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

Has this ever been an SQotD before? If not, here it is, and if it has, good and here it is again:

Twitter presented this to me today.

Here is what Wikipedia says about George MacDonald.

Twenty four more George MacDonald quotes, and the one above, here.

15 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    Mr MacDonald was an excellent man.

  • Snorri Godhi

    At least one more MacDonald quote is Samizdata-relevant:

    To try too hard to make people good is one way to make them worse.

    Which i guess is another way to say that the way to Hell is paved with good intentions.

    The full quote includes the following:

    The only way to make them good is to be good, remembering well the beam and the mote.

    Not sure the above is correct, which is why i left it out: it seems to me that the best way to make people good is to somehow align their incentives with the interests of their fellow humans.

  • NickM

    Thanks Brian!
    I’d vaguely heard of the guy but I didn’t realise what an interesting soul he was. I shall check him out further.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)


    Thanks for the kind words.

    I hadn’t even vaguely heard of him, until today. Forced to guess, I might have mumbled something about the creator of Flashman.

  • George Atkisson

    Snorri –

    I can’t find the original quote, but it runs something along the lines of

    “We must make it advantageous to bad men, to do the right thing.”

  • Peter Barrett

    Some years ago I came across this (unattributed) which expresses similar sentiment:

    “If you want to understand behaviour, You must understand individual behaviour. There are those individuals who want to control, to drive perchance to rule. There are those who want to be left alone and try to achieve that by just going along. There are those who are mesmerised by the controllers and there are those who understand the attempts to control and want part of the action. Lastly there are those who neither want to control, nor are willing to be controlled. They are the natural enemy of the rest.”

  • CaptDMO

    Lead, Follow, or get out of the way.

  • Itellyounothing

    Oops. Wrong place. Nice guy.

  • Fortunately, MacDonald’s works are out of copyright, and thus can be downloaded from Google Books. I’m going to try out The Princess and the Goblin.

  • Philip Scott Thomas

    The Light Princess has been a favourite since childhood. Delightful. And it still holds up reading it as an adult.

  • staghounds

    He was big on it’s not what you say that tells what you believe- it’s what you do.

  • Michael Taylor

    That quote reeks of self-regarding complacency. Political involvement is not necessarily self-seeking, it can and very often is a humbling act of self-sacrifice by people who genuinely believe we are badly governed and want to mitigate that harm.

    So let’s hear is also for Theodore Roosevelt:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

  • Just stirring with a bit of Kipling:

    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster – And treat those two impostors just the same

    Best regards

  • Paul Marks

    Michael Taylor – T. Roosevelt was exactly the sort of politician that Mr McDonald was warning about.

    “To Hell with the Constitution when the people need coal!” – or indeed any extension of government power. “To Hell with the Constitution” (i.e. to Hell with any limits on government power) was his answer to everything.

    Both T. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were followers of Richard Ely – they made a RELIGION of statism. They passionately wanted the government to control as much as possible of the lives of ordinary people.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Snorri – George McDonald is echoing the point of Prime Minister Gladstone.

    Of one thing I am certain the power of the state (force) can not be successfully used to make the people more morally enlightened.

    One can not save souls by coercing bodies.

    And it does not just “not work” – it also corrupts the people via fear, and it corrupts the power user themselves (the oppressor harms themselves – not just the oppressed).