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

What you will notice is that it is all presented in terms of social conservatives and social liberals. It is about the competing rights of members of religious communities and members of sexual communities. And, depressingly, there isn’t a single even slightly libertarian voice in the debate. Everyone that speaks is (if I may use the word) a statist.

My own theory is that the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland that started in the late 1960s have less to do with religion, or even national identity, than they have to do with Northern Ireland’s endemic statism, or, to be precise, with the fact that pretty well everyone in Northern Ireland believes strongly in coercion and in the duty of the state to coerce people into doing what they believe is right – be it banning sex between two blokes, banning people paying for sex, banning people from discriminating against prods, papists or gays, and forcing people to pay for state education and healthcare.

John Mann, commenting here on Samizdata.

9 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • You’re pretty much spot on.

    If you look at the places with the least rights in the world, they’re places where industrialisation hasn’t occurred, where most of the worth of a nation is about the state, and mostly about land. This applies to places as diverse as Russia, Iraq, Afghanistan and western Europe in the middle ages.

    What are the incentives in Iraq? How do you get richer? Is it by turning up to a call centre, or taking over some oil fields?

    And it’s the same in NI, except that the state isn’t about land growing poppies or producing oil, but about benefits from London. You get rich by being in charge of the benefits, handing them out to your supporters. It discourages industrial output and encourages people to try and take the state, and thus, tribalism.

  • Jake Haye

    That’s a great comment.

    I always got the impression that what ultimately fuelled the ‘troubles’ was competitive entryism into the bloated parasite sector, where each side would set about aggressively favouring their ‘own kind’ with all that free money.

  • Jake Haye

    Doh, looks like I should have read The Stigler’s comment before posting :rolleyes:

  • Sean McCartan

    Various governments there during the 70’s , 80’s and 90’s , both devolved and Westminster- based had an interest in creating lots of pretend public sector jobs if only to keep large numbers of fidgety young men off the streets.

  • Actually from there

    Seriously guys, nobody doubts that Northern Ireland today is a particularly egregious example of an ‘economy’ that is over-dependent on state largesse but trying to squeeze every problem on the planet into a ‘statist/collectivist versus individualist’ paradigm is just a tad obsessive. The troubles that began in the late sixties were just another flare-up of something that had been there for a very long time. The ‘Ulster Question’ LONG predates the welfare/’public jobs’ state and Northern Ireland, particularly in the East, was quite industrialised. ‘Titanic’ anyone? Shorts aircraft? Linen?

  • Patrick Crozier

    As Actually from there points out the conflict goes back a long way. The state was much smaller in 1912 but that didn’t, as I understand it, prevent plenty of nastiness at Harland and Wolff.

    And then there is the question, if the conflict really is all about state handouts how come it ended in the 1990s? If anything the handouts got worse. On the other hand, it is remarkable how quickly the IRA folded when the Cold War ended.

  • John Mann

    Thank you to Patrick Crozier and Actually from there for their contributions.

    In response, my personal response is that “No, I don’t believe that this is largely about welfare, dependency, and handouts.”

    Rather, I am questioning the orthodoxy (which I long believed in) that because “the conflict goes back a long way“, “The troubles that began in the late sixties were just another flare-up of something that had been there for a very long time.”

    Many people believe, based on their knowledge of history, that a) intercommunal violence is inevitable in Northern Ireland, and b) The Troubles that began in the late sixties were inevitable. I would question both those assumptions, and particularly the second. I think that there is often a danger of looking back at something that has happened and saying that it is inevitable, and that just because the people of Northern Ireland have long memories, and get reminded every year of Derry, Aughrim, Enniskillen and the Boyne, and name their GAA teams after historical figures notable for you-know-what – what happened in the last half century was bound to happen.

    I would question that. I think that it was within the realms of possibility Northern Ireland would have been as peaceful as any other part of the British Isles in the last 3 decades of the 20th century. Between 1925 and 1965 there was a lot of intercommunal tension in Northern Ireland, and a certain amount of violence, but it was as nothing compared to what happened after 1968. Is it not possible that we could, instead, have seen a gradual improvement in relationships between the two communities, which could have, within a few generations, meant that the tensions were a thing of the past?

    My theory is that such phrases as “Home rule is Rome rule” and “A Protestant parliament for a Protestant people” were significant not so much because of words like “Rome” and “Protestant”, but because of the words “rule” and “parliament”. These words signified laws being made and people being told what they could and could not do.

    And that was the problem. The Stormont Parliament, and local government in Northern Ireland, did do things that caused annoyance in the nationalist community. Those grievances, whether it was gerrymandering in Derry/Londonderry, or the allocation of council housing in Caledon, sparked protests. Those protests elicited a response from unionists who wanted to use the apparatus of the state to look after their own interests, and were fearful that they would not be able to. And so violence flared, which would not have flared had state power not been used so all-pervasively.

    That, at least, is my theory.

  • Actually from there

    @John Mann

    OK, that’s a lot more clear. You obviously also know quite a bit more about the situation in NI than I had perhaps given you credit for, so apologies if any inadvertent offence was caused.

    If what you’re saying is basically that the smaller (in terms of its impact on people’s lives, obviously, not in terms of population or surface area) the state is, the less important it is who runs the state or, indeed, which state (assuming that the alternatives are equally small states) you even live in, then you’ve certainly got a point. Issues like discrimination in the allocation of public housing wouldn’t even arise because there wouldn’t be any public housing, etc. But it does seem to me that this involves wandering so far into the realms of the hypothetical that it’s of limited use in understanding our history.

  • But it does seem to me that this involves wandering so far into the realms of the hypothetical that it’s of limited use in understanding our history.

    Yes, I agree that it does not tell us much about the history of any given place, as it is not really a discussion of facts.

    But I think once one expands one’s meta-context (the unspoken underlying assumptions, the ‘givens’) to see things in the sort of terms suggested by John, it does rather change a great many perspectives about what underpins what.