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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

Many people are ignorant of many things. This is not surprising and entirely forgivable, given how much knowledge there is to be had, and how much of it is highly specialized. What is less forgivable is how people feel free to spout off and propose things without the slightest idea of the complexities they are dealing with. The French revolutionaries blithely imagined they could create a whole new society with its own rules, just by thinking it up. They ended with a bloodbath in a pigsty.

Madsen Pirie

23 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Hunter

    The less you know about something, the easier it is.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Mmmmm, I dunno about that quote. Sounds a lot like an Authoritarian Technocracy.

    I’d prefer a Libertarian Pissoffcracy. That is, a government that pisses off and leaves me alone.

    No idea what the consequences would be for everyone else, but I’m pretty sure I know what the consequences would be for me.

    More money, more guns, less hassle. Bliss……

    Course I’d probably have to find a real job outside of academia, but that’s probably a good idea anyway 😉

  • Hunter

    I think the quote is just fine. It speaks to Hayek’s pretense of knowledge. The authoritarian technocracy may think they know what they’re doing but in reality they are too far removed from what they’re trying to do to be effective. Local knowledge is best.

  • davydai nikolenko

    That sounds like the ‘Dunning–Kruger effect’…


  • Schrodinger's Dog

    This post is a rich source of good quotes.

    “The French revolutionaries … ended with a bloodbath in a pigsty” is a good quote which deserves a wider audience. It’s also a pretty good summary of the Russian Revolution.

    And a “Libertarian Pissoffcracy” is definitely a meme which should be spread.

  • Okay, I admit that I’m tarred by the same brush. I fundamentally believe that an Anarcho-Capitalist society (or “Libertarian Pissoffcracy”) would be better for all concerned.

    This makes me as utopianist as most of the French and Russian revolutionaries.

    The main difference is that unlike the Jacobin’s and the Bolsheviks, I don’t believe in the use of force to achieve one’s aims.

    An Anarcho-Capitalist society / “Libertarian Pissoffcracy” might come to pass, but it is likely to rise from the ruins of whatever totalitarian society the ‘liberals’, Neo-Marxists and watermelons are leading is towards.

    I claim no foreknowledge of their communist utopia, but I’ll bet it requires a pile of bodies that would make Stalin blush.

  • PeterT

    I can’t remember where I heard this quote recently

    “no problem is so great that a small group of people in a room won’t think it is small enough for them to solve”

    “people” might have been “dumb people”. I think “clever people” illustrates the point better but I fear that might be lost on the Krugman’s of this world.

    On John’s point, I think violence would be almost inevitable in a transition to the Pissofcracy. Libertarians should just make sure that they never initiate it. Presumably peaceful non-compliance Gandhi style would be the first resort. If demanding to be free provokes the need for self defence then that would be a shame.

  • Presumably peaceful non-compliance Gandhi style would be the first resort.

    Yes, I agree in principle.

    I have instituted a form of “Bureaucracy Evasion” for the last five years, so that governments everywhere think I am from or en-route elsewhere. A sort of Permanent Tourist.

    Not being a citizen of Eritrea or the USA, I have no obligations to my countries of citizenship after ceasing residency.

    I strongly recommend it.

  • veryretired

    Just followed a link at instapundit to an article that claimed humans were smarter in the prehistoric past, and have been getting less intelligient as life became easier due to various aspects of civilization.

    I am dubious about the premise, but let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that it is true.

    What explains the lack of progress for so many millenia?

    All the same natural resources were present. Many of the basic functions of technology were known, such as creating steam or smelting metals. And, according to this theory, people were actually smarter.

    And yet, after centuries of stagnant traditional cultures, with little or no true development of any but the most basic technologies and energy sources, reasonably modern humans around the 1800 AD mark suddenly start finding radically new methods for an ever expanding
    range of tasks, until, in less than 2 centuries, they can fly men to the moon and back.

    The glaringly obvious answer is that the ever present ruling elites of the myriad forms of theocracy that dominated human history during the period before 1800 actually suppressed human development, instead of facilitating it.

    Today, the descendents of those theocrats, regardless of the ideology they claim to follow, are once again gaining the type of social controls that allow them to have massive influence over the activities of their less-than-elite fellow citizens.

    And the results?

    One crisis of mismanagement and incompetence after another. Foundering economies. Endless violence.

    A string of allegedly all encompassing theories of total cultural , social, and economic nirvana exploding and imploding with cataclysmic results for everyone unfortunate enough to be anywhere near them.

    And yet? Once again the halls of our political establishments are filled with a flood of self-proclaimed experts, all claiming to be able to solve any and every problem, if only they are given the resources and the power.

    All claiming the knowledge to make people better—again.

    It’s the Pax…

  • MakajazMonkee

    “given how much knowledge there is to be had, and how much of it is highly specialized”

    and how often the specialists really don’t have a clucking flue

  • MakajazMonkee

    I have instituted a form of “Bureaucracy Evasion” for the last five years, so that governments everywhere think I am from or en-route elsewhere. A sort of Permanent Tourist.

    hahaha me too, but trying to get any form of credit is a bitch,

  • Paul Marks

    veryretired – yes they never learn, just as “The Alliance” will not learn in “Serenity”.

    The elite left have not learned.

    Whether it some professor at Harvard (hello Sandel) or Jon Stewart on television – they all think that government exists to make society better.

    And they will tell any lie (even that such collectivism is “the American way” or “what the American experiment is about”) to sanction their lust for power.

    A lust as old as Francis Bacon and “The New Atlantis” or even Plato.

    Their “new society” always turns to blood and ashes – but they never learn.

  • bloke in spain

    “The main difference is that unlike the Jacobin’s and the Bolsheviks, I don’t believe in the use of force to achieve one’s aims.

    An Anarcho-Capitalist society / “Libertarian Pissoffcracy” might come to pass, but it is likely to rise from the ruins of whatever totalitarian society the ‘liberals’, Neo-Marxists and watermelons are leading is towards.”

    Interesting comment because it’s where I find I part company with the so-called libertarians who post here. I can’t see anything wrong with reinforcing a request to ‘piss off’ with as much violence as it takes to ensure the request is granted plus some over as a service charge.
    The second part illustrates why. I mean, really, in your dreams! The whole point of a totalitarian society is it obtains obedience ultimately at threat of violence. As it disintegrates, it’s the benefits it provides that go first, so it relies less & less on self interested compliance & more & more on force. Until all that’s left is the force for its own sake. The passive tense of “… it is likely to rise from the ruins ..” is the curtain twitching morality of the middle-classes. “Something ought to be done…..” With that attitude the only thing’ll arise from the ruins is another & worse tyranny. No-one can give you freedom. You have to take it. The price you pay to do so might remind you of its value next time you’re tempted to give it a way.

  • Andrew Duffin

    Pretty much all revolution(arie)s end with a bloodbath in a pigsty.

    Anyone proposing an exception?

  • Before the deluge

    “Anyone proposing an exception?”

    The United States, 1776

    The Republic of Ireland, 1921

    Granted, these were for national self-determination rather than ideology, and not exactly bloodless, but the end result was not a blood soaked pigsty, but successful democracies. For now.

  • Laird

    bloke in spain, I don’t see why you think that your comment is inconsistent with libertarianism. Our rule is the non-initiation of force; replying to force with force is entirely proper. And a totalitarian (or would-be totalitarian) government is nothing but force. So a violent response to it is nothing more than self-defense. Libertarians aren’t (all) pacifists.

  • bloke in spain

    ” Libertarians aren’t (all) pacifists.”
    Really? You could have fooled me.
    I’ll give the socialists & the other statists their due. They’re willing to fight for what they want. I was in Paris in ’68. Dodging cobblestones & tear gas. My misspent, misguided youth. I’ve watched them winning for more than 40 years. You give in to them or suffer the consequences. Now, by & large, they’re running things. They know the secret. Negotiation works best when the person they’re negotiating with knows the alternative to negotiation’s worse. From then on it’s just negotiating the terms of surrender.
    You want your freedom back, you need to make them understand you’re willing to make them pay the price. The open hand of friendship works better if the other one’s holding a bloody great club.

  • MakajazMonkee

    “Anyone proposing an exception?”

    Portugal, well they call it a revolution but it was really more a coup d’etat but its impolite to mention this fact to them. And it did sort of end up as a “bloodbath in a pigsty” in Angola and Mozambique, in fact the expressions really an understatement

  • A cowardly citizen

    The French revolutionaries also were the first to try and run a state on explicitly anti-religious grounds.

    Next time someone does a “God to blame for x deaths” it would be interesting to compare with the savagery of scientific statism.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Successful revolutions that did not end in a bloodbath in a pigsty:

    The Glorious Revolution of 1688.

    The French Revolution of 1848.

    The Mexican Revolution of 1913-1920. (Mexico was not a wonderful place afterwards, but it wasn’t Jacobin France or Bolshevik Russia.)

    The Nicaraguan Revolution of 1979. (Not because the Reds involved were nice guys, but because they actually let the people vote on their rule, thinking they had it locked – and then had to give up power peacefully.)

    There haven’t been that many other successful internal revolutions. Very often when there is enough popular discontent to support an armed overthrow of the incumbent government, the regime’s own armed forces pre-empt and kick ’em out first. That can lead to rule by some military faction, or to a new civilian regime (as in Venezuela in 1958). Those come across as coups d’état, though they may have the same functional effect as a revolution.

    Then there were the “revolutions” which ended Communist rule in eastern Europe.

    Was what happened in Russia in 1991 a revolution? I think it qualifies, and it hasn’t resulted in a bloodbath. Also, for all the various corruptions of the post-Soviet government, Russia has become more economically free and efficient, AFAICT – it was a pigsty to begin with, and has got better.

  • veryretired

    I gave up arguing with collectivists many years ago. They inhabit an alternate universe, and there are so few points of common ground that it is pointless to try to explain something to them that they simply cannot comprehend.

    The collectivist mind cannot accept the concept of cause and effect. To do so would force them into confronting the repeated results of all the failed collectivist experiments, not only in history, but within our own lifetimes. This cannot be allowed to happen.

    They substitute the belief that intentions are the same as results. If someone intended to help the poor, for example, by a collectivist program, then they did. Any objective analysis of the actual results of the program are dismissed as irrelevant, or cruel, if the report indicates the program is ineffectual, or even counter-productive.

    This attitude can be seen in a myriad of examples, from Head Start to drug education to family destroying welfare programs to totally pointless poverty programs that have accomplished absolutely nothing since their implementation during the 1960’s great society legislation.

    I was just reading an analysis of poverty levels that showed that they are the same now as they were when the programs were enacted decades ago. Trillions of dollars have been spent, and the end result is the complete destruction of the social structure of large segments of our population, and the devastation of numerous cities and states.

    We are now facing the inevitable accounting, as we approach a period in which many states in the US, and the country as a whole, cannot realistically afford the programs and entitlements they have enacted over the last few decades.

    The collectivist response to this glaring fact is to deny it, claim it can be solved by higher taxes on rich people, and propose to defund our defenses, both internally and externally.

    Even though none of this will work to resolve the issues, the one idea that can never be considered, never even be admitted as a possibility, is reducing the programs, reducing the entitltments, reducing the size and power of the state, its staff, or its revenue.

    In the real world, those latter steps are the only things that will work to alleviate the collapse of an over-extended economy and unsupportable debts.

    In the collectivist fantasy world, these ideas are kryptonite, and cannot be allowed to exist as alternatives to the endless mantra of “more, more, more”.

    The power to control one’s own life is the only legitimate power. The primeval need to enhance that capability by controlling the lives of others in its service is a vestigial remnant of an ancient order in which only slaves could perform the work that needed to be done.

    Thus slavery was ubiquitous in the ancient world, and survived until a new order of thought stopped, and then abolished it. If that wasn’t Britain’s finest moment, by the way, it comes very, very close.

    We are now on the cusp of a new century, and a new social formulation. The mindset which can only see others as the tools for some grandiose, ideological construct, which was the rebirth of the collectivist vision when the rights of man undercut all the ancient foundations, has run its course.

    The catastrophe of the 20th century was the laboratory experiment which demonstrated the poisonous brew which the collectivist dream inevitably concocts.

    As the blue model fails, the model we must establish is the that of the rights of the individual, and their protection as the only social duty.

    The future lies in the gutter, thrown there by a collectivist mentality which cannot possible bring it to anything but a gruesome, bloody ordeal.

    If you value the free and independent mind, pick it up.

    The sunlit uplands a great man once described are waiting for the children of free men and women.

  • Before the deluge

    @Rich Rostrom “Was what happened in Russia in 1991 a revolution?”

    Arguably so. And no bloodbath followed.

    Romania and Poland a few months later, there is no doubt that they were revolutions. Poland has finally found it’s place in the world, and even though Romania is far from a perfect democracy, neither are blood soaked pigsties.

    @veryretired “The collectivist response to this glaring fact is to deny it, claim it can be solved by higher taxes on rich people, and propose to defund our defenses, both internally and externally”

    Unfortunately, Homeland Security is seeing no loss of funding, more’s the pity. You do not have to stray too far into the right wing blogosphere to encounter theories as to why this is.

    The people that run the world may appear stupid because of the things they publicly support, but I’m guessing that this support is just the Laisse majesté of the loudest voices that gain popular support.

    You can be sure they are making their own preparations for the storm that is coming.

    I know I am.

  • Paul Marks

    Before the Deluge – good, I hope your preperations are successful.

    veryretired – inspired. Ver good indeed.

    Bloke In Spain – I have no moral objection to your words, just practical objections.

    I have not seen a battle plan that works.

    However, should you come up with one…..