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]

In Canada, the term sergeant-at-arms means what it says

Apparently the sergeant-at-arms in the Canadian Parliament is not just a ceremonial position.

An Islamist by the name of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed a Canadian soldier on guard duty at a war memorial, before entering the House of Commons in Ottowa… whereupon 58 year old sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers shot him dead. Nicely done, sir.

Terry Pratchett on the range

Perusing the blog of Eric Raymond the other day, and following on from the previous posting here about Brad Pitt,  I wanted to put up this account of Raymond instructing a certain Terry Pratchett in how to shoot a firearm:

This is actually a very revealing thing to do with anyone. You learn a great deal about how the person handles stress and adrenalin. You learn a lot about their ability to concentrate. If the student has fears about violence, or self-doubt, or masculinity/femininity issues, that stuff is going to tend to come out in the student’s reactions in ways that are not difficult to read.

Terry was rock-steady. He was a good shot from the first three minutes. He listened, he followed directions intelligently, he always played safe, and he developed impressive competence at anything he was shown very quickly. To this day he’s one of the three or four best shooting students I’ve ever had.

Eric concludes:

But it was teaching Terry pistol that brought home to me how natively tough-minded he really is. After that, the realism and courage with which he faced his Alzheimer’s diagnosis came as no surprise to me whatsoever.

Several years ago, I attended a four-day defensive handgun course in Nevada, and have fired pistols subsequently in the US when I had the chance. I am not stating anything here that wont’ be obvious to Samzidata regulars in noting how much concentration is required to shoot well, to position oneself, and also how careful, methodical and disciplined good shooters have to be. Forget all the crap you see on the movies (although there are film actors, such as Kiefer Sutherland and Daniel Craig, who clearly have been taught properly).

Brad Pitt on Guns

They are all coming out of the woodwork. First we have Bono talking sense about economics, now Brad Pitt talks sense about owning guns.

The Radio Times reports that Pitt doesn’t feel that he and his family are safe unless there is a gun in the house.

“The positive is that my father instilled in me a profound and deep respect for the weapon,” he said.

Airport security kabuki theatre

Even if checking every passenger exhaustively was the right way to thwart terror, why would any serious government issue a press release about it, informing the terrorists that you were on their case and keeping them up to speed on the things you’re looking for? They didn’t do that with Bletchley Park and the Enigma codes. Leaving aside the possibility that our leaders are just plain dim, we must assume their statements are a clever decoy. In that case, everything that we must endure at Stansted and Heathrow is pure ‘security theatre’. This would not be unusual. Much of what passes for ‘security’ and its kissing cousin ‘safety’ is little more than an elaborate show.

Michael Hanlon. He has a book out with a co-author about safety issues, which looks interesting.

Samizdata quote of the day

Yes, we want guns to shoot criminals who threaten us. Firearms are so readily available to them that we are really asking for nothing more than – in Guardian terms – equality and social justice between the criminal and non-criminal communities. We are not fussed how many criminals die, but that doesn’t make us uncaring because we also believe that many people would never become criminals if it could be made as risky as, say, being a victim of crime.

But we also want to deter the heavily-armed state. To break its monopoly of force. To keep it in its place as our servant by restoring its fear of us. We don’t believe there would be nearly as many smug Guardianisti telling us how to live our lives if every Englishman’s castle still had guns behind the portcullis.

– ‘Tom Paine

Samizdata quote of the day

[Nigel Farage] is a politician, so everything he says needs to be decoded. But licensing [of handguns] is vastly preferable to banning, not just a little bit preferable… more importantly he is doing the one thing you are not supposed to do in polite society, he is actually discussing the subject. Next thing you know people will be discussing the NHS and the phrase “envy of the world” will not be heard anywhere.

– Perry de Havilland

Well done Nigel Farage!

Nigel Farage has just stuck up two fingers and waved them in the direction of the mainstream.

The Ukip leader has said it is party policy for hand guns to be legalised and licensed in the UK despite being banned in the UK for the last 18 years. Mr Farage said the current ban on the guns, which were made illegal following the school shooting at Dunblane in 1996, was “ludicrous.”

Speaking on LBC Radio Mr Farage said that it was Ukip policy to create a “proper licensing policy” and that people who kept hand guns responsibility locked up and had were willing to get an official license should “absolutely” be allowed them.

And of course he has unleashed a wave of outrage from ‘sensible’ statists of both left and right.

Well done Farage! To annoy so many of them at the same time just drives home that the Tories, Labour and LibDems really are largely interchangeable. It also means you are indeed doing something right.

Yet another reason to visit Las Vegas…

A couple weeks ago I had a several hour stop over in Las Vegas on the way from Chicago to LA. Las Vegas has never been one of my favorite places since I do all my gambling in real life and find little need for games of chance. However, this one sign may be enough to draw me back for a visit…

A very good reason to visit Las Vegas.

A very good reason to visit Las Vegas. (Copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved)

What if there is a real collective disaster?

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.

Indeed.

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.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Yes, just as homeowners with guns make home invasions less likely. Given that merchant vessels have been armed for nearly all of human history, the real surprise is that anyone finds this surprising. On the other hand, the near-elimination of piracy was a major accomplishment of the two centuries of British/American naval dominance that appears to be coming to an end. This is just one small way in which the world will pay a price.”

Glenn Reynolds, talking about the sharp fall in piracy attacks on vessels in the Indian Ocean since merchant ships began to use armed protection.

Crime is falling

This article caught my eye in the Economist (Paul Marks, avert your gaze now), stating that in many nations, crime rates for offences of property, violence and the like have fallen significantly over the past few decades (but that’s no reason for complacency):

Both police records (which underestimate some types of crime) and surveys of victims (which should not, but are not as regularly available a source of data) show crime against the person and against property falling over the past ten years in most rich countries. In America the fall began around 1991; in Britain it began around 1995, though the murder rate followed only in the mid-2000s. In France, property crime rose until 2001—but it has fallen by a third since. Some crimes are all but disappearing. In 1997, some 400,000 cars were reported stolen in England and Wales: in 2012, just 86,000.

 

Cities have seen the greatest progress. The number of violent crimes has fallen by 32% since 1990 across America as a whole; in the biggest cities, it has fallen by 64%. In New York, the area around Times Square on 42nd Street, where pornographers once mingled with muggers, is now a family oriented tourist trap. On London’s housing estates, children play in concrete corridors once used by heroin addicts to shoot up. In Tallinn you can walk home from the theatre unmolested as late as you like.

 

What is behind this spectacular and widespread improvement? Demographic trends are an obvious factor. The baby-boom in the decades after the second world war created a bubble in the 16- to 24-year-old population a couple of decades later, and most crimes are committed by men of that age. That bubble is now long deflated. In most Western countries, the population is ageing, often quite fast.

The magazine looks at a range of others issues, ranging from drugs, policing methods, fewer opportunities, stronger protections on things like cars and houses, and so on. (Of course, modern burglar alarms and all the rest cost money, and there are the potential civil libertarian issues arising from developments in modern policing, arguably). Even so, with all the ifs, buts and niggles about statistics, etc, it seems there has been a genuine improvement, and in quite a short – relatively – period of time.

Maybe we are seeing, in accelerated form, the sort of decline in misbehaviour that Steven Pinker has written about in his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature.

And perhaps because certain forms of crime are in decline, that might also explain how this creates a vacuum for the worriers out there, as they focus on issues such as health, drinking, smoking, paedophiles, and the rest. I am not trivialising such concerns – especially the latter – but it might explain part of what it is going on. It is almost as if we humans need to have stuff to get anxious and worry over and there are plenty of people, with good and less positive motives, who are only to keen to pander to that need.

Samizdata quote of the day

Some “experts” say that women should pee their pants or puke to avoid rape. Are they serious? Guns are better. Don’t pee your pants; make your wannabe rapist pee his pants.

Julie Borowski