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]

I could not possibly resist

To think that I was one of those deeply ill-informed people who thought that ‘resistance’ was merely the the ratio of the potential difference across an electric component to the current passing through it.

Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa. I was so wrong:

RESISTANCE means saying no. No to contempt, arrogance and economic bullying. No to the new masters of the world: high finance, the countries of the G8, the Washington consensus, the dictatorship of the market and unchecked free trade. No to the quartet of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. No to hyper-production. To genetically modified crops. To permanent privatisations. To the relentless spread of the private sector. No to exclusion. No to sexism. No to social regression, poverty, inequality and the dismantling of the welfare state.

No to the abandonment of the South. No to the daily deaths of 30,000 poor children. No to the destruction of the environment. No to the military hegemony of a sole superpower. No to “preventive” war, to invasion, to terrorism and to attacks on civilians. No to racism, anti-semitism and islamophobia. No to draconian security measures. No to a police state mentality. No to dumbing-down. To censorship. To media lies. To manipulative media.

Resistance also means saying yes. Yes to solidarity between the six billion inhabitants of this planet. Yes to the rights of women. Yes to a renewed United Nations. Yes to a new Marshall plan to help Africa. Yes to the total elimination of illiteracy. Yes to an international campaign against a technology gap. Yes to an international moratorium that will preserve drinking water.

Yes also to generic medicines for all. To decisive action against Aids. To the preservation of minority cultures. And to the rights of indigenous peoples.

Yes to social and economic justice. And a less market-dominated Europe. Yes to the Porto Alegre Consensus. Yes to a Tobin tax that will benefit citizens. Yes to taxing arms sales. Yes to writing off the debt of the poor nations. Yes to banning tax havens.

To resist is to dream that another world is possible. And to help build it.

Got that? Good. Excellent. Carry on.

[My thanks to the Brothers Judd for the link.]

You cannot reason with Islamic fundamentalism

As the recent attacks against civilians in Saudi Arabia have shown, Al Qaeda does not kill civilians as collateral damage during strikes on military targets, non-muslim civilians are the target and will always be the target. People say we should ‘understand the root causes of their anger’ and I agree. And so, after understanding, that should help us to resolve to kill as many Islamists as is needed to make their cause collapse in ruin.

Of course the usual paleo-libertarians and paleo-conservatives will take this to mean I think we should use carpet bombing in cities or nuclear weapons just to make sure we got ’em all. Yeah, yeah, whatever. But a commenter on Samizdata.net said the other day in a succinctly manner I really cannot improve on:

I just propose that the only rational way to fight a war is to fight a war, and that means using whatever force is needed to defeat your enemy. This is not exactly a revolutionary concept in most military circles.
In the case of Iraq, this just means using the usual range of weapons and tactics and applying them with resolution. There is nothing about Iraq that is at all unusual or outside historical experience to suggest this need be more than a footnote in military history.

And the same applies to Al Qaeda and its confreres wherever they can be found. You find them and then you kill them by whatever means it takes. What you do not do is talk to them or negotiate with them, unless of course it is just a tactic for getting them to stand still for juuuuuust a moment.

If you care about the Tory Party, vote UKIP

Before I proceed, let me make several things clear… Firstly, although I have a certain fondness for Mrs. T (that whole ‘facing down communism at the crucial moment in history’ thing cuts you a great deal of slack with me), I am not a Tory: I just happen to think Britain needs an effective and differentiated opposition party. Secondly, I personally do not vote for anyone as I am opposed the entire system of kleptocratic populism called ‘democracy’, particularly as it is practiced in Britain… but as I realise as I cannot wish it away, I have to address democratic politics. Thirdly, although I find Roger Knapman pretty impressive for what I have heard of his views so far, I also think some of the things certain members of the United Kingdom Independence Party stands for are truly odious and amongst its ranks are to be found no small number of crackpots, conspiracy theorists and crypto-fascists.

I mention that last point because if you are going to vote for the Tory Party (and therefore obviously hold democratic politics and the Tory Party in vastly higher esteem than I do), you might do well to ask yourself why are you voting Tory?

If it is because you like the idea of broadsheet reading Grandees with their safe pair of hands on the tiller of state and trust them to do whatever they see fit in your name (i.e. you are a Ted Heath/Michael Heseltine/Chris Patten fan and therefore support Labour Party-Lite), then please stop reading now and piss off, I am not talking to you… and anyway, what on earth are you doing reading a blog like Samizdata.net which is written by people like myself who utterly despise you?

If however you vote Tory because you think the Anglosphere approach of not conflating state and society is vastly preferable to the state-centred systems which generally prevail in Continental Europe… or you have the notion that British politics of any sort should be made in Britain rather than Brussels (and yes, I suppose I am talking to no small number of Labour supporters here too)… then you have a very simple decision to make.

If you want force to the Tory Party to support traditional civil society rather than have it do nothing mote than debate the speed with which Britain acquiesces to a regulated and therefore politicised existence more in tune with Continental norms… then you must send the message that continued support for Euro-statism is not acceptable to you. And the only way you can do that is not just to abstain, but to vote for the UKIP. Only that sends an unmistakable message why you did not vote for them.

And if by doing that you cause the Tory Party to lose to Labour yet again… so what? If you care enough about the Tory Party, you will do whatever it takes to demonstrate the electoral cost of saying platitudes like ‘In Europe but not ruled by Europe’ whilst demurring to regulation after regulation from Europe which indeed amounts to being ruled by it.

Vote UKIP, at least until you have clubbed some sense back into the Tory Party.

A national chain of cut-price primary schools

This looks really interesting. I have just learned about it by reading this:

A right-wing think-tank will this week launch a national chain of cut-price primary schools in a drive to open up private education to middle-income families.

The first New Model School will start work in September, charging less than half the average fees of many independent primary or “pre-prep” schools.

Teachers have already been appointed, and tomorrow the school starts advertising for pupils to join the inaugural class of five-year-olds.

So what are these people trying to accomplish?

The New Model School Company aims to establish a chain of local schools, each subscribing to the same ethos and curriculum. A New Model School can be created wherever there are enough interested parents to start one. Organisational structure and support will be provided by the New Model School Company. Curric­ulum materials will be developed by its sister organisation, the New Model Curriculum Company.

And who are they?

The individuals who have formed the New Model School Company were brought together by the social policy think-tank Civitas (www.civitas.org.uk). Our aim is not just to set up a single successful school, but to provide a model of excellent and affordable schools which will improve the lives of many children and their families.

Our ambitions for the school are far wider than success in exams. The final aim of education is the formation of strong moral character, good manners, and the development of well-informed judgement. Good citizenship is not a subject of the school curriculum, but an aspect of conduct and behaviour that arises from a knowledge of the foundations of the culture, its history, values, and institutions.

If you would like to know more about us, you can telephone Matthew Faulkner on 020 8969 0037.

Because of my continuing interest in such matters, I plan to stay continuously interested in this venture, and will certainly be phoning that number myself in due course. But I think I wlll wait a while before doing that, because something tells me that this guy’s phone will be ringing fit to burst for the next few days.

I especially like that it is being set up by a “right wing think tank”. The idea of saying that was presumably to discredit the whole venture, as, maybe, is the slightly derogatory expression “cut-price”. (like there is something wrong with that). The more likely effect will be to make all “right wing think tanks” look better, if this is the kind of thing they do.

Also, by branding these places “right wing”, the Indy will scare lefties away from teaching in these places, and the political tone of them will undoubtedly be more free market in orientation than your average school. When these people talk about “history, values and institutions” that is not merely code for higher taxation and caving in to public sector trade unions.

I love it, and will almost certain have more to say here about this in the future. I really hope it works.

Fix bayonets…

Mark Steyn describes an incident that confirms my impression that the politicians are botching up Iraq.

During the Falklands War, a bayonet charge on enemy positions would have been publicly applauded by the Prime Minister, honours and medals would have been discussed and the British public would have been in doubt that the government and the military knew exactly what they were doing. We could agree or disagree with the objective or the means, but not the operational competence or the political will.

Where Iraq is going wrong is not that the military are incapable (unless they run out of ammunition, boots, flak-jackets etc). It is that military action will be undermined by political ‘arse-covering’. The resolution shown by troops is frittered away by Colin Powell and his cronies in the US, and by the Labour government in the UK. Powell looks more and more like his caricature in the Tim Burton movie Mars Attacks! played by Paul Winfield.

My view on Vietnam is that it would have been better if the US had not got involved after the French pull-out, given that they were going to do so eventually anyway, or that the US should have fought to win. I take a Barry Goldwater position rather than a Eugene McCarthy one.

It used to be Colin Powell’s position too.

Cassini at Saturn

The Cassini Space Probe has arrived in the vicinity of Saturn. As well as taking some breathtaking photos of Saturn, the probe is going to investigate some of the ringed planet’s moons. On June 11 Cassini flys past the moon of Phoebe.

These space probes are a frivolous use of taxpayer’s money, but we do at least learn something from them. The geek in me loves them but the libertarian in me isn’t quite so amused.

Here comes Tax Freedom Day in the UK…

…3 days later than last year. The Adam Smith Institute has announced that this year’s Tax Freedom Day will be tomorrow, 30th May 2004.

The ASI calculates this every year, providing a useful measure of one of the ways in which the state reduces liberty, destroys wealth and lowers overall living standards.

As usual, Tax Freedom Day attracts quite a lot of media coverage from the usual suspects. I wonder if any voters are actually noticing?

So, you think your job is tough?

Good luck to Iyad Allawi, the man who will, inshallah, be Iraq’s next Prime Minister.

Hopefully he will be given the external support he needs to stabilise the security situation sufficiently to allow more internal solutions to develop. Although it would be difficult to underestimate the struggle ahead, the situation is far from the hopeless one often portrayed by people with axes to grind which have very littloe to do with Iraq.

Fighting the fight with people you like

I am going to give a hard time to someone I like immensely, but sometimes, it must be done – more on which later. In this case, it is blogger Harry Hatchet, who has posted an online poll on banning “junk” food advertisements, along with his argument for why the state should step in so that he does not have to say no to his child when she asks for “bad” food from McDonald’s.

I will quote Dr Sean Gabb on the “obesity epidemic” (which might more accurately be described as a “sedentarism epidemic”):

Whenever the government does something for us, it takes away from our own ability to do that for ourselves. This diminishes us as human beings. Better, I suggest, a people who often eat and drink too much, and who on average die a few years before they might, than a people deprived of autonomy and shepherded into a few extra years of intellectual and moral passivity.

Lest you think that I am preaching to the converted here, I mention this to make a larger point: These ideas are nothing new to those who believe in the concepts of personal liberty and the free market and who reject the slave-to-the-state mentality that’s all too prevalent in western society. But it is worth remembering that not everyone accepts these truths to be self-evident. And, unless you only surround yourself with those who agree with you on every single issue, sometimes (just sometimes!) the people who reject such truths will not be total idiots who are not worth engaging in discussion. Sometimes they are, like Mr Hatchet, intelligent people with whom you are friendly and with whom it is often possible to find common ground.

In cases like this, when we are dealing with fantasy “epidemics” spun by the government and irresponsible media outlets, I think it is worth making the effort to find that common ground, even if it is only an inch. Labour MP Tom Watson once told me that reading blogs had led him to change his mind on ID cards; he was once in favour of them, but blogs like this one gave him a fresh perspective on what he previously thought to be an open-and-shut case, and his opinion changed. I did not need to hear this to know that persuasive writing – in this case, in the context of a blog – can actually persuade. But in order for people to be won over, some of us have to be bothered to fight the fight in the first place.

And in case anyone’s thinking that there is nothing that lefties like Harry Hatchet could ever change our minds about, I confess: I used to think that the output of British rapper Mike Skinner, aka The Streets, was not that bad, but thanks to Harry’s quoting of some choice lyrics, I now know otherwise.

Let’s lead by example

On our trip to Geneva we encountered some interesting people. One of them was Stefan Metzeler, who is a co-founder of Pro Libertate in Switzerland. It was Stefan’s question (the seventh picture) to the panel consisting of the assorted tranzis, leftists and self-propagandists, that set the tone of the debate and demonstrated that the members of the audience are not all on the same side…

Among other things I have learnt that Stefan likes to practice what we preach – for the last three years he has been organising informal libertarian meetings called Assens & Mt. Pelerin and helping as many people from Eastern Europe to attend as possible. This year’s will fall on June 19-20th. This is what Stefan says about the event:

The most important aims are to:

  • Show people from the ex-communist countries how things work here in Switzerland, which – as we all agree – is still the most liberal country in Europe and last but not least, not a member of the EU
  • Get them to spread that information, which they will undoubtedly do

I believe the programme for the first day includes a visit to a local shooting range, instructing the novices in the art of firearm handling, followed by a lot of practice for all. I mean, how sound is that?!

So far, we’ve got three people from the Lithuanian Free Market Institute lined up, one student from Belarus and another, just graduated, from a university in Ukraine, all of whom I met last year at the ISIL event in Vilnius, plus some interest from members of a liberal organisation in Poland. None of them can come without financial help.

By plane, we can probably pay for at most two people. If four to six want to come, they will have to travel by car. Cost per person will be very reasonable, estimated at about $120 – $150 each, plus visa, for those from Belarus and Ukraine.

So far, a German businessman and I are each putting up about $400, plus some $200 promised from other participants.

Most of the participants from France, Switzerland and Germany are also short on money. As capitalists, we have to get serious about getting beyond the theoretical stage, I think.

Right, you heard it. We do not usually do this sort of thing on Samizdata.net but we think this is a worthwhile cause and are happy to publicise it. If you share this view, please feel free to hit our paypal button. (You’ll just have to trust us that Stefan gets it.) Anything that arrives there between now and 1st June, goes to bringing as many people from Eastern Europe to the Assens & Mt. Pelerin meeting.

We promise to publish how much money has been received and how it was used. We will introduce those who make it to the meeting from Eastern Europe and blog about their impressions of Switzerland and the ideas they encounter at the Assens & Mt. Pelerin.


Samizdata quote of the day

Imagine the police surrounding a bank and telling the robber barricaded inside, “Just throw out your weapons; you can keep the money and the hostages!”

Todd Skelton on Gadhafi’s “rehabilitation”.

The new EUroParliament building in Brussels

Not everyone who reads this blog will be particularly keen to know what the new EUropean Parliament building in Brussels looks like. But if you would like to know about this, I have a posting up at my Culture Blog which starts with a huge aerial photo of the place taken by someone else, and then has twenty four thumbnail photos you can click on to get to bigger photos that I took myself of this vast building when I was myself in Brussels not long ago.

It has taken me more than two months to get around to exhibiting these photos, for which apologies, but I presumably things have not changed that much since I took them. Partly this was because until recently I had much to learn about how to do this – “thumbnails” etc. (merci Monsieur) – and partly it was that, even if you do know how to stick up a mass of these thumbnails, it is still (for me anyway) a very unwieldy process to actually do, and to actually arrange them in a semi-coherent order, especially since this was the first blog posting effort along these lines that I have attempted.

The building is a scarily impressive edifice, or rather, agglomeration of edifices. I really missed not having a wide angle lens. As it was, it was like trying to photograph an elephant in a crowd. All I could do was assemble lots of details (hence the need for lots of pictures), with only occasional views that got the bigger picture, and none of the whole thing.

Which is only appropriate, considering that this is the EU, and that this entire building is itself only a relatively minor part of the big EU picture, which is itself utterly impossible to get in one snap.