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]

David Brooks has an interesting take on the Don Imus affair

I do not have a link, but David Brooks was speaking on Meet the Press this morning about the Don Imus affair in the USA.

He says shock-jock popularity is not about racism. It is about cruelty. Institutionalized culturally based cruelty. Indiscriminate cruelty for its own sake.

On hearing the case (allegedly put forth by Snoop Dog in defense of his own misogynistic lyrics) that these particular women, the basketball players should not have been spoken about that way, Brooks said with sad derision, “We can only step on the down trodden.”

Brooks also points out that Imus was very heavily watched and listened to by the power elite. After an appearance on Imus’ show he, Brooks, received a remarkable amount of feedback from the power elite that make made up a disproportionate part of Imus’ audience. So now I ask, what does this say about the souls of those who demand the power and authority to be our masters? What does it mean that the powerful should be so enamoured of deliberate and systematic cruelty that they listen to it for entertainment? Somehow, I am not as surprised as I would like to be.

I think this path to cruelty is one that has been travelled farther in the UK than here, but we appear to be following closely behind you. My personal opinion is that cruelty is a/the clear marker for both the decadence and impotence of a society. Celebrated cruelty is the symptom of a society that has reoriented from protecting its weakest members to baiting them for entertainment. It is historically clear that cruelty, a cultural coldness in the extremities of society, is one of the final signs of its imminent death.

On a positive note, watching this exposure of the internal tensions in the power cabal has provided some interesting moments. For me, the most interesting of all was hearing the market place being praised from the left for having removed Imus from the air (referring to the actions of sponsors). I will take all such statements/concessions as a sign of our strength.

The most important day in US history

225 years ago today Parliament voted a resolution to end the war and grant the colonies independence. A month later Lord North faced a vote of no confidence and stepped down.

It seems to me any old place can declare independence, it is when your would-be rulers accept it that matters.

Global free traders have some explaining to do

Five consecutive years of record trade deficits. There are very few rationalizations for supporting unilateral global free trade, but in the spirit of David Letterman, here’s my top ten.

Starting with:
10 We need to prove how bad our laws are. If it destroys every small business in the land, then we’ll do it.
9 Hey, I’m getting cheap clothing, cookware, luggage … Why should anything change?
8 We’ve got a war to pay for. The economy can wait.
7 It’s about the time the US got their nails clipped.
6 Give it time, things are only getting better.
5 Trade deficits are meaningless. It’s only paper.
4 Well, it’s going to crash sooner or later. Let’s ride the tiger as long as we can.
3 Don’t you see? It’s dollars! We can print them!
2 These (lending) countries won’t let us fail. Who would they sell to?

And, the number one rationalization of unilateral free trade, drum roll please:
Consequences nonsequences! I have good intentions!

Seriously, → Continue reading: Global free traders have some explaining to do

China labor law changes

A law firm I use sends out a regular newsletter to their business clients. This arrived in my mailbox some time back. At first I just read it and thought ‘interesting’. But reading it again, I think it may be of interest to some Samizdatistas.

Sections 1 and 2 seem reasonable enough. Section 3 is iffy. But, starting with section 4, some things definitely look like, if actually enforced, they will have a substantial effect on business in China and its overall economic trends. Things like this are what may provide concern for China’s continued economic growth:

Company Rules

Current Law – With no guidance or requirements in the current law, employers often draft their own employee handbooks, manuals and work rules. Enforcement is very similar to that in the United States, with fairness and degree of conduct weighed.

Draft Law – Essentially, every employer policy, rule and procedure that governs its employees must be discussed and approved by the union or employee representative. Rules unilaterally imposed by the employer will be void. The term “employee representative” is new and remains undefined in the draft law. There are also unique challenges for employers posed by this new provision. This provision fails to recognize the fluid nature of employer policies and rules. As stated, every change must be approved by the trade union or employee representative, which will inevitably lead to delay in timely implementation. And, despite the trade union’s power to effect employee policies and rules, an employer is ultimately on the hook for what is implemented. Finally, it is worth noting that this provision does not contain any incentive for the trade unions and/or employee representative to negotiate with employers.

We have a lot of commenters and contributors who travel to China; presumably some of them have business there. I would be interested in knowing what they think of these proposed labor market reforms. Will China actually try to enforce all of these parts of the law, or is it just for show? And if they do enforce it, what will the repercussions be?

… or until liberty be lost in the pursuit

This morning, when I read Guy’s post about his and the public’s responses to the letter bombing, I felt a thrill of excitement. I have been expecting and looking for signs that this time is finally coming. I actually have found some comfort in the acceleration of the recent decline of liberty and privacy in the UK. It is slow declines that go undetected and unchallenged. Generations may forget, but individuals remember. When good intentions run amok, individuals remember what the original justification was. James Madison in Federalist 51, said “Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.” Recognition of this danger seems to be unique to English cultures.

Being farther removed from the UK, I have a different and wider perspective. My expectations come from reading more Tolkien than Times. And from reading history, not histrionics. English literary and political history is one of awakenings. In the past millennium, freedom has been won in sweeping victories, and is only lost through neglect. For two of my favorite authors, Lewis and Tolkien, awakening was the sole plot line of virtually their entire life’s work. Dickens’s best known character is Ebenezer Scrooge, and his story is the essence of an awakening.

This struggle against obsessive domination by a big brother state will be difficult with many wobbles and diversions. There will be times when backward steps out number the forward ones. But my confident expectation is that the history of Britain and of English speaking cultures everywhere is on our side. Liberty “lost in the pursuit,” will be reclaimed. It always has been.

This event inspires a feeling that confuses a lot of people. They cannot quite put their finger on it. Some have mentioned schadenfreude. No. That’s not it. In fact, that particular viciousness is so alien to English speakers that we need to borrow a European word for it. I am confident that no person here takes any sick pleasure from that clerk’s suffering. The trail of English history is a search for justice, not redistribution of suffering. The feeling this event inspires is deeper than that and it is a just and justified one. This feeling is coming from our recognition of possibility, of alliance, of purpose; the first perceptions of a change in the direction of history. Since this feeling is one we have felt seldom and mentioned even less, it does not surprise me that it should go unrecognized. But when I read Guy’s post this morning, I felt it.

Joy.

Iraq in a nutshell

So I am reading the declassified summary of the National Intelligence Estimate(PDF) that everybody is talking about. While there are dissenting opinions in the classified version, the 3+ pages in the declassified summary are the conclusions that every contributing intelligence source agree on. The core problem is captured in the very first bulleted point; the point that is getting quoted in the news reports.

  • Nevertheless, even if violence is diminished, given the current winner-take-all attitude and sectarian animosities infecting the political scene, Iraqi leaders will be hard pressed to achieve sustained political reconciliation in the time frame of this Estimate

How can so many learned people look at this and not understand the root of the problem immediately?

Democracy is the problem. Democracy = winner-take-all. Whether on the left or the right, politicians and pundits have been unanimous in couching our presence in Iraq in terms of “bringing democracy” like we have here in the United States. How can so many people be under the mistaken notion that we are a democratic republic? We are not. We are a constitutional republic. What MacArther and his staff understood while enforcing the Potsdam Declaration (perhaps even better than the Allied leaders did) was that we, the United States, are a republic governed by a constitution with some carefully limited democratic features. With that in mind, when the process foundered for building in Japan a new government adherent to the declaration’s terms, he oversaw the construction of a constitution with strict limits on the power and reach of both the government and the majority of the population. We, the US, handed Japan a constitution on a platter.

The only hope for peace in Iraq is to stop calling for democracy, and instead call for, or dictate, a constitution that guarantees the rights of life, liberty and property. Only if that effort fails, should we pull out and resort to preventing the development of military capabilities by intermittent military hit and withdraw interventions.

Even in Great Britain …

In light of the recent damage and imminent destruction of the right of habeas corpus in the United States of America, it is with mixed feelings I point out the following observations by James Madison (or possibly Alexander Hamilton) in Federalist Paper 53.

The important distinction so well understood in America, between a Constitution established by the people and unalterable by the government, and a law established by the government and alterable by the government, seems to have been little understood and less observed in any other country. Wherever the supreme power of legislation has resided, has been supposed to reside also a full power to change the form of the government. Even in Great Britain, where the principles of political and civil liberty have been most discussed, and where we hear most of the rights of the Constitution, it is maintained that the authority of the Parliament is transcendent and uncontrollable, as well with regard to the Constitution, as the ordinary objects of legislative provision. They have accordingly, in several instances, actually changed, by legislative acts, some of the most fundamental articles of the government.

and…

Where no Constitution, paramount to the government, either existed or could be obtained, no constitutional security, similar to that established in the United States, was to be attempted.

and…

… and hence the doctrine [of annual elections] has been inculcated by a laudable zeal, to erect some barrier against the gradual innovations of an unlimited government, that the advance towards tyranny was to be calculated by the distance of departure from the fixed point of annual elections. But what necessity can there be of applying this expedient to a government limited, as the federal government will be, by the authority of a paramount Constitution? Or who will pretend that the liberties of the people of America will not be more secure under biennial elections, unalterably fixed by such a Constitution, than those of any other nation would be, where elections were annual, or even more frequent, but subject to alterations by the ordinary power of the government?

Sports and the disadvantaged student

We are coming into the final stretch of the college basketball season and it seems a good time to make the following observation.

The only category of education that presently has its accomplishments tested on a competitive basis (that being sports) is also the only category of education that is motivating and developing disadvantaged students to achieve their highest personal potential at what they are being taught.

Does it surprise anyone that the only part of education where student achievement can not be rigged (better/best football team, etc.) is also the only part of education that is producing marketable graduates from the disadvantaged communities? Or that it accomplishes this with less need for quotas and reduced expectations than any other category of education? In many cases these kids are able to move straight into national and international professional careers straight from high school. And when they do attend college, the academic education they receive is a by-product of their athletic educations.

And is it any surprise that a very disproportionate share of disadvantaged students gravitate to the only service of the education industry that is intractably merit judged and race indifferent at every single level of education from Pee Wee league to NCAA?

What better model could we ask for when we look to improve the motivation and education of disadvantaged students in other categories of learning?

A bolt between the eyes of constitutional government

I am back and have been lurking for a bit. I did not intend to post for another week or two. In my initial post I said that occasionally something would cause me to “blow a gasket”: Habeas corpus is that something. Since King John at Runnymede was compelled to accept the Magna Carta, the right of an individual to demand access to judicial process has been the foundation stone of constitutional government.

Dicey wrote that the Habeas Corpus Acts “declare no principle and define no rights, but they are for practical purposes worth a hundred constitutional articles guaranteeing individual liberty”

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While I have been away, I have apparently missed some fun jesting about ‘meta-context’. This is a serious example of it.

In its simplest and most fundamental way, this is about tribalism. This is about who ‘we’ are. Who we see our selves as. Are we defined by our geographical boundaries? Is ‘American’ a tribal bond? Or are we the citizens of our constitution? Have we charged our government with protecting its own sovereignty and security by exchanging it for that of its citizens? Or have we charged it with protecting all citizens from violation of their personal sovereignty by all powers. Are we, the citizens, not the fundamental reason for our government? If it will not abide by its contract with us, is it truly still our government? At what point does it become an occupying power?

It is babies and bathwater. More than that, it is meta-context. Underpinning assumptions about collectivism vs individualism. Did you happen to notice that Attorney General Gonzales singled out individuals and citizens:

I meant by that comment, the Constitution doesn’t say, “Every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas.” It doesn’t say that.

→ Continue reading: A bolt between the eyes of constitutional government

How did I get to this page?

A while back I had not read my email for a day or so and found several waiting in my ‘IN’ box. Two were from Perry. Oh no. What have I done now? In the halls of debate, I am not very house broken. Fearing a ‘please cease and desist’ is in store, I open one. To my startled surprise, Perry is offering me a byline and contributing privileges! Startled is an understatement. Apparently I am doing something that Perry actually wants to continue. But what?

I have one all encompassing principle. ‘Reality.’ This is a more complicated choice than it may first seem, but still an easy one..

There are very few guidelines for contributors to Samizdata. Basically, the content guidelines are simple. The key position statement is “liberty – good, big government – bad”. Surprisingly, this is the one I will need to be careful with. For it is possible within my principles, to hold a collectivist position that is both philosophically consistent and morally sound. But while I am acknowledging that a collectivist can be morally sound and philosophically consistent, I am also mustering my defences and preparing for a ‘debate’ that can only be resolved by physical contest. I have made my choice and there is no middle ground. → Continue reading: How did I get to this page?