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.

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Samizdata quote of the day

I am persuaded that no system of government — democratic, oligarchic, aristocratic, monarchical, tyrannical, oriental despotic or worse, liberal-progressive — can deliver anything resembling justice in this world, unless it is under the direction of angels.

David Warren, via Maggie’s Farm

17 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.

    The OP quote is too negative for my taste. By a sufficiently demanding standard, the quote is true, but the authors of the federalist papers whom I quote above still thought the US constitution worth hammering out. The resemblance to justice of Churchill’s government was quite noticeably better than that of Stalin or Hitler. And the resemblance of constitutional government to justice is noticeably better than anything that today’s liberal progressives will serve up.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Justice is an ideal, a thing toward which most social groups strive … but not the only thing, which is the first worm in the woodpile.

    Justice means different things to different people, hence to the overall sense of a given social group. The second worm in the woodpile.

    Justice is not necessarily the first thing which a social group strives to achieve; even if it puts Justice as its most important social aim, concern for the well-being of others, and also vengeance, may be sufficiently important as to color decisions of the group as to what is just. The third worm in the woodpile.

    The members of any particular social group, even one consisting of only two members, are not always in agreement about what constitutes Justice in a given case. Indeed, there may be no “overall sense” of a given group in a given case. The fourth Worm.

    (This is a problem even for a single person. There are often “mixed emotions” or instances where the conclusions of pure reason, even in the large sense, are not completely convincing to the person. I, for example, do not always agree with myself.)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Perry quoted the first part of the first para. of Mr. Warren’s piece. One finds the whole thing at the first link above, namely


    The last para.:

    “… [N]o earthly government of angels can exist. (I include, as always, the governors and agents of all outreaching “corporations,” including the earthly component of the Church herself, now operating so much like a defunctive corporation.) But whichever is currently in power, we pray that the better sort of angels will prevail, upon the manipulators of administrative detail. And that the worst will be caught, and severely punished, for the good of their own souls. (Beat the devils out of them, as it were.) Charity demands this of us.”

    The piece is written from a Christian perspective on the actual nature of angels and demons. (I’m uncertain as to whether it’s intended to be taken at face value, or rather as a metaphor from which his last para is the conclusion.)

    It states that angels can be either good or bad (or a mixture), and also that at least some, such a guardian angels, are concerned with the well-being of their particular individuals: They laugh with us and weep for us.

    It’s not particularly a call for anarchism, which is the way I took it before reading the whole piece.

    . . .

    I deleted the following from my original comment. I’m glad I read the whole piece before posting it, as it’s not entirely germaine to Mr. Warren’s piece, although Niall’s point (he snuck in ahead of me! *scowl*) is at least in the same broad ballpark:

    The counter to Mr. Warren’s conclusion is Madison’s statement that “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

    Whether or not any government is necessary, any social group cannot help having rules that the members must follow, until a rule-breaker is “punished,” at the least, by being no longer accepted as a member; or until he leaves voluntarily. Or both, as in some cases of divorce.

    Sooner or later, as far as I know every society either disintegrates or changes so much over the years that it becomes something so different from what it was at first that it is still society X in name only, if that.

    (An aside: Is the Society of Jesus still faithful to the original rules and vision of Loyola? Pure curiosity.)

  • bobby b

    He just likes the article because it mentions Saint Augustine of Hippo.

  • Fraser Orr

    If I remember my Bible correctly, angels were an important part of calling down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah for the crime of homosexuality. I’m not sure I would trust the angels with delivering justice either.

    And of course Julie is spot on here. Even were our rulers utterly without guile, utterly motivated by the good of the people or a desire to do justice, such a notion is founded on the sinking sand of belief that there is some shared view of what justice actually is. After all, there are quite a large part of the world that would would think that the sodomites of Gomorrah were indeed served a slice of justice.

    Of course Mr. Warren perhaps comes from a position that justice is indeed an absolute, defined, no doubt in his holy book or the pronouncements of people in funny costumes. I find that view rather silly, which perhaps best illustrates this point – that the moral ground is not particularly widely overlapping.

    At best we should demand that government deal only in the 90th percentile of things we all consider justice, and that we put mechanisms in place — such as federalism, constitutional limits of power, competitive institutions, and difficult anti-democratic processes to change the law — to prevent me, or Mr. Warren or any other zealous advocate, from imposing his idea of “justice” on everyone else.

    After all, here in the United States we are about to send a man to prison for the rest of his life for the horrendous crime of not filling in the right forms and doing all he could to prevent the government from taking vast quantities of money that he had generated for himself and his family. Would that we dealt with murderers and rapists with the same zeal we treat those malefactors sullied by their association with the Orange Haired Devil. For many this is justice, for me it is an outrage to justice. I don’t think we will be coming to common ground.

  • Bruce

    “Justice” without true liberty is merely “legalism”.

  • CaptDMO

    Well, let’s see…..
    You got yer’ regular justice, ….and then you got yer’ social justice…
    You have a Jury of one’s peers, examining the evidence… and then you have your Jury of public opinion…
    Lynching, of various sorts on “the spectrum”, always seems to fall under…Mob Social Justice.
    I could be wrong of course.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    If you want to be governed by Saints, then go to Utah and join the Mormons! Nothing hard about it.

  • Stonyground

    Biblical justice doesn’t really qualify as justice by any standard that I would apply. The Old Testament God tended to rain his vengeance down upon the innocent rather than the guilty. He also had habit of changing the rules without telling anyone and then smiting people for still trying to abide by the old rules.

  • He just likes the article because it mentions Saint Augustine of Hippo


  • John B

    Government, Mafia – principle difference, the spelling

    Both are protection and extortion rackets for the benefit of those in charge, their lackeys, cronies and favourites.

    Voting on which ‘Family’ is in charge just avoids blood-letting, but doesn’t change the nature of the beast.

  • John B

    @Julie near Chicago. ‘Justice means different things to different people…’

    Justice is natural and universal, it is discovered not invented. It is like gravity. Gravity is the same everywhere so is justice and it is not open to interpretation. That is why we supposedly have Rule of Law and equality and equity before the law so it is not arbitrary and it is not up to Governments to decide what justice is and isn’t.

    And there are no degrees whereby democratic (so-called) Governments are ‘noticeable better’ than other regimes. Being ‘better’ not absolute is not justice, just pretence.

    So-called Social Justice, which you in fact describe, is what one group decides best suits its advantage and imposes it on others. That is tyranny not Justice.

  • Derek Buxton

    I am with John B, and would add that there is no such thing as “social justice”. We are all individuals and should be free to do as we wish providing we allow others the same freedoms and do not hurt anyone else. Freedom is the major part of our lives but is being eroded by the abuse of a none functioning Parliament.

  • Ferox

    It has been my observation that a man’s desire to govern others is in inverse proportion to his ability to govern himself.

    Thus can the bizarre fuckwittery of the typical Social Justice Warrior be fully explained.

  • MadRocketSci

    I always liked Ayn Rands take on this: (paraphrasing) “So, if men were perfect, *then* they would be *worthy* of slavery?! Excuse me?!”

  • llamas

    John B. wrote:

    “Government, Mafia – principle difference, the spelling

    Both are protection and extortion rackets for the benefit of those in charge, their lackeys, cronies and favourites.

    Voting on which ‘Family’ is in charge just avoids blood-letting, but doesn’t change the nature of the beast.”

    Largely true – but with one important caveat. As far as the average private citizen is concerned, if you don’t stray into areas of life where the Mafia operates, they’ll pretty-much leave you alone. IOW, if you stay away from the most-popular vices, you can go through life entirely unmolested by the Mob and its forces. It’s a large part of their business model – they know they couldn’t operate for long if they messed with the innocent populace too much.

    Government. by contrast, will involve itself in your life, your pocketbook and all your other sh*t, whether you like it or not. Try and get free of them, or try to avoid them in the first place, and they will come looking for you. There’s nothing you can do, or refrain from doing, that will get them off your back. And if you try, they may very well react with all the violence that the Mafia could bring, and more – for the ‘common good’, naturally. Just ask Randy Weaver, or David Koresh, or the half-a-hundred other folks who have gotten caught up in trying to get free of the government.



  • Julie near Chicago

    John B, we are talking about Justice in the real world, where different people do have different ideas of what constitutes it.

    That fact is one of the worms-in-the-woodpile which I mentioned. Yes, we do have people whose idea of “Justice” is mostly about “social justice,” or even compassion or mercy.

    The truth may be from the Great Frog’s mouth to your ear or mine; we may have worked hard to discover a theory of Justice that is both universal (i.e. that is properly applied to everybody) and internally consistent; and we may be dead right.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that on the ground, we have to deal with the fact that relatively few real people agree with us.

    Not to put too fine a point on it: I am not advocating “social justice” in any way. I am simply stating that there are those who do, and their opinions influence whatever societies or their rulers decide to do about “justice.”