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

Yet, socialism still has sympathizers in the West. Many Americans believe that socialism is good, whereas communism, fascism, and Nazism (National Socialism) are violent and anti-democratic. A public-opinion survey published last year proved that general assumption: 43 percent of respondents younger than thirty had a favorable view of socialism; only 32 percent had a favorable view of capitalism. This is a powerful warning. The anti-capitalistic mentality has brought suffering and mass murder in all socialist countries and has reduced standards of living and the quality of life in mixed economies.

The Soviet Union is now gone, as are the huge statues of Marx and Lenin that littered the East, but ideas have consequences, and no body of ideas attracted a greater following than Marxism-Leninism. A Russian aphorism says, “The only lesson of history is that it teaches us nothing.” For too many people this is as true as ever.

Yuri Maltsev

36 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • terence patrick hewett

    But what has truly revolutionised humanity: politics? I think not. Politics is essentially reactive. The medium we are now using which has changed the world forever, did not come about through politics: or did it? Did the freedoms of the Anglosphere allow world-wide science to flourish?

    The miracle of talking to someone in the US or China or Bongo-Bongo-land as if we were in our own sitting room is truly miraculous. And the implications of this are terrifying for those who wish to control.

  • But what has truly revolutionised humanity

    From a purely reductionist standpoint I would argue that the greatest improvement in living standards ever has taken place over the last 100 years and that the primary drivers have been what Adam Smith would define as specialisation, free markets and capitalism (pretty much in that order).

    Socialism promises to spread the vast wealth of society among the proletariat (largely by seizing it from the wealthy and the bourgeoisie that haven’t fled), but has in every country that has been attempted it with a cumulative death toll in the hundreds of millions. Socialism is a universal failure even in its own terms.

    If the cost of raising the entirety of modern Western society from abject poverty into relative wealth is that some tiny fraction of society becomes wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice, then that is a social cost that I am prepared to risk, especially since these millionaires and billionaires often go from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three-to-four generations.

    Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy

    Sir Winston Churchill – Perth, Scotland, 28 May 1948

    The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries

    Sir Winston Churchill – House of Commons, 22 October 1945

  • terence patrick hewett

    Well: It was we electrical engineers who actually created the BBC (we all make mistakes!) at the IEE (now the IET) headquarters at Savoy Place, Waterloo, london

    Those in the sciences are not noted for their limp wristed introspection; it probably has a lot to do with the ruthlessness with which we get rid of anything which doesn’t work. Our creativity enables us to take 430 tonnes of assorted scrap metal, fill it with 500 people and propel it thorough the air at 500 mph, millions of times a year without significant loss. Have any of the “creative” types ever given birth to anything as magnificent as a Spitfire, a thing of aching beauty and of death; you see we do art, drama and history as well. You depend on us for everything you do, even the medium we are now using, the sciences created: you cannot switch on a light, turn on a tap or go to the lavatory without our leave.

    The inconvenient truth is the world is driven by creative science, engineering and technology. The development of the transistor by Bardeen/Brattain, at AT&T Bell Labs in 1947 and the mass production of microprocessors, wrought changes in society that dwarfed any of those achieved by political philosophy. The invention the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 has ensured a barely controlled dialogue between millions and has changed the world forever.

    The ignorance of science by the humanities is palpable. Having no mathematics, the worlds of classical mechanics, quantum mechanics and relativity and the questions thrown up by these, are closed books. They do not even understand how the simplest of everyday devices work.

    Fifty years ago C P Snow wrote on the fact that Science and the Humanities regarded each other with mutual incomprehension; and it has got much, much worse. A re-reading of Snow’s “The Two Cultures” shows that nothing has changed since then. “If the scientists have the future in their bones,” he claimed, “then the traditional culture responds by wishing the future did not exist.”

    F R Leavis’s poisonous response, exemplified this attitude and it triumphed; we abandoned the future to make money in the City. We abandoned space technology, of which we were second in the world after the USA, and after that abandoned just about everything else of integrity.

    So when the “creative types” decorate their next tea cosy; remember we created the scissors as well.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Ask yourself how many of you understand the principles behind Napier’s Bones circa 1617?

    Douglas Adams in the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy got it right: when Arthur Dent had to earn his living in the real world he discovered that the only saleable skill he had was making sandwiches.

  • terence patrick hewett

    And finally what you call civilisation is a very fragile construct: it depends on people many persons despise. Turn off the electricity for 3 days and where are you? All the pumps go off. No light. No water and you are up to your neck in crapioso. Think about it.

  • Technology alone is not enough, it has to be technology + markets of all kinds

  • terence patrick hewett

    Our Yorkshire comrades have a very pithy saying:

    “your s**t may stink but by gum there’s owt wrong wi’ yer brass.”

    The late Mother Teresa had the same sort of problem since she took money from some very odd sources reckoning they were certainly in most need of the spirit of charity. Those who criticised her of course would not be seen within a thousand miles of a leprosarium let alone have to finance it.

    This question was settled long ago by the notoriously parsimonious Vespasian, Roman emperor and all round good egg: on being criticised by his son Titus for taking revenue from the public lavatories of Rome he withdrew a coin from his cloak, raised it to his nose and quizzically remarked “it does not smell”

    The Urine Tax (vectigal urinae) was a tax levied by the Roman emperor Vespasian in the 1st century upon the distribution of urine. It applied to all public toilets within Rome’s famous Cloaca Maxima. The lower classes of Roman society urinated into pots which were emptied into cesspools. The liquid was then collected from public latrines where it was sold and served as the valuable raw material for a number of chemical processes such as tanning, and also by launderers as a source of ammonia to clean and whiten woollen togas. The buyers of the urine paid the tax.

    The Roman historians Suetonius and Cassius Dio report that when Vespasian’s son Titus complained to him about the disgusting nature of the tax, his father held up a gold coin and told him, “Non olet! (“It doesn’t stink!”). (Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 65, chapter 14)

    This phrase is still used today to say that the value of money is not tainted by its origins. Vespasian’s name still attaches to public urinals in France (vespasiennes), Italy (vespasiani), and Romania (vespasiene).

  • hennesli

    Have any of the “creative” types ever given birth to anything as magnificent as a Spitfire

    Absolutely, in the magnificence stakes Wagner’s Tristan would easily outshine a spitfire.

  • CaptDMO

    “Yet, socialism still has sympathizers in the West.”
    I have a special term for their activism.
    Maybe The Usual Suspects is more appropriate than Useful Idiots now.

  • Maybe The Usual Suspects is more appropriate than Useful Idiots now.

    Stalin used the term “Useful idiots” as a form of contempt for those who would destroy their own country to become subject to the Soviet Union. The vast numbers of UK “Useful idiots” who were prepared to help Lenin, Stalin and subsequent leaders to achieve this end from 1917 onwards was enormous, in fact depressingly so.

    They thought that by creating a local People’s Soviet under the aegis of Uncle Joe would ensure them a place in the power structure (the nomenklatura if not the politburo), but in actual fact, had Stalin achieved his ultimate goal of bringing the UK under Communist dictatorship then these “Useful idiots” would have been up against the wall and shot as soon as the revolution was over.

    After all, they had already proven themselves traitors by laying down to the Soviet Union, so why would Stalin have any use for them once the revolution was won.

    I think “Useful idiots” is still an appropriate term for this sort of Communist scum, especially the Antifa thugs roaming the streets today.

  • Fifty years ago C P Snow wrote on the fact that Science and the Humanities regarded each other with mutual incomprehension; and it has got much, much worse. — terence patrick hewett

    That’s not really fair to Science. More scientists and engineers have a decent idea of who Chaucer, Shakespeare, and George Bernard Shaw were than humanities people do of Helmholtz, Heisenberg, or Schroedinger.

  • Watcher

    Admiring socialism (and being blissfully unaware of its numerous shortcomings and intrinsic denial of liberty) while living off the many fruits of capitalism and pretending to dislike all the benefits it brings.

    Yeah, that sounds about right for the younger members of society today.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Socialism builds on its’ strength- the love of equality. Libertarians can build on that, by changing the emphasis from sharing money, to our love of sharing power. Maybe this is how we defend ourselves, as people who oppose power-hoarders. Because socialists always want to centralise all power into their own hands. Canberra should be turned into a conference-center.

  • Eric

    Absolutely, in the magnificence stakes Wagner’s Tristan would easily outshine a spitfire.

    I guess it depends on who you are.

    Regarding the penchant for socialism among the young… there’s a Free Shit crowd in every generation. You can only hope enough of them grow up before they wreck the place.

  • Eric

    More scientists and engineers have a decent idea of who Chaucer, Shakespeare, and George Bernard Shaw were…

    I’m not sure humanities grads have any idea who those old white guys were any more. Pournelle used to say if the young really understood what they’d received instead of an education there’d be a bloody revolution.

  • Pournelle used to say if the young really understood what they’d received instead of an education there’d be a bloody revolution.

    He might be right.

    It seems as though the more you have to pay for an “education” the less value it actually has.

  • john malpas

    Maybe but China gets bigger and more powerful.
    And, as well, demography seems to b e destroying the white west.

  • peter H

    The reason people have a positive view of socialism is that they don’t know what it is. They’ve never been told. Ask them to define it first and wait till they stop waffling about fairness, workers’ rights or the welfare state and other such clap-trap and then point them in the direction of the Oxford English Dictionary definition (i.e. the taking into public ownership or control the means of production etc.) and point out that that’s what communists, fascists, national socialists do. Then ask them if socialism is a good idea. You might get a different answer. If more people spent more time challenging the vacuous and silly ideas people have about socialism then these ideas would cause less harm.

  • George Atkisson

    Those who promise to rob Peter to pay Paul, will always have the enthusiastic support of Paul.

  • Martin

    “Have any of the “creative” types ever given birth to anything as magnificent as a Spitfire”

    “Absolutely, in the magnificence stakes Wagner’s Tristan would easily outshine a spitfire.”

    I don’t think you ever heard a spit.
    Or flew one.

  • Watchman

    Not really on topic, but what’s so magnificant about a Spitfire – great bit of design yes, but hardly stood the test of time. It’s a historical moment – and repeatedly surpassed in terms of engineering excellence since.

    I won’t quibble if someone wants to argue it is the epitome of beauty, although I won’t agree (I don’t find planes aesthetically pleasing myself, and the Spitfire looks like a weapon to me), since we have different standards of beauty.

  • Watchman

    George Atkisson,

    You realise by that logic, socialists should never have lost an election? Many of us would actually reject money taken from Peter if offered to us by a bandit (Robin Hood was not the good guy…), and the same logic applies in politics as well. Assuming the recipients are passive and not politically engaged or ambitious is the underlying logic of socialism – we should remember they are in fact individuals and will have their own hopes, incentives and reactions to anything, rather than viewing them as a crowd of ‘Pauls’ (note the Latin root of Paul kind of works here).

  • lucklucky

    The linked author as usual fails to understand that Soviet Union and Communism is just one of Marxist children. Fascism was just another. Politically Correction is another. With PC , Marxism went to influence language itself directly.

    “The Soviet Union is now gone” is irrelevant . I contend that was already in influential decadency by 60-70’s in Leftist circles. By late 60’s the biggest defenders of Marxism were already in the West.

    Now the main world centers of Marxist spreading are Anglo-Saxon countries. Due to their world influence that means USA and UK Political/Media/Education complexes.

    Going what makes it that way is that what forms the understanding of ideologies and politics is still based WW2 conflict after June 1941(note the date), not what ideology defends.
    Fascism as said is another serpent from Marxist stable. Like Communism was also strongly Socialist, by 1943 without the conservative influence of Monarchy they were trying to prevent “exploitation of men by other men” = https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socializzazione_dell'economia

  • Paul Marks

    The “Political Correctness” and “Critical Theory” of the Frankfurt School of MARXISM (MARXISM), are taught in most schools and universities in the West – and have massive influence in the media (especially the entertainment media).

    And people wonder why the young are increasingly pro socialist and anti capitalist?

    If you teach they very young that capitalism (“Big Business” and “the rich” – the “white male imperialist oppressors”) are evil and that socialism (“the oppressed” “Social Justice”) is good – that is what many of the young will believe.

    And, contrary to what many “practical” people believe, the young will NOT automatically reject their P.C. and Critical Theory opinions as they grow older.

    Rather than throwing money as the schools and universities and trying to make friends with the “mainstream” (i.e. Frankfurt School influenced) media, Republicans need to utterly change their approach – they need to FIGHT these enemies.

    But they will not fight – the Republicans will continue to throw money at the schools and universities and will continue to try and make friends with the “mainstream media”.

    So we in the West (not just the United States) are doomed – the living will soon envy the dead.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Absolutely, in the magnificence stakes Wagner’s Tristan would easily outshine a spitfire.

    Spitfires arguably helped undo a lot of the harm that Wagner did. That’s ‘outshining’ of a sort.

    I will argue, though, that science – specifically, physics – in creating a world-view with no room for mind (except as a sort of deus ex machina for resolving quantum states), has done a fair amount of harm itself.

  • Alisa

    By late 60’s the biggest defenders of Marxism were already in the West.


  • Thailover

    Peter H. It’s not that people have not been told what socialism is, it’s that they’ve been lied to by the Leftists, and the right wing are typically so ignorant about any true definition of socialism vs capitalism, (both of which are social systems, not merely economic systems), that they can’t defend capitalism. Ayn Rand is quite correct about this. Capitalism remains an unknown ideal.

    Despite their trappings and their “founding father” fetish, the right wing conservatives tend to be collectivists too, but the king of their tribe is the alleged king of kings, aka the Christian Abrahamic god. (With more than 32,000 different denominational and sectarian faces). Conservatives tend to want to be free “on earth”, but subjects of their literal sacred overlord. Their heart just isn’t in the ‘complete individualism’ thing. Their houses are divided, as their religion separates this material “fallen world” from the world of the spiritually sacred. Christianity is a war between body and soul and involves a certain amount of self loathing. That’s a short skip and a jump to Leftist loathing of material existence.

    The king of the Leftist tribe is completely secular and apparently loves abortion and hates “the privileged” aka white men. The fact that tens of millions suffered under slavery at the hands of middle eastern and south west Asian (“people of color”) Muslims goes willfully ignored. The fact that Asians have committed such atrocities as the Rape of Nanking is something the Left like to pretend never happened. No, to them all the world’s woes is due to “western” (code for white people) colonizing other nations and “imposing” on them. Never mind that the Left are now imposing “refuges” on the west, colonizing with the willful refusal to adapt (i.e. practice civilized values like respect for individual rights).

    The popularity of “Crazy Bernie” in the west highlights just how moronic people can be on the subject. What would Crazy Bernie say about Argentina? Nothing much I imagine, other than socialism can work “if it’s done right”. Spoiler Alert, it’s their theory that’s wrong, not the implementation of it.

    I highly recommend anyone even remotely curious about capitalism v socialism to read Rand’s The Monument Builders in the VOS. Google it and read it free online if you prefer.

  • Thailover

    Paul marks, most Republican politicians are cowards who are simply paying lip-service to Republican values. They’re RINOs. They are part of the swamp. They have no desire to change anything which is why they hate Trump. He’s a loose cannon.

    Cowards hate bold People, and so these Republican cowards hate Trump because Trump calls out the hypocrites with zero fear.

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    Two faces of the same coin

  • Alisa

    I am not sure which is worse: those ignorant of history, or those who know it very well, describe it eloquently, and then use that premise to create an image of current reality distorted almost beyond recognition.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, excellent article by Anne Applebaum — thanks!

    ‘ All through the spring and summer of 1917, Trotsky and Lenin repeatedly made promises that would never be kept. “Peace, Land, and Bread”? Their offer of “peace” concealed their faith in the coming world revolution and their determination to use force to bring it about. Their offer of “land” disguised a plan to keep all property in state hands. Their offer of “bread” concealed an ideological obsession with centralized food production that would keep Russians hungry or decades.’

    –From the article

    . . .

    “If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan. … If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor….”

  • Alisa

    Yes Julie, the article is excellent, up to the point where the writer makes a weird attempt to paint Trump &co as the New Bolsheviks. That was what brought about my comment more than anything else.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Then I thank you again, Alisa, for the heads-up. I was so struck by the first few paragraphs, especially from the quoted bit on down a few more, that I broke off reading to make my comment.

    Your observation is disheartening.
    I shall continue.

  • Alisa

    Actually, I have not read to the end, because that bit spoiled the whole thing for me. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Holy mackerel, Alisa, I see what you mean! The woman has taken leave of her senses!

    I remember reading that she had somehow gotten sideways of some non-lefties, but I forget just who or why. As far as Mlle. Le Pen and Mr. Orban go, I haven’t followed them (although some seem to class the lady and Mr. Farage among the Untouchable “extreme right”); but Pres. Trump is a different make and model altogether.

    Well, just as you say. Pity, though. Too bad she didn’t stop with the Bolshevik history; WaPo readers would do well to learn from that, and take it to heart.