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Samizdata quote of the day

“My father used to say, ‘Eternal paranoia is the price of liberty. Vigilance is not enough’.”

Berlin Game, by Len Deighton, page 57.

14 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paranoia is useful, so long as it doesn’t take over. I was a museum curator. The unsleeping forces of entropy lust to destroy things, including my collection, and it was my job to head them off. A suspicious eye on drips, plumbing, air conditioning, humidity, visitors, and especially important visitors was needed.

    “You’re paranoid,” the rest of the staff would say.

    “Damn right!” I would reply.

  • Fred Z

    There’s a great old cartoon, New Yorker I think, of a king on his throne, meditating on his many would be usurpers, thinking “I know I’m paranoid, but am I paranoid enough?”.

    One is never paranoid enough when dealing with the left.

  • Laird

    One is never paranoid enough when dealing with the government period, whether left or right.

    Good quote.

  • nemesis

    I would have thought paranoia a more common condition in totalitarian/communist states.

  • Mr Ed

    Interesting little piece on Dostoyevsky which somehow go on to the BBC website


    Dostoyevsky suggests that the result of abandoning morality for the sake of an idea of freedom will be a type of tyranny more extreme than any in the past. As one of the characters in Demons confesses: “I got entangled in my own data, and my conclusion directly contradicts the original idea from which I start. From unlimited freedom, I conclude with unlimited despotism.”

  • Greg

    “Even paranoids have enemies” – Golda Meir (I think? I used to ascribe this to Kissinger, but it was allegedly said to him by Meir).

    If she did say it, my only regret is history not recording what Kissinger thought when she said it (deep, gutteral voice in head: “Madam PM, you don’t know how right you are!”)

  • Paul Marks

    It is good to be mildly “paranoid” – and not just in intelligence matters and war.

    A certain mild “paranoia” is in order when writing a Constitution.

    John Adams said of the United States Constitution that it was written for a moral and religious people and was unfit for any other – well sorry Mr Adams but that means it is UNFIT (period).

    A Constitution should be written with corrupt politicians and crooked lawyers (no offence meant Laird) and crooked judges, in mind.

    The state of mind should be “how will those bastards try and twist my words? how will those scumbags try and find a loophole?”.

    Constitution writing for “moral and religious people” is a mistake – a Constitution should be written with “those bastards” in mind whoever “those bastards” turn out to be.

    This is why it is sometimes a good idea to have rather cynical, even nasty, people writing a Constitution – as they will be thinking of cynical and nasty people in the future.

    The Constitutions of Texas, Louisiana and Alabama spring to mind – all written by people who had a low opinion of lawyers and politicians (i.e. people like themselves).

  • jimmy dublin

    a perfect quote to live life by. paranoia towards “the left” is surely the cure to our statist troubles. i think it was actually adam smith who famously coined “give me paranoia, or give me death!” why can’t life be more like 1700s when everything was so much simpler and free? we have clearly lost our sense paranoia and need to instill more of it into the populace.

  • Cynwulf

    why can’t life be more like 1700s when everything was so much simpler and free

    Only freer depending on who you were. Africans in North America might have seen it a bit differently.

  • RAB

    I’m not Paranoid in the slightest… I’m bloody certain they are out to get me! 😉

  • Regional

    The ethics bar for politicians, lawyers and journalists can’t be set low enough that a slug couldn’t crawl under it

  • @Paul: Actually, the founders *did* do their best to ensure that scumbags were stymied in their efforts to subvert the US Constitution.

    And the scumbags responded by ignoring it altogether. Which is what scumbags do. One might as well as why the military is not even today marching on the White House, sworn as they are to uphold the *constitution*. It’s a piece of parchment. Its power comes from near-universal consent and acceptance of what it says, without which it’s useless. That’s what they meant by the need for moral and religious people – not to live under it, no, but to fight and if necessary, kill (and if really necessary, die) in order to preserve the rule of law as embodied by the constitution.

  • Andrew Duffin

    There are two meanings to the word “paranoia”.

    They won’t tell me the other one.

  • Mr Ed

    Well I have found something called the Social Europe Journal, and I have found a couple of articles on it, one written by a Harvard graduate calling for the abolition of Gibraltar on the basis of, well, he doesn’t like it, perhaps one of the Barbary macaques bit him?


    And the other random article has a nice comment at the bottom.


    It is not paranoia to say that this sort of stuff is not only lunacy, but vicious lunacy from people who know exactly what they are calling for and care nothing for those who might differ or stand in their way. These sorts need to be forced into a world of voluntary exchange where there is no mechanism for any deluded or vicious plans to be put into practice.