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]

Slipping the surly bonds…

Next month just might be the month it finally happens: a non-government rocket may finally cross the boundary into space. Ky Michaelson’s Civilian Space eXploration Team (CSXT) has got the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed with the bureaucrats and are now ready for the easy part: sending their rocket up to 62 miles from a Nevada test range. The officially defined altitude at which space begins is 50 miles.

I wish them luck and godspeed.

The regulation business

While Daniel Antal‘s poor farmers and street traders demonstrate for free trade and deregulation, here is a British business perspective on government regulation, from the letters page of yesterday’s (August 29 2002) Times:

Sir, The UK Government places a strong incentive on industry to monitor the amount of packaging it produces, by means of the Packaging Waste Regulations. Under these regulations, everyone from the producers of the packaging to those who sell it (for example, the supermarkets) has to pay a levy for each piece of packaging handled.

These regulations can be quite complex, and many members use compliance schemes to help them to meet their obligations. Valpak is the UK’s largest compliance scheme, with over 3,200 members from throughout industry. Our philosophy is not only to ensure that our members achieve compliance, but also to ensure that the money generated by meeting the obligations is used in a responsible manner, to aid and encourage recycling.

All of us, both industry and consumers, can help to increase recycling and reduce the amount of packaging produced in the UK.

Yours faithfully,
J. Cox
(Chief Executive Officer),
Valpak Ltd,
Stratford Business Park,
Banbury Road,
Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 7GW
August 23.

I’m sure we’d agree that recycling is a fine thing, if anyone can make of it a profitable business that doesn’t depend on anyone being compelled to do it. Millions in the third world do scratch a living from genuine recycling, although no doubt there are all kinds of Transnazi plans afoot to forbid such activities, based on the notion that the way to get rid of poverty is to make it illegal.

But Valpak is just the expansion of the public sector, done slightly differently to the way we’ve been used to. They’re civil servants tricked out as businessmen. Try to imagine what Mr Cox thinks about deregulation.

We cannot rely on capitalists to defend capitalism (sprinkle inverted commas to taste).

A comment on earth summit

Daniel Antal, who is a Strategic Economic Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs and Transport in Hungary, has spotted a fascinating article about some very different protesters in Johannesburg.

It has been a while since I posted comments to Samizdata. I would just like to draw readers attention to a very interesting Reuters articles.

At the Johannesburg Earth summit, besides to usual white middle class college dropouts typically supporting ‘good causes’ against globalization, libertarian policies and effective corporations, some poor third world farmers and street traders have been demonstrating for Free Trade.

The trade debate spilled onto the streets outside the tightly guarded conference center in the wealthy suburb of Sandton, where 200 poor farmers and local street traders from nearby shanty townships shouted slogans demanding freer trade.

“We want the freedom to grow what we want, when we want, with what technology we want, and without trade-distorting subsidies or tariffs,” said Barun Mitra, an Indian farm activist leading about 30 farmers from his country.

Quite so!

Daniel Antal, Hungary

Curmudgeon of Honour?

Let us hypothesize a fictional British man of letters in the aftermath of a terrible war, circa 1946. Imagine if you will that he is a socialist, as many in his time were, and a playwright of some renown. So interesting are his plays that even establishment newspapers on the ‘right’ take him seriously, fondly calling him a Curmudgeon of Honour.

However, let us also imagine that as the full horrors of Nazi atrocities come to light in post war Europe, our imaginary left wing playwright loudly declares that former leading member of the German National Socialist Party and head of the Luftwaffe Herman Göring should not be on trial for war crimes in Nuremberg. In fact, he goes so far as to sign a petition along with like-minded socialists to Free Herman Göring.

Now I wonder if the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian would still regard him as just another leading playwright, given his apologia for a mass murdering ethnic cleansing Nazi? Surely that would be enough for the great and good of the establishment to put him beyond the pale.

I guess not.

European Copyright Directive

Want to see just how ghastly the European Copyright Directive is? Well look at this Stand article and then tell me why the EU is a good thing.


A ‘Civil Interventionism’ Directory

Whilst cruising Brian Linse’s Directory of ‘left wing’ blogs, I was trying to make sense of who was listed and why.

There are the blogs of the fuzzy and cuddly ‘soft left’ such as Brian’s own Ain’t no bad dude, ranging all the way to Chomsky adoring pro-totalitarians like Blowback: two blogs seemingly as far apart as robustly anti-left Cold Fury and the joyfully idiotarian WarBloggerWatch. But there are also hard to classify blogs like AirstripOne. When ‘Emmanuel Goldstein’ of AirstripOne writes things like…

That being said, Britain has no business opening up its markets just because it will help Third World countries. The argument for free trade must come from British interests.

…it should be clear that Emmanuel’s views owe more to Burke than Marx. This is pure old paleo-conservative Tory values: free trade may be allowed as an expedient if it is conducive to ‘national’ ends but it is certainly not carried out by right between free individuals. So does AirStripOne belong in a ‘leftist’ directory?

Yes actually. And so do links to Pat Buchannan or Ross Perot, because Brian’s ‘leftist’ directory is not really a ‘leftists’ directory at all, but rather a ‘Civil Interventionists Directory’ (i.e. the opposite of a ‘Civil Libertarians Directory’) because that is the only common thread between this disparate listing. What all these folks share is the belief that it is okay for a violence backed state to forcibly intermediate itself into private people’s lives, not just in emergencies but within the context of normal civil society, in order to change how they may choose to live.

Samizdata slogan of the day

They preach that if you see a man flogging a woman to death you must not hit him.
– G. K. Chesterton, writing about pacifists

Mark ?? is Marc Morano

Katherine Senzee emails to ask if Mark Something, of somethingnews.com, who did so well on Newsnight, might perhaps be Marc Morano (scroll down until you find him – he’s there) of CNSNews.com.

That’s got to be the guy. Thank you Katherine.

Next question: Who is Katherine Senzee?

Home schooling

Russ Lemley sees trouble ahead regarding California’s attack on home schoolers

I share Brian’s sense of unease about the reasons about why the Libertarian movement may pick up steam. It’s because the state has decided to harangue certain people who just don’t see the reason why they’re being bothered. It upsets their lives, causing a great deal of grief and consternation about what to do next. To avoid possible punishment, some parents may decide to send their kids to public schools, albeit not because they think it’s the right thing to do.

The general reaction to the Education Department’s ‘guidance’ in California has been one of derision. Private (especially Catholic) schools don’t require teachers to have a credential, and their students simply perform better. My wife went through the accreditation process. I attended a couple of classes with her, and they were a joke. They were basically PC bullshit sessions that had nothing to do with how to be a good teacher.

I am hoping that many home-schooling parents will simply ignore the Education Department’s ‘guidance’ and continue to keep their kids where they are. Still, all you need is one idiotic bureaucrat to ‘enforce’ this crap. When that happens, though, I’m not sure how home-schoolers will react. It could get ugly, in a non-violent sort of way. There’s been a movement among Christians, mostly, to pull their kids out of public schools because of their concerns about the moral environment. If the state decided to clamp down on home schooling, they could be in for a nasty surprise.

Will this help build support for the Libertarian cause? Maybe. But I sure don’t feel happy about it.

Russ Lemley, Torrance, California

Samizdata slogan of the day

It is terrible to contemplete how few politicians are hanged.
– G. K. Chesterton

The consistent pessimism of John Gray

…The time to worry would be if he stopped attacking us.

John Gray used to defend freedom and free markets; now he denounces all such stuff. He used to be one of us, but now he isn’t. How come? Have we changed our minds? Has he? Is the fellow some sort of traitor?

There is nothing inconsistent or treacherous about John Gray. He was never more than a useful ally of the libertarian movement. He hasn’t changed the way he thinks. He hasn’t, in Tom Burroughes‘ words, “declined and fallen”. Nor have we. It is the times that have changed. These now place John Gray in opposition to us rather than in alliance with us.

The circumstance which enabled me to start seriously understanding what goes on inside John Gray’s head occurred about fifteen years ago.

Remember the AIDS scare of the mid-to-late eighties. Remember when we all made lists of our bed companions, and when they all did, and we thereby constructed vast but, as it later mostly turned out (provided that you were a non-drug-abusing heterosexual), entirely imaginary networks of deadly contagion. Remember when millions were going to die, and everyone and his lover besieged the Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinics demanding to be tested. Remember when AIDS was trumpetted to the world as an equal opportunities killer. Of course you do, even if, like me, you could not now put an exact date to that terrible moment of apparent doom.

Well, I happened to meet up with John Gray, with whom I was then acquainted, just when this moment was at its most scary. He it was who conveyed to me the full horrors of the sexually transmitted doom that supposedly then awaited us. He had just come back from America, he told me. And in America, he told me, they were predicting deaths by the million. Something like, if I remember his figure rightly, twenty per cent of the American population were going to die hideously, and there was nothing, absolutely nothing, they could do about it.

There wasn’t much talk of the strength of the evidence for all this, merely the assertion that it was definitely so.

And he loved it. He wallowed in it. Just when the world was ceasing to make sense to the rest of us, it was making perfect, wonderful, glorious sense to him. Disaster is just around the corner! Yes!!!!

Now what’s going on here? The simple answer is that John Gray is, as Tom Burroughes says, a pessimist. But he is a consistent pessimist. He has always been a pessimist. He always will be a pessimist, until the moment he dies – another moment which will also make perfect sense to him. He never has and he never will betray the camp of pessimism. His coat will always be deepest black, and he will never turn it. He can be depended upon to see disaster around every corner.

Disaster, in John Gray’s world, is the result of optimism and enthusiasm, of “constructivist rationalism”, as Hayek put it, of some formula which lots of people are getting excited and happy about. All such formulae, for John Gray, will inevitably end in tears.

I don’t know why John Gray is such a pessimist. Perhaps when very young he had his one episode of manic, insane happiness and optimism, and he ran joyously around his Welsh house shouting hosannas. The world was a happy place. He had just proved it, just read a book about it. It was progressing. Every day, in every way, it was getting better and better. Hallelujah!! And then just as the graph of his joy was reaching idiotic heights, his gloomy Welsh uncle dropped by with the news that his favourite Welsh aunt – who was in fact his favourite human being in the entire world ever and who had only that morning been telling little John that the world wasn’t all misery but in fact a happy smiling place full of joy and love and good home cooking and nice clean houses with indoor plumbing such as there didn’t use to be in the bad old days – had just been killed horribly in a car smash

→ Continue reading: The consistent pessimism of John Gray

Thoughts while listening to Newsnight – “principled stands” not being taken

I’ve had BBC2 TV’s Newsnight on while doing other things, and two little overhearings reached out and grabbed my attention.

First, someone called, I think, Mark something, of, I think they said, csn.com (but it can’t have been that because csn.com doesn’t seem to exist), talked from Johannesburg about how George Bush should have gone to this Earth Summit beano and taken, quote, “a principled stand in favour of free market capitalism”, unquote. You don’t usually hear language like that on the BBC, which I suppose is the fault of people like me for not contriving to be on it enough. Most “principled stands” over here are for things that are bad. Mark Something is, inevitably, an American, and his point was that George W, by remaining silent about, e.g. his real opinion of “global warming”, he leaves it wide open for a successor US administration to cave in to the Transnazis. Quite right.

And the other soundbite that got my attention was from Home Secretary Jack Straw, saying in very grand looking clothes in the middle of a very grand looking speech that the European Union now “creates the impression that power is draining away from” … and then it was either Westminster or national parliaments generally, I didn’t catch which.

“Creates the impression.” I love that.

Everywhere else in Europe they know that power is draining away from national parliaments, and those who favour this, as the majority of people who matter do, say so. They know it’s happening and they’re for it. Only Britain’s pitifully mendacious European Unionists still bash away with their ever more obviously lying lie that Europe is fine because it isn’t going to change anything. We’re just going to, you know, huddle together a little.

In the long run, it could cost them the entire argument. Britain is half-joined to the EU already, and this is already having huge consequences which Britain’s Parliament can do nothing about unless it is willing to contemplate non-membership. Yet at no point in the last five decades have any big arguments in favour of what is actually happening actually been put to us, because the pro-EU line was and still is that this stuff never would happen and is still not happening.

Which means that the British people might, any decade now, decide to get out of the thing. Except that: our anti-EU politicians are no better. They don’t say what they think either.

No “principled stands” can be heard from either side.