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]

Anglo-American history contrasted with Bavarian history

Some thoughts on Anglo-American history contrasted with Bavarian history – with possible political and/or cultural consequences. The main expanders of the state in 19th century Britain are remembered (at least by most of the minority of people who remember them at all) as good people.

Edwin Chadwick was a good man who urged for state police forces to be made compulsory in every town (done in 1835 as part of Municipal Corporation Act, the Act that swept away, apart from in the City of London, the nasty Tory closed corporations and created the new councils that would mean more economical local government – of course we are still waiting for those lower local taxes). And in the rural areas , achieved by the Act of 1856 (which also provided central government funding and controls) – before this time the people of the villages of England and Wales were savages who hunted each other for food.

Chadwick was also the nice man who saved us all from being killed by filth (government being the only thing that can provide water or remove waste you see) or falling over in the dark (government being the only thing that can provide street lighting) and so on on and so on. A noble reformer in the tradition of his mentor Jeremy Bentham (although Bentham’s dream of 13 departments of state controlling every aspect of human life, had to wait till the 20th century to come to pass – even the national Public Health Board was repealed in 1858 in the time of the wicked Palmerston).

All of Chadwick’s doctrines are described as things that “everyone agrees with” in J.S. Mill’s “Political Economy” of 1848, of course there were large numbers of things that looked human that did not agree, but J.S. Mill did not count them as people (a full person being someone whose mind is fully developed – and whether someone had a fully developed mind could be determined by whether or not they agreed with J.S. Mill, this is also true of the Labour Theory of Value which was “settled” with everyone in agreement the people who did not agree, such as Richard Whately and Samuel Bailey, being nonpersons). Academics and media people carry on with J.S. Mill’s tactic to this day, and like him, they talk endlessly of “freedom” and “liberty” as they do so. → Continue reading: Anglo-American history contrasted with Bavarian history

Stewart Nozette, Israeli spy?

It is not everyday you find an email in your email box telling you someone you know is a real, honest to goodness spy, but that is what happened to me this morning. According to The Huffington Post:

Nozette allegedly informed the agent that he had, in the past, held top security clearances and had access to U.S. satellite information, the affidavit said.

The scientist also allegedly said that he would be willing to answer questions about this information in exchange for money. The agent explained that the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, would arrange for a communication system so Nozette could pass on information in a post office box.

Nozette agreed to provide regular, continuing information and asked for an Israeli passport, the affidavit alleged.

Personally I find it difficult to become exercised over someone passing information to an ally who may well use that information to do horrible things to people who really, really deserve it. It would be rather different had he sold information to China, North Korea, Iran or one of the other current or potential future enemies.

Oh, and the personal connection? I have crossed paths with Stu off and on over the last thirty years as he was once active with the L5 Society and was a leading figure in the Clementine lunar mapping project for which we (the National Space Society) awarded him one of our highest honours.

Stu Nozette receiving a Space Pioneer Award
Stewartt Nozette receives the National Space Society’s Space Pioneer Award at the 1994 International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in Toronto for his work on Clementine.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

I still hold Stewart in the highest esteem and if I have anything to do with it, we will still reserve that space for his name on the Luna City wall of “Heroes of the Frontier” .

Samizdata quote of the day

“If you want to be a conservative in an England broken by revolution, you need to look beyond a rearguard defence of forms from which all substance was long since drained.. The conservative tradition may have been dominated since the 1970s by Edmund Burke. But it does also contain the radicals of the seventeenth century. And – yes – it also has a place even for Tom Paine. If you want to preserve this nation, you must be prepared for a radical jettisoning of what is no longer merely old, but also dead. The conservative challenge is to look beneath the plumage and save the dying bird.”

Sean Gabb. He pulls no punches in condemning what he sees as the poor conduct of the British monarchy in signing off on a host of liberty-destroying legislation, including its apparent silence over the Lisbon Treaty. Strong stuff, and I urge folk to read the whole piece.

The story on the Windows version numbers

Windows 7, the new version of Microsoft Windows and the successor to Windows Vista, is officially released in two days time. On his blog, my good friend Patrick Crozier has asked a possibly not very important question, specifically

I’ve heard of Windows 3.1. I am about to a lot about Windows 7. But I’ve never heard a peep about Windows 4, 5 or 6. Were they, by any chance, really good versions of Windows that we never got to hear about because the praise for them was drowned out by complaints about 95, 98, 2000, Millenium and Vista?

I think we should be told.

The simple answer is of course that 95, 98, 2000, Millenium and Vista were Windows 4, 5 and 6, although not necessarily in that order. Microsoft decided in 1995 to abandon product numbers on many of its products, and replace them with names consisting of the years in which the product was released. Since then, they have released products with names consisting of product numbers, years, two letter codes that might or might not means something, and words that might or might not have anything to do with what the product is supposed to do, with versions of the same product seemingly seldom ever using the same convention twice.

If you ask Microsoft’s PR department, they will tell you that Windows 95/98/ME were Windows 4, Windows 2000 was Windows 5.0, Windows XP was Windows 5.1, and Windows Vista was Windows 6.0, which it appears to make a certain amount of sense to follow with Windows 7.

However, it is of course more complex than that, and I am going to attempt to explain it. Reading the rest of this post is unlikely to improve your life in any way, although it will teach you something about the mindset of Microsoft and/or that of nerds in general. Madness may lie at the end of it. However, here we go anyway.
→ Continue reading: The story on the Windows version numbers

The Tory Party: the delusion of choice

Yet again, Dave Cameron shows that far from representing an ‘alternative’ to Labour, he is as one in his underpinning world view. A vote for Cameron is a vote for “more of the same”.

So if you think that the sort of identity politics we have seen for years now is a splendid thing, then a vote for Dave makes perfect sense: you will get a younger energetic leader able to apply the ways of ever expanding regulatory statism more effectively… i.e. an end to the neurotic, sclerotic and thankfully ineffective Brown and a return to the much more effectively imposed Blairite Britain… Tory Blair.

No doubt under Cameron we will see more contracting out of government “services”, which Tories will hold up as evidence of their “free market” credentials and Labour will howl about Tory vandalism of th public sector… as if making a government “service” more efficient by changing the organisation details of who gets paid to do it in any way reduces the toxic society destroying purview of the state.

Then again, if you actually want to vote for a conservative, you can always vote UKIP.

A nice piece of election art

Via Iain Dale’s blog, I came across this nifty piece of Conservative Party electioneering poster art. As Mr Dale says, this is incredibly prescient. Of course, the glee of Mr Dale in finding this is somewhat undermined by the fact that the Conservatives have not, to put it mildly, covered themselves with glory on this issue down the years, even though, to be fair, that it was Churchill’s Conservatives who axed ID cards and the final bits of rationing in the early 1950s. But whatever quibbles one might have, there is little doubt that today, Labour MPs will struggle ever to be taken seriously on the civil liberties issue. That is for certain.

Last night I listened to a great talk by Henry Porter, the journalist and book author, and the spy fiction novelist Charles Cumming. For Porter, civil liberties issues form a part of his latest book. Recommended.

Does Devil’s Kitchen overdo the swearing?

There is swear-blogging, and then there is this:

Emily Thornberry MP: a very stupid and thoroughly unpleasant person who should be severely punched in the cunt, and then thrown into the sea.

That’s way too far over the top of the top for me. Maybe I’m getting old. It’s in a posting in response to a posting here by Johnathan Pearce on Saturday, about how giving women rights at work will make them more expensive to employ and consequently cause women to be employed less.

I’m genuinely in two minds about this swear-blogging thing. (See also this blog.) On the one hand, as with the passage quoted above, I think it can be horribly offensive by almost any standard and liable to make a lot of people think badly of something I value, namely the libertarian movement. (If you look under affiliations, you see that DK is affiliated to the Libertarian Party.) I can foresee a time when such passages as the above will be quoted in evidence against us all. If anyone points out that “they” (i.e. us libbos) were writing things like that, and none of “them” complained, well, I did. And if this posting alerts enemies of the libertarian movement otherwise unalerted and it all blows up in our faces, then the sooner the better, I say. Get the argument about swear-blogging over with.

On the other hand, this kind of language does at least communicate just how angry people get about the plundering and bossiness of politicians. If you are similarly angry, read on, Devil’s Kitchen is for you. You are not alone. It libertarianism was only written calmly and dispassionately, something important would be lost.

One thing I do know is that if Devil’s Kitchen was nothing but the above offensiveness, I wouldn’t give a … flip … about him. It is because he writes good stuff about important topics, in among the effing and blinding and sometimes worse, that I now ruminate upon the wisdom or lack of it of how he writes. Whatever I end up thinking about this, I am not now recommending and never will recommend that what I might consider to be excessively sweary swear-blogging should be illegal, to read or to write.

Great science hoaxes…

I followed a link I spotted for ‘great science hoaxes‘… and imagine my surprise when it turned out to not be about Anthropogenic Global Warming!

Samizdata quote of the day

“Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.”

Anita Dunn, White House communications director and fan of the greatest mass murderer in history.

So one network for the Republicans and three for the Democrats then.

Ownership and the universe

This essay, written by the philosopher Edward Feser in 2005, contains much food for thought. I like these couple of paragraphs:

“The claim that we all own everything is more in need of justification than the claim that no one initially owns anything. Surely such a claim is not merely unjustified, but counterintuitive, even mysterious. Consider the following: a pebble resting uneasily on the surface of the asteroid Eros as it orbits the sun, a cubic foot of molten lava
churning a mile below the surface of the earth, one of the polar icecaps on Mars, an ant floating on a leaf somewhere in the mid-Pacific, or the Andromeda galaxy. It would seem odd in the extreme to claim that any
particular individual owns any of these things: In what sense could Smith, for example, who like most of the rest of us has never left the surface of the earth or even sent a robotic spacecraft to Eros, be said to own the
pebble resting on its surface? But is it any less odd to claim we all own the pebble or these other things? Yet the entire universe of external resources is like these things, or at least (in the case of resources that are now
owned) started out like them—started out, that is to say, as just a bunch of stuff that no human being had ever had any impact on. So what transforms it into stuff we all commonly own? Our mere existence? How so?”

“Are we to suppose that it was all initially unowned, but only until a group of Homo sapiens finally evolved on our planet, at which point the entire universe suddenly became our collective property? (How exactly did that process work?) Or was it just the earth that became our collective property? Why only that? Does something become collective property only when we are capable of directly affecting it? But why does everyone share in ownership in that case—why not only those specific individuals who are capable of affecting it: for example, explorers, astronauts, or entrepreneurs? It is, after all, never literally “we” collectively who discover Antarctica, strike oil, or go to the moon, but only particular individuals, together perhaps with technical assistance and financial backing provided by other particular individuals. Smith’s being the first to reach some distant island and build a hut on it at least makes it comprehensible how he might claim—plausibly or implausibly—to own it. This fact about Smith gives some meaning to the claim that he has come to own it. But it is not at all clear how this fact would give meaning to the claim that Jones, whom Smith has never met or even heard of, who has had no involvement in or influence on Smith’s journey and homesteading, and who lives thousands of miles away (or even years in the future), has also now come to own it.”

He also beautifully undermines the claim, sometimes made even by pro-market people, that no-one has been able to prove that property rights can ever arise justly ex-nihilo, that they are all, in the end, derived from a sort of act of initial theft. He takes that point apart.

Screwed over by an arbitrary state ruling… good

A number of Members of Parliament are up in arms about the clearly arbitrary rulings by Sir Thomas Legg regarding the repayment of money claimed as expenses by various MPs. It seems obvious to me that the ‘rules’ being applied by Legg are criteria he has more or less plucked out of the air for deciding what constitutes a ‘reasonable’ expense for an MP to claim.

And I must say I find this an edifying show. That the apex predators of the looter class are being given a taste of what it is like to be at the mercy of a capricious ruling by some state functionary fills me with delight. Moreover the public perception of MPs wriggling on the hook are unlikely to be one of legalistic understanding but rather a deepening of the perception of a socially remote class squealing over their looting privileges being squeezed.

The notion of taking one for the team obviously does not appeal to a number of the Honourable Members and frankly from my perspective, ideally the MPs will prevail and end up not paying back the money they took in order to yield the maximum effect I would like to see.

But whoever wins the argument in the end, there is simply no downside from my point of view at the spectacle of a cross party selection of bloated hippos noisily snorting and harrumphing and rolling around in the steaming mud piles of public relations effluent slathered across the floor of the House of Commons… oh… fulsome apologies to the world’s hippos for that unkind analogy.

I hope this process drags on and on as the already palpable cynicism with which the political establishment class are viewed by most people gradually slides into loathing. From such seeds do interesting fruits grow.

The best enemies imaginable

These guys crack me up. Geert Wilders finally makes it to Britain after a court overturned the disgraceful ban, and he delivers his anti-Islam message in Westminster… and how do his enemies show that Wilders is wrong to characterise them as a threat to western civilisation?


In one TV interview I saw, one of the Muslim protesters said “he should just come out and talk to us and get our point of view”… very reasonable… whereupon a second bearded paragon of the Religion of Peace interjected words to the effect “If he did not have all those police around him, we’d show him what we do to enemies of Islam” (if anyone spots an on-line video of this exchange, please post it in the comments).

I just cannot avoid smiling at these guys who are always so keen to give a televised performance of “Crazed Muslim Lunatics” straight out of Central Casting any time someone sticks a microphone in their face.

Although I disagree with Wilders’ ideas regarding banning the Koran, is it not remarkable how when he says profoundly reasonable things, defending the rights of Jews and Gays no less to be free from the threats promised by a great many Islamic commentators, somehow almost all the mainstream media tag him as “far right”.