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]

Heroes and villains

Near to the end (on p. 189) of Peter Thiel’s Zero to One there is this very quotable quote, which I think captures a lot about both the success and the failure of Ayn Rand as a story teller:

That we need individual founders in all their peculiarity does not mean that we are called to worship Ayn Randian “prime movers” who claim to be independent of everybody around them. In this respect Rand was a merely half-great writer: her villains were real, but her heroes were fake.

I agree with both parts of that last pronouncement, but I am guessing that not everyone who regularly comes here would.

Also, some libertarians have asserted (for example in the comments on this earlier Thiel posting that I did here a while back) that there is now a distinct whiff of the villain about Peter Thiel himself. As he relates in Zero to One, he and his Paypal pals worked out how to use large amounts of computer data to spot crooks, and thereby to save Paypal a ton of money. Now he has made another fortune to add to his Paypal fortune, by selling this expertise to, among others, various branches of the US government, a notorious collector of large amounts of data in ways that most libertarians are not at all happy about.

Commenter “Rob”, to whom thanks, emailed me this link to a Thiel video performance. Rob recommends, as do I, looking at and listening to a particular bit of the Q+A at 1:06:00. Says Rob:

I don’t buy Thiel’s response.

I hope, although I promise nothing, to be offering a longer review of Zero to One, Real Soon Now. I am more than ever convinced that Peter Thiel is a very interesting man.

Samizdata quote of the day

No you don’t get to get away with that. You don’t get to advocate policies which allow you to use force to deprive people of their jobs and their opportunities and then claim that those who would have provided the jobs are the heartless ones.

You don’t get to trot out the insipid, mindless, tendentious talking points about how you are morally or intellectually superior when every “solution” you proffer is destructive and is based upon forcing others to do your bidding. You don’t get to decide whose job is worth preserving and whose isn’t and still claim the moral high ground.

You have to own this. You have to accept responsibility for the suffering your ignorance has caused and you have to understand that there is no way forward as long as you remain ignorant. Until you can begin to think rationally instead of being so full of hate that you think the best solution to every problem is to use force against those you disagree with then you can’t be accepted into the company of decent people and will always be seen as supporting those who would oppress us because that is exactly what you are doing.

– Pseudonymous commenter BenFranklin2 delivering a mighty and artful kick to the bollocks on someone else defending state imposed minimum wages, which are leading to restaurants closing in Seattle. Scroll down from main article as the link to the comment itself does not seem to work.

h/t Natalie Solent for finding this article.

Samizdata WTF of the day

For a young man of 18 or 19 years, the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic.

…As distinct from the relaxed and non-traumatic way in which men of other ages can deal with it, presumably.

Samizdata quote of the day

The sundry Communist regimes coddled and celebrated by the American Left managed to kill something on the order of 100 million people during the 20th century. Consider that a lesson unlearnt: In our own time, the anti-fracking movement does the bidding of ex-KGB boss Vladimir Putin’s regime, and so-called progressives such as Thom Hartmann are quite pleased to work hand-in-glove with a Kremlin-backed propaganda network. Things will come to a bad end in Venezuela. Sean Penn won’t be there for it, and neither will Chaka Fattah. Perhaps the ghost of Walter Duranty will file a report.

Kevin D. Williamson

Samizdata quote of the day

Unfortunately, this is not what many Greeks (or Spaniards) believe. A large plurality of them voted for Syriza, which wants to reallocate resources to wage increases and subsidies and does not even mention exports in its growth strategy. They would be wise to remember that having Stiglitz as a cheerleader and Podemos as advisers did not save Venezuela from its current hyper-inflationary catastrophe.

Ricardo Hausmann

There are several things in this article that I think are very debatable and damn I hate seeing people describe spending less of other people’s money as “austerity”, but this is an interesting piece nevertheless.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Privilege” is a get-out-of-thinking-free card that validates its owner’s prejudices.

Rob McMillin

Samizdata quote of the day

In his first six years in office, President Obama has performed well for those who wrote those checks. He brought in Wall Street insiders such as Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers to concoct his economic policy, which brought a recovery to the financial plutocracy before virtually anyone else. Wall Street was back by 2009; the rest of us have had to wait for 2015. Obama and the Democrats in Congress also handed the big banks a nice gift in the form of the Dodd-Frank Bill which helped them achieve that “too big to fail” status and has accelerated the growing consolidation of the American financial system. Indeed, since Dodd-Frank was passed smaller banks’ share of banking assets has dropped twice as quickly as before, notes a recent Harvard Kennedy School of Government study. Smaller and community banks – historically more likely to loan to small businesses – have seen a 50 percent drop in their share of lending while the the five largest banks now control over 40 percent of lending, twice their share 20 years ago.

Joel Kotkin

Samizdata quote of the day

Translation? If you’re not left-wing, keep your mouth shut. What’s becoming clear is that under the false premise of making spaces “safe” for minorities, the only people whose safety is really becoming at risk is right-wingers and basically anyone who doesn’t wholly subscribe to the doctrine of political correctness.

Virginia Hale

Samizdata quote of the day

Just three months into Ukip’s shock victory as the party of government and already Nigel Farage’s mob are starting to show their true colours: morris dancing has been made compulsory for every able-bodied male between the age of 30 and 85; in ruthlessly enforced union flag street parties, brown-skinned people are made to show their loyalty by eating red-, white- and blue-coloured Battenberg cakes until they explode. And what is that acrid smell of burnt fur now polluting Britain’s hitherto gloriously carbon-free air? Why it is all the kittens that Nigel Farage and his evil henchmen are tossing on to beacons from John O’Groats to Land’s End in order to demonstrate that Ukip are the masters now.

James Delingpole. You don’t have to be a UKIP fan (I am not) to be unimpressed by the tendentious nature of the Channel Four spoof documentary that Delingpole writes about here. Meanwhile, JD imagines what a spoof on the Greens would be like. In reality, the chances of Channel Four, a fairly leftist news channel, doing some sort of job on the Green Party is remote, but it should, given the fluorescent idiocy, authoritarianism and often just sheer ugliness of what that outfit wants to do in practice. See its latest manifesto.

Samizdata quote of the day

This obsession with tax avoidance is not the mark of a morally enlightened society. It is the mark of a society that is refusing to face up to the real problems in its midst. There is no moral clarity to be gained from gawping at individuals’ tax returns, only moral scapegoating.

Tim Black

Samizdata quote of the day

HMRC seems to be a law unto itself. Another inept quango making arbitrary decisions as it goes along

DouglasCarswell MP

Samizdata quote of the day

You couldn’t have asked for a better insight into the po-mo, relativistic, judgement-dodging mush of modern Western liberalism than the recent commentary on IS. No less a figure than President Obama got the ball rolling last week when he said at the National Prayer Breakfast that we largely Christian Westerners should come down from the moral highground on the issue of Islamist violence. ‘Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ… [And] slavery and Jim Crow all too often [were] justified in the name of Christ’, he said. If you heard a smartarse sixth-former who’d just discovered Richard Dawkins’ Twitterfeed and is prepping for a BA in post-colonialist codswallop say ‘We burned people 500 years ago, you know’, you wouldn’t bat an eyelid. But the leader of the free world? The face of ostensibly Christian America? The man who, for better or worse, is the embodiment of the West? For Obama to respond to Islamist violence by saying ‘we did it, too’ is surreal — like if in 1985 Ronald Reagan had said, ‘I had to queue for eight minutes the other day to pay for my loaf of bread, so let’s lay off the Soviets, yeah?’

Brendan O’Neill