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

In a recent interview, PayPal founder Peter Thiel spoke of a ‘totalitarian’ streak that exists in many of the tech titans. Evidence suggests he might be right. If so, are we closer to China’s ‘Social Credit System‘ than we realize?

Jonathan Miltimore

Common sense is quite uncommon

So here is some from Madsen…

A comment to a Guardian editorial about the French rail strike

The editorial itself is forgettable, but this comment by “Cavirac” astounded me:

Polls run in the left, centre and right newspapers show overwhelming support for Macron by the French public with regards to the changes he will make to SNCF.

People in the private sector (builders, electricians, plimbers etc.) now see their retirement age at 67. You need to have worked for 41 years to get a full state pension, tha’st six years more than in the UK.

The SNCF, EDF and La Poste workers can retire at 50 if their work is “physical” on a full pension and 55 if they are administrative staff.

Not only do they get to retire but they get loads of perks which are not taxed. EDF workers get a 80% discount on their electricity bills and after working for five years this discount is for life. SNCF get free European rail travel for themselves and direct family. La Post get a super Mutual insurance which allows them access to the best hospitals in France for free. The facteur (postman/woman) suffer very bad shoulder and elbow strain from leaning out of their vans delivering the post apparently and many need replacement elbow and shoulder joints.

EDF, La Poste and SNCF also own holiday villages all over France including some of the more prestigious holiday resorts where they benefit from all inclusive holidays as stupidly low prices, typically 150 Euros per week per person.

All this comes at a cost and is paid for by the tax payer and the users. It represents a big chunk of the current deficit for each of these institutions.

This is why the general public in France support Macron in this. Why should they have to work every hour god sends till they are 67 to get a shit pension when a guy who sweeps the station platform, because it is outside manual work, be able to retire at 50 on full pay and still keep his perks including cheap holidays etc?

Can any readers familiar with France tell me whether that is a fair presentation of the facts?

There is no need to hail me as a prophet

Despite the fact that I foresaw all this years ago. So did you. So did anyone with the slightest knowledge of the principles of law. So did anyone who had ever read a fricking detective novel.

The Times reports,

Metropolitan Police ditches practice of believing all victims

Britain’s biggest police force has abandoned its policy of automatically believing victims after a series of flawed inquiries into alleged sex crimes, The Times can reveal.

Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, said she had told officers they must have an open mind when an allegation is made and that their role was to investigate, not blindly believe.

“You start with a completely open mind, absolutely,” she said. “It is very important to victims to feel that they are going to be believed. Our default position is we are, of course, likely to believe you but we are investigators and we have to investigate.”

The issue has become one of the most fraught for the police service since a national policy instructed officers to believe alleged victims automatically. It was aimed at encouraging people to come forward with the confidence that they would be taken seriously, particularly in sexual abuse cases.

The guidelines were put in place after revelations in 2011 that police had failed to properly investigate abuse allegations, including by victims of the former BBC presenter Jimmy Savile, who was revealed after his death to have been Britain’s most prolific paedophile. However, the Met was later severely criticised after its detectives placed their faith in a man known only as Nick, declaring that his uncorroborated claims of a Westminster abuse ring were “credible and true”. The Crown Prosecution Service is considering whether Nick will be charged with perverting the course of justice after his claims were shown to be false.

Sir Richard Henriques, a retired judge, identified failings in Operation Midland and said that the instruction to believe a victim’s account should be withdrawn. It undermined the principle of suspects being innocent until proven guilty, he said in 2016.

Ms Dick took the helm at Scotland Yard nearly a year ago, after the collapse of Operation Midland. Asked if she was rethinking the belief policy, she said: “Rethink? I’ve rethought. I arrived saying very clearly to my people that we should have an open mind, of course, when a person walks in. We should treat them with dignity and respect and we should listen to them. We should record what they say. From that moment on we are investigators.”

She said that the police had been criticised for not being open-minded enough. It was important to encourage victims to come forward and she wanted to “go on raising confidence”.

She said: “Our job in respect of investigations is to be fair, to be impartial, and where appropriate to bring things to justice — and of course to support victims, but it isn’t all about victims.”

That is progress. But I note that she is still saying “victims” instead of “those who claim to be victims”.

100 years of the RAF, and a very British protest

Today marks the centenary of the Royal Air Force, established for bureaucratic convenience at the start of a financial year in 1918, beaten in the age stakes by the Finnish Air Force, formed on the preceding 6th March, a Force which has higher scoring aces, with implausible names like Hans Wind, but I digress. Whilst I am not one to celebrate bureaucracies (and the RAF is a bureaucracy), it has the merit of having done much to banish tyranny from the world, and has many tales of heroism in its relatively short history, even if for one-fifth of that, it has been part of the Blairmacht.

Today I would like to note one incident in the RAF’s history, which came at the ‘half-way’ mark, when in 1968, (actually on 5th April) after Harold Wilson’s Labour government decided not to commemorate the RAF’s 50th anniversary with a fly-past, and this did not go down well at all. In fact, it went down so badly that one RAF pilot, the heroic Flight Lieutenant Alan Pollock, threw away his career and very nearly his freedom in the ‘Tower Bridge incident‘, when, in protest at the lack of a commemoration, in his Hawker Hunter jet, he ‘buzzed’ the Houses of Parliament. Then on the spur of the moment, going down the Thames towards the sea, he flew under the top span of Tower Bridge at around 400 mph, and also ‘beat up’ a few airfields inverted, before landing, getting arrested but avoiding a court martial after being demobilised on health grounds by superiors eager to avoid the publicity of a trial, which is a weird echo of a similar ruse used in Viktor Suvorov’s ‘The Liberators’ when a Soviet Army soldier’s conduct presented a bureaucratic embarrassment that could not be concealed from higher authority. The jet only just missed hitting the top span of Tower Bridge with its tail, so no harm was done, however, it was close, there was a double-decker bus on the bridge at the time, and a cyclist on the bridge ripped his trousers dismounting in haste. Flt-Lt Pollock gallantly offered to pay for the trousers, but the cyclist declined.

It is a tribute to the political culture of the UK that discontent manifested itself in this way, rather than in something like a tanquetazo . The World would also be a better place if more people, like Flt-Lt Pollock, placed acting out of good principles over doing what is needed to maintain one’s position or career, when one is led by disgusting ones.

UPDATE: The Daily Mail have done a full interview with Alan Pollock, here it is.

It’s Easter Sunday and it’s wind up day

Here in Britain, Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day have today collided. But down in Australia they threw in winding the clocks back, just to liven things up even more.

Here the rule is that April Fool’s Day wind ups can only happen before 12 noon, so this is being posted in a rush to beat the deadline, assuming I have not miscalculated by an hour. No time to think of anything truly funny, but I can still ask. What have been today’s best Easter pranks? I’m sure there are lots of anti-Christian jokes along the lines of: Christ is risen, no he isn’t, gotcha. And last time AFD and Easter Sunday collided, Richard Dawkins converted to Catholicism. But I feel sure that our commentariat can do way better than that, or can at least report on someone doing better.

Strange how wind up as in “it’s a (pr) ‘wined’ up”, and wind up as in “put the (pr) ‘winned’ up” – and here’s hoping you made sense of that – are both spelt the same way and mean rather closely related things. English eh? (The government should sort it out. No it shouldn’t. Gotcha. Etc.)

Why Alan Sugar is occasionally awesome…

As Lord Sugar phrased it: Many a true word spoken in jest Corbyn

Jordan Peterson on responsibility – and on why it is important that he is not a politician

Jordan Peterson is everywhere just now, and I do not think he will soon stop being everywhere. (He was also referred to here in yesterday’s SQotD.) Was this what it was like when John Wesley got into his communicational stride? When interesting things happen now, you find yourself understanding similar events in the past much better, events which had formerly seemed almost unimaginable.

I spent the small hours of this morning, the end of my version of last night, listening to this conversation, that Peterson had with an Australian politician called John Anderson, who is a new face to me. It was the video equivalent of not being able to put the book down.

In this conversation, Peterson repeated one of his most characteristic ideas, to the effect that people should bear the most responsibility that they can possibly carry. This is not merely because others will appreciate this and benefit from it, although that is a likely consequence and a definite feature. It is also that when life turns bad, when tragedy strikes, when God is throwing custard pies around, the fact that you are living your life meaningfully, as opposed merely to living it pleasurably, will be a great solace, in a way that merely having lived pleasurably will not be. “We are beasts of burden.”

This is what Peterson means by the word responsibility. Responsibilities are things that we all need, to make and find meaning in our lives. The happiness you get from doing something meaningful, even if often rather painful and perhaps very painful, is far deeper than the happiness you get from some merely pleasurable pastime or addictive drug or hobby. We all need fun. But we all need for our lives to be more than just fun.

Sometimes, depending on his audience, Peterson expands upon the idea of responsibility by using the language of Christianity, of the sort that is being used a lot today, on Good Friday. (Interesting adjective, that.) Do as Christ did. Live your life by picking up the biggest cross you can carry. Whether Peterson is himself a Christian and will at some future time declare himself to be a Christian is now much discussed, I believe. (I am an atheist, by the way. Which is a species of thinker for whom Peterson has a lot of respect, because at least we tend to do a lot of thinking.)

I have always been deeply suspicious of the word “responsibility”. It has again and again sounded like someone else telling me that I must do what he wants me to do rather than what I want to do. If he is paying my wages, then fair enough. But if he is explaining why I should vote for him, and support everything he does once he has got the job he is seeking, not so fair.

The sort of thing I mean is when a British Conservative Party politician says, perhaps to a room full of people who, like me, take the idea of freedom very seriously: Yes, I believe, passionately, in freedom. The politician maybe then expands upon this idea, often with regard to how commercial life works far better if people engaged in commerce are able to make their own decisions about which projects they will undertake and which risks they will walk towards and which risks they will avoid. If business is all coerced, it won’t be nearly so beneficial. We will all get poorer. Yay freedom.

But.

But … “responsibility”. We should all have freedom, yes, but we also have, or should have, “responsibility”. Sometimes there then follows a list of things that we should do or should refrain from doing, for each of which alleged responsibility there is a law which he favours and which we must obey. At other times, such a list is merely implied. So, freedom, but not freedom.

The problem with politicians talking about responsibility is that their particular concern is and should be the law, law being organised compulsion. And too often, their talk of responsibility serves only to drag into prominence yet more laws about what people must and must not do with their lives. But because the word “responsibility” sounds so virtuous, this list of anti-freedom laws becomes hard to argue against, even inside one’s own head. Am I opposed to “responsibility”? Increasingly, I have found myself saying: To hell with it. Yes.

I have often been similarly resistant to the language of Christianity, of the sort that dominates what is being said in churches around the world today. How many times in history have acts of tyranny been justified by the tyrant saying something like: We must all bear our crosses in life, and here, this cross is yours. “God is on my side. Obey my orders.” The truth about the potential of life to inflict pain becomes the excuse to inflict further pain.

I suffered the final spasms of this way of thinking at the schools I went to, not long after the Second World War. “Life is cruel, Micklethwait, and I am now going to prove it to you by making it even more cruel. I am preparing you for life.” This kind of cruelty may now have been more or less replaced by over-protectiveness, by excessively shielding children from activities that might prove painful. Peterson has a lot to say about that also. Much modern law-making, of the you-must-not-eat-too-many-sticky-buns sort, is motivated partly by this sort of thinking.

But getting back to what Peterson says about “responsibility”, the deeply refreshing thing about how he uses this word is that, because he is not a politician, he separates the benefits to me of me choosing to live responsibly from the idea of him deciding what he thinks these responsibilities of mine should be, and then compelling me to accept them whether I judge them to be wise or appropriate or meaningful for me or not. The process he wants to set in motion in my mind is of me thinking about what my responsibilities should be. He is arguing that I should choose my own cross, as best I can, and then carry it as best I can, because this is what will be best for me. He is not telling me which cross it should be, in a way that he calculates will be advantageous for him.

It helps a lot that Peterson chose his moment to step upon the political stage by vehemently opposing a law that might compel him merely to speak in a certain way. As he himself says, you see what someone truly believes by watching what he does. Peterson really does believe in freedom, as well as in a great many other interesting things.

Maybe, sometimes, a politician may actually mean what Jordan Peterson means when he talks about responsibility. Trouble is, if he does not make himself crystal clear about what he is and is not saying, you are liable to mishear him as just wanting to boss you around. Jordan Peterson is not the boss of me, and he is not trying to be. He is simply presenting me, and all the other multitudes of people who are listening to him now, with an argument, an argument that I for one find very persuasive.

Another way of putting all this is that Peterson is not telling me anything I didn’t already know. (He gets this a lot, apparently.) What he is doing is reclaiming and cleansing an important word.

This month’s quota

February 23 2018:

Do male climate change ‘sceptics’ have a problem with women? – Bob Ward

I posted about it here.

March 28 2018:

‘It’s a Very Male-Dominated Space’: Welcome to the Sexist World of Brexit and Climate Science Denial – Christine Ottery

And I’m posting about it here.

Samizdata quote of the day

It’s dangerous to enjoy the sight of the Labour Party – home of cynical grievance-mongers for decades – hoist by its own petard over anti-Semitism. It’s perilous to succumb to anger over the way that Leftist political correctness has thrown thousands of white girls in Telford or Rotherham to the wolves for fear of the juju word “Racist”. Lives are being lost (and many more lives degraded) in the United States as the uncontroversial assertions that “Black Lives Matter” and “All lives matter” are used as tribal battle cries. The Alt-Right’s so-called “fascism” would evoke snorts of derision from history’s real Fascists, as it amounts to White people lamely joining the destructive game of identity politics.

– ‘Tom Paine

Samizdata quote of the day

Peterson wryly remarked, as swarms of Antifa clones were pounding at the door and breaking windows during his brilliant presentation at Queen’s, that “the barbarians are at the gate.” In a way, this was not quite accurate. They are here milling among us, inhabiting the universities, marching in the streets, dismantling the civil order, engaged in the perversion of values, and, like Marcuse, promoting tyranny in the name of freedom. Their freedom.

The barbarians are not at the gate. The barbarians are inside the gate.

David Solway

An unintentionally honest headline to an unintentionally honest article

“Labour’s plan to tackle inequality can revive the ailing development sector”, writes Nick Dearden in the Guardian.

Clicking on Mr Dearden’s name took me to a link that said, in true Grauniad style, “Nick Dearden is director of the Global Justice Now (formerly World Development Movement)” The faltering fortunes of “the Global Justice Now” and similar organizations in what is called the aid “sector” (as if were part of the economy rather than a drain on it) distress Mr Dearden for understandable reasons. No man likes to see his prospects of a secure and comfortable living imperilled. I do not see why the rest of us should care. I would be quite happy to issue the development sector with a one way ticket to Switzerland.

Mr Dearden writes,

At the height of New Labour’s power, Peter Mandelson famously said: “We are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich.” To be fair, he added, “as long as they pay their taxes”. But New Labour never had a burning ambition to reduce inequality. They could live with inequality as long as no one was really poor.

Extreme poverty was the focus of New Labour’s international development policy. The wanted to make global capitalism work for the poor – better markets and voluntary codes of conduct to encourage the private sector to “do the right thing”.

And the problem with this was…?

It wasn’t without its achievements, coming as it did after an era in which the poor were regarded as responsible for their own poverty. But it continued to allow the real drivers of poverty, western corporate and foreign policies, to go unchecked, while offering a charitable contribution to clean up the mess they created.

Emphasis added. Libertarians and similarly inclined folk often see the Guardian commentariat as being no less daft than the Guardian writers. That is not always true. Nearly all the most popular comments to this piece make pretty good sense and I am going to quote several of them. For instance take this one from someone called ‘Humza’, who says,

No, fighting poverty is much more important than fighting inequality. Trust Labour to come out with a policy that would punish the person who makes $5 a day and scream injustices because his neighbour can only manage $1 a day.

Absolute/extreme poverty has dramatically declined over the past couple of centuries and quelle surprise, that coincides when most of the world began to transition to world trade and free markets.

https://ourworldindata.org/extreme-poverty

Mr Dearden continues,

On Monday, Labour announces a new development policy which takes a radically different approach. In essence, you can’t solve the problem of poverty without tackling inequality. And you can’t tackle inequality without dramatically changing how the global economy works.

In other words, Labour’s policy is unworkable.

Concretely, Labour proposes a new law, ensuring that all aid money must be spent fighting inequality as well as poverty.

Neocolonialism! British interference in the policies of sovereign African nations! (Hat tip to commenter ‘daveg861’ for that point.)

Fighting inequality requires huge changes to the way the global economy works.

In other words, Labour’s policy is unworkable. Wait, didn’t I say that only a minute ago? Yes, I did, but if Mr Dearden is going to repeatedly state that reducing inequality cannot be done unless the Labour party conquers the world I am just going to have to repeatedly point out that it ain’t gonna happen.

Labour proposes a range of policies that will require further clarity in office

Those policies require further clarity in office the way a fish requires further water on the deck of a trawler.

but include changing the way we trade with southern countries, clamping down on tax dodging, reforming the debt system, transforming institutions like the IMF and World Bank, introducing a financial transactions tax, changing the way we measure wellbeing, and providing “global leadership on the refugee crisis”.

As ‘FatherChewyLouie’ says in the most recommended comment, “What exactly do Labour mean by providing “global leadership” on the refugee crisis? If it’s what I think it means then I can guarantee it won’t be a vote winner.”

Meanwhile, back in the The Global Justice Now! universe:

Countries like Britain grew rich on the turbocharged exploitation of Africa

Countries like Britain might have, but Britain grew rich because of the Industrial Revolution before it had African colonies. When it got them it turned out they were a net cost to the British government and were unpopular thereby. The original “Little Englanders” were opposed to expansion of the British Empire for that reason. (I swear, I had already written that when I saw a comment by ‘YEverKnot’ saying the very same thing. Of course it is a fairly obvious point to make.)

– and still today Africa bleeds wealth to rapacious corporations. Aid, which should be a form of reparation or, at least, redistribution of wealth akin to taxation, becomes largesse: a gift which should be cut in the bad times, and given to our current government’s pet projects in good times.

Reparations? That might not go down well with voters. However, the point about aid being largesse which can be cut off on a whim is true. And thus Mr Dearden unintentionally makes an excellent argument against government-to-government foreign aid and against the very existence of his beloved “development sector”.