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

Political and economic theories are never implemented in pure form, and their adherents are rarely impressed by politicians who claim to be inspired by them. That’s just par for the course. Marxists, however, are pretty much the only thinkers who accept no responsibility whatsoever for real-world approximations of their ideas. Third-Way advocates may have despaired over Blair, Hayekians can – and do – rant all day about Thatcher’s shortcomings, and ordoliberals have written scathing condemnations of Konrad Adenauer. But ask them whether they think those respective governments did more good than harm on balance; ask them whether they think those governments were preferable to the next likely alternatives – and you will get an unambiguous and unqualified “Yes!” as an answer.

In contrast, hardly any contemporary Marxist would accept that whatever ‘real’ socialism is – surely, East Germany was at least closer to it than West Germany, North Korea is at least closer to it than South Korea, Venezuela is at least closer to it than Peru, Maoist China was at least closer to it than Taiwan, etc.

And why would they? It works for them. Every other idea is judged by its necessarily crude, incomplete and imperfect real-world approximations, warts and all. Only Marxism has the luxury of being judged purely as a set of ideas, which something as mundane as real-world experience could never blemish.

Kristian Niemietz

30 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Thailover

    In reality, people are not identical. Reality leads to unequal outcome. Therefore reality is “unfair”.

  • Thinking themselves so clever they can evaluate a theory without needing to regard any real-world outcomes is how people get to be socialists. But it is interesting to speculate what a modern marxists would say if asked whether

    East Germany was at least closer to it than West Germany, North Korea is at least closer to it than South Korea, Venezuela is at least closer to it than Peru, Maoist China was at least closer to it than Taiwan

    After all, if the way towards the socialist paradise were to make your country less and less like the first set and more and more like the second, the average socialist might be less useful than Margaret Thatcher in achieving it.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Very true.

    One could quibble that orthodox Marxism could not possibly be implemented in practice because it was just a prediction, not a program for action; that some of its offshoots (or perhaps more correctly, heresies) have clearly failed (most importantly, Leninism and fascism) while others are thriving, even though they are doing more harm than good (e.g. social democracy and Frankfurt Marxism). But even so, the quote remains true.

  • pete

    Most Marxists have no need to concern themselves with the real world because they are so effectively insulated from it in academia.

  • bobby b

    “Only Marxism has the luxury of being judged purely as a set of ideas, which something as mundane as real-world experience could never blemish.”

    Marxism is really the only philosophy that holds Aggregate Man as godhead. The mistakes and mischief committed in Marxism’s name are thus blameable on individual actors serving the godhead imperfectly, and the god remains blameless.

  • Deep Lurker

    Marxism is not just an economic and political theory, but a conspiracy theory as well. So a Marxist can put down any failure of socialism-in-practice as being due to hostile action by socialism’s enemies.

  • “It works for them” only because we allow it to work for them. We do not treat Marxists as they should be treated. They are advocates of a system of governance that would offer us the choice between slavery and death and should be treated as such.

    We do not do so and it is a critical question why we do not do so at a time when we are not forced to do so.

  • Mr Black

    Because Marxists are evil and know that their ideas are evil. They have to lie to advance their agenda. It’s not a difficult problem to understand.

    TMLutas, I think that this issue is at the root of a lot of modern social problems today, instead of treating Marxists like paedophiles, that is, radioactive in normal society, far, far too many people are happy to treat this call to slavery and murder as just another free speech issue. It isn’t, people who advocate for this should be forcibly excluded from society.

  • Runcie Balspune

    For the meme-aware among us, spotted this in the wild the other day:

  • the other rob

    As TMLutas and Mr Black say, we enable them by our insipid responses.

    But how best to respond? In a week or so, one of them will be holding a campaign rally in our small town. I’m not sure why – this was and still is Barry Goldwater country, but I don’t intend to interrupt the enemy while he is making a mistake.

    Given what he wants to do to me and mine, some might suggest that he be killed. But that runs contrary to a lifetime of not wishing to normalize violence in service of a political agenda. Not to mention the non-aggression principle.

    On the other hand, attempting to engage in honest debate at a partisan stage managed event seems futile. Worse, it might even lend a veneer of legitimacy to his vile agenda.

    So, I think that I shall mock him. I will point and laugh, be snide and cutting in the most entertaining way that I can and generally try to wind him up.

    Perhaps if enough people do that to him, for long enough, he will snap and physically attack somebody. In Texas.

  • Mr Black

    I don’t think it would be a bad thing if violence against marxists were normalized, but in a society so bereft of morals and education most people wouldn’t be able to distinguish bewteen fighting evil and just fighting.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    It’s NOT just Marxism- Plato and Platonic ideals are also held in awe, even though when they are applied, they don’t work.
    I wonder if it’s the claim to be universal that drags people in? Or could they be jealous of successful people, and want to drag them back to the norm?

  • Paul Marks

    The denial of responsibility for the horrific consequences of Marxist regimes, indeed that the regimes are “really Marxist”, is a SCAM.

    If the left really thought these regimes were not “really Marxist” they would refuse to work with them – yet most of the left (not all – but most) has always worked with these regimes. In everything from handing over military secrets (such as the Atomic Bomb – the Rosenbergs were defended by almost all the left) to spreading anti Western propaganda about the Vietnam War (although some libertarians acted as “useful idiots” spreading Communist propaganda “American intervened to help French Imperialism” and on-and-on, as well) and everything else.

    If, for example, the Castro family in Cuba are not “really” Marxists then why did you support them coming to power in the 1950s New York Times (actually it pretended they were not Marxists – and used that as a reason to support their “struggle”) and why does the Mayor of New York have a long record of supporting the Castro family and other Marxist regimes?

    If this is not what you want, why do you support it? The answer is simple – the answer is that these regimes (“Lenin”, Castro and so on) ARE WHAT THE LEFT WANT.

  • Y. Knott

    In reality, people are not identical. Reality leads to unequal outcome. Therefore reality is “unfair”.

    Heh – I wonder if it cares? Philip K. Dick put it rather well: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Physicists say that when you stop observing reality, it isn’t there! So who can say that belief can’t affect it?

  • bobby b

    “Physicists say that when you stop observing reality, it isn’t there!”

    Oh, great. We’ve been wondering if Schrodinger’s cat was alive or dead, and now it might just be gone?

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    It’s alive if you really believe in your heart!

  • Mr Ed

    The cat would be in the warmest, snuggest spot for a nap in all likelihood, unless it was hungry. Every biologist knows that.

  • NickM

    Actually the physics situation is perhaps more complicated. The point that complicates it is the definition of “observation”.Is it when the CCD or film pick up the image or is it when an intelligent observer looks at that film or the screen? That and what is an “intelligent observer” anyway? Do animals count? What about plants? Seriously plants. They display phototaxis amongst other things. My personal feeling is the defining of an observer is very difficult, perhaps impossible.

  • the other rob

    It’s alive if you really believe in your heart!

    Fuck off, Dobby!

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Just because you don’t comprehend modern physics, other Rob, is no reason to get foul-mouthed with me!
    NickM, I think that second-hand acts of observation also lock in reality. For instance, if you look at waves on a beach, even though you aren’t looking at the Sun or the Moon, the light, and the gravity that produced the waves, are caused by something, so your use of light locks in the source, or sources.

  • bobby b

    May 8, 2018 at 7:49 am

    “The point that complicates it is the definition of “observation”.Is it when the CCD or film pick up the image or is it when an intelligent observer looks at that film or the screen? That and what is an “intelligent observer” anyway?”

    Don’t you negate the whole “Shrodinger’s Cat” story if your system allows for the cat’s own observations to count?

  • bobby b

    And, if you’re a religious person, how could you ever posit any situation which wasn’t directly observable and observed by God? Is religion incompatible with quantum theory?

    Okay, I’ll stop now.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Bob, bob, bob! I read a while back that you could do the same experiment with sleeping gas and a room full of volunteers. They would not report being unreal, or indeterminate! The uncertainty factor is that scientists couldn’t predict the outcome, even thinking they know all the forces involved. Scientists are in love with certainty.
    I prefer my own idea- that the vacuum pressure fluctuates due to particles travelling around, and sometime this means that radioactive atoms have less pressure from the vacuum to hold themselves together, and explode. (One interpretation of the Casimir Effect.) We get rid of mysticism this way, and can go back to determinism

  • NickM

    The self observation thing is an issue here. The point I was trying (badly) to get at is if you take the Copenhagen interpretation at face value you have the incredibly difficult additional question of defining an observer. It is certainly not the only (meta?)physical issue with Copenhagen.

    As to God… Well obviously an omnipresent God solves this. Some people go as far as to suggest this as a proof of God’s existence. And it would be a beautifully simple solution (which would be nice in QMech!) but personally I think it’s maybe too pat. Of the alternatives to Copenhagen the only one that really stands up is the modern approach of David Deutsch (and others) to Many Worlds. The other alternatives are Hidden Variables and treating QMech as essentially just statistical both of which are in book cop-outs. The first the first is saying there is something else going on that we don’t/can’t understand and the second is saying, “Well, transistors, lasers and atom bombs actually work – isn’t that enough without asking why they work?”

  • Dear Sir,
          I think that God
    Must find it exceedingly odd
    that the college tree
    can continue to be
    when there’s no-one around in the quad.

    Dear Sir,
          your astonishment’s odd.
    I am always around in the quad –
    and that’s why the tree
    can continue to be,
    since observed by,
          yours faithfully,

    The copenhagen interpretation uses the (IMNSHO unhelpful) term ‘observer’ when noting that the probabilities of the outcomes of any experiment suggest that the eigenfunction evolves, i.e. does not immediately collapse into an eigenstate, yet has always collapsed by the time the outcome is measured. That is, two different physical models are required to explain observed results, and ‘observer’ is merely a term that rather conceals than reveals that there is no agreed explanation of what causes the switch between them.

    The poems are fun but IIUC a continuously observing God would not especially solve this particular philosophical problem, only one who discretely looked at creation faster than any scientist. (IIRC, the poems were written to describe Bishop Berkeley’s philosophy, decades before quantum mechanics.)

    My bet is that the eigenfunction only ever collapses because the curvature of spacetime includes astigmatism, and it collapses whenever the accumulated difference between the eigenstates amounts to one graviton, but to say this is an unsettled question in physics is putting it mildly – so I do not expect it to be settled on this blog. 🙂

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    And Bob, the whole Many-worlds and Multiverse theories are compatible with God. Physicists say that life occurred by pure chance on Earth, and then evolved. If you claim that chaos first exists and Universes evolve from it, then you have to consider that lifeforms must evolve from chaos. (Are you going to claim that there must be a law that stops lawless chaos from doing that? Then that law is God). So my argument is that either God created the Chaos, or God spontaneously evolved from Chaos and now controls it. And it is ‘now’ because our sense of time is linked to our Universe.
    Therefore quantum phenomena are compatible with God.

  • NickM

    We have to be very careful in using the term “Chaos”. As far as even Chaos Theory is concerned the very term “Chaos” is poorly defined or rather has way too many possible definitions. John Horgan in his book “The End of Science” Horgan gives umpteen examples. As far as the very early Universe is concerned I prefer the term “disordered”. Now because gravity is always attractive any inhomogeneity will result in clumping and then stars and galaxies*. Given gravity (with some restrictions with respect to the rate of expansion) some form of structure is inevitable.

    Now what that means as far as God is probably more an issue for theologians than physicists.

    “God spontaneously evolved from Chaos and now controls it.” This intrigues me. I have heard something similar before. In the “Physics of Immortality” Frank Tipler explores the idea of God as being in the future. The basic idea stems theologically from the possibility of translating The Burning Bush’s utterance as, “I will be what I will be”. Physically this means – I read this twenty years ago mind – the Universe being essentially a giant quantum(?) computer and that the Universe is closed and re-collapses so as spactime gets smaller the machine gets asymptotically faster until it becomes infinitely fast at the final singularity and that is God. So, in a very real sense (if this is true), essentially the Universe is defined by it’s end and not it’s beginning.

    Personally I am inclined to think it’s gloriously fascinating woo-woo stuff.

    For myself I cannot think of any serious scientific theory in any field which has anything to say about the nature or existence of God.

    *AFAIK the jury is still very much out as to whether you get stars first that then congregate into galaxies or whether you get big clumps within which stars eventually condense. Basically whether Cosmic structure is bottom-up or top-down.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    I also read the same book, but one of the predictions in the book was that the Universe would contract back to a compact object. This would allow the Universe to become the biggest mind possible, as it integrated all knowledge. But the Universe seems to be expanding. His book didn’t talk about that.
    My observation takes in all types of Universes, since Scientists speculate that our Universe may not be unique.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall, ++++ on the poem! Yours? Your cousin’s? ???


    All I can tell you is, I have just checked and SlipperKitty is exactly where predicted: Curled up on the couch, napping.

    Must have been her doppelgänger which was absent in Denmark. Or present, of course. Hard to say which.