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 formula for low taxes

I don’t know if this is a good way to find out about Formula One racing car racing, but this is blogland so there’s a link for you.

I’m now watching the TV re-run of the Monaco Grand Prix, which was held last Sunday and which David Coulthard won, I believe. And this has reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to say to the world for some time. Why can’t they have more racing car races in places like Monaco, which is an actual place, with hotels and houses and a sea-front with super-luxury yachts parked in it, and fewer racing car races in places like all the other places where they have racing car races, i.e. the racing car racing equivalent of out-of-town shopping centres?

I thought this was not going to be political, but as I blog the question I realised what the answer is, and it’s deeply political. In Monaco you are allowed to take your own risks. You are allowed to race a racing car at 200 mph within two yards of a concrete wall, if you’re good enough and if some insane millionaire or cigarette salesman will pay you. And you are allowed to stand just above the concrete wall in the direct line of fire of any bad driving that might occur and watch all this insanity. At most grand prix circuits you need a pair of binoculars to see what the hell’s happening, because before a racing car driver can stage a decent crash for you he has negotiate about a third of a mile of gravel and a giant wall of rubber tires.

It is no coincidence whatever that in Monaco they also allow you to keep most of your money. In most parts of the world they run your life, and tax you half to death to pay their wages. In Monaco you run your own life, almost entirely.

Two different things: low taxes and a fun racing car race track. Same underlying philosophy.


With less than 48 hours to go until the commencement of the Football (Soccer) World Cup, one could rightly expect the outbreak of a ‘footbal fever’ in England. And, indeed, there is a tingle of breathless anticipation in the air and a sweating of the palms at the prospect of our opening game against Sweden on Sunday.

We all recognise this. We’ve all been here before. But never, ever can I recall quite the level of overt patriotism that is clearly on display all over London. Driving to work this morning, I was waiting at a set of traffic lights behind a dozen or so other vehicles all of which were displaying either the Cross of St.George or the Union Jack boldy from their aeriels or emblazoned in their rear windows. Houses, shops, offices and restaurants are festooned with bunting and flags. Everywhere I look, there’s a flag.

I get the feeling that this is about more than football.

Samizdata slogan of the day

“If you aren’t a part of the solution, you’re part of Europe”

(Courtesy of Eristic)

Reflections on nudity

People occasionally ask me why I work as a journalist. Is it the thrill of interviewing British Chancellor Gordon Brown, covering aspects of the Enron disaster or implications of September 11th?

Well I guess the answer would be yes to all of the above. But, gentle readers, it is stories like this one that really make working for Reuters so rewarding. It is libertarian, in a not terribly intellectual kind of way. Enjoy.

A toast to the ‘anti-democratic’ and pleasingly powerless Monarchy

democratic adj. 1 of, like, practicing, advocating, or constituting democracy or a democracy. 2 favouring social equality.

Brendan O’Neill is a republican in the British sense of the word, which is to say he wants to abolish Britain’s figurehead monarchy. He wants to do this because it is ‘anti-democratic’. Of course when a Marxist says ‘democratic’ it is useful to actually ponder the meaning of the word and how it is being used. After all, communist East Germany was the ‘People’s German Democratic Republic’… and Brendan is both a self described republican and in favour of democracy, so clearly one must not just assume that when the D word gets bandied about we all mean the same thing.

Or do we?

When I use the term democratic, it is generally in a negative pejorative sense. To me it means my neighbours voting themselves some of my money, in effect mugging me by proxy when the state taxes me for their perceived benefit. To me ‘democratic’ means allowing my neighbour a say in how I build my house and how I raise my children and what chemicals get put in my food and water regardless of what I want. Democracy is at its core about denying the concept of ownership, even of your own body, because other people get to use the violence of the state via their ballots to reduce my actual ownership. When the state intermediates itself, it negates society, because state and society are two completely different things. The morality of several ownership, even of yourself, gets superceded by the force based political state.

So when I hear people like Brendan say something is ‘anti-democratic’ I usually assume that whatever they are referring to is actually a good thing. The US Constitution for example is quite anti-democratic because it severely constrains (in theory at least) the ability of people to vote for laws that would abridge liberties (such as freedom of speech or the right to own the means to defend yourself)… so things that act as a check on that violence backed tyranny of the majority called ‘democracy’ are generally a splendid idea. For me, voluntary social interaction is the source of legitimacy, not the sanctification of the ballot box and the violent intermediation that springs from it.

Yes, I suspect Brendan and I do indeed mean the same thing when we use the term ‘democratic’, I just happen to regard it as the means by which a vast engine of criminality powers itself whereas Brendan sees it as the key to an egalitatian Utopia at gunpoint.

So whilst I must confess to being infused with the widespread indifference to the monarchy Brendan mentions, the fact is the Queen steals a great deal less of my money and poses a far lesser threat to my liberty than the democratically elected thugs in Downing Street, so I for one am happy to use the Jubilee as an excuse to hoist a few drinks to toast the health of ‘Her Majesty’, who reigns without ruling, something I am unlikely to ever do to the Capo di tutti Capi, the Prime Minister, who rules without reigning.

Ancestral star?

I can assure Tony Millard (see below) that mine shines through pure and strong throughout the ages having started its life on the wrong side of a Habsburg bed…

As to being led by one’s ancestral star, I see the task more like building my own constellation…

Cogitation, pirates and momentum

Tony Millard cogitates about ancestry and its influence on the modern man…sort of

Another major busy farmer day yesterday – among other events there was a return of the well excavator, which has been away for a month, in pasta-sphere time, for some minor surgery. I thus had some quality “digger time” yesterday afternoon which is as good a substitute as can be found for the 7.05am Haslemere-Waterloo express, upon which I used to do most of my cogitation (45 mins each way per day) before moving to easier-on-the-eyes Northern Tuscany.

It struck me as to the appositeness (or otherwise) of our antecedents. For instance, many moons ago I used to be a broker at Lloyd’s – a job something akin to a pirate on the Spanish Main. Well blow me over with a wafting feather, if I didn’t discover after a while that a couple of my fellow-travellers around the floor of Lloyd’s sported the names Kidd and Morgan, and yes, they were both direct descendants of the eponymous pirates. Genetic programming or pure coincidence? Or just a couple of boys having some fun at the expense of their ancestors? Who knows… Perhaps we should ask Adriana Cronin or Perry de Havilland, if they are led by the ancestral star. Me, well, I’ve been traced back to a family of itinerant and impoverished flour millers of 17th century Britain. QED. Anyone else sporting an interesting past?

Tony Millard, Tuscany, Italy

Quote hunt – help wanted

In my capacity as the Supreme Pamphleteer of the Libertarian Alliance I am assembling the next Stuffed Envelope operation, consisting of, you know, publications. Arising out of this exercise in twentieth century nostalgia, and for reasons I can’t be bothered to explain, I find myself searching, at present in vain, for the exact chapter and page number of the following quote, probably from The Fellowship of the Ring, and probably from Chapter 2 (“The Council of Elrond”), said, I’m told, by Gandalf (good) about Sauron (bad):

“That we should wish to cast him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs to his mind.”

A magnum of warm virtuous feelings for the first person to tell me the answer and put me out of my editorial misery.

Update: [Editor: Ah, the power of the blogosphere…Thanks for the help, the information is now safely lodged in Brian’s head]

Preach water, drink wine!

I don’t know why I still bother noting the various examples of the fact that governments are inherently inefficient. I suppose because this one, as government cock-ups (and accounting errors) go, is a whopper. The US Treasury has admitted that is has ‘lost’ $17.3 billion (£11.7 billion) because of shoddy book-keeping – enough to buy a fleet of eight B-2 stealth bombers and still have change for jet fuel, as Chris Ayres of The Times calculates in his article.

The misplaced cash is nearly 30 times greater than the $600 million error in Enron’s reported profits that led to its spectacular bankruptcy last December. The admission, contained in the 2001 Financial Report of the United States Government, is likely to infuriate firms that have been targeted by the Bush Administration for sloppy accounting. I wonder if the anti-capitalist activists screaming about Enron’s malfeasance will be sceaming 30 times louder about this?

To top it up, Paul O’Neill, the US Treasury Secretary, writes in the introduction to the Financial Report:

“I believe that the American people deserve the highest standards of accountability and professionalism from their Government and I will not rest until we achieve them.”

However, on page 110 of the Financial Report is a note that explains that the Treasury’s books did not balance because of a missing $17.3 billion. So no holidays for you then…? Oh, well, it’s not like it’s your money, is it?

How the mighty are fallen

Well, it seems hapless former UK transport minister and all-round-twit Stephen Byers learned the hard way of why the once-magnificent British railway system was to prove his downfall. As they say, it could not have happened to a nicer guy.

Meanwhile, Patrick Crozier, at his excellent UK Transport blog, confesses to being totally surprised at the resignation of Byers. I confess to feeling the same way. But of course I am not kidding myself that anything will change in the quality of our transport network as a result of Byers’ departure. The trains will still be late and dirty, the Tube (underground subway) will still be noisy, late and hot; our roads will be jammed, and the cost of motoring will still be extortionate.

Britain is a member of the Group of Seven industrial nations and yet we have an increasingly third world transportation system.

Samizdata slogan of the day

No, they cannot touch me for coining. I am the King himself.
-King Lear (King Lear – Act IV Scene 6)

Samizdata slogan of the day

Freedom works. You know that from your own life. Give it a chance to work for everyone else as well.
-Charles Murray in What It Means To Be A Libertarian