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]

No hunting in the buffer zone

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Perry has occasionally suggested the possibility of introducing a new category named “No shit, Sherlock”, principally for quoting people who have, apparently after a long struggle, managed to figure out the blindingly obvious.

I think it might apply here too. In Cyprus, between the opposing armies of Turkey and Greek Cyprus, there is a buffer zone, monitored by the United Nations. This buffer zone is not as empty or as off limits as many other such zones in other parts of the world, but like many such zones it has become an involuntary nature reserve, full of wildlife.

There are also a small number of occupied towns in the zone. One of these is Pyla, which has the distinction of being the only town on the island of Cyprus in which citizens of Greek and Turkish ethnicity live side by side. This town contains both active mosques and active churches, pubs that serve Efes and different pubs that serve KEO. (Why is beer such a sectarian thing?) There is a significant UN presence in the town. Rather tiresomely, there are also lots of signs prohibiting photography of buildings occupied by the UN, but one still does one’s best. Surreptitious photography does not always lead to the best results, alas.

On the side of the local UN police station is the above sign, which explains that hunting is prohibited. Apparently it is a bad idea to run around a neutral zone between two hostile and opposing armies wearing camouflage and firing weapons. Who would have thought it?

I confess that I have mixed feelings about the necessity for such signs. Sometimes people should be allowed to collect their richly deserved Darwin awards, if they are determined enough.

Denmark takes a small step towards sanity

This story in the Wall Street Journal, stating that Denmark is to rescind its “fat tax” because it has proven to be economically destructive, may not, in the scheme of things, be as important as the US elections, the plight of the euro or the (hopefully) end of tax-financed public service broadcasting in the UK (we can all dream). But the sight of a European government, one that often adopts a nanny state approach to certain issues, rowing back on such an idea, is encouraging.

One thing I should point out to my despondent American pals who are concerned about the US copying failed European social/regulatory models is this: it is possible to push back, if the evidence can be presented strongly enough and if the impact is clear enough and if this can be shown to voters.

Talking of anniversaries…

A year ago today I posted Discussion Point XXXVI

What will happen to the Euro? I am not asking “what should happen”, but what will happen. Take this opportunity to put your predictions on the internet, and later be hailed as a true prophet or derided as a false one.

Come, take your bows, or your lumps, and predict anew. The fat lady has not yet sung.

You thought they couldn’t do it?

You thought that no one could top awarding a Nobel peace prize to Barack Obama, a decision taken, if I recall correctly, eleven days into his presidency?

They topped it.

This is sublime. This is art.

European Union wins Nobel peace prize

Thoughts on extradition and its limits

“Perhaps the most annoying thing about Julian Assange (yes, I know it’s a long list) is that he is in danger of giving the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) a good name. Maybe my memory is failing, but I don’t recall any of his supporters being critical of the EU’s fast-track extradition system when it was being debated 10 years ago.”

Philip Johnston, in today’s Daily Telegraph. It is an interesting point to make. Leaving aside Assange for a minute (there’s no need to hurry), the power of extradition creates an interesting point for those concerned about liberty and the importance of due process of law. Some extradition agreements between states might be acceptable if, for example, an offence for which a person is to be extradited to country B from A is recognised as a criminal offence in both nations. However, with the EU Arrest Warrant, you can be extradited into a country from another where the offence in question is not recognised in the place where the person happens to be staying at a particular point in time.

As we have seen with recent controversy about the UK’s extradition agreement with the United States, a person can be moved to the US – and vice versa – without a prima facie establishment of guilt having to be shown in the country where the person is being transferred from. Given the plea-bargaining lottery that the US adopts in certain cases, for example, this seems to involve serious abuse of due process.

These points need to be aired because, amid all the other issues kicked up by the Assange affair (the alleged sex crimes, the activities of Wikileaks, potential damage to military forces in the field, etc) the specifics of extradition principles can be obscured. Unlike some more isolationist types, I don’t have a problem with treaties between states to shift suspected criminals around to see that justice is done, provided there is a reciprocal recognition of the rules of procedure. For instance, there is simply no way that a country such as the UK should have such an arrangement with a state enforcing shariah law, say, or with a country such as Russia, which is a police state, or for that matter, Ecuador.

Samizdata quote of the day

“People who do otherwise commendable work are capable of rape and other crimes. If presented with rape allegations, they must face them like anybody else, however otherwise worthy their past contributions. Now, these statements should be so self-evidently obvious, it is ludicrous that they need to be said. But the furore over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sadly makes it necessary. Although now granted political asylum by Ecuador, Assange is a rape suspect who skipped bail. Yet some of his supporters have ended up making arguments that they would never dream of making about anybody else.”

Owen Jones, writing in the Independent. He is, by the way, a big fan of Wikileaks. I am not so keen, as I have explained here before at Samizdata, such as when Wikileaks affected private bank details.

Here is also a good article on the impact of Wikileaks’ activity on investigative journalism, by Nick Cohen.

Update: George Galloway has, er, tried to defend Assange. With friends like Galloway, Assange doesn’t need enemies.

Samizdata quote of the day

The Greek electorate is in denial. It rejects austerity, but insists on keeping the euro. All the main parties duly parroted what voters wanted to hear, making for a fantasy election, a make-believe election, a fingers-in-my-ears-I-can’t-hear-you election. The only list which was honest about the necessary cuts – a coalition of three liberal parties – failed to gain a single seat.

Daniel Hannan

Discussion Point XXXVII

Who do you hope wins the election in Greece today?

As a starting point for discussion, I thought the headline of this Guardian article “A Syriza victory will mark the beginning of the end of Greece’s tragedy” might well turn out to be true if Syriza do win, albeit not in the way the left wing authors expect.

Estonia bites back, and then some

This is delicious about Professor Paul Krugman.

The president of Estonia chewed out Paul Krugman on Wednesday, using Twitter to call the Nobel Prize-winning economist “smug, overbearing & patronizing,” in response to a short post on Estonia’s economic recovery. Krugman’s 67-word entry, entitled “Estonian Rhapsody,” questioned the merits of using Estonia as a “poster child for austerity defenders.” He included a chart that, in his words, showed “significant but still incomplete recovery” after a deep economic slump.

This paragraph packs its own, statistically-deadly punch in the direction of the New York Times columnist:

Estonia, which in 2011 became the latest country to join the eurozone, has been heralded by some as an austerity success story. That year, it clocked a faster economic growth pace than any other country in the European Union, at 7.6 percent. Estonia is also the only EU member with a budget surplus, and had the lowest public debt in 2011 — 6 percent of GDP. Fitch affirmed its A+ credit rating last week.

Update: Dan Mitchell weighs in with some damning data of his own against Krugman.

Midnight approaches…

I read this

Leaders of the three biggest [Greek] parties met at the presidential mansion for a final attempt to bridge their differences, but the talks quickly hit an impasse as they traded accusations on a deeply unpopular bailout package tied to harsh spending cuts

…and…

Polls since the election show the balance of power tipping even further towards opponents of the bailout, who were divided among several small parties but now appear to be rallying behind Tsipras, a 37-year-old ex-Communist student leader

…and was then reminded of this by H.L Menchen which I have often quoted…

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard

Greece is often credited as being the place where formal democracy was first practised in antiquity and so it seems fitting that it is Greece where the current social democratic order of regulatory statism enters its terminal state of Maenad frenzy, perhaps proving beyond all doubt that social democracy is unreformable via democratic means.

But do not kid yourself that the tragicomic indigent collective derangement on ever more florid display is something peculiar to the Hellenic world.

My faith in humanity is back somewhere in the middle, although I do have my Kindle back

On December 1 last year a bag and a coat were stolen from my rental car in the city of Portimão in Portugal. The bag contained a few items of value, one of which was my Kindle. As I recounted at the time, a few days later (on December 10) a post was made to my Facebook account from my Kindle from a Portuguese fellow named Pedro, who told me that his father had found it in the middle of a road while walking his dog. At the time I made the post I had forwarded Pedro my address, and he had stated that he would post my Kindle to me. My assumption was that the criminals had thrown the Kindle out their car window due to the fact that a Kindle is tied to a particular Amazon account and this cannot be changed from the Kindle, and was thus useless to the criminal.

Upon my making that post, a couple of Samizdata commenters suggested that I was being overly trusting and mentioned the possibility of scams involving criminals who lure victims in various ways with the prospect of returned items and then rob them further. I was sceptical of this, as I had not given Pedro any information other than my address, which a criminal could have found out from documents that were in the car anyway and which isn’t exactly a secret anyway. (I am listed in the phone book, assuming phone books still exist). When one is on one’s guard it is usually easy to tell the difference between someone who is trying to scam you and someone who is genuine, which is why most scams work by targeting people at those moments when they are off their guard. Pedro did not feel like a scammer, so I was confident I would get my Kindle back. He felt more like some teenager or young man who upon being given the Kindle started playing with it and while figuring out how it worked found out how to make a Facebook update and did so.

However, I waited for the Kindle to be returned. Nothing arrived. I was mildly disappointed by this, but compared to the unpleasantness of having my possessions stolen in the first place it wasn’t a big deal. As it happened, I remembered that when I first contacted him Pedro had asked if I were still in Portugal. (I wasn’t). Perhaps his attempting to contact me had been an attempt by criminals to get me to meet with them so that they could steal from me some more. Or something.

As of the 2nd of February this year, no Kindle. My assumption was that I wasn’t getting it back, but I thought I would just give it one more try. I sent another e-mail to Pedro, just asking him whether he had sent it. I got the following reply.

HI Michael
The lady from the post office and made a “mistake” and didn´t sent it for me!! Because she donne something rong.
And i had tried to send it by registraded mail and it was taking to long??? so i have been to the post office and checked!!
I did know it since monday and i was supose to deliver it to some inglish frinds of mine that i have brougth to faro airport today and they were landing in London and i have forgothen it at home!
Monday morning i will try to send it to you!!
Sorry about that!

Now, I wasn’t going to take this as a literal statement of fact any more than I would a statement that the Kindle had been eaten by his father’s aforementioned dog along with his homework (a better guess was simply that he had not got around to sending it), but as there was still a reasonable chance that I might actually be getting it back, I thanked him once more. Another e-mail was forthcoming.

You can call if you whant!!
00351 967 xxx xxxx
Pedro

This was slightly peculiar, and I wasn’t actually going to call him (what would I say?) but things had reached the stage of being more amusing than anything else. It didn’t feel like I was in contact with criminal mastermind Professor Pedro Moriarty, but I really had no idea what was going on. On Tuesday February 7, more e-mail

Hi Michael
I have a friend that whent to London today and he will post it for you today so you will get it tomorow or the day after.

Regards
Pedro

Nothing arrived on the 8th, 9th, 10th, or the 11th, so at that point I mentally shrugged and gave up on it.

However, early on the morning of Monday February 13th, I heard the encouraging thump of a package coming through my legendary mailslot. It was a padded post bag, sent recorded delivery from Brighton on the 11th. It did indeed contain my Kindle. The saga was over. I posted a status update of delight to my Facebook account.

Except, it wasn’t. → Continue reading: My faith in humanity is back somewhere in the middle, although I do have my Kindle back

Keynesians on austerity – predictably wrong

I have lost count of the number of opinion pieces written by finance commentators and journalists who complain that the austerity programmes of Europe are doomed to fail, because they cause perpetual economic contraction, resulting in shrinking government revenues, curtailing the ability to pay down debt – which was why the austerity programmes were embarked upon in the first place. And this will go hand-in-hand with a widespread, precipitous and neverending decline in living standards, which raises the spectre of social and/or political collapse. The alternative solution they generally propose comes from our good friend Baron Keynes. Naturally.

This is utterly wrong-headed. Naturally. I do not take much issue with the consequences of European austerity that have been identified, however austerity is not the cause of these. Austerity works just fine if governments do not implement it alongside tax increases. Which is what pretty much every austerity programme (either real or imagined) in Europe is either proposing or enacting. It’s the tax increases that will cause the vicious cycle mentioned above – not the austerity, stupid. Austerity alone redirects capital from government programmes to more productive areas of the economy, resulting in growth. But austerity plus tax hikes decreases the size of one part of the economy (the public sector, and this on its own is of course a good thing), whilst putting a yoke on the private sector by preventing individuals and companies from stepping into the breach, with punitive taxes discouraging investment or making it unaffordable. Of course this is a recipe for limitless economic contraction and social misery.

Citizens of a nation that requires a genuine period of austerity must be aware that there will be pain as structural adjustments take place whilst private sector investment slowly and surely crowds out a throttled and atrophying civil service. But pain is and was always going to be inevitable when the almighty spending binge so many governments have embarked upon over the last couple of decades unavoidably draws to a close, either through substantial policy shifts or sovereign default. The former is much less painful than the latter, but more politically difficult, so it seems. And, in dealing with the current debt crisis, Keynesians have never seen a can they haven’t wanted to kick down the road.