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]

There is a tide in the affairs of men. There is also freak flash flooding.

The BBC, commendably, has taken to occasionally giving over a spare channel to its election coverage from days gone by, without modern commentary. The programme about the general election of 1955 can be seen here or here.

At 2 hours 25 minutes there is an interview with former Liberal Chief Whip Frank Byers. At 2:29 he says,

I should say that the major issue which has arisen as a result of the election, now that we know it, is the future of the Labour Party. Because quite frankly I think that if that party is gong to remain as the official opposition – and I don’t see it doing so, but if it is – it’s got to do a great deal of fresh thinking. It’s got to have, I think, a policy that does not include all this nationalisation and control, and I think they’ve got to bring a good deal of business experience into their academic economics; and until they do that I don’t see them getting back into power. In fact I hope they don’t, until they’ve got a proper policy. It may well be that this is the beginning of the Liberal Party transplanting the socialist party as the official opposition.

Byers was wrong. Nothing remotely like that came to pass in the years following 1955. But I predict that his prediction might be dusted off and sold as “mint condition vintage” in 2020.

This whole Jeremy Corbyn thing is a cosmic rebuke to the idea that chance plays no role in history. For those who do not follow British politics, what happened is this. The declining Labour party, desperate to attract more recruits, made it easy and cheap to register as a supporter. After Ed Miliband’s resignation at first all the candidates for the next leader were fairly centrist. There was a consensus among Labour MPs that they should take on board what the British electorate had told them in unexpectedly giving the Conservatives a majority in the 2015 election. Then a few MPs decided to give the perennial left wing rebel Jeremy Corbyn a chance to play too, basically out of pity. Thanks to their intervention he reached the threshold number of nominations from MPs needed in order to go on the ballot two minutes before the deadline. Big mistake. First some mischievous Tories decided to register as Labour in order to screw the Labour party around by voting for Corbyn the electoral no-hoper. Then the far-left entryists awoke from their thirty-year slumber and saw that this was a chance for them, too. Social media spread the idea among left wing students and beaten-down old socialists suddenly aflame with new hope. The role of social media, perhaps, could have been predicted – but nobody did predict it. Thousands then hundreds of thousands paid their £3 and registered to vote. It now looks almost certain that Corbachov will be the next Labour leader. Next prime minister, not so likely.

Though now it is established that in the ever-branching tree of alternate worlds we live in a stunted little twig poking out at an odd angle, I dare not predict anything with confidence any more. Johnny English did become head of MI7, after all.

Stick to your guns, Mr Wightman

When I was abroad recently, I watched the hotel TV, like you do. The same big story got repeated over and over again, like it does. Do you know what BBC World News thought was the most important story on Earth?

Cecil the lion (peace be upon him). The BBC had a reporter with the crowd outside the house of that American dentist who broke the world’s heart. “Nothing has been seen of Mr Palmer,” smirked the reporter, “which isn’t surprising considering what some people here are saying they are going to do to him.” Then the camera panned to the house for a good long look at it so that anyone else wanting to kill the man would know where to go. I always wondered what it would take for the BBC to see the merits of vigilante justice.

Not to be outdone by the Yanks, now Britain has its own Walter Palmer. Not to be outdone by the Beeb, the Daily Mail is at the head of the mob.

Former GREEN PARTY councillor revealed as a big game hunter who poses for trophy photos with his kills – and defends shooting Cecil the Lion

A former Green Party councillor has defended his hobby – as a big game hunter.
Defiant Ben Wightman, 27, has proudly posted trophy photos of himself next to a series of animals he has shot in South Africa.
The controversial images – on his publicly-open Facebook page – show a grinning Wightman, rifle in hand, crouched beside a host of dead animals, including two antelopes, a bloodied warthog*, an ostrich, buffalo and a zebra.

Wow, a Green Party apex predator. I like it. The Daily Mail commenters don’t. “The comments below have not been moderated”, it says. You can tell. The Mail would not deprive its readers of the manly pleasures of making death threats to people they’d never heard of ten minutes ago. But doesn’t this blockhead know the script? He’s not backing down:

‘I am a firm believer that one of the best ways of management and conservation is with a rifle.
‘We are taking out old, lame or unfit animals that are causing problems for local farmers.’

*Note to the Samizdata elves. A warthog is practically a hippo. I’ve waited years to use this category.

“He is not allowed his small reprieves”

I don’t usually find much to sympathise with over at the Bella Caledonia blog. This account by Jonathan Rowson, whose brother has been committed to a psychiatric ward, was an exception:

Smoking and the Forbidden Garden – a Dereliction of Sanity?

Defending the rights of the mentally ill to do something that harms them is not a popular cause, but this much needs to be said: preventing psychiatric patients from smoking on hospital grounds is inhumane.

I am responding to the situation in a particular ward in a hospital in NHS Grampian region. At the time of writing my forty year old brother Mark is there, as he has been before. He is surrounded by other adult patients, many of whom are thought disordered, dysfunctional, and up to their eye balls in medication. Mark has given me permission to write publicly about his situation, but he is not well enough to grasp the full context. I am taking the liberty of making the following case on his behalf.

Many psychiatric patients are habitual smokers, but at the moment they are strictly not allowed to smoke anywhere on hospital grounds. Smoking has been banned in hospital buildings for about a decade, but in the hospital in question secure gardens adjacent to the locked wards and smoking shelters within the general grounds of hospitals were available to smoke. This arrangement seemed to work until the authorities decreed that the shelters should be knocked down and the secure gardens should be smoke free. Some psychiatric patients, staff and visitors now face the mild stigma and hassle of having to escape the hospital to smoke, but if you are sectioned under the mental health act it’s not so simple. The hospital ward is your de-facto home, and also your de-facto prison, so where do you go?

The ruling is unenforceable. In fact most staff feel they have no choice but to turn a blind eye. Patients are now smoking in their rooms or in the bathrooms; anywhere where the staff can have plausible deniability of not seeing them. Alas, the collateral damage of this necessary open secret is that none of the patients can now go to the outdoor area assigned to the ward. The small secured gardens are the most humanising place on the ward and a vital source of fresh air, but they lie unused due to the risk, not that patients will smoke, but that they will be seen to be smoking, and get staff into trouble as a result.

Most of the comments are supportive, but not all. This one by Clive Scott was notable for its self-righteousness:

What about the employer’s responsibilities to provide a safe working environment for employees and the rights of non-smokers for wholesome air? It would be ridiculous to permit the mentally enfeebled to flout regulations for the common good simply because of their illness. Smoking is a disgusting foul habit and addiction and every step possible should be taken to eliminate it from society.

How should we treat people coming over from enemy lines?

In my recent post on rent control, I quoted approvingly a comment from someone who said he had come round to our point of view on the harmfulness of rent control while still claiming to be a lefty. “You are not there yet, my friend,” I murmured. “But does not every journey begin with one step? Let us encourage this partial recantation, that it may be reproduced.” Perry de Havilland took a less tolerant view, while still encouraging reproduction. Niall Kilmartin took the middle road:

The naive young lefty, partly idealistic and partly enjoying the ego rush of being the good guy fighting the bad guys, gets successive hints from reality as they grow older. Over time, the accumulating hints force a choice: the idealism _or_ the ego rush; it can no longer be both. The more they shouted their hatred of the bad guys when they were young, the more dubious deeds they did “for the cause”, the harder it is for them to choose the idealism rather than the ego rush (as some college professors well know when they make activism part of the curriculum), but becoming “an apostate” is emotionally hard in any case. It can be a slow process. It can take years. From Robert Conquest to Thomas Sowell, some quite effective people were marxists when they were youngsters. So I’m sufficiently with Natalie to say that signs of doubt should not be discouraged (though I do understand why actual encouragement of those who are still fighting to retain their ego rush even as they admit doubt can sometimes stick in the throat).

If it sticks in the throat to welcome an incompletely-converted convert from an opinion we oppose, how much more so when the defector has joined and then abandoned a literal enemy.

Mother of five begs for rescue from Isis

THE British wife of an Isis fighter stranded in Syria with her five children is appealing for help to return home to Manchester.

In a video passed to The Sunday Times, Shukee Begum, who is of Bangladeshi origin, is heard repudiating Isis as “not Islamic” and telling how she had spent 10 months with her young children in the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, where she taught English to the children of foreign fighters.

She said the final straw was when the US-led coalition bombed the house where they were living, killing seven Isis commanders and members of their families.

While her husband, Muftah el-Deen, was away fighting, she escaped and was given shelter by members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a moderate group opposed to Isis.

Begum, filmed with her three girls and two boys on what appears to be a low-quality video phone, said she left Britain and was smuggled through Turkey into Syria late last year. She claimed her aim was to persuade Deen, who had joined Isis three months earlier, to come home.

This view is typical of the most popular comments to the story:

She ran off with five children to join her jihadi husband and now she says ISIS / Daesh are not Islamic? I might have a bit of sympathy if she said she completely rejected this cult of death, but she’s just saying that now she believes that sadistic slaughter, beheading and crucifixion is going a bit too far.

She wants to come back “home” and no doubt be quite Islamic, but eschew the mindless slaughter of unbelievers. Why should we believe a single word she says?

To which my reply would be that answering exactly that question is the job of the intelligence services to whom this lady will sing like a bird as a condition of being allowed to return. I hope and trust it does work that way and the local consular staff haven’t gone completely softheaded. We want defections and should make them easy but not cheap. It is painful to see crimes go unpunished – and I consider joining a group that boasts of its murders, enslavements and rapes to be a crime in itself – but renegades can help to stop the murders, enslavements and rapes, not to mention prevent the attacks here in the West that ISIS has promised. We have long allowed known criminals to turn Queen’s evidence / State’s evidence for very similar reasons. And her children are innocent.

“Rent control does not work . . . It breaks my bleeding lefty heart, but that’s just how it is”

Sometimes the Guardian surprises. This piece by David Crouch certainly came as an unwelcome surprise to some of the regular Guardian commentariat. Mr Crouch has written a very fair appraisal of the effects of rent control in Sweden: “Pitfalls of rent restraints: why Stockholm’s model has failed many.” He writes,

The result [of rent controls] is a thriving rental property black market, with bribes of as much as 100,000 kronor per room to obtain a direct contract, McCormac says. Many people sublet space in their rental apartments. When one tenant advertised a tiny closet last year for rent, there were many potential takers.

“It is almost impossible for immigrants and new arrivals to penetrate this market – it is all about who you know and how much money you have,” McCormac says. Students, young people and immigrants are consequently shut out, and ethnic and social segregation is increasing.

A commenter called “JohannesL” adds his own story:

When I moved to Helsinki in 1982, there was strict rent control in place and the tenant was well-protected, it was very difficult to get rid of even the tenant from hell. Because of this, there were no rental flats available at all, except the council flats, which were definitely not available for healthy non-addicted young men.

There were plenty of people living in tents and cardboard huts in the woods then. (I enrolled in the university just to get a room in a student dormitory).

In the early 90’s they got rid of the rent control which made renting a profitable business, with the result that suddenly there was an active and relatively abundant rental market, and has been ever since.

Sad but true. Rent control does not work. Also, it must be possible to get rid of your tenant in reasonable time. It breaks my bleeding lefty heart, but that’s just how it is.

No place to lay my head

“These anti-homeless spikes are brutal. We need to get rid of them”, writes Leah Borromeo in the Guardian.

So we decided to do something to neutralise it. A group of friends and I laid a mattress and a bookshelf stocked with tomes on the housing crisis, inequality, gentrification, place-hacking and poverty atop some particularly vicious spikes on London’s Curtain Road. In the 1990s, it was the epicentre of a burgeoning artistic community that would eventually emerge as tastemakers in the visual and performing arts. We’re all aware that an artistic scene that gains any sort of appeal or traction is eventually leeched on, Death-Eater-like, by “property developers”. We saw these spikes as a direct assault on everything that makes us human. Anyone, for any reason, could end up on the streets with no home, no friends, no support. Sometimes you feel so unsafe where you are that sleeping on a ledge in east London comes across as the better option.

If some developers had their way, they’d commodify oxygen. To stop us having a society where it is acceptable to do that, we’ve decided to help out the best way we know how. We’re a loose collective of artists, journalists, academics, graduates and performers. We’re cultural producers. And with that comes the responsibility that what we make and share with the world highlights injustice and offers alternatives.

Many comments ask whether Ms Borromeo, a journalist and filmmaker, has made her own doorstep – or her own bedroom – available to the homeless. It is an obvious question. This does not stop it being a good one. I would imagine her own bookshelves are well stocked with “tomes on the housing crisis, inequality, gentrification, place-hacking and poverty”, so she could offer the free use of these as an additional incentive to make her own property a “more inclusive space where misfortunes of circumstance such as homelessness aren’t banned.”

On the other hand the capitalist vipers who own the Curtain Road premises probably regard the reading material left on their doorstep by Ms Borromeo and her preening chums (“The only good thing about living in austerity Britain is that through pushing us into a corner, the government and the money that controls it is unwittingly training up a generation of fighters. Some of us will kick and scream. Others will be by the ringside healing the wounded”) as a more effective deterrent than the spikes.

OK, this woman is a poseur. She isn’t a healer of the wounded, she just plays one in her own mind. I would give her a little more respect if I learned that her good deeds to the homeless included volunteering at homeless shelters or accompanying those charity workers and street pastors who make the rounds of those places where rough sleepers go every night. Or if I thought that she had spent even a moment thinking about the plight of the shop owner who sees her sales plummet because customers don’t want to push past the dosser on the floor to enter, or the premises manager who has to clean up the urine and needles every morning.

Yet it is possible to acknowledge the right of those put up these spikes to do so, and also have sympathy with the homeless. Ms Borromeo’s statement that “anyone, for any reason, could end up on the streets with no home” is the usual hyperbole (she need not worry about the chances of it happening to her), but it is true that things can go wrong for a person with surprising speed. There is probably at least one of your classmates from primary school who has lost everything, usually via drugs or alcohol. There are ways to help, but all of them have downsides. Homeless shelters, whether run by true charities or government funded, must themselves exclude some people. I would not be surprised or angered to learn that they make use of “access control” spikes themselves. If the shelters don’t exclude anyone – if they allow people to sleep there who are violent or predatory – then they destroy their own function as a refuge. The one sentence in Ms Borromeo’s article that rang true was “Sometimes you feel so unsafe where you are that sleeping on a ledge in east London comes across as the better option.”

Why the minimum wage is seen as a success

Paul Johnson, writing in the Times about the minimum wage (“Why it’s a gamble to follow Ikea on higher pay”) talks some sense but puts the cart before the horse:

It is a bet that forcing companies to increase wages will force them to increase productivity. If you have to pay £9 an hour then you’ll be forced to invest in the training and the machinery to ensure you get your money’s worth. Indeed this could be one of the reasons why productivity in France is so much higher than in the UK. With high minimum wages and extensive labour market regulation French companies can only survive by being highly productive. On the other hand that same regulation probably partly explains higher French unemployment.

Of course French workers are productive. The people who would have been the least productive French workers aren’t workers at all. Thanks to the minimum wage they’re unemployed, except for a little light rioting.

However Mr Johnson’s penultimate sentence cannot be faulted:

The minimum wage as it stands is widely seen to have been a success.

Everyone loves a feelgood story, and to increase the minimum wage feels so good. How vividly one imagines the joy of the hardworking night cleaner as he counts the extra in his meagre pay packet! In contrast, how dim and watery is the mental picture of the, um, potentially-but-not-actually hardworking unemployed person who might theoretically have benefited from a job at the till at a supermarket but now there’s an automated checkout machine instead. She’ll never know. The supermarket chain are not such fools as to announce that the reason for them scaling back their hiring plans is that they would rather not pay their employees any more. They will present automation purely as a benefit to the customer. The customers will continue to curse at the words “unexpected item in the bagging area” and moan about what a pity it is that they don’t have real human beings at the till like they used to, especially since that nice Mr Osborne put up their wages.

An afterthought: Oh, and about that hardworking night cleaner… six months after he was interviewed by the BBC saying what a wonderful difference the extra pay would make to his life, he was let go. Nothing personal, but what with the rising wage bill, the only way for his employers to keep within budget was to cut the frequency of cleaning. The BBC were long gone. Warmhearted people continued to feel good about how companies were finally being made to pay a “decent living wage”.

You will be assimilated

Obama collecting personal data for a secret race database, reports the New York Post.

A key part of President Obama’s legacy will be the fed’s unprecedented collection of sensitive data on Americans by race. The government is prying into our most personal information at the most local levels, all for the purpose of “racial and economic justice.”

Unbeknown to most Americans, Obama’s racial bean counters are furiously mining data on their health, home loans, credit cards, places of work, neighborhoods, even how their kids are disciplined in school — all to document “inequalities” between minorities and whites.

This Orwellian-style stockpile of statistics includes a vast and permanent network of discrimination databases, which Obama already is using to make “disparate impact” cases against: banks that don’t make enough prime loans to minorities; schools that suspend too many blacks; cities that don’t offer enough Section 8 and other low-income housing for minorities; and employers who turn down African-Americans for jobs due to criminal backgrounds.

So they want to push banks into making more loans to minorities who tend to lack good credit histories. What could possibly go wrong? When companies like Wonga encourage poor people to take out loans they cannot afford, it’s called loan sharking.

As with my previous post, I first learned of this story via the Drudge Report, which seems particularly good at sniffing out and really making public stories of this type in which momentous developments were previously “made public” in a purely technical sense by bland official reports. “You will be assimilated” was the catchphrase of the Borg, a “collection of species that have been turned into cybernetic organisms functioning as drones in a hive mind called the Collective”, formerly thought to be fictional.

François Hollande pays tribute to Jacques Delors in more than one sense

Le Journal du Dimanche printed a loyal address made by President Hollande to Jacques Delors on the occasion of the old emperor’s nintieth birthday.

Here are some extracts, translated by me and Messieurs Google et Bing:

“Because Europe can only advance if it carries the idea of ​​transcendence. No nation can contemplate giving up part of its sovereignty if it is not satisfied that it will emerge stronger from this process. He [Delors] intuited that out of the crisis, Europe needs to define a new horizon that can give rise to a new hope, because he knows that the European idea runs out of steam when it is no longer put into action.”

“What threatens us is not too much Europe but too little.”

“The eurozone has managed this week to reaffirm its cohesion with Greece.

The quality of the Franco-German relationship had a great deal to do with it. The European spirit prevailed. But we cannot stop there. I have offered to take forward Jacques Delors’s idea for a Government of the euro area with the addition of a specific budget and thus also a Parliament to ensure democratic control.”

Found via Bloomberg and the Drudge Report. The French original can be seen at the first link. Is he really saying what I think he’s saying? A unified Eurozone government?

Someone who has not adapted to modern society

A journalist called Catherine Porter took her nine year old daughter to a “Jobs, Justice and Climate” march in Toronto. While there the child had a conversation with Ezra Levant. Ms Porter gave her account of that conversation here: My daughter’s run-in with Ezra Levant at her first protest. She made Levant out to be a big bad bully. Her account appeared in a respected newspaper, the Toronto Star, and although Levant’s reply giving his own, very different account of his dialogue with the little girl was published, by the time it appeared the narrative had been settled and it was only his word against hers anyway.

Yes, of course I made that last bit up. This is the twenty-first century, you know. You know even if Catherine Porter does not. Naturally Ezra Levant made sure to get the whole thing on video and was able to conclusively – and amusingly – demonstrate that Catherine Porter’s account deviated from the truth in numerous ways. The weird thing is that she cannot have been unaware of the camera. Levant is a lawyer who has had numerous run-ins with leftists and he insisted on getting Ms Porter to state to camera that she gave permission for Levant to speak to her daughter. Incidentally, one of the details her account obscured was that it was Ms Porter who called Levant over to talk to her daughter and she who asked for the encounter to be filmed. He was initially quite reluctant to debate with a child, rightly fearing that Ms Porter Senior intended to set him up for propaganda purposes.

Why on earth did she write as she did in the Toronto Star? Good grief, it’s not as if potentially embarrassing encounters routinely being filmed at rallies as a defence against misreporting is something that only came in last month. Did she think Levant would just accept being slimed like it was 1999?

Hat tip: Bishop Hill

Victim status is a lousy substitute for real status

Tim Worstall took a look at a document produced by the University of California: “Recognizing Microaggressions and the Messages They Send”. He found that “A person asking an Asian American or Latino American to teach them words in their native language” was a microagression. He then found that “Continuing to mispronounce the names of students after students have corrected the person time and time again. Not willing to listen closely and learn the pronunciation of a non-English based name” was also a microagression.

The comments, understandably, have focussed on the way that these guidelines put whitemalemiddleclassheterosexualcisgender people in the wrong whatever they do. The rules are literally impossible to obey. The safest policy is not to interact with blackfemaleworkingclassLGBTQ people any more than you must. This avoidance will be yet more proof of your prejudice, but it’s not like there are any possible circumstances in which you would be declared unprejudiced. Not that anyone nowadays seeks wisdom from a dead white male, but Tacitus could have predicted the result of all this in AD 98: “Proprium humani ingenii est odisse quem laeseris.” The doctrine of microagression teaches that the victim classes are forever being injured by your acts. Let us hope that human nature has changed enough in the last nineteen hundred years that Tacitus’ observation that it is human nature to hate a person whom you have injured no longer applies.

What is it like to be the object of this code?

– Lonely. You will feel surrounded by enemies. And all outside your exact caste must be enemies: it is impossible for friendship to develop across the divides of privilege when every mundane interaction that might in other circumstances have led to friendship is fraught with tension. Thus one one of the main benefits claimed to accrue from diversity on campus is lost.

– Exhausting. You will be continually on the defensive, and for all your obligation to be constantly angry, passive and unable to control your own destiny. How could it be otherwise? You have chosen to centre your life on how your enemies perceive you. If black, your constant concern is what whites think of you; if female, what males think of you; whatever category you belong to defines you.

One of the attributes of status is that other people have to watch what they say around you, to mind their P’s and Q’s. The demands of political correctness can force high-status people to temporarily behave to low-status people in this respect as if their positions were reversed. But victim status is a very poor imitation of actual status. For one thing the apparent respect you get is gone the minute your back is turned – or a deniable microsecond earlier if the microagressor decides that he might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb and go macro. For another it’s, like, victimhood. You are officially a loser.

In memoriam Patrick Macnee

His life was indeed memorable. Some snippets from the obituary for Patrick Macnee in the Times:

After just a week of filming the new show in 1961, the producer took him aside and told him, “Pat, you’re basically dull and you’re fired.” Macnee went home and devised a new character, altogether more intriguing than the beige-Mackintoshed functionary he had been playing. The new Steed was a combination of his racehorse-trainer father (known as Dandy for his sartorial splendour), the Scarlet Pimpernel as played by Leslie Howard and his wartime naval commanding officer. “I wanted an outward exterior of extreme style, and underneath, steel,” he recalled. He was rehired on the spot.


It was notable that, while Blackman and her successor Diana Rigg took down assailants, Steed did little beyond gesture with his umbrella . . . “I tried to use my ingenuity and gave the really dangerous work to the women, which I think is the way it should be.”


Macnee would go on to base much of the Steed persona on his father, who disconcerted fellow guests at dinner parties whom he suspected of being a pacifist by pulling an unloaded gun on them, and was deported from India — where he later settled — for urinating from a balcony on to the heads of high-ranking Raj officials.

His mother, Dorothea, who had aristocratic connections, was 22 years younger than her husband and left him when Patrick was eight for her lesbian lover, Evelyn Spottswood, an heir to the Dewar’s whisky family. Men were banned from the house and Patrick’s mother and new partner did their best to expunge any whiff of masculinity by trying to coax him into wearing dresses. The horrified young boy mollified them by wearing only kilts until the age of 11. Uncle Evelyn, as he was instructed to call her, helped pay his fees for Eton. There he expended most of his energy on setting up as a pornography salesman and bookmaker, using tips from his father. “I had £200 in the kitty when they caught me.” He was expelled.


In 1942 he joined the navy, serving on motor torpedo boats based in Dover. The experience led to his refusal to carry a gun in The Avengers: “When they asked me why, I said that I’d just come out of a world war in which I’d seen most of my friends blown to bits.” When his boat was destroyed by a direct hit by the Germans, he was lucky enough to be back in port with bronchitis.


He wrote an agonisingly honest biography, Blind in One Ear, in 1988. He laid bare his feelings about the parting of his parents when he was still a child and recorded, too, Honor Blackman’s memorable reply when he once tried to seduce her after work. She said, “Come off it, Patrick, I’m sweating like hell, my feet are killing me, I smell like a polecat and the answer is no.”