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]

Apathy sends a message

I agree with commenters on the piece I did early this morning, who said that the result of this election is a least worst outcome. All the political people whose opinions I most dislike are weeping and wailing and gnashing whatever remains of their teeth (what with the world-famed past deficiencies of British nationalised dental care). And that’s very good. But, like Rob Fisher, and despite having strong preferences concerning the national outcome, I personally ended up voting for nobody. Nobody will do much of what I want, and nobody will refrain from doing big things that I do not want, so nobody was who I voted for. I considered both the Conservative and the UKIPper, but, as the deadline got nearer and nearer, I could not bring myself to vote for either of them. I presume that the Conservative was and will remain ‘my’ MP. Yes.

But the good news is that, having spent last night and the early hours of the morning watching the story of the election unfold on the telly, I can report that voting for nobody most definitely does send a message. Turnout matters. Does low turnout signify apathy? Maybe so, but apathy is still a message, and not a message that these fanatically political people like to be told. If not voting accomplished nothing, then why all the nagging, which happens before every election, from the sort of people whose political opinions I most dislike that I should be voting? Yes, refusal to select your least unappealing lizard does definitely irk the lizards.

Most of the politicians I heard on the telly overnight just took it in turns to say that since we don’t yet know the result I won’t answer the question, and let’s just wait and see. But the now rather elderly Peter Hain bucked this conversational trend. Hain used to be an MP but is not one anymore. He wasn’t bothered about saying something interesting but off-message, and he actually did say some interesting things. This election result, Hain said, is an anti-Westminster result. In Scotland this expressed itself in the huge breakthrough success of the SNP. In England, it took the form of the impressive pile of votes amassed by UKIP, and everywhere in the relentlessly diminishing votes gained over the longer term by both Labour and the Conservatives, and by the way that the Lib Dem vote fell off a cliff at this election, following their actual participation in government. And, said Hain, this anti-Westminster animus took the form of lots of people just not voting at all, as it has done for quite a while now. We hate you bastards! That was the message, said Hain. In other words, apathy does send a message, and there it was being received loud and clear, on the telly, by a Talking Head. (Hain’s cure for all this protest and apathy is quite different from mine, but that’s a different argument.)

→ Continue reading: Apathy sends a message

Samizdata quote of the day

How can the Tories have won? We did so many tweets and photoshops. I just don’t get it. #GE2015

– Favourite-blogger-of-mine 6k spots a particularly choice tweet, by David Schneider.

Scottish questions

It is, as I type this, only a few hours since the polls closed, and this graphic is not the result of Britain’s General Election. It is merely a guess, based on asking people just after they had voted who they voted for. But, for what it’s worth, here it is:


I found it at the Guido Fawkes blog, which has been the pair of spectacles, as it were, through which I have mostly been viewing this now-concluded election campaign.

I have learned the hard way that what I hope for and what will happen in elections are not the same thing, not least because I tend to choose my electoral spectacles on the basis of pleasure rather than mere enlightenment. But the story told in the above graphic is very close to what I was and am hoping for, given the plausible possibilities or likelihoods that it made sense to be choosing between.

(What I would have liked, in a perfect, parallel-universe and wholly implausible world, would have been an election in which candidates were falling over themselves to offer swingeing tax cuts and competing about who could close down the most government departments and slash and burn the most in the way of government spending. All this, while the voters all stood around jeering, and saying: “Yeah, they say they’re going to slash and burn the public sector, but do they really mean it? They would say that, wouldn’t they?” Dream on, Micklethwait.)

The TV broadcasters have now been saying, for several hours now, that the Conservatives are doing significantly better than had been expected but not well enough to be truly happy because destined to occupy more Parliamentary seats than everyone else put together, that the Scottish Nationalists are engaged in sweeping Scotland and annihilating the Scottish Labour Party thus causing Labour, who are not doing well in England anyway, to do very badly indeed in the UK as a whole, that the Lib Dems are taking a hammering everywhere, and that the UK Independence Party is going to get a small mountain of votes, including a great many from Labour, but only a tiny molehill of seats.

The biggest story, as I watch my telly in the small but getting bigger hours of Friday morning, is the electoral earthquake (choose your preferred geological or climatological metaphor) that is erupting, exploding, sweeping across, engulfing, swamping, blah blah blah, … Scotland.

→ Continue reading: Scottish questions

On the history of death and taxes

I have recently been suffering from one of those annoying state-of-the-art flu bugs that made me properly ill for only a few days, but which then hasn’t allowed me to get truly better for another month. I still await full functionality.

When in such a state, I find serious writing difficult. (I can still manage unserious writing.) But what I really like to do when thus semi-incapacitated, is to read. And there is nothing, I find, like reading well-written history about long-ago times to make me count my modern blessings and cheer me up.

I recently began what looks like being a very good book about King Edward I. (A short excerpt from this book, on the subject of medieval historical evidence, can be read here.) Edward I was the English monarch who won the Battle of Crécy, and who soon after that presided – if that’s the right word – over the Black Death. You want a bug? That was a bug.

But I haven’t got to the Black Death bits yet. …

(LATER: And I won’t ever. I’m muddling Edward I up with Edward III, see commenter number one below, to whom thanks, and with apologies to everyone else. Edward III was the victor of Crécy, and I will wait in vain for anything about the Black Death in this book. I will be learning about such persons as Simon de Montfort. But the Black Death was, as I have read elsewhere, very nasty.)

… In the bits I have read so far, Edward is still a teenager, and his dad, Henry III, is fretting about how to crush a rebellion in his French possessions, and in particular (p. 16), how to persuade his English subjects to foot the bill for that enterprise:

The obvious solution was to impose a general levy on everyone – a tax – and Henry’s immediate predecessors had on occasion done just that. King Richard and King John had found that they could raise huge sums in this way – England, it bears repeating, was a rich and prosperous country – but such taxes proved highly unpopular, …

It is always worth keeping an eye out for a use of the word “but” when it would make more sense to have encountered the word “and”, or “therefore”. The unpopularity of taxes in England on the one hand, and on the other, the fact that England was a rich and prosperous country sound to me a lot like a cause and an effect. But the way that modern-day author Marc Morris phrases it, if your country is rich, it can accordingly afford to pay higher taxes without its richness being in any way disturbed.

It was this next bit that made me laugh out loud:

… but such taxes proved highly unpopular, and were regarded as tantamount to robbery.

Ah those medieval fools, so lacking in our modern grasp of the obvious and fundamental differences between taxes and robbery!

Here is a way in which things – things that in general are so much better now than then – have actually got worse.

I do not want to single out Marc Morris for criticism here. He is only describing matters in a way that most of his readers will immediately understand. Taxation? Of course. What he personally thinks about the idea of there now being higher taxes, to pay for such things as foreign wars, now, I do not know. As for me, although I will not live to see it, I look forward to a time when both taxation and death (at the sort of age that I will in due course be encountering it) are thought of in the same kind of way that we now think only of such things as the Black Death.

How on earth could those blundering and miserable twenty-first centurions not understand such obvious ideas?

Samizdata quote of the day

The fundamental problem is that the majority of otherwise peaceful and law-abiding Muslims are unwilling to acknowledge, much less to repudiate, the theological warrant for intolerance and violence embedded in their own religious texts.

– An excerpt from Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s latest book, quoted here.

Thank you Mick Hartley.

Heroes and villains

Near to the end (on p. 189) of Peter Thiel’s Zero to One there is this very quotable quote, which I think captures a lot about both the success and the failure of Ayn Rand as a story teller:

That we need individual founders in all their peculiarity does not mean that we are called to worship Ayn Randian “prime movers” who claim to be independent of everybody around them. In this respect Rand was a merely half-great writer: her villains were real, but her heroes were fake.

I agree with both parts of that last pronouncement, but I am guessing that not everyone who regularly comes here would.

Also, some libertarians have asserted (for example in the comments on this earlier Thiel posting that I did here a while back) that there is now a distinct whiff of the villain about Peter Thiel himself. As he relates in Zero to One, he and his Paypal pals worked out how to use large amounts of computer data to spot crooks, and thereby to save Paypal a ton of money. Now he has made another fortune to add to his Paypal fortune, by selling this expertise to, among others, various branches of the US government, a notorious collector of large amounts of data in ways that most libertarians are not at all happy about.

Commenter “Rob”, to whom thanks, emailed me this link to a Thiel video performance. Rob recommends, as do I, looking at and listening to a particular bit of the Q+A at 1:06:00. Says Rob:

I don’t buy Thiel’s response.

I hope, although I promise nothing, to be offering a longer review of Zero to One, Real Soon Now. I am more than ever convinced that Peter Thiel is a very interesting man.

Would my libertarian socialising work better if I embraced the social media?

Tomorrow evening, I have another of my Last Friday of the month meetings. Pete Comley will be talking about inflation, and about the book that he has recently published on that subject. More about tomorrow’s meeting in this posting at my personal blog.

What this posting here is about is something rather different, which is that since about last Christmas or thenabouts, many of the emails that I send out each month inviting my libertarian friends and acquaintances to attend my meetings have been going astray. Not all of them. Just quite a few, most especially any that end in “gmail.com”. They have either been diverted to spam folders, or else they’ve not been arriving at all.

It would appear that the big emailing enterprises, notably Gmail, have been cracking down on spammers recently, and Gmail in particular has now decided that my emails are in that category. It only needs one recipient of one of my emails to call it spam, and all the other users of Gmail (or whatever) are immediately switched by Gmail (or whatever) central command, often to their great puzzlement, to refusing to receive any emails from me, even individual and personal ones. Such as the ones I have been sending out to individuals, including to individuals I have been in close touch with for over a decade, to try to tell them about all this email disruption. Very tiresome. Very tiresome.

My meetings are a big deal for me. But for others, if the emails suddenly stop arriving, well, that may cause a twinge of disappointment, but there are other meetings, and the mysterious disappearance off the radar of mine is not their number one problem. So, the problem is mine, and mine alone. My motto for applying modern technology to my life is: do not unleash solutions upon circumstances which are not a problem. But now, I have a definite problem.

Several remedies have been suggested for my emailing difficulties. Pete Comley himself suggested to me a few days ago that I should use something called MailChimp. That, he said, should get me around those spam filters. That sounds like it might be a good answer.

However, I am also thinking that maybe I should make a bigger change to my life, and embrace the “social media”, those inverted commas indicating Old Man fear and befuddlement rather than any lack of respect for the media in question. I’m talking Facebook and Twitter, but maybe others also, the workings of which I know even less about. For Facebook in particular has also been recommended to me a couple of other friends as the answer to my meetings problems. And Twitter might also help in spreading the word about these meetings, and my words about other things, and my words about my other words and about the admired words of others, etc. etc. So, should I now jump into all that?

Samizdata as a whole has not done much in the way of social media-ing. We don’t have a problem so why bother with a non-solution? But maybe we do have a problem? Whether Samizdata does or does not have a problem, I genuinely don’t know, but I am certain that I do have a problem, to which the social media may well be the best solution, if perhaps not the only one. So, should this particular member of the Samizdata team perhaps be doing more with this twenty-first century version of chatting over the garden fence (if that’s what it is)?

Comments on my Samizdata postings are always, to me, very welcome, but comments would be especially welcome on this posting.

First, what about those Gmail problems? Has anyone else been suffering from, or heard about others suffering from, similar problems? I have talked with several people who have so suffered – talked face-to-face, or on the “telephone”, with those old things called spoken words about these difficulties, but can find nothing about all these dramas on the internet. I am trying hard not to blame this on the fact that I have been using the same mega-enterprise to do the searching as has been causing me most of my email miseries. My guess is that Google has been having recent very big problems on the email front, from the likes of the government of China, and that I am collateral damage in a war that dominates the answers to any searching by me for “gmail problems”.

And second, what of the social media? Comments of the sort that say that Facebook and Twitter are both works of the devil and symptomatic of the decadence, narcissism, frivolity, triviality, moral emptiness, etc. etc., of the modern world may perhaps now erupt at the bottom of this. Fair enough. If that’s what you think, feel entirely free to say so. But personally, although horribly ignorant of the workings of the social media, I am inclined to be far more respectful of them. Clearly, they do answer a lot of people’s needs. So, I’d especially appreciate hearing from people who do now use Facebook and/or Twitter, with a little bit of explication about what they use them for, and why, and how they are particularly helped, so that I can get an idea of what, along these lines, I could and should myself be doing. Maybe. Thanks in anticipation.

Thiel spiel

Many libertarians think that the answer to meetings like those Davos and Bilderberg Group get-togethers of the rich and powerful is to complain about them until they stop. This is ridiculous and pointless. Quite aside from the absurdity of libertarians objecting to people freely consorting with one another, how on earth are they going to stop the richest and most powerful people on the planet from meeting up and talking to each other from time to time?

My attitude has always been, not that such gatherings are automatically evil, but that we need our people to be right there in among them, and to make them less evil. People like Peter Thiel, who strikes me as being one of the smartest and most interesting people on the planet. The usual come-back about allegedly smart people goes: “If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?” Peter Thiel has some very good answers to that line of attack. Around 2.2 billion answers, according to Forbes magazine. This short Forbes profile describes Thiel as being “ideological to the point of eccentricity”, his particular eccentricity being that he is a libertarian. I don’t know if Peter Thiel spends any of his time bending the ears of fellow plutocrats and billionaires at gatherings like those alluded to above, but if he does, good.

And, if he does, maybe this excellent video performance provides clues about the kinds of things he says. (You might want to skip the rather numerous thankyous to other people at the start from the Independent Institute’s David Theroux, and go straight to where Thiel himself starts talking, at 7 minutes 45 seconds.)

I have ordered a copy of Thiel’s latest book, and not just because I want to read it, although I definitely do. I think of a book order as being like voting for an idea that I like the sound of, or in this case an author that I like the sound of.

Liberty League Freedom Forum 2015

Incoming from UK Liberty League, telling me about Liberty League Freedom Forum 2015, which will take place from the evening of Friday March 27th until Sunday March 29th, and tickets for which are now on sale.

Panels and seminars with leading academics, activists and professionals will discuss key areas of contemporary libertarian debate, with sessions for everyone from the new and curious to even the most seasoned liberty-lover.

“Seasoned” liberty-lover. Sounds like I’ll fit in. Again. For I have written about earlier iterations of this event, in 2013 and in 2014. LLFF15 is being pitched at “Pro-Liberty Students and Young Professionals”. But if you are willing to pay a bit more, you can be a “student aged 30+” and still show up. I will pay over-the-odds for my ticket, and I and my camera will both attend, although I’ll be hosting a gathering of my own on the Friday night.

So far, twelve speakers for LLFF15 have been announced. I am personally acquainted with five of them, all excellent. Seven I am now hearing about for the first time. That seems to me like a good mix.

One of the speakers whom I am not acquainted with is Nichi Hodgson, Director of the Ethical Porn Partnership. What exactly do they mean by “ethical”? A glance at that website is quite encouraging. Porn is one thing, but sex slavery is quite another. On the other hand, they talk about “best practice”. Is that just not being part of the slave trade, or does it mean, as it usually does, something more restrictive? Where, in short, are they wanting to draw the line? We shall see. The important thing here is that other kinds of liberty besides the merely “economic” are being flagged up at this gathering. The presence of such a person on the speaker list is a sign that these LLFFs really are about freedom in all its aspects, rather than merely about the sorts of innocuously pious generalities that the majority of political people already feel comfortable talking about (even as they immediately turn to explaining why even these freedoms should routinely be violated). The safe and respectable freedoms cannot be forcefully defended unless you are willing to talk also about the unsafe and disreputable freedoms, because even if you choose not talk about such things, the enemies of freedom will, especially if they twig that you don’t want to.

Cute young women having a good time – in Kobani

[LATER: Error. They aren’t having a good time IN Kobani, merely ABOUT Kobani. As commenter “Nicholas”, to whom thanks, points out, and as it clearly states just underneath the bigger version of the photo if you follow the second link below, this demo actually took place in Diyarbakir, which is in southeastern Turkey. As Nicholas pointed out, that explains why the buildings in the picture are not ruined. Apologies for my carelessness. But the important thing I got right. They are cute young women.]

It must be ages since we’ve had a posting here featuring a picture of cute young women having a good time. I miss those times. So here is a picture of some cute young women having a good time:


They are Kurdish young women celebrating the liberation of Kobani from ISIS. Thank you Mick Hartley for spotting it, in amongst all these shots, most of which are much more depressing.

Says Hartley:

If the Kurds get a state out of the current chaos in Syria/Iraq, at least there’ll be something positive to come out of the whole catastrophe.

Indeed. If you ever had any doubts about which side you are on out there, that photo should lay your doubts to rest. I’m not saying it will, mind you. I’m just saying that it should.

The media reports are all full of caveats about how this is not even the beginning of the end, blah blah, and maybe it isn’t. But I agree with all those who say that ISIS is all about momentum, and that if ISIS is now losing momentum, that’s very good.

Samizdata quote of the day

“I guess it’s going to come down to what consumers want to do,” said Lt. Chris Cummings, the Police Department’s liaison to the Taxi Commission.

– Report here. Thank you Instapundit.

Lt. Cummings didn’t say if he approved, because the Police Department’s job is to enforce ordinances, not make them. Maybe he was speaking through gritted teeth. But the Portsmouth Taxi Commission is unanimously for it. Good for them. The more Uber and its rivals are allowed in this or that place, somewhere, and the more we get to hear about it, the more chance that they will be allowed almost everywhere.

Christina Annesley

Here is Christina Annesley, talking about the Leeds Liberty League, which she founded:

Libertarianism is the political philosophy that holds the individual as sovereign and wishes to minimize the role of the state. We believe that every human being is born free and equal and has the right to be free to do what he or she wishes so long as he or she does not violate the rights of another human being. In practical terms, that means that we tend to be extremely liberal on social issues but conservative on economic ones. Consequentially many of our members are members of the Conservative Party, UKIP or the Liberal Democrats, but equally many are non-party aligned. Libertarianism is an ideology unto itself and therefore Liberty League attracts people from all walks of political life who share a common love of freedom.

I never got to know Christina Annesley, and now I never will.

For the same sorts of reasons that her life was so great, her death is truly terrible news.

LATER: More about Christina Annesley’s death from Simon Gibbs. The Libertarian Home crowd did get to know her, and will miss her even more.

LATER: A proper obituary, again at Libertarian Home.