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

“People who believe in nothing, including themselves, will ultimately submit to anything.”

Bret Stephens, in the Wall Street Journal.

Samizdata quote of the day

A major power centre has been challenged and almost by definition power centres have some control over the public narrative. For decades EU apologists have wielded their immense budget and nomination powers to promote people with the “right” attitude and projects with the “right” purpose. Simultaneously a highly skewed PR narrative has been dished out so incessantly (complimentary of unaware taxpayers) that numerous voters now confuse this narrative with the truth. This is why so many EU apologists genuinely seem to perceive the EU as a force for everything worthwhile, and every EU-critic as either dumb, a xenophobic throwback or misled by the PR-narrative of the other side.

Mark Brolin

It is such a shame, though, that the term “metropolitan liberal” is used here. I like to think I am a liberal in the John Locke/Ludwig von Mises use of that fine word, and also glory in living in the greatest metropolis on earth – London. It is one of those terms that is in danger of becoming hackneyed. Stop it.

Samizdata quote of the day

Comparisons have been made between the popular uprisings on both sides of the Atlantic — some of them lazy. Boris Johnson, the UK foreign secretary and leading Leave campaigner, and Mr Trump may have shaken up their respective establishments, but blond hair is one of the few things they have in common. Brexit and Trumpism are not one and the same.

Sebastian Payne

Working behind a bar more dangerous than being a cop in the US

Via the Marginal Revolution blog, which has lots of useful and eye-catching facts, as well as more high-minded economics stuff, is this bar-chart from “Ninja Economics” showing that, according to presumably US figures, working behind a bar carries more risk of death than being a police officer.

The most dangerous occupation is that of a logger, followed by a fisher and then pilot/flight engineer.

Many of the jobs involve working outdoors with heavy machinery, in areas such as mining, or in occupations such as roofing, maintenance, agriculture and ranching. Somehow, I don’t think the “snowflake” generation is interested, but those who are interested in Mike Rowe’s “dirty jobs” might be.

The Edward Cline eviction

This story suggests that there are some truly spineless people out there. A blogger and author, Ed Cline, has been ejected by his landlord because he isn’t particularly nice about Islam:

Readers will note that there is a new feature on this site, a PayPal button at the top or bottom of a new post, which anyone may use if he wishes to donate to my PayPal account to defray the costs incurred from my being evicted from my apartment of seven years because the landlady deemed me a mortal risk to her other tenants. Not because I was a physical menace to my neighbors, but because of what I wrote about Islam and Muslims. None of it flattering and none of it disinterested.

The situation, inaugurated when the FBI/NCIS paid me a visit on May 18th to inform me that my Rule of Reason site was on the radar of ISIS and other Islamic terrorist organizations, but that I was in no imminent danger. Thousands of Americans have been “targeted” by ISIS activists, or by wannabe terrorists. Their landlords or bankers have not told them to get lost. It is hard to ken the mentality of a person who would pretend that evicting me – an unprecedented event in my life – would somehow magically ward off any murderous Islamic mischief from her other tenants. I was instantly relegated to the status of a post WWII displaced person. I am currently “living out of a suitcase.” It has been a very stressful and costly experience for me. Not even several stories about the sheer irrationality of her actions have swayed the person I have not so fondly nicknamed, “The Bitch of Buchenwald.” As Daniel Greenfield noted in his article, the landlady acted, for all intents and purposes, as an agent of ISIS. There are scores, even thousands of her ilk in our federal, state, and local governments. Obsessed with not rocking the Islamic boat, though that boat has rocked with increasing frequency with hundreds of lives lost just in the West.
It is not my purpose here to say whether the landlord in question had a right to act in the way described (the landlord has not been quoted, so there may be other matters here, and it is only fair to make that point). It may well be that landlords in some cases state, in a rental agreement, that persons whose conduct might cause problems for neighbours etc can be evicted, although a lot depends on whether such “problems” are clearly defined, or not. For all I know, some rental agreements and rules in various places such as gated communities can be very tough. (I’d appreciate comments on that.) There may be a lot of expensive litigation and it sounds as if Mr Cline doesn’t have a lot of money. (People can help him out via Paypal.) A broader point, however, is that a man who hasn’t, as far as I know, committed a criminal offence is being turfed out of a rented flat because he is deemed a risk because of what he has written about Islam.
So in today’s West, and certainly Obama’s America, many authorities are determined to do what they can to play down the factor of Islamic totalitarianism as a key driver of violence and mayhem. But if a middle-aged man writes about this, or expresses bracing views on such matters, he can be thrown out of a home.
I can’t stand the man, but when you add up stories such as this, is there really any surprise that Donald Trump might be in the White House next January?

Samizdata quote of the day

This paper explores racial differences in police use of force. On non-lethal uses of force, blacks and Hispanics are more than fifty percent more likely to experience some form of force in interactions with police. Adding controls that account for important context and civilian behavior reduces, but cannot fully explain, these disparities. On the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account. We argue that the patterns in the data are consistent with a model in which police officers are utility maximizers, a fraction of which have a preference for discrimination, who incur relatively high expected costs of officer-involved shootings.

Roland G. Fryer, Jr

The National Bureau of Economic Research.

H/T, Commentary. 

Samizdata quote of the day

The desperate need of left-wing journalists to see Obama as “pure” and “most successful” — to see him as they’ve reported him instead of how he is — is in part a result of the racial pathology of the left, its tendency to reduce people to their victim group. The notion that “the first black president” has been a failure would be, according to this way of thinking, a nasty slight against a race rather than, what it is, an indictment of bad ideas and their consequences.

Andrew Klavan

Identity politics is, in my view, one of the great, if not the greatest, scourges of the age. It isn’t an exclusively left-wing phenomenon, either.

Samizdata quote of the day

Here’s a newsflash for Marvel: race-baiters and gender warriors who complain endlessly about the “lack of diversity” in comic books don’t buy comic books. They’re interested in identity politics, not fun. When your customers — lifelong comic fans — pick up the latest issue to find a smorgasbord of irrelevant, hectoring social and pop culture commentary, they probably won’t buy the next issue. Not because they’re sexists and racists, but because the stuff you are publishing sucks.

Charlie Nash at Breitbart.

PS. I haven’t yet seen the latest Captain America film but it is on the list of ones I do want to see. Any recommendations?

France hasn’t always got the memo about being a team player

One of the arguments I occasionally hear is that the European Union has been an important force for peace in Europe following the Second World War and that further, the weakening of the EU as a result of UK departure will embolden enemies of Western Europe, such as Putin. However, here’s a thing: it was arguably the decisive defeat of Nazi Germany, and the determination of the NATO powers, led by the US, to contain the Soviet Union and combat forms of anti-West subversion, that was more important in keeping the peace. The EU was in my view part of the overall architecture of what the Western powers put together, but whether it was decisive is unproven at best.

And the the various missteps of the EU after the Berlin Wall came down have seriously reduced rather than increased the EU’s status as a stabilising, pro-peace, force. The greatest misstep of all was launching a single, fiat currency without full, democratically accountable political union. (I would not have objected to a common, hard-money system for those who wanted it, but that was never the aim of the European Union’s most ardent federalists.)

I can understand why leaders such as Margaret Thatcher (until the late 80s) regarded membership of the EU as one of those dues that had to be paid to keep the West together and why she fretted that it was becoming more of a problem towards the end of her time in office.

It should not be forgotten that during the 60s, under the Presidency of Charles De Gaulle, France withdrew itself from the command structure and active operations of NATO. Leave aside the reasoning behind it: you have a large, relatively strong Western European country leaving one of the main transnational groupings of the post-war era, a couple of decades before the Berlin Wall came down and before the end of Communism. But I hardly ever hear France getting heat for this. Maybe I read the wrong journals and websites.

It is worth remembering this episode if one ever hears a French commentator or politician bashing the UK for somehow “weakening the West” for getting out of an organisation that it did not like. Because France did leave an important group, but the sky did not in the end fall in.

Reflections on free trade

With the Brexit vote of last week continuing to send shockwaves through the corridors of power (does that mean those corridors are vibrating, door handles jiggling and lights flickering?), one argument I have seen break out is of how the UK will, without being in the mighty, efficient and effective mechanism of the EU, be able to work out a deal. (If you are detecting a touch of sarcasm, you are correct.) For example, on a social media exchange, a person earnestly exclaimed that the UK can’t possibly arrange a free trade agreement (FTA) with India because the Indians just won’t, just won’t agree on one with us, because, well, they won’t. A stock argument goes that if the UK leaves the EU, then depending on whether it does or does not retain Single Market access, like Switzerland, other countries will be reluctant to trade with the UK. Why? Because the only reason, it is said, that people want to engage with the UK is because it gives access to the rest of the EU. The UK is, on this argument, nothing more than a conduit, an entrepôt, for Europe. The fact that another country might want to deal with the world’s fifth-largest economy on its own right is scarcely entertained.

Funnily enough, last year I recall reporting on how Australia, which for some crazy nationalist reason isn’t in the EU, signed a trade deal with China, which much to its shame, isn’t in the EU either. China is the world’s second-largest economy; Australia is some way down the order but still relatively significant. These two nations signed a deal. It was done without all the structures of a transnational organisation. This is an event that, for quite a lot of people, is unthinkable, like a decent summer in England.

Another option for the UK is to simply declare unilateral free trade, rather than wait for some grand negotiation with the EU over access. There is a consideration of this approach at Econlog here:

But if the new British prime minister want to puzzle and indeed shock its European counterparts, this may well be the best option. Go ahead and zero tariffs on imports coming from the EU. It might well be one of those very few choices that could prove to be economically beneficially in the long run, not least because it will minimize the problem of capture by special interest groups when it comes to trade policy. But it may prove to be expedient from a political perspective too. As the government should run through the Houses its proposed “interpretation” of the vote (which was, after all, a consultative referendum), open support for free trade may help, in the short run, to restore peace and harmony among the Tories. On top of this, it might give the UK a strong card in negotiations with the EU, making retaliatory attempts hard to “sell” to the public.

And here is Tim Worstall on the same subject:

The entire point of trade is that we can get our hands on what they make: so why would we ever want to have anything other than unilateral free trade? Why would we impose tariffs on the very things we want and make them more expensive for ourselves?

Sure, other people might impose tariffs on our exports. But that means that they are making themselves poorer by not having tax free access to the lovely things that we can make cheaper or better than they can. As Joan Robinson was fond of pointing out, tariffs are like throwing rocks in the harbour to make imports more difficult. And just because you are throwing rocks in your harbour there’s no reason I should throw rocks in my own. To do so just makes me worse off and why should I do that?

As I have said recently, one of the excellent consequences of Brexit is that it rends apart many of the lazy assumptions that give rise to transnational organisations, as well as the assumptions of the sort of people who prosper in working for them. It makes us think again about what sort of rules and regulations, if any, are needed so that human beings can trade. And those of a classical liberal disposition need to take the lead in pointing out that ultimately, countries don’t trade, individuals do. Any attempt to interfere with such transactions is ultimately about Person A being prevented from transacting with Person B on terms to their liking.

Maybe it is also time to dust of the speeches and writings of Richard Cobden.


Brexit and class

Brendan O’Neill, the editor of the publication Spiked, and who is an ardent Leaver when it comes to the European Union, has been writing about how the exit vote last week can be largely explained in terms of class and attitudes of elites. (O’Neill is, or is recovering from being, a Marxist, so his economics still seems a bit suspect to me, even though I like the cut of his jib generally, especially on other issues around liberty and government).

I think the class analysis has some validity; it is worth noting that there is more to class-based interpretations of what is going on than the Marxian version. There are, in the classical liberal/conservative traditions of political philosophy and approach, uses of class as a way of seeing how the world works. One person’s essay that I am reminded of is the famous one by William Graham Sumner, The Forgotten Man. Or perhaps a riff on the same tune is Nixon’s “great silent majority”. These approaches aren’t really about proletarians versus “bosses”. They are, in my view, more about those who are broadly self-reliant, deriving the bulk of their earnings from their own efforts and who aspire to have, and retain, capital, and those who do not. The latter can be those who subsist on state benefits, or grander folk working in the public sector paid for largely by the first group. (There are fuzzy boundaries between all types.) And I think that sort of split maps better in explaining whether you are going to be liberal or protectionist, for a big State or a smaller one. But it doesn’t necessarily help on explaining all the voting on the Brexit debate. I wrote this in response to one of O’Neill’s posts on Facebook, and I reproduce it here with some light edits:

I am not sure how far the class-based analysis can be made to work in terms of having a causal effect (remember that old warning about correlation and causation). Whether used in a Marxian or other sense, class can explain some of the differences, but some of the arguments cut across. I am middle class, working in the media covering private banking and wealth management around the world. My job takes me to the continent a lot, as well as Asia, the US, and Middle East. Some of the people I work with are from continental Europe. I am relaxed – mostly – about free movement of labour. I went to a good state school, went into higher ed. in the 1980s, my late mother was posh, my old man was a grammar schoolboy who later became a farmer and is comfortably off. I like classical music, fine art, French wine and sailing. So from a lot of points of view I am “middle class”. And I voted Leave. To some extent I “voted my wallet”, not, as might be the case with someone from the old industrial north, because I was worried about “cheap labour”, or had some notion that this will “save the NHS” or suchlike, but because I want the UK to have the freedom to negotiate new economic links outside the EU to hedge this country’s economy against the weakness, and possible crisis, in the eurozone. I am on the free market, libertarian end of the political and philosophical spectrum. I therefore loathe the unaccountable, nanny tendencies of the EU, and think my values will flourish if we leave.


The risks we run

In all the talk and words about the UK Brexit vote last Thursday, a regular line is that the Leave side has been “misled”, and doesn’t know what it is doing, and it is going to have buyer’s remorse, etc, etc. Who knows, maybe that criticism is apt. However, it is a bit rich for those who, for example, favoured the creation of the European single currency, as many pro-Remainers did (they might hope we’d forget) to claim that those who wish to leave an entity with pretensions to be a superstate are not thinking of the risks. That is a bit rich.

The launch of the single currency is arguably one of the riskiest, most hubristic transnational projects of recent decades, and I still see very little sign of contrition for rolling out a new form of fiat money without creating the economic and political architecture to deal with life inside a one-size-fits-all interest rate.

One reason why remaining EU states are scared of what has happened is the fear that a eurozone member state, envious of how the UK has just voted, might have similar ideas.