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]

Thoughts on why Britons and Americans have different views about guns

An interesting, and to my mind convincing, posting by Eric Raymond:

Decentralized threats are the mother of liberty because the optimum adaptive response to them is localist and individualist – the American ideal of the armed citizen delegating power upward. Centralized threats are the father of tyranny because the optimum response to them is the field army and the central command – war is the health of the state.

There is an implication for today’s conditions. Terrorism and asymmetrical warfare are decentralized threats. The brave men and women of Flight 93, who prevented September 11 2001 from being an even darker day than it was, were heroes in the best American tradition of bottom-up decentralized response. History will regret that they were not armed, and should record as a crime against their humanity that they were forbidden from it.

He links to this essay by Dave Kopel.

A book comparing and contrasting UK and US experiences with guns, by Joyce Lee Malcolm, is also worth reading. Here is her website. 

Some things look better in hindsight

Back in March US Vice-President Mike Pence was mocked from all sides. According to Olga Khazan in the Atlantic:

In a recent, in-depth Washington Post profile of Karen Pence, Vice President Mike Pence’s wife, a small detail is drawing most of the attention: “In 2002, Mike Pence told The Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.”

The article went on to say that:

Pence is not the only powerful man in Washington who goes to great lengths to avoid the appearance of impropriety with the opposite sex. An anonymous survey of female Capitol Hill staffers conducted by National Journal in 2015 found that “several female aides reported that they have been barred from staffing their male bosses at evening events, driving alone with their congressman or senator, or even sitting down one-on-one in his office for fear that others would get the wrong impression.” One told the reporter Sarah Mimms that in 12 years working for her previous boss, he “never took a closed door meeting with me. … This made sensitive and strategic discussions extremely difficult.”

In conclusion, Ms Khazan argued that:

Without access to beneficial friendships and mentor relationships with executive men, women won’t be able to close the gender gap that exists in most professions.

I am not convinced that there is a gender gap, but that is a subject for another post. Ms Khazan made a fair point about mentoring, and her tone was reasonable. Ashley Csanady of Canada’s National Post, not so much:

Ashley Csanady: Mike Pence’s evangelical refusal to lunch with ladies is easy to mock. It’s also rape culture at work

At its core, Pence’s self-imposed ban is rape culture.

Nor is that a label I assign lightly. “Rape culture” is a phrase so overused it’s become almost meaningless, like calling someone a Nazi on the internet. But it has a very clear meaning: the notion, whether conscious or unconscious, that men can’t control themselves around women because “boys will be boys.”

The explicit reasons for Pence’s restriction are religion and family, but the implicit reason is that he must avoid alone-time with women lest his stringent religious moral code fall apart in the presence of a little lipstick and décolletage. That is rape culture.

Given that the list of men accused of sexual misconduct since Harvey Weinstein is growing like a beanstalk, and a great many of these men were loud in their scorn for the “puritanism” of Pence and all like him, Ms Csanady and a few others might like to re-evaluate their earlier remarks. I am not saying it is necessary to behave like Pence in order to avoid behaving like Weinstein. But it does seem that Ms Csanady might have been looking in the wrong place for rape culture.

US Navy: Penis in sky drawn by jet trail was ‘unacceptable’

A display of ‘airmanship‘, the sort, but not the pattern, that was needed in Operation Taxable on D-Day, appears to have fallen on ‘stony ground’ as it were, it looks like a pilot will be having a hard time.

US Navy officials have said it was “absolutely unacceptable” that one of their pilots used a jet’s contrail to draw a penis in the sky.

What else could, or should, he have used? Wider reaction is mixed:

Ramone Duran told the Seattle Times newspaper: “After it made the circles at the bottom, I knew what it was and started laughing.”
But one householder told KREM 2 she was upset about having to explain to her children…

However, the good news is that the Brylcreem Boys beat the Yanks to it:

In August this year, an RAF fighter pilot drew a 35-mile penis on radars monitoring skies over Lincolnshire, England.

Just wondering if they did that in the Cold War, and what the Soviet spy trawlers reported back.

Photo credits: ‘jon’, and, of course, the Secretary of the United States Navy.

Samizdata quote of the day

The undeniable truth is that neither slavery nor Jim Crow nor the harshest racism has decimated the black family the way the welfare state has.

Walter Williams

Samizdata quote of the day

Washington is a parasite that sucks the rest of the country dry. The counties surrounding Washington, D.C., have the highest per capita income of any metropolitan area in the country including New York, Hollywood and Silicon Valley. The unemployment rate is also the lowest of any large region in the country.

At least New York, Silicon Valley and Hollywood all produce something we need or enjoy. Washington produces red tape, taxes and new ways to handicap innovation on a daily basis.

While America staggers after its first lost decade (2007–17) and with a new lost decade set to begin (Japan, anyone?), Washington grows fat and rich. Trust me, the hotels and restaurants in town are jammed. No depression here.

Jim Rickards.

Not sure I’d agree with him on Hollywood but he is one of an apparently growing number of commentators who have noticed the parallels between the West’s current predicament and the Fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Samizdata quote of the day

The United States wants Canada to end supply management, which impedes agricultural imports – dairy, eggs, and poultry. Canada’s trade negotiators and politicians steadfastly refuse, and in their defense of the policy call up an astounding piece of logic: that the less Canadians have, the richer we are.

Canada’s Agriculture Minister insists that supply management is an “excellent system” and that “to deal with anything else is simply a non-starter.” Supporters on the left argue that the policy is necessary to protect domestic farmers from unfair competition from American farmers who receive government subsidies.

Conservatives have argued the same. Current Parliament Member and former International Trade Minister, Ed Fast argued in a recent essay that America simply wants access to the Canadian market “to deal with its own problem of overproduction, to the detriment of Canadian farmers.”

Here is what all proponents of supply management are arguing: If we allow the Americans to send us milk, then their problem of overproduction becomes our problem. Don’t you see how problematic it is, how much poorer we will become if we allow them to send to us the fruits of their overproduction, and at a low price to boot? Don’t you see how much richer we would be if we had less milk?

Matthew Lau

Samizdata quote of the day

The social justice warrior’s gain is the civil libertarian’s loss. The ACLU still engages in the fight for civil liberty, especially in opposition to the post-9/11 security state and as part of the anti-Trump ‘resistance’. But the 21st-century ACLU has chosen its battles with a progressive sensibility that devalues free speech and due process for all. Most notably, it has shied away from confronting campus-censorship crusades and the threat of an ideology that equates allegedly hateful speech with discriminatory action, subordinating the right to speak to the imagined rights of particular listeners to suppress what offends them.

Wendy Kaminer

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?

Samizdata quote of the day

Then last week we got news that “Russians” had placed adverts on Facebook during the presidential election, paying in the region of $50k-$100k for them. As Streetwise Professor points out, Hillary spent $400 million on adverts. And she still lost. Whatever the causes of her loss, a hundred grand on Facebook adverts wasn’t it.

Tim Newman

So what should we do about North Korea?

By “we” I mean the American government of course.

Let’s try some Q and A:

Does North Korea currently possess the means to destroy cities in South Korea, Japan and even the United States?
I’m guessing that’s a “no”. My understanding is that building a missile is one thing, building an atomic bomb another thing and combining the two really difficult.

If not, are they likely to acquire those means any time soon?
Well, they seem to have spent a hell of a long time just getting to this stage. So, it could be a while yet.

Were they to acquire them how likely would they be to use them?
I suppose the question here is whether or not the threat of instant nuclear annihilation would deter them. The point is that the Norks are atheists. They do not have a heaven to go to. They want to receive their rewards in this world. There is no upside to being nuked. So, they can be deterred.

Of course, I say they are atheists but their system of government is clearly a hereditary monarchy. Monarchies tend to have gods attached. But as yet (to the best of my knowledge) the Norks haven’t come up with a heaven. But when they do… watch out.

So, the best approach is probably to do nothing and let deterrence do its thing?
Probably. Of course, it doesn’t have to be the US doing the deterring. Japan and South Korea could do much the same, after they had developed nuclear weapons of course.

Getting back to this god stuff, the Iranians aren’t atheists are they?
No they’re not. And they believe in heaven. And they believe they would go to heaven if they nuked Israel. And rumour has it that the Norks are helping them with the tech. But my guess is that the Israelis have the means to deal with this threat before it becomes serious.

So, what you’re saying is that the US’s best approach is to do nothing?
Yes, I guess I am.

I would just add that it is remarkable how difficult smaller tyrannies find it to replicate 60-year old technology.

Some lies are long a-dying

Future historians will doubtless be wary of books on the history of the Negro in the United States when they find the word “Negro” being displaced by the word “Black” in the 1960s and 1970s – just as they are wary of books on German history in the era when the word “Aryan” became fashionable. … The history of the Negro American began to be chronicled, and was being well-chronicled, before “Black” became fashionable. … The “Black Studies” movement has tended to inflame the subject without proportionately illuminating it, and has become the Trojan Horse of a new racism.

(Daniel Boorstin, ‘The Democratic Experience’, 1973)

It’s more than 40 years since Daniel wrote this – and less than 4 since I first saw “All Lives Matter” called racist by those who shout “Black Lives Matter”.

– I’ve read minutes of meetings of tiny lefty groups in Victorian London where other members patiently explained to Karl Marx that his theories had flaws. Since then, the world has been force-fed a huge slice of socialism. You might have thought it died in the 90’s – or at least transmogrified into watermelonish (green on the outside, red on the inside) environmentalism, but Sanders and Corbyn want to put us back on the straight stuff.

– In late 1991, before the first gulf war faded and the recession kicked in, I recall a UK article explaining why the Democratic presidential hopefuls were being called (by their unhappy US media friends) “the seven dwarfs”. It listed the failings of each in turn; 5th on the list came Clinton, whose dwarfishness was because of sleaze and even more because “The Democrats know that more sleaze is coming on the Clintons.” (‘Clintons’, plural, even then, IIRC.) Well, that was true, but across-the-pond had 8 years of Clintons and just missed having a second helping.

When mainsteam media like you, your lies are long a-dying. The new racism (anti-semitic, like the old) is still on its first growth cycle. I am so ready to reach Boorstin’s future when historians will “doubtless” doubt it.

[Boorstin’s quote is on page 648 of the Pheonix Press 2000 paperback edition]

Samizdata quote of the day

That’s terrible economics. It’s a classic application of a well-known fallacy called the Lump of Labor — the idea that there are a fixed number of jobs in the world, and those jobs get divvied up among people.

How do we know this is a fallacy? It’s obvious that the number of jobs in the world isn’t fixed. Imagine if the United States deported every single American except for Jeff Sessions. Would Sessions then have his pick of any job? No, he’d be in the forest trying to eat berries to survive. Kicking people out doesn’t just reallocate jobs from one person to another. It also destroys them.

Noah Smith