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]

Badge of Honour

I have been mentioned, nay singled out, in despatches over at Warbloggerwatch

In case you are wondering precisely what the measured and temperate Justin Raimondo is responding to, it is this

I am particularly fond of this zappy piece of analysis:

“And what a statist mentality it is — influenced, perhaps, by a bit of the typical British “cane-the-wogs” and long-live-the-Empire arrogance.

Anyway, must dash. I have to go and teach the damned fuzzy-wuzzys a thing or two.

A comparison from Scotland and (if necessary) a Scottish introduction

I liked Francis Moore’s short sting-in-the-tail posting over at the Liberty Log yesterday. 1), 2) and 3) are familiar enough this-versus-that contrasts (Korea, China, Germany), although deserving of infinite repetition. 4) (Britain) contains the provocative duo. Clue: they do the Liberty Log in Scotland.

Freedom and Whisky is also a Scottish inclined blog. There were two more good postings by F&W boss David Farrer yesterday, about Adam Smith and about the PC menace to Ryanair.

Have all these Scotbloggers been introduced? Presumably. If not, this should connect them.

News from gun-free Britain Police

Police in Manchester will be patrolling the streets armed with machine-guns in response to a massive upsurge in gun-related crime

“Recently, the level of firearms incidents particularly in areas of south Manchester has reached an intolerable level,”

You see, gun control really does work!

What a difference a day makes

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that the spate of anti-semitic attacks sweeping across France (and elsewhere in Europe but especially France) seem to have, well, stopped?

It occured to me tonight that, not only have they stopped, but they seem to have dried up at the very same time as Monsieur Le Pen came waddling belligerently onto the world stage.

Of course, maybe they are still occuring. Maybe there are Synagogues burning in Marseilles as I type but I can’t help thinking that, if that were the case, at least one of the Blogosphere’s ‘sniffers’ would have picked it up and run with it. So maybe they really have stopped, despite the fact that Israeli operations on the West Bank have not.

Coincidence? Who can say? Certainly not me. Interesting though.

You mess with me,you mess with my whole family!

Romano Prodi may be a hackneyed old Eurocrat but he is definitely onto something when he says that the British are afraid of full engagement in the EU.

According to The Great Protuberant One, Britain is:

“…constantly on the defensive, putting the brakes on, dragging its feet on vital issues, fighting a rearguard action that can hold up, but cannot stem, the tide of history.”

Sadly, that’s not how it looks from where I sit. And would that we could ‘stem’ this particular ‘tide of history’. Unfortunately, we can’t. The only thing we can do is save our nation and watch from the sidelines as this ‘tide of history’ drowns all those it engulfs.

Nonetheless, credit where it is due. Prodi is on an honesty roll as he notes:

“I wonder what makes this great nation happy to be a junior partner in a transatlantic relationship, but afraid to take its rightful place alongside its European allies?”

Allow me to clue you in, Prodi: it’s because the Channel is wider than the Atlantic. Across the Channel are friends, across the Atlantic is family.

You have been supernationalised

Do you live in the EU? In Britain? Well you have been nationalised… super-nationalised in fact. Yes, I mean you. You do not own your own labour, it is no longer yours to give or not give, as you see fit.

Do you need a bit more money to take your family on holiday later in the year? Want a bit of a boost to buy a slightly bigger car this time? Well if you ask your boss for some overtime to pad out the ol’ pay packet, the European Union has a message for you: tough shit. They know what is best for you and you do not… and they want the British state to use force against both you and your employer if you will insist on contributing to economic growth for longer than 48 hours in a week.

Do NOT cooperate. If you need the money, conspire with your boss and become economic ‘criminals’, it is an entirely honourable thing to do.


Samizdata slogan of the day

The free market is not a panacea. It does not eliminate old age, and it won’t guarantee you a date for Saturday night. Private enterprise is fully capable of awful screw-ups. But both theory and practice indicate that its screw-ups are less pervasive and more easily corrected than those of government enterprises, including regulatory ones.
– Paul Krugman (who actually is capable of making sense occasionally)

How do you now sell classical music?

The classical end of the music recording business has been enduring a slow crisis caused by the fact that the classical repertoire is (a) stagnant and (b) now all recorded. Classical freaks like me now have all we need. We have multiple versions of everything good, and although the newly composed stuff is occasionally worth hearing, most of it is a load of old Boulez. The only serious unfinished task is the recording of the entire operatic repertoire on DVD instead of just on CD.

The usual answer to the plight of high culture is that low culture should subsidise it, but these are also bad times for the economically serious end of the recorded music business. The free internet downloading of pop music is playing havoc with record company profits.

Which means that classical music, just when it is least able to, must now pay its own way. Big classical names are now having their hitherto automatically renewed contracts terminated by the dozen. And as these former titans slide into penury, their cultural centrality disappears. Big star classical performers in 1960 were really something, because the very first stereo recording of a major item of the repertoire was a big event. No matter how good it may be, a recording now (the thirtieth) of the same piece cannot possibly matter so much. Herbert von Karajan was a more central figure in European culture than Karajan’s newly appointed successor at the helm of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle, can ever be, no matter how much “better” the critics may tell us Rattle is.

The politicians are not helping nearly as much as the likes of Rattle think they should. Suddenly the cabinets of the western world consist not of old-time culture-lovers but of ageing Beatles fans. They still dole out arts subsidies but they are cutting back on supporting “elitists”. Instead they are “democratising” arts spending. Instead of giving huge gobs of money to high-culture high-talent parasites, they now prefer to give lots of little gobs of money to lots of no-hoper parasites. Such trends take time to work their way through (hence the continuing significance of who gets to boss the BPO), but you can feel the oil tanker turning, slowly but surely.

Classical music itself will last for ever. This is the great historic achievement of the classical music recording business. But historic achievements don’t pay wages now. What is to be done?

One answer is to cut prices and to cut costs. Wrench the price of new classical CDs (not just of regurgitated old recordings) from the best part of twenty quid down to a fiver, slash the fees paid to the performers and generally cut out the crap. This is what Naxos has done, with great success.

There’s much talk of new “business models” for the recording and “delivery” of classical music, with the copyright and long-term royalty streams remaining with the artists but with any first time round income going to the recording companies. In other words the recording companies no longer place bets on artists. The artists place their own bets, and the recording companies are now bookies. To me this sounds like a thinly disguised pay cut. Or, even more cruelly: vanity recording. (Bloggers won’t need to have this trend explained to them.)

So, when all else fails, go with babe appeal. I give you Hilary Hahn. Now I do not yet get all the subtleties of Samizdata‘s editorial policy, but when it comes to babe photography it is my clear understanding that we are all for it. So here are some Hahn likenesses, taken from her website.



Hilary Hahn is not just a pretty face. She can definitely play. Her recording of three of the six Bach unaccompanied violin pieces is one of my all time favourite CDs, and all her four recordings so far are decently done. But from a business point of view it is clear what is happening here. In the sleevenotes accompanying her latest recording, of the Brahms and Stravinsky violin concertos, released just before Christmas, I counted no less than fifty six photographs of her, together with three of her conductor Sir Neville Marriner, and three of the two of them together. Total number of photos of Johannes Brahms: zero. Total number of photos of Igor Stravinsky: zero.

This is not a long-term answer, either for the classical music recording business in general or for the likes of Hilary Hahn in particular. (That Brahms/Stravinsky disc is already being heavily discounted in London’s HMV stores.) But while it lasts it’s fun to look at.

A crack at misery redistribution

Tony Millard writes in from Tuscany with an excellent perspective on the ‘war’ on drugs.

It was refreshing to hear on Radio 4 last night that Mo Mowlam taps my e-mails to Libertarian Samizdata as I had written this on Saturday (she has called for drug legalisation). Perhaps Samizdata should invite her to submit a webwaffle blog of her own.

Raising the tax burden is about the redistribution of wealth – making drugs illegal has been about the redistribution of misery as a Bristol police report on crack cocaine crime-wave demonstrates. The process of criminalisation has not reduced demand but merely shifted the social cost from the addicts (in illness and premature deaths) to the law-abiding masses whose assets are appropriated, often violently and in public, by such users to pay for the inflated cost of their cravings. Such inflation of cost is directly proportional to the efforts of state law enforcement agencies. Freeing and legalising all drugs would shift the bulk of the misery burden back to its ‘beneficiaries’ and originators – the drug users.

Also, imposing a tax on the ‘product’ according to the true cost of the care of addicts would have two benefits – it would bring the distribution and quality control in from the shadows and deal a death blow to the underground drug economy with the terrorism and horror it fuels. (Guess what paid for the funding of September 11th!). Legalisation would be tempered with strictly enforced (and enforceable) rules relating to where the products can be taken and where they cannot. Whether we like it or not, this is informally already the case in England, Lambeth in South London being a case in point. Such measures would provide a relief for the majority, a safer, harassment-free environment for the minority, and a sweeping reduction in crime generally just in time for Mr Blair’s self-imposed September deadline. Over to you Tony.

Tony Millard (Tuscany, Italy)

So immoral that only the government may participate

iFeminists.com reports that the Queensland state government in Australia has given license to five legal brothels, with three more pending. Licensing fees and operating revenues from these facilities will go to the government. At the same time, the government there has aggressively cracked down on unlicensed brothels (aka “competition”) — 72 unlicensed houses of ill repute have been shut down since January of 2001.

“We take a tough approach to illegal prostitution while at the same time provide strict laws to ensure health and safety standards within the legal industry,” says Queensland Premier Peter Beattie. Of course, the very fact that prostitution (outside these few licensed facilities) is illegal is what creates health and safety problems. If someone sells you a defective car, you can sue to get a new car; but if an illegal brothel operator lies to a client about the health of one of the workers, you can’t get the law involved without incriminating yourself. Similar problems arise in the illegal drug trade, obviously.

I suppose that the Aussies in Queensland are to be applauded for partially legalizing prostitution; but of course they are only doing it because they found a way to make money from it. (Likewise, governments generate billions of dollars from lotteries, but would prosecute the exact same lottery system in the private sector as a “numbers racket.”) The unanswered question remains: why do certain activities carry so much moral baggage that only the government may participate?

Paranoia’s Amen Corner

Sometimes, you can gain amazing insight into a person’s whole mentality from merely a simple phrase, a snatch of conversation or a casual comment. A little crack in the curtain can allow you to peer through and shudder at the desolation that lies beyond.

I have had such an experience while perusing the website belonging to those purveyors of fine aluminium millinery antiwar.com. The thing that caught my eye was a headline which reads: “Latest US Menace to Okinawa: Falling Jet Parts”

For a moment I did a double-take. Was I reading that correctly? Yes, I was. I clicked on the link to find this prosaic bit of reportage concerning some bits which fell off a US military jet whilst it flew over Okinawa. This monstrous ‘war crime’ resulted in:

“…no injuries or damage and said the incidents posed no threat to the local community.”

Oh the inhumanity! Oh the oppression! How long can the poor Okinawans be expected to put up with being ‘menaced’ in this way? Weep, WEEP, for Okinawa!!

On the other hand, don’t bother. I may be no expert on aviation but even I know that bits periodically fall from all flying aircraft and I think it is safe to say that it is one of the less worrisome perils of modernity for most normal people. Not so the antiwarriors. No, for them it is a heinous act of US imperialist aggression. I suppose that it easy to do provided you have already settled in your own mind that the USA cannot but be wrongful (despite all the demonstrable evidence to the contrary).

Much of the thrust and complaint of the antiwarriors is directed at the extent to which traditional civil liberties in the USA have been traduced. In this, their complaint is meritorious and noble but I cannot help wondering if they are actually a part of the problem and not the solution. In order to win arguments about civil liberties (or anything else for that matter) the first requirement is to be taken seriously by serious people. But when your outlook is so jaundiced that you brazenly attempt to construe some minor workaday incident as murderous conspiracy then you can only be taken for a crank. Cranks do not help good causes; they pollute them by sheer dint of their crankiness.

Small wonder then that the antiwarriors are left to plough the lonely furrow of providing intellectual succour to vile thugocracies and tinpot demagogues. Like them, the antiwarriors have trapped themselves in a straightjacket of hate and crippled their own faculties with delusions of persecution.

News from the front lines of multiculturalism and relativism

Theodore Dalrymple, a prison doctor, has written a remarkable article in the Sunday Telegraph called A world where no one is to blame:

Replying to the suggestion that he and his brother were gangsters who terrified people, he said: “Gang culture is nothing like that. It’s just youths. A group of youths growing up on the estate.” The implication here is not only that no one has a right to criticise gang “culture”, because all cultures are equal and he had done only what every other person in his circumstances had done. Of personal responsibility, not so much as a squeak: he was Pavlov’s dog, responding not so much to a bell as to a Peckham housing estate.

I can only speculate why local people do not start simply banding together and applying polycentric law of their own to deal with such problems, given that the state has not only failed to apply its law but is in fact the root cause of the problem in the first place.