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 Russian and Chinese approach to justice?

An article about the psychiatric assessment of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik got me wondering about a couple things, one entertaining and the other, not so much:

“The psychiatrists warned that Mr Breivik was likely to attempt further attacks, including suicide bombings”

Suicide bombings? Plural? As it has been claimed he worked alone, I am curious how he could carry out more than one suicide bombing.

But less flippantly, I cannot help wondering if the only reason this coldly calculating man is being deemed ‘insane’ is that is the only way the Norwegian state never ever have to let him out, given that Norway apparently has no ‘life sentence’ in which ‘life means life’… so the only way to put him away forever is to declare him insane and thus lock him up in a loony bin until he dies.

He may well belong in a small room for the rest of his life but using the much loved Soviet, Russian and Chinese approach of expedient psychiatric assessment to achieve it may reveal a lot about modern Norway.

Some thoughts on voting and on thinking

James Taranto quotes Thomas Edsall, saying (among other things) this, about the kinds of votes that Democrats are now trying to get, and other votes that they are no longer bothering to try to get:

All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment – professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists -

Edsall goes on to say that the whereas the Dems have now given up on the white workers, they are still eager to get all the non-white workers to vote for them.

One of the ways to understand the libertarian movement, it seems to me, is that it is an attempt to convert from their present foolishness all those “professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists” whom Edsall so takes for granted. It gives them the “social libertarianism” that they are so wedded to (even if they often don’t get what this actually means), but it insists on the necessity of at least some – and in the current circumstances of economic crisis – a lot more – libertarianism in economic matters. Okay, libertarianism will never conquer these groups completely, but it threatens to at least divide them, into quite a few libertarians or libertarian-inclined folks and not quite so many idiots.

Also, demography is not destiny, when it comes to voting. People’s “interests” are not necessarily what many party political strategists assume them to be.

The thing is, it is entirely rational to vote for more government jobs and more government hand-outs (a) if you are at the front of the queue for such things, and (b) if the supply of such things is potentially abundant, or not, depending on how you and everyone else votes. But, if the world changes, and you find yourself at the top of the list to have your job or your hand-outs taken away from you, in a world which is going to take these things away from a lot of people no matter how anybody votes, it makes sense to ask yourself different questions, and to consider voting for entirely different things. Like: lots of government cuts, so that you aren’t the only one who suffers them, and so that the economy has a chance of getting back into shape in the future, soon enough for you to enjoy it.

The far side of the Laffer Curve is a rather strange place. Different rules apply.

Quite a lot of unemployed British people voted for Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, because they reckoned that Thatcher was a better bet to create the kind of country that might give them – and their children and their grandchildren – jobs in the future and a better life generally. (Whether or not they were right to vote for Thatcher is a different argument. My point is, this is what they did, and they were not being irrational.)

There is also the fact that how you vote in such circumstances of national and global crisis will be influenced, far more than in kinder and gentler times, by how you think. For a start, how bad do you think that the national or global crisis actually is? If you think it’s bad, what policies do you think will get that economy back motoring again, in a way which has a decent chance of lasting? How you vote depends on how you think the world works. And how you think can change.

Samizdata quote of the day

““Green” will never be quite the same after Obama. When Solyndra and its affiliated scandals are at last fully brought into the light of day, we will see the logical reification of Climategate I & II, Al Gore’s hucksterism, and Van Jones’s lunacy. How ironic that the more Obama tried to stop drilling in the West, offshore, and in Alaska, as well as stopping the Canadian pipeline, the more the American private sector kept finding oil and gas despite rather than because of the U.S. government. How further ironic that the one area that Obama felt was unnecessary for, or indeed antithetical to, America’s economic recovery — vast new gas and oil finds — will soon turn out to be America’s greatest boon in the last 20 years. While Obama and Energy Secretary Chu still insist on subsidizing money-losing wind and solar concerns, we are in the midst of a revolution that, within 20 years, will reduce or even end the trade deficit, help pay off the national debt, create millions of new jobs, and turn the Western Hemisphere into the new Persian Gulf. The American petroleum revolution can be delayed by Obama, but it cannot be stopped.”

- Victor Davis Hanson.

A video talk about modern architecture

At some point last weekend, on a whim, I did some ego-googling, and discovered that maybe I should do this more often. Because, what I got to was a video of me giving a talk, last February, about modern architecture to the Libertarian Alliance, early this year. I of course knew that it was being videoed at the time, but had assumed that they didn’t reckon it good enough to see the light of YouTube. But I was mistaken.

I managed to watch the thing all through without too much pain, but there is one glaring contradiction built into it, which is that my account of the emergence of the nineteenth century American skyscraper contradicts what I later said about form in modern architecture never following function. If by “form” is meant how a building looks, then it is indeed the case, as I said, that “form” in modern architecture follows fashion rather than function. And as a general rule, as I go on to say, a building can pretty much be changed from one use to another, depending not on what shape it is but depending on what people want to do in it. Most buildings have floors, walls, roofs, and provided you aren’t trying to accommodate a Boeing 747 or a rugby match or some such thing, then for most purposes any old building, plus a bit of indoor rearrangement, will do.

But there is (at least) one huge exception to this generalisation about the tendency of form not to follow function. The function of a skyscraper (the skyscraper and its emergence in late nineteenth century America being central to the entire story of modern architecture) is to fit a lot of people into a small urban area, and the characteristic form of a skyscraper accomplishes precisely that. It is that shape because it has to be. Form follows function. So, bad me.

But then again, part of the reason you give talks is for you yourself to listen to what you said (which is far easier if someone records it for you) and then for you to decide what you think about it.

Chairman David McDonaugh’s introduction of me was more an ambush than an introduction, and I floundered about in his trap for a while (be patient please). The title was one thing when I started talking, but they ended up calling it something rather different, and for good reasons. The talk is rather episodic, the episodes towards the end being in a somewhat random order. My attempts to wave drawings in front of the camera were not always as informative as I would have liked. Plus, I refer to my friend Patrick Crozier without making it clear video viewers that he was present, in the front row. (Patrick and I did a recorded conversation about architecture in 2007, which covered similar ground to this talk, and which I listened to again by way of preparation for this talk.)

So, a bit of a muddle. But nevertheless, overall, I am still sufficiently pleased with this performance to want to flag it up here, if only to provoke others who could do better on this topic to go ahead and do so. My belated thanks to the LA both for making the video, and for making it available.

Samizdata quote of the day

In nine tenths of the written treaties between the Kings of Portugal and the various reigning Princes of Hindustan, the matter of pepper came up in the first clause.

- Admiral Ballard

I have been reading The Last Crusaders by Barnaby Rogerson. Like many books it has apposite quotations at the start of each chapter, of which the above quotation was by some distance my favourite one. The Ballard quoted is presumably the Ballard who wrote this book, who was indeed an admiral as well as a historian.

And exactly who depends on Greed and Envy?

I had a few thoughts over a coffee this afternoon on how to express the difference between a Capitalist and a Socialist society in a short sharp shocking manner. In the Capitalist society, when an individual sees someone who is better off, they try to learn from them and work hard to do even better. In a Socialist world… they just steal it.

The stealing may happen by proxy, but it is stealing just the same.

Samizdata quote of the day

The concept of property is fundamental to our society, probably to any workable society. Operationally, it is understood by every child above the age of three. Intellectually, it is understood by almost no one.

Consider the slogan “property rights vs. human rights.” Its rhetorical force comes from the implication that property rights are the rights of property and human rights the rights of humans; humans are more important than property (chairs, tables, and the like); consequently, human rights take precedence over property rights.

But property rights are not the rights of property; they are the rights of humans with regard to property.

- from The Machinery of Freedom (1973) by David Friedman, Part 1, “In defense of property”.

UEA Goldman Sachs connection

This is an attempt to get an Instalanche, so he will probably ignore it just to make the point that he doesn’t do Instalanches for anything that flat out asks for it. Although, on the other hand

Either way, two recent objects of linkage at Instapundit in recent times have been Climategate and Goldman Sachs. Well, this Climategate email, spotted by Bishop Hill commenter “GS” (3:27pm), concerns Goldman Sachs, so the Prof ought at least to be interested:

Goldman Sachs #4092

date: Mon, 18 May 1998 10:00:38 +0100
from: Trevor Davies
subject: goldman-sachs


We (Mike H) have done a modest amount of work on degree-days for G-S. They now want to extend this. They are involved in dealing in the developing
energy futures market.

G-S is the sort of company that we might be looking for a ‘strategic alliance’ with. I suggest the four of us meet with ?? (forgotten his name) for an hour on the afternoon of Friday 12 June (best guess for Phil & Jean – he needs a date from us). Thanks.


Instapundit has also long been interested by the BBC, as a phenomenon of more than local interest. So I would also recommend to him, and to people generally, a read through of the Bishop Hill comment two down from that one above, this time from “ThinkingScientist” (3:41pm). He copies and pastes an email from a BBC Producer to Keith Briffa, about how Briffa must “prove” (the BBC Producer’s inverted commas) in a BBC TV show that there is something very extreme about the supposed current warming spurt. In other words, Briffa must put the C (for catastrophic) in CAGW.

GW for global warming has clearly been happening, although it is not nearly so clear that it is still happening now. (Anyone who denies the second is routinely accused of denying the first.) A for anthropogenic GW is widely believed in, but its scale and even existence are matters of fierce controversy. It’s that C for catastrophic on the front of AGW that this is all about. For a power grab this big, there has to be a C in there.

LATER: And, we have our Instalanche. Many thanks sir. (And thanks to the commenter who corrected my earlier wrong spelling of Instalanche.)

This means War!

It is time for the simple debate to end and all out war to begin. The Edison bulb bannings by the global class of intellectual Aristocrats is the step too far. To assist all in declaring their allegiance I have generated this handy war logo which could double as a war pennant:

War Logo
Down with the Greens!
Graphic: copyright Dale Amon, Released under Creative Commons license.

What would Bill Buckley say?

It is hard to believe that great and articulate thorn in the side of the left, William Buckley, has been gone for four years. What would he think of what has transpired since? A friend of his discusses that question and gives us a clarion call of resistance from the great man’s own words:

“I will not,” Bill wrote,

cede more power to the state. I will not willingly cede more power to anyone, not to the state, not to General Motors, not to the CIO. I will hoard my power like a miser, resisting every effort to drain it away from me. I will then use my power as I see fit. I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth.

To which I will only add, Amen.

Resistance is not futile. It only takes 15% of a population opting out to bring any overbearing state to its knees. We only need a 15% Galt factor to completely spike the socialist enterprise.

Samizdata quote of the day

We’ve already killed all the dumb terrorists, so all that’s left are the smart ones.

- I heard an American voice saying that, in connection with the ongoing war in Afghanistan, while I was transferring a recording I had made of a show called The World’s Deadliest Arms Race (shown in the UK about a month ago on Channel 4 TV) from my TV hard disc onto a DVD.

One of the best things about recording TV shows, as opposed to merely watching them, is being able to wind back and find out exactly who said something of particular interest, and exactly what it consisted of. The above words, I quickly learned, were spoken by a big, tough guy in a black T-shirt by the name of Marine Staff Sergeant Jack Pierce. They come right near the end of the show, which lasts just over forty five minutes.

Ssgt. Pierce was reflecting on how he and the rest of the crew of the vehicle they were all in were subjected to attack with an I(mprovised) E(xplosive) D(evice). Six of the crew were badly wounded, including Ssgt. Pierce who is now paralysed from the chest downwards. The other two died instantly.

Freemen of the land: an instance of Blair’s Law

Newton, Maxwell, Einstein and Tim Blair have described the universe. Blair’s Law is “the ongoing process by which the world’s multiple idiocies are becoming one giant, useless force”.

On the 15th November, the Guardian gave over its comment pages to people from Occupy London. Most of the resulting articles were produced by earnest but weak-minded hippies. Two of the articles made the hippies look sensible.

The first of these was sad. It was the last of a set of three mini-articles by Occupiers on welfare, education and law; the law part being by written by a person “commonly known as dom.” It is important to him that you use that formulation, including the lack of an initial capital letter. He says,

Most days I walk around the site teaching people about the legal system, about the law, about how they’re being enslaved by a body of rules and statutory instruments. The prison without bars is made by bits of paper.

Bits of paper like your birth certificate. All registered names are Crown copyright. The legal definition of registration is transfer of title ownership, so anything that’s registered is handed over to the governing body; the thing itself is no longer yours. When you register a car, you’re agreeing to it not being yours – they send you back a form saying you’re the “registered keeper”. It’s a con. That’s why I say I’ve never had a name.

I must stress that I do not dispute the right of the entity commonly known as dom to call himself what he pleases, and in politeness I shall act in accordance with his preferences if ever I meet him. Apparently he wears one of those jester’s hats with bells on it. Later in the piece he suggests that we google “lawful rebellion”. I did, and soon it came to me that I had heard that phrase before, on this post and others on the EU Referendum site. That post in turn links to a site called The British Constitution Group. One glance at the site is enough to show its appeal to libertarians, Tory Anarchists and allied trades. I want to like it. I’m usually a complete sucker for a bit of Magna Carta and the Rights of Englishmen. But on reading around the various links within the site, not that complete. Someone has been reading too much Artemis Fowl. In those books, if you recall, a fairy cannot enter a human dwelling unless invited in. In the British Constitution Group website under the heading “CONSENT – The Most Important Word in the English Language” you will see the following:

An essential part of the arrest procedure is to read you your rights and then ask you ‘do you understand’ – the word ‘understand’ is synonymous with ‘stand-under’ – they are asking you whether you are prepared to ‘stand-under’ their authority… and when you answer yes – you are giving your consent.

…And because Persephone had eaten food in Hades, be it only six pomegranate seeds, she was doomed to return there. The concept of the hero being safe so long as he does not inadvertently perform some symbolic act that gives his enemies power over him is an ancient one and has great mythic power, but do not try this on irritable cops late at night.

The second Guardian article, by one Jon Witterick, was more clued-up and more sinister than the one by t.p.c.k.a.dom. Its title is Yes, defaulting on debts is an option. At first I thought it was about the financial situation in Greece and passed on to another story, thus nearly missing the tale of how Jon Witterick has avoided paying his debts and how, he claims, you can too. The key idea seems to be that debts cannot be sold on, and once again we meet the concept that you are safe so long as you do not speak the forbidden words:

I also realised how debt collectors trick us into contracts with them, by asking us how much we could pay. When you agree to one pound a month, which costs more to administrate, they now have a contract with you, where none existed

Topping and tailing this admission of fraud and theft are a genuinely pitiable account of what it is like to be pursued by debt collectors and a genuinely repulsive attempt to argue that his decision not to pay what he owes is Iceland writ small. He does not say what he spent the money on, back before he decided it was not real.

Witterick’s website, to which I prudishly will not link, contains the following message:

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