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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

If I let them compute those statistics, they’ll want to use them for planning.

Sir John Cowperthwaite, Financial Secretary of Hong Kong from 1961 to 1971, quoted in a recent posting at the Cobden Centre blog by Sean Corrigan entitled Masterly inactivity.

According to this blog posting, these words were spoken by Cowperthwaite to, and recalled by, Milton Friedman (who had asked about the paucity of statistics), in 1963.

2 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    Quite correct – and the statistics he meant were population statistics.

    The United Kindom existed before the Births, Marriages and Deaths (Registration) Act of 1836 – there is no need of it (or of “civil [government] marriage” either, which would do away with the debate on “gay marriage” because government would no longer be involved in marriage).

    Nor is there any need for a census every ten years – this land was the most advanced major nation on Earth before the 1801 census (somehow people had managed to exist without the government knocking on the doors of everyone every ten years).

    The vile Walter Bagehot (third editor of the Economist magazine, by marrying the daughter of the boss, and first great defender of bank bailouts – and “conceeding everything that it is safe to conceed” to people who demanded X, Y, Z, for “the poor”) sneered (in his “The English Constitution”) at “old women” who thought the census was a violation of liberty – and would set a precident for other violations (for “if they can do this – what can they not do?”), but the “old women” were correct (as old women useually are).

    The whole thing reminds me of claims that that a national debt, national bank and internal taxation are “inevitable”.

    As recently as the 1840s (under President Van Buren – and after him for awhile) there was no American national debt, or national bank, or internal taxation (just the tax on imports and that was low).

    These “inevitable” and “unavoidable” things did not exist.

    History should indeed be studied for its own sake (not just for its practical use), but it does have practical uses.

    History shows us that what it is often declared “just abstract libertarian” actually existed in various times and places.

    Liberty can exist – because it DID exist.

    For example there was a time when private mints provided gold and silver coins (the American West till Congress banned them in the 1850s).

    There was a time without all sorts of statism – and the statism was NOT introduced for good reasons.

    It was introduced for reasons of FASHION (as with Andorra introducing a Social Security system in 1966 “everyone else has got one so…..” or Iceland introducing government schools in the early 1900s… ditto), or because of lying “reports” (such as those of Edwin Chadwick in Britain). The hard work of building up from poverty (because, contrary to what the schools and universities teach, poverty is the NATURAL condition of humanity – it is not caused by evil plots by “the rich” or “big business”) was undermined (undermined by state intervention) just as it was succeeding.

    Of course, once the state has taken over so the old insitutitions of civil society wither away (as the Friendly Socieites did – now they are a joke, in 1911 they covered 80% of industrial workers in Britain and the proportion was growing).

    So YES to abolish various forms of statism now would indeed cause terrible suffering.

    However, the statism should not have been established (even if I do sound Irish “I would not start from here”) and CAN NOT BE SUSTAINED (look at the numbers – they do not add up, and it gets worse every year).

    That is why I hate the social justice people so much.

    It is not just the suffering they have already caused – it is the terrible suffering they will cause when their system, inevitably, collapses.

    Including MY OWN humiliation and death.

  • blingmun

    When you consider the effect Hong Kong must have had on China, sitting right on its doorstep, history may well record that Sir John Cowperthwaite was one of the most influential political figures of the 1960s.