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]

UNESCO gets Nigerian education wrong

UNESCO has published some statistics (in a fact sheet) about how badly Nigeria is doing educationally. But, says James Stanfield:

Unfortunately, these statistics fail to take into account the thousands of unregistered low cost private schools that exist across Nigeria and the millions of children who attend these schools.

But why is this unfortunate? First, the state of the world is better than someone says it is, which is good to know. Second, a bunch of people with the desire to govern, in practice to derange, the entire world is ignorant of what is really going on in it. To me, that also sounds rather good. Accurate statistics are the lifeblood of government.

Stanfield’s answer to why it is unfortunate that UNESCO is wrong about Nigerian education goes like this:

Without an education crisis and UNESCO would quickly become redundant. Second, by widely exaggerating the number of out of school children, this also allows UNESCO to point the finger at Western donors for failing to meet their funding commitments.

If proving UNESCO wrong about education in Nigeria would really lead to UNESCO’s demise, then Stanfield might be right to call UNESCO’s mistaken statistics unfortunate and to set about convincing UNESCO and the world of UNESCO’s wrongness. But they will surely have no such effect. “If only” says Stanfield’s title, UNESCO would admit its errors. But UNESCO being wrong about it hasn’t stopped education improving in Nigeria. UNESCO will go on being wrong about education in Nigeria. Education in Nigeria will continue to improve.

I do not object to the substance of Stanfield’s blog posting, merely its rather unfortunate wording about how unfortunate the UNESCO “fact” sheet really is. The ideal arrangement is for people like James Stanfield to carrying right on telling everyone how well education is now doing in places like Nigeria. This tells rich donors that they can keep their money instead of giving it to UNESCO, and it tells people in rich countries to stop fretting about education in poorer countries, and instead to tackle their own educational problems, by dismantling their own state education systems.

Yes they do know it’s Christmas

I like this:

CAPE TOWN. After 28 years of silently tolerating it, a group of unemployed local musicians have joined forces to release a Christmas single, entitled ‘Yes we do,’   in response to the Bob Geldof inspired Band Aid song, ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’

Thankyou to Tim Worstall for spotting this.

Speaking at the launch of the single, whose proceeds will go towards teaching discipline, literacy and contraception at British schools, composer and singer Boomtown Gundane said that for years he had been irked by Geldof’s assumption that hungry Africans were also stupid.

Sadly, it’s a joke. But quite a good one, I think.

The news from Africa is often very good

Legitimately self-made African billionaires are harbingers of hope. Though few in number, they are growing more common. They exemplify how far Africa has come and give reason to believe that its recent high growth rates may continue. The politics of the continent’s Mediterranean shore may have dominated headlines this year, but the new boom south of the Sahara will affect more lives.

From Ghana in the west to Mozambique in the south, Africa’s economies are consistently growing faster than those of almost any other region of the world. At least half a dozen have expanded by more than 6 per cent a year for six or more years.

The Economist, 3 December, page 77. (Behind the magazine’s paywall, so thank me for typing it out for you). The magazine has a nice study of the continent, laying out the continued problems but also the many bright spots. There is a handy map showing which countries have the fastest and slowest GDP growth rates, with the fastest rates in black (Ethiopia, at 7.5 per cent), then red, lighter red, all the way down to the deadbeats, in white. Of course, in looking at percentage rises or falls in growth, it pays to remember that statistics can be highly misleading (hardly a surprise to any skeptics of government, of course) and it is easy to rise fast from a low base. But still, these numbers are indicative of a more positive picture.

Needless top say, Zimbabwe came at the bottom of the growth league. It remains a grim lesson in how collectivism, cronyism and debauchery of money spell disaster. If parts of Africa are beginning to understand the follies of this and start to make serious money, that is excellent news. For a start, refugees from the hellholes of the continent might, instead of entering sclerotic Europe, choose to make a life in a more congenial place elsewhere.

Of course, there have been false dawns before. But with the flood of money entering the continent from China (after all that commodity wealth), I have a feeling that the rise of Africa has some staying power, particularly given the young demographics. Of course, it could all be messed up from things such as a rise of global protectionism.

If only…

George Monbiot begins a banker-bashing article in the Guardian with these words,

If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.

Inevitable result? That is a lot to ask, in Africa or anywhere.

If in most of Africa in the last half-century the probable, or, Dear God, the permitted, result of the hard work and enterprise of women – or men – had been a modest increase in wealth, and not, as it mostly was, the expropriation of whatever you had gained and a chance to be murdered as a hoarder or class enemy by whatever Derg or other bunch of socialist thugs was calling itself the government that week, why, then Africa might have thrown off poverty the way Taiwan and South Korea did.

As Adam Smith said, “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.” Let us remember those who died in avoidable famines because that “little else” was too much to ask from Africa’s leaders, and from their Guardian reading admirers.

Even Africa is now slowly but surely getting richer, now that the worst of the folly has been thrown off. Inevitable wealth as the result of enterprise and hard work was not necessary to bring about this result. Just a half-decent chance at it.

Sic semper tyrannis

Gaddafi summarily executed by Libyan rebels… the world is a better place today than it was yesterday.

Lets hope this puts the right idea in people’s heads elsewhere.

50,000,000,000,000 Zimbabwe dollars

Andy Janes has just bought one of these:


He paid £1.70. Not bad. But how many pounds will such a thing cost in a few years time?

Have a nice weekend.

Guido dishes the dirt on Labour and Libya

Following on from Perry’s post immediately below this one, I see that Guido Fawkes (aka Paul Staines), has, by his standards, a pretty long, and more significantly, very strongly worded item pointing to all the various links between the late, unlamented Labour government, and the equally unlamented Libyan dictator. I wonder how Tony Blair regrets that photo of him shaking hands with Gaddaffi?

Maybe not. Maybe, Blair might argue, that yes, the guy was and is a bastard, but he came clean about his own WMD programmes in 2003 after Saddam was toppled and to that limited extent, it was right for the West to “reward” those countries run by people who had shown some signs of seeing sense. But the trouble with this sort of realpolitik is that it requires a country like Britain to turn a sort of Nelsonian blind eye to the manifest wickedness of a regime and its past. And let’s not be partisan here: the same calculations have been taken by rightwing administrations as well. Such statecraft is an ugly business, and not a place for high-falutin sanctimony. That said, the deal to release the guy blamed for the Lockerbie massacre, only to see how this release was treated by the Libyan authorities, stank to high heaven. It also unnecessarily has damaged relations between the UK and US.

As for what happens next, I haven’t the foggiest idea.

It’s those pirates again

Praveen Swami, diplomatic editor of the Daily Telegraph, has a good piece – although I might quibble on one or two points – concerning the problem of Somali piracy, about which I have written several times here at Samizdata. I am not going to add further comment to what I have already said, but I was impressed by this article and a longish comment attached to it by a person with the signature of “IgonikonJack”. It is pretty good. And another, by “itzman”, refers to the issue of “letters of marque”.

A related point is that I have been reading Wired for War, by PW Singer, and it has fascinating things to say about some remarkable new technologies as apply not just in areas such as robotics and pilotless aircraft – those “drones” – also in the innovations now under way in the nautical world. They will surely play a part in any move to suppress piracy, but as Singer points out, the bad guys can increasingly get their hands on technology as well, and often by entirely legitimate means. This is all the more reason why libertarians, who are sometimes at the cutting edge of thinking about alternatives to government-imposed laws, as in the case of legal writer Bruce Benson, should get involved in how to address issues such as piracy.

In the Daily Telegraph article I link to, is the fact that, at the time of writing, more than 1,000 people are being held hostage by Somali pirates. If the same amount of people had been taken hostage on civil airliners, say, I think the major powers of the world might have adopted a more robust view by now.

Regime smashing in Libya

Others have been complaining about how long it has taken, but I have been surprised at the speed with which the West has responded to events in Libya, and have been unable to shake the feeling, until today actually, that the reports I was reading were send-ups for comic purposes of some kind.

I am an agnostic about Western intervention in foreign parts rather than an outright atheist, but I respect the atheist position and deeply fear the true believer, “nation building” idea. Governments are good at destroying stuff, but tend to be shambolic at any kind of creativity. The more creative they try to be, the more destructive they typically end up being. People do creative, not governments.

This operation seems to be mostly destructive, which is all to the good. I think it reasonable to hope that it accomplishes some good, rather than only fearful that it will all go horribly wrong.

The West’s leaders are telling Gadaffi that maybe he can rule his country, but not the way he has been for the last fortnight or so. Bombing it and shelling it into submission is not allowed. Do that and we’ll do the same to you. Govern your country with riot police. Maybe arrange some elections, and then fix them. Bribe people into supporting you, rather than just killing them like they are armed soldiers. Above all, and now I’m going by what David Cameron said this afternoon, don’t announce ceasefires and promise them to your fellow members of the Head of Government Club, but then not deliver them.

This was one of the big things that Saddam Hussein did wrong, as I understand that earlier story. He didn’t just invade Kuwait. He told other members of the Head of Government Club that he wouldn’t. Lying to your people is okay. They all do that. That’s business as usual. But lying to fellow members of the Head of Government Club is not the done thing. Do it and you get blackballed, by which is meant that your armed underlings, the basis of your power, get slaughtered. Provided, that is, you are not bossing a serious power, and Westerners slaughtering your underlings would start a serious war, as opposed to an “asymmetric” war (i.e. a slaughter of your slaughterers).

LOL!!!: Just watched a British military talking-head-in-a-suit on the BBC, when asked to say what success for this operation would mean, say: “removing Saddam”, and then hurriedly correct himself.

The Kenyan Constitution – Natalie Solent was correct

Some people may remember Natalie Solent writing a post on Samizdata about statist developments in Kenya (a post inspired by a BBC report – of all things).

Predictably a from-central-casting leftist commenter turned up – accusing Natalie Solent (and even nice, gentle, fluffy me) of lies, ignorance…

Well Glenn Beck has actually read the new Kenyan Constitution, passed last week (even I could think of better things to do than read the small print of the new Kenyan Constitution – for example pluck out some of my nose hairs, so if Glenn wants to use his failing eyes to read the thing for the rest us…) and he read out sections of it on Monday, live on his show.

There is a list of “positive” rights (i.e. nice things the government must do for you) – wild promises of health, education, and so on. The idea that these can be afforded even in a developed economy (in the long term) is problematic – as for in an economy like Kenya, the idea is absurd.

Also (as even the Economist magazine admitted – although, of course, it supported the new Constitution) large areas of what are presently privately owned land can now be taken by the government.

Lastly – we have an interesting definition of “freedom of speech” (the very thing that Natalie was pointing to) . “Hate speech” is excluded from “free speech” protection – and hate speech is defined as an attack on a group, or an individual (which just about covers everything one might use a right to free speech to do). I am sure that Frank Lloyd (President Barack Obama’s “Diversity” Commissar at the Federal Communications Commission) would love to introduce such a Constitution in the United States (no naughty Fox News, or talk radio or internet to upset him any more), Kenya may even replace the Venezuela of President Chevez as his favourite country.

Although there are no explicit use of words like “Marxism”, the style in which the Kenyan Constitution is written (and a lot of the content – see above) is very much like the old Soviet Constitution – not a nasty, negative, set of limitations on government power like the United States Constitution.

Almost needless to say Comrade Barack Obama spent a lot of money making sure the new Kenyan Constitution was passed – although Glenn Beck did not mention that point. Although Glenn did mention that this sort of Constitution was the “Dream” of Barack Obama’s Marxist pro Soviet father (not to be confused with his Marxist mother or socialist maternal grandparents, or his Marxist childhood mentor Frank Marshall Davis, or his fellow Marxists in New York whilst a post grad, or the Marxists he worked with for his whole adult life in Chicago, or his Marxist Liberation Theology Minister for twenty years Rev. J. Wright or…), as made clear (if one reads carefully) in Barack Obama’s own first book “Dreams…”

A friend of mine has looked into the Kenyan constitution – I hope I do not have to read it (i.e. I am forced to when some moron, or paid hack, comes along and say it is a wonderful example of truly limited government), from the sound of even this bit it seems like the Constitutional document equivalent of a snuff film.

His initial comments were:

I’ll stick to other countries’ coffee now, the rights enumerated are amazing, even goods and services. Why didn’t Marx think of simply enumerating legal rights to plenty? Were the massacres encouraged as a reason for the new Constitution? Clause 10 is bad enough; 34 (4); 43; 66, 73 etc.

How do I enforce my rights (were I Kenyan) under 43 (1) (c): By not paying in a restaurant? Everyone is obliged to uphold the Constitution 3 (1). OK, start saving up for the Famine relief now…

No wonder the Economist magazine supported it (no I am not saying they are Marxists – they are just whores who always try and get into bed with the powerful) and Comrade Barack spent American tax money to make sure it passed.

Kenya launches a text service to stop hate speech

The BBC reports, utterly uncritically, “Kenya launches text service to stop hate speech

A new text service to report hate speech in Kenya has been launched ahead of a referendum on a new constitution.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission, set up after the 2007 post-poll violence in which some 1,300 people were killed, will monitor it.

“If hate speech is reported, we will be able to respond within 12 hours,” NCIC head Mzalendo Kibinja told the BBC.

Respond how, exactly? Do they mean issue a statement rebutting the hateful arguments, or do they mean arrest someone?

Mr Kibinja said some people still find it difficult to report their concerns to the authorities.

Because of a commendable reluctance to criminalise speech? Apparently not:

“Sometimes people give up, they don’t want go to the police station because they think nothing will be done,” he told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.

NCIC’s Millie Lwanga said the free SMS number – 6397 – was established thanks to $700,000 (£459,400) received from international donors, Kenya’s Daily Nation paper reports.

I would be interested to know who these foreign donors were, and whether they were individuals or organisations. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the EU helping Africa to try out systems to control free speech that it would like to introduce in Europe – but this is pure speculation on my part.

It could be that this initiative is being misreported, and that a fashionable concern with “hate speech” has been semi-randomly stuck on the label of what is actually a police hotline for people to report mobs gathering or incitement to specific criminal acts.

I hope so. Yes, I do know that Kenya has suffered severe violence after past elections. No, I do not want a repeat of this. But telling informers that their denunciations will be acted upon within twelve hours is not the way to promote civil society. It does not even succeed in reducing violence. The delator and the mob thrived together in ancient Rome.

Africa’s age of faith; the world’s age of war?

Some days ago I went via Instapundit to an article about how the surge of Pentecostalism in Africa may help America in the War on Terror, and from there to this Pew Forum article on the global rise of Christianity, especially in Africa. Very much especially in Africa.

It may even be beating Islam.

I would guess I am a lot happier about Africa’s emerging Age of Faith (in its Christian variety at least; I fear Islam) than most of you reading this post. Yet I cannot repress a sense of disquiet when I remember that there are more people in Africa who think the freeing of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga a bad thing than think it a good thing. If there is a similar case next year the margin will probably be larger; and eventually that will change what happens. Western pressure will no longer work. Indeed, the boot may be on the other foot: the Pew article also says that there are already something like 2,000 Christian missionaries from Asia and Africa at work in Great Britain. Hard work at the moment, but that could change. Most people in the West assume that religion must inevitably decline as the world becomes richer and better educated. I tend to assume, gloomily, that its decline proceeds as the world embraces state welfare. But even the tide on Dover beach turns some day.

I do rejoice for my African brothers and sisters and my political fears may not come to pass. A fervent Christianity can be and has been a force for political freedom. Vile, cruel and hypocritical as the history of the United States is, it is slightly less vile, cruel and hypocritical than that of most nations – they never quite forgot that the Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower were Puritans fleeing persecution rather than instituting it.

Even the teetering balance between Christianity and Islam might do for Africa what the teetering balance between Protestantism and Catholicism did for Europe: let secularism sneak in as the second best option for all sides.

Or we might do a great deal worse. The other rising tide in the world is that of the global progressive elite, the Tranzis. For the first time in human history there is no technological obstacle to a world government. That I have long feared but now a new fear joins it. Barefoot religion meets the bureaucratic, unitary state, how does that work?

Perhaps, led by Africa, we are moving towards something like the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace.