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]

A strangeness of Russians

The latest weird twist in the Alexander Litvinenko assassination has been the release by prime suspect Andrei Lugovoi of his promised ‘stunning revelations’ about the case. His claim was that Litvinenko was in fact working for the British intelligence services and that MI6 had in fact attempted to recruit him as well

Now what makes this all really puzzling to me is that even if this is all true, far from taking the heat off himself and the Russian security services, he seems to in fact be providing the Russian spooks with an excellent motive for wanting to kill Litvinenko.

Am I missing something here?

While my Gaia gently weeps

I am always looking for new and exciting ways to increase the size of my carbon footprint. For example, I actively seek to buy products that originate in far-flung corners of the world, such as New Zealand, China, Chile, California or Japan. I resolutely boycott all modes of transport that do not involve the burning of fossil fuels and, during the bleak British midwinter, I loll around the house in a T-shirt and shorts with the central heating thermostat set to ‘Nuclear Meltdown’ level.

But I still feel that I could be doing more and, indeed, I would be doing more if only I had the kind of information that would help me to make proper, ethical choices. Well, my long wait is finally over. The dark pall of ignorance that has hung over me like the emission cloud of a coal-fired power station is about to be blown away by the sweet, zesty breezes of eco-enlightenment:

Shoppers will be able to tell how much damage their purchases do to the environment, under a government plan unveiled yesterday…

Consumers have little way of judging the environmental impact of goods and services, often relying on the miles such products have travelled from their country of origin.

Praise be! For the first time in a very, very long time the British government has actually done something useful and beneficial. From now on, my conscience will be at peace knowing that not a morsel of food will pass my lips unless it has previously been schlepped from the other side of the world in a huge, smokey, belching diesel-powered container vessel. Not a stick of furniture will adorn my home unless it has been hewn from the arboreal habitat of an exotic, endangered species. Not a stitch of clothing will I wear on my back unless it has been made in a factory that operates on full power for 24 hours a day, seven days a week and whose unscrupulous and profit-hungry owners dispose of their toxic effluents by pumping them into the nearest nature reserve.

I firmly believe that individuals can make a difference and, thanks to this wonderful labelling system, I will be better equipped than ever to do my bit for the environment.

Samizdata quote of the day

“It is not the State that creates a healthy society. When the State grows too powerful people feel they count for less and less. The State drains society, not only of its wealth but also of initiative, of energy, the will to improve and innovate as well as to preserve what is best. Our aim is to let people feel that they count for more and more.”

- Margaret Thatcher, 10 October, 1980. Taken from the rather good tome, Great British Speeches, a collection compiled by Simon Heffer. Perhaps out of an impish desire to annoy, the book contains Blair’s ghastly and embarrassing ‘forces of conservatism’ speech, perhaps the ugliest statement of political authoritarianism in recent British political history.

How to frame the argument about ‘free’ health care

When Perry referred to the recent comments of US Presidential hopeful Barak Obama, we had another example in the ensuing comment thread of how people lazily refer to the idea that healthcare should be ‘free’. Of course, unless Obama is a total idiot – and I doubt that – he realises that health care, like roads, clean water, defence or food is not free in any sense at all that matters in a world of scarce resources that have alternate uses (such scarcity and the fact they have alternate uses is a classic element of what economics is). Healthcare is not free – it must be paid for, paid out of the time and trouble of other people. The problem, however, is that a lot of people, not just socialists, think that some things in life ‘ought’ to be free although one often finds they are at a loss to say why. Indeed, if you challenge a person by asking, “Why should health, clean water or defence be free”? they will either change the subject, or go bright red with anger, or fail to understand the question at all.

To attack the idea that certain services and resources should be ‘free’ is not, alas, all that easy in today’s politically dumb climate. However, I think I have a partial solution in how to frame the point. If you ever encounter a person who says that healthcare should be free at the point of use, and it should be a ‘right’, then point out that this means that someone else has a corresponding duty to be a doctor, a nurse, a hospital orderly or an administrator. Unless people can be forced to perform these roles, then all talk of health as something that ought to be free is meaningless. Of course, at this point the socialist will blather on about incentives and so on, but what if no one wants to be a doctor or a nurse, regardless of pay? Does this mean that anyone who shows an inclination to like medicine should, at an early age, be conscripted into a hospital like a draft for the Army?

I ask these rhetorical questions because I think that when we try to frame our arguments, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that actual flesh and blood human beings are involved in talk about “the right to free health care”. Most people these days oppose the idea of military conscription so it ought to be possible to make the case against medical conscription. If we can point out that medical conscription would be a bad thing, then it would be a step in nailing the nonsense that healthcare is a ‘right’.

Here is a book I highly recommend about the whole noxious doctrine of ‘welfare rights’ and how they erode respect for the original, far more coherent rights doctrine of classical liberalism.

The Russian cyber attacks on Estonia

There is an interesting article about the Russian government backed cyber attacks against Estonia.

(via Instapundit)

Ron Paul for President

I have been watching as the assortment of bad, worse and sickening candidates continues to grow in this premature election campaign. Amongst them are candidates (or at least a candiidate) who would make me vote for the other party: John McCain. There are candidates I find a little less bad on one issue or another. There are my own party contenders who cannot win, will not get much national coverage and will have an anti-war stance I do not support.

But finally, from out of the blue of the Texas sky comes: RON PAUL!

Ron is no stranger to me. I worked with his 1988 campaign manager a bit and wrote some policy papers for his Libertarian campaign. I also introduced him to a crowd at an ISDC (International Space Development Conference) in Denver after giving him a briefing on the audience. I found him thoroughly likable both politically and personally.

True, Ron carries the same anti-war stance as others, but I could ignore that in someone who may actually make a difference. Unlike my party’s candidate he will be unignorable. He could conceivably pull off a Republican nomination. If that were to happen it might cause multiple suicides amongst the kinder, gentler crowd… but no one would miss them anyway.

If he were to win the election, admittedly a very long shot, Statism’s monopoly hold on our political system would be irreparably damaged.

I am willing to take my risks on enemy forces using a weak foreign policy to attack us here because the policies of a President Paul would so liberate Americans and the American economy that we would be accelerating away from the unfree world at a rate they could not possibly match.

Ron would make us freer than we have been since Abe Lincoln mucked things up for limited government. Increased individual liberty would translate into wealth and national strength. There will never be a perfect candidate for me, but at least in Ron Paul I see an overall set of policies that does not make me want to lose my lunch.

Go here to find out how to support him.

Say what???

I just saw Barack Obama on television saying that he would introduce Universal Socialist Medical Care in the USA and for people who already have insurance policies, the only difference would be such people would pay less in premiums… everything else would be just as good. Yes, you too in the USA can have something as ‘wonderful’ as our decrepit National Health Service. You lucky, lucky people.

And presumably this conjuring act of creating wealth out of nothing with government impositions will come to pass purely via the Triumph of Barack Obama’s will.

Talk about delusional.

Samizdata quote of the day

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies

- Groucho Marx

How geeky is this?

I mean really geeky! But cool nevertheless.

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A Tory who believes in something? Whatever next!

Although I care very little about the arguments regarding the merits of State Comprehensive Schools vs. State Grammar Schools, it is certainly a topic that has much excited Tories over the years.

Thus when Dave Cameron suddenly decided to jettison his party’s long standing support for Grammar Schools, calling their Tory supporters ‘delusional’, he has been rewarded by losing a member of his front bench, European spokesman Graham Brad MP, who has resigned in protest. And of course regardless of the fawning resignation letter, resigning the front bench is the political equivalent of publicly screaming “bite me, you halfwit loser!” in Cameron’s face. He was ticked off by the chief whip for his support of Grammar schools but rather than kowtow, he has taken his leave. I can respect that.

Who would have thought it? A Tory with principles? Damn! Brady is well out of it as he is clearly a man who was going to be very uncomfortable on the front benches with a weathervane like Cameron as leader.

And now I shall return to my profound indifference to the antics of inane party politics.

Samizdata quote of the day

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

- Karl Marx

It must be plain to the historicist that Tinky Winky is such a personage. First, as supporting character in the American tragedy of Jerry Fallwell; now as a causus belli in the farcical end of Polish ultra-Catholicism. The trouble is, Marx – or at least that Marx) had it wrong, as usual. It is always farce and tragedy at the same time.

For the avoidance of doubt….

This is not me. Save as a result of incompetent shaving, or depressed non-shaving, I have never had a beard. And not more than a couple of millimetres long, in any case. My verse output is formal exercises and satyrical squibs. One directory thinks there are eight Guy Herberts in Britain. More than one of those are, or were, me. I do not know whether any are him.