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


– Spotted yesterday in the Times (which is behind a paywall) of the day before yesterday by 6k. “Very good” says he. Indeed.

18 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • The Vikings would be an improvement upon most politicians.

  • That is serious quality Brian.

  • Proof that a rewarding career in journalism can be had whether English is your first language or not, I’ll still put our U.S. Congress up against any legislative body in the world on this account.

  • DavidfromTacoma

    … I’ll still put our U.S. Congress up against any legislative body …

    I’d rather put them up against a wall, if you know what I mean.

  • Upon further reflection, what would make you think there was anything wrong with the article? The editor didn’t.

  • Fred Z

    This ‘quote of the ages’ was followed by some anemic “quote of the day”.

  • Runcie Balspune

    The first time I’ve seen “paywall” applied to buying the physical copy, makes sense but a bit of retronym, there.

  • I’ll still put our U.S. Congress up against any legislative body in the world on this account

    Really? Why?

  • Hard to say you know. Could be the philandering, could be the bribe taking, could be the abuse of authority, could be the propensity to ignore the constituents. Could be I just don’t like the cut of their suits and I’m being unreasonable.

    Perhaps this could be more precisely delineated. The overall approval rating of the U.S. congress, last I heard, was around 9%. How’s the U.K. Parliament doing?

  • Paul Marks

    Well to go a Viking is a verb – Viking means raider or raiding.

    However, the Norse (unlike most Members of Parliament)were interesting people – brave explorers (they explored lands as far afield as central Russia, the Middle East (even North Africa)- and North America.

    Artistic and technologically advanced – as well as (yes) savage warriors.

    Yet like most European peoples between the collapse of the Roman Empire and the mid 19th century they had an odd weakness – water supply and drains.

    The Norse inhabitants of York were just as intelligent and creative as the inhabitants of the old Roman city – but they also suffered from ring worm and other parasites (and the Romans – not so much), because their water supply and drainage was very bad – fine for a farmstead, but no good for a town or city. It was the same for other post Classical peoples (for the Romans had inherited a lot of their knowledge from previous civilisations) – there is a reason why we associate the English (i.e. the Anglo Saxons and beyond) with VILLAGES, it is because they were simply no good at the drainage and water supply systems that large towns and cities need (if the population is not to riddled with illness).

    What works for a farmstead or a village simply will not work for a city – for what the Romans would have called a “civilisation” (city life being the meaning of civilisation) the “urbane” principles are about urban living.

    Is this where the politicians inevitably come in?

    Those Members of Parliament who (finally shocked by the mass death – and just the SMELL of London) followed their Classical education and put the state in charge of water supply and drainage in mid 19th century London (as with ancient Rome)?

    I do not think so – private companies have provided water and drainage in large scale private towns.

    But note that this means BIG BUSINESS.

    Large numbers of “small independent artisans and traders” living together in a “city” without either big government or big business, simply will not work (you will have mass death – via sickness, the stench and the squalor will also be incredibly bad).

    So these are your choices.

    The “Viking” (or countless other peoples of the post Classical world) alternative – the alternative (in a large scale urban setting) of ringworm and endless parasites and sickness.


    Big government.


    Large scale private enterprise – in charge of water supply and drainage.

    The much attacked “big business”.

    Thinkers since Rousseau (long before Karl Marx) have taught that it is wrong for one person to work for another in large scale private enterprise (that this is a form of slavery) – but the only alternative to this (unless we want to drink the contents of cess pits) is BIG GOVERNMENT.

    Either water supply and sewage systems must have government owners or private ones – but they are going to be BIG, either way.

  • Paul Marks

    Short version……

    When people attack “big business” they are doing one of two things….

    Either they are supporting big government – or they are attacking civilisation (i.e. living in large scale urban centres)itself.

    Even the town of Kettering (less than a 100 thousand people) would collapse into mass death if we followed the ways of the Vikings (i.e. each person or family trying to deal with water and waste themselves).

    Either large scale private enterprises (“big business”) must do it – or the government must.

    That is the choice.

    And those who pretend otherwise are guilty of falsehood.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Paul Marks
    > Either large scale private enterprises (“big business”) must do it – or the government must.

    Where I live many peripheral towns don’t do this at all. I doubt there are many the size of Kettering, but certainly in the 10,000 people range, people have wells and septic fields and small private companies to serve them.

    There are some industries that need large amounts of capital, which consequently need to be large. But to me the vast majority of companies can and should be small. Part of our common economic vocabulary is “economies of scale” however, we all to rarely talk about the equally potent dis-economies of scale that set in due to the fact that large companies have lots of flab, and have quadratically growing communication and transaction costs.

    So why are so many companies so large? Partly because it is expensive to buy off the government (something that happens way more often than most people think), partly because of transaction costs of various kinds, including the way stock exchanges are run under government regulation, and taxation differences between internally and externally provided partial products.

    It is hard to build a North Sea oil rig without raising billions in capital. However, funding an electrical power grid is certainly doable as a network of small companies. We just don’t do that because the government regulators interfere.

    BTW if you don’t believe me, I will tell you that the city I live in runs power distribution themselves for about 100,000 people, buying the power from generators, and sub contracting maintenance and installation. It is a government agency, which of course is ugly, but there is no particular reason that a small company couldn’t do the same thing were they able to get through all the permits and easement nightmare that the government imposes.

  • I thought newspaper reporters and editors needed at least a passing familiarity with grammar and syntax. Clearly not, based on the evidence.

    I am reminded of the deathless words of a university tutor who asked his student what career he was going to oursue after graduation. The student replied that he was considering becoming a journalist.

    Whereupon the worthy professor exclaimed : “Journalism? That’s no career for a university man!”

  • “I’d rather put them up against a wall, if you know what I mean.”

    …after torture.

  • Laird

    Kim, I don’t know what you’re talking about. The syntax of that last sentence was precisely correct. After all, it is the MP’s who are “famously uncivilized (etc.)”, right?

  • Mr Ed

    I concur with Laird, the structure of the last sentence, with the subject in the second clause, is a familiar device in humour, where the dependant clause coming first sets up a counterpoint (to the surrealism of the underlying metaphor).

  • Talking of mangled syntax:

    “With eyewitness accounts, Vargas Llosa sets the record straight regarding Che’s murderous legacy, brutally crushing any and all dissent, and concentrating wealth in the hands of an elite.”

    (quoted on my blog a while back)

    If Alvaro could do all that from behind a word processor, just imagine what his dad would have done had he gained the Presidency of Peru…