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

“No one has fought themselves free of the intellectual stranglehold which anti-classical liberal political sentiment currently enjoys among intellectuals and opinion-formers can have any illusions about just how difficult the task will be to convince public opinion that the best solution to the manifold problems that afflict the world today is that recommended by classical liberalism. Equally, however, no one who has come to embrace classical liberalism will fail to appreciate that nothing less than its eventual triumph will enable human beings to enjoy the best lives of which they are capable. To this extent, classical liberals need have no embarrassment about being considered utopian in political aspiration. Unlike other forms of utopianism, the classical liberal variety springs less from naivety about what is humanly possible than from a suitably modest and realistic assessment about what would make human lives as good as they can be.”

David Conway, Classical Liberalism: The Unvanquished Ideal. (Page 138). St Martin’s Press, 1995. Conway also wrote “A Farewell to Marx”, which in my view is one of the most lucid demolitions of Marxism ever written.

19 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    One of the faults of current democracies is that elections are policy-sales. Whoever can promise a new policy, or new power to the government to solve a problem, will be the one who wins. If a politician says “I will do nothing”, the next politician who talks about doing something will get the votes. Can anyone suggest a fix- if you do, you’ll get our vote!

  • Ferox

    The most ardently anti-Communist person I ever met grew up in communist Romania.

    Accelerationism is the key. Let the idiot progs have their way, as in California right now. Let them drink deep from the poison they are brewing. Just find a place that is relatively sane in which to weather the storm.

    At the other end of it, there will be wreckage and a (smaller) population of people who are sadder but wiser.

  • bobby b

    “Just find a place that is relatively sane in which to weather the storm.”

    Easy for me, as I’m into the preservation-of-capital stage of life. I can shelter and watch.

    Not so easy for my kids, who need to be accumulating it right now. They need to be out there selling themselves in society while they are marketable, even as society sucks eggs.

    I’m afraid the take-shelter approach will only sacrifice them as cannon fodder.

  • GregWA

    bobby b and all: thoughts about the “American Redoubt”?

    FYI, this refers to a small (!) movement to have like minded liberty loving people relocate to Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Eastern Oregon/Washington. I live in Eastern Washington. We are “governed” by Western Washington (Seattle). My property rights are not safe. I’d suggest the Redoubt organizers leave OR and WA out of this new “state”. But to their larger point, is migration, anywhere, a viable response to what’s coming? Is any place on Earth safe? Elon will be ruling Mars, so I’m not too sure about that option either!

    For bobby b’s kids, and mine, they’d have to join me in the Redoubt and I know they are not crazy about living in such remote places (although Boise is nice!)

  • John B

    ‘ One of the faults of current democracies is that elections are policy-sales. Whoever can promise a new policy, or new power to the government to solve…’

    That is why any society with ‘democracy’ and universal suffrage will ultimately fail.

    Democracy is supposed to prevent a central power focus – and thereby tyranny – by distributing power through the people. Using it to establish a central power focus installs a tyranny of the majority. Universal suffrage encourages politicians to turn tax receipts into a slush fund to bribe voters who auction their votes at elections.

    In a true democracy, policy would emerge from the root of society maybe for local issues, maybe wider issues. Mostly nothing much would emerge as people just want to get on with their lives. Government, such as it would be, would have no legislative function and have heavily restricted tax raising powers only to fund essential services not political ambitions.

    In our ‘democracies’ policy is top down usually originating with some pressure group or latest virtuous ideological fashion but certainly with main aim to serve the interests of politicians.

    How to fix it? We can’t. We’ll just have to watch it all collapse, then rebuild out of the ruins… if we are still around.

  • Paul Marks

    One horrible problem is the way that the even the term “Classical Liberalism” is now used – the term Classical Liberalism was coined because the word “liberalism” has been taken over by the Big Government types, but they have responded by trying to take over the term “Classical Liberalism” as well.

    No apology for (yet again) using the example of the Economist magazine – because that is the example of a self proclaimed “free market”, “Classical Liberal” publication that most people encounter (even in such places as supermarkets).

    If the Economist magazine is “Classical Liberalism” – then Classical Liberalism is fiat (whim – edict) money, Credit Bubble banking (rather than Real Savings), and endless government spending and regulations – the whole Agenda 2030 Corporate State “Stakeholder Capitalism” agenda.

    In short – the problem, not the solution.

    So there is no substitute for first defining-the-term (which David Conway does – which is good) and “gate keeping”.

    Yes gate keeping – so what that when some Corporate State ever-bigger-government publication (or individual) comes along saying “I represent Classical Liberalism” they can be told very loudly (so that Joe Public gets to hear) – no you do not represent Classical Liberalism, you are a liar.

    This is an old problem – for example little did more to discredit “laissez faire” policy than the mass death in Ireland in the late 1840s, even today Collectivist publications and web sites cite Ireland in the late 1840s as the “failure of laissez faire”, ignoring the actual policies that were followed.

    What happened in Ireland in the late 1840s was crushing Poor Law taxation (under the slogan “Irish Property Must Pay For Irish Poverty”) with the Poor Law Property Tax (established in 1831 in Ireland) pushed higher and higher – and areas of the country that were not dependent on the potato also forced to pay higher and higher taxes (to fund bankrupt Poor Law Unions in areas that were dependent on the potato) – crushing the Irish economy and denying private employment to peasants whose plot sized farms were not viable since the potato blight (if they ever had been viable – which I do not think they were, remember this system of land holding was the creation of the government PENAL LAWS of the early 1700s).

    Sir Charles Trevelyan back in the late 1840s may not seem relevant to modern concerns – but he is. This man was a statist all his life – not just in Ireland, but also in India, and he later helped created the British Civil Service. Yet he was able to take the term “laissez faire” (and would now take the term “Classical Liberalism”) and use it to describe his own Collectivism – there was no “Gate Keeping” of the term to stop him doing that, or to save-the-lives of the people which was lost due to the utter failure of tax-and-spend policies – that are still (in almost every history book) called “free market”, “leave alone”, “laissez faire”.

    If the only thing that defines a “free market”, “Classical Liberal” policy is lack of tariffs (“free trade”) then almost level of statism is a “free market” – even the level of taxation and government spending (and regulation) one sees in New York or Chicago or the State of California. I am sure that North Korea and Cuba would claim to stand for “free trade” and denounce “interference with international trade” – are North Korea and Cuba “free market” “Classical Liberal” places? Clearly NOT.

    There is no substitute for proper defining-of-terms and for “Gate Keeping” to keep the enemies of liberty from claiming to be the friends of liberty.

    First make sure that a place has a functioning economy – not one that is crushed by taxation, government spending, regulations and a Credit Bubble monetary and financial system – then, and only then, worry about international trade.

    The sort of “Classical Liberalism” that the Economist magazine stands for puts the cart before the horse – it does not give a damn about a functioning economy, indeed it actively supports Big Government “compassionate” policies that condemn people to economic collapse. But then it waxes lyrical about the wonders of “free trade” – free trade in relation to places that no longer make anything, and “pay” for their imports by endless money-created-from-nothing.

    The Chinese and others will not for ever accept this money-created-from-nothing (and I do NOT blame them) – so what happens then? Economic collapse and starvation happens then – which will be blamed on “Classical Liberalism” (“market fundamentalism”), by people who have not got a clue what an actual free market policy is.

    “Paul you are supporting Protectionism” – NO I am NOT.

    I am saying that no trade policy (Protectionist or Free Trade) can succeed if your own basic economy is NO GOOD – if it is crippled by endless government spending, regulations and a Credit Bubble financial and monetary system.

    Sort the economy out first – roll-back-the-state, refuse to accept the definition of “Classical Liberalism” as ever higher taxes and government spending that people and publications such as the Economist magazine gives you.

  • Paul Marks

    John B – you may be correct, but I hope you are mistaken.

    Rebuilding a collapsed civilisation is very hard – and most of us would be dead.

    I certainly would be dead.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b
    Easy for me, as I’m into the preservation-of-capital stage of life. I can shelter and watch.

    Preserving your capital could be difficult if it is in dollars, or if you are subject to the US tax system. Real inflation is probably around 20%, so I hope you made at least that in your investments, because that is “just keeping up.” Me? Last three weeks have been a stock market blood bath.

    Not so easy for my kids, who need to be accumulating it right now. They need to be out there selling themselves in society while they are marketable, even as society sucks eggs.

    They might consider opportunities outside the United States. Parts of the world such as Africa and Southeast Asia are totally booming. If I was young I’d be building factories in Vietnam, or setting up data networks in Kenya or building rental properties in Bogata. There are still opportunities to be had if you are willing to put behind you the idea that America is the land of opportunity. It isn’t anymore. That died in the late 1990s and there really isn’t any realistic route back.

    If they are following in Dad’s footsteps though, America is the land of opportunity for lawyers. Just today I go a notice from some sleazeball lawyer about a class action against Zoom for allegedly not securing their data sufficiently, although this hasn’t been proven at all. I guess Zoom decided to settle as a nuisance and to prevent bad publicity. So me? the person allegedly hurt? I can cash out with a $15 payout!! Woo hoo, Vegas here I come! The lawyers on the other hand cashed out with a $25.5 million dollar payout.

    Nice work if you can get it.

    Just to be clear, when you need a lawyer, you need one, and they often provide a valuable service, but that isn’t to say there aren’t some really terrible, destructive ones out there.

  • bobby b

    “If they are following in Dad’s footsteps . . . “

    They all watched and understood the speed and glee with which I made the early retirement decision. They won’t be going there. 😉

    Re: today’s economy – weird thing. People seem to be disappearing out of the employment rolls, and not showing up in the unemployment rolls. But, no matter where it is they’re going, they’re leaving slots open, and all three kids have experienced sudden unexpected career and financial advancement in the past six months. So it is working out for some.

    We’ll see how long it lasts.

  • Paul Marks

    Fraser Orr and bobby b.

    Get out of the fiat Dollar (and all fiat currencies) and do not trust your savings to the banks.

    Again if “Classical Liberalism” is taken to mean the present monetary and financial system (it should NOT be – hence the need for “Gate Keeping” the term Classical Liberalism – to stop establishment types, such as the Economist magazine, stealing the term), then it is part of the problem – not part of the solution.

    As for the 19th century – those British writers who assumed that the Poor Law (the Property Tax and the Benefit) was inevitable, astonish me. After all Ireland had no such system till the 1830s, most of Scotland had no such system till 1845, and FRANCE had no such system till the 20th century.

    The theoretical reasoning of these thinkers may have been limited – but this did not require theoretical reasoning. All it required was “look over there”.

    Still if British intellectuals did look outside their own circle – it was always to the Germanic lands. Why they ignored the land just across the Channel, and looked only to the German lands, I do not know.

    For example, there does not seem to be a single biography of J.B. Say or ANY of the great French “Liberal School” economists in the English language.

    Of course, these days the teachings of such Liberal school economists as J.B. Say on such things as the harm taxes and GOVENRMENT SPENDING do – is totally ignored in France. And has been for many years now.

    Ironically the peak of limited government in France seems to have been under Napoleon III (basically up to the war of 1870) – a man most liberal thinkers detested. Although the France of the Third Republic was still less statist than Germany – that remained true till after World War II.

    With hindsight we see the situation more clearly – at the time Liberal (real Liberal – laissez fair) thinkers judged Napoleon III against the ideal position (and, no surprise, he compared very badly to ideal perfection) – but with historical hindsight we compare Napoleon III to regimes before and after him.

  • Paul Marks

    One obvious difference between the France of Napoleon III and Prussia and other German lands.

    In France the 2nd Empire government subsidised church schools (“Boo! Hiss! – the state should not spend taxpayer money on education” say the purists) – but in the German lands there were fully fledged systems of state education (eventually copied in France, Britain and the United States).

    On the other hand France of the 19th century was undermined by the INHERITANCE LAWS.

    In the German lands there ways round breaking up a farm or a business on the death of the owner (if he had more than one son) – it was much harder in France.

    I am told (although I do not know) that Alsace still keeps aspects of German inheritance laws – to prevent the “if you have more than one son – you destroy your farm or business” problem.

    But they can not avoid the horribly high modern French inheritance tax.

    Do not confuse low tax 19th century France with high tax modern France.

    As David Conway knew – no modern large Western country is on the right track.

  • the other rob

    But, no matter where it is they’re going…

    Wakanda. They’re going to Wakanda.

  • Paul Marks

    Wakanda – a place of racist stereotypes, for example the ruler being decided by combat (and combat with primitive weapons). Also a place of supposedly high technology – but which made no effort at all, over centuries, to help other African people around it.

    A weird racist film – presented as “anti racism”.

  • Ferox

    Wakanda – a place whose wealth literally comes from “magic dirt” (vibranium).

    That’s how little Hollywood thinks of Africans – they can only have a successful society if they are blessed with magic dirt. Or perhaps that’s where Hollywood commies think wealth comes from – like a weed springing from the ground, prize to the first person who can seize it.

    Either way, Wakanda is a wonderful mirror for the economic idiocy of Hollywood (and by extension the Left).

  • Paul Marks

    Ferox – yes indeed.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way on Ireland…..

    It was not “just” the Poor Law Tax – there was also a system of National Police and and a system of National State Schools – neither of which existed in England and Wales at the time.

    If Ireland in the 1830s and 1840s is an example of laissez faire “Classical Liberalism” – then I am Alexander the Great.

    Sir William Petty (like Thomas Hobbes a follower of Sir Francis Bacon – the view that government should have NO LIMITS on its powers) had wanted to use Ireland as a lab for statist experiments – and this was eventually done.

  • Martin

    A problem I have with the ‘classical liberal’ label is that it seems to increasingly be used by never Trump type ‘conservatives’ like David French and Jonah Goldberg or individuals who until wokeism exploded were just normie liberals (of the modern type) who now feel purged by the crazy left but don’t want to be too closely associated with the supposedly icky bumpkins and hicks who support Trump.

    I have some sympathy for the latter but ultimately a lot of them enabled the woke hegemony until they fell on ‘the wrong side of history’. The never Trump ‘conservatives’ I have absolutely nothing but contempt for and am glad Trump’s political career exposed their true colours to the wider conservative movement in the US.

  • Paul Marks

    Martin – you are correct, Jonah Goldberg is NOT a Classical Liberal.

    I enjoyed his book “Liberal Fascism” – but even as I read it, I noticed that J. Goldberg was (unintentionally) condemned HIMSELF (not just the people he was attacking).

    For example, Mr Goldberg condemned the term “restore” as “Fascist” – he did that for a reason. To Jonah Goldberg any effort to ROLL BACK changes is wrong – “history has no reverse gear” say the Progressives, and Mr Goldberg (basically) agrees with that.

    Yet the basic point of a conservative or Classical Liberal is to roll back statism – to RESTORE lost liberties. The thing that J. Goldberg regards as “Fascist” (in this context he is, essentially, using the word “Fascist” to mean anything he does not like).

    So what does Jonah Goldberg believe in? He believes in the “institutions” – just as Brian Williams (late of NBC) does. To him faith in the institutions is what indicates a good person.

    Hence his utter hatred for Tucker Carlson (amongst many others) – because Mr Carlson’s investigations (for example into what happened on January 6th) have exposed the FBI and the rest of the institutions as the CORRUPT SCUM they are.

    “Faith in the institutions” can not withstand any serious investigation of the institutions, which is why Jonah Goldberg went into a hissy fit and resigned from Fox News. Even simple statements of fact such as “Pennsylvania was rigged in the 2020 Presidential Election” will never be accepted by Mr Goldberg – because accepting the election was rigged would undermine the faith of people in “the system”, “the institutions”.

    The truth, that the institutions (government and corporate) are rotten-to-the-core is something that Mr Goldberg (and co) will not accept. Because it is the institutions (“the system”) they worship.

    Thus they are part of the problem – not part of the solution.

    The above is my long winded way of saying “you are correct Martin”.

  • Paul Marks

    Point against myself – I can remember when I thought a bit like Jonah Goldberg.

    I remember being outraged (utterly outraged – filled with RAGE) when in 2016 Donald John Trump answered a question about the “Rule of Law” by saying that, in his experience in New York, the “Rule of Law” was just the rule of corrupt judges and corrupt officials.

    I was spitting with fury at this remark (and others) – I even punished a young chap (in the “Nation States” computer game – of all places) for defending what Donald John Trump had said. I kicked that young man out of a game group (the “Libertarian Region”) – an injustice I committed for which I am very sorry.

    It took me a very long time to admit to myself that the reason I was so angry with Donald John Trump was because HE WAS TELLING THE TRUTH – both in New York and at the Federal level the “Rule of Law” had just become the rule of corrupt judges and corrupt officials.

    I was filled with anger (with rage) – not because the man was lying, but because the man was telling a truth that I did not want to hear.

    The leftist “long march through the institutions” is complete – the institutions (public and private – corporate) are utterly corrupted. Including the “scientific” and “public health” institutions.

    But people such as Jonah Goldberg are still stuck in denial. And I must be careful how much I condemn them – as, five years ago, THAT IS WHERE I WAS.