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]

Samzidata quote of the day

So that’s it. The argument is over… Low tax-low spend economics is finally threatening to become not just irresistible in terms of rational debate and empirical evidence – which, in fact, it is has been since at least the 1980s – but something far more devastating in electoral terms: it is poised to become cool. It will now be unthinkably unfashionable at dinner parties to defend the notion of the state as the monopoly supplier of virtue and fairness.

- Janet Daley in a Telegraph blog

How should we celebrate St George’s Day next year?

St George’s Day passed last week. I tried to celebrate it but the pub that I and my companion visited had ignored the festival and so I had a glass of Young’s, rather than the obligatory Bombardier. Oh well. Of course, the day should be more that about a pint and it strikes me as a shame that the English have undervalued their patron saint: promotion St George’s Day could be a force for good, helping to encourage integration of immigrants, for example, and helping overcome the damage of muddled thinking on multiculturalism.

Moreover, as someone who is sympathetic to English independence from Scotland (a nation we are forced to subsidise), it seems to me that encouraging an English national identity would have some positive effects. Maybe readers have some ideas on how we could mark it next year?

Incidentally, I liked this very good short clip of Iain Dale and Simon Heffer discussing the issue as part of the weekly Right On programme from Telegraph TV:

The state fines businesses for recycling

Shane Greer reports on his attempt to get Westminster City Council to recycle business waste. It turns out that the council, while willing to collect his office’s waste, will not recycle any of that waste – and will fine him if he puts his waste in recycling facilities aimed at domestic users. That sounds awfully like punishing businesses that try to be green.

The problem with councils running recycling services is that they are inefficient and fail to innovate. They use outdated methods that are expensive, and end up recycling in the same way as British Leyland used to make Austin Minis (at a loss).

In large parts of Ireland, a recent report by Gordon Hector points out, the state has let the free market deal with refuse collection: individual customers choose from private companies and pay directly, rather than through council tax. Competition has meant that technologies and methods unknown in the UK have been deployed. Greyhound, one of Ireland’s larger waste companies, recycles 87% of the rubbish it receives (because recycling is good for its profits). The best-performing council in the UK only recycles 55% of waste; the lowest 11%.

This might not compute with environmental activists, but yet again we see that the free market is greener than state control.

- Update: On another brain-dead environmental issue, have a look what the council at Basingstoke is doing to destroy the local environment and harm taxpayers simultaneously, by pushing development into the beautiful Lodden Valley, instead of on the bod-standard land it already owns in Manydown.

Another London blogger event next week

Real ale and champagne will be in full flow next week on Wednesday 16 April when bloggers Guido Fawkes, Tim Worstall and Samizdata’s Perry de Havilland give short speeches at an event on “Curbing the crap artists”. Guido will be speaking – from a blogger’s perspective – on “curbing the bad politicians”, Tim on “curbing the crap journalists” (Polly?), and Perry on “curbing the crap businesses”. Beg an invite from here.

Samizdata quote of the day

Politicians are like parents who tell you what time to go to bed but can’t put dinner on the table.

- Matthew Taylor, now Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Arts, quoted in a 2002 article by Janan Ganesh

The rise of bloggers on Sky News

Shane Greer – a sound centre-right blogging celeb – keeps popping up on Sky News. The news channel’s blog posting about his appearance yesterday bills him simply as “top blogger Shane Greer”. He was on the channel to discuss the stories moving across the web, although the last time I saw him, he was reviewing the papers.

Shane has got an important political media job too (he is executive editor of the forthcoming magazine Total Politics). The presenter did mention that (it is just before the clip below starts), but while Shane was speaking the caption was www.shanegreer.com, his personal blog. I noticed, similarly, Jeff Jarvis being introduced on the channel either today or yesterday as being the author of the BuzzMachine blog.

This is yet more evidence that blogging really is fully mainstream. Additionally, Shane’s blogging-print media combination highlights for me that the traditional media and the best of the blogosphere are now increasingly one in the same.

If you’ve been missing 18 Doughty Street…

…then you should check out Right On, a 15 minute weekly programme from Telegraph TV. Unlike BBC programmes, it is advertiser-funded; it uses Telegraph journalists with the production outsourced to ITN. The libertarian-leaning show each week features a studio debate, a short segment of Iain Dale and Simon Heffer arguing, and Andrew Pierce’s take on Westminster gossip. In the latest episode, Ann Widdecombe – who should know better as an elected politician – throws a hissy fit under questioning about taxpayer money being spent on the second homes of MPs.

Discovered in a Wetherspoon pub

I found a guest ale that is marketed by attacking Gordon Brown’s high tax economics and his ceding of power to “dictators in Brussels”. Not a conventional marketing approach. Probably an effective one, though.

The Hillarys and the Huckabees

Tom Clougherty on the ASI Blog today points to a great article by the Cato Institute’s David Boaz on the two groups that threaten liberty in the United States: “The Hillarys and the Huckabees”. At Tom puts it:

The Huckabees, named after Republican primary also-ran Mike Huckabee, are the big government conservatives who want government to fill God’s shoes, stamping out sin and telling everyone what to do and what not to do. They’re the people who reject the social liberation of the 1960s.

Meanwhile:

the Hillarys (no prizes for guessing who they’re named after) reject the economic liberation of the 1980s. They “want to raise taxes because they think they can spend your money more wisely than you can. They don’t believe in school choice because you don’t know how to choose a school for your children. They think they can handle your retirement savings and health care better than you can.” In short, the Hillarys want government to treat citizens as parents treat children – the nanny-state writ large.

What a relief that neither camp’s glorious leader is going to be US president.

Ideology before pupils in Britain’s schools

Tony Blair’s support for City Academies – schools with some private sector funding and management – was a move in the right direction, albeit a small one. Now it seems that the Brown government is trying to water that down. Mick Fealty has a perceptive blog posting talking about the war of ideas being fought between Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, and Lord Adonis, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools and Learners.

“So what?” I hear you say. Well it turns out that Mr Balls is not just unworried about Britain’s tax burden, he is also blinded to the problem of centralised, top-down state control of education. Apparently, one of Mr Ball’s colleagues says that the man is “entirely ideological. He has a strong belief in the role of local authorities in the delivery of services. He is a big state man.”

Lord Adonis on the other hand is a believer in school freedom and wants sponsors to keep having their say on how City Academies run. I fear, however, that the government may well make another balls-up here. While Baroness Thatcher’s reforms have largely stuck, the glue behind Mr Blair’s few good ones is so weak.

Lunacy of the month

I have just found this Anthony Makara article on ConservativeHome’s Platform blog. Mr Makara writes:

“…we in Britain should stop importing goods that we can produce for ourselves…

Really? He claims that with free trade:

…we get cheaper goods, but we pay for that in other ways, with unemployment, and we pay for that with higher interest rates too. When we have an economy that is reliant on imports it means that we have to pursue a strong pound policy to ensure that the foreign goods stay cheap. To have a strong currency we have to have higher interest rates… This in turn will lead to inflation, which in turn will lead to higher wage-demands. Which in turn leads us back to the high interest rates that quell that inflation. “

Oh dear.

Shhh! Don’t tell Mugabe

Daniel Hannan, writing on his Telegraph blog, gives a good example of how the free market is more environmentally-friendly than state ownership:

Kenya banned the killing of elephants in 1979, effectively nationalising its herd. At around the same time, Rhodesia (as it still was) made elephants the property of those whose land they were on. The result? Thirty years on, Kenyan elephants have been all but wiped out, while Zimbabwe’s are as numerous as ever.

People say that the market promotes selfishness, but it turns out that it is when things are owned collectively that greed thrives.