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]

BBC contractor fired in TV Licensing scandal

A victory has been achieved in the fight against the disgracefully threatening letters sent by the BBC’s TV Licensing arm. The company responsible for sending the letters, Proximity London, was fired by the BBC on Friday after it was found that millions of letters had contained false statistics.

Turning the tables on TV Licensing

Think TV Licensing is too bullying? If so, I’ve written an article you might enjoy:

No one likes bullies, so I decided it was time to turn the tables on TV Licensing – which is contracted to private companies by the BBC – and go and investigate them. First stop was to ring their brand reputation consultants, Fishburn Hedges, and ask to spend a morning riding on a detector van. I wanted to discover why some readers without televisions had received unpleasant “official warning” letters year after year, when TV Licensing could have just used its vans which it says are “capable of detecting the use of TV receiving equipment within 20 seconds”.

Read the full article here.

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

The possibility that China could become a fully industrialised and urbanised society, with living standards akin to our own, has become the ultimate environmentalist nightmare.

- Claire Fox

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:

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

British public opposes eco-taxes

Environmentalists like to claim that the politicians should pursue their agenda because that is what the public wants. So free-marketeers will be cheered by a new poll that says that 67% of British people believe that the green agenda has been hijacked as a ploy to increase taxes. 72% of Brits would be unwilling to pay more in taxes, even if used for environmental purposes.

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