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]

Shrinking inequality and rising living standards

Here is an interesting discussion – of the sort likely to send parts of the redistributionist left over the edge – pointing out that in certain respects, the poorest in the US have become better off and that by some yardsticks, inequality has also shrunk. For what it is worth, inequality per se is not an issue that I regard as one raising any injustice whatsoever so long as the economic pie expands. If the economy was a fixed pie, then there might be some presumption that a large slice for Mr X came at the expense, possibly, of Mr Y. It is, however, worth noting, I think, that support for the free market order tends to be more robust when there is a large, entrepreneurial middle class into which anyone, given sufficient hard work and a pinch of luck, can enter and where the chance to escape poverty is high.

All in all, the stats I refer to in the link are encouraging news, and worth spreading around.

Chinese savings and Western indebtedness

Peter Schiff, as ever, has a nice take on an argument that I have heard expressed from various commentators in recent years and months: China saves “too much” and its “excessive” savings are the source for all this Western borrowing – and now the financial SNAFU – so Chinese folk need to get their wallets out, spend more, be less frugal, so that this “imbalance” in the world economy can be corrected.

Schiff gives this line of thinking fairly brutal treatment, but as he says, there is also some truth in it. Because China’s exchange rate is kept artificially low against the dollar and other currencies, Chinese exports are cheaper in Western markets than they would otherwise be; this means that in turn, China earns large amounts of foreign exchange, which in turn get invested in things like Western government debt securities, such as US Treasuries. This buying of Western debt like Treasuries has enabled Western consumers to enjoy credit for cheaper than otherwise would have been the case, fuelling the credit boom, etc. Of course, what this line of thinking tends to overlook is that if Chinese savings are based on real earnings, and those earnings are being invested in Western productive assets, then how is this a problem? Consider: part of the 19th Century, the UK invested enormous sums of its capital in places such as Argentina, the US, Canada, Australia, India, and so on. This export of capital was entirely benign as it generated long term returns based on real investments. Would it have been better had this process not happened?

I agree with Mr Schiff that the Chinese yuan will float freely eventually; when it does so, Chinese exports will be more expensive in Western markets, while Chinese consumers will be able to buy more Western goods, and so the “problem” of all this surplus capital will disappear or be less pronounced. The “imbalance” will begin to rectify itself, given the chance. And that means the West will have to rely more on its own savings to generate investment in the future. The question, of course, is whether the tax and regulatory climate makes that process happen smoothly or not.

There have been many different explanations of what has gone awry in the world economy in recent years, and of course any search for an explanation cannot ignore China and the impact of its own policies. But it strikes me as unjust to put China in the dock. The prime driver of the crisis has been Western monetary incontinence, a largely home-grown force.

Samizdata quote of the day

“When someone asks him how his day is going, Jack replies, “Previously, on 24…”

I came across this line here.
There are some hilarious one-liners in here.

Minarets ‘r’ not us

The result is in: the Swiss public has voted in favour of a proposition prohibiting the construction of any new minarets in their country. Note: this is not a ban on Islam or even the construction of mosques, just minarets.

Aside from all the obvious reprecussions (which are not hard to predict), it does occur to me that this raises an interesting and very thorny questions for libertarians because this is not a straightforward case of state repression. In fact, it appears that both the Swiss government and parliament were firmly opposed to the proposition which has been put to the public by referendum following a petition which was endorsed by a sufficient number of Swiss citizens. The Swiss state urged the public to reject the proposition but, having lost, is now forced, reluctantly, to change the constitution to enact the minaret ban into Swiss law. This was ground-up not top-down.

When a government says no to freedom of religious worship, it is easy to mount our high horses and ride forth bearing gleaming swords of indignation. But when a clear majority of the demos say no, well, then it gets rather harder. At least, it does for me.

Samizdata quote of the day

I am almost surprised that we were treated so moderately by our captors – apart, that is, from the tragic, largely unexplained, decision to kill Tom Fox, the American Quaker.

- Norman Kember, writing in the Guardian.

All is lost!

According to the Times….

SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

It seems that

The data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals — stored on paper and magnetic tape — were dumped to save space when the CRU moved to a new building.

and

… the data were thrown away in the 1980s, a time when climate change was seen as a less pressing issue.

Indeed. That fact, that climate change was once seen a less pressing issue and is now seen as a very pressing issue, explains a lot. Firstly, as the article says, it explains why the basis of the famous Settled Science has now presumably settled even more firmly beneath two decades worth of layers of landfill. I sympathise. Nine times out of ten throwing out piles of tatty old paperwork is a good idea. (Though it would have been more honest for the Climatic Research Unit to have admitted that the data had been thrown away when first asked) And it also goes a long way towards explaining why the CRU, and so many of the scientists involved in climate science, have been behaving so badly despite almost certainly not being very bad men. They had the heady experience of being transformed from obscure boffins to Protectors of the World. To have the captain of the ship turn over the wheel to you, the skilled pilot, for expert guidance in dangerous waters is a grave responsibility but also one that makes you stand a little straighter, no? After all that it would be embarrassing to notice, let alone proclaim, that maybe the waters were not as dangerous as first thought.

When I posted yesterday’s Quote of the Day I should have made it clear, as David Foster does in the link, that it has relevance to the story of the scientists who were, and will be for a while yet, part of the Inner Ring.

Witness for the future

Shannon Vyff of the Immortality Institute gave a talk yesterday in London on the advocacy work that she undertakes, promoting unlimited lifespans. At a basement room in Birkbeck, to an assorted crowd of extropians, greens and interested parties belonging to Extrobritannia, we heard from a person who actually leads the CR life.

Calorific restriction is controversial but the contrast for Shannon lay between her and, perhaps, her audience. As Brits, we are not particularly active in giving time or money to deserving or undeserving causes, and it was quite breathtaking to see an upstanding example of American voluntarism. From my perspective, it was gratifying that Ms. Vyff decided to devote her energy to causes closer to my heart: life extension and anti-aging.

Her other focus is on the introduction of these ideas to a wider audience of primary school children, proving an inkling of the wonders that technology can provide. This is coupled with the joy of thinking positively about the future and working for it and, to my mind, counts as an important antidote to the killjoyous scaremongering of the luddite greens whose tool of social control is to make children ashamed of life itself. Perhaps there are better written books, but not in this field. Vyff wishes to harness the motivational power of science fiction for a new generation.

Like the Libertarian Alliance, the Immortality Institute remains an outlier. Despite debates over entering the mainstream, the group decided to retain its name, a wise decision. As these concepts become more accepted, other groups will spring up to advocate more moderate agendas, but the promotion of pure life extension remains a valuable project in and of itself.

Samizdata quote of the day

To nine out of ten of you the choice which could lead to scoundrelism will come, when it does come, in no very dramatic colours. Obviously bad men, obviously threatening or bribing, will almost certainly not appear. Over a drink, or a cup of coffee, disguised as triviality and sandwiched between two jokes, from the lips of a man, or woman, whom you have recently been getting to know rather better and whom you hope to know better still- just at the moment when you are most anxious not to appear crude, or naïf or a prig- the hint will come. It will be the hint of something which the public, the ignorant, romantic public, would never understand: something which even the outsiders in your own profession are apt to make a fuss about: but something, says your new friend, which “we”- and at the word “we” you try not to blush for mere pleasure- something “we always do”.

- C.S. Lewis, from an essay called The Inner Ring. I was reminded of this by David Foster of Chicagoboyz.

My submission to the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War

You may have forgotten this.

UKIP gets a new leader

So Baron Pearson of Rannoch has become the new leader of UKIP. I can only hope that he has a better grasp of real economics than Nigel Farage, who although he was very sound on a great many issues, was clueless in that respect in that he basically was offering more of the same deranged Keynesian bollocks being proffered by both the main parties. Well we shall see I suppose.

I once heard a very good pro free-trade diatribe by Pearson some years back which is an encouraging sign and his support of Geert Wilders on the Fitna issue was glorious and suggests he may well be dependable on civil liberties.

Another Climategate Post

And now for something completely different…

George Monbiot – a deserving pinata of folks ’round these parts for quite some time – has written a reflective article in the Guardian (seen on Instapundit). Admittedly, the guy deserves some credit for being one of the first of the really hardcore global warming spruikers to unreservedly concede that the CRU leak is an enormously damaging episode for the pro-AGW folks, and not something that can be high-handedly dismissed. Which has pretty much been their exclusive stock-in-trade when dealing with those who are unintelligent enough to disagree with them up until now.

Certainly, Monbiot has been a lot more contrite than I would have expected him to be under the circumstances. However, he doesn’t get down into any real soul-searching. In his article, he continues to smear the “climate change denial industry” – rather high-handedly, too (he ran out of contrition about halfway through the article and reverted to form). He could not resist having a good sneer at those who disagree with him. It would have been a much better article if he had stopped to ask himself how much of his current beliefs are predicated on the shoddy code behind the computer models that supposedly prove the theory of AGW, or if his perspective might be different without the vacuum of opposing voices that have been squelched from Reputable Science. And he certainly failed to show any sign that he’s anywhere near the point of posing that most awful of questions to himself, namely “Could I be wrong?” – even if only to reconfirm his beliefs. No, for him it is clear that the science is still settled.

Monbiot’s reaction, I suspect, will be a model for others of his ilk to follow. I hope I am wrong, but I doubt anything much will come out of this Climategate kerfuffle in the longer term. The scientists involved in the leak will take their professional cyanide capsules, and there will be a bit of public head-hanging and self reflection from the rest of the major players, after which the “science” behind AGW will be declared “pure” again. Aided and abetted by the majority of the world’s political leaders, who have invested so much in the AGW industry that it is now surely Too Big To Fail. So bail it out and back to business, already.

Now THAT is serious beer!

There is beer… and then there is Tactical Nuclear Penguin (what an exquisite name for a beer).

I must confess I have a soft spot for any company that can also make a low alcohol beer called Nanny State… and as ‘Goat in the Machine‘ pointed out (what an exquisite name for a blog), any outfit that can outrage an arch-statist lobby like ‘Alcohol Focus Scotland‘ is certainly going to get my business once I am no longer sick as a parrot (being ill for coming on a week has allowed my blood/alcoholic levels to fall to zero… the horror, the horror).