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

And that is called paying the Dane-geld; but we’ve proved it again and again, that if once you have paid him the Dane-geld you never get rid of the Dane.

– Rudyard Kipling

How deeply wrong ideas about “fairness” have penetrated

Strange to see an article like this in what is still sometimes called the Torygraph:

Mortgage lenders penalising couples with children

Mortgage lenders are penalising home owners with children by reducing the amount they can borrow. The crackdown could potentially prevent them from switching to cheaper deals when interest rates rise.
Many banks and building societies have tightened their affordability criteria in light of the Financial Services Authority’s post-credit-crunch review of the mortgage market. But it has emerged that families with children are being hit hard.

Emphasis added by me. All the terms emphasised relate to a metaphor of punishment. But it is not meant to depict just punishment; the author, Teresa Hunter, apparently feels that parents who are lent less money than non-parents are having something unfair done to them. This is reinforced by having the first person quoted in the piece as saying:

“It is absolutely unfair to penalise people with children by reducing their capacity to borrow compared with a single person or a childless couple.”

The whole story is presented as being one of discrimination akin to racial discrimination. Did the author notice that there was a little financial unpleasantness in 2008 that had something to do with indiscriminate lending? Does she feel that encouraging people to to borrow more than they can afford is doing them any favours? Has she not noticed that children cost money?

Austrian economics on the BBC

As in BBC Radio 4, this coming Monday, January 31st, 8.30 pm:


That’s from the current Radio Times. As you can tell from the pink, I will be paying close attention. My thanks to fellow Samizdatista Chris Cooper for alerting me to this radio programme.

But will it be an attempt at a hatchet job? It seems not:

This week, Jamie Whyte looks at the free market Austrian School of F A Hayek. The global recession has revived interest in this area of economics which many experts and politicians had believed dead and gone. “Austrian” economists focus not on the bust but on the boom that came before it. At the heart of their argument is that low interest rates sent out the wrong signals to investors, causing them to borrow to spend on “malinvestments”, such as overpriced housing. The solution is not for government to fill the gap which private money has now left. Markets work better, Austrians believe, if left alone. Analysis asks how these libertarian economists interpret the state we’re in and why they’re back in fashion. Is it time to reassess one of the defining periods of economic history? Consensus would have it that the Great Depression of the 1930s was brought to an end by Franklin D Roosevelt’s Keynesian policies. But is that right? Jamie Whyte asks whether we’d all have got better quicker with a strong dose of Austrian medicine and whether the same applies now?

I think I first encountered Jamie Whyte at a Cobden Centre dinner.

I was disappointed with the recent Robert Peston TV show about the banking crisis, despite appearances on it by Toby Baxendale, the founder of and Chairman of the Cobden Centre. All the fault of the banks was the basic message, with governments looking on helplessly. No mention (that I can now recall) of those same governments monopolising the supply of money and relentlessly determining the price of borrowing it, all day and every day, all the time.

But, my understanding of Baxendale and of the Cobden Centre is that he (it) is playing a long game, giving broadcasters whatever they ask for (in Peston’s case Baxendale messing about with fish), while all the time asking them to give the Cobden Centre’s ideas at least something resembling a decent hearing. Don’t compromise on the ideas, but be endlessly mellow and accommodating at the personal level, intellectual steel in velvet glove, and so on and so forth. If that’s right, then it may be starting to work.

A plague on (a minimum of) two of your three houses

I don’t know about my fellow Samizdatistas, but I am having a hard time responding to the latest events in Egypt with anything other than a resigned shrug.

My understanding is that this is not one of those enjoyable melodramas where there are Good Guys and Bad Guys, when we here in the comfortable seats (the ones outside Egypt) can all cheer the Good Guys and jeer the Bad Guys. My understanding is that there are the Bad Guys as in the government, the Good Guys as in the people who would just love to be living in a nice civilised country which respects human rights and where there is dignity and freedom and whatever is the Egyptian for apple pie, with a thriving economy for all etc. (with no Jews or Americans screwing everything up) … and then there are the Other Bad Guys, aka the Muslim Brotherhood, who would like nothing better than to see Egypt reduced to ruins, to take charge of the ruins, and then to ruin the ruins a whole hell of a lot more. The Good Guys are now so angry with the first lot of Bad Guys that they either don’t realise or don’t care that they may be playing right into the hands of the Other Bad Guys.

I would love to be proved wrong. Whether I am proved wrong or not, I would still bet that there are lots of others out here in non-Egypt who now think exactly as I do.

For action movies, this takes some beating

I have seen some Sci Fi action scenes in my time, but for sheer, oh-my-god-that’s-incredible-when-can-I-see it? sort of level, this India-made film is extraordinary. Another sign, by the way, of India’s economic prowess, I think.

There are robots, lots of them, and of course, the all-important hot brunette in a tight costume. That’s got your attention, Perry!

(H/T, Boing Boing).

Samizdata quote of the day

The government can take away my freedom, but if they take away my internet porn, they’re going down


Samizdata quote of the day

Mainly, I prefer to use Python

– Rob Fisher

And the good news is…

… that ‘tax pros’ are worried that tax evasion will be greatly increased by new regulations in the USA

Tax pros now fear that tax evasion could go viral if the health-reform bill’s new 1099 requirement takes effect next year. They say more small businesses will likely opt to do all-cash transactions under the table to avoid the 1099 reporting requirement, and all of its onerous provisions, which are worse than small businesses may realize.

“Tax evasion could go viral”… what a pleasing concept. Well all I can say to these unnamed ‘tax pros’ laboring away tirelessly to make people ‘compliant’ is “from your lips to God’s ear”.

Few things would help the growth of the culture needed for a fight back of liberty to succeed than something that not only induced contempt for the state but actively motivates self-interested resistance to the supra-constitutional tax gathering arm of the US government… and perhaps the single best form of resistance to an over-mighty state is keeping as much money as possible out of its hands.

Encouraging tax evasion: far from being an ‘ugly side effect’ it is the unforeseen silver lining that may tip millions of apolitical business folk into unwitting de facto alliance with liberty’s anti-statist friends.

Samizdata quote of the day

“The moon shot has long been a favorite trope of politicians plugging for new government programs, right up there with the Marshall Plan. It was a wondrous achievement, but it presented a relatively discrete engineering problem. If only reforming education, a complex task involving the crooked timber of humanity here on earth, were as straightforward.”

Rich Lowry, giving his less than joyous take on the State of the Union address by The One.

What makes this one any different?

A rat has been photographed outside 10 Downing Street. Presumably the only thing that makes this news worthy is it was not exiting the building and getting into an official chauffeured government vehicle on its way to Parliament.

No wonder defence spending is such a nightmare

I look at this item over at Wired, the technology/culture publication, and think that this is all very geeky, very Sci Fi and very clever, but it also makes me think, as a commenter does on the article, that it is hardly surprising that defence procurement costs are so high, and getting higher. Which is possibly not very smart if government budgets are under so much strain.

The ‘money’ quote

John Hawkins: Now, in recent years we started to hear more people calling to get rid of the Federal Reserve. Good idea, bad idea? What are your thoughts?

Thomas Sowell: Good idea.

John Hawkins: Good idea? What do you think we should replace it with? What do you think we should do?

Thomas Sowell: Well it’s like when you remove a cancer what do you replace it with?