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]

What we are up against in America

James Lileks captures the angst of the social statist in America in this exchange regarding John Kerry’s promise to raise taxes by rolling back the rather meager and back-loaded Bush tax cuts:

Then came the Parable of the Stairs, of course. My tiresome, shopworn, oft-told tale, a piece of unsupportable meaningless anecdotal drivel about how I turned my tax cut into a nice staircase that replaced a crumbling eyesore, hired a few people and injected money far and wide . . . . Raise my taxes, and it won’t happen – I won’t hire anyone, and they won’t hire anyone, rent anything, buy anything. You see?

“Well, it’s a philosophical difference,” she sniffed. She had pegged me as a form of life last seen clilcking the leash off a dog at Abu Ghraib. “I think the money should have gone straight to those people instead of trickling down.” Those last two words were said with an edge.

“But then I wouldn’t have hired them,” I said. “I wouldn’t have new steps. And they wouldn’t have done anything to get the money.”

“Well, what did you do?” she snapped.

“What do you mean?”

“Why should the government have given you the money in the first place?”

“They didn’t give it to me. They just took less of my money.”

That was the last straw. Now she was angry. And the truth came out:

“Well, why is it your money? I think it should be their money.”

Two responses to this last quote. First, it is James’ money because he earned it. Second, he has no objection to it becoming the worker’s money, so long as they earn it from him. In fact, the money James kept because of his tax cut now is the worker’s money. Her point, such as it is, evaporates into thin air.

The only difference? Mr. Lileks, sturdy Midwesterner that he is, believes people should should earn their money. His earnest young interlocutor, following in the sadly well-worn path of Minnesota socialism, thinks money should shower down like manna from heaven.

Terror, Europe and others

A loyal reader sends in this ‘gem’ of a story… someone was arrested for sketching on the South Bank:

I spent four hours (having already been detained for three and a half) in a cell in Kennington police station wondering whether I might not be joining those in Belmarsh where Mr Blunkett could detain me without explanation and, in the interest of public security, refuse to divulge the alleged evidence. If the majority in this country need protecting, they had better ask who the enemies of democracy currently are.

Read the whole thing… Incredible but not surprising.

George W. Bush: Martin Luther for the Islamic world

And now for something completely different. Matthew Maly writes in with a fascinating and challenging essay about Islam, civil society, Iraq, Western Civilisation, American politics, Jennifer Lopez, the fixed quantity of wealth fallacy, strange Shiite self-flagellation, tribesman with no clothes… well, about all those things and much, much more. Whether you agree with the general thrust of it or not, it is very interesting stuff

Having bombed some mosques, George W. Bush has built a Protestant mosque at Abu-Ghraib prison. Here, the Iraqi Moslems are taught that pork may be good for them and that the teachings of the Holy Koran are supposed to be subordinated to the teachings of Democracy, as represented by handpicked Iraqi exiles protected by American armor.

As many people before him with a gleam in their eye and fervor in their speeches, George W. Bush wanted to do good. As many revolutionaries before him he fell victim to technology, too awesome to reveal its implications.

Technology as the main cause of revolutions

Martin Luther, George W. Bush’s intellectual predecessor, correctly sensed that thanks to improved manufacturing processes, people were becoming economically independent. They no longer wished to be led blindly, to be told to behave “just so” without being given a reason that they could intellectually accept. People were becoming literate, able to read the Bible by themselves, and to think about their lives in a more rational way. The Germans, British, and Dutch did not speak a Romance language, and now they wanted church services in their own language since they simply did not understand Latin. Suddenly, they had become mature enough to want their Mass to be more meaningful, that is, understandable, to them. And when the language of the Mass became an issue, there were other matters to discuss. The Catholic Church failed to account for the social change that manufacturing brought about, and Germanic peoples turned Protestant as a result. The French, Italians, Spanish, and Portuguese remained Catholic, since a Latin Mass was understandable to them. Thus the Protestant revolution reflected the fact that manufacturing technology had made people more self-sufficient, able to read and to think for themselves. → Continue reading: George W. Bush: Martin Luther for the Islamic world

In the Land of the Free

You may have wanted to know the REAL reason that ‘Friends’ has been taken off the airwaves. The ‘official’ reason is that the show’s makers wanted to quit before the show became too stale.

The truth is rather more sinister.

In Lyle, the California Court of Appeal held that creative discussions in which writers of the popular sitcom Friends developed ideas and created scripts could constitute sexual harassment of individuals listening to the sometimes bawdy banter of the writers.

So now we know.

[Thanks to Virginia Postrel for the link.]

The real American ‘poodle’

Wealthy property tycoon, Will Hutton, is having himself a right old grumble today.

He is angry because other people are not paying enough tax and it is all the fault of those wretched Americans:

Equally, would our readiness to stand by progressive taxation have been so weakened without the view from the US that high rates of income tax on the rich are morally and economically wrong?

We had Mrs Thatcher, but arguably her dominance in British politics would have been less secure had it not been for the succour she took from American policies and conservative ideas. Britain is not a slave to American influences, but it cannot ignore the international common sense which the US more than any other nation shapes.

But, and lest anyone think that Mr Hutton is mindlessly anti-American, salvation is at hand. If US Conservatives have crippled the British left then American socialists can help them to cast away their crutches and enable them to walk tall again:

But opinion is moving. My bet remains that it will carry John Kerry to the White House – just. Of equal importance is the fact that neo-conservatism is on the defensive and that American liberalism has its best chance to regain ground for the first time in a generation.

It is not just American politics that could be transformed by Iraq, but our own. To believe in universal rights and fair societies might become respectable again.

Ergo, Mr Hutton believes these things are not respectable now.

For the most part, this is standard, nay boilerplate, Sunday fare for Guardianistas. Something to be to scanned in approvingly over a nut roast washed down with a steaming pot of fair-trade, dolphin-friendly, non-judgmental eco-coffee.

But if his regulars are unable to appreciate the sumptuous irony here then I can because Mr. Hutton is a member of that peculiar class of British metropolitan scribblers who are forever bewailing what they see as American dominance of our economy and culture and demanding that we look to Europe for inspiration. Yet Mr. Hutton feels himself unable to make the case for socialism without the bulwark of a Democrat President in the Whitehouse and notwithstanding the fact that Europe is a social democrat lock-in.

I think the truth is that Mr Hutton has lost the capacity to make the case for ‘universal rights and fair societies’ under any circumstances. But if he insists on blaming Ronald Reagan and George Bush for this descent into rhetorical impotence, then that is just fine by me.

UK Transhumanist Association

Although transhumanism is a broader church than libertarianism, it does approach many issues from a similar background: challenging current obstacles that prevent individuals from deciding that they wish to fully benefit from the range of cutting edge technologies that are now moving from speculation to experimentation. Like all movements, it has many variations, from those who champion pragmatic, short-term, measures to those who take a more visionary stance, dwelling upon the joys of uploading.

The United Kingdom has always provided a sympathetic culture and activists for transhumanism, notably its libertarian variant, extropianism. However, after the early 1980s, there does not appear to have been any group within the United Kingdom, which could organise and focus the efforts of likeminded individuals to provide an alternative voice to those organisations that wish to retard technological progress and promote the precautionary (reactionary?) principal.

In the last few two years, people interested in transhumanism have been meeting on a monthly basis in London and listening to guest speakers on various subjects. This social exercise, called Extrobritannia, has proved extraordinarily successful at providing links and full kudos to its founder, Fabio, who continues to put in a determined effort to engage a series of strong speakers. Past speakers have included Nick Bostrom, who argues that we may live in a computer simulation, Aubrey de Grey, a gerontologist at Cambridge (whose interview with Glenn Reynolds can be accessed here) and Alex Ramonsky, a wearables experimentalist and neurohacker (in the lexicon).

Most of the regulars to these meetings have become increasingly concerned at the influence of groups inimical to the development and application of technologies beneficial to humanity, whether they be environmentalists or bioconservatives. To combat these trends and to provide an alternative voice, we have decided to set up the UK Transhumanist Association as a non-profit organisation that will, hopefully, publicise and act as a coordinator for interested parties within the United Kingdom that can recognise the benefits of current and future developments within science. The papers were signed today.

At the moment, the UK Transhumanist Association is an embryonic organisation, with ambition rather then experience, but there is a role that needs to be filled.

What we are up against

I am going to have to find some new term to adequately describe the condition of ignorance that renders its sufferers unable to comprehend the inevitable truth that state-control means political control.

A shining example of this tragically far-too-common form of myopia can be found in one of today’s letters to the UK Times [note: link may not work for non-UK readers]:

Sir, Once again the NHS is set fair to become the filling in the Labour and Conservative policy sandwiches, and yet neither party recognises that the biggest problem besetting the service is the very political control each espouses.

Health, like broadcasting, is too important to be the political football of major parties during the first skirmishes of an impending general election. The NHS needs a charter, it needs sensitive management, it needs to value and cherish its long-suffering staff and, above all, it needs to be isolated from the political process.

The man who wrote this letter is a doctor and is, therefore, unlikely to be either dim-witted or uneducated. Yet, he passionately demands (and no doubt expects) a government-run health service that is somehow ‘isolated from the political process’.

I have penned a letter of response to the Times pointing out that the only way to get politics out of healthcare is to de-nationalise it and allow provision to be bought and sold on the free market. However, I do not expect the editors of the Times will be inclined to publicise such heretical and ‘extreme’ views.

If Browne is right about Reagan, he is wrong about himself

Harry Browne overstates the case against Ronald Reagan and makes himself look small.

There are plenty of libertarian criticisms of Ronald Reagan, from his refusal to veto tax increases, for failing to cut spending, or his support for the ‘War on Drugs’. Where Harry Browne goes well overboard is when he dismissed the effect of Ronald Reagan’s spending cuts rhetoric and on the Cold War.

Browne actually admits that Reagan made the dialogue of spending cuts possible and the mainstream debate. He accuses Reagan of not acting on his words. But what about Harry Browne himself?

In his excellent 1973 book: How I found freedom in an unfree world, Harry Browne claims:

You waste precious time, effort and money when you attempt to achieve freedom through the efforts of a group… I came to see how foolish it was to waste my precious life trying to make the world into what I thought it should be.

Yet by 1996, Browne was writing:

I don’t want to be a politician. I just want our country back.

He then sought the nomination twice as the Libertarian Party candidate for the US federal presidency. Now unless Browne had a grotesquely over-estimated sense of his on importance, he must have realised that the LP candidate was not likely to win. If not to win, why stand for office? → Continue reading: If Browne is right about Reagan, he is wrong about himself

Forget gymnastics… bring on the Psi Olympics!

In that marvellously bonkers publication Pravda, it is being reported that the Ukrainian sports authorities are blaming their lack of medals at a gymnastic event on the fact their Russian rivals brought in people with paranormal abilities to sabotage the Ukrainian competitors.

According to the federation’s governing body, evil-minded Russians hired psychics, people with extrasensory abilities in order to paralyze free will of Ukrainian gymnasts during competitions. Such statement of the federation received wide publicity among Ukrainian media sources, reports PrimaNews.


The federation also informs that “Russian mobs” brought fifteen paranorms to Kiev, including famous Russian medium Alan Chumak. They were seated in VIP seats on the stadium and somehow paralyzed the will of Ukrainian sportswomen; that is why the latter lost.

To hell with the gymnastics! If they can do such things, then they simply must organise special events in which paranormals compete to see who can paralyse the will of the other first!


No Officer, I am not drunk, I had my will paralysed by Russian paranormals!

David Blunkett’s dangerous desires

The Home Secretary has instructed the Humberside Police Authority to suspend the chief constable of Humberside, David Westwood. I have no views on the actual issue of David Westwood’s competence and whether or not he actually deserves to be suspended and ultimately sacked, but what is alarming is how Downing Street is centralising more and more decisions on local matters that have a huge baring on civil liberties.

Lawyers for Mr Blunkett are expected to ask the High Court, possibly on Tuesday, for an injunction forcing the authority to carry out his instruction to suspend the officer. This will be the first test of powers under the Police Reform Act 2002 and the Home Secretary will argue that suspension is necessary “for the maintenance of public confidence” in the force.


Colin Inglis, the chairman of the authority and the Labour leader of Kingston-upon-Hull told BBC1’s Look North: “The police authority is not a rubber stamp and if the Home Secretary expected a rubber stamp then that, I’m afraid, is not what he has got.

“The Home Secretary is not David Westwood’s line manager. David Westwood works for the police authority.

The issue is not “is David Westwood a good copper” but “do you want David Blunkett making those decisions?”. No prizes for guessing where I stand on that.

I got yer optimism right here

The occasional refrain here at Samizdata is that we are relentlessly pessimistic. Even though the recent series on Burt Rutan’s space adventure was anything but, our political writings rarely highlight good news. Alrighty then, two items that should brighten your long-term outlook for liberty:

First, Mark Steyn reviews recent history in Latin America and notes how it might apply to the Middle East.

If you think the democratization of Arabia is a long shot, so was the democratization of Latin America. But it happened.

Second, the Iraqis are showing more spine than most, maintaining confidence in their pending government in hte face of terrorist brutality.

The first survey since the new government was announced by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi about three weeks ago showed that 68 percent of Iraqis have confidence in their new leaders. The numbers are in stark contrast to widespread disillusionment with the previous Iraqi Governing Council, which was made up of 25 members picked by the United States and which served as the Iraqi partner to the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority.

Connect the dots.

Mugabe lied about Zimbabwe harvest shock

Surprise, surprise:

President Robert Mugabe’s rosy forecast of a bumper harvest in Zimbabwe was contradicted by his own government yesterday, when an official report said 2.3 million people needed immediate international food aid.

The seizure of white-owned farms has combined with drought to cripple agriculture in Zimbabwe. But Mr Mugabe’s official message is that his land grab has markedly increased production and made Zimbabwe self-sufficient. Last month, he refused help from the United Nations World Food Programme, saying: “Why foist this food upon us? We don’t want to be choked.”

He brushed aside the fact that Zimbabwe has lived on food aid since 2001 and that 6.5 million people, more than half the population, depended on international help last year. By contrast, his office forecast a maize crop for this year of 2.4 million tons, more than enough to meet domestic needs.

Yet a report from the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee provides a strong antidote to the president’s optimism. It concludes that 2.3 million people in rural Zimbabwe “will not be able to meet their minimum cereal needs during the 2004/05 season”.

The report adds that food aid “for the most vulnerable people” should be sought immediately. The UN, aid agencies and Zimbabwean government departments compiled the assessment based on a survey completed in April. Mr Mugabe’s officials appear not to share his optimism.

Food aid be damned. Someone should invade the place. Almost anyone would now be an improvement. Handing food aid over to the existing regime will not feed the “most vulnerable”. It will merely feed the existing regime, and allow them to shove some more people into the most vulnerable category.