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]

In the twilight of your years

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, far too many people still believe that their elected officials exist to look after the interests of the ordinary person. Yes, of course they make mistakes. Doesn’t everybody? Still, their hearts are in the right place and that’s what counts.

For those who may still harbour these lingering, absurd delusions, I recommend this article by Sean Gabb.

As always, Sean’s language is both florid and forthright. But so it should be because it explains, in detail, how wealth-producing, hard-working Britons have been robbed of their future by a government that they, inexplicably, still trust above all other institutions.

“But the tax changes are enough. People of my generation may now be looking at a far less comfortable retirement than we expected. Some of us may find ourselves in very straitened circumstances. Those of us lucky enough to stay reasonably healthy may find ourselves having to delay or even give up on retirement.”

And it may get worse. We have a desperate administration that has plundered everything in sight and the temptation to help themselves to the juicy, low-hanging fruit of private pension funds, may be more than they can resist.

The government is not your friend.

Happiness is a prophecy of doom proved right

David Carr is happy, because now not only is he sunk in gloom but he reckons all of us are, and especially me, Samizdata’s Optimism Correspondent. Bad news David, I’m happy now.

I have a number of reasons to be happy, but I’ll focus on just one. Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has been taxing the British economy at a higher rate, but, to his surprise and consternation, the extra tax revenue that he assumed he would get by putting the rates up has not proved to be forthcoming. In the House of Commons yesterday, he had to explain. He blamed the world economy. (Don’t they all?)

Well guess what. I told you so, on Tuesday May 28th. This makes me happy.

What this confirms …

(I was referring to a piece by Paul Staines)

… is that British government income is now as high as it can be. Increasing the percentage rate of taxation doesn’t increase government tax income, it merely slows the economy down and causes government income to remain static. Similarly, if the government were to reduce the percentage rate of tax, government income wouldn’t decrease. This would merely cause the economy to surge forward, and the smaller slice of a bigger cake would end up being the same size as the bigger slices of smaller cakes. Britain is now at the top of the Laffer Curve. Isn’t that exciting? In plain English, the bastards are taking us for the absolute maximum amount they can, and if they get any greedier we stop coming through their bit of the forest.

Gordon Brown’s response to his problem is that he has decided to take the government a lot deeper into debt than he originally had in mind to do, which is a further – albeit disguised – increase in the rate of taxation. If the government borrows the kind of money it now intends to borrow, it will raise the interest rates that all other borrowers have to pay.

So let me leave all my winnings from my previous bet on the table and give this prophecy game another whirl of the wheel. Brown’s latest decision will slow the economy down some more, and he still won’t get his hands on enough money to finance his spending spree. These plans can never materialise, and that fact will have to be recognised if Britain is not to be pushed down the far side of the Laffer Curve towards economic meltdown.

What this all shows is that, as usual, there are, in the words of Noel Coward, bad times just around the corner. What it also shows is that enjoying life is all about attitude. It’s not the facts that make you happy or unhappy; what counts is how you look at them and what you make of them.

Stepping up a gear

Doubtless co-ordinated with gun-attacks inside Israel, Arab/Al-Qaeda terrorists have also bombed a resort hotel in Kenya.

The death toll from the hotel bombing is now 14 people, 11 Kenyans and 3 Israelis (two children).

Even more ominously, there was a simultaneous rocket attack on an Israeli civilian airliner. Mercifully unsuccessful, but a very worrying development.

More on the server room fire

I reported on the Twente University server room fire last week. According to this item in the Debian News mail list it was arson:

“Debian Server burnt down. Wichert Akkerman reported that a fire started in the computing facilities of Twente University. According to the fire department, everything in the building and the entire building was burnt to the ground. The Debian server “satie” that served as security and non-US archive was hosted there. Two days later, the Security Team reported that the security service was successfully reinstalled on another server. The nm and qa hosts had their home on satie as well and were also reinstalled on klecker. It has finally been confirmed that the fire was a result of arson.”

One has to wonder about motive. It’s just not the done thing to go burning down a university computer centre.

The internet just got better

If, like me, you avidly devour everything this man ever writes, but get a little impatient trawling the blogosphere seeking out his hitherto-elusive brilliance, then get ready to be happy.

Mark Steyn now has has his own website!

Now that’s what I call progress.

[My thanks to Tim Blair for the link]

The real message

This poster can be seen all over London. In it a young man standing at a bus stop chats on his mobile phone, a sight one sees all the time on London’s busy streets.

What the Metropolitan Police are saying is that doing this, talking on a mobile phone in London, in public, is unwise behaviour. Okay, fair enough, London is a big city and all big cities have their fair share of street crime, so what is the problem with this message from the boys in blue?

The problem I have is that this poster is not warning criminals who might attack us and steal our phones of the sure vengeance of the law. Not it is calling on us all to refuse to tolerate thieves in our midst and to resist to the best of our ability. Hell, how about suggesting “if you have a mobile phone in your hand and you either witness a mugging in progress or think you are in danger, dial 999 and the Police, whose paychecks and cars with flashing lights come from your taxes, will come rushing to the rescue”.

No, it does not say that at all. The real message here from our appointed protectors is not “we will protect you from crime” and certainly not “protect yourself from street crime”, but rather HIDE from street crime.

OUT OF SIGHT IS SAFER

The state cannot protect you, it will not permit you to protect yourself effectively, so all it can do is offer advice… and the advice is hide. Do not show anyone you have something worth stealing. I expect we will soon see posters across London saying “it is safer not to wear Armani suits, you might get mugged” and then “don’t wear short skirts, you might get raped” and finally “don’t go out at all, the streets are not safe”.

Perhaps when the state has taxed everything and we no longer have anything left to hide, we will indeed have ‘safer streets’.

The state is not your friend.

Our enemy, the State

The main differences between a British libertarian gathering and an American one is the attitude towards foreign affairs and their own governments. During the Cold War many American libertarians, Murray Rothbard especially, denounced the US federal government’s attempts to “encircle” Communism, build alliances, station troops in Europe etc.

Most British libertarians, being somewhat closer to the Iron Curtain, and feeling that the English Channel might not be a huge obstacle to the Asiatic hordes of the Red Army, were rather happier with the presence of large, well equipped armies. We also took a more relaxed view of state violations of individual rights when the persons concerned were Communists, pro-Soviet peace protesters or “useful idiots” who acted spontaneously in a manner which would have delighted Stalin, Hitler or Napoleon.

We tended to admire the antics of the security services as they “bugged and burgled their way across London”. Some of us cheered when police officers on horseback smashed their way through ranks of protesting miners in 1984. I know no one in British libertarian circles who wondered if it might not be our turn some day, although Sean Gabb came closest.

The gloom among British libertarians today is partly the result of the realisation that now the apparatus of state oppression is randomly destroying people’s lives like in the final chapters of “Atlas Shrugged”.

But there is something particularly awful about the gloom engulfing British libertarians. No one born in the mainland of the United Kingdom and alive today has ever seen a group of police officers march up a residential street, knocking at selected doors and leading families away to some awful fate. Yet in every other member state of the European Union except Finland and Sweden, the are people who remember watching their neighbours being taken away. In the case of recent refugees from the former Yugoslavia, such memories may be very recent indeed.

The problem for British libertarians is that they aren’t really used to the idea that the state really is our enemy. This is one reason why I don’t think that the UK withdrawing from the European Union is an automatic recipe for joy.

Justice is sometimes achieved

The Canadian government official who branded U.S. President George W. Bush a “moron” has resigned, news services report.

Consider the recent actions and achievements of this ‘moron':

  • Propose a massive cutback in world tariffs.
  • Republicans win back control of the Senate and boost control in House of Representatives.
  • The tax cut.
  • Force UN to get serious about Iraq.
  • Stiff the Kyoto Treaty.
  • Ditto the International Criminal Court.
  • Kick out the Taliban from Afghanistan.
  • Foster vastly improved relations with Russia.
  • Make serious social security reform a key GOP agenda item.
  • Fracture the Democrat hold on the ethnic vote.

    And finally,

  • Seriously annoy the EU junta.

Okay, okay, I hear you libertarians cry, what about the Patriot Act, the Farm Bill, the steel tariffs? All fair criticisms. But the oft-repeated claim from the chattering classes that Bush is a dope is plainly silly. They are making the same mistake they made about Ronald Reagan.

Theory and Practice

Paul Marks reminds us that the motivation to do good does not ensure good is actually done

Today I read the obituary of John Rawls (who died on Sunday) in the Daily Telegraph. Dr Rawls was a brave soldier, a loving husband and a good father to four children – he was also kind and polite to all who encountered him.

However, Dr Rawls was also the author of “A Theory of Justice” (1971) the main modern justification for the ever increasing burden of the welfare state.

According to Dr Rawls no one had any right to increase their income or wealth unless they could prove that by so doing they improved the economic life of the “least favoured”. Just not harming the least favoured would not do – as inequality harmed the “self esteem” of the poor.

Interestingly I also read in today’s Daily Telegraph a little example of how Rawlsian type thinking works out in practice. In the Spanish region of Valencia the government is working in a public-private partnership to improve the lot of the least favoured. Private developers produce a plan for the creation of urban zones (flats, shops, places of business and so on) in sparsely populated coastal areas, the government judges the plan and then levies a tax on land owners in the area to provide such things as roads and drainage.

What a wonderful thing – from either a Rawlsian or a utilitarian point of view.

However, the plan means that retired people who have bought properties by the coast have to pay the government lots of money (or have their property taken away) for roads and drainage (and so on) that do not benefit them.

Why do I think that Rawls (kind and decent man that he was) would have been disgusted by this sort of thing?

before you say “but that is the corruption of the idea” – maybe so, but that is statism in practice.

Paul Marks

None are so blind as those who will not see

In one of the most utterly wrong headed articles I have ever seen in the Daily Telegraph, called Watch out America, the 7st EU weakling may kick sand in your face by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard posting from Brussels (naturally), he would have us believe that, in response to criticisms from the USA that the EU is “a status quo power that resists and resents being hurried into a turbulent new post-Cold War era”:

…Europe is arguably the world’s most dynamic political bloc today. While the US borders have changed little since 1848, the EU is about to swallow eastern Europe up to the edge of Russia and Ukraine.

The EU is about to swallow the poison pill of the basket case post-communist agricultural economies of Eastern Europe, eager to feed at the massively subsidized trough of protectionist Europe and Evans-Pritchard holds this up as evidence of dynamism?

But EU officials are quietly confident that the strategic balance will shift as a decade of debt, over-consumption, and ballooning trade deficits catch up with America.

[…]

“Nobody wants to see America in difficulty, but there’s a high risk that the Clinton boom is going to end badly. Then we’ll find out if Europe’s slow vessel might not prove to be steadier in the long run.” One day soon, America may wake to find itself facing a wealthy superpower of 470 million people.

The European Union… filled with heavily taxed, highly regulated and subsidy ‘protected’ economies… is going to overtake lower taxed, less regulated and slightly less subsidised USA? Oh give me a break. The whole reason that the ruling classes of Eastern Europe want to join the European Union, is that the EU seeks to lock in the position of the all its political classes, to insulate them from the reality of de-politicised markets and the consequences of that anti-market politics brings.

Eastern European businesses, at least some of them, see subsidy and protection from global competition from the USA and Far East beckoning, voters likewise see membership of the EU as meaning the end of restrictions on their ability to travel, work and reside in the more developed West… a ‘brain drain’ heading west of the best and brightest that the middle European former ‘eastern Bloc’ has to offer will soon ensue (good news if you live in the ‘west’), followed closely by an army of welfare parasites looking to help themselves to taxpayer money in Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, The Low Countries and Italy (extremely bad news of you live in the ‘west’).

The very essence of the EU is stasis and yet paradoxically, it is spreading, like some Nordic legend of winter eternal sends its deadening cold fingers into everything. The only people who really benefit are those who are sucking at the teat of the state and even them only until the curves of the EU’s spectacularly aging demographics and that of its increasing tax burden cross, like some cruxiform tombstone.

The First World used to be ‘The West’ and Japan, the Second World used to be the Socialist Eastern Bloc… soon ‘First World’ will come to mean the USA, Switzerland, Japan (maybe), Canada (maybe), Australia and new Zealand and, if it finally breaks clear of the European suicide pact, Britain and possibly even Ireland. ‘Second World’ will just come to mean sclerotic Europe, forever sidelined by more dynamic economies eleswhere and more assertive polities everywhere.

EU as future ‘superpower’? Don’t make me laugh.

Hair Schroeder

The German Chancellor is clearly feeling just a wee bit insecure these days. Why else would would he actually go to Court to sue a news agency because they claimed that he used dye in his hair:

“With affidavits from his barber, Schroeder insisted that the article was false and that it had created a wave of stories that were hurting his image.”

Would that be his image as an incompetent, plundering, unreconstructed tax-and-spend socialist who is wrecking his country’s economy? Oh right, that image.

Anyway, in order to avoid any legal complications here at Samizdata, I hereby categorically refute any suggestions that the German Chancellor has ever dyed his hair. After all, why would he need to? It is a wig.

So it’s not just me then

I don’t suppose any of our readers can have failed to notice the patina of despondency that has, of late, descended upon this corner of the blogland.

I am the usual and evergreen suspect. Optimism has always stood in stark contrast to my natural grain and my comrades have long-since stopped denouncing me for it and learned to live with my periodic predictions of impending doom. However, I am but Pollyanna herself compared to Paul Marks, the poster-boy of the Euthanasia Movement.

There was a time when our brooding presence was felt but nonetheless heavily diluted by the ebullient, thematic jolliness of the remaining Samizdatistas. But now Perry de Havilland seems to have stumbled into a pit of despair and even the stomach-churningly cheerful Brian Micklethwait has ‘fessed up to an onset of the highly contagious Carr-itis.

But why, I hear you inquire. Is this a neurological condition brought on by over-exposure to the internet? Is it because we are perenially-disappointed libertarians? No, it’s because we are British:

“People are growing increasingly pessimistic, with a majority believing that Britain is “grinding to a halt”, a YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph has found.

The survey shows a country depressed by the prospect of falling pension values, failing hospitals, pot-holed roads, unspoken fears of terrorism and a possible war against Iraq.

Eighty five per cent of people worry that they can no longer rely on public services, while 53 per cent agree with foreign media reports that “nothing in Britain works”.

See, for all these years I was not being contrary, I was merely ahead of the curve and now that all my compatriots are conforming to national type, I can take nought but scant consolation in feeling vindicated.

All exhortations to cheery optimism are futile. It’s too late for therapy and prozac won’t work. We’re not depressed, we’re just British. Pity us.