That’s about 40 in blog years, I think.
I try not to get too political here, because I don’t enjoy or have time for arguing with people who are wrong. But I’ll make an exception today, and try to keep it brief.
Ever since I can remember, I always had a very strong sense that I – and every person on this planet – should not have our potential happiness limited due to the whims of other people. Things like national borders always struck me as annoying at best. When I was four, I told my father that I wanted to move to England someday, and he told me that it wouldn’t happen. “You’re not British, and they’re not going to let you take a job from one of their own.” I knew that was morally wrong, as well as logically flawed, but I couldn’t articulate why. (They don’t teach the fixed quantity of labor fallacy in preschool, so it really must just be common sense. Yet the fallacy lives on! Anger, despair, rage, etc.)
Fast forward to 2003. I’d been living in the UK for five years, observing their three-party system of government, and realizing that – just as in America – I identified with almost nothing I heard from any of them. Correction: I agreed with some of them on certain things, and then it would turn out that they also believed some really messed up stuff, and I wondered: Doesn’t anybody else see how downright evil some of this is? Like, really, you think someone from Mexico shouldn’t be allowed to move to America because of some lottery of birth? Like, really, you think you should be allowed to ban people from smoking on their own private property, because you think “their own good” is any of your business? Like, really? (I could continue to list my gripes with those who play party politics, but I don’t want to max out my web host’s memory allowance.)
Or, as it happened: Game on.
Finally, I had found my metacontextual home. It’s not that everybody on Samizdata agrees on everything (or much of anything) – they don’t, and there’s been plenty of intellectual fisticuffs over the years. But the underlying principles of what founder Perry de Havilland describes as social individualism are consistent, and they spoke to me. Samizdata, along with Virginia Postrel‘s The Future and Its Enemies (which I first read on loan from Perry de Havilland), changed my life. I finally had a language to apply to the beliefs and sense of right and wrong that I’d had since I was a kid. I was also persuaded away from some opinions that I had held in error. It was kind of a big deal to me.
It was also the beginning of many beautiful friendships. I was fortunate enough to be invited to one of Perry’s legendary parties at his house in Chelsea (London), and on that night I met many people who remain close friends to this day. Perry and co-editor Adriana Lukas are family to me, and I am rarely happier (despite how it may have sometimes looked) than when the lot of us are sitting in the front room, in the kitchen, at the bar or in the back garden in Chelsea, talking until the break of dawn. I’ve lost many hours of sleep to such conversations, and I wouldn’t have them back for anything.
But it’s not just me. Samizdata has received some incredible comments and fan mail over the years, from people with stories just like mine. “I knew what the people around me were saying was rubbish, but I didn’t know anyone who thought the way I did. Then I found Samizdata.”
If you know anything about the USSR, you may recognize the origin of Samizdata’s name, from the samizdat – a clandestine system of banned literature passed between dissidents during the Communist era. It’s a clever name, backed by editorial experience behind the Iron Curtain, and the first time I traveled to a former Communist country, it was with one of the Samizdata crew who grew up there (and another who did not). I had heard about what it had been like, I had heard about what happened, and I got to see what it’s like now.
All this to say: Samizdata, I owe you. Thanks for everything, Perry and Adriana, including being the inspiration for the likes of Guido Fawkes, who has been taking down the bad guys in government for several years now. We’ll never know the full extent of your influence, but what we do know is enough to constitute a legacy any social individualist should be content to have.