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]

Blair’s legacy

By reading Samizdata for several years, I am one of the Americans that has received a major enlightenment regarding Tony Blair. I recently received this link from regular commenter RAB and decided to post it for the benefit of other Americans on the site.

Tony Blair, who was swept into office in 1997 amid higher hopes and greater goodwill than any incoming British Prime Minister in modern times, will leave it a few weeks hence with his reputation in ruins.

An opinion poll earlier this month showed that only 11 per cent of voters still like him; 51per cent think that “he manages to convince himself that whatever he has decided to do must be morally right”.

Some 57 per cent say he has stayed in Downing Street too long, and only five per cent agree that he is “in touch with ordinary people”.

Just 27 per cent think Britain is a more successful society than it was in 1997, and 61 per cent believe that it is a much less pleasant one.

Tony Blair has shown himself the most accomplished political actor ever to occupy the premiership.

He is an orator of near-genius, a performer who has for years dominated party conference platforms, TV studios, Parliament, White House press conferences, even the U.S. Congress.

Put him before an audience in his heyday, whether of three people or 3,000, and he could weave a spell worthy of Gandalf.

But now let us step over the camera and lighting cables, walk past the brilliantly painted frontage of whichever modern temple of glitz he is patronising – the Millennium Dome would be appropriate – and venture backstage.

Examine the real Britain after ten years of Blair.

Imprisonment by stealth

The problem is, they will outlaw almost everything while enforcing very little. Imprisonment by stealth. People will not know they are encircled until it is too late – like putting in all these very deep, robust fence-posts with no fence panels. All seems open. One day you will wake up and the panels are in, you are trapped and they can decide what law they wish to impose to nail whomsoever they desire.

– Regular commenter TimC in this thread.

They get up and at ’em young in Kettering

As some people involved in Samizdata know, I have promised not to write posts attacking the local election campaign of a certain political party – at least until the election is over.

As I have promised this I feel uncomfortable in writing anything that could be seen as an attack on any other political party. So in the following both the name of the candidate and the party that candidate represents will not be stated.

On Sunday I came upon a political leaflet. Along with the normal fluff about loving Association Football (candidates, of all parties, really do write stuff like that – some of them even list the pubs they go to) I read the following:

“I have been involved in campaigning for the … party since the age of 6, leafleting and canvassing…”

Now I hope that that “6” was a misprint for “16” – but, such are the times we live in, I can not be sure.

Marching for secularism in Turkey

I wish I understood Turkish politics better than I do. There was a large pro-secularism rally in Ankara, which is surely a good thing. The fact these people are backed by the army is an even more encouraging sign.

On Friday evening military chiefs said in a statement they could intervene if the election process threatened to undermine Turkish secularism.

EU politics however, I understand just fine. The usual halfwits have moaned that the Turkish army is interfering with democracy because they made it clear they will not tolerate Turkey becoming an Islamic state. Yet strangely all manner of constitutional limitations on the democratic will of the majority exist in many countries (the USA and Switzerland, for example) and yet that does not seem to attract the displeasure of the fools who live off our tax money in Brussels.

In Turkey, the army is probably the best bulwark against Islamism and the fact the same €uro-spokesmen allegedly responsible for working towards integrating Turkey with the EU want to weaken the role of the main opponent of Islamist political aspirations in the country is… astonishing.

Sean Gabb on the foolishness of censorship

Sean Gabb has written a fine piece called Defending the right to deny the Holocaust, stating why censorship undermines our ability to decide what is and is not true.

With regard to the holocaust, I have – broadly speaking – two options. I can believe that it did happen roughly as claimed. Or I can believe that it is a gigantic conspiracy of lies maintained since the 1940s in the face of all evidence. Since debate remains free in the English-speaking world, it should be obvious what I am to believe. I believe in the central fact of the holocaust. On the secondary issues mentioned above, where my authorities do not agree, I suspend judgement.

Take away the freedom to argue with or against these authorities, though, and my assurance that they are right must be weakened.

Read the whole thing.

Reject the message…and also the messenger

Groups like ‘Alcohol Concern’ like to use the force of the state to make people act the way they want. They do not care about making an argument and convincing people to act a certain way, they want prison and truncheons to make people tow their particular highly debatable line.

Parents who give alcohol to children under the age of 15 – even with a meal at home – should face prosecution, a charity says today. Parents who let children drink should face prosecution, says Alcohol Concern. […] A charity spokesman said: “It is legal to provide children as young as five with alcohol in a private home. Raising the age limit to 15 would send a stronger message to parents of the risks associated with letting very young people consume alcohol.” It is illegal to buy a drink in a pub under 18, but a 16- or 17-year-old can drink wine or beer if having a meal with parents.

You know what I would like to see? Whenever someone threatens me with force if I do not modify my social behaviour more to their liking in my own damn home, I would like them get arrested and thrown in jail. And I would like to see them beaten with truncheons if they do not comply with the cops just like they want for others who do not comply with their wishes. Such people are addicted to using force to impose their will on others and so why not “send a stronger message” that threatening people via the political system is really no different to threatening them with violence via some other institution, like the Mafia, for example.

If ‘Alcohol Concern’ want to convince people that they should not allow their children to drink (which is bullshit, I might add, as I suspect that encourages alcohol abuse in later life), well fine, let them take out adverts and evangelise their views like civilised members of civil society. However when they want the violence of law to impose their views, they should be regarded as anti-social thugs calling for the destruction of yet more civil society. Such people want to see society replaced with ever more politically derived formulae for personal behaviour. And of course such nonsense is unenforceable other than by family members denouncing each other a la the Communist model, which no doubt is what a group like ‘Alcohol Concern’ would like to see happen … which is literally anti-social.

It is not enough to reject the message of groups like ‘Alcohol Concern’, people who want to impose their views on every household in the country need to be held responsible on a personal level for advocating the force backed destruction of civil society. Such people are part of the problem of modern Britain, not part of the solution.

More of the same

I just heard David Cameron on the news tonight saying that under Gordon Brown, Britain will just be getting “more of the same” of what it got from Blair.

In other words, Gordon Brown is a Blairite. Just like David Cameron then I suppose.

If you are going to vote, and you want a conservative alternative to Blair’s populist creeping regulatory authoritarianism, vote UKIP.

Otherwise just expect “more of the same” from both Brown and Cameron.

Samizdata quote of the day

Is using perfectly legal methods of minimising tax right? The answer is no.

Andrew Pendleton, a senior campaigner at Christian Aid

Some random thoughts about journalism

I have just got back from sitting in a discussion about how far should journalists go in chasing a story. It is a good question to ask and not as easy to answer as one might think. Is a journalist justified, for example, in breaking and entering a person’s property without consent to obtain facts even if the story is one of supposedly major importance? Can a journalist eavesdrop on confidential phone calls between X and Y in order to get a story and does that story have to pass some sort of “public interest” test? In my own hazy thoughts on the matter, I tend to take the view that the public interest test has to be very rigorous indeed, ie, life has to be at stake. It is not enough to say that “X is a famous man who is interesting to lots of people” sort of yardstick. It has to involve the exposure of murderous, criminal behaviour by the person(s) being investigated to justify breaking into a private home or breaching a confidential document.

Of course, as the discussion unfolded, it became pretty clear that the world of the internet and blogs, that a lot of media laws, as well as the whole idea of journalism being a licenced profession, is under threat. On the whole, I think this is a good thing. If journalists want to form their own trade associations to promote best practice and carry emblems on their news channels or newspapers saying that Mr J. Pearce is a member of the Journalist Society, well and good. It will be rather like plumbers, electricians or bricklayers forming such bodies, bodies that stand for reputation and high standards. Miscreants can and will be thrown out. Being a member of such a club will be a big deal, except that it will not be a state-approved body, but a genuinely private one.

Anyway, the weather is too glorious for me to write further. Time to light the barbecue and open some wine.

Friday evening question

What is your favourite passage from a novel?

I think mine is that superbly-written scene in Moonraker when Ian Fleming describes how Bond deals out a sequence of cards that in Bridge is known as a Yarborough and as a result, takes the villain Drax to the cleaners. I never thought that a writer could make the game of Bridge sound exciting, but Fleming achieved it.

For second place in this quiz, I think I have to go for the scene in Scoop when William Boot, the hapless correspondent, files his first despatch for the Daily Beast. I still grin whenever I think about it.

Missing the point

There is a scandal in the UK Department of Health’s IT management. The BBC reports it thus:

The Department of Health has apologised for an apparent security lapse which allowed the personal details of junior doctors to be accessed online.
Channel 4 News reported that a breach on the NHS Medical Training Application Service website allowed public access for at least eight hours. The department said the details had only been available briefly, and only to people making employment checks.
Phone numbers, addresses, previous convictions and sexual orientation were among details available since at least 0900 BST, it reported. The Department of Health was alerted at 1635 BST and the breach closed at 1705 BST.

The opposition spokesmen were on it straightway, pointing out that if this could happen with temporary information on 7,000 junior doctors, what hope was there for the medical records of the entire country intended be held on the NHS Connecting for Health system, or all those personal details being sought out for the NIR, to remain secure?

All very well and good. They won’t be. And we should thank Andrew Lansley MP for taking the opportunity to point it out. But I cannot help feeling let down by the response of media and politicians. “Insecure!” they bleat.

Nowhere, yet, have I heard or read in the mainstream discussion of this incident what seems to me the most screamingly obvious and fundamental questions. What business is it of the DoH to supervise the selection of individual doctors for individual hospital placements at all? And what the hell is it doing collecting information about doctors’ religions, sexual preferences and criminal records in the first place? If you have committed a crime the nature of which debars you from being a doctor, then you’re no longer a doctor, so you should not be on the list. If you have not then your crimes are as irrelevant as your religion or your sexuality, and they should not be. No doubt they were also as carefully classified as to race and ethnic origin as would satisfy apartheid authorities re-equipped with modern computers.

When are people going to rebel against the presumption that government may pigeonhole as it pleases, and anything a bureaucrat with a checklist asks he is entitled to know?

Unless you have a damn good reason, I decide what I’ll tell you about myself based on the nature of our relationship. Information is power. Information is intimacy. Forced disclosure of private information is data-rape.

Those 7,000 young doctors were only incidentally abused by the feeble security. They were deliberately data-raped by the Department of Health first.

I’m shocked, shocked

…to discover that carbon management and carbon credits are scams.

As for the carbon offsets so beloved of our elite Gulfstream Greens:

Companies and individuals rushing to go green have been spending millions on “carbon credit” projects that yield few if any environmental benefits.

A Financial Times investigation has uncovered widespread failings in the new markets for greenhouse gases, suggesting some organisations are paying for emissions reductions that do not take place.

Others are meanwhile making big profits from carbon trading for very small expenditure and in some cases for clean-ups that they would have made anyway.

Net effect of most carbon offsets: zero, or close to it. The Gulfstream Green crowd’s carbon footprints are just as big as before, in other words, although by writing a check they have given themselves permission to ignore this fact.

And from the statist/authoritarian wing, we have cap and trade, which many proponents like to claim is a market solution. As if a market in an artificial intangible permit issued by government and valued only because of government regulatory scheme is anything other than gussied up rent-seeking.

This system sets an overall cap on carbon emissions, creates a fixed set of carbon credits which add up to this cap level, and then allows companies to trade credits with each other. There really is no upside to this system, though proponents will argue that it does have a firm cap on carbon emissions. The downsides are that industries will cheat, price volatility will be really high, counties will cheat and the system privileges insiders:

By creating tradable financial assets worth tens of billions of dollars for governments to distribute among their industries and plants and then monitor, a global cap-and-trade program also introduces powerful incentives to cheat by corrupt and radical governments. Corrupt governments will almost certainly distribute permits in ways that favor their business supporters and understate their actual energy use and emissions.

And, of course, the final ‘solution’ to global warming is the carbon tax, which, like any tax, will grind down productivity, transfer wealth from producers to parasites, burden the development of truly poor areas, and (absent a trade war or true Global Total State) be applied only on a local basis and thus be ineffective to reduce carbon output in any meaningful way. Does anyone think that the worlds biggest carbon producer, China, will cripple its economy with this tax?

The three proposed solutions for the carbon problem are ineffective, corrupting, and damaging. Only someone in the grips of green religious mania, or with a profitable angle dialed in, could possibly be in favor of any of them.