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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 – people don’t want freedom edition

“Most voters don’t want tax cuts. They don’t want personal responsibility. They don’t want limited government. Britain was already in a dirigiste mood going into the lockdown. But, since coming out of it, it has been downright authoritarian.”

Daniel Hannan.

21 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – people don’t want freedom edition

  • Janko

    Same here in Germany. It’s a Tragedy.

  • Runcie Balspune

    Nothing new, all my life I’ve only ever heard “the government should do something”, it’s never been “the government should keep out of this”, even when the government was the root cause of the problem, e.g. the recent post office scandal.

  • Paul Marks

    I do not agree with Daniel Hannon – good man though he is.

    I think that most people would like lower taxes and less censorship and “Police State” stuff.

    It is our failure (I speak as a life long Conservative Party man) to deliver a smaller state that is the problem – not the lack of public demand for a roll back of taxes and “Woke” censorship and persecution.

    “How do you know Paul?” – I know because I knock on doors and talk to people (remember what I do for a living), I know what ordinary people think – because they tell me (sometimes in rather harsh language).

    It is not Conservative principles that are the problem – it is our failure to deliver them.

  • Fraser Orr

    Right, totally true here in the US. The key observation is that it isn’t authoritarian because powerful people have captured the levers of power, but because the people, in this democracy, want it that way. And that is something that can’t be fixed.

    Which makes me ask, if you have to live in an authoritarian country why not live in one with low taxes, with public services that actually work and where the police don’t allow the indigent to pitch a tent in your backyard?

    What exactly is the upside of living in a western country? Sure, I understand that in western countries they don’t try to put their political opponents in jail, or make most of the news media only portray the official government line, or destroy legitimate protests by throwing minor miscreants in jail for a hundred years, or seizing their bank accounts, or irresponsibly inflate the currency to destroy the wealth of the poor to make the rich richer, or try to distract the public from the devastating problems of the country with silly boondoggles like getting the last six people in the country who smoke to quit. I guess that the west does have some advantages.

    Tucker Carlson’s latest treasonous interview of Putin, and all the hoopla surrounding it, illustrates this. It is worth listening to his comments on it after the fact where he complains that no American city compares with the likes of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Singapore and even Moscow. In fact he did a series of shorts on the conditions in Moscow, and they are not at all like our memories of the soviet era of bleak buildings and empty grocery stores. Not that I’d want to live in Russia, but the extremity of the comparison shows us how far we have fallen. Dubai, a city full of those Islamists that western Conservatives eschew, is a beautiful, towering city, full or opportunity, empty of crime, bristling with efficient and effective public services, streets empty of trash and human waste, and full of delightful engaging people from all over the world. Which American city with a population greater than 100,000 can you say that of?

  • Runcie Balspune

    … a beautiful, towering city, full or opportunity, empty of crime, bristling with efficient and effective public services, streets empty of trash and human waste, and full of delightful engaging people from all over the world

    you forgot to mention that the trains run on time.

  • Fraser Orr

    Just as a follow up to my seditious previous comments, here is a video of a Russian walking around a hypermarket in Russia. Looks like Costco to me. As far as I can see this isn’t some propaganda video from the Russian government, just some Russian girl trying to be a YT star. Here is another, this time a foreigner traveling to Russia to look at a typical Russian grocery story. When I look at it, it reminds me a lot of Aldi.

    I think we westerners still remember the video of Yeltsin being shocked by the western grocery story, and the bleak images of empty grocery stores in Moscow, and gray oppressive buildings. Our idea of what Russia is like, even with the supposedly economy destroying sanctions, is totally skewed by dishonest press coverage. A little searching and you’ll see that Moscow isn’t much different than a typical European city, even if they have funky squiggly letters on their food packages.

    Think Russia is full of bleak soviet era buildings? Check out this video of Moscow.

    I’m not at all advocating for Russia. I think Putin is a monster and the last place I’d want to live is Russia. But we do not have an honest idea of what Russia is like, and the idea that the sanctions are hurting anyone but us is laughable. And the idea that the west is so advanced is entirely wrong. It used to be true, but we have been regressing and all those second world countries have not only caught up, but far exceeded us. My purpose here is not to advocate for Russia, but to contrast it with what we have in the west, and show just how far we have fallen. Moreover, they, the so called “second world” and BRICS are advancing, whereas we are spiraling faster and faster into our own black hole of ridiculously stupid notions.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Runcie Balspune
    [Re: Dubai] you forgot to mention that the trains run on time.

    No I didn’t, I said “efficient and effective public services”. And to be clear, unlike Italy under Mussolini, the trains actually DO run on time.

  • Stuart Noyes

    You belong to the Not the Conservatives party? Can’t you do something about that? Like rid the bloody party of progressives.

  • Les États-Unis d’Amérique ce ne sont pas les plages idylliques de San Diego seulement
    À ma connaissance, ceux qui s’opposent tant à Joe Biden ou Donald J Trump aux États Unis ne vont pas 10 ans au Goulag ou ne reçoivent pas une balle dans la tête

  • Fraser Orr

    @Philippe Hermkens
    Les États-Unis d’Amérique ce ne sont pas les plages idylliques de San Diego seulement
    À ma connaissance, ceux qui s’opposent tant à Joe Biden ou Donald J Trump aux États Unis ne vont pas 10 ans au Goulag ou ne reçoivent pas une balle dans la tête

    Perhaps not une balle dans la tête, but the Biden DoJ has already thrown dozens of members of the Trump administration in jail for many, many years. It isn’t the gulag, but American prisons are some of the worst in the first world. Thousands of J6 protesters still remain in pre-trial detention, often for years in solitary confinement, and those who have been tried have been sent to jail for many years for the most benign of actions. And congress’s J6 commission looked pretty much like a Soviet show trial from the 1960s to me.

    And as for Donald Trump, there is a multipronged movement from every side to throw the guy in jail for hundreds of years, disqualify him from the ballot and do everything they can to destroy him. I read a headline recently that said “It looks like the courts are not going to prevent another President Trump”, as if that is a perfectly normal thing… where courts and the power of the state decide the President rather than a full and free election.

    And as to the beautiful beaches of San Diego, I haven’t been their recently, but all along the California coast the most beautiful beaches are littered with homeless encampments, drug dens, trash and human waste. I haven’t been to San Diego recently, though it always was one of the loveliest places in the world, but who knows what degradation it has come to now?

  • Our idea of what Russia is like, even with the supposedly economy destroying sanctions, is totally skewed by dishonest press coverage.

    @Frazer Orr – February 15, 2024 at 5:15 pm

    The problem is that you’re comparing the urban centres of Moscow and St. Petersburg with the West, but not comparing secondary and tertiary cities with Western equivalents, because there your comparison starts to hit rough ground.

    The vast majority of Russian Oligarchs, wealthy and middle class still living in Russia live in those two cities.

    Chelyabinsk is the same size as Hamburg, Germany, but if you try doing any comparison of economic equivalence between the two, Chelyabinsk comes up short on every measure.

    …and not an Aldi or Lidl to be seen.

  • Fraser Orr

    @John Galt
    …and not an Aldi or Lidl to be seen.

    I’m not familiar with the cities you mention, but the second video (the Aldi like one) was not in Moscow but far outside, in fact, that is why I included it, to counter the old saw about “the elites dine in splendor while the serfs eat grass”, that was common, and probably true, in the old soviet era. In that second video he mentions there are 20,000 of those stores in Russia as a whole. They can’t all be in Moscow and St. Petersburg. I’d search on wikipedia, but I can’t type those funky letters (and the way things are going, it wouldn’t surprise me if all of Russia has been whitewashed away on wikipedia.)

    Regardless, your comment also misses my core point. I am not at all advocating that we all up sticks and move to some small Russian town, or even a large one. Rather it is to compare the reality of how very far down the west has come, and how the BRICS countries are either catching up or exceeding us. The question really is, given that you have the freedom, why would you live in Birmingham (England or Alabama) rather than a beautiful place like Dubai, or Singapore or Geneva? Sure their governments might be oppressive, but so is yours, and yours is getting worse, while theirs is, generally speaking, getting better. Plus when you ride the subway you don’t have to fear a crazy person throwing up in your lap, or worry about your daughter being raped on the way home from school.

    And FWIW, the only thing I know about Hamburg, having passed through there one time, is that there is a brothel in the airport — which I don’t really consider to be a high point of cultural achievement, even if I am an advocate of “your body, your choice” when it comes to that particular profession.

  • My point is that Russia is a place of significant inequality. Sure, it is far better now than under Communism, but the political structure of it is that all the money is in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

    It ain’t that those living elsewhere down the list of most populated cities in Russia are “eating grass”, but the difference between those two cities and a very successful regional centre like Chelyabinsk is still stark.

  • Paul Marks

    Frasor Orr – you are mistaken.

    You are mistaken about the British people (see above) and you are largely mistaken about America – where, when it is put to the people, lower taxes and less regulations are often (although not always) quite popular. Government spending programs are normally (although not always) the invention of an intellectual elite – it is not the people who (normally) ask for new schemes.

    What both you and Danial Hannan are doing is to assume that elected politicians make policy in order to gain votes from the people – that is what all the politics books say, but it is NOT true.

    Normally elected politicians (local of national) find that policy is presented to them (by officials and “experts”) and the people have no say.

  • Paul Marks

    Even in California the people, some years ago, tried to stop the throwing of money at illegal immigrants – but the far left courts tossed this out, insisting that California destroy itself.

    After that more and more conservative Californians moved out. The people voted in a referendum to stop the suicidal madness, but the, institutionally corrupt, courts overruled the people.

  • Colli

    Exactly so. See Bryan Caplan’s articles here and here for similar points.

    People (in the U.S. at least) want less government in the abstract. They want less spending. They want less taxation. But when it comes to specifics, they don’t. The more specific you get, the more big-government people get. People do not want to cut spending on health, Social Security and the military – which make up around three-quarters of the federal budget. What they do want to cut is foreign aid – which makes up 1% of the budget (yes, even in 2023, even with Ukraine, it was around 1%). This is part of the reason I think all the hubbub about Ukraine is really irrelevant. There are much bigger fish to fry.

    So people want reduced spending, but they don’t really want reduced spending in any of the largest categories of spending. They only want it reduced when it is spending on “other people”, despite the insignificant size of that spending. In other words, people want a free lunch.

    It is the same for regulation. In the abstract, people don’t favor regulation. But when asked questions about what the government should do, most say it should do things like “keep prices under control”.

    It is almost like people have a Pavlovian response to some things, but have not actually considered the consequences of what they say.

    Note that these things are not split on party lines. When 80% of Americans think the government should “protect jobs”, it isn’t because one party says one thing while the other says the opposite.

    On so-called “civil liberties”, people are a bit better. A large majority favors legalization of marijuana, most people oppose government surveillance and violations of civil liberties to fight terrorism.

    Still, when you hear these things, you have to wonder. Not why government is so large, but why it isn’t even larger.

  • Fraser Orr

    I wish you were right Paul, but I don’t believe you are. I don’t know the temperature in Britain, so I’ll restrict myself to the USA. If you ask someone straight out if they are in favor of tax cuts or reduction in regulation many people will say yes. But if you ask them about say tax cuts for the rich, or reducing regulations they care about they will quickly baulk. This was really seen during covid time when a traditionally very conservative group — older people — lost their minds out of the fear the government pumped into them, and gave up of all pretensions to being lovers of liberty.

    You can see the way the voter thinks by the way they vote. The 2022 election here was an eye opening revelation for me. The utter failure of Biden — FFS people couldn’t buy food for their babies — yet they still, to all intents and purposes won that election. John Fetterman, a man whole could literally not string together two coherent sentences, and when he did, what he said was vile, beat Dr. Oz, a heart surgeon who had invented several life saving devices, was an international celebrity, did every interview he could, and showed himself breathtakingly intelligent and engaged. I think it was that senatorial election in Pennsylvania that pushed me over the edge.

    All evidence shows that the voters vote for insane policies, they have no idea what is good for them. Of course you are right that slimy politicians take it to the next level with their corruption and dishonesty. But we are where we are because the voters favored stupidity over sanity. Perhaps you see this in both the attitude about CAGW and Covid. The country is implacable in its support for the insane policies around this and there is no changing their views. Politicians and pressure groups are teaching our children horrific lies about sexuality, and destroying the lives of young children poisonings them with drugs (puberty blockers, Covid shots? You take your pick), while cutting off the sexual parts of teenagers. This is happening, and most people are too scared to say anything about it. Too scared or too deluded to stand up for and protect the health, happiness, future, and my god even the fertility of THEIR own children. It is a violation of nature what these parents are doing.

    The people have been tamed into compliance with the most contemptible practices, and have been brainwashed with insane ideas. What I was concerned with politically ten years ago doesn’t even crack the top ten now given all the insanity that has been added.

    So I appreciate your optimism, I appreciate you clinging to every tiny piece of good news, and I certainly agree with your disdain for our horrible politicians. But the problem is the people, not the politicians. And there comes a time when the honest person realizes that it is beyond recovery and that it is time to make alternative plans. Like the battered wife there comes a time to realize that you can’t change him, and to screw up your courage, move out and start over somewhere that the bastard can never find you again.

  • The Wobbly Guy


    Gramsci’s march through the institutions has been VERY effective in the US. If the people in the US have addled brains, it’s because they were indoctrinated into being so.

    I see hope elsewhere though. I met my new form class a few days ago, and I cracked a joke about having the air-con turned on all the time, and checked if any of them were the environmentally conscious types in a joking manner. None of them wanted to be, and more importantly, when I asked if they just went with all the green initiatives in the past, they said ‘yeah, we did, but that didn’t mean we actually believed it’.

    I cracked another joke about the predictions of ice caps melting, or no more snow, and they all laughed.

    That gave me hope.

  • lucklucky

    The problem is the non-left have a very low cultural productivity. Some of it is structural for exemple and now restricting only to conservatives it is natural that they create less than the left but their output is miserable. The right don’t create neither tell stories.

  • Jon Mors

    Well, I’m glad I read the comments over my coffee this morning as I got to see Paul being described as an optimist.

  • Kirk

    lucklucky said:

    The problem is the non-left have a very low cultural productivity. Some of it is structural for exemple and now restricting only to conservatives it is natural that they create less than the left but their output is miserable. The right don’t create neither tell stories.

    Interesting thesis you have there. I’ll counter it by pointing out that the left has controlled the gateways for “cultural activities” since ferfreakin’ ever, and that they’ve consciously done exactly what they did in education with that control: Blocked everyone who didn’t agree with them. Wonder why the groves of academia are so leftward-slanted? Simple; it was done the same way that the LGBTWTFBBQ types kept normal heterosexuals out of the Church: They got control and then blocked everyone but their own kind from getting through the seminaries.

    You say that the output of conservatives is “miserable”. Gee, I wonder how that happened…?

    The problem here is that you have an entire swathe of intellectual thought being suppressed, viewpoints ignored, and then you say that they’re “intellectually unproductive”. Yeah, and why do you suppose that is? What do you suppose the eventual end-point of all that suppression is going to be, when those people wind up running things because the left demonstrates its inherent incompetence? D’ya think that they’re suppressing all opposition because their arguments are just that good? Or, is it because they are incapable of actually surviving on a level playing field?

    You can’t do what they’ve done and remain healthy and functional. The inevitable discovery that there are alternatives to their indoctrination will be what destroys them, as people examine the hash that the left has made of things wherever they’ve had sway, and decide to to “try something else”. Likely, the exact opposite extremism… Which ain’t going to be very healthy for the left.

    Moderation in all things, including ideology. The left has played dirty pool since day one, and will eventually reap as they have sown. The day will come when they and theirs are blocked from access to it all, and nobody will feel the slightest bit of anguish over it, because they’ll have been trained up in the leftwards path, themselves. Insist on politicizing everything? Don’t be surprised when you find yourself destroyed by your own political bent.

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