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]


I like this:

Given that time is a continuous variable, there is a certain arbitrariness to the way in which it is measured. For a long time, society has agreed a system composed of multiple units and one of those units, you may have noticed, just went up by one. Welcome to 2013.

It’s Simon Gibbs of Libertarian Home, greeting the new year and looking back over the old one. The posting contains many things of interest, but allow me in particular to draw your attention to one of Libertarian Home’s projects that Gibbs lists as having done well, in the year 2012:

Getting a push from Samizdata my video and article on the The Reality of UK Uncut is a late entrant from December.

The push in question being this. A reminder, if any of us Samizdata contributors need it, that our blog can make quite a difference, in this case to the morale of a fellow libertarian, with a bit of linkage that consumed only a fraction of the time and effort that went into the item being flagged up.  When I did that Samizdata posting I had no idea how definite would be the boost supplied to Libertarian Home’s traffic. Good.

And here is a mention of another libertarian whose links can make a huge difference to whoever and whatever he links to.  Says Gibbs:

The Newtown shooting however is the grim source of this year’s number one story. Receiving a push from Guido the story earned 10% of the sites total traffic in the last few days of the year. It’s an interesting kind of success story for a blog that starts with the death of 26 people, but it’s a success story that makes me proud.

Something like 2000 people saw that graph on this website, a graph that rubbished the idea that the UK’s “gun free” society is automatically safer than the United States as a whole. The real picture being far more complicated. It is a small contribution to a very important and intense debate but it is the kind of detailed analysis that can change the minds of many rational readers. The graph has also been widely copied and linked to and I like to think that this blog, and Richard’s number crunching will make it a little bit harder for the Obama administration to succeed in a further clamp down on gun ownership. If you believe, as I do, that gun ownership prevents violent crime then this blog’s success story is one that might make the world a little bit safer and a little bit better and that’s why we do this.

As I am sure Gibbs realises, at any rate in his more pessimistic moments, Libertarian Home is probably not daily reading in the White House. But, politicians do react to the opinions of others, even if their own opinions and ambitions remain unchanged by mere analysis.  Every little helps.

Wishing our readers…

… a prosperous and subversive new year.


Expect some new voices and views here soon.  And some confusion over names…


Road pricing at the IEA

Yesterday, as earlier reported, I attended an event about road pricing. It was typical IEA. Men in suits and ties with irreconcilable beliefs took it in turns to be irreconcilably polite about everything, while other men in suits and ties listened with equal politeness:


There are some of the men in suits and ties waiting their turn to be polite. And look, one man in a suit and a tie is even straightening his tie, James Bond style, although there the resemblance ends. That’s Oliver Knipping, co-author, together with Richard Wellings (the man in a suit and a tie on the right whose face is blocked out by the video camera) of a recent IEA publication entitled Which Road Ahead – Government or Market? Do you see what they did there? Which road, as in policy, metaphorically speaking, for dealing with roads, as in roads, literally.

I am being much too rude. It was actually pretty interesting if you like that sort of thing, which I only somewhat do, hence my rudeness. I went because I knew that although I would be rather bored during the event, I would afterwards be glad that I had attended, and so it has proved. I got a copy of Which Road Ahead for only a fiver, and better yet, I met a man with a blog, called Road Pricing.

I like road pricing, for the same reasons I think that governments shouldn’t give away train tickets to everyone just because the train system is government owned and/or government controlled and people have already paid for it that way. What if some people don’t like trains and never use them? It’s not fair. Without journey pricing, the trains will get even more impossibly crowded. Privacy? That argument was won and lost when they introduced number plates, I reckon. A man called Gabriel Roth was quoted as saying that the road systems of the world are the last bastions of Soviet style central planning. Which isn’t true. What about central banking? But I like the sentiment. This is a product for which people queue for the product on top of the product thereby destroying the product. That can’t be the right road ahead, now can it?

Scott Wilson, the Road Pricing blogger, agrees. But you won’t read many arguments at his blog about why road pricing is good. What you will read is reports about how road pricing is being done in various parts of the world, well or badly, and criticisms of places where it is being done badly, like, surprise surprise, the UK. In that posting there is a picture of people being charged to get across the Thames which makes you think, not road pricing, but: crossing a national frontier, of the sort that is taken seriously.

I ought to have known about this blog two years ago, when it started. But no matter, now I do. This is the kind of thing that you learn if you go to rather boring meetings instead of just staying home glued to a computer, the way I am now. Besides which, a blog is merely a blog. If you actually meet the man who runs it, see his suit and his tie, and hear him talking, quite intelligently, that makes you actually want to pay attention to his blog.

Bishop Hill has written another book

When historians get around to describing the late twentieth and early twenty first century hysteria about climate, Andrew Montford will get a big mention as one of the individuals who particularly contributed to turning back this bizarre tide of irrationality.

He blogged. Then he started blogging in particular about climate. Then Climategate happened. He had meanwhile written a book about it all. He blogged some more. And now he has written another book:


Whenever I write about how blogging has made the world a significantly different and better place, the words “Bishop”, “Hill”, “Andrew” and “Montford” always seem to be included in what I put.

Says a Bishop Hill commenter:

Will buy.

Me too.

Samizdata quote of the day

That’s just my opinion, of course, but I happen to be right.

Lynn Sislo speaks for us all.

The House of Commons Committee on Energy and Climate Change will be inquiring into wind farms

Bishop Hill always likes to see the best in people. He assumes good faith unless it is overwhelmingly obvious that it is absent.

So he is pleased to report that the House of Commons Committee on Energy and Climate Change has announce that it is to hold an inquiry into the economics of wind power. But this time, says the Bishop:

Looks like policy-based evidence making to me.

Confession: when I first read that, I assumed that I was reading this:

Looks like evidence-based policy making to me.

I have had to do a complete rewrite of this bit of the posting. I contrasted that with the following comments. In fact the following comments agree! Deep apologies. This is the biggest mis-reading I have ever committed as a blogger. I think. I hope. Anyway, back to that evidence-based policy making.

A commenter assumes that to be sarcasm. No. He means it.

Or as I should have put: A commenter read most of the questions the Committee says it will ask as I did, at first, and he wondered: why the sarcasm?

But most of the Bishop’s commenters are not nearly as charitable as he is agree with him. (Which concludes the corrections.)

The first one says:

It’s 2012. The Climate Change Act was passed in 2008, committing us to the most costly programme ever legislated in our history. Now they want to examine the economics!

And another says:

The last question reveals the true intent of the inquiry, “What methods could be used to make onshore wind more acceptable to communities that host them?”

And another:

Tim Yeo, MP, is in the Chair.

Expect the conclusion to be “We are getting it about right”.

Then in ten years time the lights will start to go out on still winter nights.

Biggest question of all: Is it actually necessary to fret about “climate change”? Something tells me that this Committee will assume a yes on that.

So, take your pick. Better late than never, or too bloody late? Enough of the right questions, or too many wrong assumptions?

What I mostly think is: Keep blogging away Bishop. Kudos for spotting this, and further kudos for reporting what gets asked and what answers are forthcoming, as I assume you will when the time comes.

There is something very old fashioned about blogs like Bishop Hill. While the newspapers mostly now bang on about celebs and football tournaments, here is a blogger actually spotting some at least potentially quite significant news, and reporting on it.

Why am I blogging about Brett Kimberlin?

I have been following the Brett Kimberlin case, much linked to of late by Instapundit, with interest, but with some confusion.

It is not that I consider exercises like Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day to be pointless. It is that I remain genuinely confused about what that point might be. Who, exactly, are we all trying to convince, and of what, exactly?

I get the impression that all those blogging about this do know their answers to this question, but to them, it’s obvious, and if they ever did spell it out, that was many days ago. So, what are those answers?

Kimberlin is a bad, bad man, who has a history of villainy generally, and in particular of trying to intimidate bloggers who point this fact out. So yes, the cost in potential intimidation from Brett Kimberlin of lots of us blogging about Brett Kimberlin is small, and all the smaller for lots and lots of us doing this, especially from a nice safe distance like from London. But what exactly does me mentioning the name of Brett Kimberlin, on the blog that I write for, accomplish?

Does it intimidate Brett Kimberlin himself, and thereby stop him intimidating any more bloggers and from intimidating any more the bloggers he is intimidating now? How? Isn’t Kimberlin rather pleased to have got up the noses of so many bloggers whom he already detests and despises, and turned into a minor internet celebrity like this?

Does it persuade the forces of law and order to stomp all over Kimberlin, more than they have been doing lately? Again, how?

Is the idea to show to mainstream Americans that the mainstream media are rubbish, for not mentioning this story? If so, what exactly is the plan for reaching mainstream America with this proposition?

Leading directly on from the previous question, is the idea to embarrass the mainstream media into mentioning the story? Their current opinion of all this is, presumably, that a lot of stupid right wing blogs are making a gigantic fuss about a small-time crook, who has gone some way towards rejoining polite society by making himself useful to the left-wing cause, which just goes to show that Kimberlin is doing something good, having annoyed all the right right wing nutters. And given that not even that opinion will find its way into the mainstream media any time soon, nothing much would seem to be being accomplished on that front either.

The pieces I have been reading during the last week or so have entirely convinced me that Brett Kimberlin is a bad man, and that those who support him with money, or who did once upon a time, are at best very stupid, and probably not at all stupid but very, very bad also, arguably even worse than Kimberlin himself, in particular Barbra Streisand and Brett Kimberlin’s evil and/or stupid aunt. My opinion of George Soros, to mention another Kimberliner, has gone done (even further). I had not realised until now quite what a brazen villain he is. But convincing someone like me of things as simple as these hardly amounts to much by way of an objective. I have no objection in principle to preaching to the choir. This can often be a very valuable exercise. I am positively asking for exactly such preaching now. But what valuable lesson might this particular chorister be learning from the Kimberlin affair, that I might otherwise have neglected? Or is it that all this just makes me … think about things?

Is it a case of all of the above? The matter is easily blogged about, fun to blog about, and will achieve a wide variety of relatively small but desirable things.

My questions are genuine, rather than sneeringly rhetorical. If I truly thought that Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day was pointless, I would not have mentioned it here at all. But, please somebody tell me why it is not pointless, and not perhaps even counter-productive on account of being so over-the-top for what it is actually accomplishing.

I am sure that our commentariat will have useful answers to offer me, and I look forward to reading them.

How Steve Cooksey is being prevented from expressing his opinions

Instapundit today links to this report, about how a blogger and diabetes sufferer called Steve Cooksey is being told by a North Carolina regulator that he is breaking the law by giving tips, based on his own experience, to others about how to deal with diabetes. Good for Instapundit.

This is the kind of spat which, if it gets a decent slice of publicity, can be won by the forces of free speech and freedom of expression. Hence this posting of mine in response to the Instapundit posting, which I offer as another straw on the bureaucratic camel’s back. It will surely not be the only such straw. I like to think that, if Steve Cooksey finds out about this posting here, the fact that it is happening Abroad may cheer him up that little bit more. “Hey, this damn regulator is making me world famous!”

It helps that they have a Constitution over there, which includes a bit about how you can say what you want, even if a mere state law says otherwise.

Is Steve Cooksey, who has no “license” to offer the advice he is offering, in fact giving bad dietary advice? If so, the correct response from those who think this is to say so, and to explain why they think this. Perhaps one of them could start another blog, saying things like: “Steve Cooksey is talking nonsense.” “Don’t do what Steve Cooksey says, and this is why you shouldn’t.” And so on.

That is, or ought to be, the American way. (It ought to be the way everywhere.)

Tom Clougherty makes the case for gold

Incoming: another of those emails that I get from being on the Cobden Centre insider list that surely won’t mind being reproduced here, this one being from Tom Clougherty:

City AM asked me to make the case for gold in 140-words, for this morning’s comment pages. Not an easy task, but I’m fairly pleased with how it came out.

I’m off out now, and will read this later, but Clougherty’s a good man and I’m sure I’ll like it.

Blog and learn. I just found out that he has his own blog.

Picture of a younger Clougherty (with friends) here.

Further evidence that James Delingpole is now talking seriously about the money racket as well as the climate racket

As noted here, first there was this. Now there is this.

Delingpole quotes Aussie blogger Jo Nova at length, and also Detlev Schlichter, thereby also giving another plug to the Cobden Centre, and mentions that meeting at the House of Commons where Schlichter spoke.

The Jo Nova quote ends thus:

If real people had to earn real money, investment bankers would need to make real decisions, scientists would have to find real evidence, and politicians would have to come up with real reasons.

To which Delingpole adds:

Exactly, Jo. Welcome to the Austrian School – the only economic education worth having right now.

Is the parallel between climate “science” and economic “science”, or between climate skepticism and the Austrian school, that exact? Details. I said in my posting earlier that if Delingpole did decide to take all this paper money stuff seriously, it might really be something. He clearly has and it truly might.

Andrew Breitbart, RIP

I was stunned to read this news. Andrew Breitbart, one of the movers and shakers in the conservative/libertarian side of the internet media world, has died, at the age of just 43. My condolences to his family and friends.

The meaning of Guido


Even if the GDP numbers are not entirely unexpected, they are still a failure, a failure to grow the economy. The deficit can only be paid down if the economy grows, we can’t borrow our way out of a debt crisis. It is time for a supply-side revolution, why is the government implementing a policy of selected regional enterprise zones, why not make the whole economy an enterprise zone? It was a mistake to hike VAT and it is a strategic error to burden industry with crushingly high green taxes, penal marginal income tax rates of over 50% discourage entrepreneurs and investors from coming to Britain.

If the government is going to miss the deficit target, and it is, miss it because the government slashed taxes to grow the economy. The international bond markets will forgive a finance minister with a growing economy who misses his deficit target, they won’t forgive a finance minister with a contracting economy in any circumstances. Chancellor Zero knows that with no growth there is no hope for the deficit.

Whether Guido is right that there is any hope for the deficit, under any circumstances, is a proposition I leave to others to ponder. I quote the above posting because it illustrates something important about Guido himself.

In among all the knockabout gossip about who is sleeping with whom and who is cheating on their expenses, Guido regularly slips in more thoughtful stuff. He regularly, that is to say, drops in explicit libertarian messages, in among all the merely implicit libertarianism about how they are all conspiring with each other to rob us blind. This is why they all hate him so much. He is absolutely not one of them. They want to believe that he is only a gossip monger, and a mere partisan Tory, with no principles other than that he wants his particular team to be in charge of all the robbing and conspiring. But those of his pro-state (I often think more fun than is might be had with that hyphen) enemies and victims with any antenna or honesty know that he is something far more dangerous to them than that. He is a principled libertarian with readership numbers and influence most of them can only dream of. He, more than anyone else in Britain, is responsible for the widespread perception in British politics that the arrival of the internet was a breakthrough for libertarian ideas. Before Guido, we were talking amongst ourselves, which was good. Now Guido regularly shoves it in front of them, which is even better.

Okay, a simplification. Others were doing this before Guido. But none so entertainingly, or to such a wide readership. One of Samizdata’s prouder boasts, I think, is that before Guido found his own blog persona and his own voice as a blogger, he was briefly part of ours.

Here is a photo I took of the great man, at a recent gathering at Samizdata HQ:


A fine if rather blurry addition to this collection. (This is my favourite one of these.)

By the way, do you remember the posting I did here a while back about how so much of what happens in the world is down to two-man teams? Well, these days, anyone who cares knows that there are now two Guidos. I asked original Guido about this at the party where I took the above snap, and the partnership between him and Harry Cole is definitely the real two-man team deal.