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

[A]ll law-enforcement agencies really believe they need more powers. But, when they say that, they should be completely ignored. Not criticised, not accommodated, just disregarded.

The sincerity is beguiling but it’s meaningless. “Help us to do our jobs better,” the police implore. “We can see the good we could do if you let us.” They almost certainly can. But they can’t see what it would cost society in lost freedoms.

– David Mitchell, in an article that is so sharp it is quite hard to pick out the best quote. Read the whole thing.

19 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Shame this isn’t being said by a senior cabinet member instead of an actor, eh?

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    If you haven’t read it already, can I recommend the Inspector Gadget blog?

    The general thrust of it seems to be thus: Britain is full of scum. The stupid politicians tie our hands with lots of rules and regulations. If they would let us decide the rules we’d get rid of all police above the rank of Inspector and then go out and crack some heads. We’d clean this country up sharpish. And if you disagree you’re a fool with no concept of just how feral the British are, and it’s just as well we’re here to make sure you behave yourself…..

    And, as far as I can tell, he’s one of the good guys!

    Scary stuff.

  • bobby b


    After watching the riots, and after hearing countless interviews of regular folk terrified to leave their homes, and after seeing what looked to me like rising crime rates all around, and after seeing how shockingly the police there are prohibited from bothering criminals lest they do them permanent emotional harm, I would have thought it rational, at least, to entertain discussion about how, just maybe, the actual enforcement of laws might make society a bit better for all.

    Your “sharp” (does that word mean something different there than here?) writer gets a lot of cheap sarcastic mileage out of an indefensible mistake, touches on the truth of the matter not at all, and for this, you’re quiveringly enthralled?

    I guess I just don’t get it.

  • Bobby, you may wish to read Radley Balko’s blog The Agitator. Even though it’s American, it’s a pretty frightening look at what can (will) go wrong with the “we must do more for the police” mentality.

  • Wonky Moral Compass

    Inspector Gadget’s blog is indeed scary stuff. He wants all frontline police armed with handguns. A right that he apparently doesn’t want to extend to law-abiding citizens.

  • I guess I just don’t get it.

    Clearly you do not.

    If you are serious about people protected their property during riots, I assume you favour the abolition of Britain’s extreme gun control laws so that private individuals can defend themselves, yes? And you say crime is rising (by which I assume you mean the violence backed private sector variety rather than the un-remarked violence backed public sector variety)… yet is there actually any evidence for that?

  • Alisa

    ‘Read the whole thing.’ Indeed.

  • guy herbert

    bobby b:

    After watching the riots, and after hearing countless interviews of regular folk terrified to leave their homes, and after seeing what looked to me like rising crime rates all around…

    Except they aren’t. Crime rates in Britain have fallen steadily for years, despite the invention and broadening of many crimes. That has almost nothing to do with the police, I suggest, and certainly nothing to do with increasing police powers, since in parallel they have withdrawn from the streets and become more sluggish in response.

    ‘The riots’ – casual looting rather than informal-insurrections that happened occasionally in past decades – stopped more or less immediately police started doing their job and arresting rioters in significant numbers. Arms did not need to be deployed.

    We should compare the police with the fire brigade, which is largely idle and employed on surveys and safety lectures, because technological and social change has made fires much rarer. Police numbers and pay are up, but that extra manpower is spent more than ever on political missions and high-publicity cases.

    Westminster was packed with and barricaded by cops when I passed through yesterday at 8 in the morning. A march by lefties demanding more tax and public spending organised by public sector unions was expected… To the police mind there is a need to defend against the threat of such people sacking their own workplaces and patron departments.

  • guy herbert

    Tim Newman: Shame this isn’t being said by a senior cabinet member instead of an actor, eh?

    Open use of critical intelligence is close to being a bar to promotion for a politician. And as we have recently seen, the Police Federation can get senior ministers driven from office.

  • JohnB

    If the legal framework that exists were implemented intelligently and effectively to achieve a reduction of crime one could start getting rid of a huge swathe of the laws that exist now, especially those created in the last few decades.

    But of course without crime there would be no need for laws and the whole vast state machinery.

    And that would never do, would it?

  • Poosh

    “Arms did not need to be deployed.”

    Causal looting that ended up with men being beaten to death and houses being burnt to the ground, and many a novelist’s feelings hurt. This is entirely confusing for me. We should have the right to grizzly bear arms to defend our property, including shooting intruders if they do not stop violating our property rights after we demand they respect said property rights, yet, it’s absurd to expect the police to do the same, because they’re less rational than us? They must be more trigger prone than the 12 year old girl in the US who put a bullet in a home invader the other day. If the citizens were armed, then maybe the riots would never have happened! Or maybe the “causal looters” would be likewise tooled up … what if they looted a gun store? The rioters, I suppose, would be deterred by fear of being arrested for murder, but given they happily set houses with occupants alight … and did murder someone … I’m not too sure. There’s a lot to think about/aboot. As an armed homeowner, do I *really* want to be squaring off against 20 armed gang members? What if they hold their pistols sideways, like in the movies? I’ll be done for. What if I can’t afford a gun because the-rent-is-too-damn-high? I guess I could learn Kung Fu. Or even better, I could try to reason with these fellows as they set my house on fire. Clearly these are educated sorts who are trained in dialectical exchanges, there’s clearly room for a good discussion on property rights as I burn to death/am beaten to an inch of my life for daring to “disrespect them” by asking them to stop stealing because Jesus said so. It’s entirely confusing for me. As for moi, I don’t believe the claim that crimes are substantially down in any meaningful way because, you know, I don’t need stats to see what my own eyes tell me. As the hero of Peep Show says at the end of his lovely article: I should trust my EMOTIONS and WHIMS rather than what anyone else says!

    Maybe the real issue, here, is the failings of the police/society/the state/your mom to attract the right kind of people overall, and instead attracting the wrong kind of people. Instead of freedom-loving patriots who respect the dangerous authority given onto them through our superhuman Queen, through the Hobbesian contract: lest we end up in the state of nature which is clearly on display in any playground and Friday/Saturday night drinking escapade … and Somalia; instead, we attract some clueless, and some thuggish, fellows who’re out for the pay cheque rather than defending the realm from bandits, rapists (sex-socialists) and zealous, alcoholic flagellants.

    What I wonder is how do we cultivate a society which naturally inclines some of us to put on the uniform and fight crime for the right reasons, and *not* for the power or perks. Maybe random kids parents should be gunned down outside the theater, this might induce a few kids to begin a journey towards crime-fighting. Throw them down a well full of bats, for good measure.

    Or perhaps we should only let men and women with a BA that includes Self-and-Society and Political Philosophy into the police. That way they’ll take a good fifty minutes to deeply consider the implications of their actions, before they fire a taser at the armed psychopath/blind man.

    On a serious note, for the most part, you have nothing to fear from British armed police, unless you make a semi-racist remark on twitter. So chill out. Don’t say “co%t@n pick*r” and you probably won’t get tasered that much.

  • As an armed homeowner, do I *really* want to be squaring off against 20 armed gang members?

    Absolutely. One thing you can be sure of is that a gang is not looking to get into a two-way gun fight. Do you seriously think said “20 armed gang members” are going to lay down a base of fire and advance on your house using bounding over watch after you have popped off a round in their direction? Really?

    I think you will find they are looking to loot or burn someone who is not actually shooting at them.

    I wonder how many Korean shops that had the owners and their families standing on the roof with rifles during the LA riots were brought under fire by marauding gangs? I’d guess not a whole lot of them.

  • Eric Tavenner

    I must say that I am very surprised to see something like that in the Red Guardian.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . yet is there actually any evidence for that?”

    I guess that’s the key.

    The crime situation in England – as set out in the American press – sounds dire. My opinion above is predicated upon that.

    You say, not so.

    I’ve very little reason to hold tightly to an opinion that depends for its foundation on the accuracy of the American press. (Although, they tend to be more venal than stupid, which leaves me wondering how their lying about crime rates in Britain could help Obama, which is the usual motivation for instances of venality.)

    But if you say it ain’t so, I’ll defer to that, which takes the wind out of the cops’ sails, I think.

  • llamas

    The reference to UK police blogger ‘Inspector Gadget’ is well-placed. I’m kinda-banned from commenting at that site, because I tend to be somewhat-contrarian on policing questions, and contrarian voices are unwelcome.

    (I actually agree with him that the UK police should be armed.)

    But his site, which is hugely popular with serving police in the UK, exhibits a streak of totalitarianism that is very unhealthy. For example, he advocates for virtually-unlimited powers of stop and search, for any reason or no reason, and similar infringements on civil liberties. One justification that is repeatedly offered is ‘well, I had to put up with this when I was in the Army, so it’s OK, and anyway, it will help us catch criminals.’ The idea of a proper balance between the desire to catch a very small number of criminals and the civil rights of a very large number of innocent citizens, seems to have got lost somewhere.

    I actually find it difficult to be at odds with him, because many of his postings reveal a sensitive and thoughtful side to police work which speak well of him, as a leader as well as an officer. He actually is one of the good guys!

    I guess I am inclined to think he is heavily influenced by the failures of the criminal justice system in the UK, which are often laid at the door of the police, and the extensive politicization of the police. Re-organizing police pensions probably didn’t help either!

    Regarding extended police powers – the time between police powers being extended to enable them to (insert noble and universally-approved goal here) and those powers being used for (something entirely different) can be measured with an egg-timer. Anti-terrorist powers used to investigate whether children are eligible to attend a given school? Tracking down people who don’t recycle ‘properly’? Police will always attempt to push the outer limits of any powers they have, and anyone thing to expand those powers needs to think long and hard about possible unintended consequences – the one law which is always followed.



  • Julie near Chicago

    llamas (and also Sunfish) (and also everybody else),

    I’m a member of the 2ampd Yahoo group, which is for cops “and friendly others” in favor of the Second Amendment. The listowner is a retired cop, and in case you’ve ever heard of “2nd-Amendment activist” Randy Herrst (a solid type, with a brain–has been known to post here), he’s also a member. The list is distinctly on the conservative-to-libertarian side of things; Leroy Pyle (well-known in 2A activist circles) is the listowner, and he and some of the others are Californians, poor things. :>( Here’s the introduction:

    This is a forum for pro-Second Amendment law enforcement officers, past or present, and others friendly to LE holding similar interest. It is intended to counter the myth that all LEOs are anti-gun, anti-self defense, and determined to violate individual rights.

    We intend this to be friendly and constructive. We get paid to deal with the unfortunate hostilities and disagreements of everyday life. This is a hobby and in retirement or off-duty, we don’t have to put up with anti-cop rhetoric :-). Please join us in friendly conversation.

    I thought that if by chance you’re not aware of it, you might be interested. Some of the guys there are “friendly others,” of the sort who have to call attention to every overreach of the cops, including the ones made up by the MSM, and some of them (the cops mostly) wish people weren’t quite so ready to Assume the Worst where cops are involved.

    Heh…there’s also a lawyer who has, I believe, a general practice, but who also has a specialty in trying to shepherd people through the immigration system. (Especially, I think, the ones who aren’t supposed to be here in the first place.)

    As I recall, they don’t have open archives, but if it sounds interesting you can always join up and then quit if you change your mind.

    Oh–there’s a fair amount of weapons talk. Also, we tend to love planes. :>)


  • Bruce

    “But they can’t see what it would cost society in lost freedoms.”

    I hope nobody here is silly enough to believe that career politicians and bureaucrats in uniforms care one iota about freedom for the peasants

  • The only place the police have an easy job is in a police state.

  • Paul Marks

    The idea that laws that prevent honest householders having firearms, prevent criminals having firearms……

    This is a false idea.