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]

Happy birthday Helen Szamuely!

Happy birthday Helen Szamuely. You got to see both of your life’s works achieved, proving that in your case, “a life in politics is NOT doomed to end in failure” . How typical that you’d contradict Enoch Powell in the process!

The USSR is gone, UK Independence Day was one year and two days ago. Brian Micklethwait once described the job of the Libertarian Alliance in the Cold War as “making it end in victory at least 15 seconds sooner” .

You saved us all a lot of time!

Thanks! I shall toast your life’s work on this beautiful Sunday. Wish you were here.

[Crossposted at Antoine Clarke’s not very active blog.]

“But she knows me !”

Late one night near the start of the 1930s in Germany, Leni Riefenstahl dropped in on friends whose house she chanced to pass as she returned from the very first Nazi rally she attended. For ten minutes, she raved about the the glorious future awaiting National Socialism, the insight of Hitler  – until the expressions on the faces of her stunned-into-silence hosts finally penetrated the haze she was in and she recalled that this married couple (that she’d been friends with for years) were two of her several Jewish friends. She murmured something about how she was sure that aspect of National Socialism would not amount to anything that need concern them. Then she finished her coffee and left. She never came back. Her circle of friends changed to contain fewer Jews, then fewer still.

(Leni’s next chance to meet Jews in numbers came in the early 1940s, when she borrowed concentration camp inmates to be extras in crowd scenes in her films, returning them to the camps after their scenes were shot. The couple who gave her coffee were not among them. Before that night, they were typical intellectuals, sure that National Socialists were all very stupid self-defeating people. That a girl like Leni – clever, strong-willed, career-minded, inventive, unorthodox – could become one was incomprehensible to them, so incomprehensible that it shattered their intellectuals’ conviction that they were the ones who understood things. Therefore they fled Germany early and so they lived – long enough to tell the story of that night on a television programme I watched long ago.)

I was reminded of this by the woman named by Sarah Hoyt in a recent post. Like the rest of Sad Puppies, Sarah has been accused of every sin in the politically-correct calendar by SJWs who’ve never met her, but also, to her astonishment, by Rose Beteem, a woman who knows her, who knows her views, who knows she’s from Portugal and can look like she comes from somewhere south of it, who knows Sarah is no more plausibly accused of all these -isms and -phobias than Leni’s friends were of starting WWI. Sarah was astonished that Rose could do that since “she knows me.”

I wasn’t. Beteem’s knowledge of Sarah Hoyt is part of her experience. Beteem’s knowledge that all Sad Puppiers are vile people, guilty of every -ism and -phobia, is part of her political theory. To be politically correct is to value theory above experience. Khrushchev noted the strength of Stalin’s tendency to believe a thing if he’d read it in a book or report, whatever the counter-evidence. In C.S.Lewis “That Hideous Strength”, Mark treats a sociology report on agricultural labourers as the reality and the actual agricultural labourers he meets as irrelevant because his modernist views meant “He believed as firmly as any mystic in the superior reality of that which is not seen.”

Treating the theory you’ve been taught as a surer guide than your own experience is the essence of political correctness. SJWs don’t just refuse to learn from the past; they resist learning from their own present. If this ever changes, they become that well-known type who is a socialist at 20 but wiser at 40. Otherwise, don’t rely on their knowing you to make a difference.

[All quotations are from memory. Khrushchev’s remark is in Robert Coquest’s, “Stalin, Breaker of Nations.”]

Is fintech-for-all now saving us?

Yesterday, at my personal blog, I expressed extreme gratitude to Christian Michel for letting me talk last Friday, at his home, on a subject which, when I first floated it to him, must have seemed very vague and vacuous, although judging by what he said about my talk afterwards, he was almost as pleased by it as I was.

Tonight, I will be attending another meeting organised by Christian Michel, partly out of gratitude for last Friday’s meeting. There is a London tube strike happening today, and I am pretty sure that Christian is now feeling a bit nervous about attendance, so I will make a point of being there.

The title of tonight’s talk is “The Collision of Fintech and Traditional Banking”. The speaker will be Sasha Karim. (I’m guessing that this is the Sasha Karim mentioned here.)

I am hoping that what Sasha Karim will say is, among other things, that, by radically lowering transaction costs and thereby making the life of a “financier” (formerly only available to ultra-clever (but not necessarily ultra-wise) people who had access to or who were attached by ultra-rich (but again, not always ultra-wise) employers to expensive machines in expensive buildings) “fintech”, aka the new world of financial transactions on mobile phones, now available to all people who are above dirt poor, is creating a world in which the old dream dreamed by the likes of Friedrich Hayek of denationalised money, can become a reality and rescue us all from the great catastrophe that has been governmentalised fiat paper currencies, of the sort denounced by another friend of mine, Detlev Schlichter. We shall see. But maybe I am being too optimistic, both about the talk and about the world. Concerning the talk, I will report further.

Hayek’s crucial little book on denationalised money has long been available on the www as a free .pdf download, but I only just found out that Detlev Schlichter’s book is now available as a free-to-download .pdf file also. Blog and learn.

Requiem for a Comrade: Tony Hollick (1942-2016)

Like all London-based libertarians of a certain vintage, I have fond and vivid memories of Tony Hollick, who died in October of this year. At the time when he was most active in the British libertarian movement, when that movement’s membership was numbered only in the dozens or less, people like Tony made a huge difference, attending and helping to organise meetings, writing and editing and, as is explained so well below, above all, arguing, which is what you are bound to do with ideas if you take ideas as seriously as Tony Hollick did. The moral and intellectual support that Tony supplied, in particular, to the late Chris R. Tame, was especially important and valuable. And see also this obituary of Tony Hollick, by Tim Evans.

Last week, on Wednesday December 7th, Tony Hollick’s funeral took place at Beckenham Crematorium, London. Below is the eulogy that his much loved godson, Gerald Hartup Jnr, wrote and read out on that sad occasion:

Tony was my godfather and I loved him dearly. He was one of my father’s oldest and closest friends and was much loved by all in the Hartup family.

He was a spectacular teacher, kind, generous with his time and very patient. As I was growing up reading philosophy, economics, politics and following current affairs I would always discuss these matters in depth with him. He was a superb sounding-board and I was very lucky to have spent so much time speaking with him. I learned a vast amount from Tony and am eternally grateful to him for that.

Tony did not like authority (huge understatement!). He particularly disliked authority when combined with a sense of injustice. He was a man with an extremely strong view on what is right or wrong and had an unbendable set of guiding moral principles. He was stubborn, passionate and had fire in his belly which would be shown in glorious style when he encountered something he considered wrong or unfair. This was a trait he displayed early on when as a boy he was expelled from two of the finest schools in the world – Dulwich College and Geelong Grammar School. A common theme behind both of those expulsions was a steadfast refusal to accept or yield to what he felt were unfair treatments and practices. He had a powerful sense of righteousness and this was always evident in the social or political causes he championed.

Tony is one of the most erudite people I have known. Not attending university did not hinder his accumulation of knowledge as he devoured swathes of books. His studies were broad, varied and extensive. His favourite fields were political philosophy and physics both in which he developed an awesome depth of knowledge. He was very thoughtful, intellectually curious and he carried himself with a scholarly disposition.

Politics was a big part of Tonys life. He had a unique take on matters and he would have described himself as a left leaning libertarian. In terms of political activity he was a founding member of the Libertarian Alliance, he worked at the alternative bookshop (a focal point of the Libertarian movement at the time), The National Association for Freedom (later the Freedom Association) and FOREST (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco). He certainly practised what he preached. He was a self-styled defender of freedom political activist and he put his health and his body on the line for the cause. It is important that this is remembered.

He was always entertaining to debate with and wow, he loved to argue. As a child I would always hear my father on the phone with Tony arguing passionately about some political topic. As I got older and smarter the baton was passed to me and I too would spend considerable time on the phone with him arguing and debating whatever matter was at hand. It really could be anything – political, philosophical, religious, historical, moral, cultural, you name it – he would have a view on it and would argue it. I think he just really loved the sport of it. Verbal sparring must have been one of his favourite things to do and with my father and I, he had some tenacious and willing sparring partners. He could have made a very imposing barrister. I do pity the many hapless victims who would have stumbled into a debate with him unknowing or unprepared for his assault! Debating him was great fun, challenging and at times exasperating – it certainly sharpened up my and my father’s oratory skills.

He was an intriguing character with some fun interests. He was a tech savvy early embracer of computers and the internet. He loved science fiction, film and literature. The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and The Matrix were sources he would often use for analogies or making comparisons from. Working on designing and producing electrically powered roller-skates was a hobby of his. He was a horologist and truly loved the beauty of watches. His prized possession was an Omega Speedmaster pre moon landing watch which he took immaculate care of for 50+ years, it gave him immense joy and he never tired of talking about it. He adored cars and motorbikes and over the years he owned some really cool vehicles. He was a cat person, long after his dear cat Beeper passed away he would affectionately recall stories about how brilliant, intelligent and lovable a creature Beeper was.

“Athens or Sparta?” was a question Tony considered crucial to ask when trying to get an understanding of a person. Of course, with Tony, it was never a simple question but the start of a long, playful and philosophical dialogue. It is very difficult to sum up a character as colourful and complex as Tony but to do so in one word I would choose “Athens”. He was unquestionably “Athens” and I think he would be happy with that.

One from Milo’s college tour

It is worth watching the panel session with Milo Yiannopolous, Stephen Crowder and Christina Hoff Summers at the University of Massechusets.

Of course the event, organised by the Republican Club, is disrupted by heckling lefties who think that the format of a panel session infringes their free speech. And Milo is typically provocative.

But watch out too for very good arguments from Milo and Christina. Milo in particular demonstrates his ability to concisely make powerful, well-reasoned arguments.

That the talk is punctuated by heckling with Milo’s provocative one-liners and Stephen Crowder’s rants just makes it all the more entertaining.

Finally, here’s a quote from Milo that could forecast the end of the PC movement:

This is the year the public starts to see these videos. My college tour is penetrating way outside the media that is usually interested in this stuff. Your parents are going to start pulling you from college if you keep this shit up.

Learning patience from Jeremy Corbyn

I have always thought that we libertarians have a lot to learn from socialists. Not about what are true ideas. They can tell us very little about that, although the process of combating those ideas is very valuable. But about how to spread ideas – how to make ideas count for something – the socialists can tell us a great deal. Their success in spreading their own ideas is all the more impressive when you consider how very bad most of these ideas are.

We can learn, for instance, patience. This is from a piece in the Guardian a few days ago by Rafael Behr:

Whatever else Corbyn’s surprise ascent last year represents, it demonstrates the value of patience. It takes a particular temperament to plug away in apparently futile opposition, making pretty much the same speech to the same fringe meeting for 30 years, letting no belief be washed away by shifting political and economic tides, but instead sifting events for bits of evidence to support the unwavering faith. Not everyone who is cast on the wrong side of history sticks around, confident that history will swing by again in the opposite direction. Yes, Corbyn has been lucky, but fortune only furnished the battle. He gets the credit for winning.

And he is still winning. The tendency in Westminster is to measure success by the restless pulse of the news cycle and the temperature of public opinion. In those terms, Corbyn is not doing so well. It took the best part of a fortnight to conduct a shadow cabinet reshuffle from which the casual observer will have gleaned that Labour is in chaos, divided over nuclear defences with a new bias towards the view that Britain shouldn’t have any. By conventional measures this is bad, but the tradition from which Corbyn hails does not respect those conventions.

To sneer at 14 days of reshuffle-related mess is an error based on the Westminster canard that a week is a long time. Corbyn and friends come from a place where 14 years is a pause for breath; where 30 years of barren rhetoric can whizz by without frustration. Set that as the tempo of achievement and the appointment of an anti-Trident shadow defence secretary is a monumental triumph. Every day in the leader’s chair is more triumphant still if it stops the Labour party returning to what it was.

When libertarians have contrived serious victories, these are the sorts of ways we have done it. When we start winning bigger and more dramatic victories, these are the sorts of ways we will do it.

My 2015 in pictures

Like Michael Jennings, I end my 2015 blogging efforts here at Samizdata with a clutch of pictures. Unlike Michael, I haven’t managed to do anything like this for every one of the last ten years. I did do something similar two years ago, but this time last year my retrospective attention was concentrated on the speakers at my monthly meetings, without any pictures of them.

I began my 2015 in France.

→ Continue reading: My 2015 in pictures

Defending free speech, making a name for yourself, and having a whale of a time

I like these people:

Free speech campaigners have secretly evaded a student union ban on two speakers who were deemed to have broken rules on causing offence.

The speakers, Milo Yiannopoulos, a self-styled men’s rights activist, and Julie Bindel, a feminist writer, were originally due to address the University of Manchester’s free speech and secular society in October to debate tensions between feminism and free speech until the student union stopped them.

Student leaders said that Ms Bindel’s views on transgender people were “transphobic” and that Mr Yiannopoulos was a “professional misogynist” and “rape apologist”.

However, Manchester’s free speech society proved to be made of sterner stuff. Its members created a new association, used a lecture hall as a venue and publicised the event only on the morning that it was to take place.

The Times, today.

Several aspects of this story lead me to wonder if I have slipped into a nicer timeline than the one I’ve been living in recently.

It was about students standing up for free speech against po-faced authoritarians. In 2015.

The university didn’t surrender. In 2015.

Better yet, it actually helped the good guys:

The university authorities themselves were part of the plot, agreeing to provide a lecture theatre as a venue for the rescheduled event and arranging for a large retinue of security staff.

More fun things to note include the fact that the process of nimbly outwitting the lumbering Students Union by adroit use of social media was obviously huge fun. These days if you want to build up a bank of happy memories of a rebellious youth to comfort you in your old age, you rebel against the Students Union. You could make a name for yourself that way. So could the Student Union apparatchiks make their names, as sour, whiny prematurely-withered prunes who couldn’t stop the music. No one will boast that they were part of Manchester Student Union in the good old days.

I have a personal grudge against Julie Bindel, and I could get irritated by Milo Yiannopoulos. Three cheers for them both for this.

Why we libertarians love Uber not just as a service but as an issue

I and my libertarian friends all love Uber. By that I don’t just mean that we love using Uber, the service, although I am sure that just like many others, we do. I mean that we love talking about Uber, as a libertarian issue, as an issue that nicely illustrates what libertarianism is all about and the sorts of things that libertarians believe in. In particular, we believe in: technological innovation and the freedom to do it, for the benefit of all, except those in the immediate vicinity of it and overtaken by it, because they make a living from the technology that is being overtaken.

Example. A couple of weeks ago I attended a talk about Art, which suggested that Art is not abundant enough and not benefiting enough people. A big part of the response from the floor during the Q&A afterwards was: It depends what you mean by Art. By most reasonable definitions, there has never been more Art. Prominent London libertarian Professor Tim Evans compared the attitude of the speaker to that of a London Black Cab driver fretting about how to keep London Black Cabs going, what with so many Londoners now preferring Uber Cabs. My point is not that this was a fair comparison, although I thought it was. My point is that we libertarians love Uber so much that we insert Uber into conversations about quite other things. Uber is something that we just love to talk about. And it’s not just Tim Evans, and me, and Johnathan Pearce, and Rob Fisher and Perry de Havilland who love to write and talk about Uber. Based on the conversations I’ve been having with fellow libertarians, it’s pretty much all of us. This is an issue which unites all of us, and which divides our opponents. After all, even anti-libertarians need a taxi ride from time to time, and they prefer it to be cheap and obtainable rather than expensive and unpurchasable.

At the very moment I first typed in the above paragraph, an email arrived from the IEA, telling me about how the IEA’s boss, Mark Littlewood, has been mixing it with Black Cabbies on the radio.

As for me, I found my interest renewed in the Uber battle when I encountered this Black Cab, last August, in Victoria Street, just up the road from the Houses of Parliament:

BlackCabAdvertisingUber1

Why was this cab of interest to me? Well, let’s take a close look at the rather intriguing politics lesson on the side of this Black Cab:

BlackCabAdvertisingUber2

As you can see from this posting at my personal blog, way back in August when I took those photos, I had in mind to put something here way back, provoked by them. But the delay didn’t matter. This issue is not going away any time soon.

The taxi driver whose taxi sported this advert clearly thought that this was an advert about how wicked Uber is. Uber lobbies. Uber puts Prime Ministerial friends on its payroll. Bad Uber. But to me, this read more like an advert in favour of David Cameron. Cameron wants Uber to flourish in London. Does he now? I did not know this. Good for Cameron. And bad for Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, who does not.

This is also an advert for Uber itself. Uber is cheaper … because it pays no tax! Come again … Uber is cheaper, you say? Hm, interesting. I must give it a go.

The LTDA, who, as you can see from the top picture, is responsible for the above advert, thinks that Uber is systematically breaking the law. What that tells me is not that Uber is bad, but that the law, insofar as it now impinges upon Uber, is an ass.

→ Continue reading: Why we libertarians love Uber not just as a service but as an issue

TfL Consultation Fun

Uber might have won a court case, but Transport for London are still threatening to regulate all sorts of silly things. But you can have your say, by copying and pasting the link below and filling in the survey which is full of free-form text boxes. I am deliberately not linking directly to it as I do not want them to be tempted to analyse where their traffic is coming from.

consultations.tfl.gov.uk/tph/private-hire-proposals/consultation

Along the way you get to be entertained by the barmy, Soviet-style ideas they have for meddling in the intricacies of other people’s affairs, and the absurd justifications thereof. My answers made much of customer choice, the regulator’s inability to predict individuals’ needs and how some of the proposals would discriminate against minorities. I feel better now.

Vox Day on Social Justice Warriors

Vox Day is a game designer, science fiction and fantasy writer, blogger, and a prominent figure in the #GamerGate and Sad Puppies movements. His book SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police describes social justice warriors and is a strategy guide for dealing with them and for winning the larger culture war.

SJWs are the people whose hobby it is to get offended.

They have also invented the useful concept of the “microaggression”. This is an inadvertent offense committed by an offender who violates the Narrative without even realizing he has done so. It is the most insidious violation because it means that the hate is buried so deeply inside the offender that he doesn’t even realize it is there. Needless to say, SJWs have a highly developed ability to observe these microaggressions being unwittingly committed.

They would be nothing more than a minor annoyance if they did not currently seem to have the ability to cause the sort of controversy that can lose people like Brendan Eich or Tim Hunt their jobs for having the wrong kind of opinion or making the wrong kind of joke.

It contains the sort of advice that should be passed onto one’s children:

The reason SJWs demand apologies is in order to establish that the act they have deemed an offense is publicly recognized as an offense by the offender. The demand for an apology has nothing whatsoever to do with the offender. It is focused on the SJW’s need to prove that the violation of the Narrative involved is publicly accepted as a real and legitimate offense for which punishment is merited. […] it is absolutely and utterly futile for the target of an SJW attack to apologize for whatever offense he is said to have caused

This is indeed what happened to Eich and Hunt. Once they apologised, the media attacks only increased.

There is also advice for the sort of people who feel the need to post articles like this as Samizdata Illuminatus:

It’s much easier to put pressure on someone who works for a university or a large corporation because the attacking SJW knows that he can count on the support of fellow SJWs in the faculty or the Human Resources department. […] The action itself only matters insofar as it indicates that the individual is a Bad Person, and since there is NO PLACE for such Bad Persons in the university, the corporation, the club, the group, or the organization, the only possible solution is for the target to be promptly expelled.

There is a chapter that describes the various stages of an SJW attack, from the moment you wake up to a Twitter storm demanding your scalp to the demands for an apology to your final ejection from polite society. Then there is a follow-up chapter explaining how to deal with each of these stages and maybe even put your attackers on the back foot by not playing along how they expect.

The first thing to do when attacked by SJWs is to recognize that you are under SJW attack, remain calm, and realize that no one else cares. […] A refusal to play along with their game quickly strips the mask of sanity from their faces and reveals the angry, shrieking madness underneath.

→ Continue reading: Vox Day on Social Justice Warriors

Samizdata quote of the day

While the risk-averse policies of universities have long been open to abuse, it is students’ unions that have done the most to popularise the illiberal logic the government is now adopting. Over the past few years, censorious student activism has hit new and ridiculous heights. Take one look at the NUS-led clampdown on lad culture – which recently received government approval – and you can see where Dave has been getting his ideas from. SU bans on rugby teams, lads’ mags and pop songs, all in the name of protecting women from offence and dunderheaded men from coming under the influence of a mythical ‘rape culture’, chime perfectly with Cameron’s insistence that we should clamp down, not only on terrorist views, but on those ‘intolerant ideas which create a climate in which extremists can flourish’. He may as well have called it terror culture.

So don’t be fooled by these hypocrites and opportunists. If we want to fight for free speech on campus, we need to take on the illiberal views of blue-haired campus nutjobs as well as doublespeak Dave. And if you want to join the real fightback, check out our Down With Campus Censorship! campaign today.

Tom Slater for Spiked.