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.

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One way to be a media celeb is to be a lousy finance minister

This item at the EconLog blog caught my eye. It has the ring of truth about it:

And yet, good for him, this is exactly the outcome of his short time in Greek government. As a Minister, he has nothing to exhibit as success. But an intense countenance, an elaborately casual look, and his colourful prose makes him a perfect fit for the world of celebrities. I suppose this is another proof of the immense powers of “commodification” of global capitalism.

The author, Alberto Mingardi, is writing about the “cool dude” Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis. The man’s rather strained form of Marxism will, so the author of the piece, hurt him not at all because his targets are, for different reasons, ones that aren’t particularly sympathetic, such as the German government, and Brussels.

The point, though, its that being a failed socialist finance minister isn’t enough to get that sort of media celeb status without other ingredients. After all, there are quite a few of such people and in some cases, such as former UK chancellor Gordon Brown, he is about as trendy as flared jeans; he has all the media appeal of steel reinforced concrete. The Greek chap has the looks and demeanour of an outsider, even if, in reality, he is as much a part of the Big Government class as the rest of them. He understood that people fall for all this bollocks about wearing leather jackets, riding a motorbike and not appearing to be A Suit.

And back in the UK, assuming that Jeremy Corbyn (not exactly the sort of name one associates with horny-handed coal miners or ship-builders) becomes leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, and leads Labour into the sort of disaster widely foretold, he has a career as a media celeb sorted: the ageing geography-teacher schtick with the beard, loose jackets and references to Tony Benn.



Samizdata quote of the day

We need to get people of all races, colours, and creeds to come together and agree with Sharon Kyle.

Jim Treacher is not impressed by the Netroots Nation 2013 version of “diversity”.

David Thompson also likes the bit with this sentence in it.

Samizdata quote of the day

I despair.

Allister Heath

Samizdata quote of the day

“England has 39 police forces, headed by 39 chief constables or commissioners. In the past 18 months, seven have been sacked for misconduct, suspended, placed under criminal or disciplinary investigation or forced to resign. That is not far off a fifth of the total. In the same period, at least eight deputy or assistant chief constables have also been placed under ongoing investigation, suspended or forced out for reasons of alleged misconduct. No fewer than 11 English police forces – just under 30 per cent – have had one or more of their top leaders under a cloud.”

Andrew Gilligan


The Tories are re-learning the point that unionised organisations tend, over time, to pursue their self interest in ways that, unless subjected to the rule of law, will be destructive. This conduct is some way off from the ideal as set by Sir Robert Peel.


Inactive for now

Just to state the obvious, White Rose is inactive. This is due to a simple lack of time on the part of the main contributors. Work, life, other blogging… alas White Rose is currently a ‘blog too many’.

Quite possibly WR will be reactivated at some point in the future as Gawd knows the need for it has not gone away.


Fisking ‘the anonymous email’

There has been a chain email doing the rounds. It seems to have caught the public imagination to the extent of being used as a source by at least three well-known national columnists to my knowledge.

There are some unwarranted speculations in it, however, and it is worth going through and picking out what’s not true, because what’s left is quite frightening enough. This is long, sorry.

You may have heard that legislation creating compulsory ID Cards passed a crucial stage in the House of Commons.

Actually it is now the Identity Cards Act 2006, and (after a strange and unprecedented delay in getting the final text published, and, unlike all other Acts at time of writing, only in pdf) is now available on the Cabinet Office website here (pdf).

You may feel that ID cards are not something to worry about, since we already have Photo ID for our Passport and Driving License and an ID Card will be no different to that. What you have not been told is the full scope of this proposed ID Card, and what it will mean to you personally.

The proposed ID Card will be different from any card you now hold. It will be connected to a database called the NIR, (National Identity Register)., where all of your personal details will be stored.

Not, quite, all. → Continue reading: Fisking ‘the anonymous email’

Rule by decree

This bill must be scrutinised with particular care. Our report recognises that there is widespread support for removing redundant regulation and costly red tape. But the problem many people will have with part one of this bill, as drafted, is that it provides ministers with a wide and general power that could be used to repeal amend or replace almost any primary legislation.

– Andrew Miller MP (Lab, Ellesmere Port and Neston) of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill which gets its second reading of Thursday.

The Bill would permit ministers to change the law by order for the purpose of : “(a) reforming legislation; [and/or] (b) implementing recommendations of any one or more of the United Kingdom Law Commissions, with or without changes.” And they get to nominate the parliamentary procedure for the statutory instrument embodying the order, too.

There are safeguards. Criminal offences and powers of entry, search or seizure, may not be created, or penalties increased above a certain level, unless a Law Commission (an appointed body, remember) has recommended it or it is as a restatement of existing law. An order may not impose or increase taxation, except as a restatement of existing law. Which rather begs the question: how, exactly, can a change in the law be “mere restatement”?

Criminal identification

Bureaucrats only expect compliance under threat of punishment. Other people will figure out, even if only by trial and error, how to break any system at its weakest points. See Kevin Mitnick on ‘social engineering’, or–if you are the sort of authoritarian who won’t listen to a felon but is impressed by prizes and tenure–any anecdote by Richard Feinman. I can also thoroughly recommend this post by edjog of the Distreputable Lazy Aliens website:

I don’t usually go into much detail about offences I committed whilst in active addiction, for a number of reasons which are beyond the scope of this post but, with the UK Government’s headlong rush toward ID Cards seemingly based in much part around the notion that such a scheme will reduce crime, it seems appropriate. I’ve been prosecuted for what I’m about to talk about anyway: paid my debt to society and no longer commit crime. You don’t think a self-confessed law-breaker has anything relevant to say about this issue? Fine: bury your head in the sand; it’s your taxes paying for the scheme.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

The author has kindly offered NO2ID syndication rights, so any magazines interested in new angles on the lamentable scheme for a non-webical audience should get in touch.

Another year…

Police powers last changed significantly at the turn of the year when the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act came into effect, along with a new ‘Code of Practice’–delegated legislation in effect–under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

That’s almost seven weeks ago, so obviously it is time to add to them. Enter the government today with yet another new police bill, the Police and Justice Bill empowering Community Support Officers in some interesting new ways.

Let’s not forget meanwhile the gentle, undisturbed, unnoted, progress of the Powers of Entry Bill which will create a common (low) standard for search and seizure warrants to be issued to officials of all kinds in relation to their functions under around 200 Acts, ranging from adoption to zoo licensing. (And including some long-forgotten items such as the “horror comics” legislation of the 1950s.)

Black humour from John Lettice

Commenting in The Register on the Government’s defeats in the Lords on the Identity Cards Bill, John is looking ahead:

This potentially sets up a battle where disclosure of costs is seen as a constitutional matter, and both sides claim the constitutional high ground. Given that Ministers of this administration now claim commercial confidentiality as a matter of routine when withholding information, the Lords would have a good moral case for standing its ground here.

This would of course be likely to trigger a real constitutional crisis, but as this Government has done so much to destroy the constitution already, it seems only reasonable for other people to be allowed to join in.

It would be a lot funnier, if it weren’t so true.

Trial? What do you mean, trial?

Civil libertarians had noticed that the Blair administration is impatient with conviction rates. We have seen real attempts to reduce the availability of jury trials and to lower the burden of proof. And we have had strong hints from the Prime Minister that he doesn’t regard the principle of innocent until proven guilty as applicable in the modern world.

Astonishingly, however, none of those is enough. A guilty plea may in future permit prosecutors to operate without court process. Idiotically the BBC captions this as “Petty criminals could avoid court“: but a better headline would be “criminal convictions without courts”. People will be convicted and punished by prosecutors and police if prosecutors or police can persuade them to confess. This is a recipe for abuse.

Magistrate’s courts may not be the most reliable finders of fact or interpreters of law, but they have no direct interest in the guilt of the defendant or in clearing up unsolved crimes. They can and do hear defenses and pleas in mitigation. They can, and very occasionally do, insist on entering a not-guilty plea if the defendant appears to be have been browbeaten or to be incapable of understanding his position.

The inevitable consequence of introducing summary police punishment will be an assertion on behalf of the authorities that those who are convicted at trial instead of submitting to official processing ought to be more heavily punished because they have somehow wasted the court’s time. Which will place the accused under more pressure to make admissions regardless of guilt, regardless of whether prosecutors abuse their position.

A new kind of freedom

As the report stage of the Identity Cards Bill approaches in the Lords, a reminder of one highlight from the first day of the committee stage Hansard, 15 Nov 2005, Col.1012:

Lord Gould of Brookwood: Both the previous speakers—the latter with great emotion—were arguing for freedom. We have to ask what greater freedom is there than the freedom to place a vote for a political party in a ballot box upon the basis of a mandate and a manifesto. That is the crux of it: the people have supported this measure. That is what the noble Earl’s father fought for. But that is too trivial an answer. I know that. The fundamental argument is that the truth is that people believe that these identity cards will affirm their identity. The noble Lord opposite said that he likes to be in this House and how he is recognised in this House because it is a community that recognises him. That is how the people of this nation feel. They feel that they are part of communities, and they want recognition. For them, recognition comes in the form of this identity card. Noble Lords may think that that is strange, but it is what they feel. This is their kind of freedom. They want their good, hard work and determination to be recognised, rewarded and respected. That is what this does.

Of course it is right and honourable for noble Lords to have their views, but I say there is another view, and it is the view of the majority of this country. They want to have the respect, recognition and freedom that this card will give them. Times have changed. Politics have changed. What would not work 50 years ago, works now. It is not just me. I have the words of the leader of your party:

“I have listened to the police and security service chiefs. They have told me that ID cards can and will help their efforts to protect the lives of British citizens against terrorist acts. How can I disregard that?”.

This is not some silly idea of the phoney left. It is a mainstream idea of modern times. It is a new kind of identity and a new kind of freedom. I respect the noble Lords’ views, but it would help if they respected the fact that the Bill and the identity cards represent the future: a new kind of freedom and a new kind of identity.

This is the sort of rhetoric that makes my blood run cold. Here’s a prefiguring example:

In our state the individual is not deprived of freedom. In fact, he has greater liberty than an isolated man, because the state protects him and he is part of the State. Isolated man is without defence.

– Benito Mussolini.

Terry Eagleton (from a review of Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism in the New Statesman) elucidates the connection:

Conservatives disdain the popular masses, while fascists mobilise and manipulate them. Some conservatives believe in ideas, but fascists have a marked preference for myths. If they think at all, they think through their blood, not their brain. Fascists regard themselves as a youthful, revolutionary avant-garde out to erase the botched past and create an unimaginably new future.

All supporters of the old-fashioned conception of individual liberty, whether they think of themselves as left or right, conservative or progressive, must do what can be done. Resist. We should not expect any quarter for outdated ideas under a new kind of freedom.

[cross-posted to Samizdata]