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

“How did it come to pass that so many teachers and students, in some of the freest and most scientifically accomplished nations in the world, entertained such an illiberal, illogical, and politically repressive account of the relationship between science and society? Part of the answer may be that universities generally, and humanities departments in particular, are more backward than is universally recognised. For most of their history, universities functioned primarily as repositories of tradition. It was professors, not priests, who refused to look through Galileo’s telescope, and who drove genuinely progressive students like Francis Bacon and John Locke to distraction with their endless logic-chopping and parsing of ancient texts. Similarly it was twentieth-century humanities professors who, confronted with the glories of modern science and the triumph of the liberal democracies over totalitarianism, responded by denigrating virtually every political philosophy except totalitarianism.”

– The Science of Liberty, by Timothy Ferris, pages 257-8.

This is the Timothy Ferris who writes mostly about science, not the Timothy Ferris of the “Four-hour body” and other such works.

10 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    Perhaps rather unfair to universities in the past (and rather too kind to Francis Bacon – as it was he who refused to accept the idea that the Earth went round the Sun, and the Guardians of his New Atlantis would have been totalitarians).

    However, fair about modern universities – dominated by totalitarians (under cover names such as “Critical Theory” – see the late Andrew Breitbart on that). Any opposition to “Social Justice” and (Frankfurt School) Political Correctness, is not tolerated in most universities (well perhaps among the students [although not the doctorial students] – but not among the academic staff).

    How far back does the intellectual decay go? Even in the late 19th century British economics teaching is starting to become a bit of a mess – and in the United States Richard Ely and his fellow swine are at work (all under the polite mask of gentlemen). And in the humanities generally people like James McCosh and Noah Porter were replaced by Pragmatists and Historicists. For example William James just blandly asserts that phycology must ASSUME determinism when only a few years before Noah Porter’s work on phycology had been the standard American work on the subject – phycologists from Ralph Cudworth (who invented the term “phycology”) to Noah Porter had it as the central principle of phycology that the agent (the choosing person) existed – otherwise (to them) there was no subject to be studied (just an object – a Hobbesian machine of no interest). So how did William James refute Noah Porter? Do not be silly – the work of William James does not even mention the work of Noah Porter (the standard work on the subject).

    One might as well expect J.S. Mill to refute the work of such people as Richard Whately (who had refuted the labour theory of value). What Mill actually does is to ignore all the critics of the theory (the theory his father, James Mill, and David Ricardo pushed so hard) – the best way to defeat opposition is to pretend it does not exist (“the theory of value is settled” – nothing to see here people, move along). Mill never taught at a university – but his words were accepted by those who gained control there (indeed Mill was held up as the ultimate liberal – in spite of, or because of, the openings his theories give to collectivists, such as his stress that now was the time for better “distribution” of goods and services – and he did not mean better railways).

    The counter argument is that academics in the past were gentleman – and perhaps they once were, but not in my time.

    Being a gentleman must mean more than speaking politely and pressing your shirts and… (doing all the things I used to do – and no longer do), it must also mean being honourable – and these people just are not honourable.

    The people thought that William F. Buckley was being alarmist about the moral character of academics in his “God and Man at Yale” (and they did not understand that the title is from a once famous speech that Noah Porter gave – these days the only job a man like noah Porter would get at Yale is cleaning the toilets, the same for James McCosh at Princeton – only a few years after the retirement of James McCosh the President of Princeton was Woodrow Wilson)…..

    Well they did not have long to wait to see how far the corruption (moral corruption – not just intellectual decay) had gone.

    In 1962 Yale University Press deliberately mangled the Second Edition of Ludwig Von Mises “Human Action” (just to urinate on an 81 one year old man – simply because he did not share their collectivist “liberal” political opinions).

    The warnings of Buckley and of W.T. Crouch (at the University of Chicago Press in the 1940s – where he exposed, in an article in the “Freeman” the conspiracy to try and prevent the publication of Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” in the United States – the book would “sell very well – but….” said Mr Miller, of a “distinguished” Publishing House, in a letter trying to convince Mr Crouch not to publish the book) were proved to be true.

    It is NOT just an intellectual mistake – it is moral corruption. “The right [and the truth] are just the expedient in our way of thinking” – William James (a person who really thinks like that, will lie and cheat without shame, it is direct line from a scumbag such as Richard Ely to a scumbag such as Paul Krugman).

    “Liberals” (or too many of them) really are just Cong in expensive suits, with the manners of gentleman, but without the code of honour.

    In the latter 1960s the mask came off – but even now (so many years later) some people still deny the truth and claim that these people have noble aims and are of good moral character (they just have made this or that intellectual error….).

    I am sick of such people (the excuse makers – and the wilfully blind).

    If you, gentle reader, still can not see these people for what they really are – then you are part of the problem.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Don’t overlook the possibility that many modern faculty may not be very bright. Decades of ‘everyone should go to college’ has not only dropped the average IQ of the student body, it’s also meant that ‘academics’ no one would formerly have looked at have been hired to handle the crowds. When required to think, that lot naturally fall back on ‘Proof by Assertion’, or (with apologies to Kipling) ‘bandar-logic’.

  • Paul Marks

    Some of them are intelligent – however, they are often the worst.

    Contrary to most of the writers on morality in the Classical period, evil is NOT a lack of knowledge – it is a CHOICE.

  • veryretired


  • Julie near Chicago

    Ayn Rand drew a sharp line between errors of knowledge and errors of morality.

    I happened to notice a discussion of this, following an excellent 10-minute video of Nathaniel Branden answering interview questions, at


    Starting at 8:00, he discusses this in particular, and states that a code of ethics must include the possibility of redemption: of recovery from moral “error.”

    And I have found it to be so in my own life.

    As to stupidity in the cultural elite, there is a video by Penn and Teller, at

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi3erdgVVTw ,

    in which an attractive young lady has no trouble whatsoever in getting “hundreds” of signatures on a petition to ban the disastrously dangerous dihydrogen monoxide. Speaking to our topic here, the narration ends, “We set these people up. But maybe it does show that they’re not so much environmentalists as they are joiners.”

    It’s that “It’s so much nicer to be In than Out” thing again. (Quoting Alan Drury, in one of the novels in his Advise and Consent series.)

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Yes, humans are natural joiners. One man started his own cult (I think the cult of Dave) just by setting up a website and inviting people to join him! There’s a book about it.
    Also, people are very impressed by appearances. Perhaps beggars should be dressed in Saville Row suits so as to attract ‘clients’!
    And they’re right about dihydrogen monoxide- I would rather drink whiskey!

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nice Guy,

    You speak truth. It is a long-established scientific fact that unadulterated dihydrogen monoxide rusts the pipes.

    Speaking of beggars, one thing that we libertarianish types could do to show by our actions our devotion to the Cause of others’ well-being, thus making evident the general desirability of Libertopia, is to become beggars, of the well-groomed and well-spoken nonthreatening sort of course, so as to allow those others to give; which, as is so widely acknowledged, is better than to receive.

  • Mr Ed

    Julie, I would differ that unadulterated dihydrogen monoxide rusts pipes. Rusting is an oxidation process, involving elemental iron donating its electrons to oxygen. The process is mediated by water, but water as such has poor conductivity of electricity. In water that contains electrolytes (e.g. dissolved salts) the flow of electrons is facilitated, hence seawater being such a menace to iron. Furthermore, impure water may dissolve a protective layer on iron and prevent a protective patina forming, unlike aluminium, leading to constant erosion.

    However, the Bolivian Navy’s vessels on Lake Titicaca and iron boats up there have little rust to worry about, the combination of fresh water and thin air reduces the rate of rusting remarkably.

  • Jaime Souviens

    I hate to speak on topic and ruin the flow, but…

    The Left also deliberately sought to seize education after the 1960’s. The literature of the day, in America and Europe, was quite plain about taking over ‘education’ and using that as a fulcrum to alter society. Or, one could phrase it another way, to use society’s elite institutions in order to make a more egalitarian society. But if you phrase it that way, the contradiction becomes plainly obvious. (Not that internal contradictions bother a good Leftist.)

    My only hope at this point is if the whole mess collapses, both financially and through competition from electronic sources of information. A university is nothing more than a mausoleum for dead but not yet buried knowledge.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Mr Souviens.

    Those who denounce such statements as “paranoid” have to overlook the words (the repeated words) of the Marxists in the universities and Teacher Training Collages – where they openly talk of their plans.

    I think that people resist seeing the truth (even though it is obvious) because the vast size of the problem leads the mind to a sort of numbness – the SCALE is simply too big, so people pretend (even to themselves) that the danger is not there.

    It truly is “a conspiracy so vast….”