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]

Other messages besides “Je Suis Charlie”

I understand why NickM, for instance, complains about all the people waving Je Suis Charlie signs at the recent Charlie Hebdo demos just over a week ago. But at least there were demos (Hebdemos?), and big ones. Whatever the finer points of the relationship between Islam and the rest of us, thousands upon thousands of people, in France millions, disapproved of cartoonists being killed, no matter how offensive anyone might think they had been, just because of various cartoons they had done. I agree that disapproval is not much. Ooh, they disapprove. But it’s a start. I mean, would you rather that all those millions of demonstrators had just shrugged their shoulders, stayed indoors and forgotten all about it?

And yes, there was plenty of hypocrisy involved, on the part of public personages who, only weeks or days before the attacks, had been saying more like: “Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie”, and who will be saying much the same as that in a few days or weeks time. But I prefer hypocrisy and inconsistency to brazen wickedness. If you demand consistency from public figures, you are liable to get consistent stupidity and consistent wickedness. The public attitudes that public people feel they need to strike, even if they strike them very insincerely or in a way that contradicts other things they have earlier said and done and will later say and do, still count for something.

I attended the demo in London’s Trafalgar Square, and I made a point of photoing signs that said other things besides Je Suis Charlie, of which this was my favourite:

CHABasLaTyrannieDeLOffense

For the benefit of those with no French, that means (unless my French is letting me down badly) something along the lines of: “Down With The Tyranny of The Offended”. Good one. See also the earlier posting here, in which our Prime Minister is reported as standing up for the same idea. And, see my paragraph above (which I had already written before that earlier posting had appeared) about how the public attitudes of public people do matter, however occasionally and inconsistently they may be expressed.

This next sign might have been my favourite. But, that T for Team looks too twiddly, and not clear enough and assertive enough. It’s like the guy who wrote the sign was just taking dictation and didn’t really mean it.

CHTeamCivilization

Or, it could just mean that here were some people demonstrating who had not done any such thing before. Because, this was not your usual demo, the sort of demo perpetrated by the demonstrating classes, so to speak. Which was another big plus, from where I was standing, photographing everything I could see.

You can view other photos that I took of signs that afternoon here.

Now that’s what I call a comment

I just read a comment, written by someone calling himself “Jonny Overcat”, which (a) tells me that the art of invective is not dead, and which (b), I think, deserves wider circulation. At the time of me concocting this posting, it is comment number six on this take-down of the appalling Mehdi Hassan. Here it is in full:

I can hardly put into words how viscerally disgusted I’ve felt the past couple of days with a significant number of allegedly “progressive” writers in American media who just trip all over themselves to denounce Charlie Hebdo as racist, wrong, oppressors and likely people who fuck puppies for fun. The forceful ignorance, the utter lack of even the most basic research or familiarity with the publication and people they are crassly denouncing, and the apologism (is that even a word? Now it is I guess) for the murderers are just utterly subhuman. A big part of it is that I’ve lived in Paris, I have family in Paris and I’ve pounded the pavement in every arrondissement pretty extensively (I do a lot of street photography). I absolutely love that city and its people, and any sort of terrorist attack there is deeply upsetting to me. I’m quite familiar with the neighborhood where Charlie Hebdo’s offices are, I have friends I used to visit who lived just a couple of blocks away from there. I take a terrorist attack in Paris kind of personally, even though I realize that it’s not all about me. I’ve been there during terrorist events in Europe (the Madrid train bombing) and I’ve seen the squads of soldiers patrolling the streets due to that, and the fear on people’s faces in the Metro etc.

So over on Slate, there’s the walking abortion that is Jordan Weissmann, who, before the puddles of blood of the murdered were even dry, valiantly asserts that Charlie Hebdo is just some racist rag and does everything short of just coming right out and saying that they had it coming to them. Never mind, of course, that he quite clearly demonstrates with his mischaracterizations, outright falsehoods and quite obvious lack of actual knowledge about the publication or its staff, that he just hasn’t got a fucking clue. An opportunist piece of shit trying to burnish his PC cred by symbolically standing over the corpses of the murdered and screaming “RACISTS!”

Then over at Salon there’s a specimen called Falguni A. Sheth, who ideally should’ve been fed into a wood chipper as an infant, whose article asserts that the REAL issue is Muslim feelings and how utterly horrifically Muslims are treated by everyone and boo fucking hoo because the world doesn’t bow low enough to Islam. Of course she asserts that the murderers who invoked Islam as their motivation before and during the attacks weren’t motivated by Islam at all, because whitey is racist. Yep. She hilariously states that Charlie Hebdo, a paper that has been published weekly for about 35 years, which amounts to roughly 1800 or so editions, “disproportionately targets Muslims” because they’ve published about 10 or 12 images satirizing radical Islam in the past ten or so years. Thus they are just some Muslim bashing rag, and basically had it coming. Don’t say what we don’t want you to say or we’ll kill you, and it’s your own fault. Never mind, of course that ten or twelve editions satirizing radical Islam don’t even amount to one percent of Charlie Hebdo’s total published works. Yeah, “disproportionate”, but she can barely bring herself to denounce the killers in anything but a passing fashion, as though their murdering is some minor technicality to be glossed over, because the REAL issue is that some fucking Muslim somewhere has had their religious sensibilities sullied by these evil, evil cartoonists. Because cartoonists do such irreparable harm to society. Muslims, of course, are all saints.

Seriously, fuck these people, all of them, and anyone who agrees with them.

I’ve always been socially and politically liberal, never a lockstep liberal, but always generally liberal. I’ve always had a problem with the significant number of so called American liberals and progressives who are rigidly doctrinaire to the point of stupidity, but over this issue, my disgust is reaching critical mass. I need to seriously consider whether I really have common cause with the unfortunately significant number of so called liberals and progressives who are more enamored of finding common cause with the severely illiberal tenets of Islamic fundamentalist thinking. When Bill Maher called Islam “the motherlode of bad ideas”, he was seriously understating his point. These supposedly liberal pieces of shit who find common cause with Islamic fundamentalism, whose basic grasp of the nature/purpose/context of satire is just as tenuous, or even weaker, than that of their braindead counterparts on the right, are just a bit more than I can stomach anymore.

I just needed to get that off my chest …

For someone who can “hardly put into words” how disgusted he is, Jonny Overcat sure does have a way with words, doesn’t he?

I do love the internet.

Dan Hannan on Hitler being a socialist and the Levellers being “proto-libertarians”

I just came across this tour de force of a speech by Dan Hannan at the Oxford Union, courtesy of David Thompson. Thank goodness for YouTube.

I particularly like the bit at the end, where Hannan shows that he knows more about the Levellers than do those arguing against him. “Proto-libertarians” is a very good description of just what kind of libertarians the Levellers were. They certainly weren’t socialists.

Just over thirteen minutes in length. Lots of good points made in a very short time, despite interruptions from the floor. No wonder Hannan’s debating opponents looked so scowly and unhappy, as Thompson notes.

Samizdata quote of the day

Dear Electoral Commission,

Thanks, but we’re not registering with you and we’re not going to pay any attention to your rules.

Yours in freedom,

Paul Staines
Editor Guido Fawkes’ Blog

Guido makes his position clear.

Goodbye Rose and Crown

A change of ownership at the Rose and Crown in Southwark means that Simon Gibbs (whose contribution as the Libertarian Home events organiser to the London libertarian scene featured prominently in the posting I did here at the very end of last year about all the 2014 speakers at my Last Friday of the Month meetings (Simon was my speaker in July)) is having to shift his ongoing programme of Libertarian Home meetings out of the Rose and Crown, and to go looking for a new regular venue. Tomorrow evening’s Libertarian Home meeting will be taking place in the Crown Tavern, Clerkenwell Green.

Simon says:

Immediately however I need a couple of things. I need you to spread the word about the new venue tomorrow, …

I hope this helps.

… and again as needed. I also need you to tell me what sort of venue you want. Does it need to be a pub? Is food important? What did you think of the beer at the Rose and Crown? Is the day of the week important? Do you value a speaker every month or are the socials as valuable?

My immediate reaction to the above is that this new venue is a bit of a walk from a tube station, more than was the old venue. Food does help. I don’t drink beer.

Perhaps rather more significantly, I quickly found, when I started organising my Last Friday meetings around 1990, that a speaker does help, if only by by ensuring that we didn’t just have the same damn conversation month after month. I personally like being formally addressed, and then getting to hear the responses of others (perhaps including myself) to what was said, one person at a time, rather than us all just standing around shouting in a pub. Socials are not speaker meetings, but speaker meetings can and should also be socials.

As it happens, there will be a speaker at this Clerkenwell Libertarian Home get-together tomorrow evening. Martin Keegan will be speaking about “The Evolution of Private Cooperation”, which I’m looking forward to hearing, and makes me more eager to attend. (Someone please comment to this effect, if this is not the Martin Keegan who will be speaking, or for that matter if I have it right.)

As for the first Thursday of the month thing (and as also for my Last Friday of the Month thing), well, what I have learned is that there is something to be said against this sort of arrangement, as well as in favour of it. For many, a particular, regular day of the week can be a real problem, because they regularly do something else that day of the week, or they regularly commune with their families over the weekend (weekends which often start on Friday rather than on Saturday morning). By calling his meetings 6/20 meetings, and by holding his meetings on the 6th and 20th of each month, the noted London Libertarian Christian Michel ensures that his meetings do not keep on occurring on the same day of the week. This means that people for whom weekends, or Mondays, or whatever, are permanently occupied, can still attend some of his meetings. Nobody of the sort who would really like to be showing up from time to time is permanently excluded. Maybe Simon might want to consider making a change of that sort. I’m not saying he definitely should make such a change, mind you, because keeping the regular First Thursday of the Month formula even as the venue is being tinkered with makes a lot of sense also. I’m just, as they say, saying.

Samizdata quote of the day

Big Bang transformed the City for the better, as I hoped at the time. It broke up the cosy cartel of the old stockbrokers and jobbers, introduced competition into commissions which made share buying and selling so much cheaper, allowed in many foreign banks and brokers with extra capital, new business and job opportunities, and allowed UK institutions to raise serious amounts of new money to operate on a world scale.

It built one of the dominant financial service and banking sectors of the world. The City expanded from the narrow Square Mile around the Bank of England, to encompass Aldgate, Liverpool Street, the Finsbury area , parts of Mayfair, St Paul’s and parts of docklands. Today we earn £60 billion from our financial and business service exports, and have a group of companies and service industries that the world envies. Without Big Bang none of that would have happened, and the UK would be a lot poorer. Instead of blaming Big Bang for financial scandals, people should remember there were scandals before Big Bang, and remember above all that it was Mr Brown’s regulators who helped bring on the crash they were meant to prevent.

John Redwood

I think Big Bang did bad things (speeding up the mess of fiat money) as well as good (doing lots of business in London). The more Austrianist you are, the earlier you will think the rot set in. Nixon takes Dollar off Gold Standard in 1971? Founding of the Fed? Founding of the Bank of England? But Redwood is right that Gordon Brown certainly didn’t help avert the crisis we are now stuck in, even if him keeping Britain out of the Euro may prove to be his most significant decision in the long run.

Remember, just because one of us here selects something as an SQotD doesn’t mean we necessarily agree. We are merely noticing that something significant, and usually true-ish, has been forcefully put.

Happy New Year (again) – courtesy of French TV

Yes, here’s another Happy New Year to everyone, this time from French National Treasure Jean-Paul Belmondo, snapped by me (in amazement at how he looked – I think I last saw him in Borsalino) straight off of French TV (no idea which channel), at or around midnight on Dec 31/Jan 1:

BelmondoHappyNewYear

I thought Belmondo had died several years ago. After seeing him on TV, I still suspect that maybe he did die, and that the museum where they keep all the dead (human) French National Treasures has a highly sophisticated animatronics department.

Samizdata quote of the day

So my New Year message is this. Be less political. Stop caring.

– From NickM’s message for 2015.

If the world that NickM and I, and probably you, want is to happen, some of us probably do have to be very political. But I, and probably you, will know just what he means, particularly if we read the whole thing.

My year in speakers

So here I am in Brittany, alternating between writing this and getting stuck into a New Year’s Eve feast, which explains any typos in what follows, and which is also making me ponder New Year resolutions. One of mine is to write rather more for Samizdata than I have been doing lately, which will not be hard. The idea was that resuming my Last Friday of the Month meetings, which I did in January 2013, would give me more to write about here, but the truth is that there is never any shortage of stuff to write about for Samizdata. The world abounds with good things and bad things, amusing things and annoying things. What sometimes fades is the will to write. But I’ll start as I mean to resume by writing a little about each of the speakers at my Last Friday meetings during this year. I hope these speakers will all agree that me now writing too little, too late, about their various excellent performances is better than nothing.

In January 2014, Alex Singleton spoke about his new book on PR, The PR Masterclass. Not the least of this book’s virtues is that it calls Public Relations Public Relations, rather than something more pompous and evasive. I did at least write here at the time about this book’s launch, which was a definite success, as is the book, packed as it is with what reads to me like lots of common-sense. Alex, however, is still a man worth hiring if you have a PR problem, because it is one thing to read a lot of common-sense in a book, quite another to be able to deploy it in the heat of a PR battle. Talking of the heat of a PR battle, Alex tells me that his next book is to be about Crisis Management. So, if your oil pipeline springs a leak, google Alex Singleton at once and hope that this book is by then available as a download, and that it starts with a short summary of all the wisdom that follows. Seriously, if you run a big organisation, buy this next Alex Singleton book as soon as it appears, and then give it more than a precautionary glance. You won’t be wasting any time, and you could save yourself and your underlings a world of grief.

In February, Dominic Frisby spoke about his then forthcoming book on Bitcoin, which has now forthcome. Our own Rob Fisher, who attended this talk, and who helped Dominic out with some technical details on the software front, later described the book in the first Amazon review of it (see the link above) as “concise, complete, correct, entertaining”. I first wrote, very admiringly, about Frisby and his writing here in this posting. My admiration for Frisby has not dimmed, and I very much hope that more Frisby books will follow.
→ Continue reading: My year in speakers

Anton Howes on the Golden Age that never stopped

One of my favourite up-and-coming libertarian intellectuals is Anton Howes, who manages to combine being both a hugely effective libertarian activist and a very promising academic. He, along with a great gaggle of others, runs the very impressive Liberty League, and he is doing some very interesting historical research.

The particularly good Anton Howes news, from the point of view of the sort of people who read Samizdata, is that Anton Howes now has a blog, Capitalism’s Cradle. It reflects Anton’s research interests. He is studying the origins of the British Industrial Revolution by studying the biographies of several dozen of the key industrial innovators who set that Revolution in motion and who then kept it in motion. I first learned about this blog when Anton himself told me about it at the Adam Smith Institute Christmas Party last week. Anton is the rather solemn looking guy in the third row down, on the right, in this selection of photos that I took at that event.

Below is a quote from the very first posting on Capitalism’s Cradle, entitled Why Capitalism’s Cradle? I take this posting to be both an explanation of why the Capitalism’s Cradle blog is called that, and a question about why Capitalism’s Cradle did its stuff where it did and when it did. The question Anton is trying to answer is: What was it about the British Industrial Revolution that caused it to do better than various other “Golden Ages” that had preceded it in earlier times and in other places? Because it was indeed very special. It didn’t just happen, and then revert back to business as usual. This particular Golden Age never stopped. It spread, and it is still spreading. Why?

Innovation existed before the Industrial Revolution. Of course it did – you need look no further than the invention of agriculture, writing, bronze, crop rotations, horse collars, windmills, gunpowder, printing presses, paper, and bills of exchange to know that innovations have occurred throughout history before the IR.

The difference is that these were few and far between. Some of them, often grouped together, resulted in Golden Ages, or “Efflorescences” as Jack Goldstone likes to call them. The 1st Century early Roman Empire; the 8th Century Arab World; 12th Century Sung Dynasty China; the 15th Century northern Italian city-states; and 17th Century Dutch Republic are all good examples.

Britain could have been just like any of the other Golden Ages. It could have had Abraham Darby’s coke-smelted cast iron, Thomas Newcomen’s steam engine for pumping mines, John Kay’s flying shuttle to allow weaved cloth to be wider than the length of the weaver’s arm-span. Perhaps we would have had Lady Mary Wortley’s inoculation against smallpox, some canals much like the Romans’ or Medieval Chinese, and Jethro Tull’s seed drill.

But like every previous Golden Age, that would have been it – until the next Golden Age, wherever and whenever that would end up being.

But the British IR was different. It started off as a ‘mere’ Golden Age in the 18th Century, but the pace of innovation was maintained and then quickened. And it hasn’t stopped for the past 250 years or so. Despite the occasional downturn, we still expect at least 1-2% GDP growth. Anything less than that is considered stagnation.

That isn’t the answer to the question. It merely restates the question in somewhat greater detail. But I particularly like this elaboration, because I have heard Anton refer in passing to these Golden Ages, these efflorescences, in various talks that I have heard him deliver, but I didn’t make a note of what they all were. Now, I have this blog posting, and this blog in general, to enable me to chase up such notions, and also to help me ponder all the other notions that will be needed to get towards an answer to the question that Anton is posing.

I do not think I will be the only Samizdata reader who will also be a regular reader of Capitalism’s Cradle.

Samizdata quote of the day

Pornography is the canary in the coal mine of free speech. It is the first freedom to die.

Myles Jackman

Quoted at the end of this Adam Smith Institute blog posting by Charlotte Bowyer

Keeping colleagues out of the frame

I am suspicious of almost all political state apparati. But I make an exception for the State of Israel. My attitude towards the State of Israel is one of unconditional positive regard. Their fight is my fight, and they are actually fighting it. Whenever I hear that Israel has done something bad, I assume that (a) if it was bad they definitely had some very good reasons for doing it, but that (b) it almost certainly wasn’t that bad, and that whoever is telling me that it was that bad is deceiving me, either because he is himself deceived or because he is a malevolent fool.

This article, by Matti Friedman, explains some of the many reasons why I think and feel as I do about Israel. The article focuses in on, so to speak, a subject that has been very dear to my heart for the last decade and more, which is the vital role in the modern world played by photography, professional and amateur, and especially in its digital and hence instantaneously communicable form. Friedman includes a very telling photograph in his article, of a sort you don’t usually see, of a rally in Jerusalem in support of Islamic Jihad. Does the camera ever lie? It certainly squirts out a stream of lies by omission.

Says Friedman:

Hamas is aided in its manipulation of the media by the old reportorial belief, a kind of reflex, according to which reporters shouldn’t mention the existence of reporters. In a conflict like ours, this ends up requiring considerable exertions: So many photographers cover protests in Israel and the Palestinian territories, for example, that one of the challenges for anyone taking pictures is keeping colleagues out of the frame. That the other photographers are as important to the story as Palestinian protesters or Israeli soldiers – this does not seem to be considered.

In Gaza, this goes from being a curious detail of press psychology to a major deficiency. Hamas’s strategy is to provoke a response from Israel by attacking from behind the cover of Palestinian civilians, thus drawing Israeli strikes that kill those civilians, and then to have the casualties filmed by one of the world’s largest press contingents, with the understanding that the resulting outrage abroad will blunt Israel’s response. This is a ruthless strategy, and an effective one. It is predicated on the cooperation of journalists. One of the reasons it works is because of the reflex I mentioned. If you report that Hamas has a strategy based on co-opting the media, this raises several difficult questions, like, What exactly is the relationship between the media and Hamas? And has this relationship corrupted the media? It is easier just to leave the other photographers out of the frame and let the picture tell the story: Here are dead people, and Israel killed them.

Mick Hartley, at whose blog I first learned of this article and first read the above quote, thinks that Friedman’s article is worth reading in full. I agree.