and co were like American “fundementalists”.

    In fact they were exactly like them – Bonhoeffer went to the United States (years before the war) and was totally overwhelmed with his religous experiences (mostly in black churches – they were NOT like J. Wright in Chicago half a century later).

    He left German unhappy with what “religion” had become in Germany, he went back to German with a passionate horror of what “religion” had become in Germany.

    He believed that he was engaged in a religious crusade against a nation that had turned against God.

    Oh yes – Bonhoeffer was “guilty” in Nazi terms – his trial and execution was actually in accordance with their law.

    “We live in Christiandom”.

    Errr what?

    Modern policy in almost every Western country has a passionate hatred of Christian teaching (in just about everything).

    One can argue that this is good or bad – but you are saying it does not exist.

    That we are living in a Christian society – not just a mistaken position, a wildly mistaken position.

    Of course some Christian societies can be very evil indeed – but not the evils you are thinking of.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way, as I am here, I might as well deal with some pro Christian propaganda as well.

    “Before Christianity, writers did not concern themselves with the poor”.

    Total B.S. (although many Christians trot it out) – in reality virutally every Classical (Green and Roman) writer concerned themselves with the poor.

    True they argued that helping the poor was the primary duty of THE STATE (rather than voluntary effort), but concern themselves with the poor they did.

    And, of course, some of this statism leaked into Chritian writings also – for example in explaining the Christian virtue of charity Augustine (somehow) manages to smuggle Roman statism in (the old bread and games policy – minus the games, as he did not approve of people being forced to fight to the death for the amusement of others).

    Samuel Pufendorf actually does it as well – compulsory charity (dry rain, square circle).

    Other Christian writers opposed them – but it was there in the background (never totally defeated) and when the Church was brought low, out it popped.

    “Now the state should educate and help” Thomas Cromwell seems to be saying to Henry VIII (much as if he was Plato).

    By the way almost all of the liberals of the Scottish enlightenment held this view (to a more limited extent) – education, poor relief, major public works.

    All the province of THE STATE.

    Adam Smith, Duguld Stewart and on and on, were not socialists – but they freaking were not libertarians either.

    It was only a few real old Bible thumpers (like Thomas Chalmers of Glasgow – the Founder of the Free Church of Scotland in the early 1800s) who opposed this view. People forget that it was the 18th century “Moderates” who gained control of the official Church of Scotland. The very people that John Witherspoon has so attacked.

    They were “people who will teach anything from the pulpit, apart from the word of God, and will respect and tolerate any opinion, apart from the opinion of the ordinary people – whom they despise”.

    I wonder what Witherspoon would make of Ian B.s claim that modern Britain is “Christian”.

    As it was he went to United States – and ended up educating a fair few of the Founding Fathers (with ideas that the modern elite do not like anyone to know the Founders had).

    Of course a real SADIST would go back in time and say to Witherspoon.

    “Dear Sir – in just over a century a man called Woodrow Wilson will hold your position at Princeton, let me tell you about him……”

    As a Calvinist Witherspoon has to accept predestination you see (Wilson must be part of God’s plan) – although many American Scots (and Scots Irish, Ulster Protestants – remember the Scots Irish in America were the original “Red Necks” the most ANIT British people [history is full of ironies like that], real “YOU WILL ONLY TAKE MY FIREARM FROM MY COLD DEAD FINGERS – AND ONLY IF I DO NOT MAKE YOUR FINGERS COLD AND DEAD FIRST” people, many Scots-from-Scotland were loyalists) dropped presdestination (because it just did not fit with the other doctrines that people like Witherspoon taught. It used to be said.

    “When you come to the Cumberland Gap in the mountains, you have to unload stuff off the wagon otherwise it will never get through – all the junk that you do not really need and does not make sense anyway, like Predestination”.

    I am not making that up – hence “Cumberland Presbyterian”.

    Anyway back to Scotland….

    It was due to the resistance of such men as Chalmers that Scotland did not have a national Poor Law till 1845 and national (as opposed to local) control of education till the Act of 1872.

    Scottish education is a much misunderstood story – it was not really “compulsory and free” in the 18th century, as the simple books say, what actually existed was at least one school in each parish (dominated by the Kirk) and if you really COULD NOT pay but banged on the door (a lot of people DID NOT) with your kids asking they be taught to read and write, they would most likely teach free of charge – but that is hardly “free and compulsory”).

    Another propaganda line is “before Christianity writers did not concern themselves with good conduct”.

    Again total drivil – almost every classical writer wrote about it (endlessly).

    And the laws of every Greek city state (and of the Roman Repulic and Empire) were saturated with good conduct regulations.

    One thing to note is that Greek city states tended to get more and more regulations as they DECLINED.

    0nce one needed laws to try and prop traditions of good conduct – the battle was really lost (and the city was doomed).

    It was much the same with Rome.

    When the Republic was strong one did not need a Cato the Elder to pass endless laws (which are repeated, sometimes almost word for word, in sections of Woodrow Wilson’s “The State” – I wish people had actually READ that work before they voted him President of the United States) to tell people how to live.

    You can not “save souls by coercing bodies” (something some Christians should remember as well), and trying to restore good conduct in a corrupt society by passing laws just misses the point.

    The Republic (the Res Publica) was the people – their hearts.

    If Republican virtue had died in their heats it could not be restored by passing laws.

    When most people most of the time could no longer control their base desires THEMSELVES the Republic was dead (it just kept moving – like a zombie from a B.Movie).

    Of one thing I am certain, it is not by the state that morality can be advanced or even maintained.

    Yes I am stealing that line from Gladstone.

    Liberty, religion, virtue – all must come from WITHIN if they are to be worth anything, if they are to be real at all.

    I repeat (what I have said so often) one does NOT need to be religious to be filled with love for virtue and liberty – to believe that human beings can stand and cooperate together for betterment without the need for the state to control every aspect of their lives (like some eastern despotism).

    However, we have yet to see a mass movement for freedom and virute (of course the belief that human beings can live in freedom, supposes that most people, most of the time, can be good – that they do not need to be controlled by the state – by the way “good” does not mean “fluffy” it can be a very manly virtue, and hard as nails) that has not been religious.

    Perhaps Randian Objectivism will be such a movement in the future – I do not not know.

    By the way (just to humour me) try and read the United States Constitution with an Ulster accent and way of speaking (in your mind).

    You may be interested in the results.

    Of course as an English libertarian I come from a different culture (the culture of Dean Tucker and so on) we get to the same place, but perhaps by a different road.

  • Paul, I really don’t want to be at loggerheads with you like this. I am not attacking “Christianity”[1]. I am trying to understand how particular philosophical trends within Christianity influenced the development of our modern society. British Christianity underwent profound change in the 19th century and we need to understand that; indeed, come to that, to suggest it has ever been static makes no sense. History is all about change.

    But really Paul, if you’re so desperate to not have a reasoned discussion that you will stoop to even denying the existence of Christendom- which at least my history books record as existing for nearly 2000 years- I really don’t know where to start and I don’t know what profit there is in debating you further here.

    I will try to put together my long-promised blog post laying my position out in a moreccoherent manner, and maybe that will give us some more solid starting point from which to explore.

    Religion isn’t the whole story. My point is that neither is Marxism or Prussianism. I see our positions as complementary, not contradictory.

    [1] At least not in this context.

  • Paul Marks

    Ian let us go to specifics.

    Was it say Charles Booth (the guy I think you were thinking of when you typed “William Booth” – I MAKE TYPING MISTAKES ALL THE TIME SO I AM NOT HAVEING A GO AT YOU) who inspired old age pensions in Britain?

    He would fit your theory, he was a strong Christian, he wrote a lot about poverty AND HE SUPPORTED GOVERNMENT OLD AGE PENSIONS.

    So your theory looks proved.

    Problem is that the people who introduced old age pensions into Britain (whether athiests like the Fabians who were mostly behind such things as the “minority report” on the Poor Law, or “christians” in name only like Lloyd George) were far more influenced by OTTO VON BISMARK than they were by Charles Booth.

    “Do I deny the existance of Christendom” “do I stoop so long”.

    Oh stop being silly Ian – you know perfectly well that the Christian aspects of society (far from universal at any time – the world has always had a lot of vice in it) have been undermined (especially in Britian).


    That does NOT prove that the decline of Christianity has caused the rise of statism.

    However, to claim that Christianity (or elements within it) caused the rise of statism is FALSE.

    Let us go to another specific English example (England being one country in the world you should know something about).

    Who was the main man before J.S. Mill on local government reform?

    Edwin Chadwick – his reports (paving the way for local governments to take on all sorts of functions).

    He was a UTILITARIAN (a follower of J.B) so was Mill (although not quite so rigid a follower of J.B.).

    What government pushed this agenda – with such things as the Local Governmnt Act of 1835, and the Births, Marriages and Deaths (Registration) Act of 1836?

    The Whig-Liberal government did Ian.

    It was mainstream liberalism (enlightened thought) for the government to take in lots of facts and figures and then do stuff – both locally and nationally.

    This does not mean the Liberals were socialists – on the contrary they were limited government people (mostly – at least in the 1830s), but they certainly were not libertarians.

    And they were influenced by CENTURIES of contintental examples (even Mill’s rival Sir William Hamilton writings are full of European examples and the influence of European philosophy).

    Many of the people in the 1830’s government had been personally educated by Duguld Stewart up in Scotland – so why did they betray their old mentor?


    First reform government – make it correctly elected (no more corrupt Tory institutions – locally or nationally) and then get it to do nice things to help the people.

    A classical education would give people endless examples of Green and Roman writers (and Greek and Roman ACTIONS) to inspire them.

    In education (many Greek city states went in for that, in public health, in provision for the poor – all by a reformed state.

    And all before there was any such thing as “Christians” – with their silly “Middle Ages” notions of strong insitutions outside the state.

    Remember how Sir William Hamilton DEFINES a univeristy – “an insitutition SET UP BY THE STATE AND GIVEN….” (my stress). this is typical of the sort of mindset.

    And remember Sir William Hamilton is the good guy – compared to his younger rival (and foe in philosophy) J.S. Mill.

    Of course there were liberals who rejected all of the above – Herbert Spencer and his followers spring to mind.

    So do the “voluntarist” liberals who read newspapers such as the Leeds Mercury – but you would not like them because they were strong Christians.

    However, for a political party that rejected statism you would have to go to the United States – and even there only a faction of a party.

    Who opposed statism in the United States – even back in the 1830s?

    Was it the “Whigs” – the liberals?


    They were not extreme statists (they would have been horrified by the modern world) so “Jon Stewart” is lying when he claimed (as he ha done) to be a “Whig”.

    But they were hardly strict minimal state people either.

    Nor were many Democrats (even then).

    However, there was a faction of the Democrats who were strongly anti Statist.

    They had most thinkers in New York (of all places) and they were known as the “Barnburner” faction.

    They represented an element in American thought that we would call “libertarian”.

    So we are not alone in the historical tradition – we do have friends.

    It is just that our friends are not in huge numbers.

    For example, the idea that mainstream liberalism was libertarian till a naughty sort of Christian came along and messed it up – is just WRONG.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way Ian – if you start to claim that J.B. (with his ideas for 13 departments of state controlling every aspect of life) was the fault of Christianity (or elements within Christianity) then you really are hopeless.