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]

Have they brought back the window tax?!?!

If you type “window tax” into google, and click on “images”, you get images like this one:

BrickedUpWindows1

That being the first image that wikipedia shows you, in their entry on the Window tax.

Says wikipedia about this tax:

The window tax was a property tax based on the number of windows in a house. It was a significant social, cultural, and architectural force in England, France, Ireland and Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries. To avoid the tax some houses from the period can be seen to have bricked-up window-spaces (ready to be glazed or reglazed at a later date). In England and Wales it was introduced in 1696 and was repealed in 1851,

London, and presumably all the other cities of Britain, still contain many such bricked-up windows, that date from this time.

But yesterday, I saw a new block of flats, still in the process of being constructed, just a few dozen yards from my own front door.

The front of which looks like this:

BrickedUpWindows2

Let me be clear. There is a vertical row of bricked-up windows there, in between the real windows. And you can clearly see that this is a brand new building, not even yet occupied.

Here is a close-up shot of an individual bricked-up window:

BrickedUpWIndows3

I have long known the bare outlines of this window tax story, as I guess most of my fellow Brits do also, especially if they live in towns or cities. Windows were taxed, so people filled the windows in, to avoid paying the tax.

So, my first – outraged and spasmodic – reaction to this new building, when I saw these non-windows was: My God, have they brought back the window tax?

But, on further reflection, I further guess that this is isn’t the first time that recent property developers have created bricked-up windows, or what look like bricked-up windows, to create, pretty cheaply, the suggestion of antiquity in an otherwise blandly modern building.

When I see other bricked-up windows, I will no longer assume that they date from the time of the window tax. Maybe they merely allude to this time.

But, am I missing something? Is there a more practical purpose to such non-windows? Is it helpful to create windows that can later be un-bricked-up (bricked-down?), at some future date? Does it help to think about maybe wanting a window that you don’t want now, beforehand, just in case?

Is this a mere part of the construction process. Will these bricked-up windows all turn into real windows very soon, before anyone even moves in?

Or are there quite different reasons for making a new bricked-up window, which I am unaware of? Perhaps so. In fact, probably so. And if so, I hope that commenters will perhaps enlighten me.

“With Brexit, the stagnant pool has been replaced by a running stream …”

Andrew Kennedy writes at Conservative Home about how the Conservative Party has seen a post-Brexit surge in membership. Commenters point out that the same thing has happened in the other British political parties. But why? None of the parties performed in recent weeks in a particularly attractive manner, so what’s happening?

I think that commenter David Webb, a recent (re)joiner of the Conservative Party, nails it:

I rejoined post-referendum because of a feeling that politics mattered again. Within the confines of the EU, nothing much was worth debating, as nothing much could be changed. Apart from the continuous drift to the bureaucratic European superstate, inertia ruled.

With Brexit, the stagnant pool has been replaced by a running stream … that’s not to say everything will be wonderful, but once again ideas count, and things can get done.

But then, I would think that David Webb nails it, because I said something very similar in my posting here at the time when the referendum result was becoming clear. I didn’t say that all the political parties would now have a membership surge, but I could have and should have, because it was the logical thing to deduce from what I was then realising. Political debate matters again, not just for me and for all those who think as I do, but for everyone with any sort of political opinion.

As David Webb says, “ideas count” means that bad ideas also now count for somewhat more than they did, unless they are the bad ideas that the EU stood for and imposed upon us, in which case they now count for slightly less.

It will be interesting – and no doubt in some ways rather scary – to see what British public opinion now consists of, given that for the last few decades much of it has been sedated by our EU membership. First out of the blocks were the racists, who perhaps imagined that Britain voting Leave meant that all the bloody foreigners now had to leave.

But what other political ideas will emerge? As I also said in that earlier posting: good times for blogs like Samizdata, where our good ideas will be celebrated anew and the bad ideas of others will be denounced. Again, speaking for myself, I find that the urge to blog is now stronger. Because it will count for a bit more than it did.

Perhaps the most important next discovery about another bit of British public opinion will concern the forthcoming Labour leadership contest. Labour has also, see above, had a post-Brexit surge in membership. But are those new members yet more Corbyn supporters, or are they anti-Corbynists, wanting a nicer and more traditional Labour Party? My guess is that the Labour leadership contest will be closer than it was last time around, with quite a few who voted for Corbyn last time voting against Corbyn this time around, but not close enough to unseat Corbyn. The Labour collapse will continue. But, what do I know? We shall see.

Ofir Haivry on the current state of Middle East

Via Mick Hartley, I came upon this summary of the state of the Middle East, and in particular of the bloody shambles that was the attempt to unite Sunni Islam, aka: the Arabs. It’s the best background briefing I have recently read on that deeply depressing region of our otherwise moderately undepressing world. Although, that doesn’t say much for I am no sort of Middle East expert, nor even much of an observer of it. Too depressing. But I read all of this piece, by Ofir Haivry of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem, at one sitting as soon as I encountered it, which is quite rare for me and my crumbling attention span.

I haven’t much to say about all this, but one thought does occur to me, which is that it seems rather wrong for Americans to blame other Americans for this bloody shambles. (Haivry himself does not blame America.) The next silliest thing to believing that your country is an unchallengeably magnificent superpower that never ever errs is to believe that your country’s mistakes and crimes are overwhelmingly more important and blameworthy than those of any other country, these two attitudes being far more similar than those who indulge in the latter one typically realise. The Middle East would surely now be a bloody shambles whatever the Americans had recently tried to do about it.

If there are imperialist villains to be blaming, how about Britain and France? But one suspects that, again, even if those notorious “lines in the sand” had never been drawn around a century ago, what would be happening on top of this sand would still now be a bloody shambles.

The only rays of light that Haivry discerns are in the form of the various little non-Islamic and anti-Islamist statelets that are starting to form, such as the newly emerging Kurdistan. The Kurds aren’t the only ones doing this, apparently. Good to hear.

And then of course there is the continuing success of Israel. A particular reason I am convinced by this article is that Israelis cannot afford to be wrong, and in particular they cannot afford to be sentimental, about what is going on around them.

Talking of sentimental, “Lawrence of Arabia” gets a well-deserved swipe of criticism.

Samizdata quote of the day

Seumas Milne remains on the staff of the Guardian and Observer while Labour pays him to work as its director of strategy. As a colleague on leave, he has the right to be treated with a gentleness journalists would not usually extend to spin doctors who do not enjoy his advantages. I therefore write with the caution of a good corporate man and the cheeriness of a co-worker when I say Milne could not do a better job of keeping the Tories in power if rogue MI5 agents had groomed him at Winchester College, signed him up at Oxford University and instructed him to infiltrate and destroy the Labour party.

Nick Cohen

Patrik Schumacher – architect and libertarian

One of my daily internet visits is to a site called Dezeen. Here I learn about lots that bores me, involving designers making small buildings shaped like boxes rather than ornamented, and about lots that interests me, including such things as much bigger and (to me) much more interesting buildings that are being dreamed of, built and celebrated.

On the matter of Brexit, Dezeen reported that the the overwhelming majority of “creatives”, in London and in the world generally, favoured and still favour Remain. These creatives were very angry when they learned that a majority of British voters did not share their views.

But Dezeen also had a recent link to a creative who sings a very different sort of ideological song to that sung by most of the kind of creatives whose work and opinions Dezeen reports on. I give you Patrik Schumacher:

PatrikSchumacher

Patrik Schumacher has written an opinion piece for Archinect, with these words at the top of it:

Brexit: a chance to roll back the interventionist state and unleash entrepreneurial creativity …

I have very little in common with the arguments of the Leave Campaign, and in particular reject the anti-immigration thrust of the Campaign. However, I welcome Brexit as offering an enhanced ability and chance to experiment with new policies that dare more economic freedom.

Later on in the piece, we read stuff like this:

I am convinced that the next prosperity potentials of our civilisation can only be explored and discovered if the straight jacket of the nanny state is gradually loosened and dismantled. (The bigger the scale of a country or block, the easier it becomes for the state to expand its scope. That’s why I favour small countries: they must keep their state action small in scope and cannot afford to erect trade barriers or impose heavy tax and regulatory burdens.) It’s time to roll back the state and for us to take the risk of giving more freedom and self-responsibility to us all, unleashing entrepreneurial creativity, organisational experimentation as well as individual aspiration and empowerment.

It’s those particular sorts of libertarian phraseology that I find so intriguing. “Roll back” the “interventionist state”. “Unleash entrepreneurial creativity”. “Nanny state”. “Heavy tax and regulatory burdens”. Above all the simple: “Economic freedom”. This guy is one of us. There really can be no doubt about it. He has been reading the same kind of stuff that Samizdata readers have read, in among training to be an architect and then working as an architect. Any libertarians who doubt the ability of libertarian ideas to spread beyond the confines of mere libertarians should read this piece, and rejoice.

Patrik Schumacher works for Zaha Hadid architects. The recently deceased Zaha Hadid was rumoured to be a very “difficult” woman to work for. Bossy. Opinionated. Highly individual in her behaviour and in her designs. I don’t know much about Hadid other than noticing when she recently died (at far too young an age for an architect). But if Patrik Schumacher was the sort of man she hired to do her bidding, I am starting to suspect that she too may have been some sort of libertarian, maybe in the closet, but maybe of the in-your-face variety.

There’s lots more I could say about this, but my basic point is: how interesting, and how encouraging.

How Brexit could jump-start the British economy – and do it very quickly

When I started writing this posting, the invaluable Guido Fawkes had, at the top of his invaluable ongoing list of “seen elsewhere” items, a link to a Conservative Home piece by David Davis MP, with a long title on top of it which includes the words A Brexit economic strategy for Britain.

It deserves to be quoted at length, so I will now do that:

… [L]eaving the EU gives us back control of our trade policy, and gives us the opportunity to maximise returns from free trade.

Because any deals currently settled are obtained by finding a 28 nation compromise, the EU is clumsy at negotiating free trade deals. That is why we currently only have trade deals with two of our top ten non-EU trading partners. This is incredibly important to us, as about 60 per cent of our trade is with the non-EU world. In fact, we sell as much to non-EU countries with which we have no trade agreements as we do to the EU.

The first order of business is to put that right. As the amicable statements coming from the US, Australia, China and India show, these countries are as keen to knock down trade barriers as we are.

Single countries, with the ability to be flexible and focussed, negotiate trade deals far more quickly than large trade blocs. For example, South Korea negotiated a deal with the US in a single year, and with India, which is notoriously difficult, within three years. Chile was even faster, negotiating trade deals with China, Australia and Canada in under a year.

The EU, by comparison, takes more than six years to negotiate trade deals; the deals which would most benefit us, such as those with Canada or the US, take even longer. And without the often conflicting requirements of 28 different countries to consider, deals negotiated by single countries tend to be broader and have more favourable terms on matters that are important to us, such as services.

So be under no doubt: we can do deals with our trading partners, and we can do them quickly. I would expect the new Prime Minister on September 9th to immediately trigger a large round of global trade deals with all our most favoured trade partners. I would expect that the negotiation phase of most of them to be concluded within between 12 and 24 months.

So within two years, before the negotiation with the EU is likely to be complete, and therefore before anything material has changed, we can negotiate a free trade area massively larger than the EU. Trade deals with the US and China alone will give us a trade area almost twice the size of the EU, and of course we will also be seeking deals with Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, India, Japan, the UAE, Indonesia – and many others.

So much for the “jump-start” bit. Now for my own additional argument that this could well happen very quickly.
→ Continue reading: How Brexit could jump-start the British economy – and do it very quickly

DMZ glass

I remain unapologetically fascinated by the Brexit phenomenon. The campaign, the result, and the aftermath of the result, are all things that I have been finding hugely diverting. It is already the greatest domestic political upheaval in my country during my lifetime, and not in a bad way. And that is not even to mention its possible impacts on Abroad.

But for the time being, what with the weekend approaching, here is a very Samizdata-ish photo which I would like to show you:

DMZKoreaGlass

I took this photo last Sunday, at the home of our very own Michael Jennings, just after he had got back home from his latest jaunt. The receptacle it features is one of a set in which Michael served his guests a most agreeable round of drinks, the name and exact nature of which I forget, but which I do remember greatly enjoying. (I have a vague recollection of tea being involved, in some way. But that could be quite wrong.) I was sober enough to take this photo, and to get the glass in approximate focus, but not sober enough to get all of the glass in my picture.

Was this the expedition during which Michael acquired these glasses, or was it a later one? He probably said, but again, I don’t recall.

Demilitarized Zone. You can’t help thinking that this particular demilitarized zone is a hell of a lot more militarized than the word “demilitarised” ought to mean.

But what I really want to say is: cool, even though no ice was involved. I mean, being served a drink in a glass decorated with a barbed wire fence, topped off with more barbed wire in a roll. Cool? That’s downright frigid.

For some reason, this reminded me of a visit I once made to the home in Cornwall of my late uncle, the one who got parachuted into Yugoslavia during the war and who was as a result awarded an MC that he never talked about. On his mantelpiece, he had a miniature trophy on which were inscribed the words: “School of Psychological Warfare, Bangkok, with grateful thanks”, or words to that effect.

Alas, this was back in the 1970s and I did not then possess a digital camera. Nor was there then any means of showing people photos that was easy for them to ignore if they were not interested.

Samizdata quote of the day

First, Brexit means Brexit. The campaign was fought, the vote was held, turnout was high, and the public gave their verdict. There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the backdoor, and no second referendum. The country voted to leave the European Union, and it is the duty of the government and Parliament to make sure we do just that.

Theresa May

May is currently the front-runner to be the next Prime Minister.

Samizdata quote of the day

And they worry the pound might crash? Pay attention to the euro.

Zero Hedge

Some more Brexit thoughts

Brexit. How about that then. Well, well, well. Many other writers here have been thinking aloud about this, and so, now, will I.

The London weather was very wet yesterday, and violently so in the late afternoon. But, it then calmed down. Did the violent rain disrupt travel and permanently muck people up, so they didn’t vote? Or, did the abatement of the rain enable Londoners to get out and vote without too much discomfort? I have just got up and look forward to finding out. I took an umbrella to my (very) local polling station, around 7pm, but I didn’t use it. Someone said last night that it would be just typical if Britain left the EU because of the weather, but it looks like it wasn’t that close.

Re the Jo Cox murder. Many Remainers used this horror to imply that voting Leave was like voting in favour of MPs being murdered. (The Remainers who refrained from using this argument were not so audible.) I surmise that (a) some potential Leavers were persuaded, (b) some potential Leavers were angered and caused to vote Leave having only previously been thinking about it, and (c) quite a few continued to move towards Leave for reasons unrelated to the Jo Cox murder, but in silence. When the Cox murder happened, there was a shift towards Leave taking place. I surmise that this continued to flow, but underground, so to speak. Minds continued to move, but people stopped telling the pollsters. But, they’ve told them now.

The above two points were already made by me here last night, in comments on Natalie Solent postings. Here are a few more Brexit thoughts.

→ Continue reading: Some more Brexit thoughts

An odd argument for Remain

In order not to miss Record Review, essential Saturday morning listening for me, I have BBC Radio Three on as soon as I wake up on Saturday morning. BBC Radio Three interrupts itself from time to time with news bulletins, and on the most recent of these, at 8 am, I just heard a very strange argument from the Remainders.

Sir James Dyson, the vacuum cleaner maker, has just announced that he favours Brexit, the BBC news revealed. (The above link from another source confirms this announcement.) Brexit, Dyson says, would mean more jobs for Brits, or something along those lines. The “Remain Campaign”, I think that was the phrase, by which was meant the “Official” Remainder campaign, responded to Dyson’s announcement by saying that Dyson was wrong to back Brexit, and that he was wrong when, some years ago (I think the number was six but I don’t recall it exactly (LATER: sorry, SIXTEEN), he was … in favour of Britain joining the Euro. Which apparently Dyson was.

So, according to the logic of this particular Remainder argument, if you were once upon a time wrong in favouring Britain joining the Euro, you must now be wrong in your opinion about whether Britain should Leave or Remain in the EU as a whole, now.

But I am pretty sure that the overwhelming majority of those Brits who favoured the Euro in the past, are Remainders now. Dyson’s combination of positions is a very rare and anomalous one. He has changed his mind. He must have, because Britain can’t join the Euro and leave the EU. (Can it?) Much more common is the combination of views of having once upon a time favoured Britain joining the Euro (and perhaps still now favouring this), and of now favouring Britain remaining in the EU. The Euro is, after all, the core idea of the EU, around which all other EU policies circulate like mere planets around the sun.

So, if the Official Remainders now concede that Britain joining the Euro would have been a mistake, they must now concede that many of their now most prominent supporters were wrong about the Euro, and therefore wrong now, about Remaining.

LATER: Here is the BBC version of the story.

Britain Stronger in Europe said: “James Dyson wanted the UK to join the euro. He was wrong then and he is wrong now.”

This report goes into all the disappointments Dyson has had with EUro-law. See also some of the comments below.

It’s a cold day in June

Incoming from the Adam Smith Institute:

Tax Freedom Day is four days later this year than last year, and the latest it has been for fifteen years.

For more of the grizzly details, go here.

We Brits now face choosing between a government that is raising taxes really quite fast, and an alternative government that would raise them a hell of a lot faster. Stagnation, or ruination. More about Tax Freedom Day here, and here.

The weather today, here in London where I sit, is really cold and grim and gloomy. Would that Tax Freedom Day, which is today, was now moving backwards towards some time like February, instead of us having to wait until June 3rd, which only feels like February.