I’m Peter Samuel and the author of articles here. I’ve had over 50 years in journalism. I have worked on salary for three daily newspapers and a weekly newsmagazine, as a freelance for weekly, monthly and quarterlies. I’ve done studies for public policy think tanks and contributed chapters to books.
Through the end of 2013 I produced TOLLROADSnews a web-based news service on the toll business. 16 years of writing reports on a single industry was very gratifying and provided me a modest living, but at 73 I decided it was time to pass it on to younger guys.
I’m British born (1940 Cambridge, England) and emigrated to Australia in my youth. I’ve lived in the second city Melbourne where I studied economics, and in Canberra the national capital in Australia where I started in journalism. With my family I moved to America in 1980 and have lived and worked in New York, in Washington DC and in Frederick Maryland.
Frederick is on the fringe of the greater Washington/Baltimore/northern Virginia metro area, about 45 miles north of the White House. A third of its residents commute to jobs in Montgomery County, DC or Baltimore but the City of Frederick has a historic character of its own that goes back to the late 18th century. It was the major hospital center during the terrible Civil War. Only 15 to 20 minutes drive away are Gettysburg to the north, Antietam to the west. We are located at the intersection of great east-west routes (now Interstate 70) and important north-south routes (I-270/US15.)
Frederick County was home to several people of national stature. I think of Francis Scott Key whose poem about the heroism of American resistance to British bombardment at Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor provided the words of the national anthem. A young colleague of Key’s in a shared law office 200 yards south of where I now live was Roger Brooke Taney, a brilliant but evilly misguided lawyer who rose to chief justice of the US Supreme Court and wrote its most terrible ruling, the Dred Scott decision, a vicious racist repudiation of the grand Declaration of Independence pronouncement that “All men are created equal….” the repudiation that contributed heavily to the outbreak of the Civil War. Taney remained at
the high court in Washington throughout the Civil War doing his worst to sabotage President Lincoln. In our time the most important mind of Frederick County is Charles Murray famous for his books on social culture and governance.
I was a social-democrat in my college and immediate post-graduate years and for a short time a member of the Australian Labor Party. I was a very anti-communist progressive. I favored US and allied support for South Vietnam as providing hope against the ruthless mass-killers of Hanoi and Phnom Penn. I visited and wrote on Vietnam for Sydney’s Bulletin weekly magazine during the war, the first place I met Americans en masse. Great people I decided, but they produced fickle politicians.
While studying economics in the early 1960s I read Milton Friedman. His book Capitalism & Freedom shattered what remained of my leftism and I’ve been an enthusiast for minimal government involvement in the economy and a self-regulating competitive system most of my adult life. Government is more often the problem, than the solution, I grasped in my mid-20s. Like other aspects of life an evolutionary, market economy is imperfect, but it’s the only system that works to provide high standards of living and the choices and opportunities we call freedom. I was profoundly influenced to distrust utopian ideologies by my father Richard Samuel (1900-1983) who lived through the rise of National Socialism in Germany and by Frank Knopfelmacher (1923-1995) an emigre Czech psychology professor at the University of Melbourne who had lived under Communism in Prague.
I long ago decided to live by the rule: judge them by the results, not by the ideals they proclaim or the promises they make. Good intentions are irrelevant in public policy. Promises are just words. Look at results, results, results.
I live in downtown Frederick in a grand 1870s town house converted to three apartments. Within a couple of blocks there are artists, lawyers, dentists, a vet, architects, restaurants, bars, two schools and many shops, and City Hall and County government – where overpromising politicians strut. I love to take a walk several times daily amid the intermix of activities within walkable distance. It is a beautiful place to live because it developed its present form in an evolutionary, spontaneous way before the arrival of the 20th century curse of city-planning that has given so many Americans barren over-tidy surrounds of lawns around their homes, ugly strip malls and dull suburbs, albeit catering to a timorous privacy and well equipped for car parking.
I have children in Melbourne Australia, in Princeton NJ, in Adams Morgan DC and Arlington VA, and five grandchildren. My favorite commentators are Charles Krauthammer, Tom Sowell, Bill Kristol, and George Will. And I love dogs, simple architecture, naturalistic gardens and Bach, James Galway, Charlie Parker and Celine Dion. No interest in sports of any kind. But cannot get through a day without doing a chess puzzle. I drive a Fiat 500. Peter Samuel