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]

Economists behaving oddly

Well, it seems to have been a slow day here on Samizdata. Me, I’ve been putting up CD shelves and then preparing for one of my Friday evenings, so I’ve not had much time to samizdatise. But I now have time to get a link to this up before midnight, this being a strange sort of variable diagram where a bunch of cartoon economists watch what happens. That’s a bad explanation I realise. When this diagram gets taken down and historians of this blog wonder what I was talking about, they’ll just have to carry on wondering.

I don’t know what it signifies, but I find it oddly entertaining. Perhaps it refers to the tendency of economists to be rather too attentive towards merely numerical data, and to neglect more important but less measurable phenomena. So, not Austrian economists then.

My thanks to the deeply strange people at B3TA for the link to this.

Communist theme park

Well, if you have a lefty friend who you think should be taken to sample what life under socialism is really like, then this “tourist attraction” in former East Germany is just the ticket.

Who said the Germans don’t have a sense of humour?

Bruce Willis wants Saddam’s ass

Samizdata has in the past said some uncomplimentary things here and here about Hollywood actor and Republican Party supporter Bruce Willis, so maybe he is trying to redeem himself by laying into the various celebrities who have been opposing the case for war these last few weeks. It turns out that Willis volunteered to serve in the military, but was turned down due to his age.

There is a particularly good, but rude quote from his first Die Hard movie that springs to mind when I imagine what the white-vested Willis would say if he ever met the moustached villain of Iraq. Movie-goers will know the expression I mean. (Heh-heh).

On a totally different note about movies, I wonder how many readers have seen the Roman Polanski film, The Pianist? I saw it the other evening and although a harrowing film, contained some beautifully poignant moments as well. The terrible plight of Poland’s Jews is all too stark a reminder of the cost of appeasing evil. And the lessons of that time for our own are equally only too apparent. I urge those who haven’t to see this film.

Samizdata slogan of the day

I don’t fault Dan Rather for going to Baghdad. If someone had interviewed Hitler in ‘39 for three hours, we’d prize the tapes as an invaluable historical document.
– James Lileks from his Bleat this morning

They don’t make Germans like they used to

I ran across this great quote from the Cold War generation:

“An infallible method of conciliating a tiger is to allow oneself to be devoured.” – Konrad Adenauer

Pride goeth…

When I was ten years old, I was informed that:

  1. The National Health Service is the finest in the World
  2. The Comprehensive School system was the envy of the World
  3. The Welfare State was the envy of the World
  4. The Royal Navy was the finest in the World
  5. The British Army was the finest in the World

When I was twenty, some British politicians still asserted each of these statements, although none seemed to believe all of them anymore. There seemed to be an equal number of politicians claiming that each of these thing was ‘a National disgrace’, which given this was the public sector, was no doubt true.

The elite forces of the British Army are no doubt excellent. Some bits of British military design are excellent. But this does not mean that the British armed forces are fit for combat. In May 1940 the French Army had as many tanks as the Germans. The French Air Force in aerial battle shot down more German planes than the Germans did of theirs. The French tanks were certainly good enough for use by the Germans in other parts of Europe… but even good equipment can be misused, and the finest army in the world can be run into the ground by bad management.

Since 1991, the British Army has recruited according to the whims of political correctness. The rifle only works if assembled in a tent and cleaned before and after each use. The boots melt in the Middle East. The troops have not enough sleeping bags, clothes, soap, tents or fuel for their vehicles. Their communications equipment does not work, last time they saw action in Europe they were able to use their mobile phones, this time these are unlikely to work. The new British tank breaks down. The British Army version of the Apache apears to be less reliable than the version used by the US in 1991. There is not enough ammunition for any of the weapons. There is no medical service worth talking about to save money and because of staff shortages: casualties will queue and die on trolleys in the National Health Service if they are unfortunate enough to be flown home. Obviously the best scenario for a British wounded soldier is to be picked up and treated by one of the other allies (except perhaps Turkey). This may sound like the Crimea in 1854-56. On that occasion the Times decribed the British Army as it left as ‘the finest army that has ever left these shores’. Less than ten per cent of the British casualties of the Crimean War came from combat.

It may be that the US is capable of defeating Iraq rapidly and without considerable losses. But the British Army is not properly equipped, the logistics are very poor and the medical facilities inadequate. I would rather air these points now, than wait for a report from a modern Scutari.

Samizdata slogan of the day

Everyone is reactionary about subjects he understands.
Robert Conquest, quoted in the Guardian, and then quoted again in The Week

The British government declares war on Britain

Martin Taylor works within the British legal system. He is deeply troubled by the latest round of anti-money laundering laws.

During the course of this past month the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has come into force. This is the legislative instrument which has introduced US-style asset forfeiture into UK law. But the Act goes much further than that. It also consolidates and widens the existing anti-money laundering laws and places a quite terrifying onus on those who are charged with enforcing them.

Prior to this Act the UK already had an anti-money laundering regime in place. It was aimed at the proceeds of drug trafficking and potential terrorist funding. The regime established a ‘regulated sector’ which consists of people such as bankers, accountants, lawyers, financial advisers, stockbrokers and anybody else who is broadly engaged in the business of money management.

The laws imposed an obligation on professionals working in that sector to establish and maintain procedures for obtaining and then keeping personal and business information about their own clients so that this could be used to assess whether or not, at any later time, there are unusual or unexpected patterns of spending or behaviour which may indicate money-laundering activity.

But that is not all, for it is professional advisers who are required to police their own clients. If the professional adviser suspects, for any reason, that his or client may be engaging in money-laundering then he or she is required their client and the circumstances of the transaction in question to a special police agency. Once a report has been made the professional adviser can take no further action on behalf of the client until they have been given express permission to do so by the police.

Penalties for non-compliance can be severe. In the case of non-disclosure of a suspicion of money-laundering, the maximum penalty is 14 years in prison. → Continue reading: The British government declares war on Britain

“Anyone can do it!”

I followed Instapundit to this:

America’s oldest institution of higher learning has hopped on the Internet’s hottest new trend, hiring software developer Dave Winer to help get students and faculty blogging.

Harvard University has given the former software executive a fellowship at its Berkman Centre for the Internet and Society, part of Harvard Law School, in order to head up the new Blogs at Harvard Initiative. Winer, who studied math at Tulane University before collecting his master’s degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin, will instruct Harvard students and faculty in the art of posting daily dispatches to the Web.

→ Continue reading: “Anyone can do it!”

The Last Trumpet

I recall a conversation I had a couple of years ago with another British libertarian who argued that ‘pundits are the new priests’; they deliver ‘sermons’ from their TV or radio pulpits and minister to a befuddled public about the mysterious ways of our secular lords.

Although I can see the argument, I don’t entirely agree. However, the very fact that this kind of argument can be plausibly advanced at all is because we are all aware of the decline of the ‘old’ priests; a phenomenon which gets little attention but is highlighted by leaders like this in the Telegraph:

“But the Church has many good things to offer and it needs to start marketing them more successfully. Church buildings are testament to the triumph of Christianity. Soaring roofs, intricate stonework and stained glass windows echo a pride in Christianity that the 21st-century Church seems embarrassed to admit to. There’s a feeling that to modernise means stripping out pews, replacing organs with electric pianos, divesting priests of their robes and ignoring altars for Communion. But young people need someone to respect and admire. Today’s celebrity culture demonstrates that. If the Church, in its physical, as well as spiritual nature, is not the demonstration of the ultimate aspiration, what is?”

The leader quoted above is, in fact, an open letter from a twenty-something British Christian woman to the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. It is a plea to the Church to arrest its slide into irrelevence and provide some meaningful spiritual guidance to Britain’s Christians.

Despite not being a member of the Church, I can wholly understand her desperation because I can also see that it has gone quite disastrously off of the rails. The absurd and frantic mission to ‘modernise’ has resulted in just about every senior member of the clergy tripping over each other in the headlong rush to embrace every manifestation of fashionable claptrap from global warming to grievance politics. → Continue reading: The Last Trumpet

The War Against Terror – how Conservative fortunes could finally be changing

On the face of it the Conservative Party just now is having a terrible time, with the very telegenic Michael Portillo making life an utter misery for the deeply untelegenic Iain Duncan Smith. But something big is happening in the world which could see off the Labour Party for the next little slice of British history, and bring the Conservatives right back into contention.

The voters in Britain infuriate me. I like the people, by and large. Salt of the earth, most of them. But when they get around to voting, they have profoundly different priorities to me, or to anyone with a serious interest in politics.

Basically Britain’s voters would sooner vote for a party which is united in agreeing to do the wrong thing, than a party which is divided about just how enthusiastically it should resist that (or some other) wrong thing, or do any right thing. Division is all. Unity is all. They vote against the former and for the latter, regardless of what is being agreed or disagreed about. I loath and despise this, as I say, but that is how it is.

Well, for the last fifteen years, ever since the Cold War fizzled out, the Big Thing in British politics has been Europe.

Labour is a tiny bit disunited about it. Most Labourites love it that Europe gives them as much socialism as the real world is ever going to give them, in the form of a ocean of capitalism-hobbling regulations and interferences. A few Labourites aren’t satisfied only with that much socialism and would prefer more and on that basis they complain about Europe.

But such bickerings are nothing compared to the giant axe that Europe slammed into the very torso of the Conservative Party. Conservatives have been at each others’ throats about Europe for, as I say, the last decade and a half. It did for Thatcher. It did for Major. It did for the lot of them.

But now, post 9/11, the issue is no longer Europe. The issue is, to put it bluntly: the USA. Well, not the USA as such, merely its policy of choosing actively to prosecute the War Against Terror (i.e. against terrorists) rather than just hoping that terrorism and terrorists will go away. President Bush has decided to hunt them varmints until there ain’t none left, and what’s more to hunt down the no-good preachers who are stirring them all up, and if Europe don’t like it, too bad for Europe. As Bush said – in one of those scary speeches he made soon after 9/11, which sophisticated Europeans ignored as the gaseous emissions of a politician seeking mere poll numbers and re-election, but which Bush himself actually, it is now turning out, meant – either you’re with us or you’re agin’ us. That is now the Big Question.

And it so happens that the Conservatives are united in being with George Bush, less a few freakish europhiliac grumblers, while Labour is catastrophically divided about the War Against Terror (in the form that the Americans are now choosing to fight it), as today’s dramas in the House of Commons have now made very clear.

If it is true, as I found myself saying last week, that this War Against Terror thing is not just going to be an episode, but maybe something more like an era, then to that exact degree the news is now a lot better for the Conservatives.

My Kind of March

On Sunday (2nd March) a demonstration will be held in Paris outside the U.S. embassy. The assembly point will be the place de la Concorde. The rally has an English name: “Friends and Freedom”, which in itself is unique.

It aims to promote: “Friendship and confidence between the French and American peoples” and “Friendship and solidarity between France and the United States of America”. The slogans are French. More details can be found here.

Among French libertarians there is the same division as in the US, with minarchists tending to support a war of liberation and both the anarcho-capitalists and the conservatives against. The Catholic liberals (almost the exact opposite of the socialist ‘liberal Catholics’) are opposed to war both for the damage it could cause (some French people remember the ‘collateral damage’ of Caen in 1944), and the fear that a successor government might be less religiously tolerant than Saddam. An example of this view can be found here.

I regard the different cases being forward (in public by Messrs Bush and Blair) for war with Iraq as poor because they are either wrong (the Iraqi dictator probably has fewer ‘weapons of mass destruction’ than either Kim Jong Il or General Musharraf) or contradictory (is Saddam an ally of Bin Laden Yes or No?). Tyranncide is good enough and UNESCO can go and get stuffed.

I also consider the British forces almost entirely incapable of offering any worthwhile help to the Americans for reasons I’ve mentioned here before. Lend-Lease the air tankers and the SAS to the US and that’s all. ‘The Borrowers’ are probably going to get in the way of a US air strike or hold up the advance when the British made tanks break down in “the wrong kind of sand”.

Despite these misgivings, I would certainly go to the place de la Concorde this Sunday if I could afford the fare. The nasty game being played by French and German political leaders is as much a threat to world peace and the prosperity of this corner of the planet as any gang of terrorists.