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 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…

Zero tolerance

Great is the rejoicing among most of the Guardian commentariat at the news that the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has said that if it wins the election the Labour party will outlaw all zero-hours contracts.

However there is a steady stream of comments from those not thrilled by their coming liberation from the capitalist exploiter, such as this comment by “fivemack”:

Employing people is not compulsory; if it had to employ people for 40 hours a week at £10 an hour regardless of demand, Deliveroo wouldn’t keep on the same number of employees as it has now, it simply wouldn’t exist. If the Guardian had to publish articles only by people who are full-time Guardian employees, it would miss out on an awful lot of interesting content.

The Guardian‘s own business section ran a story that said in large type that “McDonald’s offers fixed contracts to 115,000 UK zero-hours workers” and in small type that

McDonald’s has been trialling the shift to fixed-hours contracts in 23 sites across the country. The company said that about 80% of workers in the trial chose to remain on flexible contracts

When does a child become an adult?

Milo Yiannopolous seems to have got himself into a spot of bother over remarks about homosexual sex with teenagers. The gist of it – especially if you read his clarification – seems to be that he was ready to take it up the bum at 13 and if it was OK for him then it would probably be OK for others. I suspect – given the little I know about him – that Milo at that age would have been capable of weighing up the pros and cons of such a decision. But not many others.

Milo raises – albeit indirectly – an important question: when does a child become an adult? As it happens, I drafted an attempt at an answer to this some time ago but lacked the guts to publish it. It’s time I did:

As the law stands if a man has sex with a female of 15 years and 364 days he is a scoundrel who should be imprisoned for a very long time. However, if he has sex with a female of 16 years and 0 days that’s just fine and dandy.

Or to put it another way, in the opinion of the law all women undergo the transition from young, innocent child to responsible, rational adult in a split second at exactly the same age.

That’s absurd; but, for the law, hardly uncommon. Similar rules apply to all sorts of aspects of growing up: when you can drive a car, enter into contracts, vote, marry, drink alcohol, leave school, get a job etc. And in each case the state’s answer is some arbitrary, one-size-fits-all number. And often it is a different number: 17 for driving (I am referring to English law here), 18 for drinking, 16 for sex. That can’t be right.

Could there perhaps, be a solution that is – to paraphrase H. L. Mencken – simple, neat and not wrong? The argument for numbers is that you have to draw the line somewhere, meaning: the law has to draw the line somewhere. But why should it be the law drawing the line? Why can’t it be the child? What if when the child comes to the decision that he is old enough to take on the rights and responsibilities of adulthood he just does? Obviously, he would have to tell people but that implies some sort of arrangement not unlike marriage with documents, ceremonies and cooling-off periods. Hardly beyond the wit of man.

I’ve been trying to think up some drawbacks. One might be that a girl’s declaration of adulthood might look awfully like a declaration that she wanted to have sex. And women are a bit coy about that sort of thing. Another might be that some children would decide to become adults at an absurdly young age and then proceed to ruin their lives, perhaps by driving the car into a bunch of passers-by. Or drinking themselves to death. But how likely is that? My personal experience of childhood is that I was perfectly well aware of my unpreparedness for taking on the responsiblities of adulthood. Perhaps we should be more worried about the other end of the age scale. Would some people choose to extend their childhood into their 20s and beyond?

Perhaps one way to look at this is to consider when we might ourselves have felt ready for the transition. In my case I think it was about 14-15. The only issue for me at that age would have been the predatory homosexuals who made up the school’s English Department.

Fools and their money are soon divorced

A recent decision of the English Court of Appeal presents a sharp, but unsurprising, illustration of the perils of marriage for those interested in keeping their property and the fruits of their labours.

Surrey couple’s divorce payments raised after 15 years

The ex-husband of a woman who was awarded £230,000 on her divorce has been told by the Court of Appeal he must support her for life.
Maria Mills, 51, was originally awarded £1,100 a month from 50-year-old Graham Mills after 13 years of marriage.
Appeal Court judges also ruled he should pay her £1,441 per month as she is “unable to meet her basic needs”.

Some 15 years after the marriage ended, with an adult child, Mr Mills now faces a lifetime of supporting his ex-wife. Why is this, might you ask?

Because Mrs Mills unfortunately p*ssed away all her money in unwise property deals, despite the apparently endless ballooning of property prices in London and Southeast England, so she has had her maintenance order reviewed. To her credit, the former estate agent is working.

Mrs Mills works for two days per week as a beauty therapist

Well, that is something, and it belies the old jibe about why estate agents don’t look out the window in the morning, since they would then have nothing to do in the afternoon.

It’s high time for freedom of contract in marriage, let the terms be negotiated and if one side fundamentally breaches the terms, why not allow the injured party to repudiate the contract with no damages to the wrongdoer whatsoever for the other side?

As for the ‘child bomb’, could the law let child support be a matter of parental conscience, or perhaps 50/50 (excluding mitochondria donors)?

If you were seeking to destroy marriage as an institution, would you have done anything differently than to set up laws that allow for judgements such as this? The moral hazard is obvious: Risk the capital, take a part-time job, and come back for more, till death.

Would any person marry someone less wealthy, less industrious, or with fewer prospects under English law?

The State stalking the stalkers – and everyone else

Yet another knife in the face of the rule of law is proposed in England and Wales, to deal with the problem of stalking.

The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, appears to be pleased with the proposals.

New stalking protection orders will be introduced to better protect victims at the earliest possible stage, the home secretary has announced.
Amber Rudd called it “a practical solution to a crime taking place now”.

A closer inspection of the proposals reveals a familiar tactic, imposing a court order on someone who has not been convicted of any crime, and making a breach of that order a crime. This has already been in place since the Protection From Harassment Act 1997 was brought in, which was, IIRC, supposed to have dealt with this problem.

And look at the box of tricks that the State is offering:

The orders in England and Wales will help those who are targeted by strangers, giving them similar protection to domestic abuse victims.
Breaching an order’s conditions will be a criminal offence with a maximum sentence of five years in jail.
Police will be able to apply to the courts for an order before a stalking suspect has been convicted or even arrested.
The requirements of the order will vary according to the nature of the case. Typically, the suspect will be banned from going near the victim and contacting them online.

So no need to even arrest someone, just dump an order on them, and that will be a good start. But there’e more, all very Soviet if you ask me.

They might also be ordered to attend a rehabilitation programme, or undergo treatment if they have a mental health problem.

So without so much as a chance to argue your case, you could find yourself ordered to undergo treatment, and risk 5 years in jail if you refuse.

Not that it is much better that this could perhaps only follow a conviction.

So what do the police think?

The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for stalking and harassment, Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan, said:”We want to stop stalkers in their tracks.
“The launch of stalking protection orders will help us intervene earlier and place controls on perpetrators to prevent their behaviour escalating while the crime is investigated.”

Not, I note ‘We want to bring suspects before the courts if the evidence justifies arrest, charge and a realistic prospect of conviction in a situation where it is in the public interest to prosecute, even though prosecution is a matter for the Crown, not the police.’, which would be a bare minimum of respect for the rule of law. But clearly not a shoot-to-kill to ‘stop stalkers in their tracks‘.

And what do the ‘charities’ think?

Rachel Griffin, director of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust which manages the National Stalking Helpline, welcomed the announcement.
“We are really excited that the order allows positive obligations to be put on a stalker,” Ms Griffin said.
“But of course that mental health treatment needs to be available at local level.”

This ‘trust’ is named for a murdered estate agent. I don’t see how killing the rule of law is an appropriate memorial to her. And did you note the sly hint that (State) funding is important?

And on what pretext is the rule of law being sacrificed, with a dagger in the chest for the beating heart to be pulled out and eaten warm?

Stalking protection orders form part of a package of government action to coincide with 16 days of action following the 25 November International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.

How about the elimination of violence against the rule of law?

Welcome to the new Samizdata server

Enjoy! [edit: Tuesday December 6th, SSL is now enabled.]

hippocannon

You can get anything at Harrods

For example:

The Times 5 February 1916 p3

The Times 5 February 1916 p3

Commoditizing citizenship: an idea whose time has come…

Ok, maybe the time as not quite arrived just yet but it is an idea I have long liked, and it seems I am not the only one:

You could open up futures markets in passports, you could have derivatives.
– David Card, professor of economics, U.C. Berkeley

The notion gives me the giggles and it has much to commend it. Yes, I used to be a futures trader 😉

Security strip

“History,” wrote Edward Gibbon “is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.” One can well believe that his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire contains many lamentable tales wherein, for instance, after a barbarian attack the citizenry would take some random woman of the same tribe and humiliate her in a misdirected act of revenge.

French police make woman remove clothing on Nice beach following burkini ban

Photographs have emerged of armed French police confronting a woman on a beach and making her remove some of her clothing as part of a controversial ban on the burkini.

Authorities in several French towns have implemented bans on the Burkini, which covers the body and head, citing concerns about religious clothing in the wake of recent terrorist killings in the country.

The images of police confronting the woman in Nice on Tuesday show at least four police officers standing over a woman who was resting on the shore at the town’s Promenade des Anglais, the scene of last month’s Bastille Day lorry attack.

France, like the rest of the liberal West, gets this exactly and lethally wrong. First we forbid individuals their natural right to set the rules within their own property, to exclude and admit who they choose, to demand the burkini or to ban it. Then we set the law on people for the crime of wearing too much cloth on the public beach. A photograph is reproduced worldwide showing three armed male policemen standing over a Muslim woman and making her remove the clothes she considers necessary for modesty. Whatever your opinion of Islam and its clothing taboos, does anyone in the world believe that this makes the next jihadist attack less likely? To call it “security theatre” would be a compliment. The popular entertainment it calls to mind is that of the mob stripping and parading une femme tondue.

I had never heard of Harriet Tubman before so…

I must stay I found this quite interesting!

In short, Harriet Tubman was a black, Republican, gun-toting, veterans’ activist, with ninja-like spy skills and strong Christian beliefs. She probably wouldn’t have an ounce of patience for the obtuse posturing of some of the tenured radicals hanging around Ivy League faculty lounges. But does she deserve a place on our money? Hell yeah.

Fascinating.

Samizdata quote of the day

The frat and sorority scene didn’t appeal to me at all. Back when I was at the University of Michigan, I went to a single frat party, encountered a bunch of drunk assholes, and never went to another.

Wow.

Imagine that: All the way back in the 80s, too — a young woman on campus making her own decisions about what works or doesn’t work for her…without assistance from the government or calls to discipline anyone.

Radical, huh?

– The ever magnificent Amy Alkon.