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]

The UN report is not “well-meaning”

The UN report is not “well-meaning.” It’s an effort to use the hysteria of privileged Western women to slip through global censorship in service of autocrats and oligarchs at home and abroad. The people pushing it are not good people who are going too far. They’re awful, horrible people exploiting useful idiots.

Glenn Reynolds

I know my Corbyn routine is getting old but he won’t stop sending me jokes

Via JohnW and the rest of the internet,

Treat meat eaters like smokers, warns Jeremy Corbyn’s new vegan farming minister Kerry McCarthy

(Just a little note to the Telegraph subs: she isn’t actually farming minister yet. Labour would have to win an election for that.)

Meat should be treated like tobacco with a public campaign to stop people eating it, Jeremy Corbyn’s new vegan shadow farming minister has suggested. Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East, has irked the British farming industry with her veganism and vice presidency of the anti-hunting League Against Cruel Sports.

In an interview with Viva!life, a magazine for vegans, she admitted she was a “militant” when it came to clamping down on meat consumption. She said: “I really believe that meat should be treated in exactly the same way as tobacco, with public campaigns to stop people eating it.”

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.

On immigrants

I’m afraid I feel rather personally about the current immigration crises in the United States and Europe.

(Yes, we have a crisis in the United States as well, or at least, we have Presidential candidates with high poll numbers claiming that we do, and said candidates are threatening to enact draconian measures, including mass deportations.)

I take the matter quite personally because my own father was once a war refugee. Indeed, he was once a war refugee who, because he was a member of a non-Christian religion, was denied refuge in more or less every civilized part of the world. Seventy five years ago, of course, Jews were not considered particularly welcome even by countries that knew full well what was happening in Germany.

My father managed to save himself by ignoring laws that said that he wasn’t allowed to cross borders in the night without permission. Had it been up to many people, of course, he would have died instead, but he quite sensibly believed that he was under no moral obligation to pay attention to people who would have preferred him to remain where he was and die, and thus he formed his own immigration plan without the permission of the legal authorities at his destination.

(Of course, only this morning I read that Victor Orbán has complained that allowing Syrians into Europe would diminish the Christian character of the continent, the sort of claim I’ve heard before in different contexts, including from the political movement that forced my father to flee in the first place. This does bring to mind an ancient set of questions for adherents of Christianity, such as what sort of razor-wire walled internment camp designs Jesus would have favored, as well as whom Jesus would have deported. But I digress.)

For me, the question of immigration is, because of my family history, a very emotional one. None the less, I have given the matter a considerable amount of thought, and I believe that, although I care deeply about the issue, my position is still not an irrational one. Rather, I think that my family history simply allows me to put faces to the theoretical people who might be denied passage and die where they are, and thus gives me the ability to understand by example the human consequences of policies.

(Indeed, this is perhaps much the same thing that has happened for people who have viewed the the photographs of poor Aylan Kurdi, who drowned because even though his family had plenty of money to go from where they were to a place of safety, they had to give it to smugglers instead of to a reliable airline or ferry company. Seeing an individual face, hearing an individual name, makes it harder to ignore the consequences of a policy. But again, I digress.)

So, as I have said, I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I’ve come to a straightforward conclusion. Anyone proposing that immigration from one country to another be stopped through the use of coercive state violence is, morally speaking, doing the equivalent of proposing to beat on the hands of a drowning man desperately trying to climb out of the sea.

I claim that there is no more moral justification for preventing a man from Homs from traveling to your town, renting a house and then looking for work than there would be for preventing a man from within the borders of your supposed “nation state” from doing the same. I have scoured the literature on moral philosophy and failed to find any justification for the claim that a man born across an imaginary line has particularly different rights than a man born within it. I claim this is true regardless of whether the man from Homs seeks to rent the house next door because he is fleeing for his life or because he prefers the weather in your part of the world.

Indeed, the only way to stop a man from Homs from traveling to your town, renting an apartment from a willing owner, and taking a job from a willing employer, would seem to be to threaten to do violence or actually to do violence to that man. Which is to say, the only way to prevent him from moving would be the initiation of violence against an entirely peaceful person who has done nothing whatsoever to the people doing violence to him.

Therefore, not only would it seem that there is no moral justification for preventing such behavior, and not only would it seem churlish, but it would also seem that, if anything at all can be called immoral, then doing violence to a peaceful person who wants nothing more than to rent a house, find a job and live as everyone else does is immoral. Perhaps, of course, there is no such thing as right and wrong beyond personal whim, perhaps morals are not a real thing at all, but if morals are indeed a real thing and if morality means anything useful, then clearly such acts are immoral.

I know that some, perhaps even here on Samizdata, would suggest that immigrants are coming to the West to take advantage of our generous state welfare policies. If you believe that, then there is a trivial solution. I will in no way oppose the proposal that the law that opens the border should also specify that immigrants and even their children should not receive state benefits until they’ve lived in the country for ten, or twenty, or, who cares, make it a thousand years if you like. I don’t believe in the dole or state benefits of any sort to begin with, so I can’t consistently oppose denying people such benefits.

I have heard some others say “but they will vote and they are illiberal!”, and if you believe that, fine, deny them the right to vote — I’m an anarchist, and as I don’t believe in elections in the first place, I feel comfortable with denying the franchise to immigrants forever if you feel that is necessary for you to agree to open the border.

But, if you refuse to consider opening the border even if those coming are doing so with their own resources, are renting or buying homes with their own money, are not taking state benefits and are not voting for more collectivism, then I am afraid that I do have to look askance at your position.

Which is to say, your position was immoral in the first place, but if you refuse to reverse a completely immoral position even if the supposed “pragmatic” rationale for holding it vanishes, then perhaps your rationale is not only immoral but was also not held for pragmatic reasons in the first place.

On the jailed county clerk

For those who are not aware, an elected county clerk in Kentucky was jailed for contempt of court for failing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples because she claims that aiding same sex marriage violates her religious beliefs. She had been given a court order to do so and refused to either comply with the order or to resign her position.

An acquaintance asked this on his FB wall:

He asked: “Do any of my libertarian (or anarchist or otherwise anti-‘state’) friends agree that Kim Davis should be jailed for not issuing marriage licenses to gay couples?”

I thought I’d reproduce my answer here.

So, there are two levels to this. On the one hand, as an anarchist, I would say the state shouldn’t exist at all, and a minarchist would agree with me that marriage licenses should not exist. No one should need to seek state permission to enter in to a private interpersonal relationship.

However, lets presume a world where the state does exist, and marriage licenses do exist. Under those circumstances, a government official whose job is to give out such licenses ought not have any discretion about withholding them from people who meet the general legal qualifications.

If you would like translated version of that, imagine that you have an official whose job is to give out building permits, and they refuse to give out a building permit for a headquarters for an organization that they feel offends their religion. As an example, imagine such an official refusing to grant permission for a church which is a heterodox schismatic sect of the religion they follow because they consider such people heretics. Now, clearly, there shouldn’t be building permits, and no state official should have such power to grant them in the first place, but given that state officials are out granting building permits, they shouldn’t be able to stop people from building things that offend them, even if their religion says that the people building the building are heretics.

In this particular instance, generally, I’d say that she should have been fired for failing to do her job, not jailed, but given that she is an elected official, the current legal regime provides very little in the way of other options to the judge.

Note that if libertarianism is about anything, it is about curtailing the power of state officials to deny people the right to do things, even if those things deeply offend them, if those things are purely consensual for all involved parties and do no violence to others. To the minarchist the state ought to be minimized, to the anarchist it should not exist at all, but neither would grant a state official the right to make the decision to interfere in such behavior.

Samizdata quote of the day

Cowardice is the main and the worst sin on Earth. Betrayal is a personal form of cowardice… All of your propaganda is working excellently. Most of the Russian population believes what they are saying: Putin is great. There are fascists in Ukraine. Russia is never wrong. There are enemies everywhere… But I also understand that there are people who are smarter—such as you, for instance, here—who support the government. You perfectly well understand that there are no fascists in Ukraine. That Crimea was annexed illegally. That your troops are fighting in Donbas… These are facts that are on the surface… the troubadours of your regime… know everything as it is, but they continue to lie. Just as you continue your work, finding some sort of rationalization within yourself. Probably, they also rationalize to themselves: “We have to feed our children; we have to do something.” But, guys, what is the point of raising another generation of slaves?

Oleh Sentsov

“Giving offence is good”

Bravo Brendan.

Over the years I have gone from being deeply sceptical of Brendan O’Neill, into finding myself rarely disagreeing with him.

“He is not allowed his small reprieves”

I don’t usually find much to sympathise with over at the Bella Caledonia blog. This account by Jonathan Rowson, whose brother has been committed to a psychiatric ward, was an exception:

Smoking and the Forbidden Garden – a Dereliction of Sanity?

Defending the rights of the mentally ill to do something that harms them is not a popular cause, but this much needs to be said: preventing psychiatric patients from smoking on hospital grounds is inhumane.

I am responding to the situation in a particular ward in a hospital in NHS Grampian region. At the time of writing my forty year old brother Mark is there, as he has been before. He is surrounded by other adult patients, many of whom are thought disordered, dysfunctional, and up to their eye balls in medication. Mark has given me permission to write publicly about his situation, but he is not well enough to grasp the full context. I am taking the liberty of making the following case on his behalf.

Many psychiatric patients are habitual smokers, but at the moment they are strictly not allowed to smoke anywhere on hospital grounds. Smoking has been banned in hospital buildings for about a decade, but in the hospital in question secure gardens adjacent to the locked wards and smoking shelters within the general grounds of hospitals were available to smoke. This arrangement seemed to work until the authorities decreed that the shelters should be knocked down and the secure gardens should be smoke free. Some psychiatric patients, staff and visitors now face the mild stigma and hassle of having to escape the hospital to smoke, but if you are sectioned under the mental health act it’s not so simple. The hospital ward is your de-facto home, and also your de-facto prison, so where do you go?

The ruling is unenforceable. In fact most staff feel they have no choice but to turn a blind eye. Patients are now smoking in their rooms or in the bathrooms; anywhere where the staff can have plausible deniability of not seeing them. Alas, the collateral damage of this necessary open secret is that none of the patients can now go to the outdoor area assigned to the ward. The small secured gardens are the most humanising place on the ward and a vital source of fresh air, but they lie unused due to the risk, not that patients will smoke, but that they will be seen to be smoking, and get staff into trouble as a result.

Most of the comments are supportive, but not all. This one by Clive Scott was notable for its self-righteousness:

What about the employer’s responsibilities to provide a safe working environment for employees and the rights of non-smokers for wholesome air? It would be ridiculous to permit the mentally enfeebled to flout regulations for the common good simply because of their illness. Smoking is a disgusting foul habit and addiction and every step possible should be taken to eliminate it from society.

Samizdata quote of the day

The Royal Society for Public Health is suggesting that unusual, unhealthy or minority pursuits should be criminalised in order to set a good example to others. They want people to be arrested, fined and possibly even imprisoned for being poor role models. In a liberal society, the only appropriate response can be made with two words or two fingers.

Chris Snowdon

The EU’s Memory Holes

The European law gives individuals and institutions the right to demand that search engines such as Google must de-list postings containing ‘outdated’ or ‘irrelevant’ information. The Euro authorities insist that this cannot be construed as censorship, since the material will not actually be removed from the internet – it will simply not be linked to by Google and Co anymore. When plans for these regulations were first announced in 2012, the European Commission’s vice-president said: ‘It is clear that the right to be forgotten cannot amount to a right of the total erasure of history.’ That sounds like rewriting history. If material is not listed by search engines, it is effectively invisible to most online and ceases to exist as public information.

No, no, say the authorities, of course we are not banning this controversial book! We are simply ordering all libraries and bookshops to remove it from their shelves and websites forthwith. You will still be at liberty to read it – if you can find a copy anywhere, or even spot a reference to its existence…

Mick Hume

Samizdata quote of the day

While it is perfectly reasonable to expect companies to obey the law in the countries in which they operate, the rage against Uber highlights how stifling regulation of economic life can be. Prior to the emergence of Uber, complaints of never being able to get a cab during peak times were common in every major city in the world. Uber’s sidestepping of licensing laws and other regulations that limit enterprise has enabled it to increase supply and meet demand.

What’s more, Uber’s cheaper fares have saved customers money, expanded our transport options and provided a source of income for a whole new sector of drivers. While the debate about Uber drivers’ pay and employment rights rumbles on, it is clear that banning the service, and forcing these drivers to go through the same costly licensing systems as everyone else, does no one any favours.

It is the competition that Uber provides that is driving its popularity with drivers and customers. But this is precisely what is enraging licensed taxi drivers.

Rob Harries

Samizdata quote of the day

Everything on [the Internet] is changing minute by minute, and the idea of establishing a level playing field, as if all bandwidth is homogeneous, is just ludicrous.

George Gilder