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]

Editorial Pantheon announcement

Due to technical difficulties – we ran out of elves powering the blog – there will be a ‘reduced service’ on the blog. We’ll be back in full form as soon as possible.

Samizdata quote of the day

“There’s something really quite joyous about a woman so ignorant of business that she bemoans the advertising, the commercialism, the specific slicing and dicing of the market to maximise the value of those ads, when that same woman’s salary is paid by the advertising, the very specific advertising in The Guardian’s jobs section for example, which is carried by the newspaper in which she writes.”

Tim Worstall, writing about comments from Zoe Williams, the Guardian writer.

I have a simple explanation for the issue that Tim confronts here: folk like Williams believe they are above the fray of grubby advertising, and are free of being persuaded by the evil, silent tricksters of the ad trade. But the unwashed plebs, with their love of glossy magazines, game shows and the rest, need to be protected by their betters, you see. Sometimes, it comes down to simple arrogrance of a mindset that is hostile to the idea to freedom, to the grubby, glorious vulgarities of the market. It is a mindset that is common to “liberal” Hampstead and High Tory Lake Poets in the early 19th Century.

A blow to the idea that attacks on the West are “blowback”

Reading this item over at National Review’s Corner blog, which relates to recent attempts by Al-Quaeda types to attack targets in Western Europe – apparently foiled for now – got me thinking. One of the possible targets, judging by the comment, was the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It makes me wonder when the “blame-the-West-First” crowd are going to understand that it was always idiotic to claim that 9/11, or the Madrid atrocities, or the London bombings/etc could ever be described as the West getting some sort of “blowback” for its allegedly dastardly deeds against Muslim lands. Whenever this argument is made, the implication, explicit or not, is that the appropriate policy to adopt is the equivalent of hiding under the bed.

France, let’s not forget, has more than its fair share of bad relations with some Muslim lands – Algeria in the 1950s being a case in point – but in recent years, the country’s government has been at pains to distance itself from the supposedly “cowboy” policies of Bush/Blair, although possibly things might have hardened a bit under Sarkozy.

But it makes no difference. Whether you are an isolationist, multilaterialist, or neocon interventionist, the outcome is the same: the Islamists will try and kill you and your fellow citizens without discrimination. We can try and placate the crocodile, but it is ultimately a futile strategy. It is occasionally necessary to remind people of this grim fact.

Samizdata quote of the day

What’s wrong with capitalism is that the banking system is socialist.

– Steve Baker MP talking on Cobden Centre Radio. Blog posting by interviewer and CCR boss Andy Duncan here. Listen here. It lasts twenty six minutes. That money quote comes just over half way into it.

Another look at what may drive Obama’s politics

A few days ago, I linked to an article that seeks to frame some, if not all, of Obama’s political ideas within a sort of anti-colonial setting. It is fair to say that not everyone is buying it, and this article brutally takes on that thesis. And the writer, Heather MacDonald, is no leftie. At all. She writes for the Secular Right blog, which as its name implies, is a site written by those of a generally conservative bent who are not religious and generally regard the Republican Party’s involvement with the Religious Right as not a Good Thing.

She does not pull her punches. And she has a point, although I still think the anti-colonial angle has some traction. It does, I think, explain things such as Obama’s apparent no very great affection, that I can see, for the UK. Even so, in general my take is that Obama is a hard-left politician who has – at least for a while – bamboozled a lot of people into thinking of him as a centrist. But it is worth pointing out that his Big Government views are not really so odd in a nation once ruled by the likes of Roosevelt, LBJ, and for that matter, Richard Nixon (who brought in wage and price controls, let’s not forget).

Anyway, read the whole piece.

No wonder he is wonely…

It’s official. The North Koreans torpedoed the South Korean navy ship. I have this excerpt from a Jane’s newsletter:

Torpedo ‘only possible explanation’ for Chon An sinking, says report. A torpedo attack led by North Korea is the only possible explanation behind the sinking of the South Korean corvette Chon An, argues the final joint investigation report released by Seoul on 13 September. The 305 page-long report, seen by Jane’s , rules out any other possibility – such as a sea mine – to explain the disaster that killed 46 sailors in the Yellow Sea (West Sea) on 26 March

There was a time when this form of international behavior had a name: “Act of War”.

Deregulating the British space industry

That Tim Evans certainly gets about. The last time I had cause to mention him here, he was emailing me about a Cobden Centre scheme to put Austrian economics on the map. Now, with another hat on that I have not seen him wearing before, he is emailing everyone of consequence in the known universe about this (read the whole thing here – it is just over twenty pages long), which is about how the British Government should allow rather than smother the UK version of the space industry, smother having been its preferred policy until now.

And you know? This just might work. If I were the British Government just now, I would be highly receptive to anything which I could call Doing Something, which did not Cost Too Much, and which preferably hardly cost anything at all. True, the report’s author James C. Bennett does recommend a few fact finding junkets for British regulators, to enable them to learn how to create the Appropriate Regulatory Framework, which is must be, he says:

… predictable, sensible, provide reasonable guarantees of safety and make the UK a venue of choice for space operations …

Why can the rules not be along the lines of: do what you want with your own property, provided it is within the laws of contract (e.g. not deafening to people who have been promised no deafening), provided nobody is swindled or deliberately incinerated (accidental incineration being inevitable from time to time in a business like this), and provided that you do not get so angry with any gawping onlookers that you try to murder them. You don’t need a trip to Canada or Australia or India to devise a set of rules like that.

But then again, such expeditions can be fun, and I suppose there have to be inducements to Government people to behave sensibly. And such is the state of the modern world – the EUropean bit of it especially – that if some activity has not been supplied with the Appropriate Regulatory Framework, it can not even start.

It so happens that James C. Bennett is in the room with me as I write this, he being in Britain now to promote this thing, and he has just said, in connection with the above:

”Better to send regulators to Ottawa than to Paris.”


Mr Bean says that the way for us to solve our problems is for us to do more shopping


Mr Bean said that encouraging Britons to spend was one reason why the Bank had cut interest rates.

The Cobden Centre’s James Tyler is not impressed, that being where I found out about this latest piece of Keynesian crassness.

Eric Raymond is taking good care of himself

This is fascinating, and must strike the Briton of today, with the UK’s draconian restrictions on the use of guns, as a very alien sort of blog post. I got some insight into the sort of ideas and methods he is discussing when I did a 4-day defensive handgun course in Nevada back in the September of 2002 with an American friend of mine.

One thing that strikes me is how some of Eric’s observations on the need to be “tactically aware” of your environment when seeking to be safe can apply not just to anyone thinking about firearms, but more generally. For instance, when I have entered a nightclub or pub, or thought about entering one, I tend to avoid those places where I cannot see any easy way to get out, or if there are folk in there who almost radiate menace. It does not have to be an issue of physical appearance, either – the tone of voice often sets my alarm bells off.

And one good piece of advice in the comment thread: if you want to drink booze, do not carry a gun. It seriously interferes with reaction times. And even in the UK, where you can still do stuff like shooting clays, avoid the sauce if you go on a sort of jolly day out. I have heard of some right twerps getting nearly killed because they were guzzling alcohol on driven game shoots, etc.

The wisdom of actors

This gave me a bit of a laugh:

“Vampire Diaries” star Ian Somerhalder, an outspoken critic of the BP oil spill in the Gulf, appeared at Thursday’s Washington Post Live conference on energy policy in the nation’s capital. The actor, who was “chill” about speaking in front of members of both houses of Congress, fit in so well in his suit and tie that some wondered about possible future political aspirations down the road.

No, I had never heard of Ian Somerhalder before either… and that was not what made me giggle… it was one of the comments on this article:

It is just wonderful that being an actor gives you such profound insight into the world that politicians actually want hear what you have to say in person.

Certainly when I ponder energy policy or any of the other difficult issues, the first thing that comes to mind is “Now I wonder what Ian Somerhalder’s take on that is?”

I really wish that instead of grinding that economics MA I had gone to acting school as maybe people in DC might actually decide to ask me what I think about energy policy or the economics crisis. Oh well.

– Bell Curve


Taleb on the stimulus

The author of the economics high-seller, The Black Swan, has given a fairly fierce denunciation of US government fiscal policy in recent years. In fairness, he probably is not just beating up the current holders of office, but previous ones too.

If this is security theatre, it gets one star.

Trainee accountant Paul Chambers has been in court.

He landed a £1,000 fine after the snow closed Robin Hood airport near Doncaster in January as he planned a trip to see “Crazycolours,” a Northern Irish girl he had just met online, and he tweeted to his 690 followers: “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”

A week later, he was arrested at work by five police officers, questioned for eight hours, had his computers and phones seized and was subsequently charged and convicted of causing a “menace” under the Communications Act 2003.

His defence lawyer asked if John Betjeman’s famous lines about Slough –

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn’t fit for humans now

– would have caused him to be convicted under the Communications Act 2003, had he the misfortune to live in this blighted age.

Hey, stupid cops and stupid Robin Hood airport security people. Could we not have demonstrations of insane literal-mindedness from people whose poxy airport is named after a bandit ?