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]

The adoption row and how autonomous institutions get undermined

The row about whether Catholic adoption agencies should be allowed to refuse to give children up to gay couples has already caused a great deal of controversy, and there is a very, smart article on the issue at The Devil’s Kitchen blog which takes a pretty firm libertarian line on the matter. In my view, if a Catholic or any other religious organisation wishes to refuse to hand over children entrusted to it to certain sorts of people on grounds of religious doctrine, then one can certainly object to those views, but they should not be banned, in my view.

The problem, however, is that such adoption organisations receive money from the taxpayer: you and me. I am not a Catholic (although my wife is) and I am not happy that I may be financially enabling people to act on views I regard as wrong. This in my view demonstrates the great dangers of encouraging charities to receive tax moneys or indeed to get involved in state initiatives of any kind. By receiving such moneys, these bodies will slowly but surely lose their autonomy. The Catholic charities that are involved in areas like adoption may choose to sever any links with the state apparatus, and I strongly urge them to do so.

This government, remember, is one that regards autonomous institutions, be they businesses, charities, or any associations of people, as a threat to its power and designs. It wishes to bend these institutions to its corporatist, collectivist ends. In a sense, this is in fact a profoundly fascist government, in that it maintains the appearance of tolerating private property rights and institutions, but in fact seeks to regulate them so closely as to turn them into empty husks.

I hope this whole episode drives home in people’s minds the extent to which civil society, traditionally understood, has been weakened by this government. It was the late Tory MP, Nicholas Budgen I think, who once remarked that NuLabour would no longer seek to nationalise industries. Instead, it would nationalise people.

India keeps on getting better

The good news from India keeps coming. This week, the international credit rating agency, Standard & Poors pronounced that the “Third World” nation had become so prosperous that the risk of lending money to the country had fallen significantly.

New York-based Standard & Poor’s said it upgraded India’s sovereign rating to BBB-, the lowest investment grade rating, from BB+, the highest junk rating.

The rating revision could help reduce India’s borrowing costs on the global market.

As anyone who has taken out a personal loan or mortgage will know, getting a stronger credit rating is a big deal. India is now ahead of economic basket-cases such as Argentina or Venezuela, and has got there by a programme of economic liberalisation. I keep banging on about the vigour of the Indian economy – notwithstanding the still-grinding poverty in parts of the country – because it is probably the most positive economic story of our times. It shouts, loud and clear, that markets work. Market economics is doubly potent when combined with a relatively robust civil society, protection of property rights and the priceless asset of an international language like English.

Meanwhile, India-based Tata Steel has sealed its purchase of UK steelmaker Corus.

Sports and the disadvantaged student

We are coming into the final stretch of the college basketball season and it seems a good time to make the following observation.

The only category of education that presently has its accomplishments tested on a competitive basis (that being sports) is also the only category of education that is motivating and developing disadvantaged students to achieve their highest personal potential at what they are being taught.

Does it surprise anyone that the only part of education where student achievement can not be rigged (better/best football team, etc.) is also the only part of education that is producing marketable graduates from the disadvantaged communities? Or that it accomplishes this with less need for quotas and reduced expectations than any other category of education? In many cases these kids are able to move straight into national and international professional careers straight from high school. And when they do attend college, the academic education they receive is a by-product of their athletic educations.

And is it any surprise that a very disproportionate share of disadvantaged students gravitate to the only service of the education industry that is intractably merit judged and race indifferent at every single level of education from Pee Wee league to NCAA?

What better model could we ask for when we look to improve the motivation and education of disadvantaged students in other categories of learning?

Samizdata quote of the day

To forbid “discrimination” is to violate basic freedom – not just religious freedom, any freedom. It was grimly predictable that faced with a choice between freedom of association and the doctrine of “anti discrimination” Mr Cameron would choose to support state control. So much for his “big idea” of the greater delivery of “public services” by voluntary groups.

Both Mr Blair and Mr Cameron have shown themselves to be people who only support association if people associate in the way they COMMAND.

- Paul Marks

A kind of solution for the Middle East

“I think we should take Iraq and Iran and combine them into one country and call it Irate. All the pissed off people live in one place and get it over with.”

- Denis Leary.

Blessed are the brazen

First off, a sincere apology for my notable lack of recent contributions. My absence has been caused by the more pressing and time-consuming task of keeping a humble roof over my head. I mean to address this dereliction of duty in future by cutting back on sleep.

Anyway, on to juicier matters. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing up political careers. Especially in this country and especially now. So, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to nominate my candidate for the day:

A Sussex MP who has campaigned against drink-driving has apologised after he failed a breath test.

Des Turner, the Labour member for Brighton Kemptown, was breathalysed after being involved in a minor crash in Streatham, south London, last month.

He said he had a glass of wine at lunch and had not realised he was “three percentage points” over the limit.

So is this menace to society now quivering in fear over the sum of money he will have to pay in fines? Is he polishing his sturdy walking shoes in expectation of an extended driving ban? Is he crippled with guilt and shame about the reckless way that he imperiled other road users and innocent pedestrians? Will he be forced to attend a driver re-education course? Um, no.

Mr Turner said the police view at the time was that the blood sample would be negative, and he was allowed to continue with his journey.

What a stroke of good fortune! Obviously the Praetorian Guards were in a generous mood that evening. Perhaps they even bade him on his way with a hearty slap on the back and a nerve-steadying snifter from a hastily produced hipflask. I am not entirely sure that the Guards would be quite so charitable to some lowly unelected serf whose similarly petty infractions are seldom tolerated or excused and are generally regarded as chicken feed for the state mincing machine.

But none of that need inconvenience or worry Mr. Turner who is free to resume his soaring career of anti-drink drive (and anti-God-knows-what-else) campaigning with an unimpeachable record and a disinterested fouth estate which is disinclined to risk embarrassing him.

But, maybe the blogosphere can play a role here. When Mr. Turner next thrusts his head over the parapet of public affairs (by early next week, I reckon) to press for more driving restrictions, seatbelts on toilets, no hamburgers after 7.00pm, regulations on toenail growth or some such desperately needed and worthwhile initiative, then perhaps a timely and polite e-mail could be sent to Mr. Turner (via his website) to ask if he may spare a thought for the less privileged little people.

Safety day

In Australia, the federal government’s propaganda tends to condescendingly heckle citizens about various issues that are pretty much always best left to the individual’s discretion – not unlike the output from NuLabour’s Ministry of Truth – similar beast, albeit with a more sinister bark. So in Britain you get this (probably one of the more egregious examples), and in Australia, this (ditto).

On balance, the naff Australian stuff is the lesser of two evils, but it is still deeply irritating, patronising bilge. Take the abovementioned ‘understanding money really pays off’ campaign the government is running via billboards and television commercials. Thanks so much for spending my tax money on delivering that sterling piece of advice – let me just make a note of it on my invisible typewriter. The most wasteful entity in society is wasting more of our money by telling us to mind our pennies! That is rich – even if we are not.

Still, it is exactly the sort of hypocritical, wealth-destroying enterprise one would expect the government to embark upon. However, it is pretty depressing when your (private sector) employer gets in on the act. I arrived home today to find the company I work for have decided to post me a brochure titled ‘Safety At Home’. Apparently “every day is Safety Day – think safety 24/7″. It is full of handy tips along the lines of “don’t hold any part of your body over a boiling kettle – steam can be hotter than water” and “read labels before use…take notice of cautions and warnings” and “try not to stick your head in the oven when the gas is on but not lit – unless you feel suicidal. If you feel only slightly suicidal, keep reading this brochure and you will want to get it over and done with in no time at all.” And in the foreword from our CEO:

We have produced this booklet as a reminder of the simple [really, painfully, embarrassingly simple - JW] things that we can all do outside the workplace to make sure we’re thinking safety 24/7 (…) stay safe and keep well.

Where does a nice big steaming hot mug of “fuck the hell off!” flung at your nether regions fit into your Safety at Home recommendations, Mr CEO? And get the hell out of my house while you are at it, you finger-wagging ponce. Shareholders bankroll enough useless expenditure via the taxation system as things are; corporate nannies are not welcome. Give us our money back.

Samizdata quote of the day

This entire situation has come about because of State intrusion into matters that should be left to private conscience. It is a consequence of contradictory legislation that tries to protect rights to religious beliefs at the same time as preventing actions that stem from those beliefs. This Government is constructing a State morality backed by legislation. Not only is this wrong in principle – it is a practical impossibility as this situation demonstrates.

- UKIP Chairman John Whittaker commenting last week on the row about gay versus Roman Catholic adoption (with thanks to Peter Briffa for the link)

How Cameron turned the media loose on the government

David Cameron, the Leader of the Opposition and of the Conservative Party, is mainly known here as the man who makes Perry de Havilland spit blood.

But quite aside from the fact that most of us here disagree with the things that Cameron has been saying in recent months, there is the puzzle of why he has been saying them. I am thinking of things like fluffing on tax cuts, the NHS, Europe, and so on. He seems determined not just to be more left wing than Conservatives used to be. He seems to want to be more left wing than the country. All the politicians, for instance, now seem to accept the virtues or at least the inevitability of relentlessly high taxation. Except the voters!

Tony Blair did not get where he got by altering the substance of Thatcherism. He did it by putting a more amenable face on the front of it, that of a Hugh Grantish ingratiator, rather than of a bald, out-of-touch, Conservative. Cannot Cameron see that? What the country seems to want is Conservatism with a non-Conservative face. Thatcherite policies, but without those smug bastard, crowing and thieving Conservatives fronting for it all. They want Blair, before he became mired in sleaze and incompetence. But Cameron has gone out of his way to supply more than this. The Conservative Party has changed, he says. Who is he trying to convince, and of what?

Why is he apparently dumping all of the substance of Thatcherism, and thereby risking the very leakage that Perry notes, of voters from the Conservatives to things like UKIP, or almost as damagingly, to the screw-them-all-we’re-not-voting-for-anybody party? The we’re-not-voting-for-anybody party has really hurt the Conservatives in recent elections. Why is Cameron risking the wrath of this party yet again?

I think we can best understand Cameron’s performance so far as an exercise in allowing the mainstream media to attack Labour.

Media people are never going to like Conservatives, but towards this Conservative or that Conservative they feel very variable degrees of dislike. Cameron has presented himself to London’s media people as the kind of Conservative Prime Minister that they would be willing to put up with, given that they have to put up with Conservative Prime Ministers from time to time.

This has made a big difference to the political atmosphere of Britain. I recall, somewhat over a year ago (I have searched through the Samizdata archives but have failed to find the posting in question – sorry), noting that something had happened to what used to be called “Fleet Street”, and that suddenly they were really putting the knife in. At the time, I was rather puzzled, but guessed it might have something to do with some particularly annoying tax things that Gordon Brown had just been doing. Now, I believe that the biggest difference has been made by David Cameron. → Continue reading: How Cameron turned the media loose on the government

Immigration successes… and disasters

It is of course too much to expect much rationality in the debate about immigration occurring on both sides of the Atlantic at the moment. I keep getting completely deranged e-mails from an outfit calling itself Conservative News NYC from across the puddle who are claiming that the USA and Mexico are in a de facto state of war due to the ‘invasion’ of the USA by illegal aliens. They also take the view that anyone who takes a more measured opinion on this is clearly a vile traitor. This is the same outfit who thinks any American who supports Israel is also a traitor, a word they rather like it seems, although of course they preface this with “but we’re not anti-Semitic”. No, of course not, perish the thought.

Now just because I think the fine fellows of Conservative News NYC are barking moonbats that does not mean all is well when it comes to immigration. There are indeed two groups in the USA (and one in the UK) who really are a problem. On both sides of the Atlantic we have an increasingly radicalised and non-integrating community of Muslims amongst whom support is very widespread for values completely antithetical to post-Enlightenment western civilisation.

Add to this in the United States the quite similar, at least in outlook if not action, ethnic fascists of La Raza, the one form of overt in-your-face racist fascism that seems to be quite acceptable for members of the American left to praise and with whom they are quite happy to share a stage (I guess being racist to white people is not really racism, eh Hilary?). At least one good thing about La Raza is that they are a lunatic fringe amongst Hispanics in the USA (much as Conservative News NYC are a radical lunatic fringe amongst US Conservatives). Of course the same could probably be said of Samizdata in many ways as we are hardly mainstream in many of the views we take, so it is not like I am against lunatic fringes per se.

Sadly the same cannot be said for much of the Muslim community who do indeed appear to share a wide range of views with the people we quite incorrectly call ‘extremists’… I say incorrect because it appears they actually reflect increasingly mainstream Muslim opinion, particularly in the UK. They are not extremists, they are merely practising Muslims who actually believe what their religious texts tell them to believe. The problem is not extremism, it is Islam itself and anyone who actually takes it seriously.

One thing both of these groups have in common is that they must be relentlessly confronted and cannot be compromised with or appeased in any way whatsoever. It really is ‘them or us’.

However… → Continue reading: Immigration successes… and disasters

My year begins

almeria1.jpg

Almeria, Spain. January 2007

(Click on the image to better see the Moorish castle).

Friends of the constitution

Another two countries are determined to support the constitution. This means that only six countries, including the Czech Republic, will remain. These countries will have to decide whether they want to continue cooperating with the core of Europe or whether they want to again retreat from the European integration process, Posselt says.

Bernd Posselt, leader of the Sedeten German Society and an MEP for Bavaria has praised the Chancellor, Angela Merkel for demanding the Czech Republic to sign up to the European Constitution. Posselt may be supporting the initiative, since it favours restitution for properties seized after the War by the restored Czech Republic, desirous to remove irredentist elements from its polity, and abetted by the barbaric Red Army.

Posselt is merely echoing the ‘friends of the constitution’ who met under the auspices of Luxembourg and Spain over the weekend. The noises coming out of this meeting are not good for Europhiles in New Labour. Despite some willingness to show flexibility on some of the phrases, the ‘friends of the constitution’ wish to use the text as a base and add more areas of competence for integration. The mini-treaty favoured by the British, avoiding the need for a referendum, looks like a long shot. If Segolene Royal wins the French Presidential election and upholds her manifesto promise of another referendum, the tabloids will be howling for blood.

Mr Hoon suggested that moves to streamline decision-making in an enlarged EU could be agreed by the government without being ratified directly by voters.

A decision on a vote would be taken once the outcome of negotiations was clearer "bearing in mind that no previous government has held a referendum on the detailed processes that have been involved in treaty change, he said

Europhiles such as Hoon wish to short circuit a referendum, since they would lose their prize. This may form the final frontispiece of Blair’s legacy, since the meeting on this occurs during the dying days of his premiership. Any warmed up document, with the title Constitution dropped to hide the fundamental and radical nature of the text, needs to be opposed as quickly as possible. New Labour, in this as in all other enterprises, is not a friend of the Union or the English. As for Cameron he may have tried to avoid Europe, but it has returned to force the issue upon him.