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]

Bjørn Lomborg at the Adam Smith Institute.

Bjørn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist gave a lecture this evening (this was posted after midnight but still that same evening – ed) at the Adam Smith Institute in London. A number of the Samizdatistas were there. Lomborg’s arguments are familiar to those who have read his book, but it was a rapid, powerful, to the point speech in which he demolished many of the arguments of the “The world is facing impending environmental collapse” school of Greenery with ruthless efficiency. His ten minute demolition of the case for the Kyoto accord was particularly impressive.


Lomborg walked on stage wearing a pair of jeans and a polo shirt, and looked just like the thirtysomething Greenpeace member and quintissential Nordic person of more traditional environmentalist views he once apparently was. He spoke with a rapid intensity, clearly wanted to get a lot out in the relatively short time he had for the lecture. And perhaps the rapidity of speech was covering up a certain natural shyness, but if so this was mixed in with what was clearly a burning desire to get his message out.

Lomborg told the familiar story of how he found himself in this position. → Continue reading: Bjørn Lomborg at the Adam Smith Institute.

Living in a gypsy community is a choice

There is an article in the Telegraph titled Slovakian troops sent in to stop gypsy riots that reports what is happening but makes no comment on what seems to me the key underlying reason it is happening:

Thousands of police backed by 2,000 soldiers in the ghetto towns of eastern Slovakia appeared to have temporarily ended attacks by mobs forcing their way into food shops. Near 100 per cent unemployment has brought thousands of Roma gypsies out on the streets


Demonstrators in one town gathered peacefully, shouting: “We want to eat.” Others said their families were starving since the cuts [ in state unemployment benefits], meant to prepare the country for European Union entry, were implemented on Jan 1.

Tibor Tutak, 39, said: “We know stealing isn’t a solution but I cannot let my children go hungry. What has happened so far is nothing compared with what will happen if the government doesn’t do anything.”

Roma leaders threatened further trouble unless the Bratislava government rescinded dramatic welfare reductions which have halved the incomes of many families. Unemployment among some gypsy communities is close to 100 per cent.

It is regrettable for anyone to go hungry but for 100% unemployment to prevail amongst significant sections of the gypsy community in Slovakia, that is not bad luck or economic vagaries, it is a lifestyle choice. What is more, what Tibor Tutak is actually saying is that he dislikes having to do the stealing himself, given that he and his community had gotten used to having the state do it for them. The fact is no one owes anyone else a living by right at their expense, particularly not if they decline to participate in the economy as anything other than parasites. The forceful official Slovak response seem entirely appropriate to me and I hope they do not even consider allowing themselves to be shook down for larger the ‘welfare’ payments.

No one is forced to live in a gypsy community in this day and age… yes, I know some people will bring up the infamous walls built Czech authorities after years of complains by local people. These were designed specifically to keep gypsies away from the rest of the community in a town near Ostrava a few years ago, but that was hardly an enforced ghetto in the traditional European sense of the word, as there were no laws compelling gypsies not to live elsewhere.

I also realise gypsy communities are on the receiving end of considerable prejudice and discrimination, though it needs to be said that not all of the reasons for the wider community’s hostility towards them are baseless. The gypsies are a separate cultural group and are certainly entitled to live according to their ways… provided these ways are not based on theft, be it directly or via the state and therein lies the issue at the heart of what is happening now in the Slovak Republic. Let me give the last word to Czech blogger Tomas Kohl who writes what the Telegraph article conspicuously did not:

These people are not victims of reforms. They haven’t been wronged by the government today, but when the State decided it’s a good idea to subsidize people for not doing anything and punish them when they moved a finger, it’s like giving away dope, making everyone addicted, then halving the supply.

Is there an easy way out? No. Yeah, I could say just abolish the idea of Caring Government, and it has certain utopian appeal I like, yet there is no political force there that would be capable of doing just that. Unless they send in an infantry regiment, the unrests can continue for a long time, until the underclass moves west, to countries where they still give lunches away for free.

The wisdom of pessimism – how David Carr echoes Winston Churchill

Not long ago, our beloved David Carr did a characteristic posting here entitled The joys of pessimism.

Here is how David ended that posting:

I heartily recommend pessimism. It enables you to amaze your friends with your powers of prediction and bask in the satisfaction of being borne out by events.

As he constantly is, I am sure you would all agree.

I remembered this while I was dipping today into Hitler and Churchill – Secrets of Leadership by Andrew Roberts.

Here is what Roberts says, on p. 93 of my 2003 hardback edition, about Winston Churchill’s wartime leadership:

‘Long dark nights of trials and tribulations lie before us,’ he warned in an especially bleak radio address. ‘Not only great dangers, but many more misfortunes, many shortcomings, many mistakes, many disappointments will surely be our lot. Death and sorrow will be companions of our journey, constancy and valour our only shield. We must be united, we must be undaunted. We must be inflexible.’ One man who immediately recognised the strategy behind Churchill’s dismal honesty was Joseph Goebbels. ‘His slogan of blood, sweat and tears has entrenched him in a position that makes him totally immune from attack,’ wrote the Nazi propaganda chief in a magazine article entitled ‘Churchill’s Tricks’. ‘He is like the doctor who prophesies that his patient will die and who, every time his patient’s condition worsens, smugly explains that he prophesied it.’ By preparing the public for bad news, Churchill denied the Nazis the full propaganda value of their victories. They could not wreck national morale if Britons had already heard the worst from the Prime Minister himself.

So now we know. David is really trying to cheer us all up.

churchill_phukU.Jpg   DavidCarr_middleeasttalk_vsml.jpg

The bulldog breed

Server burp

Sorry about the brief but painful service outage some of you make have experienced. Our hosting server had a spot of dispepsia but the good folks at Hosting Matters got us up and running again in no time.

Dancing in the belly of the beast

Very early tomorrow morning, as the first shimmering rays of a fire-red sun cast shadows on the ground, (creepy background music starts up) I shall set forth of my journey.

Seeking my date with destiny (music rumbles menacingly) I will travel by Eurostar (spine-chilling crescendo) along the mysterious, winding, unchartered route (screechy violin climax) into the ‘Heart of Darkness’: Brussels! [Effects: huge peal of thunder, gigantic lightning fork]

Actually I am rather looking forward to it. The occasion is the CNE Capitalist Ball where free-market luminaries from all over Britain and Europe will be gathering to drink, waltz and carouse the night away right under the very noses of the enemy.

I shall be back on Sunday. With photographs.

Slugger on the air

Our good friends at Slugger O’Toole were featured on the Northern Ireland TV show “Hearts and Minds” tonight. Politicians from across the spectrum heaped praise on what the blog has accomplished for local politics.

We had Mick Fealty’s smiling face in multiple cuts. The previous time I saw it was after about six pints (or so) in the local, well… locals some months ago. He didn’t look quite the same on TV as when I last saw him that night, searching for his coat under the legs at the bar…

Who put that brick wall there?

Not too long ago, David Goodhart, the editor of the left-wing magazine Prospect, had an epiphany.

Rather less romantically, he must have had one of those “oh..umm, hang on a minute” moments when he realised that his movement was not just heading off in two different directions but that those directions are mutually exclusive:

And therein lies one of the central dilemmas of political life in developed societies: sharing and solidarity can conflict with diversity. This is an especially acute dilemma for progressives who want plenty of both solidarity (high social cohesion and generous welfare paid out of a progressive tax system) and diversity (equal respect for a wide range of peoples, values and ways of life). The tension between the two values is a reminder that serious politics is about trade-offs. It also suggests that the left’s recent love affair with diversity may come at the expense of the values and even the people that it once championed.

Mr Goodhart calls this the ‘progressives dillema’ which, in a nutshell, means that for the want of the diversity, the solidarity may be lost.

[It is worth digressing here for a moment to note how Mr. Goodhart, along with the rest of his ideological bedfellows now insist on referring to themselves as ‘progressives’, a painfully sanctimonious but revealing bit of re-branding. It is as if they no longer want to be publicly associated with the contaminated ‘S’-word. There is much satisfaction to be had here for people like me. Indeed, it is something I may have mentioned on previous occasions but I cannot be bothered to go trawling through the archives and, in any event, it is an observation that merits virtually no end of repetition.] → Continue reading: Who put that brick wall there?

Death of the Comanche

There is a reason why the military is one of the few areas in which the State operates successfully. It is Darwinian. Bad soldiers die at a faster rate than good soldiers; bad generals lose battles and are replaced; nations with bad armies cease to exist.

So it is with defense programs in war time. No matter how technically sweet a weapon system may be, it must fulfill an actual current battlefield need. It must be able to survive in the battlefield that actually exists and perform the actual missions required in war as it is, rather than as it was imagined.

So it is with heavy heart we say goodbye to a truly magnificent and now still-born aircraft: the Comanche. The US Army announced it will be cancelled. The money will instead be used to buy more Longbows and Blackhawks and to upgrade survivability across the fleet and especially in the National Guard units.

The SAM’s of Iraq spoke… and the US Army listened.

Another of those What if?s

Here on Samizdata we seem to make a point of remembering things that happened on today’s date but in an earlier year.

So does the New York Times. Their “ON THIS DAY” section today contains this poignant and thought provoking item:

On Feb. 26, 1993, a bomb exploded in the garage of New York’s World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring more than 1,000 others.

It’s a cruel thought, but suppose that if, instead of killing six people, this explosion had killed, say, three hundred and fifty. Given that it injured a thousand, it presumably might have killed many more. Had it done so, that actually might have saved quite a lot more lives, come a certain later date, in September 2001. Not that anyone would ever have known.

Which of course also gives rise to the even crueller thought that, when it comes to the actual body count on that later date, America might even then have got off quite lightly. Once again, we will never know.

Spelling Bees and Melting Pots

Yesterday I finally got around to renting the DVD of the documentary (“D – O – C – U – M – E – N – T” um er “A – R – Y”) movie Spellbound, which is about a bunch of American kids selected for their variety of ethnic backgound – as well as unity of linguistic (“L – I – N – G” er “U – I – S – TIC”) foreground or course – who took part in the 1999 National Spelling Bee Championships in Washington DC. Until now I had not really appreciated what an important piece of Americana the institution of the Spelling Bee is. (And by the way, what does the “Bee” bit mean? Is that bee as in the insect, and if so, how did that come about?)

The spelling of English is notoriously perverse and difficult. Spelling Bees turn what might have been a horrible barrier to becoming an American into a patriotically shared ordeal, and this movie shows this process still to be in rude health. Spelling Bees for other languages would not make nearly so much sense, because other languages are so much easier to spell. Spanish spelling, for instance, is a doddle (doddle? – could you give me the language of origin please? – language unknown) compared to English spelling.

My favourite bit of Spellbound was watching an Indian-American boy who had sailed through hundreds of other words being struck dumb by “Darjeeling” (“DAR” – “D – A – R” pause, etc.). You could really see the American Dream and the American Melting Pot working at full power, melting the various ethnically diverse peoples who still now flood into America into Americans, in the heat of competition, gripped by a shared desire to Get Educated and to Get Ahead, and join in being Americans by competing with other Americans for the Good Life and the Glory of winning the National Spelling Bee Championship. Since competition is such a huge part of American culture, the psychological art of handling it is also central to being a successful American, and you could see them all learning about that also. (“Our daughter was a winner just by getting this far”, etc.)

The key quote probably came from the mother of the Indian-American girl who actually won it, in the form of the claim that she now felt that she “belonged”. Quite so. Americans, bound together by their shared struggle to spell the American language. Bound by spelling, that being the point of this movie’s title.

I know, I know, champion spellers are only a geeky freaky minority. But think how much trouble such intellectuals can make when they have some ethnic differences and resentments to work with. Getting the clever ones stirred really thoroughly into the Melting Pot counts for a lot more than their mere numbers would suggest. → Continue reading: Spelling Bees and Melting Pots

Death to the chocolate smugglers

That’s it, I’ve had enough. I just could not believe my ears, last night, listening to some po-voiced BBC reporter agreeing with some equally pompous do-gooding UK doctor that British people simply cannot be trusted to look after their own health. They also agreed that Wanless Chinder’s HM Treasury proposal, to introduce yet more tax-funded social engineering into British health care, was a desperately needed breath of fresh air.

Jesus H. Christ. Just when will you people get it? When will you get it into your thick skulls that it is your damned social engineering policies, over the last sixty years, which have created all of your alleged problems in the first place? When you take away people’s responsibilities for their own health care, by providing them with an MRSA-infested paid-for-by-everybody-else National Health Service, the obvious response is for many of them to start abusing their own bodies, or at the very least to start taking less care of themselves. Why? Because someone else will be forced to pick up the pieces afterwards, that’s why. So what the hell, let’s eat another cream cake, let’s drink another bottle of whisky. Because the NHS will pay for any liposuction I may need, afterwards, and the NHS will always supply me with a new liver, should I need one. And if they refuse to, then I’ll sue them for a loss of human dignity. → Continue reading: Death to the chocolate smugglers

Samizdata quote of the day

VC readers will know I am skeptical of many government interventions. But I view asteroid protection as a genuine public good. Budget deficit or not, we are not spending enough money to address this problem.
– Tyler Cohen of the Volokh Conspiracy