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]

France is under attack!!

They weren’t able to save the Taliban, they won’t be able to save Saddam Hussein but, by gum, they’re going to dig their heels in and fight to the last drop of precious blood to save the French film industry:

“French directors and intellectuals say American films are producing a generation of “stupid children” in the country.”

And, to compound matters, they’re now running the place.

“I go very often to schools, and I have found a lot of young kids have difficulties in analysing a concept, an idea, in a film.”

Maybe that’s true but Hollywood would not be my prime suspect here.

“If we look at what the United States is exporting to the world that is creative, it has to do with computer, it has to do with software, it has to do with other kinds of technology – not the ideas.”

Well, you don’t need boring old ideas when you’re inventing new technologies and software and things, do you.

“But Phillipe Rogier, author of L’Enemie Americain, said the French were not willingly accepting the increase in American culture in their society.”

Except for French kids apparently, who can’t get enough of it.

“The French would not call it a culture – it is a non-culture, a non-civilisation, just a way of life,” Rogier contends.”

A merest, meanest existance. A hollow, empty sham. A pointless, soulless skimming over a vast ocean of nothingness. So primitif, so barbare, so SIMPLISME!!!.

“This has been central to French attitudes towards America.”

No kidding!!

“Ultimately, Tavernier insists, the films are the first step of an American takeover of France.”

What’s the second step and when it is scheduled for?

“They always understood that the first way to occupy a country was to impose their films.”

Oh damn!! Somebody call the Pentagon, quick. They’ve gone and spent all these squintillions of dollars on Cruise Missiles and Aircraft Carriers when they could occupy Iraq by just sending in Martin Scorsese.

Note: The linked article on the BBC website is not satirical.

Entrepreneurial relief for migraine sufferers

I missed this story last week, and so, I’m guessing, did most of you.

A bricklayer plagued by migraines has turned his torment into a brainwave.

Hywel Edwards, 28, from Merthyr Tydfil in the south Wales Valleys, has invented a cap which allows a migraine sufferer to block out the light as well as surround their head with a cold press.

And the idea – thought up after two days’ agony when tablets and lying in a darkened room was not working – is set be a business winner.

The interesting thing about this invention is that Mr Edwards didn’t need any specialised scientific knowledge to think of it, and make it work. He just needed to know what already worked for him, but in a much less user friendly form. He knew that he needed cold applied to his head, and that he wanted the light to his eyes blocked out. It wasn’t rocket science. He just made it work.

Good for him. I hope Mr Edwards gets rich, and gives lots of others the idea that they too could strike it rich, simply by applying common sense and by applying, well, application.

An honourable fight

A casual reader might think we at Samizdata are one-sided in Israel’s favour. Not at all. We’re for Israeli’s and Palestinians to sort out their differences one way or the other. We are for the continued existence of a democracy (Israel) and the creation of a new liberal democracy (Palestine).

There are even times when I side unreservedly with Palestinians. The quote taken from this item:

“People in one of the homes targeted for demolition threw hand grenades and fired shots at approaching Israeli soldiers — marking the first time a demolition was met by serious resistance. The seven adults in the house surrendered after a four-hour standoff and troops blew up the building.”

rather strikes a chord with me. I imagine the same will be true of almost any libertarian. It is simply a given the people in the house were in the right in their use violent force in defense of their home.

There was another incident within the last few weeks where Palestinians blew up an Israeli tank. Whichever side you are on, you clearly cannot call blowing up a tank a terrorist act. I can’t even imagine a circumstance in which blowing up a tank could be so construed. When I hear some one say such a thing, in my mind’s eye I see a big flashing red sign over their head, blinking “PROPAGANDA ALERT! PROPAGANDA ALERT!”. I would say the same even if it were an American M1. While I would much prefer our guys got their guys first, I am not going to resort to name callling when the other side happens to get their licks in first.

On the other hand… there is no excuse, ever, for whatever reason, of walking into a nightclub, bus, train station or student union filled with nothing non-combatants going about their normal day to day lives… and blowing yourself up. THAT is a crime against humanity. The fellows who fail to kill themselves should be hung, drawn and quartered, in whatever order experts declare to be the optimally painful one.

But back to the Defenders Of Property. They have my whole-hearted support in any such action. Death to the Bulldozers!

We’re keeping our Marbles

I don’t suppose that anybody outside Britain or Greece has even heard of the Elgin Marbles and in neither country are there a great many people who are likely to be get exercised over them.

That said, these ancient Greek artifacts are something upon which a small number of people have quite robust opinions and I happen to be one of them.

The ‘Elgin Marbles’ are currently housed in the British Museum in London and are made up of 56 sections of the frieze sculpted by Phidias around the Parthenon. They were acquired and brought to London by the British diplomat Lord Elgin early in the 19th Century from their original home in Greece and where, despite their grandeur and beauty, they had been abandoned to the twins corrosions of the elements and indifference.

For many years, the Greek government has been campaigning for the return of the Marbles to their original home in Greece. In this, they are supported by a large section the British arty/literatti/celebrity set who approach the issue with the same kind of fuzzy-headedness and sophistic feel-goodery that they approach everything else.

Much of the left in Britain has also taken the side of the Greeks in this issue, not out of any particular fondness for Greece but because, for them, the Marbles are a rude reminder of British imperial acquisitiveness and arrogance and their continued presence in the British Museum a standing affrontery to the culture of self-abasement and guilt that they have so assiduously fostered on these shores.

However, the entire matter has been off the radar-screen for some time and it may be because the ‘usual suspects’ are otherwise noisily engaged in the matter of preserving Saddam Hussein’s regime, that we have been treated to a rather bold announcement from the British Museum’s director:

“The director of the British Museum has said that the Elgin Marbles should never be returned from Britain to Greece.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Neil MacGregor said the sculptures, which once adorned the Parthenon temple in Athens, should remain in London.

He has also ended discussions with a British campaign group seeking their return to Greece.”

Good for you, Mr.McGregor. I was not only delighted by this announcement but also (pleasantly) surprised, given the recent low-profile of the issue. It has set my mind to wondering whether Mr.McGregor has at all chanced upon a very recent essay on the matter by Sean Gabb:

“Needless to say, I am strongly opposed to returning the Marbles. If I had my way, they would stay in London forever – preferably joined by anything else we might in future be able to bribe out of the Greeks or the other successor states of antiquity. Indeed, if Lord Elgin did anything wrong, it was to leave too much behind when he finished his work in Athens. He should at least have taken all the pediment sculptures and another caryatid. He might also have dug up some of the statues buried after the Persians destroyed the old Acropolis in 480BC. The world of culture would be all the better had he done so. Just compare the Caryatid he took away with those he left behind, and ask if he really did wrong. However, rather than continue with its mere statement, let me try to justify my opinion. I will review the case for returning the Marbles.”

I usually make a point of arguing a given matter from my own bat, but I am not averse to using someone else’s bat in circumstances where their bat is both bigger and wielded with such admirable adroitness. Sean’s tightly argued and highly learned essay is quite the most the comprehensive and definitive case for retaining the Elgin Marbles in Britain and I do not hesitate to strongly recommend it to everyone regardless of whether they are British or not.

Of course, I can only speculate as to whether or not Mr.McGregor has read the essay and was inspired by it in the same way I was. Probably not. More likely it is just coincidence in which case it is a welcome synchronicity and an indication that level-heads are starting to fight back on this issue.

A thought about statism

The ‘Anglo-Saxon’ nations are free, the European ‘continentals’ have no concept of individual freedom. As gross generalisations go, this one is approximately believed by many libertarians both in the Anglosphere and outside it.

Yet I hear that “Spain is a nation of anarchists”. Or about France: “How can one govern a country with over 300 kinds of cheese?”

I can only offer a tentative answer, but maybe there is an uncomfortable grain of truth in it.

The Anglosphere is actually a lot less free than its propagandists would have us believe. For a start welfare and taxation is not noticeably lower in Canada, Australia and New Zealand than in some European continental states. In fact healthcare is more Sovietized in Canada and the UK than in any continental European country I can think of. Maybe the Ukraine is worse. Parts of the US are as heavily taxed as the UK (New York City for example), and the UK is far from the best in the European Union, let alone in comparison with the little tax havens of Monaco, Liechstenstein, Luxembourg.

One reason that the French state is so overbearing could be precisely that French people are generally NOT inclined to obey authority. You need millions of bureaucrats to a) have enough supporters for government and b) harrass the rest of the the public. Whereas the lighter touch of British rule (until recently) was a reflection on the bovine docility of the British people with such weird notions as ‘rule of law’.

Certainly my experience of British and French libertarians suggests that the British ones are far more inclined to support a minimal state, whereas the French ones tend to trust no government at all.

“The government which governs best, governs least. And the government which governs least, governs not at all.”

Rugby – and more on cricket

It’s been a difficult time to be an England sports fan. First there was the shambles in South Africa with the cricketers. England, for all the difference it may make to anything serious, eventually refused to play their game in Harare, and Zimbabwe took all the points. And remember how I reported earlier, in my description of how cricket differs from baseball, that Zimbabwe even did better than England in the protest department. Well, this is a reminder that things like that can get serious.

Zimbabwean fast bowler, Henry Olonga, has been banished from the Takashinga Cricket Club following his public protest of political conditions in the country during a World Cup match.

That tells you a lot about the atmosphere in Zimbabwe just now. Hats off to Henry Olonga. He’s only 26 years old, but maybe he figures that cricket in Zimbabwe has no future to speak of anyway.

Meanwhile our footballers (that’s British football – not the rebel US variant) were humiliated by Australia, who are not supposed to be any good at that game. The Oz media went crazy, apparently. They do love to stuff the poms there, and stuffing us at cricket has got boring. → Continue reading: Rugby – and more on cricket

An eerie hush…

As the London based Samizdatistas are meeting for a booze up at the Black Widow Pub on Gloucester Road this evening, there may be a lack of new articles tonight.

Kapitalist Kalashnikov

It is good to see Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of that fine weapon that was for so many years an icon of violent socialism, finally succumbing to full blown capitalism.

Coming to your neighbourhood soon… Kalashnikov umbrellas, snow boards and cocktails: products for real men!

More seriously, it seems only fair that the man who created what is pretty much the definitive assault rifle finally gets to make a buck or two out of his masterpiece.

(link via Kevin Connors)

Oxymorons in Baghdad

I don’t always agree with what SecDef Rumsfeld says and I find his statements on volunteer human shields to be particularly wrong:

“And I want to note, again, it is a violation of the law of armed conflict to use noncombatants as a means of shielding potential military targets — even those people who may volunteer for this purpose. Iraqi actions to do so would not only violate this law but could be a — could be considered a
war crime in any conflict. Therefore, if death or serious injury to a noncombatant resulted from these efforts, the individuals responsible for deploying any innocent civilians as human shields could be guilty of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.”

There is no such thing as a “voluntary human shield”. The words cancel each other out and leave… just another ordinary enemy combatant. Any British, American, Australian or person of whatever nationality who makes a decision, of their own free will, to intentionally place themselves in harms way in defense of a combatant’s facilities should be treated like any other member of that combatant’s forces.

This is an issue of personal liberty. These people may be stupid. They may be fools. It does not matter: they have made their own choice.

We should treat them no differently from any other Iraqi soldier, nor should we treat their chosen superior officers any differently than any other Iraqi officer.

Let’s not muddy the semantic waters. A Human Shield is an involuntary innocent, a person taken forcefully and tied to the front of a tank or staked out beside a power plant. If we start calling volunteers by the same name there is no telling where such logic will lead.

Stephen Pollard

I have finally worked out to link to specific items in stephenpollard.net. Stephen Pollard is a man whom Samizdata.net readers should all be told about if they haven’t been yet. In addition to having his own blog, he also contributes regularly to this blog on European health issues run by the Centre for the New Europe (although linking to stuff in that is truly complicated and I won’t attempt it – just scroll down). And he’s a mainstream journalist of renown.

Two recent postings that get inside his head well are this, about Milton Friedman, and this, concerning the demonstrations last weekend, which also appeared in The Times. Here’s the conclusion of the Friedman posting:

Milton Friedman’s influence on the Left extends well beyond the NHS voucher. The congestion charge, introduced in London on Monday, has been lifted straight out of the professor’s 1951 essay, “How to Plan and Pay For the Safe and Adequate Highways We Need”: “[on] a crowded road…it would be desirable to discourage traffic…the people who drive on a road should be charged…in proportion to their use of the service”. As Ken Livingstone has put it: “I nicked the idea off Milton Friedman”.

Third Way, Shmird Way. Stand back, Tony Giddens; step forward, Milton Friedman, guru of the Left.

I also liked following this link, to a report about the events of June 7th 1981. Clue: CND ought to have liked it, but I’m guessing they didn’t.

Dangers of a sluggish Europe

There was an interesting piece earlier this week in the UK’s Independent newspaper by one of its main economics correspondents, Hamish McCrae. He argues – and this won’t be a surprise to you, gentle readers – that the economic weakness of Continental Europe, especially the highly-taxed, highly-regulated bits such as France and Germany, poses a long term problem not just for the citizens of those nations but for the wider world. A good, thoughtful article. Read.

The piece is all the more telling for being written by someone who hardly qualifies as a rabid free-marketeer. Parts of the liberal-left are beginning to understand that the supine foreign policy stance of the French and German political class is in many ways a reflection of those countries’ relative economic decline versus the Anglosphere nations, especially the US and Britain.

Oh, and while I am in the mood to plug interesting places of economic wisdom, take a look at this site, The Capital Spectator, which is a broadly free market blog focussing on economics and official policy. It has a particularly sharp piece on the Bush tax cut and the reputation of US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. I have even got my work colleagues to bookmark it. (Ideological subversion in the office. Heh).

Samizdata slogan of the day

As we await the Budget in March and the rise in National Insurance rates in April, you’ll be glad to know that Gordon Brown is responding to criticism that he’s made the tax system too complicated. The new tax form will have only two lines: ‘How much do you earn?’ and ‘Hand it over’.
Eamonn Butler from yesterday’s Adam Smith Institute Bulletin