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

“The old truths remain unchanged: The free world isn’t free because it is rich — it is rich because it is free. Freedom is not only a moral good but also a practical one: Because we have a system that enables us to fail quickly and fail cheaply, we can try many different approaches to social and material problems, throwing everything we have at them and seeing what works. Authoritarian societies, in contrast, have trouble adapting to fluid conditions, often discomfited by problems that cannot be solved with bayonets. One by one, Americans and Germans and Englishmen aren’t any more intelligent than Russians or Chinese or Saudis, but the institutions of free societies — from the free press to competitive elections — enable free people to rally and deploy their collective intelligence in a way that is difficult or impossible in unfree societies.”

Kevin D Williamson

23 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • After the last two years, I think ‘free world’ needs to be put in ironic quotes, and perhaps replaced with ‘freer world’, but yes, I broadly agree with the above.

  • Paul Marks

    More than two years Perry – as you know liberty in the West has been in decline (the state has been on the rise) for about 150 years. At one point does the state get so big, so interventionist, that society is no longer sound? I think that as recently as, say, 1964 British society (in spite of a very large government indeed) was still basically sound – I would not say that today.

    The post is correct – liberty was the mother of prosperity, and of power. For example, the United Kingdom was not rich because it had an Empire (even the pro Imperialist Disraeli called the colonies “wretched millstones” to Britain economically – and both Gladstone and Lord Salisbury, both the Liberal Leader and the Conservative Leader, thought that the Empire was, on balance, a burden – that it cost more than it raised), the United Kingdom had an Empire because it was prosperous.

    Far from “slavery” (endemic in Africa and elsewhere for thousands of years) and “Imperialism” being the source of the Industrial Revolution – the Industrial Revolution was mostly financed by profits from DOMESTIC farming. That is why the agricultural revolution came before the industrial revolution.

    Why did Britain have a industrial revolution before France or other countries did? Very simple – France and other countries had a Compulsory Guild System – and Britain did not.

    Britain had not had a Compulsory Guild System since the time of King Edward VI (the son of Henry VIII) it was got rid of because many of the guilds were associated with Catholic religious practices – in short the Marxist view that technology (which appears from no where – in the Marxist view of things) came along and changed the “forces of production” which then changed the “relations of production” (including the “ideology” in human minds) thus changing the “mode of production” – is TOTALLY WRONG.

    The legal changes in Britain came FIRST – both the end of the Compulsory Guild System, and the Enclosure of Farm Land, the new industrial technology came AFTERWARDS (the exact opposite of what Dr Karl Marx held about how history works).

    In short the “intellectual superstructure” changed first – and the “economic base” changed afterwards.

    By the way there is no reason why the Roman Catholic religion should need a Compulsory Guild System – after all Belgium (the second country in the world to have an industrial revolution) was-and-is Roman Catholic.

  • Paul Marks

    Before anyone points out that “Woke” (Frankfurt School) Marxism is undermining such things as Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press in Western countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States.

    Well yes – no one is denying that. I am sure that Mr Williamson knows that.

    As for economic policy – the ideological faith in “Social Reform” (ever bigger and more interventionist government) is a terrible problem.

    Even faced with the horrible failure of statism in most large American cities over the last 60 years – the answer of the education system and the mainstream media is still to demand MORE government spending and MORE regulations.

    Sadly the failure is not “cheap” – and we do NOT try different approaches to economic and social problems. It is (nearly) always the same approach – more government spending and more regulations.

    There is a real “intellectual blockage” on this matter of central importance.

  • Paul Marks

    “Paul – you have not ranted about the monetary and financial system” – I think people round here know my view of that, I do not have to put it as a response to every post. I will just say that people who claim that the Bank of England, National Debt, and Credit Bubble banking (as opposed to honest money lending) were the reasons that Britain developed well economically, are WRONG. The United Kingdom would have been better off without these things.

  • tim c

    Now add “bank bailouts”, “Subsidies” and “Tax Breaks” and see whether we are still free.
    My argument nowadays is that we are living in a socialist society. If Socialism/communism is essentially State Capitalism (it’s the State who decides who gets cash/credit and how much), allied with limits on freedom of speech then it’s clear we are living in a socialist society.

    1) We do not allow quick failure anymore. Certain businesses (not just banks ) are immune e.g. Royal Mail, British Airways. Also, other large companies are given vast incentives/loans/whatever you want to call it that small business just can’t get i.e. bridging loans, COVID payments etc. Our failures don’t happen anymore, and as a result they’re nto cheap as these are zombie companies aka they only exist due to govt support.

    2) Most people (except the true 1%-or should that be o.10%) pay most of their income back to the State in the form of tax. Income Tax, NI, council tax, capital gains, inheritance tax, fuel tax, VAT, stamp duty on a house (whose value is determined by the amount of debt you can go into), stamp duty on shares, green taxes, the list goes on. Oh yes, car park fees for NHS hospitals (not a tax I hear you cry!). Either way, if the State is essentially confiscating over 50% of your income then this is the basic line in the sand to measure whether either you or the State has more say in where/how you spend your income.

    3) Freedom of speech is now curtailed. Certain points of view will see you harassed and hounded, while others can allow you to break the law and be protected by the State (BLM protests, the destruction of the statue in Bristol). Obviously there is a very long list.

    Either way, I simply cannot abide when people say we are living in a capitalist society. Normal people who run businesses live under a quasi capitalist/socialist banner. They take the risk and can go bust ant any time (capitalism), yet also have to give up large amounts of profit to the State whilst living under an increasingly restrictive arena of free speech.

    As for the big businesses, well fascism/socialism are just semantic differences based on which side of the tax/State structure these businesses sit in.
    It’s sad no one makes the argument whilst reminding people that Mussolini used to be the leader of the Italian socialist party. Did he suddenly have an extreme conversion to free market economics, or is it just that fascism and socialism are two cheeks of the same arse?

    Apparently it’s always the former. Give me strength….

  • NickM

    Have a look at this:


    Now guess where the DMZ is?

    As to the state… Well I’m a Quaker Warden (amongst other things). We have had for the past few months a block-booking for the meeting house from a local (state) school who want a “space” for “special students”. They almost never use it. They still pay so… Today they sent someone round to perform a “risk assessment”. That is the all we’ve seen of ’em for about 6 months. He looked in the cutlery drawer and pronounced it sound. The waste here is outrageous. Are we unique here? I’ll lay Au we ain’t. So the next time some politico says we ought to “invest” more in “special needs” (or let’s face it – bad lads – we initially had to relocate the bread knife for ’em) think on poor NickM’s parable. What can men do in the face of such outright twattery?

  • Paul Marks

    tim c and Nickm – I do not deny any of your points.

    Liberty has horribly declined.

    We now live in a world where Corporations, such as Disney, care more about their ESG scores than they do about paying customers.

    And why not? After all money comes from the Fed and the Credit Bubble banks (that depend on the Fed) – not from paying customers.

    And it is getting that was in the United Kingdom as well.

    It used to be said that self employment and small companies were the backbone of both Britain and America – but the Credit Money expansion (which tends to go to the big boys – such as Black Rock) and the Covid lockdowns, have changed that.

    They may have broken the spine of the West – we shall have to see.

  • Paul Marks

    Just imagine a CEO of a public company who said “bugger your Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (DIE) agenda – we are here to make money and we will hire the best person for the job, regardless of all this stuff”.

    Such a CEO would be out the door the same day – having first been made to give a grovelling apology, most likely on his knees (and I am not using a figure of speech).

    We live in a society where capitalists are not allowed to be capitalists.

  • Paul Marks

    As for Covid.

    Japan is at 145 in the world for Covid death rate – below lockdown Australia, indeed below lockdown everywhere (unless you believe the figures China puts out).

    No doubt we will be told that this is because Australia has a much higher population density than Japan.

    “But Australia has a much LOWER population density than Japan” – I know.

    I remember Patrick saying that the Japanese were obsessively talking about what the government might do in relation to Covid – and he was quite correct, they obsessively talked about this on Japanese television for two years.

    They never did get around to ordering a lockdown – but, yes indeed, they talked about it a lot.

    I wish we in Britain had spent two years talking about whether or not to have a lockdown – rather than actually having one.

  • Flubber

    Yeah Blackrock and Vanguard have seen to that.

  • Fraser Orr

    Something curious though is that there seems to be an upper limit. As we get more free and less worried about providing the basics of life, we (by which I mean society) tend toward this sense of self loathing, much, I guess, as the stereotypical child of a super rich person. Our self loathing leads to extremely destructive self harm which undermines the very source of our wealth.

    The Victorians were never like that. They revelled in their wealth and success. What is the difference?

    I’m the child of a poor family that pulled itself up by the fingernails to make it into barely middle class. My father started out as a dock worker in the Glasgow docks but pulled himself up to a professional job, my mother used to stock shelves in a grocery store. My clothes were all hand me downs, and when I ripped my trousers my mother did something that people don’t do anymore — she repaired them. My parents where both people who I deeply admired, both are unfortunately no longer alive.

    So I didn’t come from a rich background. I’m fairly successful, but every damn dime I earned with my own blood, sweat and tears. I think that if you are just given it, and don’t earn it, you don’t appreciate it, and seem to turn inward in self hatred and loathing. And I think that is why most of that self loathing, and, come to that, most revolutions, start in the fat and happy middle classes. The real working class are too busy putting bacon on the table to worry about these things. The young middle class who have had their butts wiped by their mammas all their lives don’t have to worry so much about putting soy bacon substitute on the table.

    The arrogance of people who have never held down a job, or even been a shift manager at McDonalds who somehow think they are smart enough to rewire the whole world economic system is simply breathtaking. But that is what you get when piddling effort is rewarded all your life with a trophy.

  • Bell Curve

    “Paul – you have not ranted about the monetary and financial system” – I think people round here know my view of that, I do not have to put it as a response to every post.

    Wow! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria!

  • More than two years Perry

    That is not what I was talking about. Liberty has always waxed and waned in the ‘west’. But what happened over the last two years is exceptional in peacetime, and it cannot be allowed to vanish down the memory hole. The many people who enabled that must pay a social and political price, but it that will be a long hard fight.

  • bobby b

    Sadly, Kevin Williamson frequently suffers from that same self-loathing that Fraser Orr describes above. This was one of his better writings. He’s had his share of stinkers.

  • Chester Draws

    Liberty has horribly declined.

    In some aspects.

    In terms of a person’s ability to believe different religions, to have differing sexual practices and to generally break with social convention we have never had more liberty. It wasn’t illegal 100 years ago for the wife to work and the man look after the kids, but it might as well have been. Actually, many jobs could not be held by married women. Sure we can’t say nasty things about Islam, but 150 years ago we couldn’t say similar things about the Anglican church.

    In practice some of the newer restrictions have arisen because our liberties have crossed with modern ability to do things which we never could before. We didn’t need “hate crime” legislation when races were not able to cross oceans and live in different countries and when someone could broadcast their thoughts to the world for no cost.

    I’ve been free to live in five countries, and travel to something like forty of them. Something only the very rich could do in the past, if at all. The impositions on my liberty to live and travel are minimal. That was not true until recently.

    Those here who say we live in “socialist” countries, how do you explain that my wife owns her own business, and is free to make millions if she is good enough, which is literally impossible in a Socialist country? I teach at an independent church school — not a notoriously Socialist thing. I’ve changed career, not occupation, three times — with no state direction.

    The bleating about our loss of liberties and “Socialist” economies makes libertarians sound like tin-hat wearing flat earthers. It does no good for the cause of liberty at all.

    I’m against many of the modern restrictions, because I have libertarian tendencies. But pretending that everything is the worst of all possible worlds is just stupid.

  • But pretending that everything is the worst of all possible worlds is just stupid.

    Amen to that.

  • Stonyground

    I have recently been exposed to a little rant from a left leaning retired university lecturer on the subject of diversity hires. This person observed that diversity rules repeatedly led to the best person for the job being passed over for someone who turned out to be useless. I have had lively discussions with this person in the past but this time I just kept my peace while laughing internally. My first thought was well duh, what else would you expect to happen? But I also thought about the fact that this person was actually self educating after repeatedly seeing lefty ideas crashing headlong into reality.

  • Stonyground

    My background and career path was similar. My wife and I are better off than my parents were and my daughter looks to be on course to be better off than we are. Agree about self appointed experts who think that they know how to run things. Often with fresh new ideas that are really tired and repeatedly failed ideas with a new coat of paint.

  • Chester Draws (March 25, 2022 at 5:57 am), though you have a point, one of our liberties that has declined is our freedom to describe the real past unhindered when present-day liberty is taken from us on the pretext that otherwise we would swiftly revert to the state of a dreadful (and dreadfully exaggerated) past. For example, your remark

    It wasn’t illegal 100 years ago for the wife to work and the man look after the kids, but it might as well have been.

    is wrong in two ways. It makes a difference if something is a criminal offence (especially a popular-to-enforce one) as against being merely an unpopular attitude – consider the hate-speech laws – and while the past, like the present, knew what work/home patterns it thought best, it also endured many departures from them in the name of making a living, with greater (middle class) or lesser (working class) toleration in this case. A century ago, working class distaste (from wives as well as their husbands) to an unemployed man becoming a ‘Mary Ann’ was indeed real, but the need to bring in earnings somehow, and provide child-minding somehow, was also real, and people knew that.

    I wrote a comment on a similar issue a while back.

    We didn’t need “hate crime” legislation when races were not able to cross oceans

    The empire created a considerable ability for races to cross oceans to Britain quite some time ago. A hundred years ago (indeed, much earlier than that), you could find Indians, Negroes and others attending Eton or Oxford, playing football for prestigious teams, and occupying much humbler positions in the UK, in numbers quite enough for the modern-day PC to demand hate-speech protection, and when both racial slurs and contemptuous criticism of those who uttered racial slurs could be heard in British free-speech culture of the time. I appreciate you did not mean “need” in a sense of you yourself desiring such laws, but just that there are people of other race in the UK so the laws have subjects on which to operate. In that sense, there was plenty of ‘need’ before WWI.

  • Stonyground

    The UK might not be socialist in the traditionally recognised sense. We do however have a massively overweight government that costs huge amounts of money to sustain and that constantly interferes in matters where it has no business and no competence.

  • Paul Marks

    Chester Draws – when did I say this was the “worst of all possible worlds”? Or even “socialist”?

    However, (for example) on third of the small business enterprises that were closed by the Covid lockdowns (which had NOTHING to do with “saving lives”) did NOT reopen.

    When your wife’s business gets undermined, which it will (where ever you live) what are you are going to say? Are you going to say that people have more freedom to travel now than they did in the past? Or perhaps you will say that you have six legs and are blue in colour. After all that would be just about as accurate as saying that people have more freedom to move now than they did in the past.

    Liberty has been in decline for many years, over a century (more like one and half centuries – indeed in the German and Italian lands from the end of the 1850s – in France and Britain the decline set in around 1870), if you have not noticed by this time – then you Sir are not very observant.

    “But we are wealthier now – and that means we are more free, because we do can do more things and buy more stuff”.

    People who come out with such sentiments are entitled to their opinion.

  • john hartley

    The system is so broken that which is described cannot be – we are are in corporatised state and it matters less where the ownership lies, freedom and freedom of action are dead.

    In the main (many? most?) people are incapable or unwilling of making their own moral subjective judgements and being able to keep to them or challenge the narrative.

    The ability to challenge a prevailing view is curtailed and enforced by corporations as much a government. Talk of “socialism” misses the point, it is liberty of the individual and the ability to act that modern consumer society.

    Being the least dirty shirt in the laundry pile is *not* a recommendation.

  • Saxinis Kion

    “Britain had not had a Compulsory Guild System since the time of King Edward VI (the son of Henry VIII) it was got rid of because many of the guilds were associated with Catholic religious…”

    You learn something new everyday (or can if you are curious enough). I had to look up KE6 to get a timeframe for his reign to realize this was already in place prior to the American colonies, which explains why most of us Americans probably never heard of this.