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]

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.

David J. Theroux on C. S. Lewis

Incoming from David J. Theroux of the Independent Institute:

Could I interest you in please posting a notice on your blog of the following new YouTube video from the C.S. Lewis Society of California of my keynote talk at the first annual conference of Christians for Liberty, that was held at St. Edwards University in San Antonio, TX, August 2, 2014?

The talk is entitled “C.S. Lewis on Mere Liberty and the Evils of Statism”.

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:


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.


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.