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Ideas are more powerful than armies – a tribute to Brian Micklethwait

I have often disagreed with Steve Baker as of late, but I must say this is good to see.

15 comments to Ideas are more powerful than armies – a tribute to Brian Micklethwait

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    That was really moving. And there was something very appropriate in the way Steve Baker started with an idea – the importance of starting with the idea – and then moved to the personal, his thanks to Brian. One might superficially think that it was more of a compliment to a person to start by talking about them, but as the saying goes, “There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care a straw who gets the credit for it.” Brian’s very great influence for good has come from doing something very straightforward: he says what he thinks is true. If he doesn’t know, he says he doesn’t know. He follows ideas where they go.

  • Paul Marks

    Steve Baker is a very brave man to record this. Powerful forces, including close to our shared political home, will not like it – and will seek to hurt him for producing it.

    Brian Micklethwait is indeed a good and tolerant man, after all he has put up with the likes of me for many years. Good, brave and intellectual (in the true sense of that word – i.e. a person of intellect).

    Natalie is also correct – in every word she says in the comment above. But I will stop here – I do not know what else to say.

  • Paul Marks

    As for disagreeing with Mr Baker – I did last year on the Emergency Powers Bill.

    However, I had nothing to lose – I could oppose the Bill with no harm to me (I was not even a Party Member in March 2020).

    Mr Baker had everything to lose – and his opposition to the extension of the Emergency Powers under the Enabling Act, has been very brave. All the Members of Parliament who have opposed the extension of the Enabling Act have been very brave.

    This includes Labour “rebel”, and now Liberal Democrat, Members of Parliament.

    As Brian Micklethwait has always said – the friends of liberty, on a vital matter, need not be from one political party. This is hard for someone (such as myself) brought up in a “political tribe” to fully grasp – but we must go on beyond political party “ism” on such important matters as opposing world “governance” and the agenda of the “international community”.

  • Brian will not need me to tell him that praise from Steve Baker is praise worth having, but for the benefit of any foreign readers to whom Steve is no more than a name, I’ll quote some praise of him.

    Steve Baker often disagreed with me, sometimes very strongly, but he was a rare person in the campaign – an honest man. Not only did Steve win some important Parliamentary battles he also played a vital role during the attempted coup of 25 January. If he had thrown in his lot with the coup, it might have proved fatal. Instead he spoke honestly about the situation. We did not agree and we were both under pressure from a set of people who thought that ‘if they [HQ/MPs] control the campaign we will lose, we [HQ/MPs] must control it’. We came to an agreement that we both stuck to.

    The above is from Dominic Cumming’s article “How the Brexit referendum was won’.

  • Natalie

    I do so agree with you about the way Steve Baker put ideas at the heart of this wonderfully kind tribute to me personally. My immediate reaction to it all was: Well, I’m very glad that if someone watched it, and thought, well I have no idea who Brian Micklethwait is, but hang about, what was the title of that book? – Pause, rewind, play, pause, google – he’d be less likely to conclude that I was a worthless fool, who just gave Steve Baker a bit of money or some such thing. It helps that it is quite short, because that means lots will see it (and maybe find out about one of those books for the first time).

    SB is a very expert politician, as is illustrated by him knowing exactly what would cheer me up the most. Had he not waved all those books, I’d have been cheered up, but not as much as I actually was.

    Spreading ideas is a team effort. That came across very well. The basic thing he thanked me for was that I told him about Samizdata, and Samizdata, all of us, then did the real business of getting him thinking about all this stuff.

    And Niall, yes, if I had been allowed to choose just which MP I would most like a tribute from, that MP would be Steve Baker. I wouldn’t hesitate for a second.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    It occurs to me that it also might be worth making explicit for foreign readers that Steve Baker is a Conservative Member of Parliament. He is best known for being a strong supporter of Brexit.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Brian, that’ll teach me to press “refresh” after pressing “post”. We were obviously typing our comments at the same time given that mine came out one minute after yours, but I have only just now seen your comment thirteen hours after you posted it!

    I have had another thought about that video and about spreading ideas. It’s one of those thoughts where one can’t immediately tell if it is utterly trivial or actually rather good, so in a Micklethwaitian way I will just put it out there and see what happens: it helps to wave physical copies of the books. Steve Baker raiding his shelves and bringing a pile out to his garden table to greet like old friends was so much more appealing than a mere list.

    On a more ominous note, Mr Baker and many others might have made a good decision to have his library in paper form despite the shelf space it takes up (of course you know all about shelf space, c.f. the famous coffee jar engineering problem). Most of the books I have bought in the last few years have been on Kindle. The way things are going with Amazon I’m beginning to wonder how long it will be before some of those titles he listed are cancelled. The process has started. On March 6th Ed Driscoll posted the following on Instapundit: “One week after Black History Month concluded, it’s…really something to see “Item Under Review” and “not currently available for purchase” on Amazon’s page for the Kindle edition of Thomas Sowell’s classic 1996 book, The Vision of the Anointed”

  • Michael Lotus

    Brian brought the work and insights of Emmanuel Todd to the attention of the English speaking world, for which I and others are truly grateful. The uniqueness of the English-speaking world and the commitment to liberty here have deep historical roots, which are barely understood. One of Brian’s many important contributions to the conversation about liberty, its foundations, and its defense.

    As that rare thing among Samiz readers, a practicing Roman Catholic, I am offering my prayers for Brian.

  • Fred Flintstone

    As that rare thing among Samiz readers, a practicing Roman Catholic, I am offering my prayers for Brian.

    You might not be as rare as you think 😉 There are lots of atheists here but they’re not the Dawkin fucktard version, they’re the actually very tolerant version, which is fine by me.

  • GregWA

    Brian, I don’t really know your life or your writings, other than some of your posts and comments here–I always read those.

    I am one of those people who has not read all those books (any!) that Mr. Baker waved around. I have at least heard of most of the authors, even have the “Road to Serfdom” on my shelf, but I now have a nice reading list, from first rate thinkers.

    Thank you!

  • Stephen Houghton

    Brian, I just wanted to say in this context how much your writing has meant to me. God bless!

  • the last toryboy

    What a legend.

    And this blog has at least one MP read it, so it did some good then!

  • You are a great man Brian, and I’m truly honoured.

  • Paul Marks

    Brian’s life has been one of ideas – spreading good ideas and developing them himself and with others.

    There is no shame in that – it is what the word “intellectual” used to mean (person of intellect), before the word became debased. If good ideas are not explained and defended – bad ideas, very bad ideas, take over.

    As, contra David Hume (and, SOMETIMES, contra F.A. Hayek – NOT always with Hayek), habit and custom are a very poor foundation for society – on their own (if not explained and rationally defended) they can be warped and twisted (and destroyed) with ease.

    “This is just the way we do things round here” is a bad argument – indeed it is not really an argument at all. Which is why the Fabians and the Bloomsbury Group (and all the rest) could smash up the foundations of liberty.