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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

When nanny staters say ‘choice’, what they really mean is ‘less choice’.

Brendan O’Neill

10 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks


  • Lee Moore

    And while we’re on the subject of nudgers, I’ll repeat a point I make tiresomely tirelessly.

    Nudgers are always advocating that something that you are currently free to do should become subject to a government nudge of some kind. Nudges, they say, are a lot better for liberty than outright bans, and you don’t want a ban do you ? And they’re right – I don’t want a ban, and if faced with a choice between a nudge and a ban, I’ll take the nudge.

    But I continue to offer a free banana to the first advocate of government nudges who advocates a government nudge as an alternative to a government ban, not in the realm where liberty currently reigns, but in the realm where coercion currently reigns – ie by abolishing some existing government ban and replacing it with a nudge. So far I still have my full bunch of bananas.

  • Tedd


    That is a very astute observation. Enjoy the potassium, I hear it’s good for you.

    Are these people consciously aware of shifting the meaning of words, or is it actually just an effect caused by trying to express stupid ideas using familiar, positive-sounding terms? I know there’s a theory that control of language is a deliberate strategy, but a lot of the people supposedly doing it don’t seem anywhere near clever enough.

  • Mr Ed

    Don’t they mean ‘We shall replace your choices with our choice‘?

  • veryretired

    The ability, and responsibility, to make choices is the essence of a life lived as a free individual.

    The primary purpose of much of collectivist action is to curtail or usurp the ability of ordinary people to make choices regarding the progress of their lives.

    One of the initial reactions to the fall of the Berlin Wall by those in the eastern sector was bewilderment at the sudden need to make numerous choices about all sorts of things, economic and otherwise, that had all been dictated and imposed under the collectivist system.

    The obvious question to any puffed up cadre that proposes to start making choices for us is, “what do you claim as a source for the power to impose your choices on others, based upon what demonstrable competency, and what are the consequences for you, personally, if you are wrong?”

    If the common consequence of asserting the authority, not to mention choosing poorly, was a coating of tar and feathers, there would be considerably fewer of these little corporals strutting around.

    An altogether positive result.

  • CaptDMO

    RE: Tedd.
    One of my problems (in the US) comes from the nice folks insufferably citing “Affirmative Action”.
    *sigh* After a courtesy “You keep using that phrase, I don’t think you actually know what it means”
    chronic indignation generally follows.
    YAY for SMART phones!
    “Say, why don’t you “look up” the original Supreme Court citation of that “Catchphrase”?”
    I don’t hear the phrase AA so much. NOW I hear “Social” Justice, Disparate Impact, Compassionate (fill in the blank), “Fair Share”, 4 in 5(anything), Unrealized (invisible)privelege, blah, blah, blah up to, and including War on Women.
    I TRY to cite (decreasingly) familiar “children’s” parables to keep it simple, with limited success.
    (Aesop, Bros. Grimm, 1001 Arabian Nights, etc. )

    Now if I can ONLY get passage of the death penalty for “talking heads” of allegedly certified “higher education” that cite “podium” when “lectern” is implied, a whole lot of OTHER misappropriation/usurpation of OTHER political “science” terms/facts/data might decline.
    “As seen SOMEWHERE on Tee Vee…”, or “I don’t remember where exactly…” are my targets of choice these days.
    Veryretired: Mindful that public humiliation is of the essence, I can’t abide with tar and feathers, UNLESS there’s ALSO a heavy rail infrastructure (or some such) in place to redistribute the offender beyond the pale.

  • Laird

    CaptDMO, since (as you correctly point out) public humiliation is of the essence, I have long advocated the return of the use of the pillory or stocks. A day spent being publicly humiliated like that would be far more effective (and cause no physical harm) than a mere monetary fine, or even a few hours in jail.

  • rxc

    @Lee: I know it is not a new proposal, but there is one work-in-progress of the type that you describe. Alcohol was banned in the US for about 14 years, after which it was decided to move to the nudge model. There are all sorts of nudges to try to cut down on alcohol, from taxes to raise the prices, to limits on hours of sale, to stronger penalties and smaller limits for drunk driving. All are justified with arguments that have quasi-scientific support, but none have completely eliminated demon drink, yet. It appears that no one really has the stomache to go back to (alcoholic) Prohibition. I think that we would have had tobacco Prohibition by now, without the memories of the bad old days, and I don’t entirely rule it out in the future, once everyone forgets the bad side effects. In some towns, the limits are so strong that it is almost impossible to find a place to smoke. (Full disclosure – I am not/have never been a smoker)

    There is a strong movement now to do the same thing with marijuana and other drugs and move to the nudge model. Unfortunately, the police are too addicted to the money they steal from the populace in the name of curbing drugs, to allow this to happen. This is likely why you don’t see many other examples. The governments and other supporters of banning stuff/behavior are too heavily invested in it to allow it to happen. Have you ever heard of the unholy alliance between the bootleggers and the Baptists?

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    RXC, here in Australia, the out-going Labor government banned all advertising of cigarettes- the stuff can still be bought, but you have to know what brand to ask for. Then the shopowner unlocks the non-transparent cupboard and takes out one pack. I am not, and never have been, a smoker (one of the benefits of not having friends is that you have no peer group pressure!), so this doesn’t worry me personally, but, as a libertarian, i don’t like this infringement on the property rights of the shop-owner. Also, it has had the perverse outcome that smokers haven’t quit, but they are buying the cheapest brands!
    More, later.

  • Lee Moore

    Good point rxc. I wasn’t intending to imply that the pendulum can never swing in a liberal direction – there are even things we are allowed to do now, entirely un-nudged, that once we were not allowed to do at all. Such as take more than £50 out of the UK, or roger our fellow man.

    I was intending more to identify the true allegiance of the sort of people who, these days, express themselves to be nudgers, clothing their authoritarianism with a pretended concern for liberty. In reality, they favour nudges only to restrict liberty, never to extend it, and they do so simply because they don’t think they have the political support to go for a full ban in their next target area – yet. Nudging, as currently practised, isn’t a principle, it’s just a tactic.

    But I hope that in time, there will be more nudging in the opposite direction, with those favouring liberty being canny enough to turn the authoritarian nudgers’ own tactics upon them, and use their rhetoric of nudge to remove existing bans.