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]

An open(ed) letter to Professor Stephen L. Carter

Funny. I read the SQOTD from today, and suddenly recalled a long-forgotten e-mail I sent in the wee hours of the morning six or so months ago. The fact I had sent the e-mail in the first place was unusual for me, as I was moved to compose and send it to Bloomberg columnist and Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter after reading the good professor’s column, and I cannot recall another occasion when I have got in touch with a journalist over something of theirs that I’d read. Professor Carter’s article must have made a big impact on me.

It did. Here it is, if you would like to have a read for yourself. Basically, the professor is making the same perfectly valid point as Brendan O’Neill regarding the hive mind mentality of a significant number of today’s university students, and chucking in a good intergenerational sneer for luck. It is the latter that particularly shat me off when I read Carter’s column, and prompted me to send the following to Professor Carter six months ago and late at night when I should have been working on something else:

Dear Professor Carter

I agree with your observations regarding the (in)abilities of the current crop of graduates, but seeing as though you decided to target that generation so explicitly, I thought maybe you might consider how the conditions that characterised your own generation’s formative years came to be.

When recounting “your day”, you wrote of an intellectual culture which “celebrated a diversity of ideas”; where “pure argument” trumped all, and a contrarian point of view was celebrated and even utilised to orient one’s own perspectives. This is the academic process at its very best, and you were most fortunate to benefit from it.Unfortunately, to channel your President, you didn’t build that. You didn’t build that. And not only did you not build it – you subsequently tore it down. And you replaced it with the appparatus that has created the mindless, chanting drones you decried in your Bloomberg piece.

Am I being unfair to target you? Well, about as unfair as you were being to the current crop of graduates. Your generation unquestionably ripped apart that which you claim to revere, and the Class of 2014 is simply a manifestation of the values your generation cherishes. So why are you training your guns on those kids when the true vandals are at still at large – and are in fact running the show?

I don’t mind catty articles – I really don’t. They’re often the most entertaining. However, I don’t understand why you’re thrashing a bunch of 20 year olds who are the product of an education system that your generation dominates – and that system has equipped them so poorly to deal with rational discourse that you could probably expect little more than an effete ‘whatever’ in response to your criticisms of them. Surely you know this. Attacking them smacks of cowardice to me. You’re aiming at the easiest targets.

If you really want to castigate a group of people for allowing academia to degenerate from what it was in your undergraduate years to what we see today, go and seek out faculty and policymakers who look about your age.

Yours faithfully
James Waterton

I received no response. Not that this surprised me.

I agree with Carter in that much of the student body – and most of those who consider themselves “activists” – are intellectually incurious ideologues primarily concerned with feeling that they are Good People, and indicating this to other Good People. But who moulded them? The answer is implicit in Carter’s article, when he reflects on how things were different back when he was at university. It is a pity he lacked the even-handedness to consider what changed between then and now, and decided to instead chastise those responsible for the mindlessness of the modern student activist. I’m talking about the Boomers, of course, and the muses that inspired them. They really did screw up an awful lot, and like Professor Carter in this instance, I suspect they will never admit to what they have destroyed.

On diminishing expectations, or how an Australian liberal could enjoy tales of American motorists escaping red light camera fines just a little too much

As a liberty-loving individualist, it is easy to become pessimistic in the face of the ever growing authority of The State. Perhaps you were delighted to be a part of replacing your centre-left governing party with your centre-right opposition party, but your lesser of two evils still turned out to be pretty damn evil. Or perhaps you were one of those libertarians who embarrassed themselves way back in 2007 by getting all excited over that compelling Democratic candidate whose background screamed **extreme belief in government action across society** to the point that his beltway CV was visible from space, yet was Hopefully going to usher in a libertarian-flavoured Change somehow. Or perhaps you’re just one of those goodly folk drinking in the glorious sight of the irrepressible green shoots of free association, free enterprise and free will that sprout up in spontaneous order everywhere, whilst simultaneously despairing of their vulnerability to the everpresent Big Farmer (how to work a Big Pharma pun in here?) who really loves to harvest. Is his scythe getting sharper? That’s not a soithe, this is a soithe.

Even when faced with the depressing reality of the modern welfare state, you can still find hope in minor but heartwarming tales of individual defiance and bureaucratic incompetence. Consider an article with a very boring title published by Popular Mechanics. If I were the PM subeditor, I think I would have gone with a food metaphor; Several Small Delicious Canapes Of Little Nutritional Consequence Which Nevertheless Make For Highly Enjoyable Eating Plus A Few Which Give You The Trots. Much snappier than 10 Crazy Red-Light Camera Cases, right?

Not feeling it? Well, me neither. I’m not a fan of pieces with excessively long titles. Still, there’s plenty of grist for the anti-authoritarian mill here, anyway. O, the palpable, glorious schadenfreude felt reading about how the city of San Bernadino tried to wring extra red light camera tickets out of motorists by illegally shortening the yellow/amber/orange light (this is an international blog, after all) duration by a second and got busted. The blood-red light revenue infusion henceforth became a revenue haemorrhage, particularly when the company the city had hired to run the haemorrhage insisted on sticking to the terms of their contract. Most unsporting. This contributed to the city’s bankruptcy. What a shame. All right, you may feel pity for the unfortunate residents of San Bernadino – well, perhaps only for those who didn’t vote for a Democrat to create new problems as well as expand existing problems created by a previous Democrat. (Regarding the majority of those who didn’t vote for a Democrat, what was I saying about the lesser of two evils above? Drat.)

Ah, San Bernadino, sitting pretty in the California sun. No rustbelt industrial decay there. Things aren’t so bad. Its bankruptcy was not the biggest municipal default in American history. Detroit’s was bigger. It’s not the poorest city of significant size in the USA. Detroit is poorer. That must be of some comfort.

However, the tale of San Bernadino’s red light blues isn’t my favourite vignette from the article. It is the following:

When Tacoma, Wash., motorist Kevin Schmadeka received a ticket accusing him of running a red light, courtesy of the Australian company Redflex that installed the system, he wanted to face his accuser and challenge the ticket. Just one problem: He was told he’d have to pay $670 in travel expenses to bring in a Redflex employee from out of state. “When I was at the clerk’s office inquiring about chain-of-custody information, the employee at the counter mentioned that if I wanted to subpoena a camera company representative that there was a fee,” Schmadeka told TheNewspaper.com. The judge singled out the Sixth Amendment right to face one’s accuser and dismissed the charges against Schmadeka.

This has got it all! A city authority falling afoul of their nasty little arrangement with one of those horrible private sector firms which exist solely to assist government authorities big and small to meddle in the lives of their subjects more effectively. A plucky individual fighting City Hall by asserting his natural born rights – and winning. A judge telling the state where it can stick its not-just-ridiculous-but-also-unconstitutional bureaucratic imposts. USA! USA! USA! There’s hope for us all yet!

Incidentally, I found this jolly article on the venerable Instapundit. Trouble is that the venerable Instapundit is liable to follow such an article up with a link to some story about how the NSA’s been collecting your e-mails, toenail clippings and belly-button lint, or perhaps an update on the IRS’s campaigning efforts during the recent Presidential campaign, or maybe even the media’s primary role in exorbitantly publicising and racialising the Zimmerman trial…and you, as an Australian small government-type, you start to feel a bit depressed again. Come on, America! We’re relying on you to somehow tow us out of this illiberal bog our ruling class has quite contentedly driven us into! It is really quite depressing to see that you are stuck in the same mud (if not quite down to your wheel arches like us)!

But after that flush of exasperation has passed, your thoughts may drift back to sunny California and San Bernadino, and you realise…well, at least we’re not Detroit. There will always be Detroit.

You can see why Matt and Trey picked on them

You have probably read of the North Koreans shamelessly ripping off a suite of Disney characters in one of their infamous stage shows.

Why all the pageantry? OK, it’s North Korea, silly question. But why now? Well, it may have something to do with the young leader Kim Jong-un being freed from Dad’s shackles and finally being able to get his leg over recently married (not to Fatty Kim, as the Chinese call him) new mother and former popstar, Hyon Son-wol.

But she’s an interesting one, is Madame Comrade Hyon. An accomplished musician in her own right, she has a string of hits as long as your bayonette, such as Footsteps of Soldiers, I Love Pyongyang, She Is A Discharged Soldier, and We Are The Troops Of The Party. Real toe-tapping stuff. However, her star rose highest when she embraced her fans in the countryside with the 2005 chart-topper Excellent Horse-Like Lady.

Something lost in translation, or a manifestation of the severe shortage of tractors?

Update: by popular demand, Youtube clips provided. No translations, sorry. And I am unable to verify whether the clips match the actual songs, not being versed in Korean.

Further update: call that pop music?? This is pop music. (And no I don’t expect you to sit through that atrocious K-Pop; just trying to make a point…) That being said, it is worth noting how freaking massive K-Pop is throughout Asia, a market of 2 billion+.

Comparing the vigour of South Korean K-pop with its nothern counterpart as churned out by the likes of Kim Jong-un’s latest squeeze reminds me of this well-known photo. God bless capitalism!

Keynesians on austerity – predictably wrong

I have lost count of the number of opinion pieces written by finance commentators and journalists who complain that the austerity programmes of Europe are doomed to fail, because they cause perpetual economic contraction, resulting in shrinking government revenues, curtailing the ability to pay down debt – which was why the austerity programmes were embarked upon in the first place. And this will go hand-in-hand with a widespread, precipitous and neverending decline in living standards, which raises the spectre of social and/or political collapse. The alternative solution they generally propose comes from our good friend Baron Keynes. Naturally.

This is utterly wrong-headed. Naturally. I do not take much issue with the consequences of European austerity that have been identified, however austerity is not the cause of these. Austerity works just fine if governments do not implement it alongside tax increases. Which is what pretty much every austerity programme (either real or imagined) in Europe is either proposing or enacting. It’s the tax increases that will cause the vicious cycle mentioned above – not the austerity, stupid. Austerity alone redirects capital from government programmes to more productive areas of the economy, resulting in growth. But austerity plus tax hikes decreases the size of one part of the economy (the public sector, and this on its own is of course a good thing), whilst putting a yoke on the private sector by preventing individuals and companies from stepping into the breach, with punitive taxes discouraging investment or making it unaffordable. Of course this is a recipe for limitless economic contraction and social misery.

Citizens of a nation that requires a genuine period of austerity must be aware that there will be pain as structural adjustments take place whilst private sector investment slowly and surely crowds out a throttled and atrophying civil service. But pain is and was always going to be inevitable when the almighty spending binge so many governments have embarked upon over the last couple of decades unavoidably draws to a close, either through substantial policy shifts or sovereign default. The former is much less painful than the latter, but more politically difficult, so it seems. And, in dealing with the current debt crisis, Keynesians have never seen a can they haven’t wanted to kick down the road.

A second “No shit, Sherlock” moment for the day

Seriously, I mean man, SERIOUSLY Asia doesn’t give a fuck about your white, western, self flagellating, puritanical eco religion.

– commenter ‘twostix‘ on this Catallaxy thread

As someone who has lived in the rapidly developing part of Asia for the best part of four years thus far, I cannot stress how strongly the above is true. Oh, sure, people worry about Climate Change (in fact, I would say they are less skeptical about it than the average westerner), but virtually no one would sacrifice development in its name.

I have said it before, and the greens really need to get it through their thick skulls – if global warming is real, it is now inevitable. For the reason so eloquently stated above.

Samizdata quote of the day

It is only those who hope to transform human beings who end up by burning them, like the waste product of a failed experiment.

– Christopher Hitchens, as seen in this excellent article about the great man, written by Martin Amis

Ouch

The MD-11, a derivative of the DC-10, first flew in revenue service a mere 20 years ago, making it just middle-aged by aircraft standards. However, KLM’s birds are included on this list because they’re the only three-engined jets currently operating in scheduled transoceanic passenger service — with the exception of an occasional Qantas A380.

This delightfully catty witticism nicely rounded off an interesting Wired presentation: Fly Away on These 10 Classic Airliners

I always thought the A380 a hideous gargoyle of a plane. And Qantas is a pretty rubbish airline these days. So have at ‘em both, I say.

(H/t: Instapundit)

Because libertarians would totally have been up for that stuff

More up-to-the-second analysis from the fourth estate:

Dennis, a wealthy businessman and investor who says he’s been a Republican for more than 25 years, has a strong libertarian streak and supported Rep. Ron Paul in the 2008 presidential race. But ask him how he would have voted on the most important bills that came before the House in the last two years and you’ll get a pretty Republican answer. Obamacare? He would have voted against it. Stimulus? Against. Auto bailouts? Against. Cap and trade? Against. Wall Street reform? Against. He also favors making all the Bush tax cuts permanent.

Byron York apparently does not understand Libertarianism.

(H/t: Drudge)

Samizdata quote of the day

We are incredibly heedless in the formation of our beliefs, but find ourselves filled with an illicit passion for them when anyone proposes to rob us of their companionship.

– James Harvey Robinson, via Dale Carnegie’s classic How To Win Friends and Influence People

As good as any reason to learn Russian

I commend this fascinating article to those who have not yet come across it – A Hidden History of Evil:
Why Doesn’t Anyone Care About the Unread Soviet Archives?

The archives contain “unpublished, untranslated, top-secret Kremlin documents, mostly dating from the close of the Cold War”, yet their guardian “can’t get anyone to house them in a reputable library, publish them, or fund their translation.” Amongst numerous other tidbits, there is some very interesting stuff about Soviet dealings with François Mitterrand, Neil Kinnock, and several past and present “European Project”/EU bigwigs.

(From the excellent Michael Totten, who’s doing a fine job of holding the fort over at Instapundit)

Another Climategate Post

And now for something completely different…

George Monbiot – a deserving pinata of folks ’round these parts for quite some time – has written a reflective article in the Guardian (seen on Instapundit). Admittedly, the guy deserves some credit for being one of the first of the really hardcore global warming spruikers to unreservedly concede that the CRU leak is an enormously damaging episode for the pro-AGW folks, and not something that can be high-handedly dismissed. Which has pretty much been their exclusive stock-in-trade when dealing with those who are unintelligent enough to disagree with them up until now.

Certainly, Monbiot has been a lot more contrite than I would have expected him to be under the circumstances. However, he doesn’t get down into any real soul-searching. In his article, he continues to smear the “climate change denial industry” – rather high-handedly, too (he ran out of contrition about halfway through the article and reverted to form). He could not resist having a good sneer at those who disagree with him. It would have been a much better article if he had stopped to ask himself how much of his current beliefs are predicated on the shoddy code behind the computer models that supposedly prove the theory of AGW, or if his perspective might be different without the vacuum of opposing voices that have been squelched from Reputable Science. And he certainly failed to show any sign that he’s anywhere near the point of posing that most awful of questions to himself, namely “Could I be wrong?” – even if only to reconfirm his beliefs. No, for him it is clear that the science is still settled.

Monbiot’s reaction, I suspect, will be a model for others of his ilk to follow. I hope I am wrong, but I doubt anything much will come out of this Climategate kerfuffle in the longer term. The scientists involved in the leak will take their professional cyanide capsules, and there will be a bit of public head-hanging and self reflection from the rest of the major players, after which the “science” behind AGW will be declared “pure” again. Aided and abetted by the majority of the world’s political leaders, who have invested so much in the AGW industry that it is now surely Too Big To Fail. So bail it out and back to business, already.

A quick question

Are you optimistic about the future? Several months ago I was not, but I am now. From what I can see, governments are walking down the path of their complete moral and financial bankruptcy far more quickly than I ever imagined they would. I thought that it would take our overmighty governments several slow, demoralising decades of decline and eventual collapse to completely discredit their authority and control in the eyes of the people. However, our governments appear to be going supernova right now and I suspect they will burn themselves out over a few painful and tumultuous years – destroying a great deal of wealth in the process, no doubt. However, as worrying as that prospect is, it was always going to be that way. And in spite of that, I feel particularly upbeat about the longer term future. Those who know nothing more (and expect nothing less) than widespread government authority and control over all aspects of our lives will have their imbecile – sorry, umbilical – cords to the State cut sooner than expected, thanks to the overwhelmingly reckless (but entirely predictable) government response to the current financial crisis. I really do believe that future historians will pinpoint this crisis as marking the beginning of the end of the big-government era.

Do you agree?