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Samizdata quote of the day – loss of belief in freedom edition

“…you can’t long remain a free society if you don’t believe in freedom. And it’s no good just saying you believe in it: you have to live it. Sometimes that means politicians deciding ‘we would rather live with this injustice or this social problem than expand the state to deal with it.’ When was the last time you heard anyone say that? And that’s the problem.”

David Frost, Daily Telegraph (£)

18 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – loss of belief in freedom edition

  • Kirk

    It begins and ends with Karen saying “There ought to be a law…”

    The thing that destroys free nations is that impulse which begins with someone saying to themselves “I want to control what shade of blue my neighbor paints his fence…”

    Once you’ve gotten it into your head that you’ve the right to decide the little things like paint colors for your neighbors, it’s not too far of a step to “Well, I really don’t like the way they cook/worship/vote, so I’ll just have a say over those things, as well…”

    Karen ought to have her ass beaten in, every time she tries to assert herself. It’s self-defense, basically; you have to discourage these things while they’re small. The petty tyrannies inevitably become the big ones, and once they reach a critical mass, and enough people sympathize with Karen, then you’ve got major problems.

    It’s also a consensus thing; when you have enough people in a population that hold similar beliefs, its all too easy to slip-slide your way into extremism. If you tracked how the Nazis managed to send a significant fraction of their population into the camps, you have to start looking at the way German culture was so damn conformist in the first place. You also have to note how thoroughly the non-conformists got purged from Germany from 1848 on. The Germans who might have said “Hey, wait just one damn minute…” in 1933 were the same ones that the German state so carefully drove out of Germany in the preceding century or so.

    Karen’s a problem, but the corollary is that the people who tolerate Karen are just as much a problem. You can see this in real time, right now: The Hamas-freaks protesting are the Karens of the era, but the people who just avert their eyes and go along are the analogs to those “good Germans” who did the exact same thing, conforming to what they perceived as the societal norms.

    My personal take is that the second group are more dangerous, because they’re a lot harder to identify. Especially once they’ve weaseled their way into positions throughout society… They’re the parasites making up the “Deep State”, every one of which I’d almost guarantee you were once the same sort of Karen-enablers out during things like the Vietnam War protests and later “social movements”.

  • Paul Marks

    The post is sadly true – and so is much of Kirk’s comment,

    If people expect more government spending and regulations as an “answer” to every distress – then liberty is doomed, and so is society itself.

    And it must be remembered that this was top-down – the people did not come up with these ideas of public services, benefits and regulations, they were TAUGHT to expect them – taught by members of the elite.

    For example in Ireland the people were not out demanding a system of state schools and the Poor Law in the 1830s – these were the ideas of elite figures such as Lord Stanley (later the Earl of Derby).

    In the early 1900s the “Minority Report” that led to state pensions and unemployment benefit (and so on) was not the work of workers – it was the product of socialist intellectuals such as Mr and Mrs Webb.

    In the United States neither Social Security (first suggested to imitate Bismarck’s Germany – but not imposed till 1935) was again the idea of the elite – as were the Great Society programs established in the 1960s (which have exploded ever since).

    But once these various schemes are established by the elite – they corrupt the people, who come to depend upon them.

    For example, fewer people were starving in America when “Food Stamps” were established in 1961 than there are today – yet it would be impossible to abolish Food Stamps “you want to starve the poor” would be the cry, as families and voluntary associations (both religious and secular) have been undermined, in the 1920s most people were members of fraternal organisations – now very few are, and families have also collapsed.

    It is hard to see anyway back to a society where the state is not “all in all” – the future holding not reform, but (rather) collapse.

  • AC Harper

    I’ll take the opportunity to revisit one of the Brexit arguments. In Common Law you can do anything that is not forbidden, but under Napoleonic Law (the EU default) you may only do what is permitted.

    David Frost makes the point that Helicopter Politics – no harm, no societal difficulty, no injustice is, in principle, beyond the reach of the state – ends up increasing what is only permitted and reduces freedom.

    It seems to me that the lack of dynamism and freedom in the UK, and especially ongoing in the EU, is down to the induced timidity of “the State knows best”.

  • Spot on – just reading a BBC news article (https://twitter.com/BBCNews/status/1789207582889976017) demanding legislation after a death in a crash, and I just knew before clicking on it that it would be a situation where personal responsibility would have counted for far more.

    It’s utterly wearying.

  • Paul Marks

    Sadly the idea that there were principles of Common Law (natural justice) that limited the powers of government, the position of Chief Justice Coke and Chief Justice Sir John Holt, was thrown out by Sir William Blackstone – a man rightly detested by the American Founding Fathers (although you would not know that by reading modern history books – which pretend that the Founders admired Blackstone, and admired David Hume as well).

    So we have the Divine Right of Parliament – which takes us back to the Roman Empire where the whims of the ruler were law (and rejects all limits on the power of government – from 877 AD (when King Charles the Bald of France formally accepted that there were some things beyond the power of the ruler or rulers – for example taking land from one family and giving it to another family, or changing the doctrines of the Christian Church) to the 1974 the Constitution of Louisiana (specifically the Bill of Rights part of it – rights NOT coming from government).

    In 1929 Chief Justice Hewitt (in “The New Despotism”) noted that the Divine Right of Parliament was, in practice, mutating into the Divine Right of Officials – under vague “Enabling Acts” of Parliament allowing officials to make decisions with the force of law.

    This was rejected in the United States by the Supreme Court (nine to zero) in 1935 – which held that officials could not make law – that, in the words of AC Harper, if Congress had not explicitly said something – it was not law, and private property owners were free to act (as long as they did not aggress against someone else).

    Sadly this bold stand lasted only 7 (seven) years – in 1942 (under the pressure of World War II) the Supreme Court ruled that, in effect, officials could make law.

    So here we are – both in the United Kingdom and the United States, in a terrible mess.

    “But Paul – without administrative law under delegated legislation, the modern state would be impossible”.

    Yes – and that, it being impossible, would be a good thing, as “the modern state” (the administrative state that seeks to control every aspect of life) is both evil and insane.

  • Kirk

    The thing that I find most aggravating about all this is the utter blindness that everyone has to the issues surrounding this.

    It’s like fish in water, all unaware that the water is there.

    The simple fact is that we interact with the world around us almost exactly as the great behaviorist B.F. Skinner ideated it. Every single situation we go into is a discrete and separate Skinner Box, within which we interact with the environment and the environment interacts with us. If you’re aware, and observant, you can see this in each and every interaction you have.

    Why’s this relevant? Because we have this huge blind spot as a society; nobody running things ever bothers to delve into these behavioral conditioning events, and do anything about or with them.

    Instead, they write memos, make rules, pass legislation… None of which work, because what they are doing is antithetical to what the actual environment is telling people to do, and rewarding or punishing them for doing so. The “great ones” of our society simply do not understand how our society really works…

    Case in point: The idjit class looks at the crime issue, and says “Oh, dear… We have all of these sorts of people imprisoned… They must be oppressed, and we must ensure that they aren’t unfairly punished…”

    Actual reality of the situation? That demographic commits way more crime than everyone else. Why? Doesn’t matter, really… What we’re looking at is a failure of the social behavioral modification regime. They’re not rewarded for following the rules, or punished for ignoring them… So, they just don’t follow them at all. The solution is not to excuse that behavior, because down that path, you’re actually rewarding transgression. What we’re doing with the legal system these days is exactly as if you were trying to house-train your dog by giving them treats every time they crap on the carpet. The dog isn’t getting the message not to crap in the house, because you are not sending it.

    In a nutshell, that’s the problem with the way these people look at the world. They think “Well, I’ve figured out this solution, I’ll just write a memo/pass a law implementing my solution, and that will fix everything!!!”

    Meanwhile, out in the real world, all the things that were rewarding people for doing the “wrong thing” are still there, and the ones that actually punish them for complying with your idea are still in place. It’s nuts; the root of the problem is that we don’t train people to look at things in this way, and the “leadership” hardly ever gets out of their offices to examine the actual environmental cues and incentives that are in place to encourage and reward people for doing that which they’ve decided they don’t want.

    The bosses talk out one side of their mouths, and then they do something else entirely with their hands.

    Case in point… You’ve got a miscreant, someone that doesn’t do what they’re supposed to be doing. They’re disruptive, they cause problems, and instead of delivering the lessons that might dissuade or properly condition them to comply with the organizational goals, you ignore the problem or actually reward them by letting them get away with it all.

    What have you just done? You’ve delivered a lesson to everyone else, that compliance and obedience to the rules is a chump’s game, and that the way to get ahead and get what you want is to be a worthless non-contributor.

    Which is where and why socialism always breaks down… Sure, the Stakhanovites will be there, at the beginning, but even the most delusional will eventually catch on that their dedication isn’t actually rewarded, and that the way to go is doing the bare minimum and transgress as much as possible.

    It’s also what’s killing our civilization, because the idjit class running things does not actually understand how it all works; they pull the levers in their offices, oblivious to what those levers actually do, and then wonder at the fact that none of their “initiatives” produce results.

    Meanwhile, all the actual effectors out in the environment are still providing the same cues to the objects of their efforts, so they’re still doing the same old things in the same old ways…

    The world can and probably should be evaluated in terms of a series of Skinner Boxes, every situation being a different one. You go out your door in the morning, forgetting your key? If your door locks automatically, well… That’s a behavioral cue, punishing you for forgetting your key inside. You can accept the lesson and learn to remember your key, or you can modify your environment by changing your door lock over to one that has to be key-locked from the outside with a key.

    Too many of our idjit-class “elites” think that the way forward would be to put a sign up on the exterior of your house, asking if you’ve remembered your keys…

  • Marius

    Frost is absolutely correct, however his argument will gain zero traction in British politics. This is because the population largely consists of weak mewling children with endless demands and no sense of personal responsibility.

    Can you imagine the shrieks from the media and other parties if any political party took Frost’s edict to heart?

  • Paul Marks

    Marius – in the United Kingdom people will say “we have tried pro liberty governance for 14 years – it has not worked” – NOT TRUE (as government spending and regulations have exploded – gone up, not down) but the “its Labour’s turn” argument is out there.

    If you get elected then overpower the administrative state (include the Woke judges) – or you are wasting your time.

    How many Prime Ministers in the last 60 years have managed to reduce the size and scope of government – even slightly? One (only one) Margaret Thatcher.

    The people have voted Conservative many times Marius – but only once in the last 60 years has a Conservative Prime Minister delivered some conservative policies. As Jacob Rees-Mogg (as a minister) and Liz Truss (as Prime Minister) found – it is a lot less difficult to make conservative speeches (or write conservative policies) than to deliver conservative policies against the entrenched “Social Reform” and “Social Justice” doctrines of the establishment.

    The system (the system – not the ordinary people) is designed to deliver an ever bigger and more controlling state.

  • Paul Marks

    In five years time perhaps Britain will be such a mess that someone who really will take-on-the-state will be elected – someone like the President of Argentina.

    It is possible (very possible) that the President of Argentina will fail – but at least he is sincerely trying to fight the “public servants” (read – public masters).

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    The reason politicians don’t say it is because most politicians believe that more law will solve any problem!

  • Stonyground

    Every day is a schoolday. Today I learned about Stakhanov who until just now I had never heard of. With me being a fan of lifelong learning this has made me quite happy.

  • Paul Marks

    Nicholas – many politicians believe no such thing, but they are trapped in a system that creates an ever bigger and more controlling state.

    It is not true that elected politicians have no influence – but they are not “in charge” either.

  • Stonyground

    A thought occurred to me. Do wasps, ants and bees make communism work because they are all hard wired to be Stakhanovites? Are social insects communists? I think that I need to do a bit more research on both social insects and the definition of communism to know the answer but it seems to me that they are.

  • Paul Marks

    A German politician has just been convicted of the “crime” of talking about migrants committing gang rapes, the message is brutally simple – tell the truth and you will be punished, for “racism”, “incitement to hatred” or whatever.

    And the time is coming when even silence will be a “crime” – remember “silence is violence”. So people will have to lie (viciously lie) – talk about how good the situation is, how “culturally enriching” and-so-on, or people will be punished (a “duty to promote diversity and inclusion”? in Germany and here?).

    “What is to be done?” – at this stage I do not think that anything can be done, not in a situation where a young woman can not talk about gang rapes without being punished for “racism”, “incitement to hatred” (our dear friend the “Hate Speech” doctrine) and so on.

    All civilisations eventually fall and this may well be the fall of Western civilisation. The hatred for freedom (such as Freedom of Speech – but also such things as the right to keep and bear arms to defend one’s self and others, and the hatred of private property – for example the de facto legalisation of stealing from shops) and the hatred for truth (even telling the truth about vicious crimes) is that extreme now – a hatred for liberty and a hatred for truth that dominates the education system, the “mainstream” media, the courts (ask Laurance Fox in the United Kingdom – or the victims of the institutionally corrupt “Justice” system in the United States), and just about everything else.

    The power of government, of the state, in both the United States and elsewhere, is not directed to protecting the nation (the people), it is actively working to destroy the nation.

  • Kirk

    Paul Marks said:

    All civilisations eventually fall and this may well be the fall of Western civilisation. The hatred for freedom (such as Freedom of Speech – but also such things as the right to keep and bear arms to defend one’s self and others, and the hatred of private property – for example the de facto legalisation of stealing from shops) and the hatred for truth (even telling the truth about vicious crimes) is that extreme now – a hatred for liberty and a hatred for truth that dominates the education system, the “mainstream” media, the courts (ask Laurance Fox in the United Kingdom – or the victims of the institutionally corrupt “Justice” system in the United States), and just about everything else.

    The power of government, of the state, in both the United States and elsewhere, is not directed to protecting the nation (the people), it is actively working to destroy the nation.

    I understand your position of despair. However, I think that actual fact is that we’re living in that bit of the curve where the idjits hold sway, and haven’t yet convinced everyone else of the essential dysfunction they advocate for. People are starting to look around, and are ceasing to “believe real hard” in all the propositions presented by the idjit class.

    Case in point would be the friend of the family, a woman who I knew growing up. Pretty much a die-hard liberal sort, very much in the vein of the typical Democrat lockstep thinker. Like the rest of the family she grew up in.

    They recently suffered a family tragedy, which I won’t go into. Tragedy caused by one of the usual Democrat protected class members, and dealing with the resulting legal situation has been monumentally and profoundly ugly for them all. What’s happened right along with that is a severe change in attitudes and allegiances… They’ve rightly identified the source of the problem, the left-wing politicians that have enabled all of this, and I’m hearing things come out of their mouths now that a decade or two ago would have been unthinkable. I think the catch phrase of the day is that they’ve all been “red-pilled”. Where there were once a family group of cheerfully liberal sorts that would have voted for all the usual Democrat programs, we now see a family group that aren’t that far from tipping over the edge into joining actual counter-liberal mob violence. I think that if they were offered the opportunity to join a lynch mob going after the politicians they hold responsible…? They’d likely join in, if not lead the damn thing themselves.

    The worm will eventually turn. The United States was populated by peoples smart enough and driven enough to “get the hell out” of the situations they were in, in their home countries. They’re not going to get on the trains as cooperatively as the WEF types think, and I very much believe that this current set of circumstances is only going to last until the systemic dysfunction is undeniable. Then, God alone knows what happens. I suspect the Dutch Solution(tm) of publicly barbecuing a few politicians won’t be off the table.

    Watch the latest outrage from Nancy Pelosi. Woman actually believes that she’s in the right, and that all those people opposing her are the monsters who’re wrong. When enough of those people wake up to her true nature, and the actual program she’s following, I think she’ll discover just what monsters actually are. Nemesis always follows hubris.

    I have no intent of joining in the fun, because I’m a civilized man, but I can observe and extrapolate what is going on around me. What is happening isn’t going to be tolerated, and once the breaking point is reached…? We’ll see. I don’t foresee a nation of rebels and refugees putting up with the WEF types and their machinations for much longer.

  • Roué le Jour

    It seems to me that western societies are fairly malleable, but eventually the “Popeye point” is reached, i.e. “I just stands so much and I can’t stands no more.” Idiot politicians then assume this resistance is the work of the entirely imaginary “far right.”

  • Paul Marks

    Roue le Jour – even verbal dissent is now illegal, it is “Hate Speech”.

    Kirk – we shall see, or you will (I may not be around), I do not know if the American people, and other Western peoples, are able to save themselves.

    To me the position looks to be one of little hope – but let us hope I am mistaken. And even little hope is better than no hope.

  • jgh

    Stony: wasps, ants, bees, etc. make socialism work because all members of a colony are clones of the queen, so it’s akin to a family household where it does work with some making no contribution (the children) some not earning a living (those looking after the children) and few that do earn a living distributing all that living to all the “spongers”.

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