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]

A ‘Fourth Amendment’ is badly needed, back in the Old Country

King George III’s troops and excise men outraged many of the colonialists (AIUI) with their searches and seizures, leading to the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Back in old England, no such definitive right exists, so the Queen’s men may find you not so secure in your person, and may make ‘unreasonable searches and seizures’, you might conclude.

I call my first ‘witness’:

A prisoner suspected of hiding drugs by swallowing them has been sent to hospital after managing not to defecate for nearly seven weeks.

#Poowatch ends in VICTORY for suspected drug dealer as he’s released on bail after 45 DAYS without going to the toilet

Yes, the unfortunate Mr Lamarr Chambers was held as a prisoner for 45 days by Essex Police, hoping that he will drop himself in it, as it were, as he was suspected of having swallowed an item which would eventually emerge, and which might incriminate him on drugs charges (and I note, we don’t have a Fifth Amendment here either, but we do have some rules of evidence against self-incrimination).

The story so far:

The 24-year-old from Brixton, South London, was held on January 17 and appeared in court the next day.

At that hearing, and in seven subsequent hearings, the court authorised the further detention of Mr Chambers under section 152 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 to enable him to pass drugs he was suspected to have inside him.

So a Court has authorised this epic buttock-clenching saga, under legislation dating from Mrs Thatcher’s period in office.

However, the police, presumably feeling themselves up against a brick wall, relented.

On Monday the decision was taken by Deputy Chief Constable BJ Harrington, following medical and legal advice, to release Mr Chambers from custody.
The Crown Prosecution Service discontinued the charges against Mr Chambers in relation to possession with intent to supply a Class A drug and driving matters.
He was immediately rearrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of a Class A drug and released on bail and then taken by police car, in company with a medical professional, to hospital for treatment.

I can’t help but be disgusted by a country in which a police force can comment on Twitter about a prisoner’s bowel movements, or lack thereof.

Perhaps we need a change in the law? No holding people until evidence emerges, but charge on the evidence lawfully and properly gathered.

Or perhaps Mrs May might suggest that the Crown will be able to seek a writ of habeus caco, ordering a prisoner to defecate?

I suspect that there’s only one thing Mr Chambers needs now more badly than the Fourth Amendment.

And what do the police say?

‘We will also not shy away from talking about the unpleasant truths that go hand in hand with the drug dealing lifestyle, from the violence often perpetrated by those involved to the expectation on dealers to “plug” drugs to avoid capture.’

I find a police force watching a man 24-hours a day for 45 days to see him defecate (on these allegations) far more unpleasant a truth, a truth about the state of freedom in Britain today.

Child stealing, then and now?

A senior English police officer has called for children of extremists to be taken away from them.

Terrorists should have their children taken off them in the same way that paedophiles do, Britain’s outgoing top anti-terror policeman has said.

Assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan police, Mark Rawley, said that children of terrorists were exposed to environments equally as “wicked” as victims of paedophiles were and so should be afforded the same protection.

In his valedictory speech, he told the Policy Exchange: “If you know parents are interested in sex with children, or if you know parents believe that people of their faith or their belief, should hate everybody else and grow up to kill people, for me those things are equally wicked environments to expose children to.”

Meanwhile, far away in Argentina, the Grim Reaper has finally called for one of the old ‘Dirty War’ Generals, Luciano Benjamín Menéndez (cousin of the clown who was ‘Gauleiter’ of the Falklands in 1982 until some Paras, Guards, Marines and Gurkhas et. al. turned up).

Menéndez, also known as “The Hyena,” was the military commander of ten Argentine provinces from 1975 to 1979.
Some 30,000 people are estimated to have been killed by the military in its infamous Dirty War against dissidents.
Menéndez was also convicted for abducting children from detained anti-government activists and giving them up for adoption.
The children were often adopted by families of military officials, who strived to give them a non-communist upbringing.

The Montoneros were a murderous bunch for sure. But why does a senior English police officer think it is appropriate to imitate a South American Junta?

By the authority vested, very scantily vested, in me…

The Gambling Commission has said that scantily dressed female croupiers are “unacceptable”.

Gambling Commission condemns outfits at trade show

Scantily clad women are “unacceptable” at a betting industry conference, Britain’s gambling regulator has said.

Sarah Harrison told the BBC that some women working at the ICE Totally Gaming event were wearing “little more than swimsuits”, while men wore smart suits.

The chief executive of the Gambling Commission said the body could boycott future ICE Total Gaming events.

But the event’s manager said the complaint was directed at a “very small” number of firms taking part.

Kate Chambers, managing director of ICE London, also said the show has been encouraging exhibitors to represent women more respectfully.

[…]

Earlier, Ms Harrison told BBC’s Radio 4’s Today programme of her dismay at seeing a gender disparity at the show, with some women on exhibition stalls doing promotional work in revealing clothing.

“The men were wearing smart suits and women were being asked to wear not much more than swimsuits. That’s totally unacceptable; it’s not reflective of the modern economy,” she said.

“This isn’t about political correctness. It’s about good regulation and good governance, because businesses that have a more diverse workforce are more likely to make better decisions. And that’s critical from a regulator’s point of view.”

“It’s about good regulation and good governance, because businesses that have a more diverse workforce are more likely to make better decisions” is one of the weirder non-sequiturs I have come across lately. It sounds like someone inputted a load of modern buzzwords into a 1980s Turing Test chatbot program. But that is a side issue.

What part of the legal remit of the Gambling Commission gives it authority to regulate the style of dress of people working in the gambling trade? It is meant to protect “vulnerable people”, that is, gambling addicts or people at risk of becoming gambling addicts. It also has a role in ensuring the law regarding gambling by minors is followed. Women employees who wear sexy dresses at a gambling trade show come into neither of these categories. How dare Sarah Harrison imply that they are either vulnerable or children. How dare she lay down the law on whether their dress is “acceptable” or “unacceptable” to her, when there is no law to lay down. She exceeds her authority.

Samizdata quote of the day

He doesn’t mean to be a monster and I don’t want to see him as one, but in his presence my blood ran cold. I was afraid of him. I was even more afraid of the way the earnest folk in the room laughed as he joked about the unintended consequences of various programmes to clean up the act of the idiotic, self-destructive great unwashed, I realised that I might be the only one there who included himself in the category of “the people” to be shaped as opposed to the smug elite doing the shaping.

No one seemed remotely concerned for the freedoms of those on the receiving end of Dr Chadwick’s mind bending, “nudging” and manipulation — the benighted mugs who ultimately pay to have such well-shod professionals sneer about them behind their backs.

– Tom Paine writing an article titled ‘An unexpected encounter with a monster

Oh boy, do I feel Tom’s Pain (sorry).

It reminds me of the following remarks I made when speaking to a rather earnest employee of Her Majesty’s government. It was at a PPE dinner at an Oxford college, filled to the rafters with pretty much the same people who filled the room where Tom Paine’s blood ran cold. As I was clearly very off-message, she had just told me that “You’re the sort of person we need to convince”:

“Don’t waste your time trying to convince me its all for my own good, because the objective isn’t my good, its making sure the people in this room have power. If you keep nudging people, and you just won’t stop, eventually they’ll punch you in the face. But we both know the reason that doesn’t happen to you is because Mao’s dictum is entirely correct. Your presumed right to do what you do to the hoi polloi is embedded at an axiomatic level, you don’t have any coherent moral argument to back it up, and why should you? The only reason you can do what you do is because you keep the police force funded, which is why you don’t need to convince me of anything.”

For some reason I don’t get taken to those kind of dinners any more 😆

Our god requires sacrifices

Tim Worstall says that Hayek’s much-derided argument that government health care would make us serfs of the state is supported by an astonishing piece by Nick Cohen which appears to argue that so it would, and so it must. Part of me hopes that Cohen, who has often been one of the more principled voices on the British Left, is writing tongue in cheek or trying to provoke a reaction. But the commenters nearly all seem to take it quite seriously and only berate him for not going far enough.

Here’s the piece from Cohen: “Saving the NHS means forcing us to change the way we lead our lives”.

If you imagine a healthy future for Britain, or any other country that has put the hunger of millennia behind it, you see a kind of dictatorship. Not a tyranny, but a society that ruthlessly restricts free choice. It is a future that views the mass of people as base creatures jerked around by desires they cannot control. Expert authority must engineer their lives from above for their own good and the common good.

Speaking as a base creature myself, I do not believe it would be a healthy future at all to be ruled by people with such contempt for me.

Here’s my partial sketch of how Britain would have to change to limit the costs to the NHS that stunted lives and avoidable pain will bring. Pedestrians and cyclists would have priority on the roads. If the roads are too narrow to take cars, cycle lanes and a pavement wide enough to allow pedestrians to walk or run in comfort, then cars will have to go. School runs will become history as heads refuse to admit any able-bodied child who arrives at school in a car.

It will not necessarily be illegal to drive in towns and cities, just pointless. Motorists would inch along because cycle and bus lanes would take up road space and pelican crossings would be reset so pedestrians never had to wait more than a minute to cross a road. Even when they reached their destinations, drivers would search forever for a space because car parks would have been demolished and replaced with public parks.

No fast-food outlet would be allowed within a one-mile radius of a school. Agricultural subsidies for fat and sugar would be abolished. Rapeseed oil and sugar beet cultivation would stop as new subsidies for public transport began. Meanwhile, the manufacturers of processed food high in sugar, salt and fat would face advertising bans and punitive taxes. (If food manufacturers want to dump prematurely sick patients on the NHS, we will say, they can damn well pay for the privilege.)

A commenter called “erikus” put their finger on what all this was reminding me of:

Stardate 21327.5. Captain Picard & the crew of the Enterprise arrive at a world where the local inhabitants are suffering the apocalyptic consequences that fell upon them after they tried to re-engineer themselves in order to meet the expectations they believe are placed upon them by the institutions that were created by their ancestors and which they’ve come to regard as sacred & inviolate.

Picard’s final speech: ‘They killed themselves for this. They died because they believed that they had to sacrifice themselves in order to preserve in perfect form the institutions left to them by their ancestors: Institutions that were themselves originally created with one simple purpose: To preserve their lives:

We must remember that the institutions that we create exist for our well-being & that once we begin to worship them & think their well-being transcends that of our own, they lose their reason for existence.’

What is to be done about this blatant sexism?

“I found their disrespect for women very disheartening, perhaps because their overall behavior seems so similar to our own, yet no amount of telling them I’m a professional, responsible, independent adult would change their views.”

What, might you ask, has troubled this person? Let me adumbrate that the writer is (afaik) a woman, remarking on a lack of respect for women, which is not shown to men.

But do not be too concerned, it is not a lack of respect for the particular woman’s professional abilities that drives this, the writer goes on, I parse, for what will be obvious reasons.

…But when the one father in our group approached, they would slink away without putting up a fight. Every time he sat down, they would come bounding back…

So clearly there is sexism going on here. So why isn’t reason working? I have some bad ‘news’ for this disheartened professional.

The disrespectful ones are, it turns out, not going to listen to reason, as they are… baboons (4th answer).

Which gives me an wonderful opportunity to stretch the evolutionary tree and crowbar in Jordan Peterson and Lobsters, watch and treasure, standing up straight with your shoulders back.

Sometimes you just gotta liver little

Today’s weird Guardian story is not directly political:

Surgeon admits marking his initials on the livers of two patients

A surgeon has pleaded guilty to marking his initials on the livers of two patients while performing transplant surgery.

In a hearing at Birmingham crown court on Wednesday, Simon Bramhall admitted two counts of assault by beating relating to incidents on 9 February and 21 August 2013. He pleaded not guilty to the more serious charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The renowned liver, spleen and pancreas surgeon used the gas argon, used to stop livers bleeding during operations and to highlight an area due to be worked on, to sign his initials into the patients’ organs. The marks left by argon are not thought to impair the organ’s function and usually disappear by themselves.

The 53-year-old was first suspended from his post as a consultant surgeon at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth hospital in 2013 after a colleague spotted the initials “SB” on an organ during follow-up surgery on one of Bramhall’s patients.

As one might expect, this is being treated as a crime:

Elizabeth Reid, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said Bramhall’s actions were an abuse of the trust placed in him by the patients.

“It was an intentional application of unlawful force to a patient whilst anaesthetised,” she said. “His acts in marking the livers of those patients, in a wholly unnecessary way, were deliberate and conscious acts on his part.”

But not everyone agrees.

Following reports of Bramhall’s suspension, his former patient Tracy Scriven told the Birmingham Mail that the surgeon should be immediately reinstated. “Even if he did put his initials on a transplanted liver, is it really that bad? I wouldn’t have cared if he did it to me. The man saved my life,” she said.

She has a point. As was discussed here yesterday there is a push (it’s called a “consultation” but no one is in any doubt what the desired answer is) for England to follow the example of Wales and institute a system in which unless a person objects in advance to their organs being donated after death their consent will be assumed.

Why, then, should Mr Bramhall not say that he assumed that his patients were OK with him putting his graffiti tag on their livers? They didn’t sign a form objecting, did they?

Samizdata quote of the day

In order to be used for transplant, the body must be fresh, undiseased and in a hospital. Presumed consent (which is not consent) will not necessarily make more of these available. That is all beside the moral argument and that one is pretty straightforward. Assuming anyone’s consent is not consent at all. It is the nationalisation of our bodies, it is the state seizing that which it does not own.

Longrider

Berwick and Carlisle off-licences, just rejoice at that news!

Scotland has become the land of the minimum alcohol price. Gushingly the BBC says that Scotland will become the first country in the World to have a minimum alcohol price (if you don’t count prohibition as an ‘infinite’ price). The UK’s Supreme Court has ruled that the proposal does not violate EU law (when pretty much anything else might).

And of course, it is for the good health of the wretched, like Gorbachev’s war on vodka.

When he took over the Soviet government in 1985, Gorbachev unleashed a massive campaign to promote soft drinks and fruit juices — instead of vodka.

His government also hiked the price of vodka and severely limited its sale. In typical Soviet style, he also proposed truly heavy-handed, excessive regulations to combat the shift from vodka to other forms of alcohol.

For instance, in the south of Russia, 100-year-old vineyards were systematically eradicated. The result was predictable enough. There were huge lines in vodka stores, of course. And in those lines, arguments and fights broke out incessantly.

Prior to Gorbachev’s anti-vodka campaign, the drink was often consumed by a “troika.” Consuming vodka in groups of three made sense because a bottle cost three rubles. In this way, each person contributed one ruble — and in turn, each had one glass.

But now, instead of just boozing up with each other, people actually shared their misery about life in larger groups. These people realized that in their miserable, detoxed circumstances, waiting in line had never been harder. And it had never been more politically explosive.

However, this measure is backed by remarkably precise science:

27. The University of Sheffield study went on to model the effect of a 50 pence per unit of alcohol minimum price on drinkers in poverty and not in poverty. It concluded that annual consumption by harmful drinkers in poverty would experience a fall of 681 units (as compared with nearly 181 units for such drinkers not in poverty), while consumption by hazardous drinkers in poverty would experience a fall of just under 88 units (as compared with a fall of only 30 units for such drinkers not in poverty). There would be 2,036 fewer deaths and 38,859 fewer hospitalisations during the first 20 years of the policy, after which when the policy had achieved its full impact, there would be an estimated 121 fewer deaths and 2,042 fewer hospital admissions each year.

The good news is that this is not a tax, the extra cost goes to the retailer, not the government (or, worse still, the UK government) although presumably they will get a cut from the VAT imposed on the ‘value-added’ of the extra paid, but don’t get me started on that.

The ultimate justification, and the reason why it was all being litigated, was that the minimum pricing was one way to skin the cat without having a general tax increase, whilst balancing the government’s health policy against the right to trade freely.

As to the general advantages and values of minimum pricing for health in relation to the benefits of free EU trade and competition, the Scottish Parliament and Government have as a matter of general policy decided to put very great weight on combatting alcohol-related mortality and hospitalisation and other forms of alcohol-related harm. That was a judgment which it was for them to make, and their right to make it militates strongly against intrusive review by a domestic court. That minimum pricing will involve a market distortion, including of EU trade and competition, is accepted. However, I find it impossible, even if it is appropriate to undertake the exercise at all in this context, to conclude that this can or should be regarded as outweighing the health benefits which are intended by minimum pricing.

More good news is that the laws are ‘experimental’ (Where have we heard that before?), so will expire after 6 years… Don’t hold your breath waiting for non-renewal.

So are good times ahead for alcohol retailers in the English Border towns, as the poor, harried Scots seek to trade with free England?

On the plus side, it is at least not a tax. But what unintended consequences might flow?

Edits: My thanks to Longrider for reminding us of the (late, unlamented) Danish fat tax, butter late than never.

I note that Part VI of the Act of Union with England 1707 states:

That all parts of the United Kingdom for ever from and after the Union shall have the same Allowances Encouragements and Drawbacks and be under the same Prohibitions Restrictions and Regulations of Trade and lyable to the same Customs and Duties on Import and Export And that the Allowances Encouragements and Drawbacks Prohibitions Restrictions and Regulations of Trade and the Customs and Duties on Import and Export settled in England when the Union commences shall from and after the Union take place throughout the whole United Kingdom . . .

And the English Act of Union 1706 has the same wording.

Samizdata quote of the day

Opt-out organ donation expands the state’s power over the individual. There may be a shortage of donors, and doing more to encourage people to sign up is no bad thing. But a person should never have to opt out of state control. It is individual rights and choice that should always be the default position.

Emily Dinsmore

A return to our roots

In the Guardian Hugh Warwick takes Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal to end the oppression of students paying money for their higher education to its logical conclusion. He proposes that we rediscover the venerable tradition of corvée and let them pay their debt to Labour in labour.

What if all students spent a year working the land before university?

[…]

Yes, this is state coercion. But does that make it any worse than the corporate coercion that has helped create such an insular, unfit and unhappy society; that has helped create an ecological desert in the countryside? This is a chance to fight back against the enemy, because this is a war. We have just not woken up to the fact yet.

[…]

Of course there will be those who believe that this is wrong, that there should not be a compulsion to take part in eco-conscription. And it would be wrong of me to insist that everyone take part. So there will be an opportunity for opponents to state their case and to become, in effect, “conscientious objectors”. They could be given the alternative job of joining the army.

“But if Pavlov had been given the task of introducing communism, he’d have quickly proved, by experimenting on dogs, that this way of life isn’t suitable for a living soul!’

So spake a brave and wise Czech man to a Soviet Army Zampolit (Political Officer) in an angry exchange after the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, per the wonderful, semi-biographical novel The Liberators by Soviet defector Viktor Suvorov. (BTW did the young (or old) Mr Corbyn ever condemn that particular Soviet invasion?).

But I digress. It turns out that scientists have now (perhaps inadvertently) tested a sort of socialism (we all know that the paradise of communism was always just around the corner under socialism) on dogs, and it turns out that they don’t like it.

Dogs have their own innate sense of fairness and did not learn this from humans as previously believed, a new study has concluded.

You might wonder what tree they were barking up, so let’s have a look:

In tests, wolves and dogs would both refuse to take part if they received no reward for pressing a buzzer while a partner animal got one for doing so. The same was true if they received a lower quality prize.

It was thought that dogs had learned the importance of equality – seen as a sophisticated trait found in humans and some primates – during the domestication process, but the study found the wolves displayed a greater reluctance to take part once they realised what was going on.

See how the piece smuggles in an unscientific value judgment?

So dogs don’t like being ripped off? Who does? I once met a falconer who told me that an eagle he knew remembered a ‘breach of contract’ when the owner’s son didn’t give him his due piece of meat, contrary to established custom and practice. He told me that when the son came back from University, the eagle still showed him great hostility, which lasted for years afterwards.

So it appears that dogs don’t like doing the work and others getting the rewards. The dogs are quite lucky, as they haven’t been slaughtered for opposing socialism, or just not being ‘in’, unlike 100,000,000 humans.

Some of the findings might appear to corroborate old folk tales…

the dogs in the study had been “highly socialised with humans in their first weeks of life” but did not have a pet-owner relationship.

“Nevertheless, they were still more eager to please the human experimenter than were the wolves,” the researchers wrote.

But is this science? Where, I ask myself, are the controls? I had a thought, why not use as a ‘control’ not just a wolf, but a dog raised in North Korea, where it will have only known socialism. But then again, I understand that they have already eaten the dogs there, during a famine caused by socialism…