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]

The Hell of living under the Heathrow flightpath

After a gazillion years of proposals, enquiries and delayed decisions the Government has finally given the go-ahead for the building of a new runway at Heathrow. Apparently this will be the first runway built in the South East of England in 50 years.

The MP for Richmond – just across the river from me – Zac Goldsmith immediately resigned his seat and announced his intention to stand as an independent in the resulting by-election. His former party, the Conservative Party, the governing party, won’t even be putting up a candidate. It’s not just Goldsmith. Extraordinarily, cabinet ministers who represent constituencies under the flightpath have been given permission to speak against the decision.

So what is the kerfuffle all about? I have been living under the flightpath for 15 years now. I live to the east when most of the action is east-west, so I don’t get the worst of it. But I do live where most of the people who would be affected live. For the most part I am barely aware that there’s an airport in the vicinity at all. About one or month or so, planes are moving west-east and every couple of minutes I won’t be able to hear the telly. In such cases I have to take the drastic action of pushing the pause button on my remote control. Heathrow has never deprived me of any sleep and things would have to get a lot worse before it bothered me. Or the Fonz for that matter:

Indeed, things are a lot better than they were in the days of Concorde. The racket that thing used to make was astonishing. And wonderful. So what if I couldn’t hear a damn thing for 30 seconds? That was a deafness induced by the finest British engineering, a richer deafness. A better deafness.

Now I accept I (and the Fonz) are not everybody. Maybe, others are more affected. If so one wonders why they choose to live in Richmond. OK, it’s possible that there some who are not affected now but will be in the future. In that case they would probably be best off leaving and moving somewhere quieter. Now, as a libertarian, I think that people should be compensated for such losses. Except I very much doubt there will be any need. I suspect that any loss people might suffer in terms of the cost of moving will easily be matched in terms of the rise in house prices due to the fact that their homes are so near to an expanding airport.

I just can’t see the problem.

Samizdata graph of the day

The Times 28 October 1916 p5

The Times 28 October 1916 p5

In case there should be any doubt: I do not like the implication that state violence can make the world a better place. I suspect there are all sorts of reasons why the graph might not be accurate and if it is accurate for doubting that it tells the full story. For instance, a lot of the men who would have got drunk are by this stage in the army and serving in France.

Even so, what if it’s true? What if restrictions on alcohol helped to increase munition production and helped to win the war?

Like now, the war against alcohol was very much a feature of the time. Earlier on in the year, along with other restrictions, the “round” had been banned. Just this week (a hundred years ago) a full-page advertisement had appeared in The Times calling for prohibition until the end of the war. The 1,000 signatories included such luminaries as H.G. Wells, John Masefield, Thomas Hardy, Robert Baden-Powell, Ernest Rutherford, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and General Smith-Dorrien.

You can get anything at Harrods

For example:

The Times 5 February 1916 p3

The Times 5 February 1916 p3

In which I have an argument with myself about economics… and lose

What do you think is going to happen with the economy?

Disaster.

What do you mean by disaster?

Depression, unemployment, reduction in living standards, banks going bust, hundreds of thousands not being able to pay their mortgages. Perhaps even the breakdown of the state.

Where?

Just about everywhere in the Western/developed world.

Why do you think that?

Because of government deficits, government debts, private debts and money printing.

And why should that lead to disaster?

Because eventually people will stop lending to the government. At which point the government will be unable to pay it’s bills. At which point it will have to stop spending money on things like pensions, health, education, defence. At which point you’re going to get riots.

What from old people, sickies and children?

More from people who thought they might need the state at some point in the future.

Anyway, can’t they just print the money they need?

Well, they’re already doing that. But money printing eventually leads to inflation. Inflation dislocates the economy. It becomes impossible to plan because you no longer know how much you can buy for and how much you can sell for. At that point you no longer know what activities are profitable and what unprofitable.

But there’s been plenty of printing in the last few years and very little inflation. Hey, look at Japan.

Maybe. There’s been plenty of inflation in assets such as houses, shares and precious metals. Indeed, according to Jesse Columbo there’s hardly an asset class out there that isn’t currently in a bubble. And bubbles eventually pop.

Do they? I give you Japan again.

Yes, they’ve been printing money and keeping it all together for 25 years. But there’s been no growth.

And anyway they are getting ever more desperate. At time of writing they are considering helicopter money. This is part of a progression from low interest rates to no interest rates to negative interest rates.

So, they will have negative interest rates and then they will have ever-more negative interest rates and where Japan goes we will follow.

Yes, but… oh I don’t know. It just doesn’t sound right.

Where the Japanese lead we follow. Perhaps not so neatly.

Where the Japanese lead we follow. Perhaps not so neatly.

Not “Maggie” May

Theresa May:

Government can and should be a force for good; the state exists to provide what individual people, communities and markets cannot; we should employ the power of government for the good of the people. Time to reject the ideological templates provided by the socialist left and the libertarian right and embrace a new centre ground in which government steps up – and not back – to act on behalf of the people.

Guido:

Claiming to reject ideology is nonsense – May is advocating an ideology of “centrism”, statist, intervening in the economy, acceptance of perpetual borrowing and over-spending, coupled with greater intrusion by the state into the lives of individuals. Remember her Snoopers’ Charter, giving the state powers to intercept personal online data of every individual. Her conference speech last year, lest we forget, was panned by the Institute of Directors and described as “chilling and bitter”. May, whilst claiming the state is a “force for good”, is proposing to force companies to list foreign workers, an ominous and pointless intervention in the private contracts of business. She will also hint this afternoon at imposing price controls on energy companies, another interventionist policy for which the Tories rightly monstered Ed Miliband. Thatcher wanted to “roll back the frontiers of the state”. May wants “government to step up, not back”. So who do you vote for now if you want a balanced budget, free markets and to get the state out of your life?

Quite.

What did Sam Allardyce do wrong?

Yesterday, the England manager resigned. “What’s odd about that?” you may say – assuming you’re not saying “Who cares?” – “They’re resigning all the time.”

They are but this is slightly unusual. For once – glossing over the departures of Fabio Capello and Glenn Hoddle – we have a resignation that has nothing to do with England’s performance on the pitch. Mr Allardyce has not failed as a manager but – we must assume – as a human being. Except in all the talk about “third-party ownership” and “bungs” I have no idea what he is supposed to have done wrong.

So, commentariat – at least, that tiny proportion of you that follow such things – tell me: is he being accused of doing something immoral or something illegal i.e. breaking the Football Association’s rules? [I assume he isn’t being accused of breaking the law.]

There will, of course, the usual frantic and incompetent search for a replacement. Luckily, I have a suggestion which I think will solve England’s run of disappointment forever: abolish the team. Sadly, I don’t think the FA will be taking me up on that so I can only hope they get someone cheap.

I wonder if Neil Warnock is available?

And then they came for Instapundit…

First they came for Robert Stacey McCain but I had no idea who he was…
Then they came for Milo but I had no idea who he was either and anyway, he had silly hair…
Then they came for Instapundit…

A little earlier today Instapundit’s Twitter account got blocked. Due to Twitter’s Orwellian… no, Kafkaesque censorship policy it was not initially clear which tweet or tweets had earned Twitter’s ire. There was certainly no question of Glen Reynolds (Instapundit’s webmaster) being allowed to defend himself. At least not to Twitter – to the rest of the world Reynolds is most robust.

This is serious stuff. Instapundit was one of the original blogs. Although I was not present at it’s conception, my belief is that if it hadn’t been for Instapundit there wouldn’t have been a Samizdata. Certainly, Instapundit blazed a trail for hundreds, if not thousands of others and crucially Reynolds is not a nutter. If they can ban him they can ban us all.

Worse still, it is not as if Twitter is alone. It is remarkable how quickly internet stalwarts like Google, Facebook and Twitter have gone from being dynamic, “don’t be evil”, believers in freedom to being fully paid up members of the bansturbationary elite.

The question is what do we do now? Rob attempted to answer this very question earlier this week and I am happy to give gab.ai a go. The key question is if anyone else is prepared to. These things need critical mass and right-wingers are not known for engaging in collective action.

Like many I had high hopes for the internet. I thought it would lead to a renaissance of freedom. Instead it is quickly coming to resemble the very MSM I hoped it would check. And what have we got to show for our 15 years or so of being able to say what we think?

Haig’s greatest mistake

On 15 September 1916 tanks made their debut at Flers-Courcelette, one of the many engagements which took place during the Battle of the Somme.

The battle marked the beginning of a sorry chapter in British military history because the truth – a truth that to this day few seem prepared to acknowledge – is that the First World War tank was useless.

The list of its failings is lengthy. It was slow, it was unreliable, it had no suspension and it was horrible to operate. The temperature inside was typically over 100°F and as exhaust gases built up so crew effectiveness collapsed. It was also highly vulnerable. Field artillery could take it out easily. Even rifle ammunition could be effective against it. While normal bullets might not be able to penetrate the armour they could knock off small pieces of metal from the inside – known as spall – which then whizzed round the interior wounding all and sundry.

That the tank was the brainchild of Winston Churchill from his days as head of the Admiralty should have alerted senior commanders to the possibility that it was yet another of his crackpot schemes. But they persisted. For his part, Haig being a technophile put a huge amount of faith in the new invention. His diary is littered with references to the tank and he seems to have made great efforts to secure ever more of them. In consequence, huge amounts of effort went into a technological dead end when it would have been far better spent on guns, shells and fuzes.

Not that such efforts were ever likely to satisfy the snake-oil salesmen who made up the ranks of the tank enthusiasts. In the face of tank failure after tank failure they simply claimed that their beloved weapon just wasn’t being used properly.

Of course, like all good conmen they liked to take credit for other people’s successes. So, when a huge number of tanks were used at Cambrai in 1917 and the initial phases went reasonably well they were happy to put it all down to the tank. The fact that within 3 days an initial tank force in the hundreds had been whittled down to single figures by mechanical failures and withering German artillery fire was glossed over.

The credit should really have gone to the “predicted barrage”. As with so much to do with artillery this needs a little explaining. If your artillery barrage is to be effective you need to know where your shells are going to land. Although manufacturers attempt to build guns with uniform characteristics this is an extremely difficult thing to do. Worse still every time a gun is fired the barrel experiences wear and its characteristics change. Before Cambrai the answer had been “registration”. Guns would fire shells at the enemy and observers would spot where they landed. The drawback was that the enemy could tell that an attack was on its way. In a predicted barrage the gunners worked out in advance where the shells would land so the first the enemy would know about an attack was when he was hit by a full-scale barrage. This meant that for the first time since the beginning of the war surprise could be re-introduced to the battlefield.

Cheaper than a Great War tank and about as useful.

Cheaper than a Great War tank and about as useful.

Why don’t they just knock it down?

In central London there is an clapped-out old building. One option would be to demolish it and replace it with something nice in steel and glass. Another option, as Michael Jennings likes to point out, would be to demolish it and replace it with tarmac. The building in question stands bang in the middle of two major thoroughfares causing a huge bottleneck.

So, what do our politicians think should be done? Well, they’re not thinking in terms of steel, glass or tarmac. They’re not even thinking of demolition. They think that £5bn of taxpayers’ money should be shelled out on its restoration. Which means it will be at least £10bn by the time they’re finished. If we’re lucky. You could build a lot of hospitals for that kind of money.

You may be familiar with the building in question:

london_parliament_2007-1

Now I accept that for the time being we have a state and that representative democracies are usually better than the alternatives. I also accept that it is probably difficult to do politics online so Parliament needs some kind of physical location. But where?

Luckily there is a place that seems to cover all the bases. It is easy to get to. There is plenty of land for development. It would take politicians out of the metropolitan bubble. And it would gently remind them of the consequences of over-regulation. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the location of the new Mother of Parliaments:

Milton Keynes.

1916’s summer blockbuster

In 1916 Geoffrey Malins, a cinematographer, toured the Western Front filming what he saw. The footage was edited into an hour-long film that was shown in British cinemas. The Battle of the Somme was an extraordinary success with some estimating that it was the most watched movie in British history. Clips from it still regularly turn up when TV people want to refer to the war.

But it didn’t please everyone. The Dean of Durham has this to say:

I beg leave respectfully to enter a protest against an entertainment which wounds the heart and violates the very sanctities of bereavement.

The bereaved – or at least some of them – had different ideas:

Well, I have lost a son in battle, and I have seen the Somme films twice. I am going to see them again. I want to know what was the life, and the life-in-death, that our dear ones endured, and to be with them again in their great adventure.

My guess is that the Dean of Durham is referring above all to one particular scene; that scene, the famous scene, the one we are all familiar with, the one that above all others has come to represent the First World War. This one:

Sadly, I wasn't able to track down the actual clip which has more evidence of fakery but even in this frame the puniness of the barbed wire and the lack of large packs suggest this was shot some distance from the front.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to track down the actual clip which has more evidence of fakery but even in this frame the puniness of the barbed wire and the lack of large packs suggest this was shot some distance from the front.

Which is a pity. Because it is a fake.

The Power of the Daleks – a correction

In a previous blog posting I may have given the impression that the rediscovery of the missing episodes of the Power of the Daleks Doctor Who serial would be about as welcome to the BBC as a new series of Jim’ll Fix It.

Of course, the impression that I meant to convey was that the BBC would in fact be delighted to be once again be in possession of the telerecordings and failing that would be quite prepared to go to the effort of animating the entire thing and making it available online from 5 November onwards.

Why the #NeverTrumpers irritate me somewhat

There is a certain sort of Republican who hates Donald Trump so much that he regularly appends the #NeverTrump hashtag to his tweets and would much rather that Hillary Clinton won the election.

Which is fine as far as it goes. It is not as if I, personally, think Trump would make a good president. I have always found him obnoxious and he seems to have little idea of the depth of the economic crisis affecting not just the United States but the western world in general. But, hey, he would at least be amusing. And I have twenty quid on him to win.

But I am seriously turned off by a lot of the Trump hatred that goes on. Particularly because it comes from people I had hitherto regarded as ideological soulmates.

I think this is because they display so little humility. When Trump announced his bid for the Republican nomination no one gave him a prayer. He had no experience, he had no grounding beliefs, he had no connections. He didn’t even have that much money. All he had – seemingly – was his name. And yet he still won.

It was an astonishing achievement.

You really would have thought that some people might be asking themselves how he did it. How was it that in the midst of the greatest depression in history the supposedly fiscally conservative party voted for someone who went around promising to raise spending? How come even candidates like Rand Paul didn’t seem to have anything sensible to say on getting the federal budget into balance? How come that when faced with the Trump threat supposedly sensible Republicans were incapable of uniting around a single candidate?

I think there’s an interesting discussion to be had encompassing, economics, identity, the electorate’s fears and Trump’s media-savvy. But all his detractors seem able to do is to produce a stream of bile.

And this is where it all gets rather troubling. They said of the Bourbons that they had forgotten nothing and learnt nothing. The sense of entitlement prevented them from engaging in anything resembling introspection. #NeverTrumpers sound just the same. “How dare you take my unsuccessful political party away from me!” seems to be the attitude.

It’s not so much #NeverTrump as #NeverLearn.

About to be re-named?

About to be re-named?