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]

Yiannopoulos on fire

I hugely enjoyed this bravura exercise in self-promotion by Milo Yiannopoulos.

Sample quote:

Sure, I work harder than everyone else, sleep less than everyone else (four hours, on average), I’m funnier, more charming, smarter, better looking and more modest than everyone else. But that’s not the whole story.

My technique isn’t some great contact book, or a crack team of cyber commandos, or some big secret social engineering secret. Nor is it even the fact that I’ve made myself social justice-proof by letting my flamboyant personality loose in public and never shutting up about black boyfriends. (They can’t get me on racism, homophobia or misogyny, so half the time they don’t even bother showing up to debate me.)

My secret is just this: I don’t exclude people. …

And much else in a similar vein. Or maybe that should be vain.

As I say, I greatly enjoyed this fireword display. More than any other recent piece of writing, this one reminded me of the most persuasively entertaining stuff that the hippy-lefties were saying and doing in the 1960s, in an earlier age of alternative media. Like Yiannopoulos, they only grew stronger with all the outraged attacks on them by third-rate establishmentarian bores. The hippy-lefties won. Yiannopoulos, as he says, is also now winning. Given that he calls himself a cultural libertarian, that’s all part of what I like about him.

But what do others think? I doubt everyone here likes this man’s way with words as much as I do. Maybe I like him because I have only recently started noticing him, and maybe after a while I’ll get bored of him. Perhaps so, but as of now, I want to know more. And you learn a lot about something, or someone, by watching people argue about it, or him. All comments – pro-, anti- or anything else- – will be gratefully read, by me at least.

Why are there so few Muslim terrorists?

In a posting sarcastically entitled Great questions of our time, the usually excellent Mick Hartley pours scorn on a book with the question in my title above as its subtitle, without (I’m guessing) him (Mick Hartley) having read any of this book.

I tried to attach the following comment to Hartley’s posting but could not make it work, so here it is, here:

I think this actually is a great question. Given what a totally vile doctrine Islam is, and given how many people say that they follow it, why indeed do so few Muslims, percentage wise, actually do the kinds of murderous things demanded of them in Islam’s holy scriptures?

The more vile you consider the things that Islam demands of its devotees, and they seem to me to be very vile indeed, the better the question is.

I am a regular and grateful reader of your blog. …

… by which I mean Mick Hartley‘s blog.

… I rarely disagree with you (and I greatly enjoy your photos (taken by your and by others)), but I think I do disagree with you on this.

Whether the above-linked-to book actually does supply good answers to this question, I do not know. But it surely is a question well worth asking.

Similarly good questions are: Why are there now so few wars raging these days, compared to how many wars that might now be raging? (Part of the answer to that would help to explain, in particular, all those verbally manic yet strangely well-behaved Muslims.) Why so few car crashes, train crashes, air crashes? And yes, I am well aware that there are a also a great many car crashes, but why not far more, given how many cars there are wizzing about hither and thither? Which are more numerous, I wonder, cars or Muslims? Muslims, I should guess, but it is not a confident guess. (Recent answer for the number of cars in the world.)

See also: Why is gun control not necessary, to prevent armed civilians killing each other in large numbers when mere arguments get heated? Because it seems not to be. Armed civilians actually almost never kill each other for bad, domestic or bar-room type disagreement reasons. They mostly (overwhelmingly so) defend themselves with guns against criminals, for very good reasons. The benefits of civilian gun ownership, in those states of the USA where civilian gun ownership is allowed seem to outweigh the harm that you might think that legalising gun ownership might unleash. Why? Was that predictable? To many, not. Minds are changed with questions and answers of this sort. (I can remember, a long time ago now, my own mind being thus changed.) Gun legalisation is now spreading in the USA.

That latter question, about gun control, has become very pertinent to the matter of how to see off the relatively few Muslims who do decide to become terrorists. Armed police in the numbers we have now can’t be everywhere, and shouldn’t be. Also, it is devilishly difficult to predict exactly which verbally fanatical Muslims are actually going to do something appropriately murderous about it. Muslim nutters make up a dauntingly large group to keep tabs on all the time, and in any case do we want to live in a world where the authorities have all the powers they would like to keep such tabs?

In Europe, the gun control argument doesn’t look like happening for real any time soon. But it is now happening for real in connection with the capital city of the USA, which terrorists are apparently saying is now high on their hit list. Are we soon due a Rand Paul “I told you so” moment?

The state has never been your friend. What about your friends (and others) who work for the state?

I came across an article titled The Public Sector: Standing In Our Way Until We Pay Up (browsing Catallaxy Files). Both are recommended reading. The article is written from an American perspective, but speaks of experiences both Americans and non-Americans would be familiar with. I have reproduced what I found to be the more thought-provoking parts of the article here:

…one popular theory of the state — one that is pretty well-supported by the historical evidence in the European context — is that this is where governments come from: protection rackets that survive for a long enough period of time that they take on a patina of legitimacy. At some point, Romulus-and-Remus stories are invented to explain that the local Mafiosi have not only historical roots but divine sanction.

The fundamental problem — the provision of services — never really goes away. It is even today a critical issue in places that are (or recently have been) ruled by crime syndicates such as the Taliban and Fatah. Hamas, especially, is known to put some real effort into the social-services front. There are some services that markets historically have not done a very good job of providing — these are called “public goods,” which is a specific term from political economy and not a synonym for “stuff the public thinks is desirable” — and their provision is the only real reason we have governments. Or, more precisely: Providing public goods is the only legitimate reason we have governments.

In reality, we have governments for lots of reasons, most of them illegitimate: That ancient instinct toward banditry is powerful, and the desire to make a living by simply commanding economic resources rather than earning them through trade or labor seems to be a fixed feature of a certain subset of human beings. Patronage and clientelism are very strong forces, too, and government can be used to create public-sector salaries or welfare benefits that are well in excess of the wages that political clients could expect to earn in honest work. In the United States, our swollen public-sector payrolls, particularly at the state and local level, are little more than a supplementary welfare state, providing a more dignified form of public dependency for relatively low-skilled and mainly unenterprising people.

When it comes to government, if you aren’t involved in the provision of actual public goods, you are involved in extortion. It may be legal. It may have the blessing of the mayor, the city council, and your union representative, but it’s still extortion. And you should be ashamed of yourself. If your only purpose is getting in the way until somebody hands you money, then you are part of a protection racket. And you might want to think about going into a more honorable line of work.

Prior to reading the article, I was familiar with the hypothesis that the origin of the modern state has its roots in criminal enterprise, yet it is always amusing attempting to reconcile this with the modern state’s increasingly matronly efforts to get its subjects to behave themselves. And it is certainly far from an implausible theory, when you consider how similar the objectives of a criminal enterprise and a state can be. The major difference is, of course, that the state functions within the law – hardly surprising since it is the major source of law – while criminal organisations operate outside of the law. But honestly, how could the activity of a crime gang that defeated a local rival in a turf war be described as anything other than a spot of localised gun control – in terms of ends, if perhaps not means?

→ Continue reading: The state has never been your friend. What about your friends (and others) who work for the state?

Samizdata quote of the day

None of the real difficulties are to be discussed. And yet it is just now, in Islam’s encounter with Western democracy, that discussion is most needed. Muslims must adapt, just as we all must adapt, to the changed circumstances in which we live. And we adapt by putting things in question, by asking whether this or that belief is true or binding, and in general by opening our hearts to other people’s arguments and attempting to meet them with arguments of our own.

Free speech is not the cause of the tensions that are growing around us, but the only possible solution to them. If the government is to succeed in its new measures to eradicate Islamic extremism, therefore, it should be encouraging people to discuss the matter openly, regardless of who might take offence.

Roger Scruton

Samizdata quote of the day

To borrow a phrase from the techies, free speech is the ‘killer app’ of civilisation, the core value on which the success of the whole system depends. It is so all-fired important that every other right or claim should have to get in line behind it. Freedom of thought and of speech is a key part of what makes us unique as modern humans. Free speech is the link connecting the individual and society. It is the voice of the morally autonomous adult, nobody’s slave or puppet, who is free to make his or her own choices. That is why free speech as we know it could only truly develop in the Enlightenment, when the spirit of the age of modernity was on full volume. It was first captured 350 years ago by the likes of Spinoza, who challenged the political and religious intolerance that dominated the old Europe and set the standard for a new world by declaring that ‘In a free state, every man may think what he likes, and say what he thinks’.

Mike Hume

In Germany, they are only obeying orders…

Or perhaps issuing them, as, if reports are true, an unfortunate German woman has found. After 23 years of renting her apartment off the state, in the form of the municipality, Frau Gabrielle Keller is the second German woman who has been told to leave her apartment by the end of the year, reportedly to make way for refugees.

If true, this would be a salutary lesson in life. The words of Dido’s song, Life for Rent, spring to mind (albeit I think the song in point is more about commitment to a relationship).

If my life is for rent, and I don’t learn to buy, well I deserve nothing more than I get, ‘cos nothing I have is truly mine.“.

And look at the lives and effort Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris put into dehousing Germans in WW2, only for them to do it to themselves in peacetime.

Of course, there are lessons here.

1. Private ownership of property (real or otherwise) is the bedrock of civilised life.
2. The State (in any form) is a bad servant and a worse master.
3. If you do have private property, it should be inalienable except in satisfaction of a debt, or by voluntary exchange or gift.

I suspect some form of ’eminent domain’ will probably end up being used in Germany and elsewhere to achieve the State’s desired results in any event, if not on this pretext, on some other. This is not just an issue in Germany, but is a tale re-told across the world, where political convenience leads to particularly cruel acts of government. And of course, the legal position is presumably that a person who occupies a property in Germany as a tenant may be given notice to leave for any reason or no reason whatsoever (unless, of course, discrimination is involved).

The political ramifications of the crisis appear to be that the ‘Ossis’ (the former East Germans and their offspring) now distrust the Kanzerlerin Dr Merkel more than the ‘Wessis’, the former West Germans, per the article.

Only 24 per cent of those polled in the former East named Mrs Merkel as the politician they trust most, down from 32 per cent just a month ago, the survey for the Insa Institute found.
But in the former West, 33 per cent named Mrs Merkel – up from 31 per cent in August.
The West’s larger population means that nationally support for the Chancellor remains strong.

Not that this decision could be put directly at the door of one of the few West Germans to emigrate to East Germany (albeit as an infant), but this is on her watch.

David Gillies on Jeremy Corbyn

Every so often I encounter a comment that seems to me to deserve to be dragged out of the credits at the end of the show, and given top billing in its own right.

Here is one such, by David Gillies, at David Thompson’s blog, on this posting. Someone had introduced the subject of Jeremy Corbyn into the comment thread. This was what Gillies had to say about the man:

Jeremy Corbyn was born in 1949. Stalin was still in power then. Since then we have been through the Korean War, the 1956 Hungarian revolution, the Prague Spring and its subsequent repression, the Communist takeover of Viet Nam and Laos, the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, the fall of Eastern European Communism, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Tiananmen Square and the recent upswing in Russian revanchism. We have also seen free markets and the rule of Law lift billions out of utter destitution, leaving mainly untouched those areas where the Left still has sway. Despite all this, Corbyn still cleaves to the most disgusting, barbarous ideology that has been seen on Earth since the Conquistadors put the kibosh on Aztec thoracic surgery. That’s not misguided. That’s evil. Just because he looks like a geography teacher shouldn’t let him off the hook. He is a wicked man busily surrounding himself with wicked (mainly) men and a few wicked women. We should not be afraid to state, plainly and repeatedly, what he is and what he stands for. To do any less is to acquiesce in his vileness.

On the other hand, the commenter directly above Gillies pours scorn on Corbyn’s fondness for photographing manholes. I see nothing wrong with that. And if Corbyn could be chased out of politics and persuaded to stick to doing only that, I would then see a lot less wrong with Corbyn.

If only there was some way for the Labour Party to be trashed, which is what Corbyn seems to be doing, without the trashing of my country also being risked.

Samizdata quote of the day

However, like most political slogans, the rhetorical appeal and simplicity of “smash the onion” can easily divert us from thinking about the reality of rolling back the state. Rather than an onion, let’s think about the state as a ticking time bomb. Libertarians are the bomb squad called in to defuse it before it goes off. We could argue for simply yanking out all the wires, or even “smashing the bomb,” but either option is likely to cause the bomb to explode. Defusing a bomb often requires careful thinking about how the bomb was constructed, which parts are linked, and what all those wires do. In other words, safely defusing the bomb requires snipping those wires in the right order.

Steven Horwitz

Discuss ;-)

On immigrants

I’m afraid I feel rather personally about the current immigration crises in the United States and Europe.

(Yes, we have a crisis in the United States as well, or at least, we have Presidential candidates with high poll numbers claiming that we do, and said candidates are threatening to enact draconian measures, including mass deportations.)

I take the matter quite personally because my own father was once a war refugee. Indeed, he was once a war refugee who, because he was a member of a non-Christian religion, was denied refuge in more or less every civilized part of the world. Seventy five years ago, of course, Jews were not considered particularly welcome even by countries that knew full well what was happening in Germany.

My father managed to save himself by ignoring laws that said that he wasn’t allowed to cross borders in the night without permission. Had it been up to many people, of course, he would have died instead, but he quite sensibly believed that he was under no moral obligation to pay attention to people who would have preferred him to remain where he was and die, and thus he formed his own immigration plan without the permission of the legal authorities at his destination.

(Of course, only this morning I read that Victor Orbán has complained that allowing Syrians into Europe would diminish the Christian character of the continent, the sort of claim I’ve heard before in different contexts, including from the political movement that forced my father to flee in the first place. This does bring to mind an ancient set of questions for adherents of Christianity, such as what sort of razor-wire walled internment camp designs Jesus would have favored, as well as whom Jesus would have deported. But I digress.)

For me, the question of immigration is, because of my family history, a very emotional one. None the less, I have given the matter a considerable amount of thought, and I believe that, although I care deeply about the issue, my position is still not an irrational one. Rather, I think that my family history simply allows me to put faces to the theoretical people who might be denied passage and die where they are, and thus gives me the ability to understand by example the human consequences of policies.

(Indeed, this is perhaps much the same thing that has happened for people who have viewed the the photographs of poor Aylan Kurdi, who drowned because even though his family had plenty of money to go from where they were to a place of safety, they had to give it to smugglers instead of to a reliable airline or ferry company. Seeing an individual face, hearing an individual name, makes it harder to ignore the consequences of a policy. But again, I digress.)

So, as I have said, I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I’ve come to a straightforward conclusion. Anyone proposing that immigration from one country to another be stopped through the use of coercive state violence is, morally speaking, doing the equivalent of proposing to beat on the hands of a drowning man desperately trying to climb out of the sea.

I claim that there is no more moral justification for preventing a man from Homs from traveling to your town, renting a house and then looking for work than there would be for preventing a man from within the borders of your supposed “nation state” from doing the same. I have scoured the literature on moral philosophy and failed to find any justification for the claim that a man born across an imaginary line has particularly different rights than a man born within it. I claim this is true regardless of whether the man from Homs seeks to rent the house next door because he is fleeing for his life or because he prefers the weather in your part of the world.

Indeed, the only way to stop a man from Homs from traveling to your town, renting an apartment from a willing owner, and taking a job from a willing employer, would seem to be to threaten to do violence or actually to do violence to that man. Which is to say, the only way to prevent him from moving would be the initiation of violence against an entirely peaceful person who has done nothing whatsoever to the people doing violence to him.

Therefore, not only would it seem that there is no moral justification for preventing such behavior, and not only would it seem churlish, but it would also seem that, if anything at all can be called immoral, then doing violence to a peaceful person who wants nothing more than to rent a house, find a job and live as everyone else does is immoral. Perhaps, of course, there is no such thing as right and wrong beyond personal whim, perhaps morals are not a real thing at all, but if morals are indeed a real thing and if morality means anything useful, then clearly such acts are immoral.

I know that some, perhaps even here on Samizdata, would suggest that immigrants are coming to the West to take advantage of our generous state welfare policies. If you believe that, then there is a trivial solution. I will in no way oppose the proposal that the law that opens the border should also specify that immigrants and even their children should not receive state benefits until they’ve lived in the country for ten, or twenty, or, who cares, make it a thousand years if you like. I don’t believe in the dole or state benefits of any sort to begin with, so I can’t consistently oppose denying people such benefits.

I have heard some others say “but they will vote and they are illiberal!”, and if you believe that, fine, deny them the right to vote — I’m an anarchist, and as I don’t believe in elections in the first place, I feel comfortable with denying the franchise to immigrants forever if you feel that is necessary for you to agree to open the border.

But, if you refuse to consider opening the border even if those coming are doing so with their own resources, are renting or buying homes with their own money, are not taking state benefits and are not voting for more collectivism, then I am afraid that I do have to look askance at your position.

Which is to say, your position was immoral in the first place, but if you refuse to reverse a completely immoral position even if the supposed “pragmatic” rationale for holding it vanishes, then perhaps your rationale is not only immoral but was also not held for pragmatic reasons in the first place.

Let us give you what you demand

It would be nice if the world as a whole was a less awful place. The average country is, after all, a democratically elected kleptocracy with a desperately poor population. (For evidence, see India or Haiti or Nigeria or Honduras.)

However, sustained progress worldwide, at least if we’re going to run legal systems based on popular votes instead of more rational methods, depends on most of the world understanding basic economics. The recent rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in U.S. polling demonstrates that even the bulk of people in the U.S. have no understanding of the barest rudiments of economics.

H. L. Mencken once said “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” However, the argument of most statists, on both the left and the right, is that we are our brother’s keepers, that the better off are obligated to run the lives of those who are not so well off, and this includes the more educated running the lives of the less educated.

If you don’t believe me, look around you: we are told that people cannot be trusted to figure out on their own if they should take intoxicating substances or if they should save for retirement or how they should educate their children — all those decisions must be made by the intellectual elite via the state. This is meant quite literally. Drugs must not be legalized because people can’t make their own judgements about taking them, or so we are told. People in the U.S. may not be allowed to privately manage the 14% of their income that goes to government “pensions” — savings would be an awful idea, since they’d just be duped out of their cash by investment firms, so the state must handle that money for them via Social Security. Voucher systems where children go to private schools selected by their parents are unacceptable, only a state run public education system run by the teaching elite is acceptable.

We could go down the list, everything from negotiating salaries to deciding if they want to eat raw milk cheeses. If people were allowed to run their own lives, they would make bad choices, and so it is not merely right but necessary that others, among the elite, should make their choices for them.

So, the smarter must, according to statism, run the lives of the less intelligent and educated, but at the same time it is obvious that even most of the educated in developed countries are incapable of even understanding comparative advantage or supply and demand curves. They are, when it comes to economic education, mere children, unable to help themselves.

The inevitable conclusion, therefore, is that statist morality is not compatible with democracy, but only with a dictatorship run by libertarians.

Note that this isn’t the conclusion I would come to myself, as I don’t share this moral belief system. I don’t personally want to be the dictator — I have no interest in running everyone’s life. However, it is the conclusion that believers in the state, and especially believers in programs like Social Security and public education, must logically come to — applying that morality, a reasonable outcome can only be expected if I and my colleagues are made absolute rulers. Indeed, according to those moral claims, this is not merely a superior solution but is actually morally required.

And yes, I’m trolling you, but at the same time I’m completely serious about what the statist belief system implies.

Janice Fiamengo very calmly puts the boot in

The fight back continues.

Companies must be allowed to make choices, and so must their customers

If you know for a fact that you won’t be able to buy Ribena if you shop at Tesco – for yourself or for your child – then shopping there might seem like an easy way of shopping healthily. Or maybe it’s just a simple PR move. McDonald’s salads were for some time the centerpiece of the company’s advertising, but were hardly less calorific than the burgers they were supposed to be a healthy alternative to.

Either way, as long as it’s just Tesco doing this, consumers can vote with their feet. My suspicion is that Tesco will lose money from doing this, and quietly reverse it after a few months, but the only way they can learn this sort of thing is by experimenting. As long as Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and plenty of other shops don’t follow suit, consumers will be only mildly inconvenienced.

The danger, though, is that the government uses this as a pretext to ban or tax sugary drinks across the board. This is a common sleight-of-hand used by the government, and we’ve seen seen it already this month: some firms pay their cleaners a living wage, so let’s make every firm pay all their workers a living wage.

Sam Bowman