I always was an ageist and, despite now being quite aged myself, I remain one. In my case this now means that, when wearing my libertarian hat, I attach more importance to recruiting the next generation to the libertarian cause than I do to recruiting my own generation to it. It’s not that I am especially good at turning young people into libertarians, or for that matter at making young libertarians into better young libertarians. But, I try, and I especially admire those libertarians who do this better than I do. Luckily there are quite a few. I suppose the main thing I do to make libertarians and to make libertarians into better libertarians is to fly the flag for the thing itself, libertarianism, which by its nature appeals more to the young than do less excitable and exciting versions of free-market-inclined wisdom.
Oldies often moan about ageism, particularly when they are not that old and are still trying to get new jobs, to replace the jobs that ageist fiends have so cruelly snatched away from them. Oldies engaged in job hunting often find themselves competing with younger rivals, and finding that they are, to put it bluntly, past it.
All hiring decisions are a risk. A promising young recruit, if he (for “he” please read he-or-she from now on) works out okay, might then offer several decades of useful productivity, and even if he soon moves on to another enterprise or activity, you and your colleagues might still gain from having him in your network, for many years hence. An oldie, by contrast, will either be an immediate asset to your enterprise, or he won’t be an asset at all. This may be cruel, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is true. That much touted oldie quality, experience, can be very valuable, but only if it enables the oldie in question to contribute things of great and immediate value. In a crisis, a wise oldie may be just what you want, to fight, now, the fire that is raging, now. But if you are building for the future, as most hirers are most of the time, at least partly, youth and a potentially long future will often trump age and experience. Experience, the young will get. And in addition to not being so set in their ways and better tuned in to new technology, young people have something especially important that old people do not. They have quite long futures ahead of them. Unless there are major breakthroughs in the life-extension trade, a long future is not something that an oldie can ever have or ever acquire.
The enforced irrationality of compelling people to ignore such considerations, by passing laws, which force people (of all ages) to be less prejudiced against old people than they are inclined to be, is bound to cause many bad decisions and to prevent many good ones. Hirers should be allowed to decide for themselves between age and experience and the immediate future on the one hand and youth and the more distant future on the other.
Madsen Pirie is a notable recruiter and improver of young libertarians, in fact, I would say, he is one of the best recruiters and improvers of young libertarians in the world. Pirie featured in my previous posting here, which quoted from a piece by him about a speech he recently gave to some students at the University of Brighton. He does performances like this a lot, for university students, and just as often for teenagers who are still at school. I have lost count of the number of times that Pirie has said to me what I am saying here, far more eloquently than I am saying it. Get ‘em young. The cumulative impact of Pirie’s now seriously impressive number of libertarian-decades doing this kind of thing (for he too became a libertarian when quite young) is beyond calculation, in terms of its benefits to our species and its future.
Last Tuesday evening, at the Adam Smith Institute Christmas party, I was able to observe some of the latest human consequences of Pirie’s labours over the decades, happily enjoying their Christmas drinks and each other’s vivaciously youthful company. It was a similar story only even more so at that Liberty League gathering I wrote about here earlier this year. A lot of the same faces were to be seen at both these events.
I have a goddaughter who is now an aspiring and decidedly glamorous classical/operatic singer. She is in London just now, auditioning to get into one or other of the two best London music colleges (fingers crossed, so far so good, blah blah). She went with me to this ASI Christmas party. She also was struck by the youth and intelligence of the majority of those present. She had a good time. She was impressed.
Madsen Pirie describes how he invited his University of Brighton audience to look at the world “through neo-liberal eyes”, rather than through the sort of eyes they are probably more used to using:
Others look at what is and compare it with a vision in their mind of what it might be. We are more empirical, comparing it to what was. Life expectancy about 150 years ago was about 30 years, and had been so for millennia. Now it is about 68 years globally, and higher than that in developed countries. We look at death to mothers in childbirth, and see it is now a tiny fraction of what it was even at the turn of the previous century. We look at infant mortality and see how that, too, is now a tiny fraction of what it was. Many of the diseases of the past have been conquered or controlled, and although there are new ones now that we live longer, we are in the process of controlling those, too. In the past most people battled to survive at subsistence level, whereas now we have more people above poverty and starvation than ever before in the history of humankind.
In other words we see things as being better than they were. Of course we can imagine a future which will be better than our present, but the empirical approach is to compare present with past, examine what made the difference, and attempt to do more of it. What made the difference was economic development and wealth creation, not the redistribution of existing wealth. It was opportunity, not equality, that drove progress, and we who support freedom want to see more of it, so that the future world will be as different from the present as ours is from the past.
I agree with everything there, except that very first sentence, about how “others look at what is and compare it with a vision in their mind of what it might be”, the implication being that we “neo-liberals” don’t do this.
I think it is truer to say that we do indeed think in exactly the empirical yet optimistic way that Pirie describes, but that we also compare what is with what might be. The difference is not that we look to the past and our opponents look to the future, but that we look more intelligently at the past than they do, and we also look to a different and better future.
I do not welcome, for instance, a future of “equality”, the sneer quotes there being because equality of the sort that is equal enough to satisfy the sort of people who demand equality will require someone to impose it, and that someone has to be unequally powerful to be doing such imposing. If you truly believe in equality, then you – you personally – will do what you can to improve the circumstances of those at the bottom of the heap. The poor will keep their freedom, thereby ensuring that whatever improvements you offer them really will be improvements. And you will not contrive these improvements by robbing richer people, because that will require you to be – unequally – powerful enough to do that, and there goes your precious equality. It will be equality that does not apply to you.
But just because I do not dream silly dreams of imposed equality, this does not mean that I dream no other dreams, dreams of freedom, dreams of progress, and yes, dreams of greater equality, that really is that, rather than just inequality that has been rearranged a little, in favour of new equalising rulers.
And nor does it mean that Madsen Pirie himself refrains from any such dreaming. He dreams – does he not? – of a future world that is – in a good way – “as different from the present as ours is from the past”. And he compares, as I do, that dreamed future with the present, to the present’s disadvantage.
This report (spotted by the ever alert Mick Hartley), describes a remarkable speech made by the President of Mongolia, at the end of a visit he made in October to North Korea.
A speech given at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang by the president of Mongolia late last month has caused raised eyebrows for its starkly critical portrayal of the follies of tyrannical rule and the repression of human rights.
President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj delivered the speech on the final day of his visit to North Korea. Mongolia has traditionally maintained friendly relations with the North, but the tenor of the speech is bound to have caused surprise even though it was delivered before an audience of relative loyalists.
Relative loyalists. Now there’s a choice phrase. I’m guessing it does not mean people who are literally blood relatives of the ruling dynasty.
Under this report, Daily NK reproduces the full text of the President’s speech, and it is well worth a read.
Quote (and it is very quotable):
I believe in the power of freedom. Freedom is an asset bestowed upon every single man and woman. Freedom enables every human to discover and realize his or her opportunities and chances for development. This leads a human society to progress and prosperity. Free people look for solutions in themselves. And those without freedom search for the sources of their miseries from outside. Mongols say, “better to live by your own choice however bitter it is, than to live by other’s choice, however sweet”.
See what I mean about quotable?
No tyranny lasts forever. It is the desire of the people to live free that is the eternal power.
You surely do now.
In 1990 Mongolia made a dual political and economic transition, concurrently, without shattering a single window and shedding a single drop of blood. Let me draw just one example. Over twenty years ago, the sheer share of the private sector in Mongolia’s GDP was less than 10%, whereas today it accounts for over 80%. So, a free society is a path to go, a way to live, rather than a goal to accomplish.
As I say, remarkable. Pessimists may say: it’s just words. But words matter. Why would any of us bother with reading and writing the stuff here at Samizdata if words did not matter?
I never used to like those Mongols much. Now, I find myself warming to them.
We need a free-market version of corporate social responsibility. We need to equip businessmen with an ethical code that tells them there’s a principled reason not to get in bed with the government.
- Jonah Goldberg, in this week’s Goldberg File email, quoted (quotulated?), at much greater length, by Nicholas Russon.
Incoming from David Thompson:
Wondered whether the discussion linked here – about art and public funding – might be of interest to Samizdata readers.
Here are some of my objections to taxpayer-funded arts subsidies:
- It is immoral to steal money to subsidise other people’s hobbies.
- The greatest art seems to happen when high art and low art combine, in the form of something that is superficially entertaining and stirring and popular, and also as profound as profundity seekers might want it to be. Arts subsidies harm art by dividing it into less good entertainment art, paid for by punters, and less good high art, paid for with subsidies. Arts subsidies in Britain are now being cut somewhat. The result will be somewhat better art.
- Arts subsidies turn art into political agitprop, in favour of subsidies for art and for everything else that the subsidising classes consider to be worthy, and at the expense of everything productive that the subsidising classes consider to be unworthy. This is why abolishing arts subsidies is politically and ideologically so much more important than the relatively small sums of money involved, compared to other subsidies, would suggest.
If you want more from me about this, see also this and this, from way back.
LATER: … and this, here, quite recently.
One of the ideas behind CAGW is that, even if the current CAGW scare turns out to be the great big fraudulent fuss about nothing that most of us here now believe it to be, it would be wise to have in place the political machinery for coping with any future collective human disasters of a similar sort that might require collective human action to survive them, before such a disaster really does threaten to strike, and this time for real. Better safe than sorry. Better to get prepared now. CAGW may be a lie, but this is one of several ways in which it is regarded by those pushing it as a noble lie.
Paul Murphy identifies an important weakness in such thinking. Crying wolf can make the real wolf, if he does finally show up, more rather than less dangerous:
The deeper issue here is not that the political action now strangling western economies is politically motivated, but that accepting the arguments for seeing warmism as sheer political fraud means accepting that the talking heads citing science to sell it to the masses are either deluded or dishonest – but because no wolf today doesn’t mean no wolf tomorrow, it also means that warmist politicization of the research process has to be seen as having destroyed the credibility of all involved, and thus as having greatly weakened the world’s ability to recognize and respond to a real threat should one now materialize.
Quite a few libertarians of my acquaintance (including, I seem to recall from comment threads here, our own Johnathan Pearce) think that libertarians, to quote the words said to me on this topic a few days ago, “miss a trick” by failing to describe what should happen in the event of such a real collective disaster. Yes, CAGW is almost certainly a lie, noble or just plain wicked. But what if something like that really does look like it really is about to happen?
My personal answer is that the decisive variable will probably not be political preparedness, but scientific and technological and economic preparedness. Not: Will we be politically organised to do the necessary? Rather: Will we be able to do the necessary? If our species suddenly finds itself facing a real collective disaster, the political will to tackle it will surely be there. What may be lacking, however, is the means to avert disaster, and even to understand it correctly. The best defence for humanity as a whole, just as it is now for the people in your town facing flood risks or tornadoes, is to be rich and clever and alert. Anything that gets in the way of that is bad.
Murphy is quite right that this ghastly CAGW episode has degraded our collective alertness. Even warnings of disaster from impeccably scrupulous scientists, utterly unconnected with the CAGW argument, will now be taken only with vast pinches of salt added.
For those who do think that political preparedness might make all the difference, I’d add that, in addition to being richer, cleverer and more alert (not least because in a free society a wider range of potential dangers will have been speculated about – e.g. by science fiction writers) than a less free society, a more free society is also more public spirited. You can never, of course, be sure, in the event of a one-off global crisis. But, when collective action really is necessary, free societies tend, quite aside from doing everything else better, to do even that better than unfree societies.
An unfree society may be great at imposing immediate unanimity, but what if what it immediately imposes unanimously is panic and indecision? (Think Stalin when Hitler attacked the USSR in
1942 1941.) And what if it then imposes a wrong decision about what needs to be done? A collectivity that is hastily assembled by freer and more independent persons is just as likely to act in a timely manner, and is far more likely to have a proper argument about what must be done, and hence to arrive at a better decision about that.
Besides which, what is often needed in a crisis is not so much collective action, but rather individual action for the benefit of the collective. That is a very different thing, and clearly a society which cultivates individuality will prepare individuals far better for such heroism than will societies where everyone is in the habit only of doing as they are told.
I will be interested to hear what commenters have to say about this.
There is an article by Mark Easton on the BBC site which is a classic example of ‘conflation’.
So if buying a dodgy laptop or some smuggled cigarettes were to be regarded as socially beyond the pale, then the black market would crumble.
If offered an implausibly cheap laptop by someone, should you buy it even though you know that odds are it is almost certainly stolen?
- No, because the theft of private property is morally indefensible.
If offered implausibly cheap cartons of cigarettes by someone, should you buy them even though you know it is almost certainly smuggled in from a country that taxes them at a much lower rate than the UK?
- Yes, because the theft of private property is morally indefensible, and that includes when governments do it. Odds are they were legally purchased in France.
So here we have an example of meta-context at work again… perhaps.
Mark Easton, writing on the website of the tax funded state broadcaster, conflates the theft of private property (selling a stolen laptop) with avoiding the taxation by the state (which is to say the state taking your money). Hell, chances are the cigarettes have been taxed (in France), just at a less rapacious rate. So all that is really happening is some enterprising soul is doing a bit of arbitrage.
There is nothing moral about obediently paying whatever your political masters demand of you, but it is most certainly immoral to knowingly purchase stolen property. But these are not the same things.
It is possible that such a notion that these are quite different (which is to say he is making a category error) never even crossed Mark Easton’s mind, given that within a statist meta-context, it is an unspoken and unexamined ‘given’ that moral relationships between the state and an individual are inverted.
But then as he writes for that tax funded bastion of intrusive regulatory statism, the BBC, who knows? For all I know this may be a conscious tactic, just another example of the “But think of the children…” method.
Think of it this way…
If acquiescing to rapacious taxation and pervasive regulation of our lives were to be regarded as socially beyond the pale, then the black market would not be necessary in the first place.
Stick that in yer meta-context an’ smoke it, Mister Easton.
The Daily Mail reports:
Lord Sugar faced police racism probe after joking on Twitter that crying Chinese boy was upset ‘because he was told off for leaving the production line of the iPhone 5′
How far we have fallen.
In speaking of our fall, I do not refer the belief of the complainant, Nichola Szeto, that Lord Sugar’s joke was racist: stupid people have always been with us. The joke was not remotely racist. Apple might have cause to whine, at the implication that the company employs child labour, but Apple Inc. probably has enough sense to refrain from going to law at a joke and getting a tidal wave of bad publicity. Poor Ms Szeto herself nearly had the sense to refrain from going to law at a joke and getting a tidal wave of bad publicity. It did take Merseyside’s Hate Crime Investigation Unit two tries before they could get her to ruin her business and reputation:
She was contacted by police on Wednesday but declined to give a statement.
At 8am the next day, she was again contacted by officers who said they wanted to visit her home.
Instead, she agreed to attend a police station in Central Liverpool later that day, where she spent an hour giving a statement to two officers.
I do not refer to the mistaken belief of Ms Szeto that racism is both illegal and a proper noun. State schools are often not very good, and in all fairness how far can we blame someone for thinking that an opinion might be illegal, when the police evidently thought so too? Or perhaps Merseyside Hate Crime Investigation Unit thought no such thing but was just anxious to drum up trade in a slow market. You know times are hard in the hate biz when you get sales calls at eight in the morning. Funny, though, when I have once or twice called to report the old sort of crime it took Plod ages to answer the phone. Why Merseyside police seem keener on home visits to well-toned ladies upset at what someone said on Twitter than on home visits to Toxteth amphetamine addicts beating their women is just one of those unfathomable mysteries.
How far we have fallen when this can be part of the normal operation of the care of a state for its citizen, in a country that once had something like freedom:
However, the remark was in the end classed as a ‘hate incident’ – which means no further action will be taken, although details will be kept on file.
Got that? Not even the zealous young commissars that they send to work in the Hate Crime Investigation Unit could find a enough of a crime to give the boys in the CPS something to work with. What a scalp that would have been: a Labour peer and a TV celebrity. All would have trembled at the power and reach of the law if such a man were brought down. Alas for the Hate Crime Investigation Unit, this time it was not to be. But it is still a “hate incident”. Not an alleged hate incident, or a complaint of a hate incident, an official hate incident. On file, for use if need be.
Circumcision ruling: European bureaucrats are effectively banning Jewish boys, argues Brendan O’Neill, quoting the Jerusalem Post and unintentionally supported in his argument by the creepy quote from the Council of Europe in which it calls for “debate” and in the same breath announces what the result of said debate is to be. And this was put forward by a German rapporteur. I am not usually one for endless digs at modern Germans for evil done before most of them were born, but, Frau Rupperecht, do you have any idea of what that must look like to some of the Jerusalem Post’s older readers?
And yet – irreversible modification of a child’s body without the child’s consent. Gulp.
And yet again – parents irreversibly modify their children’s bodies by surgery all the time.
We have discussed this several times before, acrimoniously. Any new thoughts? Any constructive reformulations of old thoughts?
I have a question for medically knowledgeable readers. I gather that a far higher proportion – 79% in 2002 – of men in the US are circumcised than in the UK, yet the number uncircumcised is also huge. There must therefore be scope for large scale comparisons of outcomes. Have these been done? Does male circumcision make much difference?
[T]his Conceit of Levelling of property and Magistracy is so ridiculous and foolish an opinion, as no man of brains, reason, or ingenuity, can be imagined such a sot as to maintain such a principle, because it would, if practiced destroy not only any industry in the world, but raze the very foundation of generation, and of subsistence or being of one man by another. For as industry and valour by which the societies of mankind are maintained and preserved, who will take the pains for that which when he hath gotten is not his own, but must be equally shared in, by every lazy, simple, dronish sot? or who will fight for that, wherein he hath no other interest, but such as must be subject to the will and pleasure of another, yea of every coward and base low spirited fellow, that in his sitting still must share in common with a valiant man in all his brave and noble achievement? The ancient encouragement to men that were to defend their Country was this: that they were to hazard their persons for that which was their own, to wit, their own wives, their own children, their own Estates. And this give me leave to say, and that in truth, that those men in England, that are most branded with the name of Levellers, are of all in that Nation, most free from any design of Levelling, in the sense we have spoken of.
- John Lilburne defends himself against the accusation that he was a “Leveller”. But, the name stuck. Last night Richard Carey gave a fascinating talk about the Levellers, and about the seventeenth century historical context within which the Levellers proclaimed their ideas, in the course of which he quoted the above piece of writing.
Carl Watner includes it in this JLS article (p. 409) about Richard Overton.
Next time I meet up with Patrick Crozier, I will be giving him a present.
I hope that the next time we meet will be if he drops by at my place tomorrow evening. Then, Richard Carey will be giving a talk about “The English Radicals: 1640-1660″, but I believe that work commitments may prevent Patrick from being at that.
Richard Carey will be talking about:
The use and abuse of history; the period 1640-1660 as a crucible of political philosophy; Libertarianism and Republicanism and their respective myths; Those great heroes to all honest Englishmen, the libellously-labelled “Levellers”, what they stood for, their impact and influence on the development of politics in this country and America, likewise the Republicans.
As always with these talks, I expect to learn a lot. To find out more about them, click where it says “Contact” here.
The present for Patrick Crozier is this:
That’s twenty one ancient copies of The Times. I saw a great stash of these in a local charity shop, and, knowing Patrick’s interest in the past of this newspaper, especially when world wars are involved, I purchased one, dated May 24th 1940. I asked Patrick if he’d like this copy, and more. He expressed enthusiasm. So, yesterday I went back and bought all the rest. Originally these copies were sold for 2d. These same copies each cost me exactly as much as a copy of The Times would now cost, £1. Someone else had also had a go at the pile by then, but there were plenty left. The dates of the copies I now have are: 1939 – October 2; November 18, 20, 22, 24, 25, 27, 29; December 5, 13, 15, 19
, 27; 1940 – March 27, 28; April 4, 6, 13, 17; May 24, 30.
Giving gifts to one’s friends these days is hard. Stuff worth having tends not to cost nearly as much as it used to. If a friend wants, say, some spoons, he just buys some spoons, of exactly the sort he wants. Why give him other spoons of the wrong sort? Besides which, the gift most of us would really like would not be more crap, but more space to accommodate all the crap we already have. So, when the chance occurs to give a friend a gift that they really might like, costing about the right amount in money or bother, it makes sense to grab that chance.
LATER: I’ve just discovered that what I thought was December 27th 1939 was actually September 27th 1938. Before WW2 began, in other words, which will please Patrick. There’s a big Hitler speech about Czechoslovakia.
It was twelve years ago now, so it is no particular surprise that nobody here, as September 11th 2013 comes to its end, had much to say about September 11th 2001. But Simon Clarke of Libertarian Home does say something of significance about this tumultuous day. In a posting entitled Libertarian Home started 12 years ago today, he says this:
To say that Libertarian Home is a result of 9/11 sounds like some random happenstance, but it was not. 9/11 woke me up, and got me thinking.
9/11 woke up a lot of people. It got a lot of people thinking. A great many blogs started up soon after that day. It wasn’t merely because, at around that time, they could. In the aftermath of 9/11 people found themselves wanting to say things that the regular media were not saying, and to criticise a lot of the things that the regular media were saying.
Simon did not immediately start writing blog postings, but he did start reading blogs, including this one, which is most gratifying to know.