Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Wednesday April 04 2012

A comment on this at Samizdata, from “Fred”.  Harsh, but containing much truth:

This used to be a great blog, but it’s dying. Not that the contributors still on it aren’t doing a decent job, but there’s not enough of them, with not enough time and energy. You need some new blood. The country needs Samizdata to come back revitalized. (I’d offer my services, but I’m also a burnt-out case).

I doubt that’ll be discussed very much on Samizdata itself.

For me, the key figure is Perry de Havilland.  Samizdata is indeed now a shadow of what it once was.  But when Perry writes for it, the shadow seems to go away and the thing itself returns.  But he is now, it would seem, blogged out, and Samizdata is hugely the worse for it.  Groups in general and group blogs in particular don’t function properly if not properly lead, and Samizdata used to be lead by example.  Perry did a superb job setting Samizdata up, and the momentum has been extraordinary.  But “Fred” is right.  That momentum is no longer there.

I am entirely aware that I myself am a part of this problem.  I too find that I can only say and do so much.  I look back on the last decade of my life with a feeling that I could have done a whole lot better.  All I did for Samizdata was join in, and contribute well and often, for a while.  Perry de Havilland did massively better than that.

Personally I’m not sure that Samizdata itself “needs” to revive.  The country may “need Samizdata”, but the country may just have to make other arrangements.  But the attitude Samizdata embodied when it was started, and still tries to embody, needs to stick around, if not at Samizdata itself then somewhere.

The sight of a bunch of old guys casting about for “new blood” can be rather undignified, and the process usually fails anyway.  Can ageing firebrands find younger replacements, to do the same old jobs?  This is just about the hardest thing there is when it comes to institution making.  Personally, I have always concentrated on putting the ideas out there, and relying on the next generation to stay with them and express them in their own way, with their own enterprises and communicational techniques, not as junior members of Old Guy Institutions.  I tend to doubt the excellence of younger people who attach themselves to ancient institutions, rather than creating their own.  I mean, what’s stopping them doing their own thing?  It’s not like it takes a revolution to set up a new libertarian drumbeating machine.  And there are a couple out there that I can think of.  But maybe the fact that those operations are even on my radar means that they are not where the real libertarian action is right now, and the Real Thing is happening entirely elsewhere.

I often find that simply stating a problem out loud can make it go away.  The answer, that had seemed impossible, becomes obvious.  Maybe this posting will do that for me now.