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]

Elon the Leveller

In 1647 Colonel Thomas Rainborowe famously said, “The poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he … I think it’s clear, that every man that is to live under a government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under.”

Rainborowe was speaking during the Putney Debates, which as Wikipedia says, “…were a series of discussions over the political settlement that should follow Parliament’s victory over Charles I in the First English Civil War. The main participants were senior officers of the New Model Army who favoured retaining Charles within the framework of a Constitutional monarchy, and radicals such as the Levellers who sought more sweeping changes, including One man, one vote and Freedom of thought, particularly in religion.”

Time was when the Left would have proudly claimed to be the political descendants of the Levellers, although as these posts by Brian Micklethwait point out, at least as good a case can be made that they were proto-libertarians. Nonetheless, I miss the days when the Left wanted to be seen as the ones who sought to give “the poorest he” an equal voice with “the greatest he”.

They do so no longer.

“So basically Elon thinks Bubba’s opinion is just as valid as a credentialed journalist,” tweets Chris D. Jackson who describes himself as “Dad, Husband, Local Elected Official, Fmr. State Director @YEOnetwork, Fmr. Dem. Party Chair, Animal Enthusiast, Higher Education Advocate, OG #TeamJoe member”

I have a grudge against Elon Musk for reasons I described in this post. And though I certainly think that Bubba’s opinions and the journalists’ opinions are equally valid in the sense of having an equal right to be said, I do not claim to know whether Bubba or the journalist is more often right. But if Musk brings about a situation whereby Bubba can speak on the same terms – a fee of $8 – as the highest paid graduate of the most prestigious school of journalism in the United States, then he, too, is a Leveller.

The link to Daniel Hannan’s Oxford Union speech in the first of Brian Micklethwait’s posts no longer works, but a video of the speech can be seen here. The part about the Levellers starts at 10:30. Hannan paraphrased Richard Overton’s 1646 pamphlet An Arrow Against All Tyrants, which deserves to be better known. This passage might particularly resonate for Americans as they choose new legislators tomorrow:

“For the edge of your own arguments against the king in this kind may be turned upon yourselves. For if for the safety of the people he might in equity be opposed by you in his tyrannies, oppressions and cruelties, even so may you by the same rule of right reason be opposed by the people in general in the like cases of destruction and ruin by you upon them”

17 comments to Elon the Leveller

  • JohnK

    Anyone who uses the term “credentialed journalist” has surely earned a damned good shoeing.

  • Sigivald

    “Credentialed journalist” is the most amazing horseshit.

    I’d bet a dollar that person thinks the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the Press only applies to people who work for a Professional News Organization, rather than literally everyone.

    And he is utterly wrong if so.

    (Even if not, he is utterly wrong with the idea that a Press Card somehow makes one wise or good at forming opinions properly; the Credentialed Press are a likely to be partisan fools as anyone else, arguably moreso.)

  • JohnK

    The other thing is that Bubba’s opinions are as valid as those of the “credentialed journalist”, inasmuch as everyone is entitled to their opinion.

    Once upon a time, the “credentialed journalist” would have been taught to find the facts, upon which opinions could be made. Nowadays, not so much.

  • Kirk

    Well, the good thing about a “credentialed journalist” is that when the revolution comes, we’ll have easy identifying features for who to put up against the walls.

    I love how the arrogant bastards have conflated their journalism degrees and cushy jobs with some kind of virtue-imbued social status, like they were noble firefighters dashing into the flames to save lives. The reality is, they’re mostly the most ignorant and stupid hacks imaginable.

    More they keep yammering, the more that they make the reality of some new-age Pol Pot coming to their door looking for an Ivy-League diploma on the wall, and then hauling them off to reeducation camps in the countryside more likely. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The day is coming when such a diploma will serve the same purpose that glasses served for the Khmer Rouge. It’ll be an effective death-warrant.

    Difference being, of course, that the diploma-bearing ones will have earned every bit of what they have coming. Not going to feel a moment’s pity for them, when they’re being rounded up and hauled off to their fates. Everything thing they’re doing is just making that outcome more and more likely by the day.

  • bobby b

    My first impulse was to change my Twitter handle to “bubba b”, but I suspect that’s going to be very popular now.

  • Kirk

    In all honesty, I’ve yet to encounter anything relating to a “credential” as being at all worthwhile, in any actual use case. Even a PE is terribly prone to abuse; I’ve run into some really abysmally stupid people with Engineer stamps, guys who can’t work out the spatial relationships of things even in two dimensions, let alone three.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that most credential schemes are set up by rent-seekers, whose primary goal is to keep people out of their field and to thus be able to ratchet up their prices. Even the more credible ones, like the Engineers? Dear God, look at the crap that gets built off of their stamped drawings. Every single one of the recent disasters we’ve had with construction came with a stamped set of drawings, so… What the hell is the use of the stamp? Is it magical, or something?

    Longer I live, the more cynical I get. And, the less credence I put in any of this sort of thing; I live in a house that we built with approved plans, stamped by an engineer. Yet, we doubled- and tripled-up on many of the structural requirements, based on sad experience. I don’t care what Weyerhauser says about how far you can span with one of their I-joists, if you don’t want a bouncy floor that squeaks, you always pick the next higher size of joist.

    Which makes me question the rest of their design decisions, TBH. If the floor they design is supposed to be “A”, but we can only get that “A” level performance by going up a joist size…? WTF does that say about the initial design?

  • Paul Marks

    There should be no such thing as a “credentialed” journalist – there should be journalists (reporters) but not “credentialed” ones.

    The “Schools of Journalism” with their Progressive Era ideological training are an evil.

    But it is interesting that the so called “Democrats” show their elitism – their hatred of ordinary people, their hatred of “Bubba”.

    It is much like Rousseau – the “General Will” is not the “will of all” not the opinions of ordinary people – most certainly not. The “General Will” is the view of the “Law Giver” – Rousseau himself or someone like him.

    That is what these evil (and they are evil) people mean by “democracy” – not the carrying out the opinions of ordinary people, no they hate and despise the opinions of ordinary people, “democracy” to the left is rule “in the interests of” the people – and they (the leftist elite) get to decide what policies serve those interests.

    You see ordinary people “do not vote in their own interests” – so elections “have to be” rigged, for the good of “the masses” (the “good that only the wise can see” as Saruman puts it in the Lord of the Rings – justifying his own tyranny), and opinion polls “have to be” turned into suppression polls, pretending that the left has more support than it really does, in order to make the rigged elections look vaguely plausible.

    Oh yes opinion polls are rigged – not all of them, but just enough opinion polls to skew the “real clear average” of polls that everyone, including Fox News, cites.

    Anyone with a basic grasp of mathematics knows how even a few wildly (deliberately) skewed opinion polls can influence the average defined as the arithmetic mean.

    We need a “Leveller” of opinion polls – who grasps that the average (if defined as the arithmetic mean) is useless – as long as few polls are wildly (and deliberately) wrong – and they are always wrong in the same direction.

  • I’ve come to the conclusion that most credential schemes are set up by rent-seekers, whose primary goal is to keep people out of their field and to thus be able to ratchet up their prices. (Kirk. November 7, 2022 at 10:33 pm)

    True in cases, but schemes can also be set up by the naively sincere, and then taken over by the rent seekers who cast aside the scheme’s pretended good.

    My older sister, expert in her field, once set up an accreditation scheme for lab workers in a medical diagnosis field. Seven years after setting it up, she told me,

    “If I’d foreseen what they’ve done with it, I would never have created it.”

    It is the nature of rent-seekers to be (a) good at spotting rent-extraction opportunities, and (b) good at letting others do the work of creation even of the scheme, then taking it over when those more-achievement-focussed others move on (and/or they have disempowered them as part of their take-over).

  • JohnK

    You see ordinary people “do not vote in their own interests” – so elections “have to be” rigged, for the good of “the masses”


    Wash your mouth out with soap. The elections aren’t “rigged”, they are “fortified”, by our betters in the leftist elite.

    The rest is true.

  • Fred the Fourth

    “literally everyone”
    I have argued elsewhere that the US 1st amendment should be understood to prevent the US Congress from making law restricting the freedom of speech of “anyone AT ALL, anywhere IN THE WORLD”, because the text proposes NO restriction on the scope of the prevention.

    I get all kinds of pushback from people who say, “But 1st amendment protection only applies in the US! It’s entirely irrelevant to anyone anywhere else in the world!”

    Well, sure. It has zero authority over non-US governments. Because the text says “Congress”.

    This has become one of my favorite pedantry exercises to see if my interlocutor has basic reading comprehension and logic skills. It also annoys people.

  • Fred the Fourth

    Decades ago, I read a bit of biography which included a conversation, in the US, between a US citizen and an immigrant from some Central / Eastern European country. They were conspiring to publish a specialist newsletter. The logistics having been sorted, the immigrant asks, “OK, now we take this to what government agencies to get approvals?” to which the response was “None, there are no such agencies, and approvals are not needed.”

    I will admit to feeling a bit of national pride when I read that.

  • Bill

    The test of whether a credentialed journalist was automatically accurate was whether an article in the newspaper that was written about an event or situation that you had personal knowledge or expertise of was accurate and correct. Back in the days of newspapers that were printed on low-quality paper with smudge-able black ink you might have read a local journalist writing about things you had a deep understanding of, and yet seemed to have got details and conclusions quite wrong. Not always, but enough to make you question everything with a “Is that really correct?”

    Nowadays, with the drive to publish and publish online as fast as possible before someone else publishes online seems to have made answering the old questions “Who, what, when, where, why and how” seem archaic. What’s more journalism seems to now require university credentials and the universities seem to have activists being the teachers and lecturers who seem to want their students not to ask “Who, what, when, where, why and how” but instead ask, “What viewpoint do I want my audience to adopt from exposure to my articles?”

  • Mr Ed

    Historical comparison question:

    Which has more rigging, the current US elections, or the Spanish Armada?

  • Steven R

    Somehow, I don’t think Biden’s speech yesterday to rally the Dem voters had quite the same gravitas as Elizabeth I’s at Tilbury to her troops.

    “I know I have the body of a doddering pedophile, but I have the heart and stomach, speaking of stomach where’s my pudding? I like pudding. They told me to say democracy a lot. What, oh, it’s time to go. Ice cream day. Democracy! Bye!”

  • Kirk

    Paul Marks said:

    We need a “Leveller” of opinion polls – who grasps that the average (if defined as the arithmetic mean) is useless – as long as few polls are wildly (and deliberately) wrong – and they are always wrong in the same direction.

    Yeah, well… See, this is the problem: You do a survey or take a poll, you need to remember one thing and one thing only, which is that said survey or poll is only as good as the source is. You can poll a mob of actual idiots and get told one thing, then poll a group of people who know the subject intimately and who have decent knowledge whereof they speak, only to learn another. Who do you listen to?

    This is what pisses me off, whenever I go to look at things that “experts” have researched. Very few of them ever really bother to analyze the sources; they all look at survey and poll results that fit their theses, and then just leave that alone. Nobody ever goes past that to ask the question, “Does this really mean anything…? Are these people they got the information from worth listening to?”

    Historical research, once you go looking at it, has this issue in abundance. They cite survey after survey, and never once does anyone actually question whether or not the subjects of said survey had clue one about what they were being surveyed about. Garbage in, garbage out; if the subjects are morons, why should we listen to them?

    There is scholarship, and then there is scholarship. If your work relies on lousy sources, then how much value is there to it? If your sources are idiots, does that not tend to imply that your conclusions are also inherently idiotic?

  • Paul Marks

    There has been lot of talk of “weak candidates” by Senator “Mitch ” McConnell (the person who spent nine million Dollars to try and DEFEAT the conservative candidate for U.S. Senate in Alaska), but Blake Masters and Kari Lake in Arizonia were certainly not “weak candidates”.

    If Kari Lake “loses” the Gubernatorial race in Arizona I think we have to face the bitter the truth that America, and the Western world with it, is lost.

    Either the elections are blatantly rigged – or, even worse, most people are conditioned (“brainwashed”) by the education system and the media.

    Kari Lake is a brilliant candidate – if even she cannot win (either because of election fraud or because the voters are conditioned) then it is over.

    The present economic and social system will not last – it is a vast Credit Bubble (it is based on nothing), but it may be replaced by something even worse.

    We shall have to see.

    Remember when the left (including the “capitalist” corporations) say that their opponents are a “threat to democracy” from their own point of view they are actually telling the truth – as they define “democracy” as endless government spending and endless regulations “for the good of the people”.

    This system will collapse, it violates objective economic law – which is part of objective reality, natural law, but if the people really have been so conditioned (“brainwashed”) by the education system and the media (including the entertainment media) then a sane society will not remerge – what will happen is chaos, violence and starvation.

  • Paul Marks

    As Dr Robert Epstein (a lifelong Democrat – so do not confuse him with Richard Epstein) has recently reminded us – things are NOT hopeless.

    He is not a Republican – but he wants Republicans and other non-leftists to have confidence in the system, and has produced examples of where (for example) Google has pulled back on its rigging of internet search results – when its political bias has been exposed and publicly condemned.

    There has also been reform in some States to roll back the dangers of election fraud. And this needs to be done in all other States.

    As Dr Robert Epstein and others correctly point out – there must be free discussion (not rigged internet search results – and banning and shadow banning) and honest elections (no mass mail-ballots that come from who-knows-who and, even if they come from actual voters, are open to intimidation and bribery).

    First we, in all nations, need a system that is basically honest – then we can discuss policy and vote for who we agree with.

    This is a basic, a minimum, requirement – nothing to do with the “perfectibility of man” or anything like that.