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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Anton Howes on the Golden Age that never stopped

One of my favourite up-and-coming libertarian intellectuals is Anton Howes, who manages to combine being both a hugely effective libertarian activist and a very promising academic. He, along with a great gaggle of others, runs the very impressive Liberty League, and he is doing some very interesting historical research.

The particularly good Anton Howes news, from the point of view of the sort of people who read Samizdata, is that Anton Howes now has a blog, Capitalism’s Cradle. It reflects Anton’s research interests. He is studying the origins of the British Industrial Revolution by studying the biographies of several dozen of the key industrial innovators who set that Revolution in motion and who then kept it in motion. I first learned about this blog when Anton himself told me about it at the Adam Smith Institute Christmas Party last week. Anton is the rather solemn looking guy in the third row down, on the right, in this selection of photos that I took at that event.

Below is a quote from the very first posting on Capitalism’s Cradle, entitled Why Capitalism’s Cradle? I take this posting to be both an explanation of why the Capitalism’s Cradle blog is called that, and a question about why Capitalism’s Cradle did its stuff where it did and when it did. The question Anton is trying to answer is: What was it about the British Industrial Revolution that caused it to do better than various other “Golden Ages” that had preceded it in earlier times and in other places? Because it was indeed very special. It didn’t just happen, and then revert back to business as usual. This particular Golden Age never stopped. It spread, and it is still spreading. Why?

Innovation existed before the Industrial Revolution. Of course it did – you need look no further than the invention of agriculture, writing, bronze, crop rotations, horse collars, windmills, gunpowder, printing presses, paper, and bills of exchange to know that innovations have occurred throughout history before the IR.

The difference is that these were few and far between. Some of them, often grouped together, resulted in Golden Ages, or “Efflorescences” as Jack Goldstone likes to call them. The 1st Century early Roman Empire; the 8th Century Arab World; 12th Century Sung Dynasty China; the 15th Century northern Italian city-states; and 17th Century Dutch Republic are all good examples.

Britain could have been just like any of the other Golden Ages. It could have had Abraham Darby’s coke-smelted cast iron, Thomas Newcomen’s steam engine for pumping mines, John Kay’s flying shuttle to allow weaved cloth to be wider than the length of the weaver’s arm-span. Perhaps we would have had Lady Mary Wortley’s inoculation against smallpox, some canals much like the Romans’ or Medieval Chinese, and Jethro Tull’s seed drill.

But like every previous Golden Age, that would have been it – until the next Golden Age, wherever and whenever that would end up being.

But the British IR was different. It started off as a ‘mere’ Golden Age in the 18th Century, but the pace of innovation was maintained and then quickened. And it hasn’t stopped for the past 250 years or so. Despite the occasional downturn, we still expect at least 1-2% GDP growth. Anything less than that is considered stagnation.

That isn’t the answer to the question. It merely restates the question in somewhat greater detail. But I particularly like this elaboration, because I have heard Anton refer in passing to these Golden Ages, these efflorescences, in various talks that I have heard him deliver, but I didn’t make a note of what they all were. Now, I have this blog posting, and this blog in general, to enable me to chase up such notions, and also to help me ponder all the other notions that will be needed to get towards an answer to the question that Anton is posing.

I do not think I will be the only Samizdata reader who will also be a regular reader of Capitalism’s Cradle.

In case anyone wonders why I love Guido Fawkes

I only just spotted this on CapX and it does help explain why I have a high opinion of ‘Guido Fawkes‘, warts and all: he has been on the side of the angels for a long, long time.

Samizdata quote of the day

Back in 2001, Brian Micklethwait once said something that has since become part of my standard operating procedure. Speaking from his experience actually organising activities, rather than just talking about organising them as is the case with most people, he said if someone starts to offer you unsolicited advice about how to improve whatever it is that you are doing, immediately ask if they are prepared to get involved and implement their suggestion themselves. If the answer is yes, listen to what they have to say. If the answer if no, stop them right there and change the subject.

Perry de Havilland

Long live Guido!

I have always been a fan of Guido Fawkes… he writes about party politics in the UK so we don’t have to! Not joking, I literally do not bother 98% of the time because we have Guido. Whatever I would have said, Guido already said it. Samizdata does not even have a ‘politics’ category for articles. In the sidebar, he effectively has his own link category :-D

And he has been fighting the good flight for ten years.

Well done Guido!

Coming up with the perfect title

Sometimes when doing a blog post, the hardest bit is coming up with the most appropriate title. This one had me LOL’ing :-D

I Felt A Great Disturbance In The Narrative

Note, this is about the art of blogging rather than some civil disturbance in the USA, about which I really have no opinion beyond saying I am against US-style paramilitary policing. But I also think burning down local businesses because you are pissed off with the state indicates an advanced state of communal derangement. But have I have seen no reliable information that moves me to stick my oar in the water at any length about this particular bit of local nastiness.

Samizdata quote of the day

I don’t know if (politicians) are enemies or more prey but I certainly didn’t go into Westminster to make friends and in that I’ve certainly succeeded.

– the ever splendid Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes)

Samizdata quote of the day

To me, (Britain) now seems a strange, immoral place. For example, I read articles in The Guardian and The Times this week about the abolition of inherited wealth. The Economist also recently wrote about it. It did not even occur to any of these columnists that they were talking about the property of others. They did not create it. They did not inherit it. They have no just claim to it. Yet they have no moral concerns about proposing its seizure.

‘Tom Paine’

Detlev Schlichter is back

Incoming from Detlev Schlichter. He is back blogging. His second recent posting, the one after the one that just says he’s back, is about Bitcoin. He thinks that the Bitcoin principle, so to speak, even if maybe not Bitcoin itself, has a future:

Central bankers of the world, be afraid, be very afraid!

My own sense is that, just as Schlichter says, the world’s rulers are now stuck in a monetary prison of their own making, from which they cannot now extricate themselves. Quite a few of them understand approximately what is wrong with their current policies, even as many others of these people have no clue. Many others favour the current state of the banking system, because it enriches them even as it impoverishes most others. But even those banker/politicians who do understand what harm they are now inflicting upon the world and would like to stop, don’t know how to. It is one thing to be in a prison and to know that you are in a prison, quite another to escape from the prison.

To switch metaphors from the prison to the hospital, the world’s banking system is now alive rather than dead, but not in the sense that the patient is up and about, playing beach volleyball with its children like a tampon advert woman. It is alive merely in the sense that a terminally ill patient, lying in a hospital bed after a horribly intrusive death-postponing operation, sinking slowly rather than fast, is also alive rather than dead.

Only outside monetary influences, such as Bitcoin or such as variations on the Bitcoin theme, will bring back a world of true money.

The fact that, if you put some of your wealth into Bitcoin, you just might lose damn near the lot is a feature not a bug. Government guarantees that you won’t lose out no matter how unwise your decisions may prove to be are the problem, not the solution.

Schlichter spends quite a lot of his piece denouncing a certain Mark T. Williams, a finance professor at Boston University’s School of Management, but he ends his piece by quoting him again…

If not controlled and tightly regulated, Bitcoin – a decentralized, untraceable, highly volatile and nationless currency – has the potential to undermine this longstanding bond between sovereign and its currency.

… and agreeing with him! That’s a feature rather than a bug.

Welcome back to the blogosphere, Herr Schlichter.

LATER: And as I should have added, I am hosting a talk tomorrow evening about Bitcoin etc., given by Dominic Frisby (that’s Dominic’s thoughts on the recent Bitcoin disaster/price plummet (which Bruce Hoult explained here)). There is not a lot of room left for more would-be attenders, but there is, as of now, some.

A day that got us thinking

It was twelve years ago now, so it is no particular surprise that nobody here, as September 11th 2013 comes to its end, had much to say about September 11th 2001. But Simon Clarke of Libertarian Home does say something of significance about this tumultuous day. In a posting entitled Libertarian Home started 12 years ago today, he says this:

To say that Libertarian Home is a result of 9/11 sounds like some random happenstance, but it was not. 9/11 woke me up, and got me thinking.

9/11 woke up a lot of people. It got a lot of people thinking. A great many blogs started up soon after that day. It wasn’t merely because, at around that time, they could. In the aftermath of 9/11 people found themselves wanting to say things that the regular media were not saying, and to criticise a lot of the things that the regular media were saying.

Simon did not immediately start writing blog postings, but he did start reading blogs, including this one, which is most gratifying to know.

Put the boot in, Guido!

When I read this

THE country’s top political blogger, Paul Staines – better known as Guido Fawkes – has threatened to sue Tory MP Claire Perry after she alleged he had “sponsored” a hack attack on her website.

… I was moved to say that this Perry is very much in favour of Guido using the courts to kick the living hell out of that Perry, the thuggish ‘Honourable’ member for Devizes.

Put the boot in, Guido!

They should have just said they were members of Hezbollah…

Although I think it is a mistake to consort with the EDL, does it not seem strange that the two US bloggers behind Jihad Watch and Atlas Shrugs should be banned from entering the UK… whilst Mohammad Al-Arefe can come into the country and preach the overthrow of Western Civilisation?

Samizdata quote of the day

Taking offence cannot be equated to being criminally victimised.

– “Cannot” as in: “should not”. Sadly, they just did. That’s Richard Carey, writing at Libertarian Home about the disappearance of the blog and twitter feed of Old Holborn, and other twitter accounts, for the crime of being “inappropriate and offensive”.