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]

Farming Ivory

Between watching other things last night my television briefly showed me Ross Kemp in Africa talking to a park ranger about elephant poachers armed with AK-47s. In voiceover he said that in the last 10 years 1000 park rangers have been killed. I looked it up. The Game Rangers Association of Africa are quoting the same figure. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature are saying the same thing, adding that the numbers are as reported by co-operating countries to the International Ranger Federation.

My first thought was to wonder how the nature conservationists think it is worth that much human life to protect some animals.

But as David Moore succinctly puts it in response to a Tim Worstall post about “waste [disposal] crime”, this is really another case of “government regulations creating massive incentives to bypass government regulations”.

Now there are objections. A one-off legal ivory sale intended to reduce the price of ivory apparently increased demand for poached ivory because researchers Prof Solomon Hsiang at the University of California Berkeley and Nitin Sekar at Princeton University, “think the legal sale reduced the stigma of ivory, boosting demand, and provided cover for the smuggling of illegal ivory, boosting supply”. This strikes me as a problem with one-off sales specifically, which are distinct from the long-term balance of supply and demand seen in a free market.

A couple of years ago Simon Jenkins argued in favour of ivory farming, and Will Travers responded with some impertinent arguments and some teenage emotional outpourings echoed by the commentariat that seem to amount to little more than “why can’t we all just get along?” Case in point:

I think Simon Jenkin’s proposal is wrong & morally offensive. Surely we need to banish forever the premise that animals on this planet are for here for the purpose of human beings’ exploitation & use – that their body parts are commodities to be farmed & harvested!

It does sound awfully easy when typed by a middle-class Guardian reader coddled in his air-conditioned public-sector office or a newly-vegetarian thirteen-year-old girl.

Here is how this middle-class libertarian blogger would solve it from his air-conditioned office: Abolish Cites, legalise the trade, and privatise the reservations so that the owners have an incentive to keep producing ivory, therefore preserving the species. There will still be poachers, but at least the profits could fund some proper security.

Addendums: Ivory is in the news very recently and I commented there; we do seem to talk about ivory a lot here; this is a small problem compared to, say, mosquito borne illness (which I am planning to write about soon).

It’s not about the drought

Ethiopia again:

In Africa there is a humanitarian emergency unfolding that has largely escaped the world’s attention. It is a prodigious drought and it holds much of the continent in an unforgiving grip. Here in Ethiopia it is reckoned to be the worst for 50 years. The culprit is long-term climate change coinciding with a hot and unwelcome blast of El Nino. The result? Successive rains have failed. And when the rains fail, so do the harvests. In a nation where three quarters of the population relies on farming, that’s a disaster. And so a great hunger has arrived which will render as many as 15 million people in need of urgent aid.

The ruling party in Ethiopia is the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. The name says a lot. Wikipedia details concisely their ideology.

The front views liberal democracy and free market capitalism as decadent, and has a “romantic attachment” to the beliefs of Vladimir Lenin…

That would be the kind of decadence that lets us feed ourselves when the weather is bad.

The Wikipedia article cites an article in the Addis Ababa university paper.

Not forgetting ‘revolutionary democracy’ as a pervasive and effective yet out-dated alternative to the ‘‘ill-fit and unsustainable liberal democracy’’, it is undeniable that EPRDF’s economic results owe their little success to the liberal economic reforms pushed into results by a powerful state.

They fucking know what they have done, and what they should do to fix it.

Socialism kills

Nigeria’s ‘War Against Indiscipline’

The other day, driving around Liverpool (a fine but faded city), I heard on the radio a short item looking back on the experiment of a 1980s military government in Nigeria, whereby the General in charge, President Buhari (later to become a civilian, elected President, but only after being overthrown and jailed in another coup) had got his deputy to launch a ‘War Against Indiscipline‘ or ‘WAI‘ (why?) in March 1984.

One of the visible objectives of WAI was the encouragement of customers and citizens to line up to board buses and mostly line up or queue for high demand services.

This was, like most government ‘wars’ these days, directed against its own populace. But it was one with immodest objectives such as to get officials not to take bribes (rather than getting rid of officials’ jobs), stopping students cheating in exams, and getting people to learn the national anthem, not merely to get people not to fight for a place on a bus. I wonder what government’s programme inspired it? It seems to have a touch of a Lenin Saturday.

Some elements had a slightly comical aspect, such as making civil servants turn up for work on time (anyone see that as a good idea?) with soldiers making them do star jumps in front of colleagues if they were late for work. Someone also named an album after the WAI, so it has some resonance in popular culture.

There were others programmes too, a ‘clean-up’ campaign to improve hygiene, which I’m told persists to this day. I had not heard about this ‘war’ previously, in the 1980s a military government in Nigeria seemed to be about as regular as the US Congress hiking the Federal debt limit, it was more ‘when’ not ‘if’. Nigerian acquaintances and a family member doing business there had told me plenty of grim stories about the behaviour of police and soldiers in Nigeria as it was, I had not realised that a whole new justification for State thuggery had been dreamt up.

Of course, there was the implementation, the basic idea seems to have been that the common soldiery would go around the country and would ensure that the civilian population ‘behaved themselves’. What, might you think, could possibly go wrong?

The program was criticized by some for poor planning and engaging in draconian and unreasonable punishments such as public flogging and long sentences for minor offenses. A student above 17 years of age caught cheating could get close to 21 years in prison while counterfeiting, arson and illegal oil bunkering could lead to the death penalty. (3) Some analysts also allege that some of WAI’s patriotic objectives such as reciting the national anthem and national pledge had little do to with order or corruption.

So was patriotism the first resort of a scoundrel? The radio programme reports beatings being handed out by soldiers. The ‘war’ ended when another faction in the military overthrew Buhari, and the effort at expressly changing popular behaviours by force was more or less at an end.

One might hope that the example of this dirigiste thinking, which I now see faintly echoed in old Labour Party proposals for yobs to be marched to cash machines by police in order to pay an on-the-spot fine, might be enough to make those who seek to change behaviour (other than aggression) by force think again.

But there will be no use of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s idea, floated in July, that police should be given powers to take drunken louts to a cash machine and pay £100 on-the-spot fines.

That proposal was rejected by the police as impractical.

Impractical, is it not also tyrannical? Is living with other people’s annoying behaviour (when not affecting you or your property) that hard for people? Let people be, if they see a harmony of rightly-understood interests in queueing and civil behaviour, then fine. If not, then that is how they are. A government ‘war’ isn’t going to be the right answer, unless your end is war itself. And of course, there are the Nudge Nazis.

But there’s nothing like nostalgia, and some are calling for the President to re-start this war.

And in Benin, if this report is believed, a woman motorist lashed out at their own, newer, better WAI officials.

According to the woman,one of the officials hit her in the face while the others ran away when the arguement between the woman and the WAI officials got intense.However,she was able to hold the official that hit her in the face.The official was beaten mercilessly by the woman.

Eyewitnesses made no attempt to help the man as they were not happy with the WAI officials. One of the eyewitnesses said:

“WAI officials and Oshiomole boys should be called to order.They always harass people unnecessarily….especially women.It is not advisable for any woman to drive alone in Edo State again. You should have someone in the car with you, specifically, a man unless they could pounce on you….guilty or not.”

Back in Liverpool, this facade on the oddly-named State House caught my eye; the motto ‘Trade and Navigation‘, the State playing the biggest role in that city now. State House

Samizdata quote of the day

The problem of poverty is not a shortage of experts; it’s a shortage of rights.

– On December 6th 2015, William Easterly gave the most recent Hayek Memorial Lecture, on the subject of “The Tyranny of Experts: Foreign Aid versus Freedom for the World’s Poor”.

Just after 13 minutes and 40 seconds into his lecture, Easterly said the above words, twice.

The state really really is not your friend

The Kenyan government didn’t play much of a part in ending the three-hour bloodbath, McConnell reports. By the time security forces arrived, the attack was mostly over thanks to an “unlikely coalition of licensed civilian gun owners and brave, resourceful individual police officers [who] took it upon themselves to mount a rescue effort.” While this little band of saviors would ferry dozens of people to safety, when Kenyan forces did arrive, “it was only to shoot at one another before going on an armed looting spree that resulted in the collapse of the rear of the building, destroyed with a rocket-propelled grenade. And there were only four gunmen, all of whom were buried in the rubble, along with much of the forensic evidence.”

– Tristan McConnell

Read the whole thing.

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.

Samizdata quote of the day

When was the last time you saw a very light-skinned Nigerian criminal? All the armed robbers that are paraded by the Nigerian police are usually dark skinned. Yes the SSS paraded the light-skinned Kabiru Sokoto, but they did him the courtesy of buying him a brand new t-shirt after they caught him hiding. When they showed him to news men, his face showed no signs of being tortured. So also the light-skinned alleged mastermind of the Nyanya bombing, Aminu Ogwuche. No swollen face or beating. If they were dark skinned, they would have been shirtless and sitting on the floor with a split lip or swollen eye. That is why I always advice dark skinned people to avoid crime. Because they will be the first to be caught. And when they get caught, no one will feel bad about giving them a good beating.

Elnathan John

Stop calling what happened in Kenya a ‘tragedy’…

Stop calling what happened in Kenya a ‘tragedy‘. A bridge collapsing is a tragedy. A house burning down is a tragedy. Dying from Ebola is a tragedy. What happened at Garissa University in north-eastern Kenya was an atrocity. People did this on purpose.

The Religion of Peace out does itself

The horror in Kenya is almost beyond belief. Almost. One hundred and forty seven dead, mostly Kenyan university students. I wonder how ‘the west’ will get blamed for this one?

Just when I was beginning to think the European Court of Human Rights might not be so bad

Via Jim Miller on Politics, I found this:

EU court orders France to pay thousands to Somali pirates

The EU’s top human rights court on Thursday ordered France to pay thousands of euros to Somali pirates who attacked French ships for “violating their rights” by holding them an additional 48 hours before taking them before a judge.

The Somali pirates were apprehended on the high seas by the French army on two separate occasions in 2008 and taken back to France for trial.

(The report is incorrect to call the ECHR an “EU court”. Judgements and precedents may mesh with EU law in ways I do not fully understand; but the ECHR is the creation of the Council of Europe, not the European Union.)

I sometimes think that this sort of judgement can only be the result of a deliberate strategy to discredit the words “human rights” in the eyes of the peoples of Europe. But why would anyone want to do that? Perhaps because it suits the immediate self-interest of the individual “human rights professionals”, and the future be damned.

By the way, it is possible to defend the Somali pirates on quasi-libertarian grounds; that they only do freelance what states regularly do without arousing condemnation. One of the commenters to the MSN piece appears to take that view. I don’t, although I do accept (make that “passionately proclaim”) that states continually get a pass on evil deeds just by calling themselves states. Even so, states that have acted as the pirates do – kidnapping and murdering passing holidaymakers – do not escape condemnation, and nor should anyone else.

Call that an epidemic? This is an epidemic.

This is how in 1918 Times readers first found out about Spanish flu:

The Times 3 June 1918 p5

The Times 3 June 1918 p5


You can say that again. It ended up killing 40 million people.

Incidentally the Wikipedia page on the subject is an appalling mess. At one point it claims that it began on the Allied side of the front, at another that it began on the Central Powers’ side. At one point it claims that it was particularly lethal to those with strong immune systems and at another to those with weak immune systems.

Having said that I love the suggestion that it was called Spanish flu because that was the origin of the first reports of the disease. It was the origin of the reports not because it was the first place to get the disease but because wartime censors did not want to encourage the enemy by admitting its presence.

So, it’s possible that this was not how Times readers first found out about it.

I demand reparations for the crimes committed against women by men!

My case to receive reparations is just as solid as the case for reparations to be paid to African-Americans by lesser-hyphenated-Americans.

Many members of a group to which I belong by accident of birth were enslaved by the group to which you belong by accident of birth (talking to you, heterogametic oppressors). Don’t waste my time with talk about how the law has given women equal legal status to men for generations now, because we are still poorer than you. Well some of us are poorer than some of you and some of us are richer than some of you, but let me tell you that even if I’m doing fine myself, the thought of people with bodies more like mine being on average poorer than people with bodies less like mine is a profound hurt that can only be assuaged by money.

No, the fact that you personally have never enslaved, beaten or otherwise oppressed a woman is not relevant. Can’t you see this thing is bigger than mere individual morality?

You can stop whingeing about how lots of men in history were oppressed quite as much as women were, or how people of both sexes were oppressed on many grounds other than gender, such as class, religion, nationality and race. I am quite aware of that already and join with all victim-groups in unbreakable solidarity, unless any of the oppressors included my ancestors such as to place me in a paying-out group, in which case the notion of paying reparations for the crimes of one’s ancestors is ridiculous. It is the present – a present in which many women are cruelly oppressed – not the past that matters! (Er, when it comes to us getting the money, that is. When it comes to deciding who pays the money, it’s the situation centuries ago that matters, obviously.)

Anyway, why should an artificial construct like “nationality” or “race” be the factor that determines who gets reparations? Gender, unlike race, can be determined objectively. Make gender the criterion and you will be troubled by very few of those pettifogging legalisms you get with race about how all the mixed ancestry people would have to pay reparations to themselves.

Cease your caterwauling about how your great-grandpa once put half a crown in a suffragette collection box. Obviously guilt can be inherited (by you) but the notion of heritable credit is contrary to reason.

None of your man-splainin’ nonsense about being partially descended from women, either. I’m certainly not going to let myself off from the solemn duty of identifying solely with my own gender just because some of my ancestors were men. See, if I can maintain decent standards of group segregation, so can you.

Do not presume to ask how many generations must go by before your group is to be permitted to cease its duty of unrequited toil (mediated via the tax collector and the Reparations Administration Agency) for the benefit of my group. Be assured that we will let you know when we no longer want your money. Until then, woe to that man by whom the offense cometh. That’s you, that is.