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]

The Statism of Brexit

This New Statesman article argues that while the proponents of Brexit were libertarian, what we are going to end up with is more statism. I happen to think that we would never have reduced the size of the state inside the EU, so leaving it was a necessary first step. But it was never going to be all that was needed. Theresa May does seem to favour some particularly odious policies. On the other hand, there has been talk of reducing corporation tax and VAT. Trade could still end up being free-er on net. We might eventually get rid of May, or new political factions might rise to dominance that offer more hope. Am I right to be at all optimistic?

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The Internet-of-Things! What could possibly go wrong?


I admit I LOL’ed when I saw this 😀 What else could go wrong, I wonder?

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Not “Maggie” May

Theresa May:

Government can and should be a force for good; the state exists to provide what individual people, communities and markets cannot; we should employ the power of government for the good of the people. Time to reject the ideological templates provided by the socialist left and the libertarian right and embrace a new centre ground in which government steps up – and not back – to act on behalf of the people.


Claiming to reject ideology is nonsense – May is advocating an ideology of “centrism”, statist, intervening in the economy, acceptance of perpetual borrowing and over-spending, coupled with greater intrusion by the state into the lives of individuals. Remember her Snoopers’ Charter, giving the state powers to intercept personal online data of every individual. Her conference speech last year, lest we forget, was panned by the Institute of Directors and described as “chilling and bitter”. May, whilst claiming the state is a “force for good”, is proposing to force companies to list foreign workers, an ominous and pointless intervention in the private contracts of business. She will also hint this afternoon at imposing price controls on energy companies, another interventionist policy for which the Tories rightly monstered Ed Miliband. Thatcher wanted to “roll back the frontiers of the state”. May wants “government to step up, not back”. So who do you vote for now if you want a balanced budget, free markets and to get the state out of your life?


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Samizdata quote of the day

Of course, those left-wingers, Labourite or otherwise, fingered as anti-Semitic never think of themselves as such. They’re anti-Zionist, they say. It’s the Israeli state they’re opposed to, not Jews as a whole. Yet the distinction rarely holds up, not least because their opposition to Israel, indeed the obsession with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is so overdetermined. It’s not born of some actual, let alone vested, interest in this one particular conflict out of all the other conflicts in the world. No, it’s fuelled by their opposition to what Israel represents – its nation-building futurity, its embrace of liberal capitalism, its sheer modern-ness. And ultimately, that image of Israel, as the exemplar of capitalist modernity, both feeds into and draws on what anti-Semitism has always held Jewry to represent: the moneyed power behind the throne, and the source of the world’s problems.

Tim Black

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Samizdata quote of the day

I was at the UN general assembly in New York the other day and talking to the foreign minister of another country. I won’t say which one, since I must preserve my reputation for diplomacy. But let’s just say they have an economy about the size of Australia (though getting smaller, alas), plenty of snow, nuclear missiles, balalaikas, oligarchs, leader who strips to the waist… you get the picture.

Boris Johnson, in fine form as usual 😀

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Consent and the Space Cadets

Yesterday something reminded me of the Space Cadets:

The series described itself as the most elaborate hoax perpetrated in television history. The title is a comical reference to the slang phrase, which is used to describe vacuous, gullible fools, untethered to reality (compare airhead).[citation needed] It was not clear if the contestants were aware of the show’s title, although a whiteboard in the ‘barracks’ had “Space Cadettes” [sic] written on it during one of the parties organised in the facility.

A group of twelve contestants (who answered an advert looking for “thrill seekers”) were selected to become the first British televised space tourists, including going to Russia to train as cosmonauts at the “Space Tourist Agency of Russia” (STAR) military base, with the series culminating in a group of four embarking on a five-day space mission in low Earth orbit. The show and space mission contained aspects of Reality TV, including hidden cameras, soundproofed ‘video diary’ rooms and group dormitories.

However, the show was in fact an elaborate practical joke, described by Commissioning Editor Angela Jain as “Candid Camera live in space” and claimed by Channel 4 to have cost roughly £5million. Unknown to the “space cadets”, they were not in Russia at all, but at Bentwaters Parks (formerly RAF Bentwaters, a USAF airfield from 1951 to 1993) in Suffolk staffed by costumed actors, and the “space trip” was entirely fake, complete with a wooden “shuttle” and actor “pilots”. Indeed, during the shooting of Space Cadets, smokers amongst the production crew were given Russian cigarettes to smoke in case any of the cadets discovered the butts. The production crew went so far as to replace lightswitches and electrical outlets in the barracks with Russian standard. In addition, three of the Cadets were actors, included to misdirect any suspicious cadets and to help reinforce the illusion.

At the time I talked about it a great deal, as everybody did, but I could not watch it for more than a few seconds at a time. Too close to home. On discovering that it was a hoax one of the cadets said, “I was planning my speech about achieving my childhood dreams. I’m a little bit broken-hearted.” I was a little bit broken-hearted for her. I, too, had grown up dreaming of space. The cruellest aspect of the show was that it made clear to the world that the cadets had been selected for their credulity and lack of scientific knowledge. Like many of those reading this I would have “failed” that particular test. But let us not put on airs; it is proverbial among scammers that there is good hunting to be had among educated people who think they could never be fooled by anything.

Why am I still thinking about these nine innocents sold a pup when a whole decade has gone by? Millions agree to take jobs and find them not as advertised. Billions agree to take spouses and find them not as advertised. Such is the way of the world. At least the cadets were handsomely paid. Enough, I assume, to head off any lawsuits about breach of contract – and I would imagine that those contracts were written by clever lawyers in the first place. If the cadets had been the type to read every sub-clause in a contract they would not have been chosen to be filmed larking around in a wooden replica spaceship allegedly equipped with gravity generators.

My memory was triggered (not, like, triggered triggered; just triggered) by all the talk now about consent. I am not thinking primarily about sexual consent, although that is relevant, but about the increasing sensitivity around posting any photographs and films of people without their permission. This new sensitivity isn’t just politically correct wailing. Brian Micklethwait of this parish finds it entirely consistent with his libertarian principles to take care to hide the faces of ordinary people he photographs, as he mentions here, even as he points out that the case is different for public figures. The world has changed. The internet never forgets a name. It is getting closer to never forgetting a face. When the cadets signed their contracts that wasn’t so obvious.

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Samizdata quote of the day

The concepts that we need to grasp here are folk marxism, oikophobia and conservatism by proxy.

Most modern leftists haven’t read a line of Marx. But his odious creed has passed down to them in a diluted form in which people are to be divided onto groups and all relationships are to seen as being between oppressor and oppressed. Needless to say that the oppressed are always noble and the oppressors all evil. This gives us identitarian politics.

Oikophobia then comes into play, as the leftists see their own culture as an oppressor culture.

Another symptom of leftist thinking since the time of that scoundrel Rousseau is the admiration of the noble savage which I call ‘conservatism by proxy’. This has a religious element in that it is often given voice by those tiresome people who’d never go near a church in their own countries, but will wax lyrical about the ‘spirituality’ of monks in Cambodia, Laos or some God-forsaken place like that. In Australia the modern leftist’s conservatism by proxy is usually satisfied by the simple expedient of admiring Aboriginal culture because: “It has been around for 40,000 years.”

Thus do lefties satisfy their need to admire tradition and obtain the joy that conservatism brings, without suffering the awful fate of having to be labelled ‘conservative.’

Add to these three, the zero sum fallacy view of the economy, the inability to understand the distinction between speech and deed or between ought and is and you have a good summary of the neuroses and intellectual bigotries of many leftists.

Peter from Oz

This is a comment I saw on Sp!ked that I thought was right on the money (reproduced with a few typos corrected).

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A traditional lament

Willie Penrose, a Labour member of the Irish Dáil, is singing an old song from a tradition known all over the world:

Musicians hold sing-song outside Leinster House in bid to get more radio play

LABOUR’S WILLIE PENROSE wants to get more Irish music played on the radio – and says that a proposed bill of his could save thousands of jobs in the process.

So he gathered up a group of Irish musicians and brought them for a sing-song outside the gates of Leinster House this morning, while a host of Labour TDs looked on.


Longford-Westmeath TD Penrose, who is presenting the bill to the Dáil today, said that it seeks a quota of 40% airtime for Irish music – and that this means “of all genres once it’s Irish music”.

Asked if it specifies in the bill how a song is determined to be Irish, Penrose “we’re working through that, yeah we are”.
“We are not asking for much – this has been in France for the last 20 or 30 years, 40% quota, it’s in Canada – there’s a 90% quota after being introduced in South Africa in recent weeks,” he said.

The 90% quota was brought in by national broadcaster SABC in South Africa.

Penrose said there are “8 – 10,000 jobs depending upon [the bill]“, but didn’t detail where these jobs are located within the Irish music industry.

Following the link about South Africa took me to this BBC story:

SABC radio introduces 90% South African music quota

The BBC describes the quota in lyrical terms:

South Africa’s national broadcaster SABC has brought in a new quota system, requiring 90% of the music played on its 18 radio stations to be homegrown.

SABC says the move, which has been hailed by local musicians after years of campaigning, will promote South African culture and heritage.


“We believe that is important for the people of South Africa to listen to the music that is produced for them by the musicians in South Africa,” SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago told the BBC, explaining the decision.

Jazz musician Don Laka, one of the leaders of the quota campaign, celebrated on his Facebook page, thanking SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

“Today I am proud to be South African. This man Hlaudi made me share a tear for the first time in many years… Freedom at last!”
Local hip-hop star Slikour described it as the music industry’s version of “Nelson Mandela coming out of jail”.

The governing African National Congress also welcomed the decision, saying it will empower local artists and help spread African culture at home and throughout the world.

Many South Africans have taken to social media to celebrate the announcement, saying it will help to showcase the country’s musical diversity.

It almost seems a pity to tear oneself away from sharing these glad hosannas to look at a couple of ominous lines some grinch has inserted into the same report:

…this is just for the next three months – subject to whether the listeners want it to be a permanent move, industry insiders are hoping that it will help boost the profiles of local artists.


There is no limit to the amount of foreign music commercial stations play.

Going back to the report about Mr Penrose’s Irish Music Quota Bill in TheJournal.ie, some of the comments strike a discordant and ominous note:

“You want to kill off Irish radio entirely? Force stations to play at least 40% of Irish music.” – Peter McHugh

“And Number 1 this week is Ariana Grande’s ‘Into You’ and to comply with the Irish Music Act here it is as sung by Brush Shiels” – Daniel Patrick Carry

Unlike Mr Penrose, I am not musical, and I don’t keep up with these internet thingies the young folk use … but isn’t there a thing called “music streaming” now?

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Experimenting with user comment editing

We are trying out a plug-in that lets people edit their comments on Samizdata for five minutes after posting them… no more eye watering typos, right? This is just an experiment to see if this causes anything else to break.

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The poor are getting richer

Tim Worstall wrote, “The economic policies of the last 30, 40, years have led to the greatest reduction in absolute poverty in the history of our species.” This sounds about right, but on its own the assertion will not convince the types of people I might want to persuade towards my way of looking at the world, the people who accept the litany that inequality is increasing and that must mean that the rich are making the poor poorer. A lot of these people are not Marxist true believers, they just imbibe the world-view of the BBC by default. To them, a claim such as “poor people are richer than ever before” sounds like a strong claim that needs strong evidence.

I often point people to Human Progress. Its headline evidence is often a bit specific, though. Today’s headlines are about malaria, seafood consumption, China’s environment, primary school attendance and teenage pregnancy in Africa. These are all good wealth indicators but I could be accused of cherry-picking.

Then I found a graph showing absolute numbers of people living in extreme poverty since 1820. Extreme poverty means living on less than $1.90 per day, adjusted for price differences and inflation. The graph is made by combining a 2002 (peer-reviewed!) study and numbers from the World Bank. It does leave the question of how many people are living on other, similarly low incomes. Another chart has a green line showing “poverty” being $25 per day of income. The trend is in the right direction. There are many more charts along these lines put together by Max Roser.

Mr. Worstall also recommends Branko Milanovic’s blog, and an article by him presenting data about who is getting richer and who is not.

The real surprise is that those in the bottom third of the global income distribution have also made significant gains, with real incomes rising between more than 40% and almost 70% [between 1988 and 2008]. (The only exception is the poorest 5% of the population, whose real incomes have remained about the same.)

Those 5% must live in some truly awful places.

I have ideas for future study. I want to correlate increased economic freedom with poor people getting richer in a way convincing to people with the default BBC world-view. And I heard somewhere that fewer people than ever are less than one failed harvest away from starvation. That is a compelling image; it would be useful to be able to back it up.

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What did Sam Allardyce do wrong?

Yesterday, the England manager resigned. “What’s odd about that?” you may say – assuming you’re not saying “Who cares?” – “They’re resigning all the time.”

They are but this is slightly unusual. For once – glossing over the departures of Fabio Capello and Glenn Hoddle – we have a resignation that has nothing to do with England’s performance on the pitch. Mr Allardyce has not failed as a manager but – we must assume – as a human being. Except in all the talk about “third-party ownership” and “bungs” I have no idea what he is supposed to have done wrong.

So, commentariat – at least, that tiny proportion of you that follow such things – tell me: is he being accused of doing something immoral or something illegal i.e. breaking the Football Association’s rules? [I assume he isn’t being accused of breaking the law.]

There will, of course, the usual frantic and incompetent search for a replacement. Luckily, I have a suggestion which I think will solve England’s run of disappointment forever: abolish the team. Sadly, I don’t think the FA will be taking me up on that so I can only hope they get someone cheap.

I wonder if Neil Warnock is available?

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