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

“Ordinary people can’t be trusted to make the right decisions about what’s best for themselves and others. That’s why we need government to decide for them.”

“And who will we trust to decide who these government officials are?”

“Ordinary people, of course. It’s only fair.”

I hope you see the irony here.


25 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    It is a contradiction in the position of the left, and it was pointed out by Ludwig Von Mises and (I think) Herbert Spencer and Frederick Bastiat – however the left have an answer.

    The answer of the left is that they (the left) represent what people “really” want, even though people do not know this themselves. The opposition of people to the left is described as “false consciousness” by the Marxists – but the idea was pushed by Rousseau long before. People think they want X – but this is just “pride”, their real “self love” (the true “General Will”) is to want Y – so the “Lawgiver” does Y (not X). Even if the “Lawgiver” has to slaughter the people in heaps – this is what the people “really” want.

    Why do most of the left support the European Union? Simple – elections and so on continue, but they DO NOT MEAN ANYTHING (as the “enlightened” officials of the European Union make the laws – behind the scenes).

    This is why the Guardian newspaper supports the European Union – just as it would support the rule of Plato’s “Guardians” behind the charade of elections.

    Of course there are a few sincere democrats on the left who believe that if people vote for “racism”, “sexism”, “homophobia” and other capitalist-running-dog positions then THAT IS WHAT SHOULD BE DONE – but such sincere democrats on the left are very rare.

    Even in the 1960s the left (the establishment) were totally uninterested in the fact that most people in Britain were against the Race Relations Act of 1965, and supported Capital Punishment, and opposed abortion (and so on). The sort of “democracy” supported by the left means that “reactionary” opinions held by the majority of persons may be IGNORED.

    After all the education system and the “mainstream” media will work on people till, eventually, most of us have the “correct” opinions.

    It is older than Karl Marx or even Rousseau – the left goes all the way back to Plato.

  • Paul Marks

    Try to set up a conservative television news station in Britain – see what the left (including Mrs May) do to people who want real “diversity” – real choice of television stations.

    The left rule – which makes me doubt that British independence from the European Union will ever really happen. We are allowed to vote (most certainly) AS LONG AS THE RESULT OF THE VOTE DOES NOT REALLY MATTER.

  • rxc

    I used to work in the US govt, as a first level supervisor. At one point we were assigned some outside consultants from Anderson Consulting (spinoff of Arthur Anderson, the accounting firm that went bust), so help us develop new business process concepts. One of the concepts they promoted was divesting decisionmaking from the top leaders down the chain of command.

    This worked somewhat, until we came up against a situation where the first line supervisors from several different disciplines could not achieve consensus. We held several meetings, and the positions were fundamentally out of alignment (nothing really serious – just whether a nuclear power plant should do a particular transient test after being granted a power uprate of 20%), so we decided to get the next level of management involved. It had become more of a political/religious issue, rather than a technical one, at this point. The test would cost the utility money they did not want to spend.

    So, we all got together in a room with our top two managers, and we asked them to break the deadlock. One of them said that it was up to us to make the decision – they were not going to intervene. So I asked whether they would fully support our decision, no matter what it was. The answer was “Sure, as long as you make the right decision”. I threw my hands up in the air, and the meeting collapsed.

    The test was not run. It likely will be run, eventually, in the middle of the night, when no one is watching to see it start. Hopefully it will turn out OK.

  • Paul Marks

    rxc – I would have solved your problem, by the principle that how a nuclear power plant (or any power plant) is run is nothing to do with the government.

    As for government decision making – in what government is fundamentally about leadership is a two way street.

    The following is the Roman view – and NOT necessarily my own view……

    The commander must have absolute commitment to victory from those under his command – to the death (including by execution by their own side if they lack commitment to victory, people who are in the military to “do their time” should be crucified like the lowest criminal), but (the other side of the street) if the commander fails, in a decisive sense of losing the war, he himself must accept death. He should not wait for the enemy to kill him – or for trial and execution by his own side. He should be his own executioner.

    Nor should a commander expect anyone under his command to take risks he is not personally prepared to run himself.

    Government without organised violence is like the play Hamlet without the Danish Prince – if it is not about organised violence it is hard to see what it has to do with government.

  • Paul Marks

    “But what if your view of what is needed to achieve victory is different from that of your commander?”

    Simple enough – if you violated orders and were successful then the highest praise and honours (in spite of violating orders), but if you violated orders, FAILED to achieve victory, and then had the bad manners to come back alive – then being burned alive or thrown to the wild beasts. Romans took government seriously.

  • Zerren Yeoville

    The folklorists Iona and Peter Opie were famous for their studies of the playground culture of schoolchildren, in particular their books ‘The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren’ and ‘Children’s Games in Street and Playground’. One of the tricks that children play on each other was a game which the Opies referred to as a ‘three-way trap’ and is best explained by an example:

    Michael says to Simon: ‘Pinch-Me, Punch-Me and Tread-On-My-Toes went to sea in a boat. A storm blew up and two of them were drowned. Who do you think was the survivor?’

    See why it’s called a three-way trap? Whichever of the three choices Simon opts for, he is effectively issuing an invitation to Michael to inflict pain on him. There is no way Simon can win this one – the game is rigged against him, and is designed to be. The whole thing simply serves Michael’s wish to be top-dog over Simon.

    Compare this with voting. Voting is the adult’s equivalent of the ‘three-way trap’ trick. How often have you heard something like “who you vote for isn’t so important, so long as you do use your vote” at election time? Careful! The three-way trap is reaching out to grab you:

    The ‘Pinch-Me’ option: you vote, and your chosen candidate or party wins the election. Well, you can’t complain, because you got what you wanted.

    The ‘Punch-Me’ option: you vote, and your chosen candidate or party loses the election. Well, you can’t complain, because that’s the way the system works. Better luck next time!

    The ‘Tread-On-My-Toes’ option: you don’t vote. Well, you can’t complain, because you had the chance to vote and didn’t use it. If you’re too lazy and apathetic to drag yourself down to the village hall to put a ballot paper into a box, why should anybody listen to your whining?

    See the common thread here? “You can’t complain” – whatever you do. It’s a rigged game because all of the courses of action open to you will be interpreted as support for the system that wants power – specifically, power over you.

    You are Simon, and your only permitted options are to invite Michael to pinch you, punch you, or tread on your toes – he doesn’t really care which. But it’s important to Michael that he can’t be accused of bullying you – after all, you did ask him to do it … didn’t you?

  • Gnome Chomsky

    Couple of off-topic things.

    I’ve often thought that government doing more stuff dilutes democracy, that one vote has to encompass more stuff. Is there a further discussion of this anywhere?

    Second, https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/controlling-or-coercive-behaviour-intimate-or-family-relationship Is it just me or does this seem scarily subjective?

  • Paul Marks

    ZY – I do not mind voting, although (of course) I do not like losing a vote.

    But what really angers me is “winning” the vote and the state expanding anyway.

    Fake elections, for example in an American context between Democrats and RINOs, are not good. Like the victories of George Romney in Michigan and Nelson Rockefeller in New York in the 1960s – the same “educated” swine but with an “R” rather than a “D” after their name. Or the ardent Mao fan “Conservative” Edward Heath in Britain or…….

    “You had a vote” rings rather hollow when you “won” the vote and taxes, government spending and regulations all went UP.

    Last year (June 2016) we in Britain voted to leave the European Union – and we are still paying them money, and we are still obeying their regulations.

    There has been lots and lots of talk – but really the vote has been IGNORED in terms of actual reality.

    Now we are told we will be independent after March 2019 (yes – 19, not 18) – accept that we will still pay the E.U. money and still obey all their regulations (plus any new ones they think up) even after then.

    Arguing about whether democracy is good or bad is pointless – when THE RESULT OF THE VOTE IS SUBVERTED.

  • Lee Moore

    …Arthur Anderson, the accounting firm that went bust…

    Yes it did. But it’s topical to remember how it went bust. It had its auditing licence removed, as soon as the investigation began. The loss of its licence led instantly to the collapse of its business. Because you can’t run your business if it’s illegal to operate that business without a government licence, and if you’ve had your licence removed. Eventually, long after Andersen went bust, and the various legal cases finally made their way through the courts, the Supreme Court threw out all the charges, largely on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct and fanciful legal theory overreach.

    The guy in charge of the prosecutions was a fellow called Weissmann who is now No.2 in Mueller’s Trump-Russia team.

  • bobby b

    If you’re speaking in terms of what you will “trust” other people to do in some moral sense, you’ve already lost the war and deserve what you get.

    I “trust” that other people will act in their own self-interest – some competently, many not – and they should “trust” that I will do the same.

    If, in a word game, I calculate that the second choice with the name “Punch Me” will survive the storm, and I say this name, and you gleefully punch me, I will smack your head with a brick. What on earth could make you think that your rules protect you from my rules? My rules say, specifically, that when this happens, I hit you on the head with a brick. “Trust” me on this.

    If I vote for John Smith and he wins and then turns thief, prepare yourself for my complaining, about Smith and about the system that allows him to steal from me. Not only will I complain, but I will push to change what it is that allowed him to steal. If your rules prevent YOU from complaining, you have my sympathies, but those are not my rules.

    Coleman has it right.

  • Laird

    Lee, I knew all of that except the last sentence. Thanks for the info.

    Mueller is so blatantly dishonest, and his appointees so obviously conflicted, that he should be dismissed and possibly prosecuted himself. But Trump is probably wise to steer clear of it and allow Mueller destroy himself. He seems to be doing a competent job at that, anyway.

  • Rich Rostrom

    It’s not a contradiction.

    There are lots of things which I can’t do myself, have others do for me, and judge whether they do it well.

    Collective delegation operates on a similar principle.

    The oddity comes in when decisions affecting individuals are delegated.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Signing off. Have a happy new year to all, Brexit and Climate change willing!

  • bob sykes

    Pretty good arguments for hereditary monarchs. Of course, the only legitimate monarchs are those who conquer their realms by armed force. William the Conqueror and the Good Emperors being the prime examples.

  • Pretty good arguments for hereditary monarchs

    Er, wut? It is not a good argument for replacing the inane whims of many for the inane whims of one vermin in ermine. It is however a good argument for a constitutionally limited state.

  • Ferox

    It is however a good argument for a constitutionally limited state.

    There is no mechanism by which a state can simultaneously represent the will of its people and remain a limited state. Even a strongly written constitution is no protection … as in Nomic, all the rules (even the immutable ones) are subject to alteration.

    There are two reasons for this, IMHO. (1) Politicians, by their very nature, desire power. They gain power by distributing spoils to their supporters. They keep themselves employed, therefore, by continuously expanding the State. (2) People like gettin’ stuff paid for by someone else … and they like interfering with their neighbors affairs even more.

    tl;dr version – you can’t preserve a limited state because most of the population doesn’t want it. They want big Daddy to redistribute your toys and keep you from doing that thing they don’t like.

  • NickM

    Does TV matter anymore? Seriously. It is moving wallpaper. That is all.

  • James Hargrave

    ‘Vermin in ermine’ is surely better applied to the lumpen-peers flushed into the H of L since (esp.) 1999.

  • Ferox, I think the state not excessively representing some notional ‘Will of the People’ is a feature not a bug, and precisely why a limited state is so desirable

  • Edward

    Do newspapers and TV even matter anymore? On my daily commute the only paper in evidence is the Metro. And in the world that has Netflix and Amazon Prime, who bothers with broadcast TV now? Any programme I watch nowadays from the traditional broadcasters (and they are very few indeed), I usually download through their online service.

    The days when The Sun or the BBC could dictate the national discourse are thankfully long gone.

  • NickM

    You said it better than me.

  • Mr Ed

    The days when The Sun or the BBC could dictate the national discourse are thankfully long gone.

    I would agree, except for a caveat that what the political class listen to and care about seems to be more about what plays inside their bubble, and to that limited extent, the media matter in that they have to talk about something. The other function, as with the education system, is that it is enough for now, for people, if they do not believe in the State as our bountiful Lord and Master, should at least stop knowing anything that might give them pause for thought, beyond the fog of uncertainty that they are steeped in.

  • Paul Marks

    Perry – a constitutionally limited state is a fine idea, as long as this is not trusted to JUDGES.

    As American history has shown – judges can say that water is dry and that 1+1=78. They can not be trusted with a Constitution – and it is not just the United States, South Africa and other nations (and States such as California – when the judges have long urinated and defecated upon the State Constitution) show the same story. A legal training enables someone to get even the most clear document and pretend it says the opposite of what it says.

    So as judges can not be trusted, that leaves a jury as the alternative – and juries are little democracies, with all the vices and all the virtues of ordinary people.

  • Laird

    “A legal training enables someone to get even the most clear document and pretend it says the opposite of what it says.”

    Of course it does. That’s what it is supposed to do. We call it “legal reasoning”.

    “So as judges can not be trusted, that leaves a jury as the alternative – and juries are little democracies, with all the vices and all the virtues of ordinary people.”

    Which is the reason I am a strong advocate of jury nullification. According to a law review article I read*, in early Rhode Island judges held office “not for the purpose of deciding causes, for the jury decided all questions of law and fact; but merely to preserve order, and see that the parties had a fair chance with the jury.” (Emphasis added.) Other New England colonies apparently followed a similar practice. Juries are the final bulwark against an oppressive state. They are “a palladium of liberty”, in Lysander Spooner’s felicitous phrase.

    And I would add one other possible corrective mechanism (for the US, anyway) which, unfortunately, does not really exist: the states themselves. As the creators of the federal government, and the assignors of the powers it wields, they should have the ability (collectively) to overrule any federal law or regulation. But they haven’t seriously asserted such power since 1798 (in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions).

    * Eaton, The Development of the Judicial System in Rhode Island, 14 Yale Law Journal 148, 153 (1905) as quoted in Howe, Juries As Judges Of Criminal Law, 52 Harvard Law Review 582, 591 (1939).

  • Thailover

    It’s somewhat simple, though sad to an Ayn Rand Objectivist like me. That is, humanity evolved in tribes, and tribalism has been the norm for 99.9999% of our existence. Deferring to a tribal chief and his divine council is the norm. Most people are terrified of the idea of self sovereignty and being responsible for their own lives and the lives of their children. Most people want to be told what to think, what to wear, what to do, though they pretend at “diversity”. The truth is, most people are about as interested in actual diversity as a house cat is interested in getting a soapy bath. ‘Think that the mediocre are against all rich people? Nope, only the non-divine, non-chosen, because they assume that (a) the rich must steal from the poor, and (b), it shows them to be losers in comparison. But for the chieftains and the divine council to be filthy rich…well, that’s OK it seems. It turns my stomach to be honest.