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]

Mongolia, the EU’s blacklisted tax haven

It has been quite a grim century for Mongolia, many decades under the Soviet yoke after the ‘Mad Baron’ von Ungern-Sternberg managed to take over in the chaos after WW1, and write his own grim chapter, and still its capital is called ‘Red Hero’, but despite that name, Mongolia has got itself into the EU’s bad books, not by human rights abuses, but by a lack of them as a tax haven.

To determine whether a country is a “non-cooperative jurisdiction” the EU index measures the transparency of its tax regime, tax rates and whether the tax system encourages multinationals to unfairly shift profits to low tax regimes to avoid higher duties in other states. In particular these include tax systems that offer incentives such as 0% corporate tax to foreign companies.

The scoundrels, the shame of it, not taxing someone!

EU members have been left to decide what action to take against the offenders. Ministers ruled out imposing a withholding tax on transactions to tax havens as well as other financial sanctions.

OK, how about undercutting or matching them for starters? That would, actually, hurt them.

For some reason, the ‘charity’ Oxfam thinks it is entitled to chip in.

The UK-based charity Oxfam last week published its own list of 35 countries that it said should be blacklisted.

Are Oxfam’s shops taxed (or business-rated) in the same way as their commercial neighbours? Can they explain how sanctions (so useful against South Africa under Apartheid) improve the lot of the poor? Since sanctions harm, the corollary is that free trade doesn’t, and yet… But I digress.

Let’s hope that Mongolia shows the same defiance before its accusers as the Baron von Ungern-Sternberg did when facing a People’s Court, from ‘Setting the East Ablaze’ by Peter Hopkirk.

‘Showing no signs of fear at the fate awaiting him, the baron challenged the right of a ‘people’s court’ to try him. He told his Bolshevik accusers: ‘For a thousand years Ungerns have given other people orders. We have never taken orders from anyone. I refuse to accept the authority of the working class’.

Then they shot him.

The full blacklist is:

The 17 blacklisted territories are:
American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, South Korea, Macau, The Marshall Islands,Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates.

and conceding the point that taxes create poverty:

The EU made exceptions for countries faced with natural disasters such as hurricanes, and put the process temporarily on hold.

To be given in marriage

What would be the point of a royal engagement without a Guardian article to miss it?

In celebration of the forthcoming nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Afua Hirsch writes,

Almost two decades ago, during the heady first months of the new millennium, an unruly baroness named Kate Gavron made a shocking suggestion. Prince Charles, she said, should have married someone black. It would be, she imagined, a powerful symbol of the monarchy’s commitment to racial integration and multiculturalism.

Gavron’s comments were not well received at the time. As is so often the case with race and the royals, far more interesting than these remarks themselves, were the media reactions to them. Some suspected this was merely a clandestine attempt at “getting rid” of the monarchy, erasing their heritage through interracial marriages. Not so much revolution, as racial dilution.

Others assumed that for the Prince of Wales to marry a “black girl” – as the hypothetical person was described – would be to return to the loveless, strategic marriages the royals were once so famous for. It was obvious to commentators at the time that marrying a black girl, and marrying someone you actually loved, were both antithetical and mutually exclusive. After all, you couldn’t expect an heir to the throne to actually be attracted to such a person.

Ever charitable, I had initially assumed that Ms Hirsch was too young to personally remember this furore, by which I actually mean briefly successful effort on the part of a few journalists to keep each other in work by pretending to be outraged at each other’s stories, and that was why she portrayed something that happened in the year 2000 as if it happened in the 1960s. But that cannot be the case. She was nineteen at the time it was published. Perhaps her observations were tinged with a wistful desire to re-enact the heroic days of the Civil Rights era. If so, perhaps I should be more charitable after all; seventeen years ago that sort of playacting was not less common than it is now but was more excusable.

Whatever. I too remember Baroness Gavron’s remarks and the reaction to them. The previous week a report had been released by the Runnymede Trust called The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. Lady Gavron was one of the authors. Unfortunately but inevitably the authors had received abusive hate mail from the sort of embittered nobodies who used to send hate mail to people they read about in the papers. (Nowadays we have Twitter for that.) But no, the reaction of the mainstream media to Lady Gavron’s remarks did not include talk of “racial dilution”. Note the absence of any names. All Ms Hirsch tells us is that “Some suspected” a clandestine attempt at getting rid of the monarchy through interracial marriages. Well, yeah, in a population of 56 million as it then was, some will suspect almost anything. But if a journalist on any publication other than National Front News had said any such thing they would have been out of a job the same day.

At this point the reader might be asking themselves why if it was all so trivial I am claiming to remember Lady Gavron’s remarks across seventeen years? To answer that let’s look again at this passage from Ms Hirsch’s article:

Others assumed that for the Prince of Wales to marry a “black girl” – as the hypothetical person was described – would be to return to the loveless, strategic marriages the royals were once so famous for. It was obvious to commentators at the time that marrying a black girl, and marrying someone you actually loved, were both antithetical and mutually exclusive.

As I remembered it the reason so many had assumed that Lady Gavron was advocating that Charles enter a loveless strategic marriage was not at all that they found the idea of a love match between two people of different race inconceivable. It was because Lady Gavron had advocated exactly that: a strategic royal marriage not for love but in order to send a message. Worse, she had said that it would have been “great” if Prince Charles had been told to marry someone for political reasons, with the assumption that once he had been given his orders on whom to marry he should obey them.

To be fair to her, Ms Hirsch does supply a link to a Telegraph article from October 2000 so that one cam see Lady Gavron’s exact words. Here is the link again:

Prince Charles ‘should have married black woman’

THE Prince of Wales should have married a black woman as a symbol of his support for multi-cultural Britain, according to a member of the race relations think tank the Runnymede Trust.

Lady Gavron, vice-chairman of the commission that produced last week’s controversial report on the future of multi-ethnic Britain, said the Royal Family should take a lead in promoting racial integration.

“It would have been great if Prince Charles had been told to marry someone black. Imagine what message that would have sent out,” she said yesterday.

It wasn’t someone black, and it may not have been phrased as a command, but Charles probably was pretty much told who to marry, and for reasons to do with what “message” his marriage would send. It did not work out well. One ancient royal tradition that all should be glad to see extinct is that of marriage as a tool of policy.

Of course no one in their right minds would insert such a mad device as the monarchy if they were designing a nation from scratch. It is a historical relic. But history is a powerful force, and this nation is not being started from scratch. I hope and believe the monarchy does still have a role, so long as people can be found willing to play it. I hope the whole royal wedding shebang goes off well and a good time is had by all. If Ms Markle being mixed race makes more people feel included in the celebration, that’s great. More importantly I wish Harry and Meghan a long and loving life together.

“One from ten leaves nought”

In writing this post I do not attempt to draw any particular moral, merely to share an episode of history I found out about by chance which has some incongruous parallels with the present day.

Quoting the Wikipedia article on the West Indies Federation:

Three member states were proposed as hosts for the capital city of the federation: Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. Earlier in the federal negotiations the general opinion had been that the capital should be one of the smaller islands so that the capital would be in a neutral position to the larger territories and it would be able to inject some buoyancy into one of the (then) poorer economies.

The West Indies Federation had an unusually weak federal structure. For instance, its provinces were not contained in a single customs union. Thus, each province functioned as a separate economy, complete with tariffs, largely because the smaller provinces were afraid of being overwhelmed by the large islands’ economies. Also, complete freedom of movement within the Federation was not implemented, as the larger provinces were worried about mass migration from the smaller islands. In this sense, the current European Union can be said to have implemented a more unified economic space than the West Indian attempt.

Nor could the federal government take its component states to task. The initial federal budget was quite small, limiting the federal government’s ability to use its financial largesse as a carrot. It was dependent upon grants from the United Kingdom and from its member states. The provincial budgets of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago were both larger than the federal budget. This led to repeated requests for those states to provide greater financing to the federal government. These requests were not well received, as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago together already contributed 85 percent of the federal revenue, in roughly equal portions.

For many Jamaicans it appeared that the Federation would then just hamper their development and movement towards independence.

As a result, the Bustamante-led Jamaica Labour Party (the local component of the West Indian DLP) successfully forced Manley to hold a referendum in September 1961 on political secession from the Federation. It passed, with 54% of the vote, despite the opposition of Manley, the province’s Chief Minister at the time.

On January 14, 1962, the People’s National Movement (the Williams-led Trinidad component of the WIFLP) passed a resolution rejecting any further involvement with the Federation. Williams himself stated that “one from ten leaves nought”—in other words, without Jamaica, no Federation was possible. Trinidad and Tobago became independent on August 31, 1962.

Without Trinidad and Jamaica, the remaining “Little Eight” attempted to salvage some form of a West Indian Federation, this time centred on Barbados. However, these negotiations ultimately proved fruitless. Without its two largest states, the Federation was doomed to financial insolvency.

Something’s very rotten in the state of Malta

Oh my beloved Malta:

An investigative journalist in Malta who exposed her island nation’s links to offshore tax havens using the leaked Panama Papers was killed in a car bombing on Monday, an attack that shocked Malta and was condemned by leaders of the European Union.

The journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, died when the car she was driving exploded in Bidnija, a hamlet in north-central Malta. Her final blog post, accusing the prime minister’s chief of staff of corruption, had been published about a half-hour earlier.

Even if, like yours truly, you don’t think that there is anything necessarily wrong with offshore tax havens (haven is a place of safety, and I am quite keen on being safe from the predations of the State), it is worth getting angry about politicians who talk a good game about compliance with taxes salting – allegedly – kickbacks in far-off locations and hoping no-one will notice. We live in a world where governments the world over, through pacts such as the Common Reporting Standard, are to all intents and purposes creating a global tax “cartel” in pursuit of high net worth individuals’ wealth. Assuming, for example, that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party wins power at the next UK general election, and imposes all manner of controls (including capital controls) then UK residents may now already be thinking of where to park their money. Global anti-tax avoidance/evasion efforts make those bolt-holes harder to reach. So on certain levels I don’t have an issue with Malta being a tax haven, or its citizens being wily about it. What I do, however, have an issue with is the double-standards, and furthermore, the tolerance of bribery and corruption that is not just a by-product of an expansive state, but part of a culture that has become too embedded in certain countries.

Malta wants to become an important financial centre; it is already pretty significant in that regard. But it is in competition with rivals such as Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Mauritius, Singapore, etc. All of these places have their faults, but the murder of a campaigning journalist by the use of a car-bomb in broad daylight in Malta represents a shock even to those wearily familiar with the nastiness of current affairs.

Final point: whatever her merits or faults, the journalist known to many as “Daphne” was rightly famed for her courage in facing up to some very dodgy people. Such persons have also paid a price in countries such as Russia.

If the Maltese were astronauts, they would be saying the equivalent of “Houston, we have a problem”.

 

 

Thanks for letting us in on the joke, but why now?

This story has been quite widely reported in the British press:

‘Special relationship’ was seen as a joke by US diplomats, claims former Presidential adviser: Aide also admits slipping Malvinas references into press conferences in bid to ‘spoil it’

Barack Obama and his aides regarded the idea of a special relationship between Britain and the US as a joke, it was claimed last night.

Jeremy Shapiro, a former presidential adviser, said the special relationship was ‘unrequited’ and he revealed he would insert references to ‘the Malvinas’ – Argentina’s name for the Falklands – into Press conferences.

He must have been cross when Obama couldn’t even get that right.

This story is not so much news as confirmation of what everybody had guessed anyway. The interesting question for me is why admit it now? Shapiro was speaking at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. That’s nice and all, but is impressing that audience enough to make it worth losing your reputation for discretion, which ought to still matter to someone who now works at the European Council on Foreign Relations?

Mr Shapiro is following in the footsteps of Obama’s former political strategist David Axelrod, who admitted in 2015 that Obama’s 2008 change from supporting to opposing gay marriage was completely cynical:

Axelrod: Obama Misled Nation When He Opposed Gay Marriage In 2008

Axelrod writes that he knew Obama was in favor of same-sex marriages during the first presidential campaign, even as Obama publicly said he only supported civil unions, not full marriages. Axelrod also admits to counseling Obama to conceal that position for political reasons. “Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as he ran for higher office, he grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a ‘sacred union,'” Axelrod writes.

Safely in power, and needing to appeal to rich white donors rather than poor black voters, Obama modified his position right back again two years later. Anyone who had observed the timing of Obama’s switches as related to the US electoral cycle will scarcely be bowled over by Axelrod’s revelation. What is still unrevealed is was the benefit to Axelrod in finally saying this?

The Chinese-Russian alliance is a Clear and Present Danger to the West

The joint Chinese-Russian naval exercises presently going on in the northern Pacific are presented as normal “we do this every year” – but they are clearly an anti American move, threatening Japan and in support of North Korea. Although perhaps not the present dictator of North Korea – the Chinese-Russian alliance may have someone else in mind for this role.

From Europe (the Baltic States, and the Ukraine, and everywhere else), to the Middle East (the joint Chinese-Russian alliance with the Islamic Republic of Iran and associated irregular forces such as the “Party of God” in Lebanon and Syria), to the Far East and the Pacific, the alliance of the People’s Republic of China and Mr Putin’s Russia is a Clear and Present Danger to the West.

And everyone, apart from powerless people, is ignoring this danger. Mr Putin is not going anywhere – and he was trained, over many years, to hate the West – not for ideological reasons (he is not a Marxist), but simply as an opponent who-must-be-defeated (the endless agitprop attacks from “RT” against the West show the obsession of Mr Putin). And the regime in China is thought of as a wonderful business opportunity, in spite of the fact that this mercantalist regime has run up massive trade surpluses for many years now – crippling the West with debt which the West has used to finance CONSUMPTION not productive investment. The People’s Republic of China’s true nature as an extremely aggressive nationalistic (Han Chinese ethnic supremacist) dictatorship bent on military modernisation and endless expansion taking-over-ever-more-lands-and-seas, is still not really understood. The PRC is not a big version of Taiwan – it is a ruthless dictatorship, bent upon expansion.

Of course the rising power of China is not in the long term interests of Russia – but Mr Putin is myopic, his training has given him the view that the West is the great enemy of Russia. He is focused on this mythical threat – and ignores the real long term threat, the People’s Republic of China. Indeed he is locked in an alliance with the PRC against the West.

Samizdata quote of the day

One of the biggest mistakes people make when dealing with Trump is thinking it is all about him. This is understandable given Trump thinks everything is about him and so did his predecessor. But even Trump would probably acknowledge that on this issue, and several others, he is simply representing the interests of the people who elected him. That is his job after all, but Merkel, Macron, and the rest don’t seem to understand this: they talk of changing Trump’s mind as if he’s decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement just for the fun of it, instead of it being something he was specifically elected to do. I genuinely doubt they realise that the commitments they’re demanding must first be approved by the senate. The way Macron has kicked off his presidential career, he probably thinks everyone at the G20 can do anything they like, as if they’re medieval kings.

Tim Newman

Britain’s tribal allegiances are changing

Politics is about many things, but one of the big things that it is about is which political tribe you are a member of, and about how big the various tribes are. So, when a whole tranche of voters manage to persuade themselves out of membership of one of the big tribes, it’s a very big deal.

As Guido puts it:

Voting UKIP was in hindsight a gateway to voting Tory.

Key word there: “gateway”. A general election is about more than what voters merely think. It is about how they see themselves. It is about who they are, and about which self-definitional barriers they might now be willing to cross, which gateways they might now be willing to pass through.

For many decades, millions of people in Britain didn’t just vote Labour. They were Labour. Not a few millions still are Labour and will vote accordingly. But the rise of UKIP, and then the Brexit referendum which UKIP made happen, spoke to an at least equally deep idea of who many Labour voters are, comparable even with being Labour. They are: British, English, not European. (See also: Scotland.)

In retrospect, I think we can see that the rise of UKIP and the subsequent Brexit referendum didn’t just change Britain’s relationship with EUrope. They also changed Britain itself, by creating new allegiances and new connections between hitherto hostile tribesmen, and it weakened many old loyalties and connections and created new tribal divisions. Both the Labour and the Conservative tribes emerged from the UKIP/referendum episode changed. The Conservative tribe emerged stronger and bigger. The Labour tribe emerged weaker and smaller.

Add to the above the toxic Jeremy Corbyn, who is the most anti-English, anti-British front-line English/British politician in my lifetime, and you can see why those Labour tribal allegiances have started seriously to fray. Echoing Barack Obama, Jeremy Corbyn’s view of the world is that Anglo-America needs to count for less in that world and that whoever else thinks that too is a friend. Luckily for us Brits, Corbyn has little of Obama’s duplicity or rhetorical skill. And nor can Corbyn or his supporters play the race card.

So, what Corbyn communicates to all those wavering Labour tribespersons is not that they are now betraying their tribe, but that Corbyn and his leftist gang have already betrayed them. Corbyn is pushing potential Labour deserters through Guido’s gateway.

Meanwhile, those toxically exclusive Etonian Conservatives – Cameron and Osborne – have been replaced by that quintessence of inclusive Middle Englishness, Theresa May. We libertarians are all grumbling about what Theresa May believes, and we are quite right to do so. But it is what she is that is now making the difference.

Interesting times.

Economists behaving like activists

I do not know enough to assess the views of Paul Romer, the chief economist for the World Bank, when it comes to his specialism. I need no special knowledge to assess his views as reported in the Times on restoring the standing of his profession. He gets it.

Economists need to stop acting as if they own the moral high ground and start behaving with more humility if they are to win back the public’s trust after Brexit, according to the World Bank’s chief economist.

Paul Romer said that a popular backlash against experts needed to be taken seriously and that Brexit had been partly a reaction to the perceived hypocrisy of economists who claimed to be making unbiased judgments but were actually taking political positions.

Dr Romer, one of the leading economists of his generation, is known for speaking out against his profession. Last September he published a paper, The Trouble with Macroeconomics, in which he accused colleagues of practising a “pseudoscience” underpinned by an “honour code” that prohibits challenge to figures of authority even when their facts are wrong.

Dr Romer said: “To me, Brexit was a vote against the expert advice of economists. We have to earn back our credibility as professionals who will give an unbiased answer. In political discourse, activists often claim that their position is morally superior and no one seems to care, but when economists did so, voters reacted very negatively, perhaps because they are alert to even a whiff of hypocrisy and they sensed that economists were behaving like activists yet invoking the authority of science.

And if any smartarse wants to bring up Michael Gove’s remark about the British people having “had enough of experts”, tell them to listen to his actual words before he was shouted down. He wasn’t talking about any expert on any subject; he was referring specifically to those who said their predictions of Brexit disaster should be believed on grounds of their business and economic expertise, yet who had egregiously got their predictions wrong on the Euro and failed to predict the 2008 crisis at all.

Question: was Trump’s strike on Syria motivated by geopolitical considerations or…

Was Trump’s strike on Syria motivated by geopolitical considerations or… genuine concern about the use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces (and they have form for that)… or the need to demonstrate he is not in Putin’s pocket? Or something else?

Discuss.

Tim Marshall on chaps and maps

History, goes the old rhyme, is about chaps, while geography is about maps. Tim Marshall’s book, Prisoners of Geography, is all about how these two matters are actually very hard to separate. What the chaps think and do, says Marshall, is profoundly influenced and often downright determined by the circumstances described in the maps.

When I bought this book, in a remainder shop, I did not know who else was reading it. I am fascinated by the impact of geography upon history, but is anyone else? Since buying the book I have learned that it is now a best-seller. This pleases me, because it is a very good book, and in particular a very unsentimental book.

Britain and Western Europe, and then the other parts of the world where English is the dominant language, have mostly been blessed with a degree of geographically conferred freedom of manoeuvre that is denied to the inhabitants of pretty much all other nations. That is why these places got rich first. And it also now means that we Euros and Anglos are able to believe, as a matter of practical political policy rather than merely as privately pious aspiration, in a wide range of idealistic things of very variable value – things like freedom, democracy, equality, human rights, freedom for women, “social justice”. and so on and so forth – things that geographically more constrained people can only, as yet, dream of, and which they often regard as more as a threat to their own ways of doing things than as any kind of promise.

Another book that Marshall refers to quite frequently in this book is Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, which also offers a fundamentally geographical explanation for these facts. I share Marshall’s admiration for this book , and it heads the bibliographical list at the end of Prisoners of Geography, but this is an accident of spelling. I was also intrigued to see in that same list two works by Halford Mackinder, in particular Mackinder’s Democratic Ideals and Reality, a title which Marshall might have picked for his own book had it not already been taken.

Why, for starters, did the modern industrial era that helped to create all that freedom of political manoeuvre for the world’s luckier people, having kicked off in Britain, then, after an imitative surge in Western Europe, then see its centre of gravity shift to the USA? Well, there are many reasons.

→ Continue reading: Tim Marshall on chaps and maps

The Pope has staged a coup in ‘Malta’!

News reaches us from the Telegraph of rumblings in Rome, where an expansionist Pope appears to have burst the bonds set up by Mussolini and, setting his sights on the smallest ‘state’ within Rome, persuaded the British head of the International Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Grand Master Matthew Festing, to resign. Unlike a previous situation of Argentine aggression against a small group of islands sitting peacefully in a deep blue sea, this has passed off far more peacefully and entirely within Rome.

The background to this dispute is, we are told:

Mr Festing and the Vatican have been locked in a bitter dispute since one of the order’s top knights, Grand Chancellor Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, was sacked in December in the chivalric equivalent of a boardroom showdown – ostensibly because he allowed the use of condoms in a medical project for the poor.

Is the article hinting that the ‘condoms’ issue is a bit of a stretch?

When Festing fired von Boeselager, he accused the German of hiding the fact that he allowed the use of condoms when he ran Malteser International, the order’s humanitarian aid agency.

Von Boeselager and his supporters say the condom issue was an excuse by Festing and Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, an arch-conservative who has accused the pope of being too liberal, to increase their power.

Well since neither the Swiss Guard nor the St John’s Ambulance have got involved, it all seems rather peaceful. But the Pope seems to brook no dissent, not even in his last satellite ‘state’.

Francis has said he wants the 1.2 billion-member church to avoid so-called “culture wars” over moral teachings and show mercy to those who cannot live by all its rules, especially the poor.

Perhaps this is the Pope’s version of the Brezhnev Doctrine?

When forces that are hostile to socialism try to turn the development of some socialist country towards capitalism, it becomes not only a problem of the country concerned, but a common problem and concern of all socialist countries.