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]

Daring to think big

“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,

When our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little,

When we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore.”

“Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas, where storms

Will show your mastery, where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.”

Excerpts from Drake’s prayer, 1577, written in Portsmouth as he began his circumnavigation of the globe. The quotation is given by John C. Hulsman, in “Brexit: Directions for Britain Outside the EU,” Institute of Economic Affairs, page 146. (The monograph was published shortly before the 23 June Referendum.) Here, by the way, is an item about Sir Francis Drake.

New EU headquarters

This explains a lot:

The European Union is moving into a new headquarters in Brussels, which features a huge glass atrium enclosing a bulging, lantern-like structure.

See an earlier posting here from way back about Parkinson’s Other Law.

LATER: Parkinson explains.

Samizdata quote of the day

Throughout our time in the EEC/EU Ministers have regularly used prerogative powers to bind us into EU decisions, regulations and judgements which Parliament has been unable to vote on or prevent. Many of these have adversely affected our right to be a sovereign and free people. It was curious that the High Court of England thought that was acceptable yet using the same prerogative powers to bring the right to self-government back was not. I hope the Judges understand three basic points. The first is the referendum was the decision. Government made that clear in Parliament and in a leaflet to all voting households. The second is Parliament can debate Brexit any time it likes, and has done so extensively already. The third is Parliament needs to make up its own mind on what it wants to vote on, and is free to do so. There can be plenty of votes on the Repeal Bill.

John Redwood

“The LibDems only won by 4% in Richmond, there should be a second by election.”

“Richmond Park marks the start of a new, cross-party rejection of Brexit”, says Hugo Dixon in the Guardian. Predictably. People like Geraint Davies MP and David Lammy MP been weaselling away since the week of the referendum. Zac Goldsmith’s defeat at the hands of the Liberal Democrats in the Richmond Park by-election has worked on the Remainers like a psychotropic drug in their carrot juice.

A Reddit user called “lordweiner27” neatly turned around every cliché of the Weasel genre. His or her post seems to have been removed from r/ukpolitics, so I thought I would preserve it here:

The LibDems only won by 4% in Richmond, there should be a second by election.

We know that the LibDems lied and put out fake news during the campaign. When people realise this how many people will change their mind?

We also know that this wasn’t really a vote for the LibDems, it was a by election with very low turnout. What this really was was a rejection of the establishment in the form of multi millionaire Goldsmith, not a vote in favour of the LibDems.

I’ve already spoken to people in Richmond and they’re telling me that their having Libgret and wish they’d voted for Zac. They’re telling me that they were decieved by the LibDem campaign, they fell for the lies and they feel that they themselves are possibly retarded.

And anyway, why should ordinary people get to decide who their MP is? Zac was more well qualified than the LibDem candidate having been an MP for years. All the experts back Zac and they’re always right.

I’m a member of the European Union, get me out of here

Tim Worstall:

Some say that membership of the Single Market, the ability to export without facing tariffs, is so important that we should accept the freedom of movement. My argument is exactly the opposite. I’m not against freedom of movement, regard it as being economically and morally useful in fact. But then some large percentage of my fellow Britons don’t think that way. My objection though is to the Single Market idea. For it isn’t just a system allowing tariff free exports. It’s an entire system for governing and regulating the participating economies.

Just as an example, one that rather boggled the mind this morning, there’re rules about when a supermarket can offer you free parking (that in itself will boggle the mind of many Americans, that parking must be paid for at a store?). If you go and buy whiskey, diapers and beef they can stamp your ticket, give you a voucher, and you get free parking. If your purchases include formula milk then they cannot stamp your ticket and you cannot get free parking. And yes, this is a result of an EU law. Must do wonders for adoptive mothers, those who simply do not produce enough milk and so on. But the entire ruling system of Europe thought this was important enough that there must be a law about it.

And the final sentence of Tim’s piece is the crunch argument for me as to why the Single Market is a cruel hoax (and Mrs Thatcher, who signed the Single European Act in 1986, kicked herself for not grasping this). We are told that to have access to the Single Market and the supposed benefits of such membership, “We” (Britain) “must” (because it says so, apparently) accept regulation of everything, down to the size of the plug on electric kettles, the rules governing sales of vitamins, the lot. And while no-one should have any illusions as to zeal with which local politicians in the UK might want to regulate these things, it is a million miles easier to resist such nonsense at the national level than at the supranational one, not least because MPs cannot hide behind the “Brussels made us do it and anyway we need to because of the Single Market” line they come out with.

Free of the EU, we are free of a great mass of legislative empire building that has, as such examples show, tiddly-squat to do with trade, commerce and entrepreneurship.

Of course, this debate does not touch on the fact that at the global, not European level, there are all manner of intergovernmental agreements and treaties that will continue to affect us in or out of the European Union. I can think, for example, of a global system coming into force called the Common Reporting Standard, a bland term that describes how scores of governments, ranging from the likes of Singapore to Germany, will swap financial data with one another to hunt down alleged tax evaders. And in one of those beautiful ironies, the US, home to Delaware, one of the most secretive legal jurisdictions on the planet, isn’t a signatory, and under Mr Trump, isn’t likely to be.

If MPs don’t do their jobs, it’s not surprising judges fill the gap

Tory MP John Redwood on the decision last week of the High Court to rule that MPs must be allowed to debate the case for triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty before the UK can start to quit the European Union:

As the judges wished to trespass into this territory they should have acquainted themselves better with Parliamentary procedure and the recent Parliamentary timetable. They would have discovered that Parliament has had plenty of allotted time for debate and questions on Article 50 and general Brexit in both government and Opposition time. They would have realised that if the Commons wanted a vote on Article 50 the Opposition could at any time table a motion to require one in Opposition time. It could formally ask the government to table one, though the government might reply they should table one themselves. The fact it has not done so implies that the Commons accepts an Article 50 letter will be sent. Indeed, many Labour MPs have confirmed they agree with sending a letter, as does the government side.

Whatever else one might conclude about the issue of the judges’ involvement in the process – I am told that their judgement statement is well worth reading – I think Redwood has it exactly right here. MPs should not expect judges to do their work for them – if they had wanted to force the issue, they had in their power to do so. That they haven’t is, I suspect, based either on laziness and cowardice, or a fear on the part of the Labour MPs that a no-confidence vote and possible early election will wipe Labour out (oh happy day); the most enthusiastic Remainer Tories, such as Ken Clarke, may fear losing their seats, at least if they are in marginal ones. I also think that our membership of the EU, and the gradual erosion of Parliament and the quality of people entering it, means that MPs lack the kind of backbone that legislators of earlier ages might have had. Indeed, one of the reasons I voted for Brexit (even though I am very different in my views from the more nationalist inclined Brexiteers) is my hope that MPs no longer can hide behind the skirts of courts, either in Brussels or here, and have to start taking direct responsibility for the laws that affect this country. With ownership comes responsibility, and hopefully, an improvement in the product.

Samizdata quotes of the day

“Believe you me, if the people in this country think they’re going to be cheated, they’re going to be betrayed, then we will see political anger the likes of which none of us in our lifetimes have ever witnessed in this country.

[…]

“I heard you talking to Gina Miller earlier about the nasty things that have been said about her. Believe you me, I’ve had years of this, I’ve had years of hate mobs – taxpayer-funded hate mobs – chasing me around Britain.

“The temperature of this is very, very high.

“Now, I’m going to say to everybody watching this who was on the Brexit side – let’s try and get even, let’s have peaceful protests and let’s make sure in any form of election we don’t support people who want to overturn this process.”

Nigel Farage

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.

John F. Kennedy

More than just a great big opinion survey

I wrote this comment on the blog following an earlier posting by Perry de Havilland; I decided to recast it a bit for a comment I hope deserves another airing here.

With all the nonsense of the Remainers claiming that the dignity of Parliament must be preserved (a poor joke, considering how Parliament has seen its powers eroded by various forces, including the EU, in recent years), surely the point has to be made that this referendum was presented, by former Prime Minister David Cameron et al, as not merely a giant public opinion survey, but as a referendum the consequence of which would, if the vote was for leave, trigger an exit by the use of Article 50. The Cameron government had a majority of MPs in the House of Commons; they approved this referendum and its terms of reference. (If they had chosen to revolt, they plainly decided not to do so.) This was, therefore, a process that had support of the majority of parliament, and was not undermining parliament or pushing MPs aside. There can be no attempt at convenient amnesia on this point from those who are sore at being on the losing side.

The fine details of exactly how an exit will be achieved can be for the lawmakers in the Commons and Lords to decide, but the binding nature of the referendum result is not a matter of debate. By a clear majority, it was for Brexit, based on a 70 per cent turnout, the highest turnout in more than 20 years.

Had the referendum result been for Remain, you can bet that the Remainers would have said the outcome was a settled one, and that no further attempts to hold such a referendum should be held for many years. That is, after all, the position taken on the Scottish Referendum result by the victorious side. And they are right to do so.

What this whole saga shows is a high-handed disdain for voters (I have had my fill of being told how Brexit voters are all racists, fools or fantasists by people who conveniently forgot their support for the wretched euro and other hubristic projects.) The arrogance of it only serves to reinforce my belief that Brexit is not just the best course, albeit with certain risks, but desirable in that it is giving heartburn to the kind of creatures who deserve to suffer it.

And consider this – the outcome was a clear majority, of over a million people; that contrasts with how, under our first-past-the-post system, a government can wield power based on the votes of a minority percentage of the voting population. This point is one that needs to be made, given the clear imperfections of our FPTP system. After all, politicians such as Nick Clegg, the former leader of the (greatly diminished) Liberal Democrats, and an ardent supporter of proportional representation (as opposed to FPTP) might, you would suppose, see the force of using referenda to deal with cases where the current FPTP system yields unsatisfactory outcomes. But he doesn’t in this case, because majority voter opinion is against his desire for ever-closer moves towards a federal Europe.

Even so, I don’t think referenda should be used a great deal, and should be reserved for special occasions where there is an enormous, and insupportable gap, between public opinion on a matter of constitutional importance, and those of MPs. (Imagine if most MPs wanted to remove the monarchy, a view clearly at odds with that of the public.) We should hold referenda rarely. There is, after all, the practical problem of exhausting the patience of voters. Representative democracy, after all, involves a certain division of labour in the Adam Smith sense – we send people to Parliament to deal with specific issues and if we dislike their general approach over time, can remove them; we are not expected to follow the details of every policy and decide them en masse ourselves.

I agree, broadly, with the old Edmund Burke point that MPs are representatives, not just delegates and ciphers of the electorate;  The point, however, like all such arguments, has its limits, particularly when the views of most MPs are clearly at odds with the majority of the adult voting population, as they have been on the European Union. That divide between MPs and the opinion of the country has become so wide that a referendum was needed to settle the matter. It has been.

Addendum: It is argued by Andrew Lilico that because the majority of MPs before 23 June were for Remain, they plainly lack a clear mandate, and authority, to take the UK out of the EU, and that to remove obstructionist MPs and gain a fresh mandate requires a general election. Of course, given the current state of the polls, such an election should lead to a larger Tory majority, composed, one assumes, of more pro-independence MPs.

Ultimately this will change nothing

The High Court has ruled that the government must get Parliamentary approval before it triggers Article 50. So we are a three-line-whip away from triggering Article 50. Big deal.

guy-fawkes-dream

What Richard Cobden and Sir Robert Peel can teach us

The following article over at the CapX site explains why the UK should go for unilateral free trade immediately, and summons up arguments deployed a century and a half ago by the likes of Richard Cobden, and Sir Robert Peel, the Conservative prime minister of the time (who had a rather stronger grasp of political economy than, I suspect, any member of the present government):

I trust the government … will not resume the policy which they and we have found most inconvenient, namely the haggling with foreign countries about reciprocal concessions, instead of taking that independent course which we believe to be conducive to our own interests…[L]et us trust that our example, with the proof of practical benefits we derive from it, will at no remote period insure the adoption of the principles on which we have acted… Let, therefore, our commerce be as free as our institutions. Let us proclaim commerce free, and nation after nation will follow our example.

And these comments from the author of the CapX article, Louis Rouanet, who is a student in Paris, strike me as crucial:

A unilateral free trade program is very simple: the British Parliament declares the abolition of all tariffs. To avoid a race in non-tariff barriers, the Parliament can pass a law declaring that every product which conforms to the EU norms and regulations can be sold freely in the UK. This should not be a problem since the UK still is a member of the EU.

By Parliament’s act, most of the “non-tariff barrier” problem withers away without any need for regulatory harmonisation. If the EU legislator considers it necessary to regulate the curvature of vegetables, so be it! But, although EU producers will be free to sell their product in the UK, the British legislature may deem it unnecessary to regulate its producers in the same absurd way.

The advantages of this approach are many. First, the UK can have free trade now instead of waiting through years of negotiations. No need to wait for bureaucrats to agree on which laws we burden consumers and producers with.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

Samizdata quote of the day

If anything is harming Britain right now, it is the ongoing attempts to catastrophise Brexit being fomented by bitter Remainers – people who would seemingly rather Britain descend into some dark, dystopian future and be vindicated in their doomsaying than help their own country to present a positive, open and internationalist face to the world.

We should not be surprised. In an age where looking good (and signalling virtue) is more important than actually doing good, there is every incentive for Remainers to continue seizing on every morsel of bad news, overlooking every positive development and generally acting hysterically, so long as their precious internal narrative – that They Virtuous Few stood alone against the “dark forces” of racist Brexit – is not disrupted.

Personally, I find it despicable, but good luck to them.

Samuel Hooper

Have they even been selling EUrope in Europe?

Following Brexit, an interesting area of agreement has emerged between members of the two contending teams, by which I really mean between Brexiteer me and Daniel Korski, who recently penned a Politico piece entitled Why we lost the Brexit vote. We. His team lost. His discussion of why his team lost strikes me as well worth reading.

Korski was for the EU, and for Britain being in the EU. He describes it as:

— an extraordinary project of continental peacemaking and economic liberalization —

However, those dashes at the beginning and the end of that quote are because that is a parenthetically pre-emptive addition to a long passage in which Korski tells us many of things that have been wrong with the EU, especially recently. The EU …:

… has become increasingly distant from voters. It has struggled with the contradictions laid bare by the euro crisis and come up against the limits of its attraction, in Turkey and on its border with Russia. The resulting impression is of a Continent lurching from crisis to crisis. …

There is much more in a similar vein. Read it all, if you are the sort that relishes unflattering descriptions of the EU. The …:

… the impression of the EU across the Continent was of an enterprise no longer delivering for Europeans. …

The word “impression” occurs twice during this peroration, and again in one of the subheadings that Korski, or someone, has added. But it all reads like a lot worse than just an impression.

→ Continue reading: Have they even been selling EUrope in Europe?