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A new recruit for the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America!

France.

That is, if French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon wins the coming election. I would still call that unlikely, but he is rising in the polls. In case you’re wondering, Our France would qualify as part of Our America because of its overseas departments French Guiana and the French Antilles. Although I am not sure that the present members of ALBA – principally Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Ecuador – will greet these parts of France Overseas with unmixed joy.

Quoting the article from Le Figaro linked to above:

The document [Mélenchon’s manifesto] proposes to leave the treaties of alliance that France belongs to now, like NATO on the military plane, or the WTO and the CETA on the economic level. Proposal 62 calls for the establishment of an alternative system and, for example, to join structures of “regional cooperation”, “in a process of ecological, social and human progress”. The program cites the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) launched by Hugo Chavez and his allies as early as 2004. The links between the late South American president and the candidate are of long standing, and the latter never misses an opportunity to tell the story of their meeting. But the reference to the Bolivarian model has not yet been updated with regard to the drift of the regime of Maduro and the resulting economic collapse.

There is more on this story from Libération: What is the Bolivarian Alliance that Mélenchon wants to join?

That story links to a video showing a TV studio discussion in which an interviewer brought up Mr Mélenchon’s proposed change of direction for France with his spokesperson, Clémentine Autain, who “was obviously unaware of this point of her candidate’s program” – and could hardly keep a straight face when told about it.

As ever, the translations are a joint project between my French O-Level and Messieurs Google et Bing. Corrections are welcome.

Samizdata quote of the day

It is simply wrong to conflate British people’s decision to leave the EU with a normal political vote for a party or a leader. We were not voting for any politician. The vote to leave the EU was not a vote for Nigel Farage of UKIP, no matter what the Remainer sections of the press might say.

Naomi Firsht, discussing Marine Le Pen, Brexit and Trump.

Parlez pas trop vite

Hollande and Europe are turning the tide. Where will it leave Cameron?

Labour gains from the triumph of the French Socialist leader with his intellectually cogent rallying cry for a new direction for Europe. Look how he won with a promise to tax the super-rich at a heart-attack rate of 75%, yet the French stock market actually rose slightly. Can he now turn the great liner of the EU’s disastrous economic policy?

– Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, 7 May 2012

François Hollande will not seek re-election as president of France

François Hollande, the least popular French president since the second world war, has announced he will not run for a second term in office.

With a satisfaction rating so low it recently dropped to just 4%, the Socialist president appeared shaken and emotional as he said in a live televised address from the Élysée palace that he would not attempt to run for a second term, conscious of the “risks” to the French left if he did so.

– Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian, 1 December 2016

Security strip

“History,” wrote Edward Gibbon “is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.” One can well believe that his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire contains many lamentable tales wherein, for instance, after a barbarian attack the citizenry would take some random woman of the same tribe and humiliate her in a misdirected act of revenge.

French police make woman remove clothing on Nice beach following burkini ban

Photographs have emerged of armed French police confronting a woman on a beach and making her remove some of her clothing as part of a controversial ban on the burkini.

Authorities in several French towns have implemented bans on the Burkini, which covers the body and head, citing concerns about religious clothing in the wake of recent terrorist killings in the country.

The images of police confronting the woman in Nice on Tuesday show at least four police officers standing over a woman who was resting on the shore at the town’s Promenade des Anglais, the scene of last month’s Bastille Day lorry attack.

France, like the rest of the liberal West, gets this exactly and lethally wrong. First we forbid individuals their natural right to set the rules within their own property, to exclude and admit who they choose, to demand the burkini or to ban it. Then we set the law on people for the crime of wearing too much cloth on the public beach. A photograph is reproduced worldwide showing three armed male policemen standing over a Muslim woman and making her remove the clothes she considers necessary for modesty. Whatever your opinion of Islam and its clothing taboos, does anyone in the world believe that this makes the next jihadist attack less likely? To call it “security theatre” would be a compliment. The popular entertainment it calls to mind is that of the mob stripping and parading une femme tondue.

Charlie Hebdo once again seeks to sooth the savage beast

The people at Charlie Hebdo may be a bunch of benighted lefties with only the most tenuous grasp on reality, but they sure know how to thrown a party! Nice to see folks taking it all in calmly.

→ Continue reading: Charlie Hebdo once again seeks to sooth the savage beast

France hasn’t always got the memo about being a team player

One of the arguments I occasionally hear is that the European Union has been an important force for peace in Europe following the Second World War and that further, the weakening of the EU as a result of UK departure will embolden enemies of Western Europe, such as Putin. However, here’s a thing: it was arguably the decisive defeat of Nazi Germany, and the determination of the NATO powers, led by the US, to contain the Soviet Union and combat forms of anti-West subversion, that was more important in keeping the peace. The EU was in my view part of the overall architecture of what the Western powers put together, but whether it was decisive is unproven at best.

And the the various missteps of the EU after the Berlin Wall came down have seriously reduced rather than increased the EU’s status as a stabilising, pro-peace, force. The greatest misstep of all was launching a single, fiat currency without full, democratically accountable political union. (I would not have objected to a common, hard-money system for those who wanted it, but that was never the aim of the European Union’s most ardent federalists.)

I can understand why leaders such as Margaret Thatcher (until the late 80s) regarded membership of the EU as one of those dues that had to be paid to keep the West together and why she fretted that it was becoming more of a problem towards the end of her time in office.

It should not be forgotten that during the 60s, under the Presidency of Charles De Gaulle, France withdrew itself from the command structure and active operations of NATO. Leave aside the reasoning behind it: you have a large, relatively strong Western European country leaving one of the main transnational groupings of the post-war era, a couple of decades before the Berlin Wall came down and before the end of Communism. But I hardly ever hear France getting heat for this. Maybe I read the wrong journals and websites.

It is worth remembering this episode if one ever hears a French commentator or politician bashing the UK for somehow “weakening the West” for getting out of an organisation that it did not like. Because France did leave an important group, but the sky did not in the end fall in.

Brexit will make the UK like Guernsey – So says a French pol

Of all the dire threats, this from the French Economy Minister (there is one? an economy I mean) is the most chilling, since it reminds me of how far we have fallen.

Leaving the European Union would make the UK as significant as Guernsey, France’s economy minister has said

So the rate of income tax would be a standard 20% and there would be no VAT and no Capital Gains or Inheritance Tax? That’s some good deal for being insignificant.

Of course, this 20% tax rate is an anomaly in Guernsey, it was introduced as 4 shillings in the pound (20 shillings per pound/livre) in WW2. Let’s look at some of the measures the Nazis introduced in the occupied Channel Islands.

On arrival in the islands, the Germans issued proclamations imposing new laws on the resident islanders. As time progressed, additional laws restricting rights were posted and had to be obeyed. The restrictions included:

Confiscation of:

weapons (1940)
boats (1940)
radios (1940) then (1942)
motor vehicles (forced sale) (1940)
cameras (1942)
fuel
houses
furniture

Restrictions on:

fishing (1940)
drinking spirits (1940)
exporting goods (1940)
changing prices of goods (1940)
patriotic songs and signs (1940)
more than three people meeting together (1940)
access to beaches
fuel
freedom of speech
access to medicines
some clubs and associations.

Changes to:

drive on right of roads (1941)
rations (1943, 44 & 45)
clocks to German time (1940)

Forced to accept:

curfew (1940)
exchange rate to Reichsmarks (1940)
census (1940)
identity cards (1941)
growing vegetables
food rationing (1940)
increase in income tax to 4/- (1940)
lodgers billeted
German language in schools
Cycling in single file (1941)
work from Germans
censorship

Well we have a long way to fall before that state of affairs, and cycling in double file is by no means discouraged bar some circumstances by the Highway Code, presumably in the hope of causing more accidents.

So let freedom reign, even though the sky (and tax rates) may fall.

And today, I couldn’t help noticing the timing of these sequential adverts on a hoarding in Newcastle.
Remain

and next this:
Greece

Any old Caravaggios?

Reports from France indicate that someone in Toulouse who went up their attic to fix a leak found an old Caravaggio worth a reputed £94,000,000 lying around.

The picture is rather grim, it shows the Jewish fighter Judith beheading Holofernes, an Assyrian general. It also seems rather close to the bone (as it were) for these times, I would ask Holofernes what he thought, but…

Sadly, the French State gets the first option on buying it.

21 October is an important date in the history of European political integration

Trafalgar

Who should we blame in the Volkswagen scandal?

By now, everyone knows about the Volkswagen scandal. VW have admitted installing software that cuts exhaust emissions when their cars are being tested and lets them spew death and disease every which way when they’re not.

So who is the villain here? To my mind there are two possible suspects: the US Environmental Protection Agency and the European Union. I know what you are thinking: why can’t we pin the blame on both of them? Well, cheer up because I think we can.

To my mind pollution is simple. The polluter pays the victim. I would like to find some non-state means for doing this and as I understand it in the days prior to environmentalism just such a mechanism – albeit involving courts – did indeed exist.

Of course, since then government has queered the pitch for everyone introducing two principles which it rolls out according to taste. One, that the polluter pays the government. Two, that the polluter becomes subject to government violence – or to put it in statist terms: pollution is regulated.

So, the government imposes regulations in which if you score below a certain number you are left alone and if you score above they send the boys round. Black mark against the EPA.

But meanwhile the EU has been promoting diesels like crazy over recent years. Whether this is a sinister French plot or the result of the global warming hoax, who knows. The really sad thing is that we have ended up with that abomination: the diesel-powered sports car. Oh yeah, and London’s air ain’t too great either.

Some diesel

Some diesel

Miscellaneous thoughts and questions

Why is that we are quite happy to use the term NOx but not the term COx? It makes no sense.

What were VW doing selling diesel cars in the US? Petrol (US = gasoline) is much cheaper there. So the market for diesel cars is much smaller. Come to think of it it’s probably because they were trying to make inroads into the market in the expectation that diesel taxes would come down making diesels more attractive. It is a tax issue isn’t it?

Why is it that cars are regulated in this way? I find it difficult to believe that a lorry or bus is in any way cleaner than a car. But I bet the latter two are not nearly as stringently regulated. To ask the question is, of course, to answer it. They do it because they can.

Did anyone else catch that excellent Mark Evans documentary about the diesel engine on BBC4 the other night? Comet swirl chambers, eh?

Why the minimum wage is seen as a success

Paul Johnson, writing in the Times about the minimum wage (“Why it’s a gamble to follow Ikea on higher pay”) talks some sense but puts the cart before the horse:

It is a bet that forcing companies to increase wages will force them to increase productivity. If you have to pay £9 an hour then you’ll be forced to invest in the training and the machinery to ensure you get your money’s worth. Indeed this could be one of the reasons why productivity in France is so much higher than in the UK. With high minimum wages and extensive labour market regulation French companies can only survive by being highly productive. On the other hand that same regulation probably partly explains higher French unemployment.

Of course French workers are productive. The people who would have been the least productive French workers aren’t workers at all. Thanks to the minimum wage they’re unemployed, except for a little light rioting.

However Mr Johnson’s penultimate sentence cannot be faulted:

The minimum wage as it stands is widely seen to have been a success.

Everyone loves a feelgood story, and to increase the minimum wage feels so good. How vividly one imagines the joy of the hardworking night cleaner as he counts the extra in his meagre pay packet! In contrast, how dim and watery is the mental picture of the, um, potentially-but-not-actually hardworking unemployed person who might theoretically have benefited from a job at the till at a supermarket but now there’s an automated checkout machine instead. She’ll never know. The supermarket chain are not such fools as to announce that the reason for them scaling back their hiring plans is that they would rather not pay their employees any more. They will present automation purely as a benefit to the customer. The customers will continue to curse at the words “unexpected item in the bagging area” and moan about what a pity it is that they don’t have real human beings at the till like they used to, especially since that nice Mr Osborne put up their wages.

An afterthought: Oh, and about that hardworking night cleaner… six months after he was interviewed by the BBC saying what a wonderful difference the extra pay would make to his life, he was let go. Nothing personal, but what with the rising wage bill, the only way for his employers to keep within budget was to cut the frequency of cleaning. The BBC were long gone. Warmhearted people continued to feel good about how companies were finally being made to pay a “decent living wage”.

François Hollande pays tribute to Jacques Delors in more than one sense

Le Journal du Dimanche printed a loyal address made by President Hollande to Jacques Delors on the occasion of the old emperor’s nintieth birthday.

Here are some extracts, translated by me and Messieurs Google et Bing:

“Because Europe can only advance if it carries the idea of ​​transcendence. No nation can contemplate giving up part of its sovereignty if it is not satisfied that it will emerge stronger from this process. He [Delors] intuited that out of the crisis, Europe needs to define a new horizon that can give rise to a new hope, because he knows that the European idea runs out of steam when it is no longer put into action.”

“What threatens us is not too much Europe but too little.”

“The eurozone has managed this week to reaffirm its cohesion with Greece.

The quality of the Franco-German relationship had a great deal to do with it. The European spirit prevailed. But we cannot stop there. I have offered to take forward Jacques Delors’s idea for a Government of the euro area with the addition of a specific budget and thus also a Parliament to ensure democratic control.”

Found via Bloomberg and the Drudge Report. The French original can be seen at the first link. Is he really saying what I think he’s saying? A unified Eurozone government?