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]

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

Mr. Harmful Opinion’s favourite weapon

I thought this was particularly on the money:

This is why the culture war is in many ways the one that matters most, because everything else follows from it.

Portrait of an obsession: Every Alternet and/or Salon headline about libertarians from the last two years.

The following content was posted by Radley Balko to Facebook — I claim no credit for it. I would normally have just linked to it, but links to Facebook content are often a bit fragile, and this is perhaps one of the most spectacular things I’ve seen for a while and deserves wider viewing.

Now improved! Edited to add headlines from March through July!

Portrait of an obsession: Every Alternet and/or Salon headline about libertarians from the last two years.

As Gene Healy put it, “Never before have so many been so intimidated by so few with so little political power.”

[New articles up to July 2015]

Libertarianism is for white men

What Rand Paul’s libertarian hypocrisy reveals about the GOP’s giant race problem

America’s libertarian freakshow: Inside the free-market fetish of Rand Paul & Ted Cruz

Rise of the techno-Libertarians: The 5 most socially destructive aspects of Silicon Valley

Big Data’s big libertarian lie: Facebook, Google and the Silicon Valley ethical overhaul we need

Elon Musk will not save us: Why libertarians waiting for a superman are wasting everyone’s time

Beware the Silicon Valley elite: Ayn Rand, Google libertarianism and Indiana’s “religious freedom”

I was a troll on the white dude-bro Internet: The dark side of gaming, libertarianism, and guns

Rand Paul’s civil rights fiasco: How Jon Stewart just unmasked him — and exposed libertarians’ perverted view of freedom

Rand Paul’s dystopian America: 6 things to know about the war-mongering, faux libertarian

5 Worst Things About the Techno-Libertarians Solidifying Their Grasp on Our Economy and Culture

Liberland: Hundreds of Thousands Apply to Live in the World’s Newest—Very Tiny—Libertarian ‘Country’

Rand Paul, Doofus: The Libertarian’s Embarrassing “Racial Outreach”

Will War Between the Religious Right and Libertarians Tear the Tea Party Apart?

My Personal Libertarian Hell: How I Enraged the Movement and Paid the Price

How Big Business Invented the Theology of ‘Christian Libertarianism’ and the Gospel of Free Markets

Welcome to ‘Libertarian Island’: Inside the Frightening Economic Dreams of Silicon Valley’s Super Rich

It’s Bizarre: Libertarians Are Clueless About the ‘Free Market’ That They Worship

The True History of Libertarianism in America: A Phony Ideology to Promote a Corporate Agenda

[New articles up to March 2015]

Libertarianism is for petulant children: Ayn Rand, Rand Paul and the movement’s sad “rebellion”

The atheist libertarian lie: Ayn Rand, income inequality and the fantasy of the “free market”

Nightmare libertarian project turns country into the murder capital of the world

21 Rand Paul quotes that expose libertarianism for the con job it is

Ann Coulter: Libertarian voters are “idiots” who deserve to “drown”

My unusual libertarian journey: How a former outlaw broke the political mold

Libertarian Sham: Using the L Word to Hide Even Worse Politics

Ayn Rand’s capitalist paradise lost: The inside story of a libertarian scam

The sharing economy is a lie: Uber, Ayn Rand and the truth about tech and libertarians

→ Continue reading: Portrait of an obsession: Every Alternet and/or Salon headline about libertarians from the last two years.

Could this be the most epic imprecation ever?

“Tap dancing titty-sprinkle rhubarb Christ”

Harmful Opinions

Samizdata quote of the day

Some might say “I don’t care if they violate my privacy; I’ve got nothing to hide.” Help them understand that they are misunderstanding the fundamental nature of human rights. Nobody needs to justify why they “need” a right: the burden of justification falls on the one seeking to infringe upon the right. But even if they did, you can’t give away the rights of others because they’re not useful to you. More simply, the majority cannot vote away the natural rights of the minority.

But even if they could, help them think for a moment about what they’re saying. Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.

Edward Snowden

The Police State tentacles are everywhere

Yesterday a medical doctor friend told me that these days you have to show ID and sign for laboratory glassware. You may perhaps even be asked why you need it.

When I was a kid, you picked up an Edmunds Scientific or other catalog, used the money you earned mowing lawns and bought your gadgets and glassware by mail order – unless you were lucky enough to live in the same city in which case you went to their outlet and came straight home with it on the same day. No questions were asked. Lab glassware was just part of being a future scientist in a nation of free people.

Why has this changed? The Drug War. It is yet another culturally disastrous bit of police state monitoring enabled by fear mongering about meth labs. Well, to put it simply, I do not care. The people responsible for these sorts of regulation are much more socially damaging in their efforts because they undercut our liberty, our ability to act as free and autonomous citizens. It is my right to buy something ‘because I feel like it’ and to use it for ‘whatever the hell pleases me’ just because I am an American. I need no other reason.

I have no sympathy for the drug warriors. I want them unemployed. As to the people who think up these un-american regulations…

“Hangin’s too good for ’em.”

Belz and dog-whistles

There’s a story appearing in the Times and the Guardian upon which anti-semites and proto-totalitarian atheists are feasting like flies on dung. Read the comments to see what I mean, and bear in mind that those you see are the ones the mods did not think bad enough to delete. Yet the story that has brought forth such rage does not describe any sort of religiously-inspired persecution, cruelty or mutilation. No one is being forced to do anything. If it were not for the malign involvement of one particular sinister organisation this same story would raise a slightly condescending chuckle from the average broadsheet reader at the eccentricities of religious enthusiasts, before being forgotten.

The sinister organisation that is stirring up religious hatred is Her Majesty’s Department of Education. Sorry, Department for Education. Don’t blame me for not keeping up; the D of E / DfEE / DfES / DCSF / D for E changes its name more often than an outfit selling dodgy timeshares.

Back to the story. Apparently there is an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect called the Belz, some of whose adherents live in Stamford Hill, a part of North London where many Hasidic Jews of several different denominations make their home. This particular sect, the Belzers (both that name and “the Belz” seem to be in use), run a couple of schools. It seems that the Belzer top rabbi sent out a decree saying that women should not drive and that children attending the sect’s schools would be turned away if their mums turned up to collect them by car. Absent the government’s interference this would have been quietly dealt with in the obvious manner as described in the Times story “However, several women drove large people-carriers, apparently to collect their children from school, but parked some distance away”, and that would have been an end to it. But no. Woop-de-do, the government is on the case:

Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, has begun an investigation into an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect whose rabbis have banned women from driving children to school.


Mrs Morgan, who is also minister for women and equalities, said: “This is completely unacceptable in modern Britain. If schools do not actively promote the principle of respect for other people, they are breaching the independent school standards.”

Consider that for a moment. A government minister pronounces on whether the voluntary and entirely legal behaviour of certain British women is “acceptable” to “modern Britain”, the role of giving or refusing acceptance on behalf of sixty-four million individuals having apparently been added to the DfE’s ever-changing remit while nobody was looking. The minister then adds that failure on the part of a so-called independent school to actively promote an officially approved emotion is in breach of some official standards.

Now the Belzers could be said to have brought this interference upon themselves if they either accepted government coin to run their “independent” schools or signed up for these “independent school standards”, whatever they are. (The papers seem remarkably coy about whether these schools are truly private or wholly or partially state-funded. I expect they are hiding something damaging to the narrative.) But when the government regularly uses legal harassment to make it next to impossible to run a private organization without accepting some government “help” and acceding to government-set standards, it is hard to blame those running the Belz schools if they did give in to the men from the Ministry. They were probably told that if they paid this symbolic tribute then they would be left alone.

What business is it of anyone else if a woman chooses to accept, or to pretend to accept, a religious ruling not to drive? Is driving compulsory now, that choosing to cease doing it is “unacceptable” to the Secretary of State? What business is it of anyone else if independent schools and independent parents come to an agreement about which pupils shall attend a particular school that is based on conditions mutually acceptable to them? So the religious ruling and the conditions of attendance seem absurd to you and me? So we and Nicky Morgan would order our acceptably modern British lives better than these relics do? So what?

I am usually a sceptic towards the idea of “dog whistles”. This is a political metaphor from the States which is meant to describe the way that allegedly racist Republicans allegedly use coded language that seems harmless but carries a secret nefarious meaning at a frequency that only fellow racist Republicans can hear. Oh, and Democrat newspaper columnists can hear it too, for some reason. Coded racism can really occur, as can racist Republicans, but most of the time this is just a way of accusing people of racism for political advantage without the necessity of providing any evidence.

But I could come round to the belief that political dog-whistles do exist. There must be some explanation of why the trivial doings of this homeopathically tiny Jewish sect of a sect are bringing forth such passionate denunciations from journalists and their readers. I think it is because the Belz act towards women like Muslims do but are not Muslims. By righteously raging at the Belz for their half-hearted pretence at oppression of women you get to demonstrate how you totally would rage at their Muslim equivalents for their much more effectively enforced actual oppression of women – only they don’t happen to be in the newspaper today. And how convenient that the Belz are few in number, low in the hierarchy of victimhood favoured by the left, and do not turn to violence when criticised.

As a bonus the last paragraph of the Times story contains a tacked-on paragraph showcasing a completely different way that the state, working in partnership with people of faith, can stir up resentment between Jews and non-Jews:

Aurelie Fhima, 23, has won £16,000 damages from Travel Jigsaw of Manchester, a travel firm, after her job application was rejected. She had said that she did not want to work on Saturdays because she observed the Jewish law of not working on the sabbath.

Congratulations, Aurelie, for your pioneering and profitable use of discrimination law. Who would have guessed that a working for a travel agent would involve working on a Saturday, the only day when most working people are free to visit travel agents? Good thing for you that the travel agents were not gay; your unprogressive religion would not have scored highly enough to trump them then.

Samizdata quote of the day

“With regard to the idea of whether or not you have a right to healthcare, you have to realize what that implies….I’m a physician, that means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me, it means you believe in slavery. It means you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the assistants, the nurses…There’s an implied threat of force, do you have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away, and force me to take care of you? That’s is ultimately what the right to free healthcare would be.”

Rand Paul.

I came across this quotation via Facebook, which in turn had been posted up by someone on a sort of “celebrity” website. The person who put up the posting in the first place is clearly traumatised at the statement of principle by Rand Paul about the bogus “right” to healthcare. RP is to be congratulated for spelling out in the clearest fashion what is wrong with notions of claim rights where what is involved is not the classical (correct) notion of a right to be left alone, but the contrary attitude about a “right” to demand that others give you something even if those others haven’t taken it away in the first place.

This sort of confusion, famously skewered many years ago by Isiah Berlin in his essay about two concepts of liberty, still persists. I often find Rand Paul’s sort of argument particularly powerful when putting the problem with such “rights” in human terms.

Forced speech

The Times reports (paywalled):

Christian bakery guilty of discrimination over ‘gay cake’

A bakery whose Christian owners refused to make a cake carrying a pro-gay marriage slogan has been found guilty of discrimination after a landmark legal action.

Ashers Baking Company discriminated against Gareth Lee when it refused to create the cake featuring the Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie, with a slogan “Support Gay Marriage”, a judge has found.

Ruling in the case that has split public opinion in Northern Ireland, Isobel Brownlie, the district judge, said: “The defendants have unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff on grounds of sexual discrimination.”

So, you can be forced to say “Support Gay Marriage”, on the grounds that if you don’t say it someone will be left feeling “like a lesser person”, to quote Mr Lee, the plaintiff in this case.

How might this principle be extended?

Added later: in answer to my own question, a scenario:

Following the Labour victory in the closely-fought election of 2020, the new prime minister made good on the pledge made to the Muslims who had formed such a reliable part of the winning “coalition of the oppressed”. (In fact the promise to outlaw Islamaphobia had first been made by Ed Miliband back in 2015.) The relevant amendments to the Equality Act 2010 having been made, it seemed a natural next step for many Muslims to press for the UK to follow the example of several Canadian cities and give legal weight to the verdicts of the existing informal network of Sharia tribunals to which Muslims could choose to bring civil cases as an alternative to the regular channels of English or Scottish Law. It was as part of the campaign for this that the plaintiff, Mr A, approached the Rainbow Baking Company, run as a family business by the defendants Mr B & Mr C. The judge ruled that “The defendants have unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff on grounds of religious discrimination” when they refused to bake a cake bearing the message “SUPPORT SHARIA LAW”.

As it happens I am not in principle opposed to parallel systems of arbitration running in parallel to the ordinary law, so long as they are strictly voluntary. But my imaginary gay bakers might well profoundly object to being obliged to make a cake bearing that slogan. However by then the precedent that they can be forced to by law will have been set.

“Perhaps he wants to quiet me”: Charlotte Church pops out of the bubble then in again

“It’s all very well for me to sit in my cosy leftie bubble,” writes the singer, “with my baja-sporting friends, spending our free time attending vegan popup barbecues and meeting in art centres to have a bit of a moan about Ukip; we missed the changing climate of British politics. We dismissed the growing support for the right wing as just a few comedy racists, underestimated the momentum they were gaining, and thought that by retweeting the latest Owen Jones article, we were doing our bit. Wrong.”

That is self-aware. And it never goes amiss to assert, as she does in the second sentence of her article, that the right to protest does not end just because an election goes against you. She is also right to assert that her celebrity does not invalidate her right to political speech, nor her riches her right to advocate socialism.

All rather well said, I must admit. Then she goes into the pouty whinge-n-smear mode that has become so prevalent among modern feminists that they probably no longer know they are doing it.

For Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, to describe my exercising of democratic freedom as “unbecoming” really says more than I ever could. Perhaps he thinks I should get back to the ironing and stop babbling on about air-headed notions such as protecting the NHS (a system that he himself has been most mobile in attacking), fighting for a fairer society (a concept that entirely eludes his party), and championing the plight of those in society who are less privileged than me.

What Davies actually said was,

“At the end of the day, to denigrate the electorate, who has just spoken, within 48 hours of the election, is slightly unfortunate and unbecoming.”

Note he did not deny her right to go on a protest march whenever she wanted, he merely said that it did not look good and was annoyingly timed. I am not sure what prompted her speculation that “perhaps” he wants her to get back to her ironing. Using old-fashioned but very mild terms of rebuke such as “slightly unfortunate and unbecoming” does not logically imply a wish to repeal the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870. Still, who knows the secrets of the Tory heart? Perhaps he does. Or perhaps (while we’re perhapsing) it was all a Freudian slip and it is Charlotte who dreams of a man Tory and masterful enough to carry her off to her £800,000 “Princess” yacht in Swansea Marina and have his wicked way with her on the folding ironing board in the servants’ cabin?

I’m too scared to check what use I myself have made of that “Perhaps he thinks [whatever anodyne thing he said passed through Evil Overlord Filter]” formulation. Never mind. I’m cured now. I do not wish to sound like this:

Perhaps he wants to quiet me because I threaten his status as a wealthy, privately educated, white male.

And perhaps he doesn’t. A not unreasonable assumption given that he never said a word about “quieting” you, both of you are equally white, and you are much richer than he is. That speculation all came out of your own pretty little cis-privileged head, protest princess who makes things up. Why this need to pretend you are persecuted? At least the other Princess Charlotte has an excuse for acting like a baby. By the way, I would not normally have thought it becoming to mention your racial, heteronormative and wealth privilege, only you seem to think it’s important to insert a checklist of these things for anyone you criticise, so I thought it best to defer to your preferences.

Apathy sends a message

I agree with commenters on the piece I did early this morning, who said that the result of this election is a least worst outcome. All the political people whose opinions I most dislike are weeping and wailing and gnashing whatever remains of their teeth (what with the world-famed past deficiencies of British nationalised dental care). And that’s very good. But, like Rob Fisher, and despite having strong preferences concerning the national outcome, I personally ended up voting for nobody. Nobody will do much of what I want, and nobody will refrain from doing big things that I do not want, so nobody was who I voted for. I considered both the Conservative and the UKIPper, but, as the deadline got nearer and nearer, I could not bring myself to vote for either of them. I presume that the Conservative was and will remain ‘my’ MP. Yes.

But the good news is that, having spent last night and the early hours of the morning watching the story of the election unfold on the telly, I can report that voting for nobody most definitely does send a message. Turnout matters. Does low turnout signify apathy? Maybe so, but apathy is still a message, and not a message that these fanatically political people like to be told. If not voting accomplished nothing, then why all the nagging, which happens before every election, from the sort of people whose political opinions I most dislike that I should be voting? Yes, refusal to select your least unappealing lizard does definitely irk the lizards.

Most of the politicians I heard on the telly overnight just took it in turns to say that since we don’t yet know the result I won’t answer the question, and let’s just wait and see. But the now rather elderly Peter Hain bucked this conversational trend. Hain used to be an MP but is not one anymore. He wasn’t bothered about saying something interesting but off-message, and he actually did say some interesting things. This election result, Hain said, is an anti-Westminster result. In Scotland this expressed itself in the huge breakthrough success of the SNP. In England, it took the form of the impressive pile of votes amassed by UKIP, and everywhere in the relentlessly diminishing votes gained over the longer term by both Labour and the Conservatives, and by the way that the Lib Dem vote fell off a cliff at this election, following their actual participation in government. And, said Hain, this anti-Westminster animus took the form of lots of people just not voting at all, as it has done for quite a while now. We hate you bastards! That was the message, said Hain. In other words, apathy does send a message, and there it was being received loud and clear, on the telly, by a Talking Head. (Hain’s cure for all this protest and apathy is quite different from mine, but that’s a different argument.)

→ Continue reading: Apathy sends a message

Just because this is magnificent

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

If you do not know who she is, you should because she is quite remarkable.