Russia’s main problem is that no one smart or rich wants to live there. Their talent has been drained for 80 years. Their chief export now is herpes and orphans.
– Commenter ‘Solidar’ on an article over on Reuters called ‘Do you suffer from Russophobia? The Kremlin thinks you might‘.
Developers cannot build software that allows law enforcement to access encrypted communications but prevents malicious actors from exploiting that access. Cryptography cannot distinguish good people from bad, so a backdoor for one is a backdoor for all. Undermining the encryption used by U.S. companies would place the average consumer at risk of attack by malicious third parties, and merely motivate criminals and terrorists to use one of many alternative options. Powerful cryptography tools can easily be built outside the United States; as the self-declared Islamic State’s use of German messaging service Telegram demonstrates, software rarely respects borders.
– Sara Sinclair Brody
As a key aspect of the samizdata interface is still far from Samizdata HQ, and the local internet is powered by small but very noisy frogs on a bamboo treadmill, rather than the usual industrious British hamsters on a steel one, delays in comment moderation will continue for several days…
[/on David Attenborough Voice]
The hippopotamus is not a creature native to Indonesia, but upon being introduced, it threatens to become deeply invasive, shoving indigenous species out of their ecological niche by devouring their food and stealing their women
[/end David Attenborough Voice]
Civil Society is what a Constitutional State protects – not what it is
– Paul Marks
The continuing plunge in the price of oil from $115 a barrel in mid-2014 to $30 today is really, really good news. I know just about every economic commentator says otherwise, predicting bankruptcies, stock market crashes, deflation, political turmoil and a return to gas guzzling. But that is because they are mostly paid to see the world from the point of view of producers, not consumers.
– Matt Ridley.
In a way, then, Palin’s speech was the perfect endorsement for Donald Trump’s campaign: an incoherent mess of angry, resentful sentiment, delivered in a way designed to provide the maximum in media spectacle. Palin effectively—and, okay, somewhat poetically—captured and amplified the identity-politics-driven nonsense that feeds both the candidate and his supporters.
– Peter Suderman
Samizdata is once again back on-line!
The samizdata server hamsters will be on holiday on Jan 2nd as they sleep off their hangovers. We hope they will be back on their treadmills at some point on the 3rd.
If Stalin was 75 percent violence and 25 percent propaganda, Putin is 75 percent propaganda and 25 percent violence.
– Peter Pomerantsev, from “Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia”
A week ago, when 129 people in Paris were massacred as they went joyfully about their Friday nights, there were instant predictions of fury and instability. The cut-off commentariat in particular was worried that ‘ordinary people’ might turn Islamophobic. Hatred will spread ‘thick and fast’, said Scotland’s minister for Europe. Others fretted that there would be displays of jingoism, demands for revenge. Don’t agitate for a ‘clash of civilisations’, observers warned. One expert on international affairs even told us not to get angry, because ‘ISIS counts on anger… to advance its cause’. This elite panic about post-Paris rage spoke volumes about the anti-public mindset of Europe’s opinion-formers, who view us as volatile, easily turned from civilised creatures into warmongers.
In the event, though, in the seven days since the massacres, something even worse than all that happened: nothing. There’s been no fury. No clamour for a fightback, whether of the militaristic or intellectual variety.
– Brendan O’Neill
Universities seem increasingly to focus on the so-called student experience over the students’ education, with universities putting huge resources into public relations, league tables and student surveys. University has become the place for teenagers to go when they wish to delay being an adult, rather than being the bridge to independence it was once considered to be. As someone who chose to leave university, it felt like I was simply putting my life on hold for three years, when I really wanted to jump into the world of work. This feeling was further enhanced by spending time on campus, where it felt like all students were being kept together and shielded from the outside world.
– Jennifer Richards
I came across an article titled The Public Sector: Standing In Our Way Until We Pay Up (browsing Catallaxy Files). Both are recommended reading. The article is written from an American perspective, but speaks of experiences both Americans and non-Americans would be familiar with. I have reproduced what I found to be the more thought-provoking parts of the article here:
…one popular theory of the state — one that is pretty well-supported by the historical evidence in the European context — is that this is where governments come from: protection rackets that survive for a long enough period of time that they take on a patina of legitimacy. At some point, Romulus-and-Remus stories are invented to explain that the local Mafiosi have not only historical roots but divine sanction.
The fundamental problem — the provision of services — never really goes away. It is even today a critical issue in places that are (or recently have been) ruled by crime syndicates such as the Taliban and Fatah. Hamas, especially, is known to put some real effort into the social-services front. There are some services that markets historically have not done a very good job of providing — these are called “public goods,” which is a specific term from political economy and not a synonym for “stuff the public thinks is desirable” — and their provision is the only real reason we have governments. Or, more precisely: Providing public goods is the only legitimate reason we have governments.
In reality, we have governments for lots of reasons, most of them illegitimate: That ancient instinct toward banditry is powerful, and the desire to make a living by simply commanding economic resources rather than earning them through trade or labor seems to be a fixed feature of a certain subset of human beings. Patronage and clientelism are very strong forces, too, and government can be used to create public-sector salaries or welfare benefits that are well in excess of the wages that political clients could expect to earn in honest work. In the United States, our swollen public-sector payrolls, particularly at the state and local level, are little more than a supplementary welfare state, providing a more dignified form of public dependency for relatively low-skilled and mainly unenterprising people.
When it comes to government, if you aren’t involved in the provision of actual public goods, you are involved in extortion. It may be legal. It may have the blessing of the mayor, the city council, and your union representative, but it’s still extortion. And you should be ashamed of yourself. If your only purpose is getting in the way until somebody hands you money, then you are part of a protection racket. And you might want to think about going into a more honorable line of work.
Prior to reading the article, I was familiar with the hypothesis that the origin of the modern state has its roots in criminal enterprise, yet it is always amusing attempting to reconcile this with the modern state’s increasingly matronly efforts to get its subjects to behave themselves. And it is certainly far from an implausible theory, when you consider how similar the objectives of a criminal enterprise and a state can be. The major difference is, of course, that the state functions within the law – hardly surprising since it is the major source of law – while criminal organisations operate outside of the law. But honestly, how could the activity of a crime gang that defeated a local rival in a turf war be described as anything other than a spot of localised gun control – in terms of ends, if perhaps not means?
→ Continue reading: The state has never been your friend. What about your friends (and others) who work for the state?