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]

Sensible people, the Swiss

Swiss voters reject plan to establish world’s highest minimum wage

Swiss voters have rejected a proposal to create what would have been the world’s highest minimum wage after siding with the government and business leaders in a referendum.

That should read “…after siding with the government, business leaders, and those Swiss people who could least afford to be unemployed.”

The plan, which would have pushed up the basic annual salary for a 35-hour week to £27,000, was rejected by 75% of voters. It would have required employers to pay workers a minimum of 22 Swiss francs (£14.66) an hour.

Government ministers opposed the proposal, made by the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions and supported by the Socialist and Green parties, arguing that it would put smaller companies out of business.

Fortunately for some of the poorest Swiss people, their so-called protectors overreached themselves.

To fight Boko Haram, arm the people

So argues David Codrea, writing at the website of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership:

President Goodluck Jonathan’s government embraces “gun control,” both as a signatory to the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, and also as a matter of national policy.

“In Nigeria, the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law,” the GunPolicy.org entry for Nigeria documents. For those not familiar with that resource, it’s a project of the Sydney School of Public Health, and while of decidedly anti-gun bent, nonetheless provides instructive and useful compilations of gun laws from around the globe.

“[C]ivilians are not allowed to possess machine-guns, military rifles and handguns … private possession of semi-automatic assault weapons [and] private possession of handguns (pistols and revolvers) is prohibited,” the site advises. Add to that licensing, background checks and registration for what they are allowed to own, a prohibition on concealed carry and stiff criminal penalties for gun law violations, and Nigeria is one of those places where the “law-abiding” are at extreme disadvantage.

Boko Haram, which doesn’t let such details slow them down a beat, finds such conditions enabling.

Not all are satisfied with the status quo.

“[T]he youth vigilante volunteer group, popularly called the Civilian JTF, has called on the Federal Government to allow its members carry arms and ammunition in order to do its work well in Borno State,” The Nigerian Voice is reporting.

“We used sticks and knives and worked closely with soldiers and fought the Boko Haram members out of Maiduguri,” a spokesman for the group related. “They are now killing civilians in the villages.”

For a sceptical view of the likely efficacy of arming civilian vigilantes to fight Boko Haram, please read Tim Newman‘s comments to my previous post about Boko Haram. He can very reasonably back up his pessimism by saying that he has lived and worked in that part of the world, as I have not. Nonetheless it had not been quite clear to me until just now that arming the people has not yet been tried. Disarming them has. It has not prevented an extremely violent insurgency.

The kindness of strangers

“Boarding schools: Is it wise to send your young child away from home?” asks the Observer, as the Sunday version of the Guardian is still quaintly calling itself. The answer, it says, is no.

An astonishing number of British parents still send pre-teen children away to boarding school – about 4,000 of them are 10 years old or younger. Numbers have not declined in 15 years. Even if we do get the necessary safeguards of mandatory reporting and a new law on emotional abuse, parents should be questioning the need to risk their child’s happy development by sending them away. If they are unhappy, are you sure you would know? As a reader commented: “When you give your child to a stranger who does not love them, you take a gamble. If your child is miserable, then you are neglecting them. Can you live with that?”

No pressure or anything! Seriously, I have no personal experiences as either parent or child to recount and no general opinion on whether boarding schools are in general good or bad. I have known both those who hated and those who loved their time as boarders. The question that leapt to my mind on reading that paragraph was something a little different:

How come giving your ten year old child to “a stranger who does not love them” is to place their happiness and your very soul as a parent at hazard but giving your three month old child to a stranger who does not love them is practically obligatory on grounds of gender equity?

I have only slightly more of a personal stake in this one. I never went to any sort of nursery or playgroup as a child; my own children had paid pre-school childcare some of the time and have turned out no loopier than their parents. Once again, I have known others with both good and bad experiences. It is the discrepancy between the Guardian-reading classes’ opinions about subcontracting your childcare for a baby and for an older child that interests me. The usual feminist opinion is that anyone who makes the suggestion that mothers ought to so much as look back over their shoulders as they stride out from the nursery gate on their way to the 9am meeting can only be motivated by a desire to keep women chained to the sink. Taking an example at random, “At last, working mothers can ditch the guilt – their children do not suffer,” writes the regular columnist Polly Toynbee. Maybe she is right and they do not suffer. The playgroup leaders always said they stopped crying once I was out of sight. But is the parent’s confidence in that merciful amnesia for a baby or toddler dependent on adults for its survival hour by hour really so much more justified than it is for a child entering boarding school years later?

UPDATE: A very good point, made in the comments below and also in discussion over at Tim Worstall’s blog, is that boarding school is 24/7 whereas daycare is not. However I think that makes less difference than it seems at first sight, because for a child of 0 – 4 years to be in daycare long enough for the mother to do a full time job five days a week with, say, an hour’s commute from nursery to workplace, does in practice mean that for the child almost every waking hour from Monday to Friday will be spent in daycare simply because babies and toddlers need much more sleep than older children.

“And here is an analysis of our military situation in one rude word”

To commemorate VE Day, here is some appropriately tasteful and historically accurate humour from Mitchell and Webb: A New Führer.

Discussion point: Boko Haram

I would so like to believe this video is a sick joke. The grinning idiot, swaying and bobbing around, scratching his bum, fiddling with his little red cock’s-comb topknot or bobble hat or whatever that is, rubbing his thigh while talking about the market for slaves… surely he cannot be real, cannot be serious?

Yet those who ought to know think it really is Abubakar Shekau speaking. And if it is, that is further confirmation that the abducted children have already been raped and enslaved.

Faced with Abubakar Shekau’s statement that he will sell for sexual use girls as young as nine, many of those who are usually firmly of the opinion that interference in foreign quarrels is always an evil rediscover a use for Hellfire missiles.

What should be done? Anything?

Deaf to the calls from below

At one time Lara Pawson, inspired by the works of Basil Davidson and other British Marxists, lionized Angola’s MPLA as a “radical socialist movement that epitomised the heroism of African liberation”. I received the impression that her faith in radical socialism is diminished but not extinguished. Her faith in the MPLA is quite gone. She writes,“Angola’s brutal history, and the MPLA’s role in it, is a truth that we must tell”:

When I arrived in Luanda, the MPLA had long been – and still is – a member of the Socialist International, an organisation that claims to pursue “progressive politics for a fairer world”. I remember my pleasure on hearing politicians and other members of the urban elite calling each other camarada (comrade). Even the party rhetoric sounded remarkably similar to that of the revolutionary years of the 1970s. But a few months into my new job, when the country’s “fourth war” finally erupted, I could no longer hide from the blindingly obvious: if revolutionary politicians were what I was after, I was at least 20 years too late.

In fact, this was also wrong. I began to discover that the idea of a 1970s MPLA heyday was just as misguided. An Angolan colleague told me about 27 May 1977, the day an MPLA faction rose up against the leadership, and the honeymoon of revolution crashed to a halt. Some called it an attempted coup, but my colleague insisted it was a demonstration that was met with a brutal overreaction.

Whichever story you believe, six senior members of the MPLA were killed that day by supporters of the uprising. In response, President Neto, the politburo and the state media made many highly inflammatory statements that incited extraordinary revenge. In the weeks and months that followed, thousands of people – possibly tens of thousands – were killed. Some of the executions were overseen by Cuban troops sent to Angola by Fidel Castro to repel a South African invasion.

But what rattled me was that Angola-watchers on the left – intellectuals whom I admired – all seemed to have turned a blind eye to the thousands of killings. It was as if their commitment to the party was so deep that, in the end, they heard only the voices of its leaders and fell deaf to the calls from below.

That white conservatives also had their moment of disillusion regarding an Angolan liberation movement, when Jonas Savimbi of UNITA allegedly had Tito Chingunji and Wilson dos Santos executed – or when whatever really happened with that bloody business happened – is somewhat better known. The MPLA has escaped similar scrutiny, for the usual reason.

Why you should wash your dirty linen in public

Anthony Watts of the “climate sceptic” blog Watts Up With That republished this list by Roy W. Spencer: Top Ten Skeptical Arguments that Don’t Hold Water.

Not everyone agrees with his list. It seemed reasonable to many commenters, the great majority of whom appear to be fellow members of the anti-warmist camp, but there are apparently well-informed replies from those who disagree with individual entries or with the whole concept.

As propaganda, I thought it was terrific. To strip away the bad arguments put forward by one’s own side is to demonstrate that you think your main argument will survive the process. It shows yet more confidence to anticipate that the quality of debate in the comments will not let the side down.

What bad arguments have you come across for causes or contentions that you believe in?

Do not fear that Paul Weston will be brought to trial for quoting Churchill on Islam

“A candidate in the European elections was arrested on suspicion of racial harrassment after quoting a passage about Islam, written by Winston Churchill, during a campaign speech,” reports the Daily Mail. “Paul Weston, chairman of the party Liberty GB, made the address on the steps of Winchester Guildhall, in Hampshire on Saturday. A member of the public took offence at the quote, taken from Churchill’s The River War and called police.”

Here is a link to the Mail‘s story: Arrested for quoting Winston Churchill: European election candidate accused of religious and racial harassment after he repeats wartime prime minister’s words on Islam during campaign speech.

I note that the Daily Mail had the guts to quote the Churchill passage in full but not to enable comments, whereas (opposing candidate) Daniel Hannan in the Telegraph has the guts to enable comments but not to quote the passage.

Comments to my post are enabled and the passage is below:

‘How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries,’ wrote Churchill.

‘Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy.

‘The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.

‘A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.

‘The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

‘Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it.

‘No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.’

I wish I could claim that by both quoting the passage and enabling comments I have demonstrated political courage. I haven’t. Might I too not be arrested? I won’t be. At the moment that is not the way the process works. Mr Weston has been arrested but I doubt very much that he will ever brought to trial. Trials can so easily go wrong. In fact I suspect that he will – eventually – be in receipt of an apology and compensation for wrongful imprisonment, as was the Christian street preacher John Craven after his arrest under the Public Order Act 1986.

Mr Craven got £13,000 compensation. According to the Huffington Post article about him linked to above, “The total cost for Greater Manchester Police, including both parties’ legal bills, will be over £50,000.”. It is not clear to me whether the latter sum includes the former, but we can safely say that the total cost of arresting a man in violation of his right to free speech seems to be around £50k – £65k.

That’s peanuts for a government – and yet, the whip broke skin. The point was made. All saw, this is what happens. Cheap at the price.

He checked his privilege

I learned about white male Princeton freshman Tal Fortgang and the unearned privilege that got him where he is via Instapundit.

I decided to take their advice. I actually went and checked the origins of my privileged existence, to empathize with those whose underdog stories I can’t possibly comprehend. I have unearthed some examples of the privilege with which my family was blessed, and now I think I better understand those who assure me that skin color allowed my family and I to flourish today.

Perhaps it’s the privilege my grandfather and his brother had to flee their home as teenagers when the Nazis invaded Poland, leaving their mother and five younger siblings behind, running and running until they reached a Displaced Persons camp in Siberia, where they would do years of hard labor in the bitter cold until World War II ended. Maybe it was the privilege my grandfather had of taking on the local Rabbi’s work in that DP camp, telling him that the spiritual leader shouldn’t do hard work, but should save his energy to pass Jewish tradition along to those who might survive. Perhaps it was the privilege my great-grandmother and those five great-aunts and uncles I never knew had of being shot into an open grave outside their hometown. Maybe that’s my privilege.

Or maybe it’s the privilege my grandmother had of spending weeks upon weeks on a death march through Polish forests in subzero temperatures, one of just a handful to survive, only to be put in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she would have died but for the Allied forces who liberated her and helped her regain her health when her weight dwindled to barely 80 pounds.

Read the whole thing. The fact that those telling him to “check his privilege” were wrong in their assumptions is only the beginning of his argument.

How North Korea advertises itself to businesses considering setting up shop there

Some of these claims are false. Some reveal more truth than the writers intended:

Lowest labour cost in Asia.

Highly qualified, loyal and motivated personnel. Education, housing and health service is provided free to all citizens. As opposed to other Asian countries, worker’s will not abandon their positions for higher salaries once they are trained.

Lowest taxes scheme in Asia. Especially for high-tech factories. Typical tax exemption for the first two years.

No middle agents. All business made directly with the government, state-owned companies.

Stable. A government with solid security and very stable political system, without corruption.

Full diplomatic relations with most EU members and rest of countries.

New market. Many areas of business and exclusive distribution of products (sole-distribution).

Transparant legal work. Legal procedures, intellectual rights, patents and warranties for investors settled.

Guardian quote of the day

And black people, as always, are left to clean up the shit that drops from the imperial anus of white corporate America into the ghettoized toilets of terror

- Nyle Fort

Screw the Prime Directive!

The other day I wrote a post about the plight of the Bushmen living in the Kalahari desert in Bostwana.

Jaded Voluntaryist commented,

Survival International are a bunch of arseholes who would see brown skinned human beings being prevented from rising out of the mud because it’s just so quaint. I wouldn’t take their word for it. Of course that may not be what’s happening here, but they don’t have a great track record.

They moaned for example when the Saint family (at the cost of several lives) brought Christianity to the Huorani tribe in Ecuador, which helped reduce their murder rate down from somewhere in the 70% region. Hardly anyone lived to old age. No one would deny that not everything the Huorani got from contact with the developed world was good, but only a sociopath would want them to keep living as they were.

I replied,

I take your point about the patronising attitude of groups like Survival International, although I have also heard that they sometimes do good work on the ground protecting tribal people from state and other violence. As I am sure you agree, if any particular Bushman wants to carry on as his or her ancestors did, good luck to them, and if he or she wants to head to the relatively bright lights of Gabarone and seek their future there, good luck again.

However it looks very strongly as if the Botswanan government has taken away the option for Bushmen to live in their traditional way by the use of a mixture of force (eviction from their ancestral hunting grounds and the hunting ban) and state “help” (the infantilising effects of welfare as pointed out by Mr Kakelebone).

I may write a post someday about the superiority of the attitude to Christian missionaries towards tribal people compared to the attitude of groups like Survival International towards tribal people. My argument would not be based on the fact that I am a Christian, nor on any general assessment of how much or little I admire the hunter-gatherer lifestyle (which might vary widely between different groups). My argument would be that the missionaries wish to persuade some other human beings to believe as they themselves believe, whereas the “protectors” wish to keep them as living museum exhibits. They always remind me of those science fiction stories in which Earth is kept ignorant / keeps other planets ignorant of faster than light travel and so on. My sympathies are nearly always with those who say, “Screw the Prime Directive”.

Then I said,

Come to think of it, screw the “I might write a post someday”. I will cut and paste the above comment as a post right this minute.