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

It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favour of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office

– H. L. Mencken

15 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • veryretired

    The government of the US has been captured, over the course of the 20th century, by an autocratic group of oligarchs, centered around the lawyer’s guild, with significant branches in academia, business, both managers and unions, and the media.

    One of the basic reasons the tea party movement has been attacked so viciously, and hysterically, by the political establishments of both parties is that the very concept of citizens actually wielding political power is anathema to the oligarchs.

    Several major steps are necessary in order to dispossess this professional politcal establishment from its entrenched position of power, not only at the federal level, but also in the state and local organizations. Some progress has been made in these areas, but there is obviously a long and difficult road ahead.

    One of the signs of nearing victory in this battle, which will never actually be finished, and must continue to be fought on a daily basis at every level, will be when the blatant conflict of interest that occurs when lawyers control all segments of government is finally named for what it is, and lawyers are restricted to the judicial branch only.

    This will be a monumental campaign in the individualist march through the institutions, and a significant moment when the law is finally consigned to serving man, as opposed to the current epoch, in which man has been harnessed as the laborer in the vineyard for whom wine is forbidden.

    An intense and wide-ranging conflict confronts us. It will be a long, painful, and bitter war of attrition, as those who truly believe in the liberty of the human spirit engage those who serve only the collective.

    Resistence is not futile, it is imperative.

  • I have always liked the idea of barring anyone who is a practising lawyer or anyone who has any financial interests in a law firm, from becoming a legislator on the basis it is manifestly a conflict of interest.

  • John B

    Not sure how the fact that Mencken doesn’t hate everything can in any way link up with him being ineligible for public office, but I certainly agree with his statement.
    The bit about common sense, honesty and decency making him ineligible is so, indeed.
    In fact that honesty,without which one will never understand reality, is something one has to suppress all the time if one is going to get anywhere in this world.

    And what veryretired makes sense.
    I have not seen it is the lawyers who are the elitist controllers.
    It almost seems more, to me, that it is the controlling merchant bankers (the ones that make up the likes of the Fed, not the ones the media likes to bash, well, okay, they share a lot of common ground, except they are playing Tweedledum and Tweedledee) who play with our lives, like its their little toy.

  • thefrollickingmole

    Perrys got it, those that design the laws shouldnt be the same ones who profit from them.

    In addition countries capitals should be the first to have new laws inficted upon them, with MP’s given a “counsel” 24/7 to accompany them everywhere to charge them with ANY breaches they may commit.
    Any any such breaches immediately making them ineligeable to hold any office again…

    We either end up with a group of philosipher saints running nations, or a repeal of laws never to be equaled again.

    Make the bastards live TO THE LETTER, by the laws they infict on others.

  • John B

    Yes indeed. Conflict of interest and all. As Gregory Bresiger explores with regard to Weiner in respect of those who aspire to public office.

    But is not the driving engine of the corruption of honesty rather to be found in those who stand to make the money and obtain the power?

    These could well be people who hold law degrees, but it will be in their capacity as money changers and manipulators that they will seek to influence events to their advantage.

    And in doing this will fulfil their own capacity for dishonesty and indecent lack of truth (common sense) and foster such a mentality in others (including their legal minions) in order to protect their method and empire.

  • veryretired

    The government has fallen victim to the most basic and serious of organizational tendencies—it has become completely overtaken with the internal agenda of its members, i.e., to continuously increase their power and budget at all times and all circumstances, and has lost track of its primary, founding purpose—the protection and enhancement of the rights and liberties of the citizenry.

    The growth of state power as the solution to all problems, and the concomitent increase in resources transferred from productive enterprises to political boondoggles of one kind or another, is the engine which powers this ever-expanding, metastasizing cancer.

    Representative government cannot survive if the limits on the power of the state are removed. Once that happens, the state cadres quickly realize that their constituency is not the public, but the various power brokers who manipulate the machinery of state to enrich themselves and their followers from the public treasury.

    What we have seen, especially in the last half century, is the increasingly unrestricted ransacking of the most powerful, wealthy society to have ever existed, until nothing now is left but a pile of unfunded entitlements and a looming bankruptcy.

    Make no mistake—this is truly an existential threat to the very existence of representative government, and to the very concept of individual freedom and liberty.

    The common response throughout history to the onset of any severe crisis is the panicky search by a frightened public for “the man on a white horse” who will lead the true believers to a new promised land.

    We are approaching a period of turbulence comparable to the end of the 19th and first half of the 20th century. There will be no shortage of willing autocrats promising to solve all our problems if we only give them the power to save us from the crisis du jour.

    “Watch Mr Thompson. He has the solutions to all our problems.”

    “Hope and change” is only the empty, rhetorical beginning to a long and perilous journey from the sunlight of a free society to the twilight of serfdom.

    How we respond to these challenges now will set both the tone and course of our society for the next century and more.

    Let us hope, and work, and pray, that in future days, our granchildren will be able to say, “This was their finest hour.”

  • Stephen Willmer

    OK, full disclosure: I’m a lawyer.

    Also, as a daydream, I’ve long hankered after the idea that anyone who puts themselves forward for public office should be automatically barred from holding it, but… banning people, actually, really, from holding office? As always, I am on the side of freedom and a law banning me, or anyone else, from saying to my fellow man, “how about it, mate, yours truly for MP” and banning him from acting on my enjoinder is a bad law. And if there’s a conflict of interest, let’s out with it, the free market place of ideas and all that, the adversarial system and competition in the quest for votes.

    But relax, veryretired, Perry, I shan’t be running. I like to flatter myself I’m not that big a cock.

  • veryretired

    It’s always fun to see someone who belongs to an extremely powerful, exclusionary guild complain about being kept out of something.

    I agree that theoretically, it would be nice if everything was open and unrestricted, as you seem to suggest it should be.

    So let’s start with the law. How about we abolish that legal guild, which exists solely to limit competition and raise the cost of legal services? Then we could open up the judicial system to non-lawyers, and end that artificial monopoly.

    But don’t panic, lawyer old buddy, just a little snark in response to the same from you. As Chief Dan George said about white men, whatever else one can say about lawyers, there seems to be an unending supply of them.

  • Stephen Willmer

    Veryretired, there you go, wanting to ban things again.

    For what it’s worth, I have no problem with anyone holding themselves out as a legal practitioner. I’m all in favour of competition, a rising tide raises all ships etc. Let the law of professional negligence and contract iron out those better suited to the role, rather than an artificially insulated, state-licensed closed shop supposedly guaranteeing standards.

    However just as an observation on the real world, even the closed shop of modern legal services doesn’t keep people out in the manner you suggest would be appropriate when banning lawyers from holding office. It raises barriers, granted, and artificial ones at that, and I’m no supporter of those as I hope I’ve made clear, but hurdles are one thing, bans quite another.

    And I’m not complaining about being kept out of anything. As I said, I have no political ambitions. I accept that lawyers as a species are politicians in larval form and seeing any group dominate politics, be they enarques, former student radicals, lawyers, trade unionists or oligarchs is both unattractive and, ultimately, likely to prove deleterious to the health of the polity. I was simply observing that generally banning things is a Bad Thing, that it is a bad thing in the circumstances you describe, whilst making full disclosure of my own status given its relevance to your proposal

  • veryretired

    Yep, you’re a lawyer all right. Never see some words you can’t twist into something they don’t say. No point bothering with this discussion any further.

  • Stephen Willmer

    “You’re a lawyer all right…”

    And you’re a collectivist, among other things.

  • Stephen Willmer (a self-confessed lawyer) writes:

    Veryretired, there you go, wanting to ban things again.

    Am I unkind to view this as lawyer-speak?

    veryretired surely just called for removal of the ban on keeping most people out of lawyering (itself, as explained, a ‘gilded’ protectionism).

    This with the consequence that the hypothesised benefit of banning lawyers from parliament would then be much reduced (becoming a ban too far).

    Still, banning the ban is but a ban, at least when you argue for a living.

    Best regards

  • Stephen Willmer

    Nigel, he seemed to be arguing for a ban on a guild, which is merely an expression of freedom of association, and not for constitutionally-enshrined limits on state licensing of or mandating for particular work, albeit I accept veryretired’s proposal would have the same immediate effect as such a constitutional limitation. And anyway, what you refer to as a ban is actually a barrier. I’m not an advocate for barriers anymore than for bans but there’s an important distinction.

  • Club: society with free association, usually acknowledging all members are equal. Guild: society with restricted qualifications of membership, often with different grades, usually to enhance restriction of supply, rent-seeking or other monopoly benefits.

    Ban: authorised prohibition on activity (as in pedestrians are banned from climbing over the barrier between the pavement and the road). Barrier: a obstruction or equivalent tool, usually to help enforce a ban or other constraint on some specific activity.

    Weasel-words: up to 100% of all lawyers mean what they say.

    From today’s version of the Wikipedia article on guilds, we have the two parts of the opening paragraph.

    A guild (German: Gilde) is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society.

    They often depended on grants of letters patent by a monarch or other authority to enforce the flow of trade to their self-employed members, and to retain ownership of tools and the supply of materials. A lasting legacy of traditional guilds are the guildhalls constructed and used as meeting places.

    Stephen would argue, I assume, that the first part, presumably excluding the ‘cartel’ bit, is what applies. I argue that, particularly with respect to lawyers (UK, USA and most other places), the dominant effect is the second one.

    There are may goodish things about the principles underlying guilds (I belong to two of a sort, both of which has given me extra letters after my name – though I find no monopoly exists currently in those fields). They seek to train people well in their ‘craft’, to define standards for their ‘craftmanship’ and to advise society on the need for and contribution of their craftsmanship.

    However, for many of the old guilds – especially those for lawyers – they have become too restrictive.

    It is also the case that there are many new grants of licensed monopoly (eg, in the UK, domestic electric wiring) and these, IMHO, are not necessary. The extent of improved workmanship does not warrant the extra costs (raised prices and over-bureaucratic time utilisation). However, it strikes me that the desire for such new guilding comes from government as much as it does from craftsmen themselves.

    Of all the old guilds, those of lawyers are the ones with the most obvious increase in the extent of their monopoly. Every new law makes work for lawyers, as more of everyday life is constrained from freedom.

    The biggest new laws are, of course, those relating to speaking offences (as distinct from offences of physical action). I expect it will stop when all speaking is done by lawyers: one for each of the rest of us, so 50% of the population.

    Doubtless when we reach this nirvana, lawyers would then find need to move on ‘thinking offences’. There is, of course, the problem there: of evidence. Still, technology will provide: lie-detector+ or some-such. That reminds me, I must get back to work.

    Best regards

  • Laird

    I think veryretired and (less so) Nigel are being unfair to Stephen. VR’s original post was a proposal to ban lawyers from all governmental positions except the bench. Stephen rightly objected, at which point VR changed the subject to professional guilds. Stephen didn’t defend them (except as voluntary associations, without a monopoly on legal representation), but apparently that’s not good enough for Nigel.

    Banning “lawyers” from Parliament (or Congress, or whatever) is just silly talk. First, definitional: what is a “lawyer”? An active practitioner? Someone with legal training but who hasn’t practiced in a long time? (That one describes me: I’ve been a “recovering lawyer” for about 15 years now. There are lots of us around.) Someone with a law degree but who has never practiced? (There are lots of those, too. Many people think formal legal training is a good background for a businessman.)

    Second, knowledge. It’s not entirely a bad thing to have lawyers in non-judicial branches of government, especially legislative. If they’re going to write legislation (i.e., “laws”), it’s useful to have some idea of how laws will be interpreted by judges. You can denigrate “legalese” all you like, but its purpose is to write in such a manner as to minimize misunderstanding of precisely what the law covers. (Whether the result is successful is another matter entirely; that’s a matter of application, not theory.) A large part of legal training is precisely that. Bad as our statutes may be, I shudder to think of how awful they would be if written exclusively by amateurs hacking their way through the process. At a minimum they’d need squads of staff attorneys to clean up their work, which doesn’t exactly achieve VR’s goal.

    The problem with today’s laws isn’t with their draftsmanship, it’s with their content. That’s not a function of their being written by lawyers; it’s a function of their being written by idiots. And while it is obviously possible for someone with a legal degree to be an idiot, someone without one can be, too.

    VR is right to complain about the political oligarchy, but lawyers per se aren’t really the problem there. There are many powerful members of that oligarchy who aren’t lawyers. An example in the US would be the late, unlamented Anthony Weiner, who occupied a very senior perch in the Congressional establishment before his “indiscretion”. Not only was he not a lawyer, this was a man who has never held a real job in his life. He began his career, right out of college, as an aide to then-Congressman Chuck Schumer, then used that political clout to leverage a position on the NY City Council, then eventually won Schumer’s old congressional seat when the latter moved up to the Senate. The man has lived his entire adult life in the fantasyland of partisan politics; it’s no wonder he has no idea how the world really works. (And his obvious inferiority complex is entirely justified.)

    This is the real problem: people with no meaningful experience using political connections to gain power over the rest of us, and once aboard having lifetime membership that oligarchy. Being a lawyer might facilitate entry into that guild, but it’s not the only means of access. The real problem is a self-perpetuating political class which has far too much power, whatever the professional backgrounds of its individual members.