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

Perhaps, then, the most dangerous piece of ‘common sense’ in Peterson’s new book comes at the very beginning, when he imparts the essential piece of wisdom for anyone interested in fighting a powerful, existing order. ‘Stand up straight,’ begins Rule No. 1, ‘with your shoulders back.’

Caitlin Flanagan, in the Atlantic Monthly.

34 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Alisa

    It is quite brilliant on her part to put it in that light, and good on you for spotting it. By now I have heard that rule as quoted from Peterson at least a dozen times, but as it was not new to me to begin with, I kept thinking about it as just a good natural personal attitude in general.

  • bobby b

    When I read this (very good) article, I had to look back up at the URL to confirm that it really was appearing in The Atlantic.

    I’d give it a 30% chance that the article will be withdrawn and the editors will issue an obsequious apology.

  • Paul Marks

    Interesting article – even if it is a bit depressing that the young men still basically went along with the left (voting the way they were expected to – and so on), at least they did listen to Professor Peterson – and were influenced by him, and may be more influenced in the future.

    And YES – Jordan Peterson is a great enemy of the “Alt Right” (not just the left). The “Alt Right” wants to build an Identity Politics based on whiteness (indeed sometimes on white maleness) – whereas Jordan Peterson rejects Identity Politics itself.

    That is a massive divide – and it speaks volumes for the ignorance of much of the left that they can not tell the difference between Jordan Peterson and the “Alt Right”.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Paul, that’s not ignorance.

    It’s projection.

  • William R

    That is actually the most useful thing in the book. If you are having one of those times in your day, just stand up straight and put your shoulders back. You will feel the difference.

    I have some quibbles with him, not about his politics and social issues. If you condense what he is saying in his psychology advice however it is mostly just good common sense.

  • Slartibartfarst

    That is a massive divide – and it speaks volumes for the ignorance of much of the left that they can not tell the difference between Jordan Peterson and the “Alt Right”.
    – Paul Marks – August 9, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    I would suggest that, if the Left are conflating JP with the “Alt Right”, then it would be no accident. JP would have to be labelled as Fascist, Nazi, Alt Right, or something suitably derogatory, because those are labels reserved for people whom the Left are obliged to disagree with on principle. regardless of the argument. It’s simply the usual necessary intolerance of Others’ beliefs/arguments.

  • Paul Marks

    The Wobbly Guy and Slartibartfarst.

    I accept your correction – I should have thought of this myself (clearly I was more tired than I thought I was).

  • Alisa

    The Atlantic regularly publishes sensible articles – they are clearly and often strongly biased towards the left, but they seem to make a real effort to check that bias in, and to let diverging opinions be heard. In that they probably are one of the last enclaves of sanity among the mainstream media, if not the only one left, and it’s not as if anyone can be certain that they can keep it up for much longer either.

  • even if it is a bit depressing that the young men still basically went along with the left (voting the way they were expected to – and so on), at least they did listen to Professor Peterson (Paul Marks August 9, 2018 at 9:37 pm)

    Paul, I read her article as thinking that these young men began as conforming to their PC environment but were gradually, indirectly and slowly freeing themselves from PCness. She thinks the identarian left is “in peril” from what she describes. She even suggests it is dying – in part, from what she describes. She’s suggesting their PC indoctrination is wilting.

    While Democrats are ‘in peril’, she seems no Trump supporter and says (perhaps hopes?) that Republicans cannot take these young men for granted (probably good advice for all that).

  • bobby b

    “The Atlantic regularly publishes sensible articles . . . “

    The last six or eight times I’ve gone there, it’s been pure non-self-aware lefty.

    But, as I think about it, to be fair, I usually go there from a link which exists on a site that is most likely to want to show me “what a dumb thing The Atlantic said yesterday.”

    So “the last six or eight times” were likely not representative. I should give The Atlantic more respect.

  • bobby b

    I get a kick out of people – especially on the left – who think Peterson is conservative, simply because he champions values and uprightness. People who decide that they must be opposed to him simply because he champions the same values and uprightness that conservatives have always claimed to champion, which are now considered patriarchal and serving entrenched interests mostly because conservatives claim them.

    Peterson is on the liberal side of the continuum in most every way. If I had to characterize him, I’d say he’s a model Boy Scout leader.

    The Scout Law says that Scouts are “Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.” Twelve characteristics. They can be nicely matched up with Peterson’s Twelve Rules. Peterson is a liberal Boy Scout.

  • Alisa

    Bobby, in what way is Peterson not a conservative?

  • Alisa

    As to the Atlantic, of course they also regularly publish dumb stuff, being lefties and all 🙂 It’s just that they are not militant about their views, and seem to be willing to tolerate different views as well – something that no longer can be said of the rest of the MSM. OTOH, a disclosure is in order: I stopped following them because most of the stuff is biased to the left and it has simply become boring, and because there are enough other outlets where I can read diverging non-leftist views without having to wade through the boring stuff. I guess I’m as guilty of seeking my bias confirmation as any other person 🙂

  • Bobby, in what way is Peterson not a conservative?

    He supports ‘redistribution of wealth’ on the basis of his anthropological theory that most violence is rooted in income inequality as that means low status low income males cannot attract mates so they tend to turn to violence as a means of raising their status within their communities. Not a very conservative view 😉

  • The Fyrdman

    I would clarify that he tends to say that he doesn’t know how to solve that problem, but he doesn’t object to redistribution for that reason. Which means he wouldnt be opposed to other solutions, either. This is where he clearly diverges from the centre left, which has a pathological attachment to state redistribution regardless of the effect.

  • Alisa

    I never understood his opinions on the distribution of wealth and the reasons for inequality to imply political support for the re-distribution of wealth by a government, but I’m willing to be proven wrong by seeing evidence supporting that claim. I also happen to think that your take on his understanding of the reasons for inequality is simplistic at best.

    In any case, I doubt that conservatism necessarily implies indifference to inequality – to me, all it implies with regard to that issue is holding that this is a problem best addressed by the civil society.

  • NickM

    I recently had a haircut at the Turkish barbers just down the road. If you are ever in need of a haircut and you are in SE Manchester / NE Cheshire I recommend Mazig’s. Anyway, I made a mistake. I went at lunchtime and I had to wait which meant reading the entirety of the print version of the Daily Mail and indeed flicking through the Express. God help me. Utter drivel. If that is the right wing press then we is stuffed. I even read the Mail’s “fun facts about Ivory Coast”. Did you know that “Cote d’Ivoire” is an anagram of “erotic video”? Well, you do now.

    So, I am with Alisa here. I would much rather read leftie stuff that is at least well written than utter tripe of any stripe.

  • CaptDMO

    For the record, IMHO:
    “Well written” =/= not tripe.
    Of course, it doesn’t exclude it either.

  • Stonyground

    I can’t understand why it is not universally acknowledged that ‘redistribution of wealth’ is a euphemism for theft. Even people who think that it is a good idea must know this. Then again, maybe they don’t, they are stupid enough to believe that they will always be on the receiving end when the wealth is redistributed. They are stupid enough to think that any society can continue to function after property rights have been abandoned.

  • RRS


    Are you familiar with the views of Amartya Sen on “Equality?”


    I think this may give some background to some of the shaping of Peterson’s “thinking,’ if not his articulation of his own thinking.

  • Alisa

    No RRS, and I have never heard Peterson mentioning him. I do think though that by now I have a relatively good grasp on Peterson’s views on the subject, although far be it from me to speak for him or anyone else.

  • bobby b

    “Bobby, in what way is Peterson not a conservative?”

    I draw a distinction between “conservative” and “classical liberal”, even though many conservatives like to think of themselves as classical liberals. “Conservative” carries with it a lot of non-classical-liberal baggage that seems closed-minded and tribal.

    Progressives who object to Peterson tend to equate him with “conservatism” in this closed-minded and tribal sense, even though there’s no support for this in what he says. This allows them to label him enemy and anathema without having to debate the merits of classical liberalism. That’s a label they’d like to appropriate to themselves, so it’s inconvenient for them when they violate so many of its tenets.

    Peterson really isn’t chart-able along the usual progressive-conservative continuum. He doesn’t deal with those areas. Classical liberalism can also, just like Peterson, be represented at different points along that prog-cons continuum, depending on the issue.

    Long ago, in some dumb sociology class, I did a paper on how the traditional Boy Scout program was based on Confucianism. Everyone knows the Confucius quote that goes like this:

    “To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.”

    That’s really the heart of the Boy Scout Law and philosophy, and, more and more, I think that’s the heart of Peterson. He’s not concerning himself with issues related to progressivism versus conservatism – to how society ought to regulate itself. He speaks to a more fundamental, personal set of issues – how each one of us ought to regulate ourselves. “Conservatives” like to claim him as their own, but that’s not accurate. He’s more of a non-political classical liberal. He champions the values that both conservatives and progressives (falsely, at times) claim to champion.

    (In hindsight, my comment should have specified “classical liberal” where I said “liberal.”)

  • CaptDMO

    “…Stand up straight,with your shoulders back.”
    Oh SURE……
    TYPICAL patriarchal, heterosexual,toxic masculinity, posturing!!!!!
    Done to get women to project their breasts!!!!!!
    It triggers me. I feel threatened.
    (um…ok, not really)

  • Tedd


    I recal noting several places in his biblical series (nearly the only material of his I have seen) where he supported policies that I think would generally be considered progressive. Sorry, I can no longer remember specifics and it would take too long to look them up. I would guess that his personal politics is closer to progressivism than it is to classical liberalism. But it’s the progressivism of John F. Kennedy more so that the progressivism of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. That is, it’s constrained by a strong respect for individual liberty and a very strong respect for free speech.

    Bobby b’s liberal Boy Scout model is about right. I would say liberal Boy Scout leader who traditionally votes Liberal but may be having second thoughts because of speech laws and other illiberal ideas that have crept into the party.

  • Alisa

    Bobby, thanks for clarifying. And FWIW, that pretty much matches my reading of the man.

  • Alisa

    Tedd, I also noticed those because they were alarming enough, and so I paid further attention to this particular issue in his other talks and interviews, quite a few of them altogether outside the Biblical series and even outside of the Biblical or religious context altogether (yes, he does that!) So my overall impression is that his heart is in the right place on this as far as forceful redistribution of wealth is concerned. However and as I implied earlier, he is concerned enough with inequality to think that it shouldn’t be ignored, plus he has empirical evidence to show that violence can in fact be traced to inequality, among other things. Personally I tend to agree with him, FWIW.

    As to possible solutions to inequality, he is quite clear as to it being inevitable, and so it is clearly not something that he would seek to eradicate. I do surmise from his talks that he thinks that free society should make efforts to minimize it for its own good (see violence) if not for the good of those at the societal fringes, but ultimately not being about politics as noted by Bobby, he is not arrogant enough to suggest practical (or “practical”) solutions – and I kind of like that as well.

  • Stonyground

    I’ve always felt that the answer to inequality is social mobility. By this I mean that anyone who finds themselves at the bottom of the heap has a pathway to greater prosperity if they are prepared to put in the effort. I also think that inequality is not only inevitable but also neccessary. Genuine equality would make it impossible for anyone to improve their position and so remove all incentives to be productive.

  • chip

    There is nothing that Peterson says that hasn’t been told to kids for many generations. It’s common sense cultivated from millennia of trial and error.

    The most interesting point about the Peterson phenomenon is that it serves as a tidal marker for our culture. The Left – through its control of education, entertainment and the media – has pulled our culture so far out to sea that when some people do find themselves on the shore again, it feels alien yet somehow familiar.

  • Alisa

    Stonyground, the problem is that not everyone is capable of taking advantage of social mobility. Plus, even if that was not the case, inequality would still exist – although yes, social mobility is the optimal way to minimize it.

  • Paul Marks

    Niall – the key test is indeed voting. Which way these young men (and young women?) actually vote. Do they just have doubts about the left – or are they going to actually LEAVE the left.

    Donald Trump actually complicates matters – as he has, at least to many people (certainly not all leftists), a troubling manner and style. People may reject the left, but still not want to vote for Donald Trump – which is why the media (and so on) are determined to make everything about “Trump” not about IDEAS. If the left really are losing the battle of ideas – making everything about “Trump” and “Russia” is good tactics by the left (the media, the education system…….). But are they really losing the battle of ideas – or is it just a matter of “doubts” rather than actual REJECTION of the left position?

    Also there is the position of WOMEN – unless one thinks that women should not have the vote (like the rather strange “Black Pigeon Speaks” who has a large YouTube following – in spite of posting some films full of factual mistakes, for example his film on the power of the City of London was unintentionally funny) then what women think is important – they are, after all, the majority of people.

    Women can also be reached by Classical Liberal ideas – and, indeed, can spread them. For example “Roaming Millennial” does so on social media.

    Conservativism and Classical Liberalism.

    The Conservativism of, for example, the “Old Whig” Edmund Burke was always Classical Liberal in its economics – far more so than Jeremy Bentham and the Westminister Review crowd, including (sadly J.S. Mill) who end up demanding endless “public services” (a national or local government department for almost everything) and supporting taxing private large scale land ownership into nonexistence – when, for example, the utterly vile Economist magazine claims to be part of a tradition that can trace its line back (via J.M. Keynes and the Bloomsbury set) to this side of J.S. Mill and Jeremy Bentham they are actually (for once) TELLING THE TRUTH.

    There is a perfectly logical development of ideas from Bentham and (a-side-of) James and even John Stuart Mill to modern leftist academia and politicians such as Sir Vince Cable and the Liberal Democrats – the endless use of the words freedom and liberty, whilst (at the same time) pushing for bigger and bigger government. In the United States the modern left can point (and JUSTLY point) to the endless promises of new public services by Thomas Paine (to be paid for by taxes up to 100% on the owners of large amounts of property) to show their own tradition.

    The same is true on religion – the modern left is (mainly) atheist, but so was J.S. Mill and (really) Jeremy Bentham, and Thomas Paine (whilst a deist) was no friend of Christianity or any historical religion with their claims that a church should be socially powerful in their own right, not just under THE STATE.

    Modern people who try to oppose all this – and marry a sense of NATION and CULTURAL TRADITION with free market economics and strictly limited government (which, again, Edmund Burke was a far better representative of than J.S. Mill was) include Lauren Southern.

    At this point cries of protest start – “but Lauren Southern is a RACIST, she is ALT RIGHT” – now that is a long debate, and not one that I can really deal with in a comment that has already gone on long enough.

    But if every appeal to NATIONHOOD and CULTURAL TRADITION is going to be denounced as “racist” and “Alt Right” then the West is most certainly doomed.

    Certainly Prime Minister Gladstone stood for NATIONHOOD and CULTURAL TRADITION – was Classical Liberal Prime Minister Gladstone “racist” and “alt right”?

    “Yes!” would say modern liberals (at least in private) “look at the horrible things he said about Islam!” – a Liberalism that (at least in private) thinks that Prime Minister Gladstone was “racist” and “Alt Right” has no charm for me.

    There must be a union of a belief in cultural tradition (and nationhood) with free market economics and a strictly limited government. I would argue that this is the position of Lauren Southern and others. And that it can appeal to women – not just to men.

  • Alisa

    But are they really losing the battle of ideas – or is it just a matter of “doubts” rather than actual REJECTION of the left position?

    How can one expect a rejection of ideas without first having doubts about them?

  • As Alisa says, the rejection of previously-accepted propaganda is preceded by doubts. However it is not just an intellectual process. Thomas Sowell, at the end of Conflicts and Cultures (if you read just one Sowell book, let it be that one) explains how journeying through political apostasy can be as personally painful as any other kind (over and above your PC environment treating it as muslims do), and this can delay things a lot.

    I share Paul’s regret at any who have not yet moved to voting more sensibly, but their adopting Peterson personally will at least prevent their being cheerleaders for the rapid move of the overton window to the left. Politics is downstream of culture, so better culture helps better politics. And if the article writer talks of ‘peril’ to the left, then she expects some will vote.

  • bobby b

    “But are they really losing the battle of ideas – or is it just a matter of “doubts” rather than actual REJECTION of the left position?”

    So long as they vote with me, I don’t care if it’s out of conviction or confusion. Whether they’ve become “conservative” or “classically liberal” due to Prof. P, I benefit.

    It does make it harder to judge if they’ll be with me again next time, but it’s still an effective two votes on my side if they switch (a vote gets added to our tally, and no vote is added to the other side) or one vote if they simply doubt and stay home. So, yay for now, but we’d better impress them before the next vote, and btw it’s much easier to do that if we’re in power.