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]

“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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Reasons for leaving the EU and some random thoughts on Theresa May’s brand of conservatism

A report presented to the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets gave an inclination of how the EU intends to spend European taxpayers’ money in 2018 and 2019. Among the planned expenditures is a stunning €6.18 million (£5.3 million) for furniture. One can only speculate as to what sort of furniture would cost the EU so much over the course of a single year. Even this sum, however, is dwarfed by the amount the EU intends to spend on a communications campaign which they claim will “explain the purpose of the [European] Union and the [European] Parliament to the citizens’ ahead of European Parliament elections in 2019”. So that’s €33.3 million (£28.6 million) on an EU PR campaign. In total, it will be €25 million (£21.5 million) next year, and another €8.33 million (£7.1 million) in May 2019, all aimed at boosting the European project through these elections.

CapX.

Of course, countries that aren’t members of transnational (“tranzi”) organisations are just as capable of blowing millions or more of their citizens’ wealth on such foolishness, but it does seem that with tranzi organisations, there is a greater momentum for this nonsense, because the chains of accountability involved tend to be weaker. And never forget good old-fashioned empire building: the EU, as I like to remind my Remainer friends, is at root a political project and that those who consider it to be a Good Things don’t scruple that hard about what is needed to spread The Word. I have, in my capacity as a journalist down the years, been to my fair share of EU gabfests, and I have always been struck by just how many media “aides” and so on there are in attendance. I recently went to Malta for such an event, and there were enough EU officials running the thing to make up three football teams. This is where the money goes. Just because someone as florid as Nigel Farage denounces EU waste and spending doesn’t make his comments any less true. And getting away from this circus, it seems to me, is a prize worth taking.

Right now people are debating the pros and cons of what Britain is doing. Britain does, I hope, have a chance to use its departure from the EU as an opportunity not just to break free from EU cost and regulatory nonsense, but to consign plenty of homegrown foolishness to the garbage can. And it is therefore all the more depressing that an authortarian centrist such as UK Prime Minister Theresa May seems determined to march the country down into a dirigiste dead end, if only for reasons of narrow party advantage, although there is a chilling thought that this fan of Joe Chamberlain, god help us, actually means it.

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Young One Rick explains why Labour is doing so badly

One of my most favourite analyses of the politics of public spending comes from Rick (gloriously played by the much missed Rick Mayall), in the classic TV sitcom The Young Ones:

“I mean, it’s no wonder the country is in such a state. I don’t know why they don’t just be honest and hand the whole place over to Oxfam. Nothing but scroungers and horrid old people and workshy layabouts all wandering around clutching their Giros and trying to get something for nothing. Oh yes, the Post Office seems to be very good at handing out other people’s money, doesn’t it? No wonder my grant’s so small. …”

At the moment lots of British expert political commentators seem baffled as to why Labour is so crushingly unpopular, despite so many of its individual policies being so very popular. But it’s not rocket science. If you are wanting to get more goodies from the government, the last thing you want is all the other damn scroungers to be queueing up for their goodies, as likely as not ahead of you in the queue. What Labour Leader Corbyn is promising is that there will be goodies for all, and worse, he seems to mean this, and to believe that this is possible, or at least possible enough for him to give such a policy a serious try. But that’s no bloody use. That way, the goodies will run out, and there will then be no goodies for you, no matter what the promise was. What you want is goodies for yourself and for those in your own quite small category of scroungers, paid for by all the other scroungers having to go without.

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The EU Fairy

Shot 1: An office, somewhere in Europe. Well-dressed yet approachable EUROPEAN PEOPLE of diverse race and gender TALK SERIOUSLY.

Back in 2015 the organisation Européens Sans Frontières (Europeans Without Borders) sponsored a competition to make a short film to raise public awareness of the issue of migration in Europe. The European Commission was involved in financing it somehow, though I am not clear whether it was funding just this film or the Européens Sans Frontières organization as a whole.

Shot 2: A studio full of keen, passionate young EUROPEAN FILM STUDENTS, hipster but not too hipster, you know what I mean, are doing FILM THINGS.

The film that won the competition was called “Eurodame, Help!”

It’s the weirdest thing since Captain Euro, not the new ironic Captain Euro, the original “yes, they actually did think this was a good idea” Captain Euro.

Anyway, back to Eurodame. On April 26th the film appeared on YouTube.

Shot 3: a EUROPEAN TECHNOLOGICAL PERSON clicks a mouse and sits back with a SIGH of SATISFACTION, conscious of a job well done.

Then the plot goes off the rails. Jack Montgomery of Breitbart London found the film on YouTube and posted about it today: Fairy Godmother’ Brings Migrants to Europe on a Flying Carpet in EU-Backed Cartoon. Oh dear. This is not going to end well.

Here it is direct from the creators: EURODAME, HELP!

As well as the French original, they also made versions in several languages, including Arabic.

Questions abound. Why is the entrance to Europe guarded by one rude man in short sleeves and a baseball cap? Why does the Euro-fairy need glasses? Who is the Obi-wan Kenobi bloke with the flying carpet? How is he different from the evil people-smuggler? How does the portrayal of Eastern Europeans contribute to intra-EU solidarity?

That really is an issue, you know. Here is an excerpt from the official script:

Shot 14:
The carpet arrives in an Eastern European country where they meet a hostile crowd.
The shopkeeper:
– There are refugees here, also seeking asylum.
The crowd:
– Immigrants!
The shopkeeper:
– But it’s their right!
The crowd shouting:
– No refugees here!

Shot 15:
The carpet resumes its course to the compass and turns west (W).

Shot 16:
The carpet arrives in a Western country. Eurodame is there to greet them.
Eurodame: – Welcome to our home!
The shopkeeper invites them to step down from the carpet. He smiles.
An eager crowd takes care of them, gives them food and clothing.

Shot 17:
Eurodame shows them into a nice house.

Why are the comments still on?

Who was the audience meant to be?

What on earth were they trying to achieve?

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