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]

Samizdata quote of the day

Well thank you IPCC authors for letting us know what is really behind that “very likely” assessment of attribution [of] 20th century warming. A lot of overbloated over confidence that cannot survive a few years of cooling. The light bulbs seem to be just turning on in your heads over the last two years. Think about all the wasted energy fighting the “deniers” when [you] could have been listening, trying to understand their arguments, and making progress to increase our understanding of the causes of climate variability and change.

- Judith Curry, the climate-change non-alarmists’ favourite climate scientist, commenting on an article by Paul Voosen on Greenwire: “Provoked scientists try to explain lag in global warming”.

Greenies are now starting to beg for the support of the general public

Favourite climate-related quote of the week so far:

The claim that AGW is consistent with heavier snowfalls wasn’t mainstream until it needed to be true.

It’s a comment, from Nicholas Hallam, on this, at Bishop Hill. Heh.

Although, actually, the recent Bishop Hill posting that I find most interesting is this one, which is about a bunch of solar power grant guzzlers begging to have their grants renewed at the level they have become accustomed to. Something along those lines. The absence of any widespread public support for these chancers will reveal just what a propaganda beating the greenies have been taking for the last few years, not least from blogs like this one. Most people will react to these green supplications, if they react at all, only by saying something like: “Oh you’re losing your jobs, bad luck, join the club, but actually what we really don’t like is our fuel bills doubling.”

Until now, it’s all been sane people begging the politicians to stop chucking money down the green drain. Now the politicians are starting to rearrange things a tiny bit against the interests of some of the politically less well connected greenies, and these greenies are now also starting to beg. Yes, folks, it’s the reversing of the burden of proof. We no longer have to convince them that all that “settled science” isn’t so settled after all. They have to convince us that they aren’t scam artists. Or deluding themselves. Or a bit of both. Good luck guys.

Billions are still being tipped down the green drain. This is only the very beginning of the end of the great green scam, which will probably never completely disappear. But, once the politicians realise how little support there is for green subsidies, they will get bolder, and cut them some more. And the greenies will scream some more. And the arms of the general public will remain folded, their faces blank with contempt.

About time.

LATER: More:

“We built a business on the back of David Cameron’s promises. He has betrayed us twice. Anybody thinking of investing in government-sponsored green opportunities, I would advise them to run away.”

Or government-sponsored anything else, come to that. Welcome to politics, mate.

The seductive allure of reverting to national European currencies

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard weighs in the Daily Telegraph with thoughts about Greece, southern Europe and the fact that so many countries, such as Italy, Portugal and Greece, cannot cope with the euro. The logic of this, the article seems to imply, is that these nations should revert to their previous national currencies.

For reasons that some regulars at this blog will recall, I think this idea of reverting to purely national currencies is simplistic, and not just because the practical logistics of switching back to pesetas, liras or drachmas will be painful (for example, there is the issue of repaying euro-denominated debt). A national fiat currency, such as the old Italian lira, is still a form of state-issued monopoly money, liable to be abused and printed in vast amounts. Evans-Pritchard talks about the need for affected nations to be able to devalue their currencies so as to boost exports. But if you devalue – ie, print more of it – your currency, then the price of imported goods soars. Greece, for instance, imports a lot of things and is not a major exporter of goods or services, apart from some agriculture and so on. Devaluation may be good for Greece’s important tourist trade, but not so great in terms of keeping a check on inflation.

Detlev Schlichter, champion of what he calls “inelastic money”, has scorned the idea that reverting to national fiat moneys represents a step forward for the debt-laden countries of southern Europe.

Here are two paragraphs:

“One frequently gets the impression from reading the mainstream media that Greece has a monetary policy problem and not a fiscal problem. This is incorrect. Yet many commentators seem to argue along the following lines: This crisis is due to the straitjacket of the single currency with its one-size-fits-all monetary policy, or at least aggravated by the constraints of this system. Greece would have more “policy options” in dealing with its troubles if it had control of its own national currency.”

“Then there is, connected to this, an underlying – and not very flattering – notion that the Greeks are somewhat unfit to live and work in a ‘hard money system’, which presumably the euro is. The Greeks, this seems to be the allegation, like borrowing and spending too much. I am paraphrasing here but this is certainly the underlying tone of the narrative. The Germans and Dutch and French can live without the constant aid of conveniently cheap national money – but the Greeks can’t.”

These countries’ appalling fiscal problems would not be altered one jot by the quick fix of switching one transnational form of fiat money in exchange for a national form of fiat money. What these countries need is honest money that retains its value over time. I get the impression that were Greece, for example, linked to the old Gold Standard of the pre-First World War variety (which worked relatively well for its constituent members until the war destroyed it), Mr Evans-Pritchard would be objecting to that also. But the problems of these countries cannot be resolved by nation-state fiat funny money. Mr Evans-Pritchard, for example, suggests that the “PIIGS” countries need the equivalent of a 40 per cent devaluation against, say, Germany and France. Under a gold standard and a regime of small governments and flexible labour markets, no such a drastic shift would occur. Real wages in certain uncompetitive sectors would decline, and wages in more competitive ones would rise. Take the case of Greece: under a stable monetary system, Greece’s tourist industry would be able to compete splendidly so long as its costs were controlled. And this leads to the core of the issue: flexible rates of exchange between different fiat money systems appeal to those who don’t want to undertake the more painstaking route of curbing government, encouraging free markets in labour, etc. Devaluation will always appeal as an easy way out.

Schlichter has more thoughts on the recent attempts by EU states to shore up the euro.

Update: Of course, I can imagine some defenders of devaluation arguing that this reduces the real incomes of people in a country, which makes that nation more competitive, hence achieving the same sort of result as a decline real wages under the conditions of a fully flexible labour market. The problem is that the former approach makes no distinction between sectors or businesses. Also, the history of post-war Europe does not suggest that devaluation is much of a cure for deep-seated economic ills. The decline in the value of sterling in 1967 did not arrest Britain’s relative decline; when West Germany had a strong deutschemark in the 1970s, it was economically strong. True, the fall of sterling from the exchange rate mechanism in 1992 coincided with an improvement, but then again, the UK’s fiscal position was in relatively good shape and the UK labour market did not have some of the burdens of today.

Beautiful bird photo

Remember when Samizdata used to have lots of beautiful bird photos? Well, here is another:


Beautiful bird or beautiful photo? Both, I would say. It’s a Cape Weaver Bird, which lives in South Africa. It’s the way that I at first thought that it had legs on its back that made me do a double take. And this particular snap appeals even after you’ve sorted out exactly what it’s doing and which way up everything is.

I found this photo at what has long been a favourite blog of mine, if only because he often says nice things about me. When I came upon these latest kind words about something I had blogged, I immediately went looking for something good by him for me to say nice things about, and it took me no time at all. I was only looking for something to be nice about at my own blog, but I think this photo deserves a wider audience, don’t you? Click on it if you want to see it bigger.

Further proof, if you need it, of the value of always having a camera with you.

The pain of self-reliance

It’s now two very loud something-I-read LOLs for me in three days. First there was this, and now this from ABC News, quoted in this piece by Mark Steyn:

At a million-dollar San Francisco fundraiser today, President Obama warned his recession-battered supporters that if he loses the 2012 election it could herald a new, painful era of self-reliance in America.

There’s going to be a new, painful era of self-reliance no matter which politicians get to preside over it.

This explains the European debt crisis perfectly!

(via Small Dead Animals)

Samizdata quote of the day

The notion *anyone* can be “in charge of a major European economy” is itself comical, a statist fantasy. Indeed that is very much at the root of the problems currently playing themselves out.

- Perry de Havilland

Harvey Sachs on how Beethoven preferred humanity to most humans

I don’t often do that LOL thing, but I did yesterday, in a crowded café, when I read this:

Beethoven’s contempt for most human beings conflicted with his all-embracing love for humanity.

That’s on page 54 of a book by Harvey Sachs entitled The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824, which is about the composition and first performance of the Ninth Symphony, and about the world and the time in which this happened.

Remembering that I had written here before about Beethoven, I just reread an earlier piece I did called Eroica (at first mis-read by some as Erotica – what can you do?). It still reads well, I think. And it tells you all you need to know to enable you to forgive Beethoven a hundred times over for preferring humanity to humans.

I haven’t read this Sachs book yet. Yesterday I was just doing a preliminary flick-through, and came across the above sentence only by the sheerest good fortune. I certainly now want to read to rest of it.

The NFL is now in the grip of a perverse incentive

NFL stands for National Football League, and the football in question is of the American sort. British TV has been showing American football games for the last three decades or so, games which I sometimes watch, either as they happen (during the small and not-so-small hours of the morning), or (which never seems nearly such fun) from a recording I have made the night before, the following evening, or even later than that.

There are quite a few American football fans on this side of the Atlantic, as a result of this TV coverage, and also because Europe has contained quite a few Americans during the last few decades, doing this and that, and also playing and spreading enthusiasm for their version of football. Not so long ago there was even an American Football European League. They couldn’t make it stick, but it has all helped to spread the word.

Last weekend, many of the more devoted of these fans descended on London, to attend a Fan Rally in Trafalgar Square last Saturday, and then on the Sunday to watch the Chicago Bears play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at Wembley Stadium, no less. Part of the point of this posting is to provide me with an excuse to link to these fan shirt photos which I took last Saturday in Trafalgar Square. Further snaps of this event that I took, which show what the event looked like as a whole, here.

The better to excuse this blatant ego-linkage, what I really wanted next was a Samizdata-friendly hook on which to hang an NFL-related posting, and right on cue, the NFL has recently been obliging. For the NFL is, right now, offering the world a truly exquisite example of that all too familiar circumstance, the unintended consequence that results from a perverse incentive. You didn’t intend to incentivise this or that bad thing. But, perversely, you did. → Continue reading: The NFL is now in the grip of a perverse incentive

An alleged result of banning smoking on aircraft

“One curious and unintended consequence of the aeroplane ban [on smoking] was that airlines began to save money by changing the air in the cabin less frequently. Traditionally, this was done every two minutes and old air was never recirculated, but with no tobacco smoke to draw attention to the quality of air, the carriers reduced air changes to once every twenty minutes. This led to a musty aroma on board and, according to a report in The Lancet, contributed to the appearance of Deep Vein Thrombosis, a disease unknown in airline passengers until the 1990s.”

Page 163 of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist: A history of anti-smoking. By Christopher Snowdon.

Entirely selfishly, I am delighted that I travel in a smoke-free airline industry, although it is a shame that this change came about through the coercion of the state and not in reaction to consumer choice via a market. After all, there are many irritations involved in flying that might be amenable to a market solution, if it was available, such as screaming young children or patronising and idiotic flight attendants.

Samizdata quote of the day

It bears repeating that banks are not creators of wealth. They are places where you store the surplus value generated by productive enterprise. In very narrow circumstances that surplus value can be loaned out at a profit, but a financial sector is the icing, not the cake. This should be common sense, but apparently it is wisdom so rare it can only be learned in countries small and remote enough to avoid the deadly medicine of the global financial markets.

- Tim Cavanaugh

Does it matter that a lot of people are wrong about evolution?

Pretty much for the pure pleasure of it, I have recently been reading The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins. (I chose that link because what it leads to features the same cover artwork as my copy has. Presumably that’s the exact same edition as mine.)

The basic agenda of this book is explained in its subtitle: “The Evidence for Evolution”. I can summarise this evidence by saying that what it shows is that if God did create all of life on earth, in a great surge of Godly creativity just a few thousand years ago rather than over a period of time massively longer than that, then all the evidence – all the evidence – says that this God went to a truly diabolical amount of trouble to make it look as if it was evolution that did it, rather than Him. In this bizarre project of divine self effacement, God has so far not been caught out making one single, solitary wrong move. Okay, God is omniscient, so of course if he wanted to cover his tracks completely, he could. But why do this? Why the colossal subterfuge? Everything in life now looks like it could have evolved. Nothing in life now looks like it could only have been made by God.

The details of how this evidence shows what Dawkins explains that it shows aren’t my concern in this posting. This is not a book review. I recommend this book if you like reading about the many wonders and horrors that life on earth consists of. (Dawkins argues that evolution is not only true, but also awe-inspiring, albeit in a rather morally gruesome way.) And I recommend this book if, like me when I started reading it, you accept the truth of evolution but would enjoy learning a little more about some of the many, many details of the mountainous quantity of evidence which proves the truth of evolution, and which makes a nonsense of creationism. Having been reading this book for a while, I am now more than ever entirely sure that evolution is a fact, for all the reasons that Dawkins says that it is a fact. I entirely agree with him that his creationist opponents are hopelessly and absurdly wrong about how life on earth came to be.

But my concern here is not whether Dawkins is right that evolution has happened and is happening. Of course he is, of course it has and of course it is. No, what interests me is whether the fact that so many people now, still, deny the truth of evolution matters. Dawkins thinks that this rejection of one of the central achievements of science is scandalous and appalling, and that these crackpot creationists must be told the error of their ways, and told and told again, until they return to the straight and narrow. Me? I don’t think I care that much.

To illustrate my point with a contrast, I think it matters a very great deal that so many people have been and continue to be so very, very wrong about the nature of the financial crisis that now afflicts the world. Errors in this matter are not merely erroneous. They are errors with huge and hugely damaging consequences. Millions have already suffered horribly because of these errors. Millions more are about to. But who is suffering because of creationism? Why does it matter to the rest of us what creationists think? → Continue reading: Does it matter that a lot of people are wrong about evolution?