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]

Nelson’s final moments, as told through a PC filter

Via Lindsay Perigo, a New Zealand-based writer, former radio current affairs fellow, and general stirrer. As he says, if you are not offended by all of this, something isn’t working.

Enjoy.

 

The Story of Admiral Nelson, Updated

Nelson: Order the signal, Hardy.

Hardy: Aye, aye, Sir.

Nelson: Hold on, this isn’t what I dictated to Flags. What’s the meaning of this?

Hardy: Sorry Sir?

Nelson (reading aloud): “England expects every person to do his or her duty regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion or disability”? What gobbledygook is this, for God’s sake?

Hardy: Admiralty policy I’m afraid, Sir. We’re an Equal Opportunity Employer now. We had the devil’s own job getting ‘England’ past the censors lest it be considered racist. Strictly speaking, I shouldn’t be calling you “Sir,” Sir, but rather, “Person of Consensus-Based Enhanced Authority.”

Nelson: Gadzooks, Hardy! Hand me my pipe and tobacco.

Hardy: Sorry Sir, all naval vessels have now been designated smoke-free working environments.

Nelson: In that case, break open the rum ration. Let us splice the mainbrace to steel the men before battle.

Hardy: The rum ration has been abolished Admiral. It’s part of the Government’s policy against excessive enjoyment.

Nelson: Good heavens Hardy! I suppose we’d better get on with it, then. Full speed ahead.

Hardy: I think you’ll find that there’s a 4 knot speed limit in this stretch of water.

Nelson: Damn it man, we are on the eve of the greatest sea battle in history; we must advance with all dispatch. Report from the crow’s nest, please.

Hardy: That won’t be possible Sir. Health and Safety have closed the crow’s nest. No harness, and they said that rope ladders don’t meet regulations. They won’t let anyone up there until proper scaffolding can be erected.

Nelson: Then get me the ship’s carpenter without delay, Hardy.

Hardy: He’s busy knocking up a wheelchair access to the foredeck, Admiral. Health and Safety again, Sir—we have to provide a barrier-free environment for the differently-abled, wheelchair-mobile.

Nelson: Differently abled? I’ve only one arm and one eye and I refuse even to hear mention of the words. I didn’t rise to the rank of Admiral by playing the disability card.

Hardy: Actually, Sir, you did. The Royal Navy is under-represented in the areas of the differently-sighted and the differently-limbed.

Nelson: Whatever next?! Give me full sail. The salt spray beckons.

Hardy: A couple of problems there too, Sir. Health and Safety won’t let the crew up the rigging without hard hats. They don’t want anyone breathing in too much salt either. Apart from the racism inherent in its whiteness, it’s full of sodium. Haven’t you seen the Ministry of Health adverts?

Nelson: I’ve never heard such rubbish. Well, break out the cannon and tell the men to stand by to engage the enemy.

Hardy: The men are a bit worried about shooting at anyone, Admiral.

Nelson: What?! This is mutiny!

Hardy: It’s not that, Sir, it’s just that they’re afraid of being charged with murder if they actually kill anyone. There are a couple of Legal Aid lawyers on board, watching everyone like hawks.

Nelson: Then how are we to sink the Frogs and the Spanish?

Hardy: That’s “residents of France and Spain,” Sir. And actually Sir, we’re not.

Nelson: We’re not?!

Hardy: No Sir, the residents of France and Spain are our European partners now. According to the Common Fisheries Policy, we shouldn’t even be in this stretch of water. We could get hit with a claim for compensation.

Nelson: But you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil.

Hardy: I wouldn’t let the ship’s Diversity Coordinator hear you saying that, Sir—you’ll be up on Disciplinary Report for Hate Speech.

Nelson: You must consider every man an enemy who speaks ill of your King. That’s a matter of black and white.

Hardy: That’s “monarch-person,” Sir. And your point is controversial and problematic, Sir. Apart from “black and white” being offensive to people of colour, we must be inclusive in this multicultural age. Now, put on your Kevlar vest. It’s the rule. It could save your life.

Nelson: Don’t tell me, Health, Safety and Disability. Whatever happened to Rum, Sodomy and the Lash?!

Hardy: As I explained sir, rum is off the menu and there’s a ban on corporal punishment.

Nelson: What about sodomy?

Hardy: Good news there, Sir—sodomy is now compulsory.

Nelson: In that case … kiss me, Hardy.

Do UK universities harm foreign countries?

So farewell, Yanis Varoufakis. You used to be Greece’s finance minister. Then you resigned, or were you sacked? You took control of the Greek economy six months ago when it was growing. Yes, honestly! Growth last year ran at 0.8 per cent, with forecasts of 3 per cent this year. The government had a primary budget surplus. Unemployment was falling. Until you came along.

Varoufakis was a product of British universities. He read economics at Essex and mathematical statistics at Birmingham, returning to Essex to do a PhD in economics. With the benefit of his British university education he returned to Greece and, during his short time in office, obliterated the nascent recovery. The economy is now expected to contract by 4 per cent this year — an amazing transformation. Greece’s debt burden has increased by tens of billions and many people have emigrated.

But Varoufakis is not alone. Plenty of other visitors to our universities have been influenced by the teaching here and returned to their countries to wreak havoc.

James Bartholomew, on the malign effect, as he sees it, of UK education. My problem with this article is that it is inevitably selective and I wonder, for example, what would happen if you randomly selected a group of postgraduates from UK universities, now living abroad in countries such as India or Singapore, and polled them on their economic and political views. It seems from entirely anecdotal experience that most graduates, especially in the liberal arts, tilt left; I am not sure about the leanings in economics today – although I get the impression that the ideas of Milton Friedman, Hayek, von Mises et al are still seen as quite “extreme”. But there have, for example, been pro-market lecturers at places such as the London School of Economics, for all its socialist origins: Lionel Robbins and FA Hayek, to take two examples. Arthur Seldon, one of the original men at the pro-market Institute of Economic Affairs – an enormously influential think tank in its time – was educated at the LSE, and I know quite a few LSE alumni who are pro-market.

So yes, during certain periods of UK history when socialism/collectivism was fashionable, the folk who came out of university often carried terrible ideas with them. Today, though, I think the problem is more about culture and philosophy. Post-modernism still exerts a big influence, for example, and the damage wrought is not always as easy to chart as with economics.

Of course, these points lead us back to that thorny subject of the PPE (politics, economics and philosophy) degrees which several UK politicians possess.  The PPE is very much an exam crafted to give a sort of rounded set of subjects that an administrator/political leader was expected to understand, and I have no firm views about this sort of degree – there is no reason why having one cannot be a very thorough form of degree at all. But studying a subject does not seem to correlate a lot to understanding – the current UK government is led by a man with a PPE and it wants to push up the UK national minimum wage, a form of economic illiteracy, if supposed political cunning.

Thoughts on Singapore

Singapore is the only place I know where you can meet someone who has an economics degree from Stanford, and have her tell you that she has a liberal arts background.

Marginal Revolution

I have been to Singapore several times, and love the place.

A “popular capitalism” blog defends state regulation of pay – eh?

“A good economist is one who can understand both the “seen” and the “unseen” consequences of policy. It is the proponents of this policy who are ignoring the complexities of the issue. `Britain deserves a pay rise, let’s give it one’ is hardly the height of sophistication when it comes to economic and political analysis.”

Philip Booth, who was unimpressed by how Iain Martin, of the “popular capitalist” blog CapX, wrote in defence of George Osborne’s atrociously-conceived “living wage” idea.

When you have a writer of an allegedly pro-free market blog such as Martin arguing for state fiat control of wage levels, and who belittles those who argue against such things as ideological nit-pickers, there is a problem. What also gets me is that this foolish idea was introduced by a government that does not need to pander to leftist economic illiteracy. The Tories don’t even have the feeble excuse of having to placate coalition partners after having won power outright in May.

There may be some good features of Osborne’s recent Budget (the upward rise in inheritance tax thresholds was welcome, although the system remains unnecessarily complicated) but there is far too much political gamesmanship from Osborne for anyone who supports free markets to take him all that seriously as a friend of capitalism and freedom. If or when the costs of a far higher statutory minimum wage start to really hit small and medium-sized firms – as they will – will he have the balls to admit this has been a foolish mistake? I am not betting on it – he’ll probably have moved on by then.

 

Samizdata quote of the day

A notionally free-market party is endorsing a policy which will see a fifth of the wage distribution’s hourly rates determined by a government QUANGO – targeting not a basic wage floor to alleviate exploitation, but a measure of inequality.

Ryan Bourne.

The key word in that sentence is “notionally”.

Looking back in anger and bemusement

William Hague got a terrible press at the time of his leadership of the Tory Party (no hair, Northern accent, etc etc). So he can be forgiven for a tinge of bitterness as he looks back and recalls his laser-accurate predictions in the 1990s over the follies of single, monopoly currencies such as the euro:

In future decades, in the very business school where I spoke in 1998, I believe students will sit down to study the folly of extending a single currency too far. Sad though it will be to see it, their textbook is likely to say that the Greek debacle of 2015 was not the end of the euro crisis, but its real beginning.

Meanwhile, China’s A-shares (mainland) equity market is tanking. It is arguably far more of a serious issue for the global economy than Greece, but you would not believe that judging by the brokerage notes I get at the moment.

 

Do people really think about these issues when asking someone out for a date?

I came across this “Trigger Warning” blog and the whole article is a jaw-dropper in terms of how it describes a world utterly alien to me:

“When someone asks you out on a date, they are basically saying that they think your standards are low enough to voluntarily go out with them. If the asker clearly has high dating market value himself, his advances don’t indicate that he thinks you have a low dating market value. But if you get asked out on a date by someone with a low social status, and other people find out, then others might reasonably downgrade their estimate of your dating market value, especially if the person doing the asking is a shy, cautious nerd.”

FFS. When I asked out my now-wife 12 years ago after our initial encounter in the heart of London, I don’t recall thinking about this sort of stuff or worrying about “low dating market value” or somesuch.

But perhaps I am the one at fault here. After all, Jane Austen wrote about “dating market value” in her own way through her early 19th Century novels, if you think about it.

(Yes, dear readers – I haven’t posted a lot lately due to pressures of work, etc. But I intend to fix that soon with an item on the offshore world and how it is changing. Watch this space. It stems from a talk I recently gave at one of Brian Micklethwait’s end-of-month events.)

Samizdata quote of the day

“With regard to the idea of whether or not you have a right to healthcare, you have to realize what that implies….I’m a physician, that means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me, it means you believe in slavery. It means you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the assistants, the nurses…There’s an implied threat of force, do you have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away, and force me to take care of you? That’s is ultimately what the right to free healthcare would be.”

Rand Paul.

I came across this quotation via Facebook, which in turn had been posted up by someone on a sort of “celebrity” website. The person who put up the posting in the first place is clearly traumatised at the statement of principle by Rand Paul about the bogus “right” to healthcare. RP is to be congratulated for spelling out in the clearest fashion what is wrong with notions of claim rights where what is involved is not the classical (correct) notion of a right to be left alone, but the contrary attitude about a “right” to demand that others give you something even if those others haven’t taken it away in the first place.

This sort of confusion, famously skewered many years ago by Isiah Berlin in his essay about two concepts of liberty, still persists. I often find Rand Paul’s sort of argument particularly powerful when putting the problem with such “rights” in human terms.

Samizdata quote of the day

If we wanted to be “together” in the ways Obama envisions, then no force would be necessary. If public schools were any good, people would not flock to private education the minute they could afford it (and sometimes even when they can’t.) The same with other government-mandated activities or programs. People would voluntarily, en masse, “invest” and “come together” and do all the other things that Obama, and other progressive statists like him, believe we should do.

Michael Hurd

It seems that in the final year or so of his dreadful presidency, Obama is becoming ever blunter in his public pronouncements, disparaging business and America’s individualism. It reminds me a bit of that scene in the Fountainhead where Elsworth Toohey, the arch-villain, confesses to his powerlust.

Remember: the world’s most powerful country voted for this shit – twice, and by handy margins.

Another fragment from today’s UK election result

On the glorious denouement of Russell Brand and “celeb” politics:

Hilariously, the very same people who accuse the Murdoch papers of brainwashing their readers into voting for the Tories – such undiluted snobbery – believed that a celeb with a webcam and a lively Twitter presence could simply click his fingers and get the hordes voting Labour. But he couldn’t. And it isn’t hard to see why. It’s because people aren’t idiots. They want substance, seriousness, not finger-wagging gags about EVIL TORIES and instructions to ‘save Britain’ by giving the nod to Ed.

Brendan O’Neill.

A contrarian take on the “UK housing crisis” that says there isn’t a crisis at all

We need to continue to build more houses.  And it is likely that, with accelerating population growth, the rate of new house-building in the future in the UK will need to be more rapid than it was in the recent past.  But we do not have a housing shortage in England as a whole or in any region of England.  High house prices are not because we have run out of houses.  It’s perfectly understandable, given the data at the time, that people believed that in 2000.  It’s simply refusing to look at the data if people continue to believe that now.

Andrew Lilico.

He is going to annoy a lot of people with this article because it cuts so much against the narrative. And he’s going to make people go nuts because of the battery of data he provides to prove his point. There isn’t enough of this sort of analysis today: methodical, comprehensive, non-hysterical. I was recently watching one of those Sunday lunchtime TV programmes about politics, pitting some leftist lady complaining about a lack of “affordable housing” and all those evil rich foreigners buying the good stuff, and a Conservative London senior councillor – who was actually pretty good compared with many of them – pointing out that foreigners only own about 7 per cent of all London’s housing stock and that they were hardly to blame for any problem. (He is correct). But the overall thrust of the programme was depressing: a total failure to even consider that the planning system in the UK restricts supply, and hence lifts prices, and that a decade or more of central bank money creation has encouraged people to think of their homes as investments rather than the most important consumption item they are ever likely to spend money on. And it is also a sign of how tawdry this election is that we see anti-foreigner sentiment on both ends of the spectrum, with socialists resorting to bashing wealthy foreigners who “dodge taxes” and the Ukippers making our flesh creep about hordes of Romanians.

The strange durability of really, really crap ideas

The story of rent controls has been the same everywhere they have been tried. Until they were abandoned, rent controls in Seventies Britain led to a catastrophic fall in the number of rented properties available, and they did nothing to stop unscrupulous Rachmanite landlords. Rent controls accelerated the woeful degradation of much of New York’s housing stock, and in so far as there has been a boom in New York property, it has taken place in housing not subject to rent controls.The Swedish economist Assar Lindbeck has said that rent control is “the most effective technique presently known to destroy a city – except for bombing”; and the reason he has come to that conclusion is that experience has shown that it is an idiotic way to tackle the problem of high rents.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, and newspaper columnist.

I should add that one of the things I notice about Ed Miliband, the Labour leader – and many others who share Miliband’s views – is not so much ignorance of economics, as hostility to the idea that humans act as they do. The assumption seems to be that to bring about desirable objective X, one should pass a law to ensure X happens, and if it doesn’t, then evil intent has caused it. So, if you want to raise pay, you pass a minimum wage law decreeing that employers must pay staff so much money; if you want to hold down the cost of rentals, you pass a law banning landlords from pushing up rents above that level, and so on. And the fact that landlords and employees might alter their behaviour as a result or that unemployment and crap rental housing might ensue is the fault of evil people, not the forseeable result of interfering in the market. And on housing prices, as Boris mentions, the main problem is that supply in the UK is artificially suppressed by planning laws. (It should be noted that people of all political persuasions favour these, either for aesthetic or more narrowly self interested reasons.) But to admit that is, for the Miliband mindset, unthinkable: the State cannot have caused a shortage of something, surely! It must be because bad, uncaring people have somehow failed to provide enough housing!

To put it even more simply, with the Milibands of this world, we are dealing with the mentality of a child. Now, I don’t care whether Miliband looks or sounds odd, or is a tosser who knifed his brother in the back, so to speak, although I suppose these things do matter. What, at root, terrifies me about the idea of this fuckwit taking power is that he is a fuckwit, and alas, insufficiently self aware of his fuckwittery and inability to deal with reality. Or perhaps another way of seeing this is that he is an example of a mindset that goes back to JJ Rousseau and further back: the idea that what matters is that one is sincere, one cares, rather than reflect on the actual results of what one does.