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]

McMadness

It seems the shakedown artists (sorry, legal campaigners) trying to sue fast food colossus McDonalds are not giving up their fight easily, even though a judge recently threw out a case from a man claiming he had been been turned into a lardbutt.

At first, it is tempting to file stories like this under this blog’s ‘humour’ category, and of course in the past stories about overweight folks suing fast-food joints would have been the sort of thing to have been written up in the The Onion or Private Eye. But no longer. It seems one feature of decades of Big Government has been the steady infantilisation of large chunks of the populace to the point where the concept of taking responsibility for one’s own actions no longer applies.

Perhaps folk who sue fast food retailers should instead sue the State education system for making them so dumb in the first place.

Second day of remembrance (1)

On this day in 1986, the space shuttle Challenger was lost during boost. Dick Scobee, Mike Smith, Judy Resnick, Greg Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ron McNair and Ellison Onizuka died in the breakup and crash of the spaceship.

May their souls rest in peace and guide those who work to carry on their dreams of the high frontier.

Second day of remembrance (2)

On this day in 1986 Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnick, Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Greg Jarvis, & Christa McAuliffe lost their lives in the Challenger space shuttle (STS 51-L).

Look here for an independant view on the reliability of the shuttle done by Richard Feynmen after the loss of the Challenger shuttle. I believe that he was asked to do this as part of the official investigation, but when it turned out to be so damning, they refused to use it in the report.

First day of remembrance

On this day in 1967, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee died in a fire during an all up test of Apollo Capsule 101, later renamed “Apollo 1″ in their honour.

May their souls rest in peace and guide those who work to carry on their dreams of the high frontier.

Beyond belief

Most of the British armoured vehicles being sent to the Gulf in preparation for war with Iraq’a Ba’athist Socialist regime will arrive not painted in the correct desert warfare camouflage, but rather in the European colours. Not enough money for paint? Did the fact the Army was going to go to Iraq somehow take the Ministry of Defense by surprise?

This shoddy state of affairs is a measure of the true attitude of the Labour Party towards the military they are about to order into action. Yet somehow they find money for welfare payment to asylum seekers and legal aid to burglars who want to sue householders who use force to defend their property.

The new lords of the manor

Natalie Solent (“brain like a planet” – Alice Bachini) has this to say today about farm regulation:

Note the vague and subjective nature of the criteria by which the officials make these decisions – “Is the farmhouse character-appropriate?” “Is the residential aspect in balance with the farm?” If one has high taxation one needs a complicated regime of rules to allow wealth to be created at all. Once the regime of rules becomes sufficiently complicated it collapses under its own weight and becomes a regime of the personal judgement of officials. And personal judgement must frequently mean personal whim, personal caprice. We are edging back to the lord administering justice as he pleases in his own demesne.

Apart from the word “edging”, which I would probably have done as “moving”, I agree.

But now here’s a thought. If it is true that any year now the public sector will be carved up again into slices of property which the ruling official can rule as he pleases, might this perhaps be a way that classical liberal ideas could smuggle themselves back into society again? Might not some of these local lords of the manor decide to preside over a genuinely free market, and if they do, would they not attract lots of business? And might it not then start to spread?

If the very laws themselves are now more and more being enacted upon the whims of individuals, and they are, might not laws in due course find themselves being abolished by the same mechanism?

A further relevant thought, which I often find myself repeating because it has so many applications and resonances. When I worked in that free market bookshop in Covent Garden in the eighties that I’m always going on about, we found that some of our most loyal, knowledgeable and ideologically simpatico customers were people in the upper reaches of the civil service. Why? Because, whereas outsiders still tended to hope for the best from the government, these people all knew the worst. They knew that government screws up almost everything it touches, because time after time, they’d been right there when it was being done. Often these people start out very statist in their thinking, which is why they started out working for the state. But if they are well educated (and they mostly are) and intellectually scrupulous (which some certainly are) they find themselves compelled to revise their statist opinions.

So it is not so very fanciful that at least some of these high state officials who mutate into lords of the manor might well be our kind of people, and want to do our kinds of things.

Yes or no, Dr. Blix?

The mighty N.Z. Bear has a splendid article about what he would do if he was UN Secretary General for a day, fisking UN Resolution 1441 and Iraqi non-compliance. Good stuff!

Super Bowl Sunday – parity in the USA and life in England

At just after 11 pm London time, in about half an hour or so as I begin to compose this posting, NFL Super Bowl XXXVII will blast off, in San Diego, Southern California – and I will be watching it on British Channel 5 TV. In the last few years, Channel 5 have shown lots of American football, but not the Super Bowl itself. Sky TV would nip in and buy the Super Bowl, leaving Channel 5 with a stupid little highlights show the day after, and I eventually stopped bothering about any American football. But this year, probably because Sky has finally devoured all its adversaries in the shark tank that is British pay TV and doesn’t need to spend money on such things any more, regular Channel 5 is showing the Super Bowl as well as having shown lots of the preceding games. They of course flagged this up loudly beforehand, which means that this time around I’ve been paying attention to the entire NFL season.

Something similar has happened with rugby. All of the Six Nations games this year are about to be shown by the BBC. For the last few years regular TV only showed highlights of the England home games at Twickenham, but now I’ll be able to see all the England games in their entirety. Deep joy.

I don’t much care who wins the Super Bowl. I’ll be watching for the Americanness of it all, for Shania Twain at half time (although ST’s recent album is a huge disappointment to my ear), for the astonishing skill of one guy chucking a ball forty yards, and another guy running full tilt and catching it without breaking his stride, which means that the ball must have been thrown exactly right, several seconds earlier, at a completely blank piece of pre-selected grass. Being a successful NFL quarterback must be about as easy as being a First World War fighter ace. Amazing. And I’ll be watching because I like it when the people I hated at school inflict pain on each other instead of on me. The crowds that watch these games are exuberant, but not psychotic. The commentary is expert, but good humoured. The game itself combines immense intellectual complexity with raw human muscle power. The dancing girls on the touchline are great, as is the aerial photography of the stadium and its surrounding localities. Channel 5 TV reception in my home is very bad, but I don’t care.

I do, however, have my criticisms of American football, most of them centred on what is called “parity”, and when rootling around for a website link to include here I discovered that my doubts are shared by some Americans. → Continue reading: Super Bowl Sunday – parity in the USA and life in England

All quiet on the Middle-Eastern front

Salam Pax, as always, full of juicy goodness interspersed with a sobering discourse. Just go and raed.

The death of economics in Britain

The best known free market economist in Britain after World War II was not F.A. Hayek (who taught mainly in the United States and then Germany), but rather John Jewkes of Oxford.

John Jewkes was the main voice opposing government economic ‘planning’ and the endless taxes, spending programs and regulations of modern Britian.

Jewkes opposed statism in many ways – he tried to show students and fellow academics some of the errors of statist policy in his university work, he sat on official commissions (and tried to make their reports less insane), and he wrote a series of articles and books for the layman. Such books as Ordeal by Planning and The Sources of Invention.

John Jewkes was, in many ways, the best British economics had to offer in the post war world – and he shows that British economics was dying as a serious discipline. How can I say this? Well consider the following.

“It would be idle to deny that the White Paper was a ‘Keynesian’ document. Keynes was, after all, the major prophet of the idea that governments could, by increasing aggregate demand, reduce unemployment. Some of those who collaborated in the preparation of White Paper had been his pupils or had long been his followers. Those who resisted some of his ideas before the war had later gained an enormours respect for and confidence in him as they watched, and collaborated in, his superbly dextrous negotiations with the American Government and its economic officials. Those who had perhaps been most suspicious of the pre-war ideas of Keynes (I was among these) had seen at first hand the horrible consequences of the pre-war high rates of unemployment in the depressed areas, especially among juveniles and were only too ready to concede that, if the doctrine of the White Paper could be made to work, the post-war world might be a safer and more humane place”.

The Government and Economic Policy: A Defence of the White Paper on Employment Policy 1944, page 42.

Essay Three of John Jewkes’ A Return to Free Market Economics (Macmillan Press 1978).

My first concern here is not with the the idea that ‘increasing aggregate demand” (government issuing more funny money) is a good idea (absurd though that is), but the total lack of interest in basic economic theory that John Jewkes shows. → Continue reading: The death of economics in Britain

The best form of defence

It must have been about a year ago when a gentleman describing himself as a ‘real socialist’ fetched up on the Libertarian Alliance Forum and threw himself headlong into stinging denunciations of the state and its coercive methods. He was delighted to be amongst those of what he believed to be a like mind. But he wasn’t just against government coercion, no. He was against all coercion which included the ‘tyranny’ of capitalism, commerce, money and property (which he regarded as theft).

Upon further prompting (and it didn’t take much) he advised that his goal was a pure society where all government, money, trade, property and personal gain had been abolished. Intrigued (and heartily amused by this stage) we asked him how he intended to prevent people from creating currencies, establishing property rights and trading as they please without coercion.

In response he was both affronted and bemused. Why couldn’t we understand that when all the above-mentioned iniquities had been abolished, a spontaneous order of cooperation would arise, self-interest would be dispensed with, and there will be no need for coercion because nobody will want things like property and money.

After the delivery of a few well aimed logic incendiaries, he disappeared taking his one-man crusade for utopia with him. He simply could not understand why people would want money or property in a world where everything was free. I daresay that he still has the hoots of our derisive laughter ringing in his head.

I am reminded of this gentleman and his utopian vision because of something posted by one of our commentators recently:

“As I’ve mentioned before, the US Libertarian Party has a concept called the non-aggression principle which states that you will not initiate force, or advocate its initiation. Anyone who joins the LP signs a statement saying that they will abide by that.”

On the face of it, the non-aggression principle (NAP) sounds like a very noble and enlightened thing. Indeed, it is a principle to which I once subscribed myself. However, further reflection (and not just recent events or by way of any reference to the possible impending assault on Iraq) has led me to quite a different opinion. → Continue reading: The best form of defence

Take the idiot trail

I want to know what happened to ‘going overland to India’ to seek spiritual fulfilment and alternative lifestyles? Perhaps the Indians have decided to put a stop to all that. Can’t say as I blame them.

However, that means that the Anti-Everything Brigade has been unleashed in droves all over the rest of the planet like deranged locusts. The Swarm du jour has now descended upon Porto Alegre in Brazil where this hotch-potch of losers, whiners, nutjobs and assorted marxoids, and which now dubs itself the (snigger) ‘World Social Forum’ is in a gigantic snit about not being taken seriously.

Mercifully, they are not taken seriously. Except by the BBC (sorry, the ‘World Media Forum’) which has published a glowing full-page tribute:

“As soon as you arrive your senses are overloaded with colourful causes and campaigns all competing for attention.”

Especially your sense of smell.

“It does not aim to promote one view but celebrate diversity.”

Great can we come along to sing the praises of capitalism, then?

“If the businessmen and political heavyweights from Davos were transported to Porto Alegre – slogan “another world is possible” – they really would believe they were on a different planet.”

Yup.

“Where else would a gay rights march be followed moments afterwards by a pro-Palestinian protest?”

Not in Palestine that’s for sure.

“Or landless people’s movements from Latin American, Asia and Africa be able to sit round a table and compare notes?”

Landless but not flightless apparently. Exactly where do these starving peons get their travel money? And precisely what ‘notes’ do they compare?

“Hey, Miguel, do you have any land”?
“No”
“Neither do I. Okay, meeting adjourned.”

“Of course, conflict and disagreement are inevitable but that is half the fun.”

What’s the other half of the fun?

“On the first day of the Forum the people took to the streets for an anti-war march.

As Brazilian government ministers walked with protesters there was an air of great hope spreading to campaigners from all across the globe.”

Another feature of the reporting of all these events is this kind of semi-messianic euphoria. They’re forever telling the world how excited and happy they are. Is it jet-lag, I wonder?