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

[W]ere the electorate solely composed of those stuffed with sciences their votes would be no better than those emitted at present. They would be guided in the main by their sentiments and party spirit. We should be spared none of the difficulties we now have to contend with, and we should certainly be subjected to the oppressive tyranny of castes.

– Gustave LeBon, The Crowd (1895). Naked populism and rule by experts and officials are not necessarily all that different. The mechanisms and structures through which, and the culture within which, power is exercised may matter more.

8 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Well, we’re all more educated than the average man of one hundred years ago, and we’re still electing all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons, some of them even sensible! since the average politician is not a saint, we may as well vote for the good-looking ones!

  • Tuscan Tony

    The main issue for me is the reach of the state rather than its selection method, better to have it as an annoying inefficient little corner shop than a quasi parental figure managing three quarters of your life.

  • Tedd

    The mechanisms and structures through which, and the culture within which, power is exercised may matter more.

    Each year I become more convinced this is true. So far as pragmatic outcomes are concerned, it’s probably more important that culture, law, and the mechanisms of government be simpatico than it is for any one of them to have any particular set of characteristics.

    For example, for a democracy, the Swiss model seems to work pretty well. But it seems likely to me that it works well mainly in Switzerland, and that it would not necessarily be nearly as successful in a country with a very different culture, or even very different geography and demographics. Another interesting example is China. The current cultural-legal-governmental arrangement there must be at least quasi stable, but it’s difficult to imagine it being so in Europe or North America. (Although, weirdly, the U.S. does seem to be slowly morphing into something not unlike present-day China.)

  • The Sanity Inspector

    G. K. Chesterton had the same thought around the same time: “There are no wise few. Every aristocracy that has ever existed has behaved, in all essential points, exactly like a small mob.”

  • AndrewZ

    Culture is more fundamental than institutions. If the majority of the people believe strongly in liberty they will fight to preserve it no matter how inadequate their institutions might be. They will not tolerate the emergence of any political structure that might restrict their freedom. But if the majority of the people are indifferent or hostile to liberty they will not make any attempt to defend their natural rights even when they have ample means to do so. Liberal institutions that are not supported by a strong culture of freedom are like a fine house built on sand, and can be knocked down just as easily.

  • Tedd


    I agree. And think that’s really just a special case of the more general point I was trying to make about culture, law, and government. Libertarians quite naturally focus on how it is manifested in the struggle for liberty, but the same principle applies to social justice, nationalism, or any other political concept. The great advantage of the left-leaning philosophies is that they promote ideas that have a gut-level emotional appeal to voters of that ilk (“Who’s getting my piece of the pie?”) while simultaneously being attractive to the bureaucracy of government, and to the institutions of the legal system. That’s a powerful combination. Any other philosophy needs a serious knock-out punch to take the title from the left. Either that, or parties on the left need to splinter over wedge issues.

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Ted, I’ve often thought that a great general slogan for libertarians should be ‘Share Power’. Socialistos aim to share the wealth by monopolising power, but that would be impossible if power was widely shared, such as in small, independent, units of government, and/or with local militia being the main forces within a country.

  • Julie near Chicago

    AndrewZ, beautifully put. I believe you are exactly right.

    Tedd, the leftish philosophies also appeal to the do-gooders* and busybodies (who see themselves as do-gooders), and even more to people taken with what has been called “the romance of the underdog,” and to those who need to rescue others in order to justify their own existence.

    *Lots of perfectly decent people who are in favor of liberty do good as they go about the business of being whoever they are. I don’t mean them. I mean the people who will take over the people whom they’re “helping,” unless the latter are very strong-minded, and who having done so will dump them in a heartbeat if something or someone more interesting comes along. The do-gooders I mean tend to actively encourage dependency.

    By the way, I never psychologize. *g* But that is the sense I make of it, just the same.