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Samizdata quote of the day

You don’t go to a cultural war with the army you want, you go with the army you have.

– ‘Mary Contrary

24 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Never bring a knife to a machete fight. Don’t know where I read this but it seems appropriate.

  • Nico

    You still have to choose a side. It’s not always easy. For example, Ayn Rand supported FDR in 1932. Yes! You read that right! That’s because he was for ending Prohibition. And, honestly, I think that’s a fair priority liberty-wise. If you’re going to ruin the economy, at least let people drink!

    Me? I put economic and political freedom above all other liberties. It can sound heartless to some, I know!, but I believe those first two drive society’s ability to come around to accepting other liberties, but the converse is much less clear.

  • Itellyounothing

    I love free speech.

    Maslow’s hierarchy or needs and biological truth means food, water and shelter must come first.

    So we need economic freedom the most.

    But you need free speech change political leaders peacefully.

  • It isn’t even only the army you ‘have’ in any sense of owning it. It’s also who else finds themselves obliged to fight your enemies. It is the very nature of a war for free speech that your allies will include those you disagree with on points of style or points of substance or both.

    It helps to remember that real wars (hopefully, this will not turn into one) are worse even just in this respect. We would have had millions more Germans to kill in WWII if the majority of Hitler’s army had not spent the majority of the war on the eastern front facing the army of Stalin – who would very much have liked them to be fighting us instead. I believe the west in WWII could have taken a stronger line against Stalin than it did – and was tricked out of doing this in no small part by Stalin’s western sympathisers. But that belief has its limits. Western WWII leaders all remembered the way the communists had taken Russia out of the fight in the last part of WWI and the first part of WWII – and so continued to fear that Stalin and Hitler might make another deal. We now know how very unlikely that ever was but it was hard for western leaders to know it – their past experience cast a long shadow.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Maslow’s hierarchy or needs and biological truth means food, water and shelter must come first.

    So we need economic freedom the most.

    Good point … but it’s worth digging in a bit deeper.
    Can you maintain economic freedom without freedom of speech?
    Can you retain freedom of speech without the freedom to bear arms?
    Can you retain any freedom at all without checks+balances?
    And one could probably go on.

    It seems to me that either you buy the package, or else you are wasting your money.

    PS: better to be explicit about this: it IS possible to have checks+balances, freedom to bear arms, and freedom of speech, without economic freedom. It’s not that there is any one basic freedom from which all the others follow.

    PPS: and freedom of exit is important too!

  • Snorri Godhi

    For example, Ayn Rand supported FDR in 1932.

    But wasn’t FDR’s program the lesser evil (from a libertarian perspective) in 1932?

  • Nico

    @Snorri: That would have been Rand’s argument, but it’s not that clear-cut, is it. Both candidates had awful economic policies (roughly the same: price supports, wage supports, high unemployment, …). One was a collectivist, the other an engineer. We’ll never know what Hoover would have been like, but we saw the Roosevelt movie, and it wasn’t exactly good.

    Still, the country survived, though it took 60 years to get past automatic Democrat dominance of U.S. politics based on lies. Three generations. Had Hoover been elected, it could have been worse, I suppose, because the failures of his (and thus Roosevelt’s) economic policies would have been used to further cement the Democrats in power. Kinda like Obama vs. McCain — seems like we dodged a bullet.

    The point is it’s not always easy to choose from two evils, and third parties don’t help.

  • Chester Draws

    Can you maintain economic freedom without freedom of speech?

    Britain did in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As the original poster said, the freedom of speech flowed from the economic freedom in Britain. Catholics and other non-Anglicans were restricted in all sorts of ways politically back then, but were able to at least live their personal lives and could even make decent money.

    Can you retain freedom of speech without the freedom to bear arms?

    Why not? Lots of people have over-thrown their governments without the freedom to bear arms — the US was founded by people with no right to bear arms. The US treats it as sacrosanct, but the rest of the world gets on fine without it. Governments fear an armed populace, but people in the street fear vigilantes in favour of the government far more. The Duarte nonsense letting people kill others with impunity is not going to end well.

    Can you retain any freedom at all without checks+balances?

    Again, US exceptionalism isn’t the rule.

    The Swiss were free long before most places ever dreamed of it. Their system doesn’t have the famous “checks and balances”. It merely has an active democracy at a local level, and no entrenched political elite.

    Democracy is the key to freedom — the power to vote out a group — provided there is also freedom to set up opposition parties and anyone can run (something Iran, say, lacks, even though people can — and do — vote).

  • bobby b

    ” . . . the US was founded by people with no right to bear arms.”


    “The US treats it as sacrosanct, but the rest of the world gets on fine without it.”

    ??? I really doubt Venezuela would be in the shape it’s in today if its people had guns. Same with Mexico, Iran . . . it’s a long list. A government only governs legitimately when it governs with the consent of the governed. If the governed have no practical power to withhold that consent, it’s not really consent.

    “Governments fear an armed populace, but people in the street fear vigilantes in favour of the government far more.”

    They fear armed criminals, but the fear of vigilantes seems to be a small component in the mix. It OUGHT to be a bigger one, maybe, but it’s not.

    “The Swiss were free long before most places ever dreamed of it. Their system doesn’t have the famous “checks and balances”. It merely has an active democracy at a local level, and no entrenched political elite.”

    Isn’t an active and empowered democracy the most basic of checks and balances?

  • Paul Marks

    Nico – your history is bit off.

    President Roosevelt had nothing much to do with ending Prohibition – a Constitutional Amendment did that.

    In 1932 most anti Big Government supported Franklin Roosevelt – because he denounced President Herbert “The Forgotten Progressive” Hoover as a socialist and promised the reverse the massive increase in taxes, government spending and regulations that had happened under Herbert Hoover. The idea that Hoover was a conservative grew up AFTER the 1932 election, when Franklin Roosevelt broke the promises he had made at the 1932 Democrat Convention in Chicago and indeed did the opposite of what he said he would do on taxes, government spending and regulations.

    Turning to the post……

    No I do not fully agree with it. “They are on our side” is NOT sufficient – after all the people at the “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017 said they were on our side in the “culture war”. Then our “friends” started chanting “the Jews will not replace us” as they did a Nazi touch lit night march.

    In fact checking out “what army you have” is the first thing a good commander does – because unreliable troops (who will run away or even switch sides – at a key moment) are the cause of many famous defeats – especially if there are traitor officers (check them first).

    Call me Gideon if you like, but I would much rather have a smaller army I can rely on than an army partly made up of scumbags (and no apology for the word “scumbags” – because that is who Richard Spencer and co are) who likely to do more harm to one’s own side than to the left.

    Look at Richard Spencer’s Twitter “handle” – it has got the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran on it (after all they want to kill Jews – so they must be the good guys, in his diseased mind).

    So sure you want people like that in our “army”?

    Want a fairly simple test? I will give you one.

    Joe Foss was a World War II hero, a Republican Governor of South Dakota and he did television shows on rural life for years (back when television shows were actually good) – one can not be more “heartland” or “traditional culture” than that.

    If you see someone who wants to join “our army” ask yourself “what would Joe Foss think of this person?” you will not, most times, go far wrong.

  • Paul Marks

    “The Swiss lack checks and balances” – well that certainly ignores both the Swiss Confederation Constitution and the Constitutions of the Cantons. It is true the present Constitution of Switzerland is the worst they have had – each Constitution since 1848 has been less good than the one before it, but they still have a Constitution.

    “They have no right to bear arms” – in what universe is that? Although it is true that this right is being chipped away at in Switzerland (so my Swiss friends tell me).

    “The right to keep and bear is an American thing” – err no, as both the Classical World (the world of the Greek City States and the Roman Republic) and the Germanic world (from which the Common Law tradition came from) understood that the right to keep and bear arms is the defining feature of a free person – indeed “shall we allow the slaves to bear arms?” was a question that people asked when they were desperate, no one asked “shall we allow the citizens to bear arms?” because (before the tyranny of the Emperors) that was assumed. If someone did not have the right to keep and bare arms they were NOT a “free citizen” (Classical) or a “free man” (Germanic).

    “You can have economic freedom without freedom of speech – because Britain did not have freedom of speech in the 17th and 18th centuries” – actually Britain was famous for freedom of speech (not perfect – but better than other countries) and it came long BEFORE such things as Free Trade.

    Now Chester Draws may a wonderful human being, someone who could be tortured to death without revealing any information and someone who would fight to the death for liberty. One can not judge someone by one comment.

  • Paul Marks

    Talking of Switzerland – if one family had voted the other way in the St Gallen Canton in the last Canton election there before the war of 1847, then St Gallen would not have voted to support armed intervention against the Catholic Cantons and there would have be no majority for such an attack. In short Switzerland would have retained the principle than each Canton (not the Confederation) was the sovereign body.

    Strange are the small things in history – that determine the big things.

  • Paul Marks

    I can not resist – if anyone really believes that a government that will not allow you to express dissent (will not allow Freedom of Speech) can be relied upon not to take your stuff, then I have a nice bridge to sell them.

    The Old Whigs were right – most importantly Chief Justice Sir John Holt (1689 – 1710).

    That is NOT a hit at Chester – it is a hit at all the rich fools who side with the People’s Republic of China.

    One day the PRC is going to betray you, rich idiots, it will take your wealth – and may well rip the organs out of your bodies as well.

    And no one will be able to help you – because you are so “clever” you do not think think all the Old Whigs (who you call “Red Necks” in “fly over country” and despise) are needed, you think you can enjoy your wealth without worrying about “checks and balances”, “the right to keep and bear arms” and “Freedom of Speech” – you do not care about any of that, only your own luxury.

    Well bleep you.

    And bleep the California richlings (the “Progressive rich” the Democrat leadership) as well – the people who side with MS13 and the rest of the “undocumented” because they think that “Rape, Kill, Control” (the motto of SOCIAL JUSTICE – the motto of such groups as MS13) does no apply to them.

    Well “Rape, Kill, Control” does apply to you richlings – and you will find that crushing Freedom of Speech and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and driving out the “Rednecks” from California (anyone ever tell them that without the ultimate “Red Neck”, Kit Carson, there would be no California in the United States?) will not work out well in the end.

    It will not work out for YOU richlings – you are not immune from reality. The forces of SOCIAL JUSTICE will see your wealth (your big houses and all the rest that they will “redistribute”) and they will see your attractive females (your wives and daughters) as well – oh yes SOCIAL JUSTICE means taking them as well, it always has. In Latin America or elsewhere. Even in your treasured Sweden.

    RAPE, KILL, CONTROL – that is what Social Justice is about, ask MS13 (they will explain it to you – as they skin you alive).

    “We will call the police” – yes that works soooo well in many Latin American countries, and with what the Chinese call “the official bandits” (i.e. the armed men who serve the “no checks and balances” state over an unarmed population).

    What matters with someone like “Chesty” Puller (or Joe Foss) is not the uniform they wear – what matters is the ideas in their head, what they BELIEVE IN – what they are willing to die for. Specifically their willingness to die to protect YOU – even though you do not deserve it, because you just value your luxuries (you would not die for Freedom of Speech or for any principle – you may be in a silk shirt and have a very expensive education, but you are still NOTHING).

    But that is “Red Neck” talk so you just laughing – but one day (when it is too late) you will stop laughing.

    One time Kit Carson failed to rescue a women and children – they were raped, tortured (over some days) and then killed.

    When he had caught up, he found the remains – and he also found a book and asked what it was about (he could not read) – he was told that it was a book about a family rescued by KIT CARSON (yes – himself).

    That was the last book that women and those children ever looked at – and he wept, but he could not bring them back.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Excellent, Paul. Thanks.

    About this “consent” thing that people keep saying every polity gives to the government in power, as long as the people are only grumbling or shouting their complaints from the rooftops but not in actual physical revolution:

    In one of Randy Barnett’s books he makes the point that there is a distinction between consent and acquiescence. A regime (or a single bad guy) may be able to threaten you into acquiescence, that is, into going along with his demands; but that’s different from consent, which is what a person not under duress can actively and willingly give to someone who requests cooperation of some sort.

    It seems to me that that is a very valuable distinction, however broad may be the grey line that separates the two in practice. But while I might go along with a zoning rule that says I can’t grow brussels sprouts in the front yard*, I surely would grow them if I weren’t under some sort of threat from the zoning board.

    (It’s a hypothetical example. I’m past any urge to actually grow veg, though I daydream about it, and I have no idea whether Rockford is so Advanced that front-yard veggies are disallowed.)

  • Nico

    @Paul Marks: Rand supported FDR because she believed the Democrats would repeal Prohibition, which they did. The President, indeed, has no role in passing Amendments, but yet to the best of my recollection, that is why Rand supported him and the Democrats in 1932.

    EDIT: And yes, I’m quite aware that Hoover was no conservative. As I said, his and FDR’s policies did not differ that much. FDR might have campaigned as not-a-socialist but like Obama and others, I’m sure there were tells.

  • Can you maintain economic freedom without freedom of speech?

    Britain did in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. (Chester Draws, January 7, 2020 at 8:51 pm)

    Britain in the eighteenth century enjoyed more free speech than practically anywhere else in the world. Just look at some of the cartoons politicians of the day had to put up with. If someone suggested there could be no economic freedom without perfect freedom of speech, constitutionally guaranteed, then Britain in the 18th century is a counter-example, but it already had more of a free-speech culture than pretty-well anywhere else in the world.

    Can you retain freedom of speech without the freedom to bear arms?

    the US was founded by people with no right to bear arms.

    The US was founded by people who thought they did have the right to bear arms, courtesy of the 1689 bill of rights and longstanding custom – and who did in fact bear arms.

  • JohnK


    As you say, the American Revolution started because the King’s men turned up to confiscate the Americans’ guns, and thus the instruments which guaranteed their freedom.

    The American colonists were armed, and had the right to bear arms by virtue of being British.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Well, i certainly did not dare to hope that Paul Marks and Niall Kilmartin would join forces in defending my humble comment!

    Paul is in top form, as seen also in another thread:

    Given all the drugs used in Hollywood I would not be at all astonished if the lady does indeed think that “Star Maidens” is a documentary series.

    Julie’s comment is also of interest. The distinction deserves thinking about.

    One thing that i should have stressed in my comment were the words ‘maintain’ and ‘retain’; because it is of course possible that a benevolent absolute ruler grants all the freedoms that we need, even all the freedoms that we desire — but no ruler lives forever (and might become demented long before dying).

    Another thing. I wrote:

    it IS possible to have checks+balances, freedom to bear arms, and freedom of speech, without economic freedom.

    I should have clarified: to have, but not to maintain. Because to bear arms, you need arms manufacturers; and for freedom of speech, you need, at the very least, an internet connection. These come courtesy of the free market.

  • Snorri Godhi

    PS: i failed to acknowledge bobby b’s support.
    Apologies for that.

    Bobby made good points, and a rhetorical question that is worth repeating:

    Isn’t an active and empowered democracy the most basic of checks and balances?

    Indeed, Popperian democracy, i.e. the power to remove rulers without bloodshed, is a tremendously important check on government… with the proviso that there must be a way to ensure that the government does not abolish Popperian democracy!

  • Nico

    What’s that about The Open Society and its Enemies, by one of its Enemies? Soros seems to have taken that to heart.

    Churchill’s maxim that democracy is the worst form of government but for all the others remains true.

    Right now we’re witnessing the most effective attack on Western democracies yet. A relentless attack by dejected Leftists who lost hope when they lost the USSR, and by their invited anti-Western immigrants, and by the NGOs they’ve set up to take moneys from the government teats and use it to move the Overton window to include self-destructive policies, and by the likes of George Soros, who uses his own fortune towards the same goals, and by the cancellation culture they’ve promoted, thus the end of Free Speech, and their Alinsky tactics, and so on. It sure feels like a very dark hour; perhaps the darkest yet.

  • bobby b

    “It sure feels like a very dark hour; perhaps the darkest yet.”

    A counterpoint:

    Some form of Brexit is on its way. Trump was elected, and appears well set to be re-elected. Capitalist systems are doing well. Socialist systems, not so much, and many of the largest are moving to capitalism quietly. Socialist candidates the world over are being openly and widely mocked. More people know what Ricky Gervais said than know who won a Golden Globe award. In the USA, we sold 18% more weapons to citizens than we did the year before. The Cancel Culture can only cancel you out of their culture, and that culture is shrinking. “Elite” is now only a self-applied label – no one else believes they’re elite anymore. In the USA, the regulatory elephant is shrinking, and we’re moving admin agencies out of the hands of the Washington clique.

    It’s true that a beast in its death throes can be dangerous – but then it dies.

  • Paul Marks

    Nico – I repeat most conservatives supported Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 and prohibition was not the issue for them (especially as it was on the way out by then), they supported him because he promised to reverse the Big Government policies of Herbert Hoover (these promises were made at the Chicago Democrat Convention in 1932), he promised to reverse the INCREASE in taxes and government regulations made under the Progressive Herbert Hoover. Franklin Roosevelt essentially ran as a conservative in 1932.

    Of course it turned out that Franklin Roosevelt was lying – he renamed (and expanded) the various government schemes of Herbert Hoover. And he carried on the Hoover policy of keeping Real Wage rates UP – for the first time in American history real wage rates did not fall during a bust (in every other bust from 1819 to 1921 real wage rates had been allowed to fall and the labour market had “cleared”) – hence the MASS UNEMPLOYMENT of the Hoover-Roosevelt 1930s.

    Julie – I take your point about the difference about nonresistance (“acquiescence”) and active consent.

    That is why I have no sympathy for the majority of people in, for example, New York City and San Francisco.

    They KNOW what they are voting for – for example the voters of San Francisco knew perfectly well last November that they were voting in as chief prosecutor for a man who had never (in his life) prosecuted a case and openly said that the criminal law was “racist”.

    Now when these voters are robbed and attacked they will cry out for sympathy – and if I were a better Christian I would care.

    But I find that I not care – they voted for this, they CONSENTED.

    And if I risked my life to save them, they (the typical “liberal” voter) would, within hours, be denouncing me as a “racist” (or whatever) again.

    So blank them.

  • Paul Marks

    bobby b.

    The left are already looking ahead – in both Britain and the United States.

    They are looking ahead to 2024.

    The Credit Bubble economy should have been long bust by then (yes I know I have said that so many times before – and every damn time I HAVE BEEN WRONG).

    So, if the Bubble finally busts, the left falsely blame “capitalism” get elected in 2024 (both in Britain and the United States) and impose total statism in 2025 – in time for the 80 anniversary of the end of World War II.

    At least that is the plan of the left – and I am NOT saying anything should be done to stop it.

    Hoping to lose in 2020 so the left can be stopped from winning in 2024 is a bit too deep for me.

    If I see a present battle, in this case 2020, I say WIN IT – deal with the future (2024) when the future comes.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Yes indeed. WIN in 2020. !!!