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]

Samizdata quote of the day

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

– Voltaire, rationalist & satirist (1694 – 1778)

Living in the countryside has its costs – get used to it

Tim Worstall – back in harness after running for office as a UKIP MEP – writes about the Labour government’s stated desire to ensure that not a single tract of the UK is without broadband access. It is the sort of techie, practical measure that Mr Gordon Brown thinks will help win him a bit of respect in the traditional Tory and LibDem shires.

As Tim says, the logic of this idea is questionable. There are geographical, physical reasons why broadband access, or indeed other forms of communications, are not available everywhere, all the time. Also, as the comment thread attached to Tim’s piece reveals, there is this argument, that I have raised before – also prompted by one of Tim’s articles – about why people feel that because X or Y wants a road, canal, power cables, whatever, that therefore the state should be able to use compulsory purchase powers, and taxation, to pay for whatever it is that is wanted. I have referred to this mindset as “brute utilitarianism”. Also, it is a cost of living in the countryside that one does not always have the same degree of speedy access to certain things that one has living in a town or city. That’s life, so folk should deal with it. (One of the few arguments for land value taxes is that people living in such remote places would, other things being equal, pay less taxes also. However, there are other problems with LVT as the Austrian school of economics points out, attractive at first blush though the idea might be).

I pay more to live in my rabbit hutch apartment in Pimlico and for the same outlay I could live in a big place in the sticks. But for the benefit of living in SW1, I get quick access to airports (a short trip from Victoria to Gatwick); the Tube, buses, taxis, broadband access, etc. This is part of the cost “package”, if you like, that comes with my locational choice. A person who lives in a remote area and who demands Pimlico or New York-style communcations is demanding that the citizens of a city should subsidize that preference. And yet many of the people who migrate from the towns to the country are quite well off; as I have noted in my native Suffolk, as soon as the townies settle in, they start demanding all kinds of amenities, not realising, or caring, that such things don’t exist because they are relatively expensive to put in rural areas, which is precisely why Mr and Mrs Chartered Accountant can afford to live in their nice village cottages in the first place.

Sometimes such debates are as easy as this: if people want something, then damn well pay for it yourself, and do not use the robber powers of the state to grab it off someone else.

Rant over.

Er, not quite: my reference to LVT brought out a crop of Henry George “land-is-special!” types on the comment board. Several of us have responded to them, but I came across this nice essay by Jan Narveson, which I think is one of the best smackdowns for the land value tax mob that I have ever read. Excerpt:

Now, the point of this little essay is that that is basically all there is to it, and there doesn’t need to be anything else. The idea that we all have an equal right to the land is amazingly arbitrary, and contrary to all human experience while it’s at it. It’s arbitrary in that it has no basis. The fact that we don’t make the land is irrelevant, as already seen: we don’t make the natural part of anything we have or own, no matter whether we have “made” it or not. But the point is, it doesn’t matter. For things are just things: they do not come with labels saying that they “belong” to some people or that some people, somehow, have a “claim” on them, nor in turn that everybody has a claim on them, equal or otherwise.

The most insane edition of Newsweek ever?

Unlike the dismal Economist, Newsweek magazine does not claim to be a free market supporting publication.

Henry Hazlitt stopped writing for Newsweek back in 1966 and his replacement, as a free market voice, Milton Friedman was fired (asked to stop writing for the magazine – which is being ‘fired’ as far as I am concerned) many years ago – which is the reason I stopped subscribing to Newsweek, which I had done as a youngster.

In recent years Newsweek magazine has been fairly openly socialist (although it does not formally admit this). So why am I bothering to write a post about the publication? I am doing so because I have just seen perhaps the most insane edition of Newsweek that I have seen – not just ‘leftwing’, or whatever, but an edition that just makes no sense, whether from a socialist or any other point of view. Makes no sense as in ‘senseless’ – insane.

The front cover of the edition has the headline ‘Capitalist Manifesto‘ and this article is odd enough – page after page of standard statist stuff (supporting the bank bailouts and so on) written by one Newsweek‘s high ups. Why the high up is being given about half the magazine for his statist musings (rather than doing his job of editing the articles of real writers) is not explained – and the title of ‘Capitalist Manifesto’, for standard statism that one could hear and see on the BBC or American ‘mainstream’ broadcasters any day of the week, is also not explained.

However, this is by no means the most odd article.

There is also an article about a group of ‘rebels’ who are out to “save capitalism” from President Barack Obama. I was astonished to see such an article in the ‘mainstream media’ (especially in Newsweek) and read it. That is when the utter insanity of this edition of Newsweek hit me.

The ‘rebels’ are actually Democrats (and one is Bernard Sanders, the openly Socialist Senator from Vermont) who are “saving capitalism” by “opposing” Barack Obama (in reality they are all strong supporters of Barack Obama) who they fear is “too soft on Wall Street”.

So capitalism is to be “saved” by even more statism than there is already. People like Senator Sanders of Vermont are interested in “saving” capitalism (which it has been their life long dream to destroy) and they are “rebels” against the (life long far leftist with Marxist background, whom they all really support) Barack Obama, who is too free market – in much the way Lenin or Mussolini were too free market I guess.

After I put my head back together (it had exploded), I tried to make some sense of this article. The only thing I can come up with is it is some sort of cover for the new regulations announced by President Barack Obama. By saying they are not enough (selling out to Wall Street and so on) and pointing at ‘rebels’ (i.e. pro Obama fanatics) who are out to “save capitalism” (i.e. are determined to utterly destroy what is left of the free market), life long far leftist Barack Obama can be presented as a ‘moderate’.

Also the real causes of the present crises (the endless increases in the credit money supply by the Federal Reserve system and the wildly harmful “affordable housing policy” pushed by Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Barack Obama and the rest via Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and so on) can be hidden by lies about the “deregulated” (!) financial system.

However, this explanation is rather complex and does not really convince me. A more simple explanation is that the people over at Newsweek have just finally gone totally insane.

Public service

The Times, assisted by Mr Justice Eady, who seems to preside over the whole mess that stands in the place of proper privacy law in England, has unmasked the police blogger NightJack. NightJack had just won the Orwell Prize for his blog. I am guessing that drew it to the attention of higher authority, and such articulate dissent must be punished.

It took just six weeks, including a court-case, to reveal his identity. The blog has now been deleted, and the DC formerly known as NightJack has been disciplined in some unspecified way. Apparently it is in the public interest to maintain a disciplinary code under which police officers are not permitted to express their opinions. That is what Sir David Eady implied, obiter, in giving his judgement.

But deleting from public knowledge what has once been on the web is difficult. Here is a celebrated sample, NightJack’s advice to the arrested, which Samizdata readers may find both useful and enlightening (there is a situational irony in the sideswipe at those who have learned how to use the forces of law and order to score points and extract revenge):

A Survival Guide for Decent Folk

Paul has posted a number of lengthy replies on the “Modest Proposal” thread. In these days of us increasingly having to deal with law abiding folk who have fallen foul of the “entitled poor” and those who have learned how to use us to score points and exact revenge, I thought it would be a good idea to give out a bit of general guidance for those law abiding types who find themselves under suspicion or under arrest. It works for the bad guys so make it work for you.

→ Continue reading: Public service

Samizdata quote of the day

“It is rare that governments successfully cut costs by first spending more money.”

Tyler Cowen. He was talking about Mr Obama’s plans to socialise US medicine. I am sure that when the NHS was set up here in the UK, the advocates of said argued that it would “save” money in the long run. Meanwhile, here is some useful commentary from Arnold Kling.

Poverty, banditry, and traders in Somalia

The late Peter (Lord) Bauer, a Hungarian-born economist who lived for much of his life in the UK, did outstanding work in demonstrating why markets and trade are superior to overseas aid, and pointed out how aid, and the organisations that often get involved in delivering it, frequently make problems of poverty worse, not better. Even aid advocates like Sir Bob Geldof will readily concede, meanwhile, that aid delivery becomes next to impossible during conditions of war, and when countries are under the rule of armed thugs. So last night’s Channel 4 programme on Somalia will have surprised few regulars at this blog.

What was interesting was how local traders were allegedly bribing some aid officials to take sacks of food and then sell it into the market. We were meant to be appalled by this, and part of me was. But also I also could not ignore the fact that this part of Africa seems to be buzzing with a sort of entrepreneurial class of men – one did not see many women – who trade in, and take great efforts to obtain, food and other stuff. That surely suggests that a market, of sorts, works in this part of the world. But what clearly does not work is the rule of law, or the enforcement of property rights. Without due protection for the latter, in particular, then the indestructible desire to “truck and barter” can all too easily degrade into a form of banditry. But let’s be clear here: while one can be nauseated at foreign aid being filched by some of the locals, that desire to trade is not, in itself, the problem. It is, in fact, part of the solution to the poverty of Africa.

Meanwhile, I strongly recommend William Easterly’s book on foreign aid and the mistakes that well-intentioned folk make about aid.

The government stands up for free speech

Alan Forrester is none too impressed with the evident wish of the state to stamp out any alternatives to state directed indoctrination

The government has recently published a review on home education written by Graham Badman in which he expresses a laudable concern for free speech for children:

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) gives children and young people over forty substantive rights which include the right to express their views freely, the right to be heard in any legal or administrative matters that affect them and the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. Article 12 makes clear the responsibility of signatories to give children a voice:

“Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.”

Yet under the current legislation and guidance, local authorities have no right of access to the child to determine or ascertain such views.

What remedy does Mr Badman recommend? He recommends that all home education families should be registered with the Local Education Authority and:

At the time of registration parents/carers/guardians must provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes for the child over the following twelve months.

Guidance should be issued to support parents in this task with an opportunity to meet local authority officers to discuss the planned approach to home education and develop the plan before it is finalised. The plan should be finalised within eight weeks of first registration.

Of course Mr Badman really has no interest in free speech and is just a political hack hired by the government to write crude propaganda for their campaign to destroy home education and he can’t even do that properly. Mr Badman is quoting a definition of free speech from the United Nations. Many of the UN’s member governments are tyrranical kleptocracies run by thugs who murder or torture anyone who dares to openly oppose them. Seems to me they don’t really like free speech too much and quoting them is a big giveaway.

Mr Badman takes their advice because he worships the power of the state and feels the need to have people who like to play at being an international state dictate what he says about fee speech. Free speech is freedom from having your speech dictated by anybody else, including the British government. The British government violates free speech rights on a massive scale by imprisoning children in schools in which they are not allowed to speak or go to the toilet without permission. Instead of solving this problem Mr Badman proposes to secure a child’s right to free speech by forcing parents to dictate what their children what their children will think in twelve months and if they fail to indoctrinate their child the child will be locked up in one of the government’s prisons for children schools.

A new, pathetic low for the British government.

Sugar clubbed

David Mitchell’s own opinions are a bit right-on for me (right-on generally being the opposite of right, in either sense). But unlike the ordinarily right-on, he is prepared to countenance being mistaken, and frequently an acute critic. This bit of his latest Observer column is lucid and perfectly to the point:

Gordon Brown is either so short of ideas or so despises the electorate that he thinks the best way to demonstrate that the government is coping with the biggest business crisis in a century is to make it the responsibility of a man whose day job is telling self-regarding mediocrities that they should take off their Mexican hats before trying to put on their jumpers. A man who has made himself rich, but whose career as a tycoon has gone sufficiently quiet that he’s got time to do TV.

Top-end billionaires are too busy for that – Rupert Murdoch and Richard Branson don’t have their own programmes, they have their own channels. Alan Sugar is no longer primarily a businessman – he portrays one on TV. Brown might as well have given the new tsardom to the bloke who played Boycie in Only Fools and Horses

What is even more depressing than Brown thinking that this might impress people is that the Tories, the only plausible alternative government, agree.

Sir Alan’s TV role is caricature capitalism. (Am I the only one who hears the the Fry & Laurie Dammit sketch, itself mocking business-set melodrama, when the apprentices talk?) It is alarming if the Tories think that the public might think that the appointment is any more than more window-dressing, and more alarming that they are engaging in manoeuvres to reinforce that impression. They should be mocking a Government that holds reality TV to be a model for reality.

But what if both Mitchell and I and all the other cynical commentators are wrong, and the Conservatives are wisely containing a real threat? What if the public is impressed?

Samizdata quote of the day

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

– Winston Churchill


From: *.*@westminsterforumprojects.co.uk]
Sent: 12 June 2009 09:50
To: enquiries@no2id.net
Subject: The future role of the third sector in the UK: Don’t Miss the Westminster Legal Policy Forum Keynote Seminar: The Future of the UK Third Sector – proving ‘public benefit’, Morning, 18th June 2009

Westminster Legal Policy Forum Keynote Seminar:
The Future of the UK Third Sector – proving ‘public benefit’


Helen Stephenson
Deputy Director, Third Sector Support Team
Office of the Third Sector, Cabinet Office


Claire Cooper
Deputy Director, Communities Group
Department for Communities and Local Government


Peter Wanless
Chief Executive, Big Lottery Fund


Simon Blake
Chair, Compact Voice

Morning, Thursday, 18th June 2009
Princess Alexandra Hall, Over-Seas House, Park Place, St James’s Street, London SW1A 1LR

For the attention of the Director

I hope you won’t mind this final reminder about the above seminar, taking place in Westminster next Thursday, but you don’t currently appear to be represented, and I do believe the issues being discussed will be of interest.

This email is being sent to a general email address because I wanted to pass along information that I thought may be of interest but was unable to secure specific contact details. Please forward this to the appropriate person, and we would be grateful to receive precise contact details if this is possible.

Whereas I thought readers of this blog would be interested, given we have previously discussed the creeping nationalisation of charities and other voluntary organisations by Britain’s Borg-state. For foreign readers I hope it throws light on an icy subtle totalitarianism.

What makes this doubly creepy is that it is a legal policy seminar. That hints at further powers perhaps to coerce the ‘third sector’, as well as to co-opt and to corrupt it. Though the new Companies Act 2006 constrains the independence of action of commercial firms and non-profits in unclear ways, it is yet a shadow in the corner. So if you are a voluntary organisation but not a charity, don’t spend money on party politics, and don’t accept government or local authority or quango or bound-charity money, then you are currently still beyond state control and not obliged to provide a ‘public benefit’.

Please note there is a charge for most delegates, but no one is excluded on the basis of ability to pay (see below).


The third sector – charities, social enterprises, credit unions – have an increasingly prominent role in the delivery of services and economic development in the UK.

But now the ‘rules of the game’ are changing as the Charity Commission imposes new duties on charities to justify ‘public benefit’ and the recession threatens to squeeze much-needed donations.

This seminar takes an in depth look at the effects on charities themselves and those who support or benefit from them, at what the third sector will look like in the future, how significant a role it is set to play after the recession and at implications for UK society as a whole.

→ Continue reading: Anaconda

It is almost 40 years ago

In just over one month’s time, some of us space geeks will be hoisting a glass or several to mark this 40th anniversary. I was only a three-year old toddler when Messrs Armstrong and Aldrin climbed out of the craft and onto that dusty, sun-blasted place called the Moon. 40 years. Popular Mechanics has a good look at what it all meant.

I think a good place to mark the occasion would be down at Greenwich, London, near to the Royal Observatory.

Jon Stewart conducts a very fair interview about the bailouts

Some right-wing Americans got very upset when Jon Stewart, the TV comedy/news guy, monstered the CNBC “Mad Money” front-man Jim Cramer a few months ago. They had a point; it is clear that at least in some of his shows, Stewart tacks left. But whether unwittingly or otherwise, he was very fair in an interview recently with Peter Schiff – who by the way is possibly running for political office. Mr Schiff is a hard-money capitalist, an attacker of the Fed, of the bailouts of Bush/Obama. I wrote about him a while back. And Schiff used the platform of this very popular show to beat the drum for free markets, sound money, and getting rid of the Fed.

Good for Jon Stewart, at least on this occasion, for giving Schiff a platform.