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]

Samizdata quote of the day

Dear Sir – Am I alone in thinking that the quality of KitKats has deteriorated in recent months? My wife and I are finding an increasing number of instances of a wafer inadequately covered in chocolate. I put it down to quantitative easing.

– John Triffin, Reighton, North Yorkshire. Quoted on page 65 of this hilarious collection of unpublished letters sent to the Daily Telegraph, called “I could go on”. Edited by Iain Hollingshead

Being beastly to jihadis is fear-mongering!

Hugh Muir is clearly a nice man, and the notion people might look askance as known salafists returning from Syria after fighting on behalf of the Islamic State bothers him. Although the Royal Air Force is currently bombing said Islamic State, worrying about these people is nothing more than fear-mongering.

Welcome to the United Kingdom of Perpetual Panic, where the crackpot ideas of silly backbenchers fuel our nightmares and sustain our enemies

I am strongly of the view that Hugh Muir should fly to the Middle East and make this very reasonable point to Islamic State members who hail from Britain himself, in person, in Raqqa. After all, we have nothing to fear from these people and this will prove it. How to get a head ahead in journalism in one easy step: I look forward to seeing the video of the encounter and no doubt he will look very fetching wearing red.

What is Kurdish for ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ?

The BBC is reporting something that made the hair on the back on my neck stand up.

Islamic State ‘being driven out of Syria’s Kobane’

If this proves to be correct, then the Syrian Kurds of the YPG and their FSA allies have pulled off a breathtaking feat of arms worthy of being likened to Thermopylae, but with hopefully an altogether better ending. I am hesitant to start breaking out the champagne just yet, but I really really hope this proves to be the case.

Dismal, deluded, and debunked con brio

Bishop Hill has linked to what he calls a “magnificent” polemical book review by a man from the other camp, Martin W. Lewis, who speaks from the conviction that “anthropogenic climate change is a huge problem that demands determined action.”

Magnificent it is. Magnificently funny, as in the bit about the pussycat apocalypse; and magnificently right about what is wrong with The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.

Lewis writes,

Oreskes and Conway’s authoritarian inclinations are seemingly linked to their contempt for the West, which they identify with a dangerous devotion to personal freedom. The most telling passage to this effect is found in the authors’ interview, where Erik Conway states:

To me, [The Collapse of Western Civilization] is hopeful. There will be a future for humanity, even if one no longer dominated by “Western Culture.”

No matter that Oreskes and Conway see every last person in Africa perishing, they still apparently find such a scenario promising as long as Western Culture perishes in the process.

As noted at the beginning of this essay, tens of millions of people have reached the conclusion that anthropogenic climate change is a giant hoax perpetuated by corrupt scientific and journalistic establishments. In their previous book, Merchants of Doubt, Oreskes and Conway attribute such benighted views to the money and machinations of oil companies and other organizations with financial interests in the status quo. While I would not deny that such factors play a role, they do not provide a full account. Of particular significance are the writings of green extremists such as Oreskes and Conway themselves. By putting forth grotesque exaggerations, by engaging in misleading reportage, and by embracing authoritarian if not totalitarian politics, they discredit their own cause. The Collapse of Western Civilization, in short, reads as if it were part of a great conspiracy, one that that seemingly rests on an insincere approach to evidence and argumentation.

Martin Lewis also highlights an area of particular interest to me. Apparently Oreskes and Conway disapprove of those “overwhelmingly male” * physical scientists who concentrate on narrow “physical constituents and processes”, “to the neglect of biological and social realms.” Lewis quotes Oreskes and Conway as going so far as to regard statistical significance as an outmoded concept. Lewis writes further,

Although many of the key scientific questions of the day do indeed demand, as Oreskes and Conway write, an “understanding of the crucial interactions between physical, biological, and social realms,” it is equally imperative to recognize that most do not. Most of the issues addressed by chemists, physicists, and geologists have nothing to do with the social realm, and must be examined through a “reductionistic” lens if they are to be approached scientifically. To insist instead that they must be framed in a socio-biological context is to reject the methods of science at a fundamental level. Such a tactic risks reviving the intellectual atmosphere that led the Soviet Union to the disaster of ideologically contaminated research known as Lysenkoism. In the final analysis, the denial of science encountered in The Collapse of Western Civilization thus runs much deeper than that found among even the most determined climate-change skeptics, as it pivots on much more basic epistemological and methodological issues.

This passage describes one type of catastrophist error about science very well. I would like to point out, however, that it is not the only type. There are also catastrophists who propagate, some knowingly, some not, the opposite error. I refer to those who, rather than dismissing the Gradgrind-like definiteness of physics and chemistry, seek to borrow their reputation for precision and certainty in order to cloak the naked fact that no such certainty is even close to being achieved in the study and modelling of of climate systems.

*And boy, or rather girl, does that irrelevant slighting reference to the scientists’ presumed gender tell you nearly everything you need to know about Oreskes and Conway’s attitude to science.

Another bout of indignation dysentery

Everyone is very, very cross. The welfare reform minister, Lord Freud, has caused outrage for saying that some disabled people are “not worth the minimum wage”.

Spoken without tact but with truth. Some of our fellow human beings are incapable of doing work that is worth anyone’s while to pay six pounds and fifty pence per hour to have done.

Freud had been responding to a question from David Scott, a Tory councillor from Tunbridge Wells. Scott had said: “The other area I’m really concerned about is obviously the disabled. I have a number of mentally damaged individuals, who to be quite frank aren’t worth the minimum wage, but want to work. And we have been trying to support them in work, but you can’t find people who are willing to pay the minimum wage.

While it is certainly true that many people with a disability also have abilities or dispositions that allow them equal or surpass as workers their able-bodied and able-minded colleagues – it is also certainly true that many others, sadly, don’t. This is particularly often the case for the mentally disabled. Long ago, I was a teacher. I saw some sad sights, few sadder than the dawning awareness in a child’s eyes that he or she would never be able to do all that “the others” could.

Still, people are resilient. Such a child might very well grow up to be quite capable of sharing and rejoicing in the dignity of work – real work for real employers, not charity – were it not illegal. Only those whose labour is worth more than £6.50 an hour are allowed to sell it. Those less able are compelled by law to be unemployed.

We have these spasms every few years. Allow me to recycle my post from the last one, in which the speaker of inconvenient truth was Philip Davies MP who said,

“Given that some of those people with a learning disability clearly, by definition, can’t be as productive in their work as somebody who hasn’t got a disability of that nature, then it was inevitable that given that the employer was going to have to pay them both the same they were going to take on the person who was going to be more productive, less of a risk, and that was doing those people a huge disservice.”

And I said then and repeat now:

Within hours so much outraged commentary flowed out of newspaper columnists, charity representatives and politicians of all parties, including Mr Davies’ own, that you’d think there’d been an outbreak of indignation dysentery.

[...]

Not one response of all the many I read even tried to argue that Mr Davies was factually wrong. They were outraged, disgusted. They asserted what no one denies: that mentally disabled people are equal citizens and often prove to be hardworking employees, valued by their employers. But I could not find one article that argued that Davies’ description of the way things go when a person with an IQ of 60 or a history of insanity seeks a job was inaccurate, or gave reasons to believe his proposal would not increase their chances of landing one.

[...]

A quote from Charles Murray: “It seems that those who legislate and administer and write about social policy can tolerate any increase in actual suffering so long as the system does not explicitly permit it.”

Samizdata quote of the day

There is now a large industry of obfuscation designed to protect Muslims from having to grapple with these truths. Humanities and social science departments are filled with scholars and pseudo-scholars deemed to be experts in terrorism, religion, Islamic jurisprudence, anthropology, political science and other diverse fields, who claim that where Muslim intolerance and violence are concerned, nothing is ever what it seems.

Sam Harris

Terry Pratchett on the range

Perusing the blog of Eric Raymond the other day, and following on from the previous posting here about Brad Pitt,  I wanted to put up this account of Raymond instructing a certain Terry Pratchett in how to shoot a firearm:

This is actually a very revealing thing to do with anyone. You learn a great deal about how the person handles stress and adrenalin. You learn a lot about their ability to concentrate. If the student has fears about violence, or self-doubt, or masculinity/femininity issues, that stuff is going to tend to come out in the student’s reactions in ways that are not difficult to read.

Terry was rock-steady. He was a good shot from the first three minutes. He listened, he followed directions intelligently, he always played safe, and he developed impressive competence at anything he was shown very quickly. To this day he’s one of the three or four best shooting students I’ve ever had.

Eric concludes:

But it was teaching Terry pistol that brought home to me how natively tough-minded he really is. After that, the realism and courage with which he faced his Alzheimer’s diagnosis came as no surprise to me whatsoever.

Several years ago, I attended a four-day defensive handgun course in Nevada, and have fired pistols subsequently in the US when I had the chance. I am not stating anything here that wont’ be obvious to Samzidata regulars in noting how much concentration is required to shoot well, to position oneself, and also how careful, methodical and disciplined good shooters have to be. Forget all the crap you see on the movies (although there are film actors, such as Kiefer Sutherland and Daniel Craig, who clearly have been taught properly).

Brad Pitt on Guns

They are all coming out of the woodwork. First we have Bono talking sense about economics, now Brad Pitt talks sense about owning guns.

The Radio Times reports that Pitt doesn’t feel that he and his family are safe unless there is a gun in the house.

“The positive is that my father instilled in me a profound and deep respect for the weapon,” he said.

How the UK’s Conservative Party could cease to exist

Here’s how:

1. There is a crash in the stock market this autumn (there has already been a large fall).

2. A recession starts. Businesses start to close, others start to lay off workers. Either way there is a large increase in unemployment and the fear of unemployment.

3. The public see that as far as Cameron and Osborne are concerned the emperor has no clothes. The mirage of economic recovery they have concocted over the last four years is seen for what it is: a mirage.

4. As the Conservatives start to fall in the polls, UKIP and Labour start to rise. Eurosceptic Conservative MPs realise they have nothing to lose by defecting to UKIP. A hundred do so.

5. The defection of such a large number of Conservative MPs makes UKIP seem a lot more credible as a party of government.

6. In the election, Labour get a plurality but not a majority. UKIP are only a few seats behind. The leader of the Conservative Party, now with 30 seats becomes known as Kim Cameron.

Samizdata quote of the day

[W]ere the electorate solely composed of those stuffed with sciences their votes would be no better than those emitted at present. They would be guided in the main by their sentiments and party spirit. We should be spared none of the difficulties we now have to contend with, and we should certainly be subjected to the oppressive tyranny of castes.

– Gustave LeBon, The Crowd (1895). Naked populism and rule by experts and officials are not necessarily all that different. The mechanisms and structures through which, and the culture within which, power is exercised may matter more.

Pro Bono

Ever since Rob Fisher wrote this post saying he was almost starting to like Bono, I’ve been wanting to write a post called Pro Bono. And now I can.

From the Observer:

Bono: controversial tax laws have brought Ireland the only prosperity it’s ever known

U2 singer says capitalism and commerce play a vital role in lifting people out of poverty and that Ireland’s tax policies benefit the country’s economy

The comments are mostly against him. I’m pro him.

Thinking outside the box

I really hope this article is tongue in cheek. If not (or even if so) then I have a better idea… just replace money with bananas and release several million monkeys into every major city. It will stop people and companies getting into debt because they have to be spent quickly before they go off or marauding monkeys steal them (what with monkeys being vastly more likely to act in a consistent manner than any government that has ever existed since the beginning of human history).

If science ever finds a away to expunge people from history and un-invent their ideas from people’s minds, making all books on the subject vanish into some dimensional tesseract, I would nominate John Maynard Keynes as the most pressing candidate for expungement.