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]

Have they brought back the window tax?!?!

If you type “window tax” into google, and click on “images”, you get images like this one:

BrickedUpWindows1

That being the first image that wikipedia shows you, in their entry on the Window tax.

Says wikipedia about this tax:

The window tax was a property tax based on the number of windows in a house. It was a significant social, cultural, and architectural force in England, France, Ireland and Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries. To avoid the tax some houses from the period can be seen to have bricked-up window-spaces (ready to be glazed or reglazed at a later date). In England and Wales it was introduced in 1696 and was repealed in 1851,

London, and presumably all the other cities of Britain, still contain many such bricked-up windows, that date from this time.

But yesterday, I saw a new block of flats, still in the process of being constructed, just a few dozen yards from my own front door.

The front of which looks like this:

BrickedUpWindows2

Let me be clear. There is a vertical row of bricked-up windows there, in between the real windows. And you can clearly see that this is a brand new building, not even yet occupied.

Here is a close-up shot of an individual bricked-up window:

BrickedUpWIndows3

I have long known the bare outlines of this window tax story, as I guess most of my fellow Brits do also, especially if they live in towns or cities. Windows were taxed, so people filled the windows in, to avoid paying the tax.

So, my first – outraged and spasmodic – reaction to this new building, when I saw these non-windows was: My God, have they brought back the window tax?

But, on further reflection, I further guess that this is isn’t the first time that recent property developers have created bricked-up windows, or what look like bricked-up windows, to create, pretty cheaply, the suggestion of antiquity in an otherwise blandly modern building.

When I see other bricked-up windows, I will no longer assume that they date from the time of the window tax. Maybe they merely allude to this time.

But, am I missing something? Is there a more practical purpose to such non-windows? Is it helpful to create windows that can later be un-bricked-up (bricked-down?), at some future date? Does it help to think about maybe wanting a window that you don’t want now, beforehand, just in case?

Is this a mere part of the construction process. Will these bricked-up windows all turn into real windows very soon, before anyone even moves in?

Or are there quite different reasons for making a new bricked-up window, which I am unaware of? Perhaps so. In fact, probably so. And if so, I hope that commenters will perhaps enlighten me.

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Word-thinkers

Scott Adams has described three categories of people: Rational people, word-thinkers and persuaders.

Word-Thinkers: Use labels, word definitions, and analogies to create the illusion of rational thinking. This group is 99% of the world.

Word-thinkers are people who fail to make the map-territory distinction that I wrote about years ago. Persuaders are people who are good at the rhetoric that I more recently wrote about disliking the necessity of. Scott Adams is talking about the same kinds of things, but he is a better communicator than me. I like that I can now accuse people of being word-thinkers and supply a link.

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Surge in support for EU on the continent… say polls

… and we all know how reliable and objective polls are, right?

“Brexit shocked people in the EU,” Francois Kraus, head of the political and current affairs service at IFOP, told Reuters on Wednesday.

“Seeing the Eurosceptics’ dream come true must have triggered a reaction in people who usually criticise the EU and blame it for decisions such as austerity measures.

“But when people realise the real implications of an exit, there’s new-found support for the European project,” he said.

Ah that magical term “austerity“. Taxing people less so that they get to spend their own money, rather than the government spending it, is not “austerity”. And there I was thinking keeping more of my own money was “abundance” rather than “austerity”. Go figure.

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Samizdata quote of the day

Comparisons have been made between the popular uprisings on both sides of the Atlantic — some of them lazy. Boris Johnson, the UK foreign secretary and leading Leave campaigner, and Mr Trump may have shaken up their respective establishments, but blond hair is one of the few things they have in common. Brexit and Trumpism are not one and the same.

Sebastian Payne

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Working behind a bar more dangerous than being a cop in the US

Via the Marginal Revolution blog, which has lots of useful and eye-catching facts, as well as more high-minded economics stuff, is this bar-chart from “Ninja Economics” showing that, according to presumably US figures, working behind a bar carries more risk of death than being a police officer.

The most dangerous occupation is that of a logger, followed by a fisher and then pilot/flight engineer.

Many of the jobs involve working outdoors with heavy machinery, in areas such as mining, or in occupations such as roofing, maintenance, agriculture and ranching. Somehow, I don’t think the “snowflake” generation is interested, but those who are interested in Mike Rowe’s “dirty jobs” might be.

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A petal shakes upon the branch

“Japan reverts to fascism”, writes Josh Gelernter in the National Review. At first sight that seems excessive, but consider this:

This week, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partners won a two-thirds majority in the legislature’s upper house, to go along with their two-thirds majority in the lower house. A two-thirds majority is required in each house to begin the process of amending Japan’s constitution. And amending the constitution is one of the central planks in the LDP’s platform. The constitution was imposed on Japan by the United States after the Second World War; it has never been amended. Why should it be amended now? As Bloomberg reports, the LDP has pointed out that “several of the current constitutional provisions are based on the Western European theory of natural human rights; such provisions therefore [need] to be changed.”

And this:

In just the last five years, Japan’s press freedom — as ranked by Reporters without Borders — has fallen from 11th globally to 72nd. The new draft constitution adds a warning that “the people must be conscious of the fact that there are responsibilities and obligations in compensation for freedom and rights.” These “obligations” include the mandate to “uphold the [new] constitution” and “respect the national anthem” quoted above. 

In the long run I am confident that a liberal order – “liberal” in an older and better sense than that currently in use in the United States – can be adapted to most human cultures. Where it can duly make them rich and not have massive infant mortality and massacres and stuff. But it is disturbing to see the bearer of that standard in the East falter.

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“With Brexit, the stagnant pool has been replaced by a running stream …”

Andrew Kennedy writes at Conservative Home about how the Conservative Party has seen a post-Brexit surge in membership. Commenters point out that the same thing has happened in the other British political parties. But why? None of the parties performed in recent weeks in a particularly attractive manner, so what’s happening?

I think that commenter David Webb, a recent (re)joiner of the Conservative Party, nails it:

I rejoined post-referendum because of a feeling that politics mattered again. Within the confines of the EU, nothing much was worth debating, as nothing much could be changed. Apart from the continuous drift to the bureaucratic European superstate, inertia ruled.

With Brexit, the stagnant pool has been replaced by a running stream … that’s not to say everything will be wonderful, but once again ideas count, and things can get done.

But then, I would think that David Webb nails it, because I said something very similar in my posting here at the time when the referendum result was becoming clear. I didn’t say that all the political parties would now have a membership surge, but I could have and should have, because it was the logical thing to deduce from what I was then realising. Political debate matters again, not just for me and for all those who think as I do, but for everyone with any sort of political opinion.

As David Webb says, “ideas count” means that bad ideas also now count for somewhat more than they did, unless they are the bad ideas that the EU stood for and imposed upon us, in which case they now count for slightly less.

It will be interesting – and no doubt in some ways rather scary – to see what British public opinion now consists of, given that for the last few decades much of it has been sedated by our EU membership. First out of the blocks were the racists, who perhaps imagined that Britain voting Leave meant that all the bloody foreigners now had to leave.

But what other political ideas will emerge? As I also said in that earlier posting: good times for blogs like Samizdata, where our good ideas will be celebrated anew and the bad ideas of others will be denounced. Again, speaking for myself, I find that the urge to blog is now stronger. Because it will count for a bit more than it did.

Perhaps the most important next discovery about another bit of British public opinion will concern the forthcoming Labour leadership contest. Labour has also, see above, had a post-Brexit surge in membership. But are those new members yet more Corbyn supporters, or are they anti-Corbynists, wanting a nicer and more traditional Labour Party? My guess is that the Labour leadership contest will be closer than it was last time around, with quite a few who voted for Corbyn last time voting against Corbyn this time around, but not close enough to unseat Corbyn. The Labour collapse will continue. But, what do I know? We shall see.

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Ofir Haivry on the current state of Middle East

Via Mick Hartley, I came upon this summary of the state of the Middle East, and in particular of the bloody shambles that was the attempt to unite Sunni Islam, aka: the Arabs. It’s the best background briefing I have recently read on that deeply depressing region of our otherwise moderately undepressing world. Although, that doesn’t say much for I am no sort of Middle East expert, nor even much of an observer of it. Too depressing. But I read all of this piece, by Ofir Haivry of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem, at one sitting as soon as I encountered it, which is quite rare for me and my crumbling attention span.

I haven’t much to say about all this, but one thought does occur to me, which is that it seems rather wrong for Americans to blame other Americans for this bloody shambles. (Haivry himself does not blame America.) The next silliest thing to believing that your country is an unchallengeably magnificent superpower that never ever errs is to believe that your country’s mistakes and crimes are overwhelmingly more important and blameworthy than those of any other country, these two attitudes being far more similar than those who indulge in the latter one typically realise. The Middle East would surely now be a bloody shambles whatever the Americans had recently tried to do about it.

If there are imperialist villains to be blaming, how about Britain and France? But one suspects that, again, even if those notorious “lines in the sand” had never been drawn around a century ago, what would be happening on top of this sand would still now be a bloody shambles.

The only rays of light that Haivry discerns are in the form of the various little non-Islamic and anti-Islamist statelets that are starting to form, such as the newly emerging Kurdistan. The Kurds aren’t the only ones doing this, apparently. Good to hear.

And then of course there is the continuing success of Israel. A particular reason I am convinced by this article is that Israelis cannot afford to be wrong, and in particular they cannot afford to be sentimental, about what is going on around them.

Talking of sentimental, “Lawrence of Arabia” gets a well-deserved swipe of criticism.

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“Et tu, Beetrute?”

I am not the only one who perceives a Caesarian theme to modern British politics. This portrait of political treachery chilled me to the marrow:

Entry into vegetable competition in summer fête in London

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Venezuela: an evolving story

Misreporting Venezuela’s economy – Mark Weisbrot, writing for the Guardian in September 2010

Venezuela’s devaluation doom-mongers – Mark Weisbrot, writing for the Guardian in March 2013

Sorry, Venezuela haters: this economy is not the Greece of Latin America – Mark Weisbrot, writing for the Guardian in November 2013

For some reason Mr Weisbrot has not written much for the Guardian comment pages on the subject of Venezuela recently, but to its credit the Guardian has covered developments in that country in the news pages:

‘At least 35,000’ Venezuelans cross border to Colombia to buy food and medicine – a story from the Associated Press appearing in the Guardian on 17 July 2016.

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans poured into neighbouring Colombia to buy food and medicine on Saturday after authorities briefly opened the border that has been closed for almost a year.

A similar measure last week led to dramatic scenes of the elderly and mothers storming Colombian supermarkets and highlighted how daily life has deteriorated for millions in Venezuela, where the economy has been in a freefall since the 2014 crash in oil prices.

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Samizdata quote of the day

Seumas Milne remains on the staff of the Guardian and Observer while Labour pays him to work as its director of strategy. As a colleague on leave, he has the right to be treated with a gentleness journalists would not usually extend to spin doctors who do not enjoy his advantages. I therefore write with the caution of a good corporate man and the cheeriness of a co-worker when I say Milne could not do a better job of keeping the Tories in power if rogue MI5 agents had groomed him at Winchester College, signed him up at Oxford University and instructed him to infiltrate and destroy the Labour party.

Nick Cohen

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Coup d’etat in Turkey

Just heard from someone in Turkey… looks like there is a coup d’etat under way. Interesting.

LATEST: seems they have not grabbed Ergodan, so it remains to be seen if the coup will be successful.

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