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]

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.


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

Print-a-gun becomes a reality

So it seems that it is possible to create a functional firearm with a 3D printer after all… awesome.

Ammunition may be a tad harder but where there is a will, there is a way.

Samizdata quote of the day

[W]hen you pull a gun the implication is that you will use it. All subsequent actions proceed on that basis. When you raise your interactions to that level here in Wisconsin you should bear in mind that Wisconsin is a concealed carry state. You better be prepared to play for the stakes you wager.

– Samizdatista Midwesterner, discussing the implications of coercing people into ‘doing the right thing‘ with threats.

So what is a person to do when another wishes to make them ‘do the right thing’ at gunpoint?

Reading the excellent blog The Last Ditch, there was an article about the Liberty League Freedom Forum 2013, written back on April 06th. And in the article, the author describes the views of Sam Bowman, of the Adam Smith Institute (and I am a great fan of the ASI) thus:

The two other sessions I attended also provided much food for thought. Sam Bowman of the Adam Smith Institute suggested that the standard libertarian approach to presenting our ideas appealed only to ourselves.


The most disturbing moment of the day was in Bowman’s session when he mentioned in passing the “standard” justification for welfarism; one that I had never heard before. If, he said, a baby was drowning in a puddle not only would a passing stranger have a moral duty to rescue it, but he would also have a moral right if, perhaps because of disability, he couldn’t do it himself to force someone else to do so at gunpoint.

This utilitarian remark passed without comment or challenge, but left me distinctly chilled. I don’t dispute a moral duty to save the child and I would shun forever someone else who failed to do so. But the idea that I would be justified in pulling a gun on the shunworthy one – or even killing him – if he failed to do his duty struck me as obscene.

Views like Sam Bowman’s are why I am so in favour of the private ownership of firearms.

When he (theoretically) points his (theoretical) gun at me to force me to risk my life to save another, I would say “Yes sir… oh and do you also want me to rescue that burning baby over there?”

And when he turns to look, I would (theoretically) produce my (theoretical) handgun and put two (theoretical) 40 cal rounds in the fucker’s chest and then one in his (theoretical) head.

And then I might actually go rescue the (theoretically) drowning baby and thereby have done two good things in a single day.

Using a SWAT team as a weapon against investigative journalism

Brian Krebs, a information and network security journalist, a few days ago had a little visit from a SWAT team:

When I opened the door to peel the rest of the tape off, I heard someone yell, “Don’t move! Put your hands in the air.” Glancing up from my squat, I saw a Fairfax County Police officer leaning over the trunk of a squad car, both arms extended and pointing a handgun at me. As I very slowly turned my head to the left, I observed about a half-dozen other squad cars, lights flashing, and more officers pointing firearms in my direction, including a shotgun and a semi-automatic rifle. I was instructed to face the house, back down my front steps and walk backwards into the adjoining parking area, after which point I was handcuffed and walked up to the top of the street.

I informed the responding officers that this was a hoax, and that I’d even warned them in advance of this possibility. In August 2012, I filed a report with Fairfax County Police after receiving non-specific threats. The threats came directly after I wrote about a service called absoboot.com, which is a service that can be hired to knock Web sites offline.

His blog carries the story context. Krebs further notes:

I have seen many young hackers discussing SWATing attacks as equivalent to calling in a bomb threat to get out of taking exams in high school or college. Unfortunately, calling in a bomb threat is nowhere near as dangerous as sending a SWAT team or some equivalent force to raid someone’s residence. This type of individual prank puts peoples’ lives at risk, wastes huge amounts of taxpayer dollars, and draws otherwise scarce resources away from real emergencies. What’s more, there are a lot of folks who will confront armed force with armed force, all with the intention of self-defense.

Statutory murder is an occasional topic of discussion in the information security community, for instance by planting a small quantity of drugs on someone who is travelling to Singapore.

It’s a risk, and it’s only getting easier to exploit with calls for ever more heavy-handed “security“.

A theory about why Britain has a lot of gun control and America has less

It is to do with urbanisation. Quite simply, the more people who live in cities the greater the amount of gun control.

It’s not just Britain and America. Switzerland, largely rural, has very little gun control, while America’s cities, as I understand it, tend to have plenty. I suspect one of the reasons for this is that in the cities you can have a reasonably effective police force. OK there’s the quip about “When seconds count the cops are only minutes away.” but better minutes than hours.

Also, I suspect politicians themselves are affected by this. In a city a politician finds himself surrounded by potential assassins, all of whom are nearby. “Best to disarm them”, he thinks. In less populated areas this is far less the case. It is perhaps no accident that high-rise New York City had gun control well before anywhere in the UK.

A pistol

A pistol. A 1907 Dreyse to be exact.

David Mamet rants magnificently

I would appear to be the last to know that the playwright David Mamet is, if not a member of my political family, then perhaps a cousin. The rant I link to below, which is exquisitely well written, is not going to persuade a single person who doesn’t already agree with the content, but it is an amazingly well designed firehose of hydrofluoric acid. Critics may (with some reason) say that it is vicious and panders to my affiliation group, but if so, it is literate vicious pandering.

The topic is ostensibly gun control, but in fact, it is mostly about collectivism in general. It begins with…

Karl Marx summed up Communism as “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” This is a good, pithy saying, which, in practice, has succeeded in bringing, upon those under its sway, misery, poverty, rape, torture, slavery, and death.

…and builds spectacularly from there.

“Gun Laws and the Fools of Chelm” by David Mamet

Samizdata quote of the day

“We respect the Office of the President of the United States of America. But make no mistake, as the duly-elected sheriffs of our respective counties, we will enforce the rights guaranteed to our citizens by the Constitution. No federal official will be permitted to descend upon our citizens and take from them what the Bill of rights — in particular Amendment II — has given them. We, like you, swore a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and we are prepared to trade our lives for the preservation of its traditional interpretation.”

– The Utah Sheriff’s Association

(H/T, Unforseen Contingencies blog)