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]

Brexit: The argument from confusion and the argument from punitiveness

The EU is very complicated and confusing, which is a big reason for Brexit. But also very complicated and confusing, say the Remainers, is the process of Britain getting out of the EU. For that reason, they say, best to stay in. But I say that the more complicated and confusing it is to get Britain out, the more reason there is for Britain to get out. The more complicated getting out is, that means the more complicated the damn thing itself must be. The question becomes: Which is better? Complication for a year or three, while we extricate ourselves from this ghastly morass? Or: Complication for ever as we sink ever deeper into it? I say we should, you know, go with the result of the Referendum, and get out. Happily, that is now happening.

Lee Rotherham at CapX agrees:

In a sense, the Maastricht debate is still with us. But the coin has been flipped. Those now droning on about the complexities of a given aspect of the EU are the same people who accused Sir William Cash of being a “bore”. They are using the very same arguments about the extent and complexity of EU integration as its earlier critics. What they miss, of course, is their ironic vindication of the case against the EU.

Quite so.

Another Remainer argument which has a similar logical structure is that the EU, in addition to being diabolically complicated and confusing to get out of, on account of itself being diabolically complicated and confusing, is also determined to stop us Brits getting out easily. The only exit terms we will ever be able to extract from it will be crushingly punitive. Ergo, we should stay.

Britain’s exit deal may indeed prove costly to us. If EUrope lets us out easy, other rebellious bits of EUrope may also then try to leave.

But if such punitiveness happens, it will happen at the expense of EUropeans, who will find trading with Britain more costly, as well as at the expense of us Brits. And I say that the exact degree to which the rulers of the EU put the perpetuation of their own power ahead of the welfare of the people whom they will still rule, and ahead of the welfare of people generally, then to that exact degree they are a pack of megalomaniacs, of whom we Brits are well rid. The more punitively they are now behaving, the stronger is the case for us Brits to escape from their megalomaniac clutches, no matter what the short-term cost may be.

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Two extreme authoritarians on a bus

The author describes his characters as a social justice warrior and a neo-Nazi. His point is that authoritarians end up wanting similar things whatever their excuses.

SJW: Did you hear that at the University of Michigan, they’re so progressive, student activists demanded segregated areas for students of colour?

NN: This is exactly as it should be—the races are distinct and should stay that way. We must all strive to keep our unique practices intact. Honestly, it sickens me to see whites shamelessly adopting the customs of other cultures.

Both agree that

It’s the libertarian types who are the worst, with their self-serving so-called freedoms.

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Samizdata quote of the day

“Most people understand “single market” to mean something like “free trade zone”. In fact, in the EU context, it means “single regulatory regime”. Membership of the single market doesn’t mean the right to buy and sell there (pretty much the entire world can do that); it means accepting EU jurisdiction over your domestic technical standards… Only six per cent of British companies do any business at all with the rest of the EU; yet 100 per cent of our firms must apply 100 per cent of EU regulations. Our aim should be to exempt the 94 per cent … from EU directives and regulations.”

Daniel Hannan, quoted in a new paper from the Institute of Economic Affairs, making the case for unilateral free trade. The item is by Kevin Dowd, a noted exponent, among other things, of genuine competition in banking and money, and a scathing critic of our current banking and monetary regime.

Tim Worstall had thoughts on all this some time ago. And a little history: the speech by Sir Robert Peel, one of the greatest British statesmen of all time, on the case for ending agricultural protection.

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Samizdata quote of the day

Turning to communism for fear of fascism is like suicide for fear of death

Perry de Havilland.

Sadly, it is time to recycle this one yet again it seems.

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I wish I were reading a happier version of this story

Has anyone else been guiltily transfixed by the mystery of Danish inventor Peter Madsen, his now-sunken submarine, and the missing Swedish journalist Kim Wall? I truly do not wish to make light of the fact that a woman is missing, presumed dead, but I was undeniably fascinated by the whole idea of a crowd-sourced, privately built submarine. In any other circumstances I would have been delighted to learn that such a thing existed.

Here are some news reports on the story:

Danish submarine owner arrested over missing journalist

Submarine in missing journalist case sunk on purpose, Danish police say

Kim Wall and Danish submarine: What we know and what we don’t

Police in Two Countries Searching for Woman Missing Since Sub Sank

When commenting, please bear in mind that a criminal investigation is ongoing – and that all should be entitled to the presumption of innocence.

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Samizdata quote of the day

I found the reasons various people gave for choosing sides in the American Civil War fascinating, but the complexities of each choice have largely been ignored in contemporary discussions on the subject. I guess the BBC and their ilk prefer to stoke the flames of a race war by implying Lee was fighting to preserve slavery.

Well, they’re getting what they wanted, aren’t they?

Tim Newman

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German Historicism and American Pragmatism are very different philosophies, but they have some similar results

German “Historicism” (whether of the “right”, Hegel, or the “left” Karl Marx) and American “Pragmatism” (Charles Pierce, William James, John Dewey….) are very different philosophies (very different indeed) – but they have some things in common which lead to some similar results. They both deny objective and universal truth – the Ralph Cudworth or Thomas Reid thinking of “We hold these truths to be self evident….” of the American Declaration of Independence and the philosophy of the Bill of Rights. Made most obvious by the Ninth Amendment – indeed the Bill of Right is clearly compiled in the wrong order, the Ninth Amendment should be the First Amendment and the Tenth Amendment should be the Second Amendment – read it and it should be obvious to you.

German Historicism holds that different “truths” apply to different “historical periods” and to different “races” and “classes” – perhaps the only answer that such a relativist philosophy deserves is the one that such men as Erik Brown, “Mad Jack” Churchill and Audie Murphy gave it. But there are books that refute it, for example Carl Menger’s “The Errors of Historicism” (1883 – specifically on the German “Historical School” of economics and its denial of the universal and objective laws of economic truth), “Human Action” by Ludwig Von Mises, and “The Poverty of Historicism” by Karl Popper.

→ Continue reading: German Historicism and American Pragmatism are very different philosophies, but they have some similar results

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National Socialists are Socialists

National Socialists are socialists and trying to counter the “Identity Politics” of the left with more “Identity Politics” is like trying to counter arsenic with cyanide

One does not really need to read “The Road to Serfdom” by F.A. Hayek or “Omnipotent Government” by Ludwig Von Mises (although it is good to read these works – especially “Omnipotent Government”) to know that National Socialists are socialist collectivists – watching the Nazis, for that is what they are, marching at night with lighted touches through the University of Virginia chanting “Blood and Soil” should tell anyone that these people have nothing in common with the philosophy of the Bill of Rights – that they are collectivists, socialists.

“But Paul the opposition to them was controlled by Marxists – a movement that has murdered even more people than the Nazis” – and where have I denied that? I understand that very well – and I have condemned the left, in the strongest terms, all my life. But one does NOT oppose arsenic with cyanide – one does NOT oppose the “Identity Politics” of the “left” (of the Frankfurt School of Marxism “Diversity” crowd) with an “Identity Politics” of the “right”.

“But Paul one can not defeat the Marxists with the philosophy of the Bill of Rights (mocked for centuries now by the “educated” – Mr Hume, Mr Bentham and so on) – one can only defeat collectivism with a different form of collectivism”.

A pox on such a “victory” – and a pox on all those who choose it.

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Thoughts about what happened in Virginia this weekend

“It’s becoming so clear now why the war of words between SJWs and the new white nationalists is so intense. It isn’t because they have huge ideological differences — it’s because they have so much in common. Both are obsessed with race, SJWs demanding white shame, the alt-right responding with white pride. Both view everyday life and culture through a highly racialised filter. SJWs can’t even watch a movie without counting how many lines the black actor has in comparison with the white actor so that they can rush home and tumblr about the injustice of it all. Both have a seemingly boundless capacity for self-pity. Both are convinced they’re under siege, whether by patriarchy, transphobia and the Daily Mail (SJWs) or by pinkos and blacks (white nationalists). Both have a deep censorious strain. And both crave recognition of their victimhood and flattery of their feelings. This is really what they’re fighting over — not principles or visions but who should get the coveted title of the most hard-done-by identity. They’re auditioning for social pity. “My life matters! My pain matters! I matter!” The increasing bitterness and even violence of their feud is not evidence of its substance, but the opposite: it’s the narcissism of small differences.”

Brendan O’Neill, as seen on his Facebook page. He is writing about the violence in Virginia at the weekend.

I think he is broadly right, and if we are trying to work out where the rot of identity politics comes from (the libertarian scholar Tom G Palmer actually calls it “identitarianism”) I would wager that post-modernism, and the idea that there are no objective standards of truth and value, has something to do with it. Of all the books I have read in the past decade, Prof. Stephen Hicks’ short masterpiece, Explaining Postmodernism, gets as close as I can see to putting a finger on today’s nonsense.

Speaking for myself, I had a glimpse of this retreat from reason last week when, in an online chat with a friend about the Google sacking of James Danmore, a woman jumped in to state that no matter what arguments or logic I could use to object to the firing of this man, that her “lived experience” (ie, the fact that she knows Google female employees who are upset) would outweigh it. Not logic, reason or evidence, but “lived experience”. What this person failed to realise, perhaps, was she had committed a classic stolen concept error: the very attempt to deploy “lived experience” as a sort of “I win!” itself implies that there is some sort of logic against which one can test it. If there is no logic against which one can test and evaluate one “lived experience” against another, all one has left is that the gang of those with “lived experience” A beats those with “lived experience” B. This is known as Might is Right, or the power of the mob.

And in a world where logic and reason are dethroned because of hurt feelings, the results are very unpleasant. As we are seeing now almost daily.

Update: great editorial by the Wall Street Journal. ($)

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The progress of social programs and the debt

1960’s: Lets eliminate everything bad. We can go to the moon so why not end poverty!
“Yes, do it.”

1970’s: Well, it doesn’t look so easy. We’ll have to spend more money.
“Well, okay.”

1980’s: It is actually not working. Maybe we should spend some more slightly differently.
“Well, give it a try.”

1990’s. We’ve got so many people depending on this! We have to spend more to keep them afloat.
“Well, I don’t want to look like a terrible person, so okay.”

2000’s: The debt is growing, and the social programs are actually having negative effects, but we have to keep trying! We’re nice people! We have to DO SOMETHING!
“Well, is this really necessary… why not cut back… oh, okay, don’t look at me that way.”

2010’s: The country is in debt and things are awful! We must help those who are least able to help themselves. We have to let the world see what nice people we are!
“Well… no.”
You can’t say that! You EVIL RACIST HOMOPHOBIC ANTI-WOMAN OLD WHITE MALE SUPREMACIST!!!!!”
“Oh, bog off.”

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<- Get Hired - Get Fired ->

This is just too good not to share:

In Meme War terms, this is like taking two torpedoes amidships 😆

(Hat tip to Ignacio Wenley Palacios)

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The fired Google employee

Recently dismissed Google employee James Damore posted a document on an internal Google mailing list entitled Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber about Google’s diversity policy and the difficulty of criticising it. It was originally reported by Motherboard (labelled an anti-diversity manifesto) and later by Gizmodo (labelled an anti-diversity screed). Here are some quotations from the document:

I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more.

I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad […] . I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group

Meanwhile the very headlines of the article call this an anti-diversity document, establishing a narrative.

Here is a reaction from Laura Shortridge, a prominent commentator on Twitter:

Many users responded that he had not called for anyone to be fired. A response to this objection may hint at where differences in opnion about the document originate:

The personality differences section talks about such things as “openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas”. It also contains more controversial-sounding statements such as “Women on average are more prone to anxiety”. It cites a section of a wikipedia article about sex differences in psychology, though this may not have been known by commentators external to Google as the version of the document containing hyperlinks has only become available more recently. The Wikipedia page says, ” Females were on average higher than males in extraversion, anxiety, trust, and, especially, tender-mindedness (e.g., nurturance).” It cites “Gender differences in personality: a meta-analysis” by Feingold, A. (1994-11-01). The section is in the context of coming up with suggestions to improve the work environment for women without resorting to discriminatory practices such as training courses only available to women.

The Guardian columnist Owen Jones says:

Damore’s assertions about gender are, frankly, guff dressed up with pseudo-scientific jargon: not just belittling women, but reducing men to the status of unemotional individualistic robots.

On the general subject of differences between men and women, Scott Alexander has an interesting article comparing meta-studies on the subject and statistical approaches which lead to different results. He finds that:

[Author of a meta-analysis Hyde] does a wonderful job finding that men and women have minimal differences in eg “likelihood of smiling when not being observed”, “interpersonal leadership style”, et cetera. But if you ask the man on the street “Are men and women different?”, he’s likely to say something like “Yeah, men are more aggressive and women are more sensitive”. And in fact, Hyde found that men were indeed definitely more aggressive, and women indeed definitely more sensitive. But throw in a hundred other effects nobody cares about like “likelihood of smiling when not observed”, and you can report that “78% of gender differences are small or zero”.

In his document, Damore explains that he is talking about small differences between men and women across a large population, and not making generalisations.

I’m not saying that all men differ from all women in the following ways or that these differences are “just.” I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.

This is difficult to reconcile with reactions from fellow employees, such as, “That garbage fire of a document is trash and you are wonderful coworkers who I am extremely lucky to work with.”

The first official response from Google was from Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance, Danielle Brown.

I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender.

It is understandable that someone might hold this view, though the document mainly summarised information on Wikipedia.

The CEO later said:

portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives. To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.

This seems to misrepresent the document, which is mainly talking about why women who do not work for Google do not work for Google. It says nothing at all about the ones who do work there.

He continues:

At the same time, there are co-workers who are questioning whether they can safely express their views in the workplace (especially those with a minority viewpoint). They too feel under threat, and that is also not OK. People must feel free to express dissent. So to be clear again, many points raised in the memo — such as the portions criticizing Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all — are important topics.

It is clear the the offending portion of the document is the part that summarised Wikipedia’s summary of the state of the science on the subject. I wonder whether, as a matter of debating tactics, it might have been possible to make the same points in safety, while omitting this section. On the subject of tactics, there are a couple of interesting comments about this on ESR’s blog:

You can make the work environment more hostile for lots of people by saying true things. It is reasonable to fire someone who creates negative value for the company in this manner

and

if you loudly challenge the principles or initiatives which have been handed down and spearheaded by upper management, you’d be a damn fool to expect to keep your job for very long.

To the extent that these comments are true it does not speak well of the environment at Google or in Silicon Valley, but it is interesting that Damore’s firing was predictable and indeed somewhat predicted in the very document that led to it.

I’ve gotten many personal messages from fellow Googlers expressing their gratitude for bringing up these very important issues which they agree with but would never have the courage to say or defend because of our shaming culture and the possibility of being fired.

Perhaps comments which sound inflammatory out of context can be avoided. For example, “Women, on average, have more … neuroticism” or “the Left tends to deny science”. But taken as a whole the document has been treated unfairly by some.

I wonder how easy it is for Google to hire more women, given that “According to the American Association of University Women, in recent years only 20% of Advanced Placement computer science exam takers in high school have been female.”.

Finally, I should like to draw everyone’s attention to the Norwegian television documentary series “Hjernevask”, or “Brainwash” in English, which is on this very topic, and is quite worth watching. I’ve linked to the first of the seven parts below:


Please make sure you enable subtitles, unless you speak Norwegian that is.

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