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

Any statutory regulations/provisions against the press in the UK will most gleefully be lapped up here for use against the local media. The one argument we have had; that the modern liberal democracies around the world have self-regulation rather than statutory laws for the media will fall down should the UK opt to embrace statutory legislation as well to police the press. Such moves will only strengthen the hand of oppressive, regressive governments around the English-speaking world.

- Sinha Ratnatunga, Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

The Fountainhead comes to a central London cinema

With all the talk about Ayn Rand in US elections news, it occurred to me that it was high time that people here were exposed properly to her views. So I’m organising a cinema showing of The Fountainhead. It’s on Saturday 15 September on Baker Street in central London. There are limited tickets and I suspect that the film will be the start of a fun day, as there are good pubs nearby.

Details are here.

The propagation of libertarian ideas gets on-board the Tube

Fifty of these posters materialised this morning on the London Underground. Channel Four’s political correspondent, Michael Crick, noted their appearance, tweeting that: “Biteback [the publisher] are advertising Madsen Pirie’s book Think Tank, on ASI, with big underground posters. Amazing for such a limited interest topic”.

Funnily enough, I think the book will sell quite well, but, more importantly, there is an important message put out by the posters. It is that free-marketeers hold their views, not because they are being paid by Big Business, but because… they believe in them.

How libertarian TV can overtake public-service broadcasting


Madsen Pirie’s latest video is about mass production, but I want to talk about mass distribution. The first of his series, released just over a week ago, has, according to YouTube, been viewed 9,493 times. That seems quite encouraging, especially when you look at the viewing figures of some of Britain’s public-service television. According to The Telegraph last year:

“S4C, which gets more than £100m of subsidy from taxpayers, officially attracted zero viewers on 196 out of its 890 programmes… A zero rating means that the 196 shows were watched by fewer than 1,000 people.”

What this means is that not only can libertarian videos be produced at low cost – under £1000 for a really good set up with lighting, a camcorder and good mic – and not only can they be edited easily and cheaply (with iMovie or MAGIX Movie Edit Pro), but they can also get more viewers than expensive state-funded programmes. I’m told that the Adam Smith Institute is doubling the speed of production. Given the resourcefulness, creativity and work ethic of libertarians, I suspect that YouTube is a medium in which libertarians can win.

‘That’s the mistake that Karl Marx made’

Is this video the 21st century version of a photocopied 1980s Libertarian Alliance pamphlet? It contains Madsen Pirie explaining an economics concept in under three minutes. He tells me that he is going to do 20 videos, one a week.

Strangely, outside of lectures held by the ASI and IEA, there isn’t much video coming out of the UK libertarian scene. Over in the States, all sorts of organisations, especially Reason.tv, have done sterling work with online video. My instinct is that the returns on time for British libertarians doing video could be significant – and that Madsen’s videos will have quite an effect among young people exploring economics.

Liberty Club: the next generation

For those of you with a fantastically detailed historical knowledge of Samizdata, you’ll recall the Liberty Club, which Brian Micklethwait posted several pieces about a decade ago.

This is a student society which I ran with Marian Tupy while at St Andrews. It was created because we were fed up with all the socialism promoted by Leftist students. And we didn’t want to attend Tory soirees with John Selwyn Gummer: we wanted to promote libertarian ideas. (By the way, Dr Tupy is now doing this, and I am doing this.)

Much to my amazement, the Liberty Club is going strong. And I was pleased recently to meet the new President, Daniel Pycock, who is fizzing with ideas for the club. He has a good list of speakers lined up for this term (I suspect he’s going to get a lot of abuse for inviting the brilliant climate sceptic Viscount Monkton).

Anyway, hearing about what the Liberty Club is up to made me go back to Brian’s write-ups. I noticed in the comments of one, a reader asked whether there were similar societies at other universities, and I wrote:

There’s the LSE Hayek Society. I am also in contact with someone at Leeds University who is looking into a setting up a Liberty Club.

Today, thanks to the work of the Freedom Association and the Liberty League, there are at least 16 such societies on campuses across the country. This is fantastic – and bodes well for the future of libertarianism in this country.

Brian’s articles:

St Andrews is at it again – March 8, 2002
Face to face with the St. Andrews libertarians – April 22, 2002
What life at university should be like – March 13, 2003
Liberty Club marches on – May 20, 2003

The Libertarian Alliance Conference is dead – but there’s a new conference in town

Never mind that the Libertarian Alliance isn’t holding a conference this year because there’s another conference to take its place. It’s a one-day, less expensive event on Saturday 22 October that’s being held in the same venue – the National Liberal Club in London. For £65 you get a day of libertarian speakers and dinner at the club, too.

Among the libertarian figures speaking or chairing sessions are the Austrian economist Dr  Adam Martin, who is flying over from New York, Sam Bowman, of the Adam Smith Institute and Cobden Centre, Theodore Dalrymple, columnist and doctor, and Toby Young, who is running a free school.

Half of the tickets are being taken up by young libertarian students, so this will be a conference where the future of the British libertarian movement will be fully in view. To reserve your place, all you have to do is to visit the Liberty League website and enter your details. Hope to see many of you there.

The libertarians who want to BAN fractional-reserve banking

I hate to disagree with other libertarians. But there’s a group of them who are getting the banking system really wrong, and their superficially attractive thesis is causing all manner of confusion. These are the Rothbardian campaigners who claim that fractional-reserve banking is theft. They say that this evil and sinister system must be wiped off the planet.

So what exactly do they oppose? At present, when you deposit £1000 into your current account, the bank lends some of that money. The cash is used, for example, to provide a mortgage to a first-time buyer or give finance to a small business wanting to expand. The Rothbardians claim that this is fraudulent. Actually, this is a perfectly reasonable thing for banks to do. It creates economic growth by giving businesses and individuals access to finance. And, frankly, everyone knows that banks lend out deposits: there is no fraud involved at all.

What the Rothbardians want is for a bank to take your money and leave it untouched in a vault. But banks already offer this: they rent safe deposit boxes – not that many people use them, and those who do tend to put jewelry and other valuables in them.

Instead of supporting a free market, the campaigners demand the criminalisation of fractional-reserve banking – they want to strip consumers of a choice over where they deposit their cash. This is a breathtakingly unlibertarian position for a bunch of supposed libertarians.

In fact, fractional-reserve banking is just a result of market forces, going back to the bankers in of Genoa and Venice in the 12th century, who lend out their deposits.

Conversely, according to the Austrian economist Prof George Selgin, every significant bank in history that just sat on deposits “was a government-sponsored enterprise, which depended for its existence on some combination of direct government subsidies, compulsory patronage, or laws suppressing rival (fractional reserve) institutions.”

We already have enough financial socialism. Do we really want to ban a banking custom that consumers, through history, have chosen?

Samizdata quote of the day

“My vision is of a new form of Dynamic Equilibrium economics (DEe) which will, while being steady in scale, still be thoroughly dynamic and require business to be as enterprising, creative and innovative as ever. As growth at a macro-scale is dethroned, so too will the focus of business innovation shift to a Flourishing Enterprise model of business in which companies and markets focus on objectives based on maximising societal flourishing and units of wellbeing delivered per unit planet input.”

- Jules Peck, a trustee of the New Economics Foundation and a fellow of ResPublica

Samizdata quote of the day

I often wonder how different individual lives in Britain would be if alcohol had never been invented. Just imagine all the couples who would never have got together without a little encouragement. All those unsent text messages and undeclared intentions. Can you imagine dancing, let alone pulling, in a sober club?

- Iain Hollingshead, Twenty Something: the quarter-life crisis of Jack Lancaster

Samizdata quote of the day

Thousands are dying every year thanks to Britain’s health service not delivering the standards people expect and receive in other European countries. Billions of pounds have been thrown at the NHS but the additional spending has made no discernable difference to the long-term pattern of falling mortality. This is a colossal waste of lives and money. We need to learn lessons from European countries with healthcare systems that don’t suffer from political management, monopolistic provision and centralisation.

- Matthew Sinclair, TaxPayers’ Alliance (via Helen Evans)

You can’t perfect markets, any more than people

Dr Eamonn Butler spoke to a room of sixth formers and twenty-somethings last week to launch his new book, The Best Book on the Market, and made some good points on why economics lecturers don’t understand the market – and nor does George Soros. Here’s the video: