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

I was speaking with a friend the other night, and I made the point that the meta-narrative of the 2016 election is learned helplessness as a political value.  We’re no longer a country that believes in human agency, and as a formerly poor person, I find it incredibly insulting.  To hear Trump or Clinton talk about the poor, one would draw the conclusion that they have no power to affect their own lives.  Things have been done to them, from bad trade deals to Chinese labor competition, and they need help.  And without that help, they’re doomed to lives of misery they didn’t choose.  

Rod Dreher . He is quoting JD Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture In Crisis

Theresa May, your taxi is waiting for you

Like most of my fellow Samizdata contributors, I imagine, I am watching the election results in the UK and the projections from exit polls suggesting that the Tories may not even have a working majority. And about 10 days or so before the full, formal negotiation process is due to start over the UK departure from the European Union.

It is a non-trivial possibility that Brexit may either not happen or at all, or take a form on such a humiliating basis that it is not really a departure from the EU at all.

As already noted, the idea that it was smart strategy for the Tories to pursue a centrist, pre-Thatcherite, interventionist agenda, was always dumb. Not least because to make a positive case, it was necessary to stress the pro-enterprise case for leaving the EU, rather than simply promising to introduce the very kind of dirigiste policies that the UK was supposed to be freeing itself from by leaving. Mrs May, does not have it in her to make a positive case.

It has come to this: a party led by Jeremy Corbyn, Marxist, hater of Israel, cheerleader for the IRA, Hamas, and a foe of open markets and the West in general could be close to holding power in a few days’ time. I seriously hope I am wrong. But whatever happens, I think it is highly probable that May may not be in Downing Street for very long.

Samizdata quote of the day

“The EU’s finances run the way they do because no one has a sense of ownership of the funds. It is always “someone else’s money” that is being abused.”

Lee Rotherham

Samizdata quote of the day

The main political insight of Thatcher and Reagan was that parties of the center-right must be parties of economic growth. Having wavered since, those parties now risk losing their way entirely. Some centrists will argue, quirks of this campaign notwithstanding, that Mrs. May shows how to win an election. The important question for conservatives to ask is: To what end?

Joseph C. Sternberg, Wall Street Journal (behind a paywall)

Samizdata quote of the day

One reason why so many people don’t take climate change seriously is that the people who are constantly telling us it’s a crisis never actually act like it’s a crisis. They’re all-in for sacrifices by other people, but never seem to make much in the way of sacrifices themselves.

Glenn Reynolds

Samizdata quote of the day

“Taxing wealth reverses the relationship between citizen and state: rather than it being in charge of protecting our life, liberty, and property, we now work for it. There are no more proud freeholders; citizens become meek leaseholders with the government in charge. Our property becomes a temporary privilege, to be used until accumulated taxes return to the ultimate owner, the state.”

Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph, 1 June. (Behind a paywall.)

Samizdata quote of the day

Inculcating guilt as a tool of power and control. This is a time-honored tactic of manipulative mothers, of many religions, and of political ideologies, like socialism, progressivism, and environmentalism. It works because self-respect is one of our most basic psychological needs: We all need to feel that we are basically good, right, valuable, worthy of esteem. So if you can make someone ashamed of themselves and defensively wallowing in remorse, you can get them to do pretty much anything you want, because they’ll be desperate to make amends and redeem their self-esteem. And you can also cash in on their guilt-driven quest for redemption, as they surrender to you their money and control over their lives.
Call it the Guilt Racket.

As written by Robert Bidinotto on his Facebook page.  He links to this item about the current nonsense around “white privilege” – another of those daffy ideas which seem designed to fill the pockets of shakedown artists of various types.

Taxing robots to pay for universal basic income – what could possibly go wrong?

When we hear the phrase “tax the robots,” it doesn’t sound the same as “tax the laundry machines,” or “tax the computers.” It sounds a lot more like the phrase “tax the rich.” This suggests that we tend to think of the robots as an actual class of persons. When we talk about taxing robots, it’s as though we humans can “get back” at the robots for taking our jobs. By taxing robots, we could take back the value they’ve taken from us. But wait a second. If we think of robots this way, it’s probably a sign we’ve been watching too much “Westworld.” Robots as we know them are inanimate objects. They are machines, like cars and computers.

The Federalist.

This reminds of the broader point, made for example by James Hannam, a tax expert in the UK, that “no matter what name is on the bill, all taxes are ultimately suffered by human beings” (What Everyone Needs To Know About Tax.)

Far too many people seem to be in denial about this basic fact. Tax a robot, and the robot’s owner gets taxed. A robot in that sense is no different from an electric toaster or dishwasher; these are tools made by Man for his use. Until we reach that moment when robots become truly autonomous (and have to pay taxes and perform jury service, etc), this fact is not going to change.

Maybe Bill Gates got swayed by the idea that because robots are displacing human labour in some senses, and this creates a problem, it can be solved by taxing said robots and use the proceeds to give everyone a sort of Universal Basic Income. The idea of a UBI has been embraced even by those who think of themselves as libertarians/classical liberals, on the grounds that in some ways this might weaken resistance to some of the good things that come with disruptive change in commerce and finance. I have a number of problems, however, with UBI, not least its likely devastating impact on any sort of work ethic and a divorce between notions of cultivating a certain character and earning some form of income. At the end of September I am giving a talk on this matter at the end-of-month events that Brian Micklethwait has been putting on. I will update my thoughts on UBI a bit later. For the time being, check this out by Bryan Caplan at Econlog.

Samizdata data point of the day

I am not sure this works as a quote of the day, but it certainly does count as a data point so eye-popping that I wanted to share it:

Forty-three hundred people, including two dozen children under the age of 12, were shot in Chicago last year.

That’s right: 4,300 people shot in a major US city during a period of 12 months.

Reasons for leaving the EU and some random thoughts on Theresa May’s brand of conservatism

A report presented to the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets gave an inclination of how the EU intends to spend European taxpayers’ money in 2018 and 2019. Among the planned expenditures is a stunning €6.18 million (£5.3 million) for furniture. One can only speculate as to what sort of furniture would cost the EU so much over the course of a single year. Even this sum, however, is dwarfed by the amount the EU intends to spend on a communications campaign which they claim will “explain the purpose of the [European] Union and the [European] Parliament to the citizens’ ahead of European Parliament elections in 2019”. So that’s €33.3 million (£28.6 million) on an EU PR campaign. In total, it will be €25 million (£21.5 million) next year, and another €8.33 million (£7.1 million) in May 2019, all aimed at boosting the European project through these elections.

CapX.

Of course, countries that aren’t members of transnational (“tranzi”) organisations are just as capable of blowing millions or more of their citizens’ wealth on such foolishness, but it does seem that with tranzi organisations, there is a greater momentum for this nonsense, because the chains of accountability involved tend to be weaker. And never forget good old-fashioned empire building: the EU, as I like to remind my Remainer friends, is at root a political project and that those who consider it to be a Good Things don’t scruple that hard about what is needed to spread The Word. I have, in my capacity as a journalist down the years, been to my fair share of EU gabfests, and I have always been struck by just how many media “aides” and so on there are in attendance. I recently went to Malta for such an event, and there were enough EU officials running the thing to make up three football teams. This is where the money goes. Just because someone as florid as Nigel Farage denounces EU waste and spending doesn’t make his comments any less true. And getting away from this circus, it seems to me, is a prize worth taking.

Right now people are debating the pros and cons of what Britain is doing. Britain does, I hope, have a chance to use its departure from the EU as an opportunity not just to break free from EU cost and regulatory nonsense, but to consign plenty of homegrown foolishness to the garbage can. And it is therefore all the more depressing that an authortarian centrist such as UK Prime Minister Theresa May seems determined to march the country down into a dirigiste dead end, if only for reasons of narrow party advantage, although there is a chilling thought that this fan of Joe Chamberlain, god help us, actually means it.

Samizdata quote of the day

Labour always goes missing during a depression. They did it in the 1930s, the 1980s and they’re doing it now. A cynic might argue that that is because during a depression there’s nothing more to steal.

Patrick Crozier, one of our own regular contributors.

Samizdata quote of the day

Pickup basketball is a beautiful example of the spontaneous, emergent order that arises from voluntary interaction predicated on classical liberal principles of dignity, respect for the individual, and voluntary cooperation. Every individual who has ever played pickup basketball can enumerate the rules for forming a team, playing, and interacting regardless of location, age or ethnicity- African Americans in the poorest sections of Harlem play by the same pickup rules as do those on the playgrounds of the whitest, richest suburbs in America.

Trey Goff