We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Yes that pretty much sums things up

Historically, it seems to me that Mr Corbyn has been more comfortable in the company of people who make private bombs than those who sell private bonds

Mr. Ed of this parish, who may or may nor be a talking horse but make sense regardless.

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Samizdata quote of the day

Post-Brexit Britain will no longer be bound by an EU Code of Conduct that seeks to police the online speech of over 500 million citizens and ban ‘illegal online hate speech’. Or an EU law that encourages the criminalisation of ‘insult’. Or a proposed EU law that undermines fundamental freedoms by purging Europe of every last shred of supposed ‘discrimination’ […] There is just one, small problem: when it comes to censorship and the quashing of civil liberties, the UK doesn’t need any encouragement from the EU, or anybody else.

Paul Coleman

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Jeremy Corbyn speaks to Andrew Neil about borrowing

Yesterday the BBC’s Andrew Neil interviewed Jeremy Corbyn. A link to the interview is here.

Starting at 21:52 the discussion goes as follows:

-*-

Neil: And as part of the investing in the future you plan to borrow a lot to do that. How much will you borrow?

Corbyn: What we will do, is for the public ownership elements there’ll be an exchange for, erm, bonds for shares in it.

Neil: But what is a bond?

Corbyn: A government – a government bond.

Neil: Yes, it’s a debt instrument. It’s borrowing.

Corbyn: Well, it’s a bond – it’s a government bond which would be serviced by the income from that service, but in addition we would have control of it. Take –

Neil: But you would still have to borrow. Bonds are borrowing. You would borrow.

Corbyn: Take the water industry, for example, which has been a method of siphoning off profits out of this country to offshore companies that made a lot of money at the same time leaving us with expensive water and in some cases very bad levels of pollution.

Neil: You would need to borrow – I understand the case but you would need to borrow to buy the utilities.

Corbyn: No, it’s not a – it’s a swap of the shares for a government bond.

Neil: But if you’re issuing bonds, Mr Corbyn, you’re issuing government debt. You are borrowing.

Corbyn: Issuing bonds that we own which would be paid for by the profits from the industries, so instead of the profits –

Neil: But you’ve said you would cut the water utilities’ profits. That means you wouldn’t have the money to pay for the bonds.

Corbyn: Andrew, instead of the profits being siphoned off they would remain here. That’s an advantage, surely?

Neil: National debt is already an incredible 1.7 trillion. If you borrow to invest on top of the 50 we do, another 25 you say, you need to borrow to nationalise, you may have to borrow – if the IFS is right – for day to day spending.

Corbyn: No, we’re absolutely clear we will not borrow for day to day spending.

Neil: But you might have to, if the IFS is right. Our national debt, which has already soared under the current government would soar even more under Labour, wouldn’t it?

Corbyn: No, because the – we have the rule that we would only borrow to invest for the future. We would not borrow for revenue expenditure. I mean that’s sort of a sensible rule which has not always been followed.

Neil: A technical rise.

Corbyn: And what we’d get in return is investment in better services. That in turn would encourage economic growth. Listen, we have a huge imbalance of investment. Far too much goes to London and the south east in transport infrastructure. Far too little goes to the north east, north west and Yorkshire. Those issues have to be addressed. Hence the National Investment Bank, which will be regionally based all across the UK.

-*-

According to the polls it is looking more likely, though still unlikely, that Mr Corbyn will be our next prime minister. So I would like to know what he means by the above. My base assumption is that he has very little idea what he is talking about. But I must confess that if Andrew Neil were to ask me what a bond is, my answer would be scarcely less waffly than Mr Corbyn’s. Can Samizdata readers explain it all for me and readers like me? What exactly is wrong with his proposals, if anything?

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“Of course people change what they do when this stuff happens. That’s why it happens.”

Stefan Molyneux on the Manchester bombing.

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Samizdata quote of the day

The post-terror cultivation of passivity speaks to a profound crisis of – and fear of – the active citizen. It diminishes us as citizens to reduce us to hashtaggers and candle-holders in the wake of serious, disorientating acts of violence against our society. It decommissions the hard thinking and deep feeling citizens ought to pursue after terror attacks. Indeed, in some ways this official post-terror narrative is the unwitting cousin of the terror attack itself. Where terrorism pursues a war of attrition against our social fabric, seeking to rip away bit by bit our confidence and openness and sense of ourselves as free citizens, officialdom and the media diminish our individuality and our social role, through instructing us on what we may feel and think and say about national atrocities and discouraging us from taking responsibility for confronting these atrocities and the ideological and violent rot behind them. The terrorist seeks to weaken our resolve, the powers-that-be want to sedate our emotions, retire our anger, reduce us to wet-eyed performers in their post-terror play. It’s a dual assault on the individual and society.

Brendan O’Neill

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Taxing robots to pay for universal basic income – what could possibly go wrong?

When we hear the phrase “tax the robots,” it doesn’t sound the same as “tax the laundry machines,” or “tax the computers.” It sounds a lot more like the phrase “tax the rich.” This suggests that we tend to think of the robots as an actual class of persons. When we talk about taxing robots, it’s as though we humans can “get back” at the robots for taking our jobs. By taxing robots, we could take back the value they’ve taken from us. But wait a second. If we think of robots this way, it’s probably a sign we’ve been watching too much “Westworld.” Robots as we know them are inanimate objects. They are machines, like cars and computers.

The Federalist.

This reminds of the broader point, made for example by James Hannam, a tax expert in the UK, that “no matter what name is on the bill, all taxes are ultimately suffered by human beings” (What Everyone Needs To Know About Tax.)

Far too many people seem to be in denial about this basic fact. Tax a robot, and the robot’s owner gets taxed. A robot in that sense is no different from an electric toaster or dishwasher; these are tools made by Man for his use. Until we reach that moment when robots become truly autonomous (and have to pay taxes and perform jury service, etc), this fact is not going to change.

Maybe Bill Gates got swayed by the idea that because robots are displacing human labour in some senses, and this creates a problem, it can be solved by taxing said robots and use the proceeds to give everyone a sort of Universal Basic Income. The idea of a UBI has been embraced even by those who think of themselves as libertarians/classical liberals, on the grounds that in some ways this might weaken resistance to some of the good things that come with disruptive change in commerce and finance. I have a number of problems, however, with UBI, not least its likely devastating impact on any sort of work ethic and a divorce between notions of cultivating a certain character and earning some form of income. At the end of September I am giving a talk on this matter at the end-of-month events that Brian Micklethwait has been putting on. I will update my thoughts on UBI a bit later. For the time being, check this out by Bryan Caplan at Econlog.

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How to deal with atrocities?

Attacks by suicidal religious terrorists against soft targets like a concert are very hard to counter. Indeed preventing such atrocities by ruthless fanatics requires luck and some degree of ineptitude by the perpetrators. In truth, the only way to fight back is the same way the UK government fought back against Mr. Corbyn’s friends, the IRA… and that is targetted infiltration of terrorist support networks.

But one approach I am quite certain does not work is candlelight vigils, weepy hashtags and a refusal to face up to who the enemy is and why they are doing what they are doing.

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Samizdata data point of the day

I am not sure this works as a quote of the day, but it certainly does count as a data point so eye-popping that I wanted to share it:

Forty-three hundred people, including two dozen children under the age of 12, were shot in Chicago last year.

That’s right: 4,300 people shot in a major US city during a period of 12 months.

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Milton Friedman on how imposing equality makes inequality worse

I have long believed the thing that Milton Friedman is quoted saying in this bit of graphics:

And I am pretty sure that I first clarified this idea in my head at around the time when I first heard Milton Friedman saying this, and that this was not coincidence.

I screen-copied the above graphic from this video, which is Jonathan Haidt giving a talk about Socialism and Human Nature. It lasts just under half an hour, and I recommend it. The above Friedman quote comes near the end, at 23m 05s.

The world is so full of nonsense that particular bits of nonsense often get neglected by the people who ought to be pointing them out, because these people are so busy with other bits of nonsense.

The particular bit of nonsense that Milton Friedman and I are not here neglecting is the claim that equality can be achieved by the forceful redistribution of resources, and the more of that the better. Not only is such “egalitarianism” tyrannical, which makes it bad by my preferred standards and by Milton Friedman’s preferred standards, because it is tyrannical. It is also fails by its own standards, hence the sneer quotes. It doesn’t achieve equality. On the contrary, it rearranges inequality in a way that makes the inequality worse.

The very act of imposing equality requires that the imposing “egalitarians” be unequally powerful and lavishly rewarded for their brutal efforts, compared to the wretches upon whom they are imposing the equality. Name one purportedly egalitarian regime where they actually have achieved any serious reduction of inequality. You can’t, because there has never been one.

This is clearly the case in hell-holes like Cuba and Venezuela, where the masses languish in poverty, where the bosses live like kings and where the henchmen of the bosses get more or less lavishly preferential treatment (because if they didn’t they stop henching). But I include in the above assertion (that equality cannot be successfully imposed) the relatively genteel cruelties of the British welfare state, and other welfare states like it around the world. Have these relatively benign socialisms got rid of any poverty, any cruelty, any inequality? Well, some, to begin with. But they have then unleashed far worse and bigger doses of poverty and inequality. If the long-term purpose of the British welfare state had been to make poverty and inequality far more permanent and far harder to eradicate, it would have done almost nothing differently to what it has done.

Any critic of socialism who says something like: “the result of socialism is equality of misery” is being seduced by a nice sounding phrase into not thinking about what he is saying, and into conceding far too much. Here is no less a personage than Winston Churchill, who loved fine phrases to distraction, saying something a lot like this, among other and truer things, which perhaps explains why so many British Conservatives of my vintage still say things like this.

A libertarian world, just as Milton Friedman says, is the least unequal world that can be contrived. I’m not going to argue that point in detail. I merely assert it, to clarify that I regard myself and Milton Friedman as egalitarians of the best sort, as better at egalitarianism than the socialists, as egalitarians of the rough-and-ready, best-we-can-do sort, without any sneer quotes.

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Not much blogging today

Sorry for the lack of blogging. Blame Tim Newman 😀

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Samizdata quote of the day

The anti-austerity narrative has taken on a life of its own. For large sections of the Left, “anti-austeritarianism” is no longer about a response to a recession. It has become a mindset in its own right. Its central tenet is that there is no such thing as economic constraints – there are only political choices. It is never “necessary” to cut spending on anything. It is always a deliberate choice. In this way, the anti-austerity mindset has really become an anti-economics mindset.

Kristian Niemietz

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Samizdata quote of the day

Stop hiring white cis men (except as needed to get/retain people who are not white cis men) until the problem goes away. If you think this is a bad or un-serious idea, your sexism/racism/transphobia is showing.

Piper, as published on the “inclusion/exclusion” blog of the American Mathematical Society.

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