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

“One from ten leaves nought”

In writing this post I do not attempt to draw any particular moral, merely to share an episode of history I found out about by chance which has some incongruous parallels with the present day.

Quoting the Wikipedia article on the West Indies Federation:

Three member states were proposed as hosts for the capital city of the federation: Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. Earlier in the federal negotiations the general opinion had been that the capital should be one of the smaller islands so that the capital would be in a neutral position to the larger territories and it would be able to inject some buoyancy into one of the (then) poorer economies.

The West Indies Federation had an unusually weak federal structure. For instance, its provinces were not contained in a single customs union. Thus, each province functioned as a separate economy, complete with tariffs, largely because the smaller provinces were afraid of being overwhelmed by the large islands’ economies. Also, complete freedom of movement within the Federation was not implemented, as the larger provinces were worried about mass migration from the smaller islands. In this sense, the current European Union can be said to have implemented a more unified economic space than the West Indian attempt.

Nor could the federal government take its component states to task. The initial federal budget was quite small, limiting the federal government’s ability to use its financial largesse as a carrot. It was dependent upon grants from the United Kingdom and from its member states. The provincial budgets of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago were both larger than the federal budget. This led to repeated requests for those states to provide greater financing to the federal government. These requests were not well received, as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago together already contributed 85 percent of the federal revenue, in roughly equal portions.

For many Jamaicans it appeared that the Federation would then just hamper their development and movement towards independence.

As a result, the Bustamante-led Jamaica Labour Party (the local component of the West Indian DLP) successfully forced Manley to hold a referendum in September 1961 on political secession from the Federation. It passed, with 54% of the vote, despite the opposition of Manley, the province’s Chief Minister at the time.

On January 14, 1962, the People’s National Movement (the Williams-led Trinidad component of the WIFLP) passed a resolution rejecting any further involvement with the Federation. Williams himself stated that “one from ten leaves nought”—in other words, without Jamaica, no Federation was possible. Trinidad and Tobago became independent on August 31, 1962.

Without Trinidad and Jamaica, the remaining “Little Eight” attempted to salvage some form of a West Indian Federation, this time centred on Barbados. However, these negotiations ultimately proved fruitless. Without its two largest states, the Federation was doomed to financial insolvency.

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We are so happy in Taxlandia

Via Andy Silvester and Guido Fawkes, I have discovered the hottest new thing. From the people who gave you EURODAME, HELP! comes…

Taxlandia!

Does tax build YOUR future? Try it and see!

No, it is not a wind-up. Although from the time it takes to load, you might think it was powered by clockwork.

Later: I set the age level to 9-12 and gave it a trial commensurate with my attention span. Honestly, compared to Eurodame, it ain’t bad. They acknowledge the existence of the Laffer curve, how’s that? Peaks at 50%. Maybe the rampaging kaiju came after I got bored and left.

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You say that like it’s a bad thing, Mr Barnier

The Times tells us that a moment of decision approaches. “EU nations will block Brexit deal if Britain ditches Brussels regulations, warns Michel Barnier”:

National parliaments or regional assemblies across the European Union will block a future trade deal if Britain tears up Brussels regulations on competition, food safety, social standards or environmental protection, Michel Barnier warned today.

The EU was alarmed a fortnight ago when Liam Fox, the secretary of state for trade, hinted that after Brexit Britain would ditch regulations on health and the environment to secure new trading deals with countries such as the United States.

In a stark warning to Conservatives and Brexit supporters, Mr Barnier, the European chief negotiator on Brexit, warned that Britain’s choice between Donald Trump’s vision of a deregulated laissez-faire economy

Are we talking about the same Donald Trump here? Swanky hotels, reality TV, funny hair, President of the United States of America? ‘Cos that guy’s a protectionist. Like you.

or the “European model” of social and environmental protection will determine the shape of a final Brexit deal.

“The UK has chosen to leave the EU. Does it want to stay close to the European model or does it want to gradually move away from it?” he said at the Centre for European Reform in Brussels.

Any preference?

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Samizdata quote of the day

For the past 12 years, Swift has managed to channel the the homegrown charm of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, with a dash of the Nashville country music scene, while gallivanting around New York with Lena Dunham and Karlie Kloss types. By sidestepping politics, she’s shown she doesn’t have to choose between past and present, or sever old ties as she laps up fame and money. She’s a pop star, and although she wields sizeable influence, she has no obligation to be political.

Essentially, the charge against her is that she hasn’t participated in the ‘denouncing Trump’ dog and pony show. This isn’t about her being apolitical, it’s about her failing to endorse socially acceptable liberal policies and candidates. Worse still was Swift’s refusal to celebrate Hillary Clinton.

Steigerwald & Wolfe

I am indifferent to Taylor Swift (that said, she is very easy on the eyes and I do have a soft spot for driven successful people), but oh.my.god… I loath people who demand everything be about frigging politics. So if Swiftie really doesn’t give a flying fuck about the whole political dog-and-pony show, I must say that, rather than the music, does make me rather warm to her.

Swiftie apolitical

Swiftie sez take yer politics and shove it where the sun don’t shine

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Samizdata quote of the day

I have nothing against 16-year-olds. In fact, some of them are my best friends. Well, not quite. But the current campaign to extend suffrage to them deserves to fail, and not just because it is so obviously a cynical vote-grabbing ploy by the parties who stand to gain most from it.

At 16, I couldn’t be trusted with the kettle, let alone the future of my nation. Anyone who thinks today’s 16-year-olds are imbued with the deep reservoir of knowledge and life experience which qualify older voters to elect and remove governments plainly hasn’t met one.

Paul Embery

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US Navy: Penis in sky drawn by jet trail was ‘unacceptable’

A display of ‘airmanship‘, the sort, but not the pattern, that was needed in Operation Taxable on D-Day, appears to have fallen on ‘stony ground’ as it were, it looks like a pilot will be having a hard time.

US Navy officials have said it was “absolutely unacceptable” that one of their pilots used a jet’s contrail to draw a penis in the sky.

What else could, or should, he have used? Wider reaction is mixed:

Ramone Duran told the Seattle Times newspaper: “After it made the circles at the bottom, I knew what it was and started laughing.”
But one householder told KREM 2 she was upset about having to explain to her children…

However, the good news is that the Brylcreem Boys beat the Yanks to it:

In August this year, an RAF fighter pilot drew a 35-mile penis on radars monitoring skies over Lincolnshire, England.

Just wondering if they did that in the Cold War, and what the Soviet spy trawlers reported back.

Photo credits: ‘jon’, and, of course, the Secretary of the United States Navy.

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Samizdata quote of the day

One claim by campaigners is that this will ‘help the poor’, who are disproportionately more likely to suffer from alcohol-induced ill-health. How making poor people poorer will improve health is a real head-scratcher. This is typical of the missionary attitude of public-health zealots – imposing policies that poor people don’t want ‘for their own good’. Neither will minimum pricing do anything to solve the problem of weekend revellers ending up in A&E – bars already charge way above the minimum price. Instead, this new policy will target those trying to relax with a cheap drink at home.

Rob Lyons

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Samizdata quote of the day

A Tory MP on the other side of the debate, Jacob Rees-Mogg, told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that the leaks which brought down Patel had probably come from Remainers inside the Foreign Office: ‘There are still some people who are still very bitter about the result a year ago and inevitably that colours their behaviour.’ That bitterness was evident recently, when Rees-Mogg’s own reactionary-but-principled opposition to abortion made outraged headlines. Why was this Conservative’s well-known backward view of abortion suddenly made the stuff of scandal, at the time when he was being discussed as a possible successor to Theresa May? Not because anybody seriously believed that an imaginary Rees-Mogg government was about to outlaw abortion, but because they wanted to discredit and delegitimise the most eloquent Tory Brexiteer.

Mick Hume

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Berwick and Carlisle off-licences, just rejoice at that news!

Scotland has become the land of the minimum alcohol price. Gushingly the BBC says that Scotland will become the first country in the World to have a minimum alcohol price (if you don’t count prohibition as an ‘infinite’ price). The UK’s Supreme Court has ruled that the proposal does not violate EU law (when pretty much anything else might).

And of course, it is for the good health of the wretched, like Gorbachev’s war on vodka.

When he took over the Soviet government in 1985, Gorbachev unleashed a massive campaign to promote soft drinks and fruit juices — instead of vodka.

His government also hiked the price of vodka and severely limited its sale. In typical Soviet style, he also proposed truly heavy-handed, excessive regulations to combat the shift from vodka to other forms of alcohol.

For instance, in the south of Russia, 100-year-old vineyards were systematically eradicated. The result was predictable enough. There were huge lines in vodka stores, of course. And in those lines, arguments and fights broke out incessantly.

Prior to Gorbachev’s anti-vodka campaign, the drink was often consumed by a “troika.” Consuming vodka in groups of three made sense because a bottle cost three rubles. In this way, each person contributed one ruble — and in turn, each had one glass.

But now, instead of just boozing up with each other, people actually shared their misery about life in larger groups. These people realized that in their miserable, detoxed circumstances, waiting in line had never been harder. And it had never been more politically explosive.

However, this measure is backed by remarkably precise science:

27. The University of Sheffield study went on to model the effect of a 50 pence per unit of alcohol minimum price on drinkers in poverty and not in poverty. It concluded that annual consumption by harmful drinkers in poverty would experience a fall of 681 units (as compared with nearly 181 units for such drinkers not in poverty), while consumption by hazardous drinkers in poverty would experience a fall of just under 88 units (as compared with a fall of only 30 units for such drinkers not in poverty). There would be 2,036 fewer deaths and 38,859 fewer hospitalisations during the first 20 years of the policy, after which when the policy had achieved its full impact, there would be an estimated 121 fewer deaths and 2,042 fewer hospital admissions each year.

The good news is that this is not a tax, the extra cost goes to the retailer, not the government (or, worse still, the UK government) although presumably they will get a cut from the VAT imposed on the ‘value-added’ of the extra paid, but don’t get me started on that.

The ultimate justification, and the reason why it was all being litigated, was that the minimum pricing was one way to skin the cat without having a general tax increase, whilst balancing the government’s health policy against the right to trade freely.

As to the general advantages and values of minimum pricing for health in relation to the benefits of free EU trade and competition, the Scottish Parliament and Government have as a matter of general policy decided to put very great weight on combatting alcohol-related mortality and hospitalisation and other forms of alcohol-related harm. That was a judgment which it was for them to make, and their right to make it militates strongly against intrusive review by a domestic court. That minimum pricing will involve a market distortion, including of EU trade and competition, is accepted. However, I find it impossible, even if it is appropriate to undertake the exercise at all in this context, to conclude that this can or should be regarded as outweighing the health benefits which are intended by minimum pricing.

More good news is that the laws are ‘experimental’ (Where have we heard that before?), so will expire after 6 years… Don’t hold your breath waiting for non-renewal.

So are good times ahead for alcohol retailers in the English Border towns, as the poor, harried Scots seek to trade with free England?

On the plus side, it is at least not a tax. But what unintended consequences might flow?

Edits: My thanks to Longrider for reminding us of the (late, unlamented) Danish fat tax, butter late than never.

I note that Part VI of the Act of Union with England 1707 states:

That all parts of the United Kingdom for ever from and after the Union shall have the same Allowances Encouragements and Drawbacks and be under the same Prohibitions Restrictions and Regulations of Trade and lyable to the same Customs and Duties on Import and Export And that the Allowances Encouragements and Drawbacks Prohibitions Restrictions and Regulations of Trade and the Customs and Duties on Import and Export settled in England when the Union commences shall from and after the Union take place throughout the whole United Kingdom . . .

And the English Act of Union 1706 has the same wording.

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A question for our times

Anyone else watching Star Trek: Discovery? ‘Tis quite the novelty in Solent Mansions: my dear husband and I sit down and watch television. On the very day a new episode comes out, my dears, for we will not wait!

Now we all know that by the time the era of Classic Trek rolls around after about a quarter of a century, certain things must have happened:

– the Spore Drive will not merely have dropped out of use, but will have been erased from human and Klingon memory.

– same goes for the holodeck.

– and for standards of starship interior design.

– the Klingons will look like Kang from Day of the Dove, not like Face Paint Thingy or Girl Thingy who can scarcely move under all those bone ridges.

– miniskirts will be back in.

– Captain Lorca will be revealed to be bad and wrong. The Star Trek universe has “proving warmongers wrong” listed higher up in its job description than “entropy”. But it is OK to quietly relish their badassery à la Gene Hunt in Life on Mars while we wait for the inevitable.

The question is how will all that is prophesied come to pass?

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Samizdata quote of the day

Imposition of tariffs hurts the poorest in society, who spend a larger proportion of their income on food. To quote Daniel Hannan’s new Institute For Free Trade, in regards to industries that have been artificially propped up by government, “we must not shy away from the fact that some people lose out from free trade. But it is vitally important to clarify the scale on which this occurs. Many more people lose out from protectionist policies. The overall effect of an open trading environment on the economy is undoubtedly positive.”

In sharp contrast, Jones laid out his vision of post-Brexit Britain as follows: “What we can’t do is have free-trade deals that deliver cheaper goods in Britain but end up with us exporting jobs to somewhere else.” Like many protectionists who have come before him, Jones ignores both jobs lost to protectionism (more expensive inputs lead to more expensive outputs) and the very concept that for the last two hundred years has made his own nation prosper: comparative advantage.

Alexander Hammond

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Samizdata quote of the day

All the while, parallel negotiations have been ongoing between the EU and our more militant Remainers: Blair, Clegg, Clarke, Adonis, Corbyn and more have all been along for meetings with Barnier and Juncker. Calls for a second referendum from senior Remain politicians are now regular. It’s not rocket science to see what is afoot: a co-ordinated effort to offer Britain the most punitive terms imaginable, with which the British will then be presented in a second referendum – crawl back to the EU or face a financially ruinous bill to trade.

Calls to ‘rule out no deal’ must be understood in this context – it is simply begging the EU to give us the worst possible deal, and everyone knows it. The EU’s apparent concessions in October are simply theatre to keep Theresa May in place – they have no desire to reach a reasonable deal.

We cannot continue walking into this trap. Instead, we propose the Government starts immediate preparations for reverting to standard global trade, the basis on which both the US and China trade with the EU, and create a ‘WTO transition fund’ with the money the EU is demanding: likely to be around £60 billion or more. Britain does, after all, do more trade with the rest of the world than it does with the EU under the cherished Single Market.

Brendan Chilton

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