Bet that title grabbed you… not! I don’t normally ponder the business section of the newspaper either, being a non-earning radical unschooling parent with barely a couple of ha’pennies to rub together for heating at this time of year. However, as one of Samizdata’s resident optimists, I couldn’t help but notice this Telegraph headline warming the cockles of my heart:
FTSE rides wave of global optimism
So what? I hear you all demand. Aren’t markets notoriously fickle? Don’t share indexes go up and down like yo-yos from one moment to the next?
Well, not exactly, no. They do react over-sensitively sometimes, including to mistaken theories and red-herrings and suchlike. But they do also tell us something about how economies are doing, in a general sense. And there are few things more important to a country’s success than its economy. And free-markets succeed where controlled markets never can, which is why Eastern Europe is still hobbling its way towards the 1980’s while in the West we enjoy Gameboy Advance, ever-improving standards of living and quite a few more Wonderbras per capita than you will still find in rural Transyllvania.
And also why looking at the economic news can actually tell us something about how free our country is. If things are booming, then of course lower taxes would help them boom even more: but something else is definitely still going right regardless (probably many things, in fact).
Freedom is about more than legislation. It’s also about how the state enforces its legislation, what methods for criticising and changing the legislation are in place (democracy being the best one anyone seems to have achieved so far, definitely more efficient for spreading ideas than fascist dictatorship), and how effective people are at doing this criticising and changing. Here on Samizdata, I’d say we’re pretty good. But it would be wrong to assume that everyone is as knowledgeable (or interested) as we are in the political process and evolutionary growth: interpreting widespread disagreement with our own ideas as hard evidence that evil Marxist brainwashing plots have tainted the Nation That Once Was Great is a big logic error (file under “conspiracy theory”).
→ Continue reading: UK Business News
British smokers are refusing to lie down and die of nagging. The European Union directive requiring that cigarette packets be used as a means of harassing smokers with loud offensive messages like SMOKING KILLS!, YOU WILL DIE! NOW! and the more succinct and efficient FUCK OFF!!! Is soon to be superseded with graphic pictures of diseased organs which will by law have to cover at least 150% of the surface area of the packaging.
Yet good old British creative thinking is successfully combating this ludicrous and patronising nonsense. People have noticed that cigarettes can actually be removed from their packaging and placed in other receptacles, perfectly legally- and that it is still within the law to cover one’s cigarette box with a piece of brightly-coloured fabric! And a whole new market in old-fashioned silver cigarette boxes, and new-style box-covers, has opened up and is blossoming in the UK. What a good idea, and recyclable hence money-saving too, so surely an improvement even on those clever ironic stickers for covering up the offensive messages which were featured in a blog here some time ago. Go capitalism!
It almost makes me want to take up smoking again, just for the pretty cases. If only the things didn’t give one cancer.
(Cue Samizdata blog predicting inevitable future EU plans forcing smokers to hold unmodified and unadorned officially-approved packets up for inspection by the police on demand…)
One of the great myths about anti-Semitism is that it’s only a problem for Jews. But if you were one of the people walking down the street doing nothing while European Jewry was being rounded up for slaughter during WWII, I hope you would not just have felt sorry for ‘God’s ancient people’ and left it at that. I hope you might have done something positive to help them. To stand by and do nothing while an evil psychosis sweeps your civilisation is not likely to be a very moral option. So maybe you would have felt honoured to risk and even sacrifice your life, like the eighty-three-year-old man I quoted above. Sometimes that is the only way to conquer evil.
Anti-Semitism is a problem for us all, because civilisation-destroying evil is a problem for us all. Would Marxist nutters be trying to take over Europe right now if Europe hadn’t annihilated a vast swathe of its own cultural topsoil sixty-five years ago? I wonder.
In considering the Holocaust, most attention has been given to its direct victims, as is appropriate. However, we must also consider that it was a form of self-administered lobotomy for Continental European culture
…as James C. Bennett said in this very good article.
It is not just that if ‘they’ start by looking for the Jews ‘they’ will end up looking for anybody and everybody. It is simply that good cultures and civilisations require decent moral human beings, and the destruction of those decent, moral human beings (who also happen in general to be intelligent, freedom-loving capitalist human beings, as you will notice from taking a cursory overview of their societies) by evil crazy ones has massive and terrible ramifications we can not begin to measure. Had the Allies bombed the death camps when they should have, or even (unimaginable!) gone into Germany with the full backing of America sometime in the 1930s with the explicit purpose of removing the dictatorship and instigating democratic rule, Europe might now be far ahead of where it is. Good ideas grow more good ideas. Evil destroys them. We might have evolved the kind of free market European collection of small capitalist democracies that we can only hope might happen in another fifty or a hundred years through some as-yet-unconceived democratic libertarian miracle.
And we might not be producing, or nurturing, people like these. Or Tom Dalyell, the Leader of the House accusing Blair of having built his war policy on “being unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers”, rather than on any kind of moral or political substance. As Jack Straw (one of the “cabal”)’s spokesman responded: “If these reports are accurate, these remarks are too unworthy to be worth a comment.” I agree, in theory anyway. But Mr Dalyell also said, “I am not going to be labelled anti-Semitic.” Well, sorry Mr Dalyell, but you are anti-Semitic. Objecting to the influence of British MPs on the basis of their Jewishness can hardly be described as anything else. And I am amazed at the new respectability anti-Semitism has achieved since the growth of left-wing anti-capitalism inspired by the actions of good nations in the war.
Life is surely complicated for free countries. No arrest and torture for Mr Dalyell, of course. But when leaflets like ones that say this:
When this sudden explosion of American-Zionist violence is aiming to eradicate a nation’s existence, eliminating its vitality and sites of resistance, the only way to protect this nation is through acts of martyrdom.
…published in the UK, are found in the Gaza strip, it is clear that the freedom our society offers is being abused.
The kind of brain that can turn liberation into annihilation in one fell slander is not the kind of brain we want festering in the UK. I don’t know exactly how we’re going to deal with it, but we are definitely going to have to find ways soon. Otherwise the next suicide bomber might indeed turn up in Oxford Street M&S, and it might be you or me who gets blown to smithereens in the frozen ready-meals section. And the next person who tells me that targets should not attract trouble in the first place can go and live in Switzerland and get citizenship there and then write me an essay entitled, “What would have happened in WWII if the UK and the US had acted like us.”
Zionism: it’s not just for Jews anymore.
If New Labour and the forces of evil are trying to turn the British public into a bunch of politically correct pro-European Marxist-zombie numbskulls, then it appears to be on to a lost cause, according to a recent poll in The Telegraph:
Despite the British-American forces’ spectacular military successes, only 36 per cent of voters “approve of the Government’s record to date”, only 35 per cent believe that Labour can manage the economy better than the Tories, and only 34 per cent “think the Government has been, on balance, honest and trustworthy.”
In other words, whatever the current voting-intention figures, only about a third of voters appear at all impressed with the Government’s overall performance. If anything, people’s underlying attitudes towards the Government are even more hostile.”
What, no “Falklands factor”? Just as Tony Blair was intending to fast-track us all right into the centre of the new EU superstate, the British public don’t agree with him? Oh dear, what a shame…
Well, as The Telegraph points out:
Tony Blair and his colleagues have staked their reputation on their ability to “deliver” on the economy and the major public services.
And does the British public see any delivery? Well, apparently they think that unemployment has improved and boom-and-bust has ended… but on health only 24% can see positive signs of change, and on transport the figure is a pathetic 12%. And after another six months, then a year, then longer, go by and still everyone is looking through their front window at a non-existent postman… you do the predictions.
But what about those stealth taxes, haven’t we idiots been fobbed off with another round of extortion? Maybe not:
The so-called feel-good factor – the difference between the proportion of people who think their household’s financial situation will improve over the next 12 months and the proportion who think it will deteriorate – is also showing sharp falls.
[...] A 13-point fall in little more than four weeks is extremely unusual.
Something to do with the April tax hikes, maybe?
No wonder then that:
only 34 per cent “think the Government has been, on balance, honest and trustworthy”.
We see rising taxes and still-deteriorating public services everywhere. Despite Blair’s inevitable rise in personal popularity as a result of the war, which British people generally supported, (I wish U.S. troops had access to The Sun and The Telegraph instead of the ludcrous and nasty BBC), most Brits wish he could perform as well at home as he has on foreign policy.
So, all we need now is an anti-Europe, pro-capitalist, civil-liberties advocating, free-marketeering alternative political party to vote for, and whey-hey, off we go!
What, the Tories, you say? That bunch of Neanderthals in the corner fighting over an old dinosaur bone? Oh dear…
I’m a very unusual kind of libertarian; I’m an optimist. The fact that libertarians far more impressively credential-ed than I regard positive thinking as little more than a crazed attempt to destroy the last few remains of decency in British culture today, rather like having tea with the Vicar when we should at least be complaining about not having enough guns to shoot him, has never stopped me looking at the full half of the glass.
And listening to the news on the BBC today, I found myself cheering yet again for the greatness of Britain over the dumb arrogance of the rest of the European Union. The Eurozone, we hear, has been forced to halve its economic growth forecast to a miserable one per cent, while the UK, left-wing government and attendant tax hikes notwithstanding, is set to grow by a more-than-double-that two point two per cent.
Now, I am not advocating that libertarians pack up bags and go home to spend the rest of their political lives sitting on cushions of laurels while eating Pot Noodles. Nor do I think we ought to cease our scepticism of all things state-owned, our campaigning for free maket capitalism, or our advocacy of civil liberties and individual freedoms. Bad things are continually happening in the UK of course: this interference with university admissions procedures, for instance, smells very bad to me, even if it is only going to apply to institutions wanting to increase their student fees.
But on the other hand, looking at the wider picture even in that case, although universities will lose out from the new politically-correct impositions, they will also gain from the extra money: so compared to what they were like say fifteen years ago, when I was at Cambridge on a totally free government grant including rent and pocket-money, I’m not sure there’s an argument that things are horribly deteriorating.
Sure, they’re not exactly perfect yet: but what do we expect? The first ever totally libertarian state on the planet, tomorrow? Improvement is improvement, and, as these people say, the perfect society will have to evolve, whether we like it or not. Indeed, its values and practices already are evolving, in the most civilised countries of the West, and slowly spreading. But they aren’t as easy as just wanting them: the nuts and bolts have to be worked out as we go along. The freedom of our country’s future does not depend on whether its government is left, right, “libertarian” (if there were a libertarian political party anyway, of course) or Monster Raving Loony: the freedom of our country depends on what that government actually does.
And at the moment, the United Kingdom is not signing up to the Euro. British people simply do not want the Euro. Hence our economy is more free than that of Europe, and will continue to grow better than otherwise. I predict that the British people will continue to get what they want until long after the Eurozone has fallen years behind in the economic race and given up begging us to join at any price.
Bags and coffins piled deep bursting with skulls and bundles of human bones; catalogues of photos of corpses, burned and swollen and mutilated; a shooting gallery complete with bullet-hole-riddled wall and custom-made drainage ditch…
Those Ba’athists were nice people, alright.
But these days we are no longer forced to brood over each new tragedy, “How awful, Christ, what a world.” Instead, we can think, “Someone is doing something about this shit at last. Thank God.”
Thank God and thank the British and American soldiers and their leaders. The world is changing.
In a horrifying, senseless and brutal attack on innocent Iraqi mothers and toddlers, a British ship carrying more than 500 tonnes of aid for Iraqi civilians has docked in the southern port of Umm Qasr.
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Sir Galahad, carrying food, water and other essential supplies, arrived at the quayside just before 12.30pm British time. The ship had been delayed for several days while mine sweepers and American forces using specially trained dolphins cleared a path through a minefield in the approaches to the port. That’s right. Dolphins. I am not joking. These people will go to any lengths to ensure their sick plans are carried out, even to the extent of training charming sea-creatures to perform impressive tasks. Is there no end to their evil cunning?
Aid agencies grudgingly described the shipment as “a meagre and pathetic attempt to steal our thunder” and expressed concerns over British soldiers distributing the supplies, suggesting that maybe trained idiots would do the job better than them. However, the Americans explained that although they had managed to train dolphins to do quadratic equations and sew patchwork quilts now, their attempts to communicate basic reason to people such as themselves had utterly failed, and they were even beginning to lose interest in trying.
There are fears that the most needy Iraqis are in areas outside army control where deliveries are not being made. The Americans suggested that maybe even more of their troops should risk death in order to be able to get food to the people whose country they were liberating? But the aid workers completely missed their sarcasm and agreed.
Military planners have yet to decide where this delivery will be sent, but there is little prospect of it reaching the centre of Basra, where Ba’ath party paramilitaries have forced a stand-off with British troops. The delivery is seen as central to coalition hopes of winning over critics of military action around the world as well as ordinary Iraqis.
Alex Fentoon, spokesman for a big food-aid charity, said:
We welcome any aid that can be delivered to the people of Iraq. They needed it before the war and they will need it all the more as the war goes on. But it is terribly obvious that civilians in a war are tools, whether used as human shields or propaganda. It would be better to let them starve than to give them food and tell anyone about it. Charity should always be done in secret.
While we welcome this aid, a few boxes chucked out of the back of an army truck may look good but it is not the same as organised distribution to the 16 million in Iraq who needed it before the war even began. Why weren’t the Americans feeding Iraq before? Whose fault do they think it is that this country is in such an economic and political mess anyway? Don’t they realise it is their job to deliver food to all the peoples of the world who are hungry, in a huge Marixst wave of wealth redistribution?
The Americans told Mr Fentoon to fuck off.
(Thanks to The Telegraph)
Recommend that they avoid such ridiculous non-advice as this lot of BBC rubbish (thanks Natalie Solent) which I fisked today over here, and tell them this:
The war in Iraq will happen in Iraq, not in Bromley, Guildford or Kansas City. If it’s anything like the last gulf war, it will kill far few people than Saddam has since the last gulf war. But it might kill fewer people. And anyway, the world already contains some disgusting countries where people are killed by their own governments for no reason, which is why the war in Iraq is happening: to reduce their number, and improve things.
You might not want to talk about many of the actual specific evil things Saddam has done, in case they are upset by such details. Children don’t always want to see pictures of innocent mothers and babies gassed to death by their own government in their home villages, for instance. But you could say that Saddam is a vicious thug who has murdered many, many human beings, and the world will be better off once he’s out of power.
If they are having nightmares about terrorist attacks, you can explain how incredibly unlikely it is that one of these will affect them personally or anyone they know, and that you personally do not waste time worrying about it. Tell them terrorist attacks will be reduced once the governments that fund terrorists have been changed to better ones, which is why the Iraq war is happening.
And of course, find out whether they have been subjected to irrational antiwar nonsense from teachers or anyone else they know. My view, since watching a TV documentary about how British children ‘felt’ about 9/11, is that something very unpleasant in the current political climate is actively encouraging kids to feel personally bad and anxious about world events in coercive, irrational ways. For most children- still trying to learn how to read, play football, write stories and get on with their friends- people they never met being killed thousands of miles away should be no more upsetting than people they never met being killed in WWII.
But it’s easy to induce hysteria. “Oh dear, how awful! Isn’t it shocking, little Jimmy! Those people could bomb our home next! Now, how do you feel…?” Well, if the people you rely on for help tell you fairly clearly that you should worry, then you worry. A lot of antiwar propaganda consists of scaremongering, and our children are unfortunately very vulnerable to it. This BBC advice doesn’t address that: it’s part of the problem. Parents: protect your kids from antiwar propaganda: talk to them rationally about the war.
President Bush today announced that the “War on Transnationalism” was going even better than expected, with all three of the EU, UN and NATO about to collapse at the first sign of an American gun.
“Our troops are ready and waiting,” said Mr Bush, “and we are confident that all they need to do is stroll into Iraq sporting their latest combat gear, and the Tranzis will immediately start begging to be taken prisoner.”
“But how will we know when this so-called War is actually won?” asked a news reporter.
“Nothing short of the total collapse of political globalisation will satisfy our troops,” said Mr Bush. “Iraq is only the beginning. But we are developing better and more effective Weapons of Mass Happiness so that people can get liberated more quickly and easily, and have more fun when it happens. Did you know McDonalds is offering 15 minutes of internet time with every Extra Value Meal now?”
“Yeah?” The reporter eyed the clock.
“That’s right. Prime Minister Blair thought of it one day when he went out for an Egg McMuffin and had a sudden urge to catch up with Samizdata.net, only he’d left his ibook at home.”
“And is it true that you are really just Blair’s pet poodle, so desperate to please him that you jump on planes at a moment’s notice in order to be at his side?”
“We have a special relationship,” said Mr Bush, giving the reporter a Very Hard Stare until his victim almost fainted.
So, the human shields arrived in Baghdad already! Well, most of them. One of the three red London buses broke down in Italy, and several activists dropped out after being dug out of snow drifts near Istanbul, but, heroically,
“The rest endured bitterly cold weather, illness, poor living conditions and a great deal of bickering.”
Well, you need mental toughness and nerves of steel to become a Human Shieldster, of course! Just ask Ken O’Keefe, Shield Leader: he used to be in the American Marines. Although you might have trouble finding him, as sadly, he has now gone nuts and is no longer part of this brave Western anti-war protest:
“Ken O’Keefe, their informal leader and a former American marine, burned his US passport and designed himself new travel documents proclaiming him a “Citizen of the World”. As a result, he was detained in three countries.
Mr O’Keefe has yet to arrive in Baghdad and Mr Joffe-Walt last heard of him in Syria.”
Mr Joffe-Walt mentioned various other hardships and tribulations which the Shield had suffered in its crusade to save human history from itself:
“Very few people knew each other. I did not know any of them and it was difficult to organise it. There were lots of different ideas on when to go to bed, how long to spend on the bus.”
Shield-members will apparently be camping
“inside hospitals, schools, power stations and other buildings “needed for basic human living”.”
Erm, I wonder if they’ve negotiated that with the Iraqi humans planning to be living inside them already? If bombing starts, numbers of safe buildings available for human living could possibly be reduced. I can tell the Shield has considered the possibility of bombing, because one of them said,
“the presence of vegans and spiritual healers would shield the buildings from harm if war broke out.”
Of course. And equally predictably,
“Saddam Hussein’s regime, which normally admits westerners with great reluctance and treats them with deep suspicion, has granted the human shields three-month visas and given them freedom to go where they wish.”
It takes a nutter to know a nutter, I suppose.
(Thanks to the Telegraph)
The entire world, apart from a few evil American warmongers plus Tony Blair, took part in an anti-war demonstration in London yesterday with millions of inter-galactic aliens joining other peace protests around the galaxy. Organisers claim that the march is sure to topple well-known right-winger Blair, allowing him to be replaced by the cuddly lovable Ken Livingstone, Mayor of the People’s Republic of London.
“We never liked Blair in the first place,” said some bloke in a scruffy jacket with corduroy arm-patches. “The whole way he managed to get elected was always suspiciously un-socialist. But now we are really hoping the country will rise up in revolution and institute Ken in his rightful role at last. If the Houses of Parliament spontaneously fall today, maybe the Americans can get rid of their president tomorrow and let Hillary Clinton take over the world! Erm, their insignificant burger-ridden country.”
“But don’t Americans like their president? I mean, they chose him in an election, right?” asked a reporter for extreme rightist media propagandists, Fox News.
“No, the whole American electoral system is rigged by right-wing Capitalists to help them win despite having only a minority of the vote,” explained the corduroy guy. “Real democracy would prove that the people want Marxism, obviously, as Marxism is for The People; it’s self-explanatory!”
In his speech at the Labour spring conference later yesterday, Mr Blair told delegates that if they want to send him to the Tower of London and let Saddam have his way and produce the bloody nukes and give them to Al Qaeda then, fine, he is sick of the lot of them, and he just hopes their bunkers will hold if they get enough warning to climb inside before the bombs start flying. He stressed that if they want to support evil dictators why don’t they all bloody well go and live in Baghdad and see what it’s like, or they could try Iran, or Saudi Arabia, or that Korea place whichever one it was, any one of a number of countries on the US’s list for upgrading sometime when they get round to it.
Mr Blair then requested a large bowl of warm soapy water water, and washed his hands on the rostrum, while everybody watched not knowing quite what to think. Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, called on the entire party to get behind Mr Blair and give him “full support” as he is worried about what might happen to his own job if Blair is beheaded.
Yesterday Downing Street urged the protesters taking part in the anti-war demonstrations around the country and the world to remember the brutality in Saddam’s regime and see how they would feel about having their civil servants routinely executed, before realising this was not a very good argument, and going back indoors for toasted muffins.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that if a million people turned out to march against the Government – as some are claiming – they would equal the number of Kurds who fled Iraq after the Gulf War because they were being oppressed by Saddam. However, he assured the British people that they would not be gassed by their own government at this stage.
Last night Downing Street denied reports that Mr Blair was angry at the protesters and rejected claims that he was trying to avoid them. “He believes that they have an absolute democratic right to protest and if they want to they can,” a spokesman said. “He just wants them to f*** off.”
So the British TV tax has gone up by another £4.00 (1.5% above inflation) to provide the unelected lefty-establishment BBC with an extra hundred million for lavish lesbian costume dramas and unintelligible Open University nonsense.
As someone who could rather do with a cheque for £116 (the new license fee) right now, I seriously resent the assumption that tricking ever more money out of people is justified or good. As a capitalist, I think stealth-taxing is undermining our economy, putting people out of work and creating extra poverty. And as an arty-farty, I can see with my own eyes that the BBC does not deserve the cash: there is nothing on BBC1 that one can not find on ITV, and nothing on BBC2 that Channel 4 does not do just as well and with the exact same political bias.
I went to the BBC’s own website to see what they had to say about it, and found this:
“Why doesn’t the BBC take advertising? Because this keeps the BBC independent of advertisers and other commercial pressures.”
Actually, the BBC is stuffed full of advertising: mostly advertising for itself and its own products. But do the plotlines of ‘Coronation Street’ (ITV soap) get bent out of shape by endless sponsorship references, while ‘Eastenders’ (BBC soap) remains impartially naturalistic? Of course not. And I doubt that all the commercial TV and radio stations would accept that their news is rubbish because their journalists are influenced by advertisers, either.
“The BBC’s Governors ensure instead that it is run in the general public interest. They are accountable for the BBC’s independence, and also ensure that it reflects British culture and minority interests.”
So the BBC’s governors know what is good for us better than we know ourselves: paying them £116 a year is good for us, and choosing to watch the independent, erm, commercial channels clearly rots our minds. Minority groups don’t buy advertised products, therefore they don’t watch non-BBC TV, therefore non-BBC TV does not show anything they might like to watch.
“If the BBC carried adverts or sponsorship, commercial pressures would dictate its priorities instead of the general public interest.”
But people choosing what to buy is the general public interest: it’s ordinary people doing what they want with their own money. If people don’t buy any more revolting liqueurs because of “Sex and the City” sponsorship, the sponsorship will stop and the annoying mini-ads will go. But the point is, however annoying those ads, who do you know who would choose to pay £116 a year to opt out of seeing them? Exactly. Which is why it’s illegal not to pay for the BBC, even if you only ever watch commercial channels and cable.
What I loathe most of all, however, is the idea that living off coerced money rather than earning it like everyone else makes you a superior benevolent authority better able to judge and further the ‘interest’ of the people you stole from. That’s why Marxism is the same as organised crime, except worse.
I want my £116 back.