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]

My year in twelve pictures

If Michael Jennings can roam the world taking photos, then I can roam London and nearby spots, doing the same. Here are twelve photos from my year, one for each month.

They are chosen, I hasten to add, as much to help me say things about what is in them and about digital photography as for their technical quality. Which is… rather variable.

→ Continue reading: My year in twelve pictures

Samizdata quote of the day

Oh yes, I have put my house in London on the market too! I live close to a large French language school and there are many shops near there aimed at French clientele, so when I read the latest news from France, I increased the asking price by about ten percent. I am sure that splashing sound in the distance is the waves of wealthy French businessmen swimming across the Channel, clutching their chequebooks in their teeth and feverishly looking to spend their dosh while they still can.

- heard at Samizdata HQ in London, pertaining to this.

The days when railway companies held their passengers to ransom

In these enlightened days of state-controlled railways and fare control it is sometimes difficult to believe that there was a time when railways were monopolies red in tooth and claw and were more or less free to do what they wanted.

And here, from a hundred years ago, we have an egregious example of precisely the sort of monopoly abuse we have so often been warned of. It’s revision time for fares and you know what’s coming: they’re… er… reducing them:

The Times 3 December 1913 p5

The Times 3 December 1913 p5

Well, that’s as may be but the only reason they’re doing that is because they’re making the service… er… better:

In anticipation of the opening of the first section of the electrified suburban lines during the coming year…

As it happens the lines to which they refer weren’t electrified until 1916 – not that that is particularly important.

So, what’s going on? Well, as Brian Micklethwait likes to point out everything competes with everything else. Railways may not compete much with other railways but they sure as hell compete with buses, trams, cars, moving nearer work and finding a job nearer where one lives.

Even so, railwaymen often refer to the “sparks effect”. This is the phenomenon whereby a newly electrified line will see a significant increase in passengers. With that in mind you would have thought they could increase their fares. I can only imagine fares are being reduced because they are able to run more services.

By the way, not strictly relevant but I loved this from column 1 on the same page:

Mr J. D. Gilbert asked the chairman of the Highways Committee whether in view of the by-laws allowing passengers to stand in the tramcars, the committee had considered the advisability of issuing notices, similar to those in use in Manchester, asking ladies to have all hatpins protected.

From here

From here

Scott Wiener on the art and the design of the pizza box

Incoming from Michael J:

God Bless Capitalism.

Read all about:

The Package Saver
The Table Box
The GreenBox
Hell’s Pizza Coffin Box
The Euro Lock Box
The VENTiT Box
Pizza Hut Hot Spot

Read more by buying the book.

A not too terrible year for the environment

The Independent, looking back over the year through its deep green spectacles, tells us:

It was mostly a terrible year for the environment. In the UK, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson continued to prompt speculation that he is a climate sceptic and Chancellor George Osborne carried on putting off potential investors in green energy, most obviously by scrapping from the Energy Bill a clause to green Britain’s power supply by 2030.

Meanwhile, for reasons I have not been following, badgers are being killed.

People like Osborne, Paterson and their ilk, in Britain and around the world, could be doing much better, but reports like this remind us that things could be far worse. At least the argument is flowing in the sane direction and away from climate catastrophism. And, with painful slowness, the power and the money are now responding to this change in the climate, as in: change in the climate of opinion.

Meanwhile, the world continued to experience the kind of extreme weather events that cannot be directly linked to climate change but which scientists say are likely to occur more often as a result of a changing climate.

I love that “cannot be directly linked” bit. As in: cannot be directly linked, no matter matter how hard the Independent’s preferred scientists are trying. These guys are just too obvious about what they want to be true.

The climate itself remains much the same.

Sign of the times

I just wished the readers of my personal blog (and these people do exist) a Merry Christmas by sticking up photos of local tradesmen’s signs saying Merry Christmas.

But I saved this sign for here:

MerryChristmasDontWorry

There is also a website. I particularly like this bit of it.

Festive greetings to liberty’s friends

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The edges of the Old World

IMGP5516Kiev, Ukraine. January 2013

yr_kutaisifebKutaisi, Georgia. January 2013

IMGP5982Batumi, Adjara. January 2013

yr_abkhbridge_febInguri Bridge, January 2013

yr_abh1Sukhomi, Abkhazia. January 2013

yr_yerevanfeb5Yerevan, Armenia. February 2013

yr_alpsfeb38,000 feet. February 2013

yr_belgradeFebBelgrade, Serbia. February 2013

yr_sarajevo3marchSarajevo, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. March 2013

yr_eastsar1Istočno Sarajevo, Republic Srpska. March 2013

yr_vismarchVis Island, Croatia. March 2013

yr_aljadidaaprilAl Jadida, Morocco. April 2013

yir_warsawmayWarsaw, Poland. May 2013

yr_uhguli7Ushguli, Georgia. May 2013

yr_vistulaspitNowa Carczma, Vistula Spit. June 2013

yr_poland1Chełmno, Poland.  June 2013

yr_budapestjulyBudapest, Hungary. July 2013

yr_ljubjulLjubljana, Slovenia. July 2013

yr_bari_julyBari, Italy. July 2013

yr_albjulKsamil, Albania. July 2013

IMGP4681Kerkyra, Greece. July 2013

yr_greecealCorfu Channel. July 2013

yr_skopjejulSkopje, Macedonia. July 2013

yr_sanctSanctuary Cove, Australia. August 2013

yr_asEdinburgh, Scotland. September 2013

dargDarial Gorge. October 2013

yr_noravankNoravank, Armenia. October 2013

yr_gamlaGamla, Georgia. November 2013

yr_katowiceKatowice, Poland. November 2013

yr_sabrosanovSabrosa, Portugal. November 2013

yr_france2Saint-Gingolph, France. November 2013

yr_swizzVillars, Switzerland. November 2013

IMAG1911

Inezgane, Morocco. December 2013

yr_laayoune1Laayoune, Western Sahara. December 2013

 

Parkinson’s Other Law suggests that now might be the right time to sell your Amazon shares

I see that Instapundit has become aware of Parkinson’s Other Law, the one about custom-built headquarters buildings. This is the law that says that any organisation which builds itself a brand new headquarters building is heading for disaster.

Instapundit links to a Wired piece about Apple’s new mega HQ, which does indeed look like a recipe for corporate disaster. This new Apple enormity looks a lot like the GCHQ building in Cheltenham, which was completed in 2003, after that organisation had participated successfully in two major wars – WW2 and Cold. But that Apple scheme has been around for a while. The latest HQ building news comes courtesy of Amazon:

AmazonHQ

Pity. I really like Amazon. I hope its death throes are prolonged enough not to derange me too much. I hope, that is to say, that in the near future, it is Amazon’s shareholders who suffer most of whatever Amazonian grief is about to erupt. However, I do fear that if, as a result of a share price collapse, Amazon then tries to be profitable, this might hurt us now-very-happy customers quite badly too.

Immediately after the Dezeen piece linked to above, about the new Amazon HQ, there came another piece, about a new Twitter HQ. But, although suspiciously well designed (hence it being noticed by Dezeen), this is to be in an already existing building that used to be a furniture store. This is the right way to contrive a new headquarters building, if you really must have such a thing at all.

Deirdre McCloskey’s list of true liberals

Almost a decade ago now, the still much missed Findlay Dunachie did a posting here about the wicked sayings and doings of Communist academics and supporters and subverters in America, some of whom were then trying to expunge from the historical record their long catalogue of blunder and subterfuge and just plain evil. Earlier this year I encountered this posting again, and recycled its particularly eloquent opening sentences as a Samizdata quote of the day.

But this posting contained other things that were perhaps even more memorable than those opening sentences, namely two lists of the bad communists and communist sympathisers in question. List One: The Academics. List Two: The Spies. May they live in infamy.

I was reminded of those lists when I recently encountered another such list, this other list being a roll of honour rather than of dishonour. It appears towards the end of Deirdre McCloskey’s book Bourgeois Dignity, which was published in 2010. (The Anton Howes talk that I flagged up here recently is pretty much Anton Howes channelling this book.)

What is this book about? Well, one way to describe it would be for its author to list all the people whose ideas she approves of and is herself channelling.

So, that’s what she does, on page 400:

My theme in short is the true liberal one of the de la Court brothers, Richard Overton, John Lilburne, William Walwyn, Thomas Rainsborough, Richard Rumbold, Spinoza, Dudley North, Algernon Sidney, Locke, Voltaire, Hume, Turgot, Montesquieu, Adam Ferguson, Smith, Thomas Paine, Destutt de Tracy, Jefferson, Madame de Stael, Benjamin Constant, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Charles [not Auguste] Comte, Charles Dunoyer, Malthus, Ricardo, Harriet Martineau, Tocqueville, Giuseppe Mazzini, Frederic Bastiat, Mill, Henry Maine, Richard Cobden, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Cavour, Johan August Gripenstedt, Herbert Spencer, Lysander Spooner, Karl von Rotteck, Johan Rudolf Thorbecke, Carl Menger, Lord Acton, Josephine Butler, Knut Wicksell, Luigi Einaudi, H. L. Mencken, Johan Huizinga, Frank Knight, Ludwig von Mises, Willa Cather, Rose Wilder Lane, Walter Lippmann until the 1950s, Nora Zeale Hurston, Karl Popper, Isaiah Berlin, Michael Polanyi, Friedrich Hayek, Raymond Aron, Henry Hazlitt, Bertrand de Jouvenel, Ronald Coase, Milton, Rose, and son David Friedman, Murray Rothbard, James Buchanan, Ludwig Lachmann, Gordon Tullock, Thomas Sowell, Joan Kennedy Taylor, Roy A. Childs, Julian Simon, Israel Kirzner, Vernon Smith, Wendy McElroy, Norman Barry, Loren Lomasky, Tibor Machan, Anthony de Jasay, Douglas Den Uyl, Douglas Rasmussen, Deepak Lal, Chandran Kukathas, Ronald Hamowy, Tom Palmer, Don Lavoie, David Boaz, Richard Epstein, Tyler Cowen, David Schmidtz, Donald Boudreaux, Peter Boettke, and the young Robert Nozick. It is the obvious and simple system of natural liberty. It contradicts the aristocratic sneering by conservatives at innovations and at the bourgeoisie, or the clerical sneering by progressives at markets and at the bourgeoisie. The true-liberal claim is that unusual bourgeois dignity and personal liberty in northwestern Europe, and especially in Holland and then in Britain, made for unusual national wealth, by way of a revaluation of ordinary, bourgeois life.

Interesting, both for its inclusions and for its exclusions. Particular kudos to the very select few who need only be mentioned with one surname!

The most notable exclusion that commenters here may want to notice and opine about is Ayn Rand. Rand gets no mention either in the book’s index or in the list of works cited. My guess is that McCloskey’s attitude to Rand can be summarised as the claim that Rand contributed a minus quantity to our understanding of, to quote the title of McCloskey’s earlier book, The Bourgeois Virtues.

For me it is the inclusions in this list that are the most interesting. It makes me want to learn more, in particular, about the English men of the seventeenth century at the top of the list, and about all those Germanic sounding people, throughout, several of whose names are entirely new to me.

I’d be very interested to hear if anyone reading this list can honestly claim to have even heard of everyone on it. Paul Marks has, obviously, but … anyone else?

Happy Christmas to all who are reading this, and happy googling, of the who is he? sort, that this posting will, I hope, stimulate.

Kill a man and you go to jail… kill 45 million and you get commemorated in souvenir shops

People in Shaoshan in China, the birthplace of Chairman Mao, are making good money selling keepsakes of history’s most prolific mass murderer. I find it odd that the BBC reporter doing a little video on that somehow neglected to ask “why are you selling souvenirs of a man responsible for murdering tens of millions of your fellow Chinese people?”

Actually I think we all know why that question never got asked.

Clearly Braunau am Inn in Austria is missing a trick.

It makes you proud to be British

If you are lucky enough to be permitted to cross the border from Sinuiju in (totalitarian) North Korea to Dandong in (horribly repressive, but at least they have food) China, one of the first things you will see is this.

nk_tescoGod bless Tesco.