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]

Samizdata slogan of the day

The world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. The hand is the cutting edge of the mind.
– Jacob Bronowski

The Decline and Fall of John Gray

British academic John Gray, based at the London School of Economics, is well-known in Samizdata circles as the former ‘Thatcherite’ professor, author of interesting books about FA Hayek and John Stuart Mill who in the late 1980s turned sharply away from classical liberalism and embraced the doom-and-gloom agenda with the fervour of the convert. His depressing prose can be occasionally seen in such idiotarian enclaves as the New Statesman and the Guardian. OK, it’s a shame to lose a potentially good guy to the Forces of Lunacy, but such is life.

But even I did not realise that the chap has pretty much decided that the planet would be better off if we all dropped dead. Really. His pessimism has attained heroic proportions. Check out this superb piece of Fisking of the guy by leftist writer Helene Guldberg. It surely points to something pretty chilling about what some folk who use the Green banner really believe in.

Update: link and attribution now corrected

A warning from history

First, they came for the Haggis and I said nothing, because I did not eat Haggis
Then, they came for the Oysters, and I said nothing, because I did not eat Oysters
Then, they came for the Pheasant, and I said nothing, because I did not eat pheasant
Then, they came for the Venison, and I said nothing, because I did not eat Venison
And finally, they came for the Pate de Fois Gras, and there was nothing left worth eating!

An early medical alternative

On the Libertarian Alliance Forum there’s been a lively debate, among several, involving Chris Tame and (make that versus) Dale Amon, among several, on the rights and wrongs of alternative medicine, sparked by some vile Transnazi scheme involving the control of vitamins by the World Health Organisation or some such in a way that either protects or threatens the US vitamin industry – I couldn’t work out which in the time I had to spare for this.

I mention this argument because I spotted a fine soundbite in among it, which I think deserves wider circulation, from Kevin Carson:

In the 1830s handwashing was alternative medicine.

Perry doesn’t like us to end our postings with quotes, so I won’t and don’t, but to this gem I don’t want to add anything.

Deathly investing

Investment with a twist – invest in sin! Well, that is the sales pitch of a new breed of investment fund which deliberately chooses to wager money on sectors like tobacco or booze, according to a diverting article in the European edition of today’s Wall Street Journal (link requires registration). This makes a lot of sense. It seems to me that there must be a potentially big politically incorrect investor client base out there dying, so to speak, to invest in “naughty” areas of the economy. My favourite fund is called the Tombstone Fund, which claims to invest in the “death-care industry”.

Here’s a key paragraph:

According to Mutuals.com research, the five-year return for alcohol stocks that fit its criteria was nearly 63 percent, compared with 11.8 percent for the overall S&P 500 index through to June 30. For the same period, tobacco stocks were up 7.8 percent, gaming and casino stocks soared 116 percent and aerospace and defense stocks gained almost 25 percent.


A Happy Thought

Many people (including me) bitch about George W. Bush.

However, at least he is not in South Africa applauding the endless insults directed at the United States and supporting the demands for a world government to be set up to direct money from the “islands of wealth” to the poor of the planet.

This is exactly what Mr Gore would be doing.

Paul Marks

A thought on the firefighters’ pay demand…

David Harthill wants to know who, on the probable eve of a war with Iraq, is really ‘worth the money’. He has a thought on the firefighters’ pay demand…

…which, attempting to emulate the incomparable Scrofulous Steve, I thought might work better as an animated gif.

Current conditions:
A firefighter’s pay for an 18 year old starts at an annual £16,305, not including overtime at an hourly rate of £11.16. After 6 months this rises to annual £17,061 and £11.69 per hour respectively, and rises to a maximum of £21,648 / £14.82 after 15 years service without promotion.
[Source: FBU website]

By comparison, an infantry soldier’s pay starts at £12,578 and can rise
to a maximum of £15,290 without promotion. No overtime is available –
you work as hard and as long as you have to.
[Source: British Army website]

Has anyone visited the Fire Brigades Union website? They don’t mince words:

“…the Fire Brigades Union is part of the working-class movement, and, linking itself with the international trade union movement, has as its ultimate aim the bringing about of the Socialist system of society.”

David Harthill

Woe is Jo

Since curbing pollution seems to rank high among the aims of the delegates in Johannesburg they could start by dissolving back into their relatively harmless constituent parts and thereby avoid releasing into the atmosphere the several thousand tons of toxic gases that will result from the mixture of bureaucratic ambition, junk science and high-octane idiocy that is currently being manifested. Just let them mingle long enough to gobble down their ostrich canapes, give them their complimentary set of South African Airways in-flight cabin slippers and let them bugger off back to Absurdistan (or ‘Europe’ as its more commonly known) or wherever else it was they came from in the first place.

This Grand Conference for Solving All The Problems In The World should, on the fact of it, at least, prove to be a heaven-sent gift for bloggers. Over the next two weeks it will produce more Fiskable material than the Daily Wanker could produce in several lifespans.

Again, on the face of it, eye-watering, snot-inducing hilarity is just about all that will actually materialise from Johannesburg. The sheer scale of the ambitions leads me to believe that it is a project that almost seems destined to fail. However, since most people believe that the way to abolish poverty and all other problems is to gather together vast numbers of Well-Meaning People together in one big room to make grand pronouncements and write lots of impressive things on lots of bits of paper, there will be months of outrage, anguish, recriminations and accusations. Angry media pundits will turn their cynical (for the wrong reasons) indignation on caught-in-the-headlight politicians who will squirm off the hook by blaming their failure on those greedy Americans who ‘steal all the world’s resources’.

Sane people, however, will look around them and note that they still have their cars, washing machines, supermarkets and flushing toilets and breathe a sigh a relief that danger has passed.

That would be wrong.

Like all such conferences there is a primary public agenda and secondary real agenda. The real agenda is to be found among the brightest and best of Tranzi talent that is among the 65,000 or so delegates and for whom ‘Sustainable Development’ is a euphamism for a Global Economic Plan. These are the direct descendants of the people who once provided the intellectual tools for the Bolsheviks and, over the next two weeks, they will formulate their plans, cement their relationships, hammer out their various protocols and generally quicken each other. By the time the other delegates have applauded the final conference condemnation of US unilaterlism, the Tranzis will have welded together the skeleton of World Government.

At just about the same time as the rest of us are watching Baghdad light up like a Christmas Tree, various innocuous-sounding International Agreements will start materialising; this is the flesh on the bones. The process will continue step by stealthy step, away from the limelight and at a safe distance from anyone anywhere who might want to vote on any of it.

The first task in defeating an enemy is identifying the enemy and the second step is knowing how they operate. So warn your family, your friends and your neighbours and ring the village bell to warn the townsfolk. Tell them that the enemy is coming and be prepared to repel all borders.

Zen and the art of motorcycle survival

I do have a life. I know because I was holding on to it at 7.30am last Thursday while sliding down the tarmac unseated from my Monster bike by an act of altruism.

Well, altruism mixed with incompetence but it’s the motivation that counts. I was hit by a scooter who rammed into the back of me. Those who have seen a picture of my Ducati Monster Dark may ask why would a 900cc bike be worried about a scooter?! Well, this baby was a 400cc Piaggo weighing about 200kg (400lb)!

The cause of the collision was a cyclist who just spilled herself and her bags to the left of me and I, moved by an altruistic impulse, decided to stop. I checked the road to my left, started braking and as I was about 10 yards from the hapless cyclist, the earth moved closer and then disappeared. When I came to, there were three men peering into my face asking me whether I am OK. After I replied “No I am bloody not!”, two of them disappeared, leaving a rather peevish looking scooter rider behind to face my wrath.

The whole incident boils down to the fact that both of us were looking to help the cyclist. My brakes being far superior (the same as Formula 1) to the scooter’s caused the rider to miscalculate the braking distance. If one or both of us simply decided to ride past nothing would have happened. As it is I damaged my bike, my helmet and more importantly my knee. I have been out of action for several days and have suffered pain for no other reason than trying to do the right thing.

So here we are altruism does not pay and if I were rational, I should not repeat the same ‘mistake’ next time. However, I know if I face the same situation, I couldn’t live with myself, if I didn’t stop for a person who just had an accident. So am I irrational and therefore immoral? Balls!

I am not really interested in arguments such as that stopping to help someone is not really an act of altruism because one can do this in hope that others will stop for you when in need and belief that this needs to be generally encouraged. Or the anti-altruist classic that such an act makes me feel good (or not stopping causes negative feelings), and so my action wasn’t without self-interest. Why don’t I buy those arguments? Because it is harder to prove that an altruistic action is motivated by self-interest somewhere along the motivation chain than it is to disprove that a self-less act is just that.

I believe altruism is connected to free will. To say that all our actions are motivated by self-interest at some level smacks of determinism to me. If we are free to act, we should be able to act without the constraints of self-interest and be able to chose an act that may not bring us any direct benefit.

As things stands I hope my bike will get repaired and my knee will heal soon, so I can continue to make the world a happier place.

I love the taste of tarmac in the morning
it smells of…victory

Guns, the attack on home schooling, and the growth of the libertarian movement

It is a sad fact that one of the things that causes the libertarian movement to get stronger is other groups in society getting weaker.

Consider Britain’s gun owners. Until recently they were very content, using their guns to attack targets, animals, and even the occasional bad human being. Most of their intellectual effort went into discussing amongst themselves which guns were the best, how to hit targets even more accurately, how to make sure that the only other creatures they shot were creatures they were trying to shoot, and so forth.

Then suddenly the government (worse, almost the entire country) held the gunners responsible for a couple of gun massacres of good human beings and decided to take their guns away from them. Somebody had to take the blame, and the actual perpetrators were already dead.

Suddenly a sublimely apolitical group got politicised. Suddenly they found themselves trying to persuade others of the wisdom and rightness of them being allowed to go on using their guns, which you can’t do only by talking about the technicalities of guns, although God knows they tried that. They found, far too late, that they would have to learn about politics, and in particular about whatever political principles might allow them to keep on owning their guns, or failing that, might one day allow them to own guns again. Thus many persons who formerly cared only about guns, suddenly started to care about things like libertarianism also.

I believe that another group which is about to be policised are the home schoolers, and not just of Britain but of the entire Anglosphere. Everywhere you look, in Britain and in the USA certainly, and I’m sure everywhere else where “education otherwise” is still allowed, efforts are being made to end what appears to professional state educators as a strange and scandalous legal anomaly. → Continue reading: Guns, the attack on home schooling, and the growth of the libertarian movement

Samizdata slogan of the day

Hey you over in Johannesburg:

Iraq or the €uro

I’ve been unsure about this war in Iraq that hasn’t yet happened but which everyone says will, Real Soon Now. Am I a de Havillandite ‘Get In There And Liberate Everybody’ libertarian, or a Cato Institute/Rothbardian ‘Don’t Mess With Them And Then They Won’t Mess With Us’ libertarian? Both positions seem to me to have major merits.

But now here’s an argument that has really impinged upon the Micklethwait cranium. In yesterday’s Sunday Times (Aug 25 – no links but the thing summarises itself well), at the end of the leader article on Page 1.16 headed “It’s Iraq or the euro”, the ST says that Blair …

… could not unite the Labour party behind both a war and a referendum. He will have to choose between the two. Since there is no compelling reason for Britain to join the euro, it is clear where his priority should lie.

So go for it President George W. Drag Tony away from his hideous plan to turn Britain into a bunch of European provinces. Win the war, but give the British army things to do in it which are chaotic, embarrassing, trivial, ridiculous, which expose the sorry state of the kit they now have to make do with, but which, although daft, are nevertheless entirely safe. Don’t get them killed in any big numbers. That would be too solemn, not farcical enough, not silly enough. Keep them all alive, so that they can then come home and tell everyone what a twat Tony is, and make him unable to drag us into Europe, ever. I know you can do this.

This Europe business is horrible. The natural state of an intelligent Englishman is to be telling the world what it should be thinking and doing, with no thought for the mere narrow interests of England. These can be taken care of as the separate and smaller matter that they are. How else is the world to know what it should do, if not guided by intelligent Englishmen such as me? Yet now I find myself deciding the fate of the world entirely according to whether its plans will or will not suit England. Dreadful. Utterly, utterly dreadful.