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

“Being tried by 12 good men and true sounds brilliant but if, God forbid, you were to find yourself in the dock charged with a crime you did not commit, would you want to be tried by 11 dinner ladies and Trigger from Only Fools and Horses? Or Wayne Rooney? Or Piers Morgan? Speaking personally, I’d far rather plead my case in front of nothing but a judge. I know that some are a bit doddery, and that many live in houses with no central heating, but most are more astute than the alternative: 11 lunching ladies and Benny from Crossroads.”

Jeremy Clarkson

Read on, and he nevertheless defends trial by jury, despite his rather bracing opinions of our fellow men and women. For our non-UK readers, I should explain that Wayne Rooney is a footballer, Trigger is a character from a comedy show, Piers Morgan is a journalist and arsehole, and Benny is also a character from a forgettable soap opera. I hope this information proves informative and enlightening.


A tiny but brazen piece of churnalism has just amused me in a post on WITsend, a blog on ComputerWeekly.com that is ‘…a place for women in IT…tackling issues facing women and other minorities working in technology’. The post, dated 12 January and headed ‘Frances Allen: first woman to win Turing Award’, begins

Frances Allen was has become the first woman to receive the prestigious Turing Award since it was set up in 1966.

Why did the author first write ‘has become’ and later correct it to ‘was’? And why did she draw attention to the change by retaining the struck-through words? The explanation is at the end:

Correction: this story is true, but it’s not new! Allen received the award in 2007, no idea why I got sent a press release on it now.. sorry!

So she took a single press release, and without even the slightest cross-checking – not even a quick glance in Wikipedia – she generated her blog post. Wish I could be so fluent. I have been all over the Net in the course of checking this and that, just for this tiny squib.

In case any reader does not know the term, ‘churnalism’ is the journalistic practice of recycling press releases as news with only the minimum of rewriting. It is a Bad Thing, and the blog author should care, because it is one of those issues facing women and other minorities working in technology. And men. And majorities. And people not working in technology.

When this woman got egg on her face, she did not even have the grace to be embarrassed by the exposure of her sloth. Instead of making the change silently, hoping no-one would notice, she flaunted this decline in standards (can you see what’s coming? Yes …) She should have hidden the decline. Phil Jones could have given her some pointers.

Index of freedom

I am slightly wary of trying to rank the freedoms of different countries according to some sort of benchmark, but these things can sometimes have their uses, if only in conveying movement from good to bad and vice versa. This index of freedom, provided by the US-based Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, shows that the US has definitely gone backwards in recent years. There will obviously be finger-pointing at Mr Obama and his Democrat allies, but the Republicans under Bush & co bear some of the blame for this state of affairs, also.

As for the position of Britain, I hardly need to read the link to realise that freedoms are declining.

Bad news from the Northern Front, mein Führer

Hitler finds out Obama lost Massachusetts… hehehe.

Samizdata double quote of the day

In Scott Brown we have an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against woman.

Keith Olbermann, MSNBC host.

To which Mark Steyn responded, under the heading “Homophobic Nude Teabaggers on the March”:

That’s certainly why I’m supporting him. But who knew there were so many of us?

‘Common Sense’ versus ‘Pragmatism’

Some words or terms are thrown about in casual conversation – but also have formal meanings, and meanings that still have practical (including political) importance.

“Common Sense” and “Pragmatism” are two examples of this.

The “Common Sense” School of philosophy (sometimes known as the “Scottish Philosophy” – see James McCosh’s book of 1877 with that title) grow up in opposition to certain doubts promoted by David Hume and others.

“Common Sense” philosophers such as Thomas Reid held the following things:

That the physical universe actually existed – that it was not just an illusion in the mind.

That the mind itself (the “I”) also existed that it was not an illusion (for if the mind is an illusion – who is having the illusion?), that thoughts really did mean a thinker. An agent, a being – that we exist and that (as agents/beings) we have the ability to choose (agency). And that our choices are real ones – not illusions hiding either a series of causes and effects going back to the start of the universe, or random chance. For choice is neither predetermined (for that is no choice) or random chance (for that is no choice either) – choice is what it is, neither predetermined or chance. Choice is choice.

And that as we have the ability to choose we can choose between good and evil – and that these are real things also, not just “boo and cheer words” (to take a line from the Logical Positivist A.J. Ayre – for a refutation see C.E.M. Joad “A Critique of Logical Positivism” London, 1950), but are objective things which we as subjects (not just objects) can choose between.

On all of the above the Common Sense school are in agreement with the Aristotelians. Both religious Aristotelians (such as the Roman Catholic scholastics who stretch from the Schoolmen in the Middle Ages right to people in our time) and atheist Aristotelians – such as Randian Objectivists.

Although the forms of words (the methods) are very different the Common Sense school were even in agreement with the Aristotelians are on what are good acts and what are bad acts – for example the Non-Aggression Principle was broadly accepted, as much by scholastics in the Middle Ages as by 18th and 19th century Common Sense thinkers as by modern thinkers of these schools of thought.

But why is the name important? → Continue reading: ‘Common Sense’ versus ‘Pragmatism’


Sometimes it takes awhile to get around to a story. I was in Huntsville, Alabama in November 2008 and talked my friend and fellow NSS board member Greg Allison into playing hookey from the meetings for part of an afternoon so I could take some of my own photos of the remains of the DCX rocket. When he told me about his classic Kentucky long rifle, I realized this was a photo op extraordinaire for…. REDNECKS in Spaaaace!!

Greg Allison, Kentucky Longrifle and DCX
Three things you do not do in the South. You don’t mess with a southerners dawg, his pickup truck or his spaceship.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Don’t even think it. He’ll shoot off your left at further than you can even see a squirrel.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

The taxodus

Well, continuing in my theme of talking about folk heading off to mountainous nations with more sensible tax laws than in the UK, I see that Sir Simon Jenkins thinks that Britain would be well rid of the thousands of financiers and other folk who are threatening to leave the UK because of high taxes. Jenkins is a rum fish: he is often quite astute in pointing out, for example, the damaging impact of regulations on certain industries and in some ways his instincts are quite liberal in the old, proper use of that word. But he also thinks that tax rates don’t really matter. To hell with ’em, he says: these bankers are just bluffing:

“There may be someone out there outraged at paying 10 per cent more in tax from an enormous income, and equally outraged at his firm being taxed on his enormous bonus. Of these a few may be so outraged as to uproot their families, desert their friends and go into exile — before they find that a £2 million London house costs £9 million in Geneva. If they can do their business entirely online, why be in London at all? But I doubt if there really are 9,000 such sad, migratory souls.”

Jenkins needs to get out more. There are indeed thousands of people who are not amused at the prospect of having their wallets so comprehensively lifted. In my travels and through work in the media and wealth management sector, I can tell Sir Simon that the exodus of folk is not a mirage. It is happening. Note the lazy assumption that because these evil bankers are paid so much, it will not make any difference if the state seizes another 10 per cent of their annual income. In fact, once changes to pension allowances, thresholds and National Insurance are taken into account, the top rate of income tax in the UK will be more than 60 per cent in marginal terms for anyone earning more than £150,000 a year. That tax bite is higher than will be the case on top earners in France, if my memory serves. Way to go, Mr Brown! But what is objectionable about Jenkins’ reasoning – if we can dignify his comment by such a word – is the idea that such folk have no right to be outraged at having almost two-thirds of their income above a certain level seized, at source. The assumption is that no-one really “needs” all that filthy lucre and should be jolly grateful that they do not have to surrender even more. The unconscious collectivism is all too evident.

The consider this classic:

“We used to get the same tax-dread from the British film industry, howling at being taxed like ordinary mortals. Yet the last time Britain made really good films, in the Sixties and Seventies, marginal income tax was 80 per cent. In 1986 the Big Bang transformed the City of London, leading to German, Swiss and American banks pouring into London. It ensured that the City, then languishing under competition from abroad, would flourish. At the time, marginal income tax was not 40 per cent or 50 per cent but 60 per cent.”

That is a silly argument. No-one is claiming that if taxes rise, that the economy collapses overnight – the damaging effect can take quite a while to have its effect. But have its effect it did. Many of the stars of 1970s films, such as Michael Caine, Peter Sellers, Sean Connery, Richard Burton, Roger Moore, did not live in the UK for part of the period that coincided with confiscatory tax rates. Sellers, for example, ended his days in Switzerland.

“It was not until two years later, in 1988, that the chancellor, Nigel Lawson, cut the tax to 40 per cent. By then Margaret Thatcher was so fearful of over-heating the economy that she pleaded with him that 50 per cent was enough. It was not Thatcher who cut the tax, as Johnson keeps saying, but Lawson. It led to inflation, boom and bust.”

Well, if Mrs Thatcher really did think that 50 per cent was “enough”, then all I can say is that I am glad Mr, now Lord, Lawson, prevailed. If the state takes a smaller chunk of a person’s income at source, that does not necessarily fuel inflation – since before the tax was cut, presumably the money being seized from such taxpayers was being spent on something else. In fact, I would add that one of Mrs Thatcher’s faults was her support for mortgage interest tax relief, which encouraged people to over-extend their borrowing on property and helped fuel the housing boom of the late 1980s (UK regulations restricting house building did not help either, but that is another story).

Finally, there is this:

Bankers can drift around the tax havens of the world while we are stuck in London but I don’t see why I should pay off their gambling debts with my taxes when they will not pay them too. If they storm off in a huff, good riddance. I don’t want such people investing my money.

Here he is confusing good arguments – no bailouts for failed bankers – with a sort of vengeful “fuck-you!” spite against bankers in general. If Sir Simon wants to make the case against “too big to fail” bailouts of bankers, argue for a genuine free market in banking rather than the statist, moral-hazard disaster we have now, and insist that the Keynesian madness now in vogue be challenged, I will be cheering him on. I suspect I might have to wait a while.

Reflections from an airport lounge in Switzerland

My blogging activities have been a bit patchy of late – possibly my enthusiasm or ability to come up with topics to write about has run a bit dry after doing this gig for almost nine years. But one reason for my lack of output has been my business travels, since after a busy day heading around from place to place, it takes a bit of effort to crank up another posting. Anyhow, in one nation I visited in the past few days on business – Switzerland – I could not fail to be struck at how folk in that nation feel a sense of being under seige. Under siege, that is, from various financially ruined nations such as the US and UK who are becoming increasingly aggressive in chasing after taxpayers. And although Switzerland is far from perfect – they have their own bureaucratic foibles and petty rules – I generally like the cantonal system, which means that if the canton of say, Zurich, decides to impose some dipshit rule, another one might take a more liberal view. And on the issue mentioned by Perry de Havilland of the totalitarian tendencies of certain medical lobbyists, I’d argue that Switzerland falls pretty well near the liberal, if not libertarian, end of the spectrum. Take the issue of smoking in privately-owned places. Yes, there are bans in some places, but I noted, for instance, that at Zurich airport, there was a rather smart-looking cigar bar. (Smokers are treated fairly well on the whole). In the hotel I stayed in, folk were smoking in one part of it without provoking any kind of anguish from anyone else.

I occasionally write about this nation because it is useful to have an example out there of a nation that has managed to resist the siren songs of being a “good European” and joining the EU behemoth, and because its people seem to still have a sort of cussed independence of mind that is a pleasing contrast to what I come across elsewhere. No doubt the Eyeores in the comment thread will tell me otherwise.

As an aside, I find the Swiss accent of German as hard to understand as ever, and I thought my German was quite good.

The totalitarian mindset… total body ownership by the state pre- and post- mortem

The Royal Society for Public Health no doubt sees itself as a worthy collection of people who are axiomatically on the side of the angels. I mean, who could be against public health?

In truth they are a terrifying and truly totalitarian outfit who operate with a presumption that the state has super-ownership of the physical bodies of everyone in Britain. Now I am of the view that defence against infectious plagues is a legitimate role of the state because it is a collective threat… a plague, like a fire or an invading army, does not respect property lines and so this is the whole reason to have a ‘nightwatchman state’.

But that is not the view of people like the Royal Society for Public Health. No, they take the view that ‘public health’ follows on naturally from state run medical care and gives the state the right to decide pretty much anything that can impact on an person’s health, regardless of that individual’s preferred choices, even if those choices are personal ones that do not place other people at risk.

They have issues a manifesto for nothing less than the nationalisation of your body and the intrusion of the state, on grounds of protecting your health from yourself and others who agree to be around you.

  1. A minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol sold
  2. No junk food advertising in pre-watershed television
  3. Ban smoking in cars with children
  4. Chlamydia screening for university and college freshers
  5. 20 mph limit in built up areas
  6. A dedicated school nurse for every secondary school
  7. 25% increase in cycle lanes and cycle racks by 2015
  8. Compulsory and standardised front-of-pack labelling for all pre-packaged food
  9. Olympic legacy to include commitment to expand and upgrade school sports facilities and playing fields across the UK
  10. Introduce presumed consent for organ donation
  11. Free school meals for all children under 16
  12. Stop the use of transfats

Of all these statist policies, number 1 is particularly invidious, with our technocratic masters seeking a sumptuary law on alcohol (i,.e. a tax to stop poor people drinking), number 12 seeks to regulate our choice of what we eat.

But by far the worst of all is number 10, this is the one which tells you everything you need to know about these people and the profoundly, unabashedly thugish nature of their world view… the state can help itself to your body parts by default. Post mortem conscription. Frankly I am all for organ donation, but at the moment, I carry a card expressly forbidding my organs to be harvested post mortem as the very notion these people are presumptive owners of any of my mortal remains is simply intolerable.

But then as they demand the right to regulate everything about your physical existence prior to death, I suppose it is no surprise they think nothing of helping themselves to your carcass after you die.

These people are the very worst kind of self-righteous technocratic curtain twitchers, the true spiritual heirs to the folks who in the first half of the twentieth century had people with birth defects sterilised or has troublesome people lobotomised, on ‘scientific grounds’ of course ‘for the public good’. Naturally such Guardian reading caring sharing folks would see drawing such analogues as a grotesque calumny, but in truth they exhibit the same intrusiveness and obsession with controlling the lives of others, it really is the same psychopathology, just repackaged for the 21st century with the current notions of ‘best practice’.

These people must be opposed… but not just politically, they need to be seen socially for what they are and abominated for their desires to regulate the lives of everyone around them. They presume to occupy the moral high ground but they do not and the more people who openly and publicly reject their axiomatic presumption of state controls over the very bodies of people, the sooner we can start to reclaim the culture of people who belong on a psychiatrist’s couch to help them deal with their abhorrent desires to use force against those who wish to live their lives without interference and according to their own judgements, with the positive and negative consequences of that accruing to themselves alone, like real adults.

The people behind this manifesto are detestable and they need to be told that to their faces.


Today’s Guardian leader, purportedly on social class, is worth reading. It is utter rubbish. But it is worth reading because it is utter rubbish.

It is an informative compression of the muddled thinking of the reflex left: non sequitur piled on fallacy, piled on miscomprehension of both theory and real people, piled on all-or-nothing thinking, piled on misprision of fact, bonded together only with a sticky, sighing outrage. Read it out loud and you may find yourself using that furious-sobbing-child tone and plonking emphasis affected by professional radical activists—especially women—to convey how strongly they feel about the world. As is universally acknowledged, strength of feeling is the same as strength of argument.

I say ‘the reflex left’ because the alternative, ‘the conventional left’, though it offers the pleasure of mocking the unoriginality of the radical, suggests a developed coherence in what is usually just attitudinal stamp-collecting reinforced by mutual approval (libertarians beware). Considering that the reflex left is obsessed with economics and sociology, and professes to derive its policy from them, the arrant ignorance of either, even as they are invoked, is an unending wonder. (Libertarians beware, bis.) That is on fabulous display here in a jazz hands incursion into social mobility, offering numbers that are not numbers (“But a child born 20 years later who is a successful professional now would probably come from the top quarter…“) and that lead to no detectable conclusions, which can only have been included for emotional colour. Impersonal social forces are held to dominate, but paradoxically regarded as tools of the wicked if they do not do what is wanted.

There is another way that ‘reflex’ is appropriate: this is reflexive discourse. It preaches to the converted. It says, “Look! We were right all along.” And assumes therefore that nothing need be said to engage the unconvinced (and again, beware). It is offered within code.

The best non sequitur in the piece is an epitome of an epitome. I considered offering it as a quote of the day. It has everything: it erupts into the discussion from nowhere, is complete nonsense, is nowhere meaningfully followed up, involves an appeal to shared attitudes and beliefs in the reader as reinforcement, and contains an implied accusation of wicked motives in others:

Politicians want us to believe that it is possible to make better-off people richer without making poor people poorer.

The Guardian leader-writer thinks we already do believe that it is impossible. Not even unlikely. Impossible. If we object that sometimes people have got rich by enslaving and impoverishing others, but that mostly both rich people and poor people have got richer together, though at different rates, then we must be wrong. The rich are richer ergo the poor are everywhere poorer. If the Prince of Wales is running his Aston Martin on spare wine and skiing every winter, it can only be at the direct expense of the Duchy of Cornwall’s serfs – who are now starving in greater numbers than in 1337. The politicians stand accused of denying such an inconvenient truth

No wonder the people think they are out of touch.

Asking such strange questions

“Can Barack Obama turn things around?” asks Harold Evans in the Telegraph.

The most galling thing for Obama is that his campaign vision of a less polarised America has turned out to be a daydream. The fright-wing of the Republican party has become more virulent than ever. Instead of joining with him in essential reforms, he has been demonised as a Hitler, an enemy of the American Constitution, and the Wingnut “birther movement” screamed that he is not even an American citizen. It is a tribute to Obama’s resilience that he has kept his cool in the face of this hysteria. He remains personally likeable to most Americans (something that could not have been said for the moralising Carter or the abrasive Bush), but the fervour of the movement that elected the first black president has abated.

Oh those mean old wingnuts! Clearly Bush never had to put up with anything like that!

But if the current economic mess in the USA sprang from a Big State Republican’s policies operating with a congress full of his enemies, why even ask the question if an even Bigger State Democrat can ‘turn things around’ by digging the same holes deeper?

As for Obama being “the smartest guy in the room”… really? He took the failed policies of his predecessor and doubled up the bet… is that really the sign of intelligence or original thinking?

And whilst I may have thought Bush was dismal, I do not recall him publicly stamping his feet at all the Hitler analogies being made about him and I also never got the impression he was ‘abrasive’… just habitually wrong. Rather like Obama actually. Only a bit whiter.