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]

Maybe there is no tradeoff

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

It has been fifteen years. Throughout that time most people, however much or little they valued liberty, have talked as if a loss of liberty were the price of increased security. Even Benjamin Franklin’s famous words quoted above assume this tradeoff.

What if it were not true? In what ways could more liberty bring about more safety?

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Why don’t they just knock it down?

In central London there is an clapped-out old building. One option would be to demolish it and replace it with something nice in steel and glass. Another option, as Michael Jennings likes to point out, would be to demolish it and replace it with tarmac. The building in question stands bang in the middle of two major thoroughfares causing a huge bottleneck.

So, what do our politicians think should be done? Well, they’re not thinking in terms of steel, glass or tarmac. They’re not even thinking of demolition. They think that £5bn of taxpayers’ money should be shelled out on its restoration. Which means it will be at least £10bn by the time they’re finished. If we’re lucky. You could build a lot of hospitals for that kind of money.

You may be familiar with the building in question:

london_parliament_2007-1

Now I accept that for the time being we have a state and that representative democracies are usually better than the alternatives. I also accept that it is probably difficult to do politics online so Parliament needs some kind of physical location. But where?

Luckily there is a place that seems to cover all the bases. It is easy to get to. There is plenty of land for development. It would take politicians out of the metropolitan bubble. And it would gently remind them of the consequences of over-regulation. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the location of the new Mother of Parliaments:

Milton Keynes.

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1916’s summer blockbuster

In 1916 Geoffrey Malins, a cinematographer, toured the Western Front filming what he saw. The footage was edited into an hour-long film that was shown in British cinemas. The Battle of the Somme was an extraordinary success with some estimating that it was the most watched movie in British history. Clips from it still regularly turn up when TV people want to refer to the war.

But it didn’t please everyone. The Dean of Durham has this to say:

I beg leave respectfully to enter a protest against an entertainment which wounds the heart and violates the very sanctities of bereavement.

The bereaved – or at least some of them – had different ideas:

Well, I have lost a son in battle, and I have seen the Somme films twice. I am going to see them again. I want to know what was the life, and the life-in-death, that our dear ones endured, and to be with them again in their great adventure.

My guess is that the Dean of Durham is referring above all to one particular scene; that scene, the famous scene, the one we are all familiar with, the one that above all others has come to represent the First World War. This one:

Sadly, I wasn't able to track down the actual clip which has more evidence of fakery but even in this frame the puniness of the barbed wire and the lack of large packs suggest this was shot some distance from the front.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to track down the actual clip which has more evidence of fakery but even in this frame the puniness of the barbed wire and the lack of large packs suggest this was shot some distance from the front.

Which is a pity. Because it is a fake.

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Checks and balances

So if the choice in 2016 is between one bad candidate and another (and it is) the question is, which one will do the least harm. And, judging by the civil service’s behavior, that’s got to be Trump. If Trump tries to target his enemies with the IRS, you can bet that he’ll get a lot of pushback — and the press, instead of explaining it away, will make a huge stink. If Trump engages in influence-peddling, or abuses secrecy laws, you can bet that, even if Trump’s appointees sit atop the DOJ or FBI, the civil service will ensure that things don’t get swept under the rug. And if Trump wants to go to war, he’ll get far more scrutiny than Hillary will get — or, in cases like her disastrous Libya invasion, has gotten. So the message is clear. If you want good government, vote for Trump — he’s the only one who will make this whole checks-and-balances thing work.

Glenn Reynolds

As an aside, one thing that might change the minds of a lot of sceptics about Trump is whether he gets to choose any decent people on the US Supreme Court, which is an aspect of presidential power that a lot of those in the conventional media ignore. As for Reynolds’ point about pushing back against the bias and corruption of organisations such as the Internal Revenue Service, I am not so sure.

Tim Sandefur, a legal scholar and commentator, is unlikely to be swayed by the checks and balances argument for Trump:

An anti-establishment candidate is a good thing only if he or she knows what he or she is doing. Otherwise, the chances of going wrong are just too great. That’s why revolutions devour their young—and that’s why we built an establishment in the first place. It should not be changed without reason to believe a better alternative is possible. This Trump does not offer. His candidacy is an open assault on the mores of our political culture, such as respecting the rights and dignity of opponents, listening to what fellow citizens have to say, honoring our legal duties and treaty obligations; and it is all done in the name of hatred, envy, and fear, with nothing but the strength of his individual will to replace our hard-won institutions. No, it’s not that he is terribly dangerous himself. He’s probably too unintelligent to do much harm personally. But he will surround himself with a volatile collection of stooges and Pashas, of Rasputins and Grand Viziers, of roaches and rats hiding under his throne, who will wreak true havoc in his name—all with the future of our nation and the world at stake.

I think this is probably over-wrought, but not by a lot. Essentially, what I read from serious libertarians/conservatives/Objectivists who have said they will vote for Trump (yes, I know several Objectivists who are pro-Trump) is a version of “it’s a big gamble, he’s horrible, vulgar and corrupt but less horrible than Hillary and anyway he upsets the right sort of people and we can always impeach him”. That’s quite a big gamble to make when choosing someone with access to the nuclear codes.

I agree with Reynolds, by the way, that Gary Johnson and Bill Weld aren’t that impressive, although in my view they are still the best out of a lousy field. Weld sounds like a US-style liberal on the 2nd Amendment and Johnson did not impress me over support for use of executive orders on immigration (this is regardless of what one thinks of immigration as such). Obama’s use of executive decrees has been one of the worst, if not the worst, parts of his presidency, and surely any serious libertarian should make this point constantly.

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Great moments in public sector IT procurement

The public health system of the Australian state of Queensland required a new payroll system. In 2007, a contract was issued to IBM to provide a new system for $6.19 million Australian dollars.

The resulting system did not work, and went over budget by $1.1 billion. Yes, read that again.

In 2013, the Queensland government was “considering” sacking the bureaucrats responsible for mismanaging the contract. Since then, there has been no publicity concerning any actual sackings. Read that how you will.

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The Power of the Daleks – a correction

In a previous blog posting I may have given the impression that the rediscovery of the missing episodes of the Power of the Daleks Doctor Who serial would be about as welcome to the BBC as a new series of Jim’ll Fix It.

Of course, the impression that I meant to convey was that the BBC would in fact be delighted to be once again be in possession of the telerecordings and failing that would be quite prepared to go to the effort of animating the entire thing and making it available online from 5 November onwards.

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Samizdata quote of the day

There is nothing new about this; it mostly started fifteen years ago, in 2001, and again the Irish were the main target. Ireland in the early 1990s had a high general corporation tax rate of 40%, but it introduced a special low 10% rate for finance companies in its Dublin-based International Financial Services Centre (IFSC). The Commission ruled that this was effectively an improper subsidy to the finance industry under the State Aid rules, and ordered its abolition.

That was really the root cause of the EU’s current row with Ireland, because the Irish response to the IFSC being declared illegal was to reduce all its corporation tax to 12.5%. Because that wasn’t targeted at a particular company or industry sector, it wasn’t illegal State Aid and so the EU Commission could do nothing to stop them, much as it wanted to.

So the EU Commission’s current action against Ireland over Apple is largely “Round Two”, a repeat of what it did fifteen years ago.

Richard Teather

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Samizdata quote of the day

The Equation Group hack underscores the fact that the NSA is not a perfect fortress. A future leak like the Shadow Brokers’ could lead to even more harmful security vulnerabilities being made public. Or perhaps disclosure won’t happen publicly online: powerful nation-states may hack into NSA systems to steal this information–or offer significant financial compensation to insiders willing to pass on secrets–and then use it secretly. Even if that doesn’t happen, without public data on the so-called rate of “bug collision”, we have to take the NSA’s word that the security vulnerabilities it uncovers will never be discovered by an unfriendly government and used for spying, or by criminals and used for malicious hacking.

Rainey Reitman

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“Climate change is a racist crisis: that’s why Black Lives Matter closed an airport”

Alexandra Wanjiku-Kelbert, who will help train you as a socialist campaigner for three thousand quid, has done a beautiful thing. Not only has she caused the left to lie down with right on the Guardian comments pages, she has made the left to lie down with the left. Verily, the Corbynite and the Blairite shall dwell together and jointly speak trash of Ms Spellcheck-Kelbert.

Here is the article that gave rise to such wonders:

Climate change is a racist crisis: that’s why Black Lives Matter closed an airport

Today we are saying that the climate crisis is a racist crisis. On the one hand Britain is the biggest contributor per capita to global temperature change.

Those who closely follow the carbon dioxide emissions league tables (app available on Android and iOS) will have been surprised by this sudden promotion of Britain to the top spot. All will be explained if you click on the link. You will see that the figure she quotes for each nation is calculated over all time. Seriously, they are blaming Britain for having been first with the industrial revolution.

It is also one of the least vulnerable to the effects of climate change. On the other hand, seven of the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change are in sub-Saharan Africa.

We’re not saying that climate change affects only black people. However, it is communities in the global south that bear the brunt of the consequences of climate change, whether physical – floods, desertification, increased water scarcity and tornadoes – or political: conflict and racist borders. While a tiny elite can fly to and from London City airport, sometimes as a daily commute, this year alone 3,176 migrants have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean, trying to reach safety on the shores of Europe.

Got all that? Climate change causes racist borders.

We are coming under fire for the fact that the protesters on the runway today were all white. That is not an accident.

True enough. The SWP (for it is they) can’t be fussing with their lineup of professional protesters every time there’s a black theme month.

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Samizdata quote of the day

Nobody is going to be banning meat in the near future, but that is for political reasons. There are simply too many meat eaters and not enough fanatical vegetarians. It is a question of power, not ethics, and the author of this article – vile authoritarian though he may be – inadvertently makes the libertarian argument very well. If it is the government’s business to prevent people taking voluntary, informed risks about one lifestyle choice, there is no reason to stop at smoking.

He asks whether it’s “OK to allow free choice” or “OK to prevent ‘unhealthy behaviour'”. In my view, the only moral answer is that it’s OK to allow free choice. It is not the government’s business. The author obviously disagrees, but I bet it wouldn’t take long to find something he likes doing that has been linked to cancer. At least his argument makes more sense than the scatter-gun bigotry of people who argue for state force to be used against activities they don’t like while demanding protection for those they do.

Christopher Snowdon, from an article titled “The NHS as a tool of social control”.

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Why the #NeverTrumpers irritate me somewhat

There is a certain sort of Republican who hates Donald Trump so much that he regularly appends the #NeverTrump hashtag to his tweets and would much rather that Hillary Clinton won the election.

Which is fine as far as it goes. It is not as if I, personally, think Trump would make a good president. I have always found him obnoxious and he seems to have little idea of the depth of the economic crisis affecting not just the United States but the western world in general. But, hey, he would at least be amusing. And I have twenty quid on him to win.

But I am seriously turned off by a lot of the Trump hatred that goes on. Particularly because it comes from people I had hitherto regarded as ideological soulmates.

I think this is because they display so little humility. When Trump announced his bid for the Republican nomination no one gave him a prayer. He had no experience, he had no grounding beliefs, he had no connections. He didn’t even have that much money. All he had – seemingly – was his name. And yet he still won.

It was an astonishing achievement.

You really would have thought that some people might be asking themselves how he did it. How was it that in the midst of the greatest depression in history the supposedly fiscally conservative party voted for someone who went around promising to raise spending? How come even candidates like Rand Paul didn’t seem to have anything sensible to say on getting the federal budget into balance? How come that when faced with the Trump threat supposedly sensible Republicans were incapable of uniting around a single candidate?

I think there’s an interesting discussion to be had encompassing, economics, identity, the electorate’s fears and Trump’s media-savvy. But all his detractors seem able to do is to produce a stream of bile.

And this is where it all gets rather troubling. They said of the Bourbons that they had forgotten nothing and learnt nothing. The sense of entitlement prevented them from engaging in anything resembling introspection. #NeverTrumpers sound just the same. “How dare you take my unsuccessful political party away from me!” seems to be the attitude.

It’s not so much #NeverTrump as #NeverLearn.

About to be re-named?

About to be re-named?

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Ironies abound

The BBC reports:

Bolton transgender councillor comment treated as hate incident

A comment in which a transgender Tory councillor was called “he” by a Labour rival is being treated as a hate incident by police.
Zoe Kirk-Robinson, 35, said Guy Harkin, 69, referred to her twice as a man in a debate at a Bolton Council meeting.
The hate crime ambassador, who transitioned 10 years ago, said the comments on 24 August “hurt a lot” and she reported them to police.
Mr Harkin has apologised. Police said “hate incidents are not tolerated”.

[…]

Mr Harkin said: “I inadvertently referred to her as a he during a heated debate.
“As soon as I was made aware of it, I apologised… It is something and nothing.”
A GMP spokeswoman said: “Hate incidents will not be tolerated in Greater Manchester.”

Metro takes the story further:

Councillor refuses to take punishment for calling transgender woman ‘he’ instead of ‘she’

After reporting Cllr Harkin to Greater Manchester Police, officers downgraded it to a ‘hate incident’ rather than a ‘hate crime’ and advised the pair to talk it out through a restorative justice programme.
But the former Labour mayor has refused his punishment, maintaining that his comments were just a ‘slip of the tongue.’

The political affiliations of the parties add spice to this story, don’t you think? When Tony Blair’s Labour government introduced a purely subjective definition of a racist incident following the MacPherson Report, and then in 2006 added new provisions to the Public Order Act 1986 to cover “hatred” based on sexual orientation in the same way that racial hatred had been covered before, I doubt the legislators envisaged the roles of denouncer and denouncee falling this way round. Perhaps, too, they did not envisage that things would go so far that a misspoken word would bring the police to the council chamber. I expect they were quite sure that these laws would never be used against people like them.

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