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

The truth may set you free, but since the media is firmly on the side of serfdom, I doubt we will ever hear truth about socialism from big media. The recent attempts to define “journalist” in the US may indicate that the system realizes that the internet has made the ability to control internal news more difficult.

However, international reporting is where the legacy media still has a lot of power and it has been and will be used to protect their ideological partners (like Cuba and Venezuela) from responsibility for their failures. The media watches socialists ‘create a desert and call it prosperity’ over and over again and lies about it. This has been going on since Duranty and the NY Times won Pulitzers for lying about ‘Papa Joe’ and the early USSR.

Gary Poteat, commenting here on Samizdata.

No one can explain it

Venezuela food shortages: ‘No one can explain why a rich country has no food’

I know you all want to jump in and offer your suggestions. Do not, however, be too scathing. Seriously, the clue train shows signs of having made an unscheduled stop at the Guardian station. The article mentions, albeit in a hurried way and sandwiched between irrelevancies, price controls as a possible explanation for the mystery. And this is downright subversive:

For Oliveros, an additional cause for the shortage of basic food staples is the decrease in agricultural production resulting from seized companies and land expropriations.

From the way that is phrased one could almost think that a decrease in agricultural production was a result of seized companies and land expropriation. I am beginning to wonder if the “No one can explain it” title was selected by either the writer or the mole among the Guardian‘s sub editors in order to call forth the responses it did get.

Samizdata quote of the day

[T]his Conceit of Levelling of property and Magistracy is so ridiculous and foolish an opinion, as no man of brains, reason, or ingenuity, can be imagined such a sot as to maintain such a principle, because it would, if practiced destroy not only any industry in the world, but raze the very foundation of generation, and of subsistence or being of one man by another. For as industry and valour by which the societies of mankind are maintained and preserved, who will take the pains for that which when he hath gotten is not his own, but must be equally shared in, by every lazy, simple, dronish sot? or who will fight for that, wherein he hath no other interest, but such as must be subject to the will and pleasure of another, yea of every coward and base low spirited fellow, that in his sitting still must share in common with a valiant man in all his brave and noble achievement? The ancient encouragement to men that were to defend their Country was this: that they were to hazard their persons for that which was their own, to wit, their own wives, their own children, their own Estates. And this give me leave to say, and that in truth, that those men in England, that are most branded with the name of Levellers, are of all in that Nation, most free from any design of Levelling, in the sense we have spoken of.

– John Lilburne defends himself against the accusation that he was a “Leveller”. But, the name stuck. Last night Richard Carey gave a fascinating talk about the Levellers, and about the seventeenth century historical context within which the Levellers proclaimed their ideas, in the course of which he quoted the above piece of writing.

Carl Watner includes it in this JLS article (p. 409) about Richard Overton.

Women Against Justice

Lisa Longstaff is a spokesperson for a group called Women Against Rape. She and and Lisa Avalos, assistant professor of law at the University of Kansas, wrote this article for the Guardian: Michael Le Vell’s acquittal is no reason to give rape defendants anonymity.

If you want to read my views on the anonymity issue, see here. The discussion of that was not what shocked me. This was:

But the prosecution of women for alleged false reports strengthens the myth that women frequently lie about being raped and discourages victims from coming forward. It diverts law enforcement away from thoroughly investigating rape and lets rapists loose on the public. It is not in the public interest, and must be stopped.

The writers literally believe that no woman ever should be prosecuted for making a false report of rape. Not that the decision to prosecute should be weighed carefully, that it should never be made. Effectively that it should be legal to knowingly and maliciously make a false report of rape. This cannot be put down to careless phrasing; as pointed out by commenter snoozeofreason, Ms Longstaff has made the same demand at greater length here.

I was relieved to see the response from Guardian commenters, particularly StVitusGerulaitis and EllisWyatt, but that relief could not overcome my disgust that a law professor could be so utterly indifferent to any notion of justice, or that a representative of a group that claims to want to help real rape victims could lobby in favour of those who are parasitical upon them.

Samizdata quote of the day

I think we should rephrase the analogy. The position of scientists dependent on the approbation of their peers and government funding is knowing that to dissent from the thermogeddon narrative is as disastrous careerwise as that of the Islamic apostate’s future, and so keeps his silence as do the massed ranks of Muslims unenthusiastic about violent jihad but unwilling to draw the attention of Islamists to themselves by speaking out. I think Mehdi Hasan should understand that.

– Samizdata commenter ‘Ljh’, commenting here.

Medhi Hasan is ill-advised

Medhi Hasan, former editor of the New Statesman and now political director of the Huffington Post, writes,

Depressingly, you can draw no other conclusion from these facts than that the conspiracy theorists are winning. The deniers of global warming have come in from the cold. The “merchants of doubt”, to borrow a phrase from the science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, seem to have perfected the dark art of “keeping the controversy alive”, sowing seeds of doubt and confusion in the minds of politicians, journalists and voters, in spite of the scientific consensus.

Thus, I use both the terms “denier” (rather than “sceptic”) and “conspiracy theorist” advisedly.

If so, Mr Hasan, you are getting bad advice. As it happens I am a “lukewarmer” but if I were as anxious about anthropogenic global warming as Mr Hasan is, the last thing I would do is make a habit of directing public insult upon the heads of people who disbelieve in it.

Not just because it is nasty to compare people to Holocaust deniers, though it is, but because you will make people wonder whether the famous consensus is based on scientific judgement or fear. As I said in 2006 and still say seven years later:

The consensus convinces because there is no good reason to suppose that so many eminent scientists are lying or deceiving themselves when they say climate change is happening. But if you give me cause to believe that departure from the consensus gets a person ostracised, then there is a good reason.

I was rather prescient, wasn’t I? I supplied in advance the answer to Mr Hasan’s next point:

As for the “conspiracy theorist” tag, let me be blunt: climate-change deniers are the biggest conspiracy theorists of all. In order to embrace the delusions of the deniers, you have to adopt the belief that tens of thousands of researchers, some of them awardwinning scientists, from across the world (not to mention the political spectrum) have conducted behind the scenes, undetected by the media, a campaign of peer-reviewed deceit in defiance of empirical data.

One does not have to believe that tens of thousands of researchers consciously carried out an organized deceit in order to become a “denier”. One only has to believe the much more likely scenario that tens of thousands of researchers separately looked around them, noted that opposing the consensus gets you compared to a Nazi and duly – and quite possibly unconsciously – followed the proverbial advice “don’t stick your neck out”.

A talk by Richard Carey and a present for Patrick Crozier

Next time I meet up with Patrick Crozier, I will be giving him a present.

I hope that the next time we meet will be if he drops by at my place tomorrow evening. Then, Richard Carey will be giving a talk about “The English Radicals: 1640-1660″, but I believe that work commitments may prevent Patrick from being at that.

Richard Carey will be talking about:

The use and abuse of history; the period 1640-1660 as a crucible of political philosophy; Libertarianism and Republicanism and their respective myths; Those great heroes to all honest Englishmen, the libellously-labelled “Levellers”, what they stood for, their impact and influence on the development of politics in this country and America, likewise the Republicans.

As always with these talks, I expect to learn a lot. To find out more about them, click where it says “Contact” here.

The present for Patrick Crozier is this:

Timesx21

That’s twenty one ancient copies of The Times. I saw a great stash of these in a local charity shop, and, knowing Patrick’s interest in the past of this newspaper, especially when world wars are involved, I purchased one, dated May 24th 1940. I asked Patrick if he’d like this copy, and more. He expressed enthusiasm. So, yesterday I went back and bought all the rest. Originally these copies were sold for 2d. These same copies each cost me exactly as much as a copy of The Times would now cost, £1. Someone else had also had a go at the pile by then, but there were plenty left. The dates of the copies I now have are: 1939 – October 2; November 18, 20, 22, 24, 25, 27, 29; December 5, 13, 15, 19, 27; 1940 – March 27, 28; April 4, 6, 13, 17; May 24, 30.

Giving gifts to one’s friends these days is hard. Stuff worth having tends not to cost nearly as much as it used to. If a friend wants, say, some spoons, he just buys some spoons, of exactly the sort he wants. Why give him other spoons of the wrong sort? Besides which, the gift most of us would really like would not be more crap, but more space to accommodate all the crap we already have. So, when the chance occurs to give a friend a gift that they really might like, costing about the right amount in money or bother, it makes sense to grab that chance.

LATER: I’ve just discovered that what I thought was December 27th 1939 was actually September 27th 1938. Before WW2 began, in other words, which will please Patrick. There’s a big Hitler speech about Czechoslovakia.

The crazy years

The idea that we are living in a period that in retrospect we might call “The Crazy Years” gets an airing in this long, essay by John C. Wright. He takes the term from Robert A Heinlein’s “Future History” series of stories, written decades ago when the Grand Master of Science Fiction was not yet fully famous. (Thanks to Charles N Steele’s excellent blog for the pointer).

Steele, in his own ruminations on this, says:

Robert A. Heinlein explored a possible future history for homo sapiens.  One of things he foresaw was a period at the end of the 20th Century and beginning of the 21st that he called “the Crazy Years,” in which cultural fragmentation and decay in advanced countries generates political and economic decline and social disruption.  He was prescient in recognizing what happens when commonly accepted principles such as an individual’s responsibility for self are forgotten and political correctness and multiculturalism run amok.  As advancing technology places increasing power in human hands, human ethics fail to keep pace.  In Heinlein’s world, humans do manage to navigate these shoals without destroying themselves and eventually do settle on a MYOB sort of libertarian ethic…but only narrowly averting nuclear self-destruction and environmental self-destruction, and not without going through periods of dictatorship as well as societal chaos.

Steele then lays out a number of areas where signs of our descent into the Crazy Years might be evident:

  • Iranian or Al Qaeda religious fanatics obtaining nuclear weapons…

  • An American federal government — especially the executive branch — working to acquire unlimited power, and already apparently having the power to spy on essentially all communications, everywhere…

  • A growing segment of the population — some poor and some very rich (think Goldman Sachs) — who live as parasites on the productivity of others while creating nothing of values themselves…

  • An intelligentsia that cannot bring itself to condemn Islamism for fear of being seen as insensitive or racist or ethnocentric, but which regularly denounces, in the most hateful terms, anyone who opposes the continued expansion of state power…

  • An intelligentsia that praises socialism, hunter-gatherer economies, massive interventionism, anything but the one system that actually works, free market capitalism, a system they bitterly condemn…

  • A “press,” our mainstream media, that sees its job as promoting political positions and readily lies when lies serve this goal better than truth, and spouts nonsense the remainder of the time, apparently because reasoned analysis is too hard.

He then goes on to argue – and I hope he is right – that reasons for pessimism are perhaps overdone. For instance, who would have predicted that, after 1945, the continent of Europe (albeit apart from the Balkans in the early 90s) was free of any serious armed conflict of the sort that has routinely ravaged the region for centuries, and that the Cold War came to an end without the Soviets or NATO firing hardly a shot at one another on the continent?

I would add that in the confines of the UK, signs of craziness are evident, for example, from the political classes. Take the recent UK Labour Party conference. Labour leader Ed Milliband wants to impose a freeze on the prices that electricity companies charge their customers, while simultaneously demanding that they invest more in things such as renewable energy; his reversion to the idea of draconian price controls is pure demagoguery. Remember, dear Samizdata readers, that the Millibands of this world are quite popular with large chunks of the electorate. Labour is leading – just – the other main party – the Tories – in the opinion polls. This is what happens when, in such a crazy period as ours, that people are encouraged to think blatantly contradictory things: electricity firms must charge less but do more and invest more; banks must hold more capital in reserve but lend more; we must intervene in foreign lands but only with “surgical strikes” and nothing else; that everyone must be given access to health insurance but that the cost mustn’t rise; that we must ban opinions and notions because someone might be offended, and so on and so on.

Of course, thinking nonsense such as this is hardly new. Big business, for example, has been demonised as long as big business has existed, and political targeting of this has been almost the norm, rather than the exception. But what makes me want to think of this issue within the broader “crazy years” context is that I doubt that Milliband and his fellow socialists would be so confident of pushing these notions were it not for the rather batty political climate in which we now operate. Part of the cause for this may be a temporary reaction to the credit crunch, and the false narrative that quickly took root. But then the willingness of people to believe this narrative (which leaves out the role of central banks and government and blames it on “bankers”) is itself a sign that something is very wrong and cannot be quickly put right.

Robert Heinlein’s “future history” stories certainly do pay a re-visit. Come to that, so do pretty much all of his writings right now.

(Addendum: in case anyone brings this up, Steele could have mentioned any of the big banks as “parasites” in his list of examples. He chose Goldman Sachs, but he’s not picking on it specifically.)

Teaching Austrian Economics to China

Which is better? A technically superb photo of something you’ve seen many times before, like a wonderful still life oil painting? Or, a technically very average photo of something remarkable, that you never thought you’d live to see?

If you are in the mood for the second sort of photo, and you are someone who likes the kind of ideas that Samizdata seeks to spread, you should definitely take a look at this:

Evans+ChineseAustrianism

This is a group of Chinese people to whom Tim Evans of the Cobden Centre, seated proudly in their midst, was speaking, on Friday September 20th, about … Austrian Economics. And yes that is people from China China, not from some already strongly capitalistic outlying fragment of China.

My thanks to Simon Gibbs of Libertarian Home for telling me about this. Gibbs writes:

Tim Evans of the Austrianist Cobden Centre shared this image on Facebook. It is unclear who is visiting who but he is depicted front and centre with a delegation of Chinese officials as if he was an honoured guest or leader. Tim has been training the group in the details of Austrianism. The group worked with the Chinese State Council and the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.

Of this exercise, Tim Evans writes:

Spent a great day on Friday lecturing key academic and economic advisers to the Chinese State Council and the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. I regularly work with senior Chinese officials and find many of them to be increasingly well versed in the ideas of the Austrian School of Economics.

Austrian Economics is very persuasive to a certain sort of economically curious person, because it is basically a statement of how things are. It describes a world of realities which are true whether you care about or accept their truth or not. This stuff is true no matter what else you choose merely to believe. You can, in principle, understand that Austrian Economics describes how the world is, yet still believe that the world ought to be a centralised despotism or a socialist nirvana, or maybe even some combination of the two.

But, it is rather difficult to stick with such beliefs on a permanent basis. Once you accept the truths that Austrian Economics tells you, it is difficult not to find yourself believing that the world ought to be different from the tyrannical way that a lot of it still is.

Sir Simon Jenkins’ response to the Kenyan shootings: get rid of large buildings

I haven’t read anything by the Guardian columnist Sir Simon Jenkins for a while. He’s one of those infuriating grandees of the media who can be relied upon to say a mix of sensible things along with some jaw-dropping pieces of rubbish. Case in point in the rubbish department, regarding the mass murders by Islamists in a Kenya shopping mall (H/T, Douglas Murray in the Spectator) :

The modern urban obsession with celebrity buildings and high-profile events offers too many publicity-rich targets. A World Trade Centre, a Mumbai hotel, a Boston marathon, a Nairobi shopping mall are all enticing to extremists. Defending them is near impossible. Better at least not to create them. A shopping mall not only wipes out shopping streets, it makes a perfect terrorist fortress, near impossible to assault.

“Celebrity building”. Note the sneer. So what is Sir Simon’s suggestion: that Kenyans go back to living in all those cute little mud huts and not frequent markets where more than a handful of folk are in the vicinity, is that it? And that Westerners, or indeed anyone else, should stop going to large buildings, such as theatres, football stadiums, rock concerts, large rail stations, underground stations, skyscrapers….? We stop running marathons, or gathering for other peaceful reasons, lest nutters go on the rampage? Of course, people can choose to avoid such events and places as much as they want, but Sir Simon, a fan of planning legislation, no doubt would not draw the line at just letting people associate where they want.

It is not as if he is even consistent about this issue of density of people in certain places anyway. Jenkins and those of like minds often also decry suburbia, and wish we all went back to living in denser cities and used public transport (which tends to be more vulnerable to terrorist attacks). It is obscene in my view, as people were still dying as a result of the shootings in Kenya, that this fuckwit writes about “the modern obsession with celebrity buildings”, as if there was something almost shameful or foolish about erecting them and enjoying visits to them.

What this man is proposing is, to put it simply, a form of surrender. I remember when George Bush responded initially to 9/11 by urging people to continue shopping and enjoying life as a way to defeat the Islamists. He got criticised for this, but he was right. According to the logic of what Jenkins says, we should stop being Western, stop making big things, or glossy, flash buildings that people enjoy visiting, and revert to a smaller set of gathering places instead, at least for however long it takes before the death-cultists of Islam decide to turn their attentions elsewhere. Great. Let’s hide under our beds. (So long as the beds are not too large or ostentatious, of course.)

Of course, Jenkins is an opponent of large, modern buildings and has been banging the drum in opposition to such things as long as I can remember. But I did not think he would resort to this line of argument. What is this man going to say if a bomb is set off in one of his favourite classical pieces of architecture, I wonder?

(I have updated my item a bit to remove some clunky expressions. Insufficient coffee and anger do not make for great writing.)

 

Islamic dress… the question that needs to be asked is rather different

The Guardian has been talking about Islamic dress for woman and I keep waiting to see someone frame this as more than just either “the state needs to ban it” or “it is a matter of freedom of choice for individuals”.

These are both useful points but they actually miss the real issue, which is allowing civil society to actually function.

Yes, I agree the state has no business telling people what they can or cannot wear other than in the most limited utilitarian circumstances (for example you should have to show your face when giving evidence in court and similar situations where identity and personal reactions to question need to be judged by a jury). So if someone wants to wear a burqua or pink rabbit slippers and a tutu or a Nazi arm band, that should be entirely up to them in almost every circumstance.

But that leads us to the real question: I support the right of people to wear whatever they wish. But I also support the right of people to react to that decision as they wish, as long as it does not involve violence or threats thereof.

The reason I mentioned a Nazi arm band in the above examples is that it is an item of clothing that is likely to produce a very negative reaction from many observers. People refusing to do business with, or offering a job to, or actively criticising someone, for wearing a Nazi arm band would strike many as acting perfectly reasonably and within their rights. Hopefully things are not yet so bad that an employer refusing to hire someone who turns up to a job interview wearing a Nazi arm band would find themselves in trouble with the law (but hey, anything is possible these days).

A ‘reasonable man’ on most juries would accept that as a Nazi arm band strongly implies that person supports Nazi values and ideology, it is perfectly reasonable to discriminate against such a person if you find those valued abhorrent, and not want such a person to represent you in the marketplace. After all, that Nazi arm band represents an ideology steeped in collectivist violence, irrational prejudice, misogyny, the complete replacement of civil society with ideologically directed interactions… in short, the totalitarian imposition of certain ways of life on everyone.

Now what else does that remind you of?

In other words, a Nazi arm band is very much like a burqua in the eyes of a great many people.

So yes, I demand that people be able to wear whatever they want without being threatened by the state. And I demand that other people be allowed to infer certain things from what others wear, and treat them accordingly, without the law preventing them from doing so.

That is right, I am in favour of people’s right to discriminate on the basis of another person’s views.

… without a paddle

Venezuela seizes toilet paper factory to avoid shortage