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]

Samizdata quote of the day

A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take everything you have

– Barry Goldwater

I stumbled across this evergreen Goldwater remark on Gmail, where it is also quote of the day. A somewhat surprising choice for them, considering Google’s rather obvious political biases.

An amoral solution to Russia’s existential crisis

A few days ago, the venerable Glenn Reynolds linked to an article published in the Asia Times titled Americans Play Monopoly, Russians Chess. The article, written by pseudonymous columnist Spengler, is something of an interesting read, as it offers up a comprehensively explained and intriguing motive for the former superpower’s recent machinations in Georgia.

Many Western commentators ascribe the recent Russian belligerence to a newly acquired military ability able to act upon the yearning of its current leadership which is trying to recapture the glory days of Soviet power. A good dollop of credible force applied carefully should make Russia’s tiny neighbours wake up to the fact that they are kissing the wrong butt. Spengler contends that the truth is rather less vainglorious; Russia’s recent adventures represent moves in a long-term game in which the country’s very survival is at stake.

After all, it is – as any moderately informed individual knows – facing what present-day figures predict to be a near total demographic collapse in the coming years. Russia is, says Spengler, exercising a grand strategy to eventually absorb the Russians and other ethnic populations living in the nations in its so-called “near abroad”, declaring them all Russian and thus halting the country’s disastrous population decline. This will also ensure the minority status of the Muslim population in Russia (the only ones who are breeding) and, lo and behold, win the survival of the nation in the eyes of those pulling the levers in the Kremlin. It is an insightful alternative analysis of what is driving the crisis in Georgia – not groundbreakingly so, as I am certain a number of Samizdata contributors and commenters could have provided us with much the same explanation – but nevertheless well worth consideration. → Continue reading: An amoral solution to Russia’s existential crisis

Unintended consequences

The downfall of Eliot Spitzer has recently been celebrated on this blog, and rightly so. However, I believe the major casualty of the affair will prove to be Hillary Clinton, rather than Spitzer. This juicy scandal will deliver the Democratic nomination to Obama. You could almost – almost – feel sorry for Clinton; the press was only just starting to crack the shiny Obama veneer, when this had to go and happen. Who will pay any attention to Rezko and co. with this circus unfolding over the next few weeks? It will suck the oxygen right out of Hillary’s campaign at the critical juncture – just when it was catching fire.

Not that Obama as the Democratic candidate will necessarily be a bad thing for the Republicans; the more I see and read of him, his views and his actions, the more I am convinced that Obama08 is John McCain’s smoothest path to the White House.

Keeping women presentable on International Women’s Day

As you may or may not know, today is International Women’s Day (IWD) – it falls annually on March the 8th. This anniversary is not especially remarked upon in the Western world, yet it is a widely noted event in many of the countries that were closely allied to, had ideologically similar political ideologies to, or constituted the Soviet Union. I am living in China at the moment, and was first reminded of the advent of this year’s IWD by my Vietnamese girlfriend, and then by the Chinese state press. Otherwise, it would have passed me by completely.

I have to say I find it a little amusing that two countries I have spent a fair bit of time in of late – Vietnam and China – so noisily celebrate IWD, considering that women in both countries face considerable and ingrained discrimination, despite the official socialist repudiation of gender inequality. Still, the show must go on and my girlfriend came home from work on the 8th with a gift; the same one that all the women in her company (a large Chinese software firm) received to commemorate IWD. And what was her present? A gift pack of anti-dandruff shampoo and conditioner. A lot of women work at this company, so obtaining all that haircare product would have been a substantial purchase. There must have been a conversation in the HR department a few weeks ago that went something like: “I think this Head & Shoulders pack is suitable. I mean, we’re all for equal rights for women, but can we at least ensure that they are not leaving bits of their scalp about the place if they must work with us? Yes, I know, it’s a shame that the deal on the girdles fell through, but there’s always next year…”

The new face of South Africa

Glenn Reynolds links to an interesting-sounding book about South Africa’s poor whites, a group completely obscured – globally, by the international perception of the apartheid society and locally, by post-apartheid positive discrimination efforts to raise the country’s recently oppressed blacks out of poverty. It made me recall a piece I saw some time ago on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s international current affairs programme, Foreign Correspondent, that also examined the lot of disadvantaged white South Africans. It contained a very interesting interview of the ANC government minister Essop Pahad. I have reproduced the business end of the discussion below (the emphasis in bold is my own):
→ Continue reading: The new face of South Africa

Marks on Mitt

First he has no chance whatever of being elected President of the United States of America.

He is a rich kid, yes so is George Bush as well – but George Bush gives a good imitation of looking and sounding like an ordinary Texan, Mitt Romney looks and sounds like what he is.

Americans will accept a Democrat who was born rich – they have more of a problem with a Republican who was born rich.

Paul Marks, taking no prisoners

Howard’s end

Unsurprisingly, John Howard and his conservative coalition lost Saturday’s federal election in Australia heavily. It also looks like Howard will lose his seat – a sitting Prime Minister has only ever lost his seat once in Australian political history. On a personal level, his passing is somewhat of a melancholy event for me. I first started taking a strong interest in politics from the age of about 13. Howard was elected when I was 15, so for many years he has been a political figure of very close scrutiny and interest for me. Thus, the “end of an era” aspect is a little sad, and I think that despite the kind of doublespeak people in his former position often need to talk in order to Keep Everyone Happy – or at least keep the minimum amount of balls in the air – he is quite a decent and humane man. He genuinely had the “common touch”; not in the charming, polished, stage-managed way that impresses the media and the elite. He was less of a “gather a media entourage and head to the nearest working class pub to have a sham beer’n’bellylaugh with some rough men in singlets” type – ringing up a late night radio station talk show after he’d clearly had a few too many beverages was more his style. His uncontrived ordinariness, often verging on folksy, is a rare commodity amongst politicians of his seniority – and it is something I will miss.

Having said all of that, we should not get too sentimental about his defeat. John Howard and his party are no friends of ours. Many of his party’s major reforms, whilst bearing objectives which most in the small-government camp would consider a step in the right direction, were implemented with a liberally (pardon the pun) spread layer of added regulation. Consider the tax code which, after eleven years of ongoing “reforms”, stands as an epic bureaucratic tome defying compliance. Or the recent industrial relations changes, which somehow made a fiendishly complicated system even more so.

Certainly, Howard can accurately claim that Australia became richer and more economically stable whilst he was in office. Nevertheless, he and his team should be remembered as big-government conservatives, and we liberals must not forget that Australia is more prosperous today in spite of his government’s efforts, rather than because of them. My only regret is that his successor is likely to be even more meddlesome.

The Evil Empire

No, not that Evil Empire – the other one!

Thanks to Nick M for providing the link; it was too good to leave languishing in this comments thread.

UPDATE: have I been had? I think it likely! Read comments for more details…

Obama unravels

Fresh from his humbling at the hands of Hillary Clinton and following on from a statement indicating his willingness to invade Pakistan, Barack Obama ladles on credence to the increasingly ubiquitous assertion that he’s inexperienced:

I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance…involving civilians. Let me scratch that. There’s been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That’s not on the table.

Desperately wrong answer to (what should be) a deal-breaking question, Mr Obama. Sure, waving the threat of one’s nuclear weapons capacity around like a pair of chopsticks in a cheap Chinese restaurant is not sensible, because it ultimately reduces that capacity’s deterrent value – which is the only practical reason why a sane nation would field a nuclear arsenal in this world of other nations who also possess The Bomb. A wise leader does not even refer to his country’s nuclear weapons capacity, because the widespread knowledge of that capacity speaks for itself more effectively than any politician could ever hope to.

Conversely, it is sheer lunacy for a US President (or hopeful) to declare that he will never press the button, because such statements completely undermine the deterrent value of these weapons. Mr Obama, if you are not running on a platform of nuclear disarmament, you never take the nuclear option off the table. Ever. You made a most elementary strategic blunder – you are not a suitable candidate for the role of U.S. Commander-in-Chief.

If global warming is real, it is now inevitable

I am currently in Beijing, which is up there amongst the most polluted cities in the world. Beijing’s summer days are characterised by heavy cloud cover, which traps the unsightly gaseous consequences of China’s lightning-fast growth. The sun usually becomes discernable at around 4pm, when a golden-brown orb peers timidly through the haze. Being more acquainted with the brilliant Australian sun, for a split-second I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking at when I first saw its rather diminished Chinese incarnation.

In such circumstances, I have been thinking a lot about the “carbon footprint” of countries in the economic vanguard of the developing world – countries like China and India. Like most who contribute and comment here, l classify myself as a “global warming skeptic”, due to the evangelical, anti-science and frequently absurd rhetoric that typifies global warming activists of all stripes. I am not a complete denialist – I have not written off the theory of anthropogenic global warming entirely. I simply believe there is an awful lot we do not yet know, and it is rash to be making grand predictions about impending weather-related catastrophes, and demanding action based on such flawed predictions. If, however, I was to reconsider my position and embrace the concept of AGW, I would still not champion the Kyoto Protocol or any other effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The fact is that if AGW is a genuine phenomenon, it is inevitable. There is absolutely no point in the rich world winding back its CO2 output, because China, India and the rest of the developing world will replace any first world CO2 reductions several times over. Despite the occasionally placatory noises about limiting CO2 emissions heard from the likes of the Chinese central government, the fact is that the Chinese, the Indians, the Russians, the Brazilians, nor anyone else from the developing world will ever stymy their nations’ opportunity to develop by hobbling their industrial output via significant CO2 emissions controls. Nor are the leaders of these countries likely to do anything to incur the wrath of their citizens by curtailing their perfectly reasonable aspirations to own motorcars, motorcycles, air conditioners and enjoy the convenience of air travel – all enormous direct or indirect sources of CO2 emissions. If significant CO2 reduction could be achieved with minimal economic and social cost, then perhaps the developing world would cooperate. However, large-scale CO2 reduction is an extremely expensive and socially disruptive exercise, and this reality will persist for several decades.

And it is too late to roll back the clock – too many people in the developing world have tasted the fruits of development, and quite legitimately demand more. Those governing the aspirational billions are far more likely to be influenced by them than An Inconvenient Truth. Global CO2 emissions are going to continue to grow for many years, there is no doubt about it. The “global warmenists”, as the mighty Tim Blair calls them, need to re-evaluate their positions, because what they propose at present is simply an exercise in developed-world wealth destruction on an epic scale. Those insisting on such a state of affairs appear little short of anti-human luddites, as detractors of the green movement have long asserted. Bjørn Lomborg is spot on – any resources allocated towards the AGW issue should be directed towards researching crisis management and developing an appropriate disaster-relief capacity under the circumstances of rapid climate change, even if only as an insurance policy. And the absolute last thing we in the developed world should be doing is hampering the wealth-creating organs of our societies in a futile effort to cut CO2 emissions. If AGW is truly the looming catastrophe that many predict, we need to be as wealthy as possible to plan and make provisions for its impending consequences, and thus deal with them when they start to unfold.

A story that checks all the boxes

Whilst it is fun to laugh at the French, in the interest of fair and balanced commentary I should add that this civil servant would find numerous employment opportunities in any of the world’s government sectors.

Samizdata quote of the day

It was deplorable that the woman hostage should be shown smoking. This sends completely the wrong message to our young people.

– Patricia Hewitt denounces Iranian treatment of a member of the fifteen captured British navy personnel. Is there a more perfect illustration of the misplaced priorities of Blair’s Britain?

(Via Tim Blair, who notes “as always with such a blindingly stupid quote, be alert to the possibility it’s too stupid to be true.” Perhaps regular Hewitt-watchers would not see the need for such caution.)