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]

A nice burst of sanity from the Anglican Church

Some Christians I know or read about claim to be concerned about the long-term health of society and the future welfare of generations yet unborn, as well as the current one, and yet all too many of the senior figures in the Church of England, say, make asses of themselves by unthinking repetition of Big Government thinking. Case in point being the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

It is, therefore, a pleasant break from the norm to read this, from Dr Williams’ predecessor, George Carey:

“The sheer scale of our public debt – which hit £1tn yesterday – is the greatest moral scandal facing Britain today. If we can’t get the deficit under control and begin paying back this debt, we will be mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren.”

(H/T, Suboptimal Planet: a new blog that I thoroughly recommend).

On the subject of the UK’s debt problems, Martin Durkin, the documentary maker, put together a programme for Channel 4 a while ago which is well worth viewing, with comments from the likes of Allister Heath, Mark Littlewood, Kevin Dowd, James Bartholomew, Nigel Lawson, Geoffrey Howe and, for some light relief, Brendan Barber of the TUC (Trades Union Congress).

Samizdata quote of the day

I suppose it’ll add some spice to history exams though. Get the wrong answer and you not only fail: you get carted off to jail as well.

– The concluding sentences of a piece by Mick Hartley criticising a new French law which, once President Sarkozy signs it, will make it a criminal offence to deny that genocide was committed by Ottoman Turks against Armenians.

World War 2 on Facebook




The meaning of Guido


Even if the GDP numbers are not entirely unexpected, they are still a failure, a failure to grow the economy. The deficit can only be paid down if the economy grows, we can’t borrow our way out of a debt crisis. It is time for a supply-side revolution, why is the government implementing a policy of selected regional enterprise zones, why not make the whole economy an enterprise zone? It was a mistake to hike VAT and it is a strategic error to burden industry with crushingly high green taxes, penal marginal income tax rates of over 50% discourage entrepreneurs and investors from coming to Britain.

If the government is going to miss the deficit target, and it is, miss it because the government slashed taxes to grow the economy. The international bond markets will forgive a finance minister with a growing economy who misses his deficit target, they won’t forgive a finance minister with a contracting economy in any circumstances. Chancellor Zero knows that with no growth there is no hope for the deficit.

Whether Guido is right that there is any hope for the deficit, under any circumstances, is a proposition I leave to others to ponder. I quote the above posting because it illustrates something important about Guido himself.

In among all the knockabout gossip about who is sleeping with whom and who is cheating on their expenses, Guido regularly slips in more thoughtful stuff. He regularly, that is to say, drops in explicit libertarian messages, in among all the merely implicit libertarianism about how they are all conspiring with each other to rob us blind. This is why they all hate him so much. He is absolutely not one of them. They want to believe that he is only a gossip monger, and a mere partisan Tory, with no principles other than that he wants his particular team to be in charge of all the robbing and conspiring. But those of his pro-state (I often think more fun than is might be had with that hyphen) enemies and victims with any antenna or honesty know that he is something far more dangerous to them than that. He is a principled libertarian with readership numbers and influence most of them can only dream of. He, more than anyone else in Britain, is responsible for the widespread perception in British politics that the arrival of the internet was a breakthrough for libertarian ideas. Before Guido, we were talking amongst ourselves, which was good. Now Guido regularly shoves it in front of them, which is even better.

Okay, a simplification. Others were doing this before Guido. But none so entertainingly, or to such a wide readership. One of Samizdata’s prouder boasts, I think, is that before Guido found his own blog persona and his own voice as a blogger, he was briefly part of ours.

Here is a photo I took of the great man, at a recent gathering at Samizdata HQ:


A fine if rather blurry addition to this collection. (This is my favourite one of these.)

By the way, do you remember the posting I did here a while back about how so much of what happens in the world is down to two-man teams? Well, these days, anyone who cares knows that there are now two Guidos. I asked original Guido about this at the party where I took the above snap, and the partnership between him and Harry Cole is definitely the real two-man team deal.

Samizdata quote of the day

“More people have heard of Tom Cruise than Ben Bernanke, but that doesn’t mean that Bernanke hasn’t had a bigger impact on their life.”

Matt Zwolinski, a blogger at the recently expanded “Bleeding Heart Libertarian” group blog. He’s writing about the benefits and costs of intellectual versus political activism, as relating to Ron Paul.

The failure of Tom Cruise to influence my life is, I guess, something I can live with, although I did rather enjoy the latest Mission Impossible flick.

How I got by without watching the State of the Union Address

“Well, I didn’t watch the State of the Union, but I did fix the dishwasher, and teach a fairly decent class on the non-delegation doctrine, and edit some page proofs of a forthcoming law review article. So it was a pretty good day.”

Glenn Reynolds

In my case, being a Londoner, yesterday, I attended an excellent Institute of Economic Affairs talk by “Bleeding Heart Libertarian”, got a plumber around to deal with a blocked pipe, picked up a suit from the cleaners, discussed a finance matter with my Dad and typed about 4,000 words at work. I did later skim a few lines from the Obama speech, though. I see he’s taking tax policy advice from Warren Buffett, whom I am increasingly bracketing alongside George Soros as prime James Bond villain material.

Samizdata quote of the day

Katharine Birbalsingh is an heroic, principled woman who, against hideous odds, is trying desperately to open a free school – the Michaela Community School – in a part of South London woefully ill-served by state secondary schools. It will provide academic rigour, discipline, a liberal arts curriculum including Latin, uniforms, sporting facilities and extended school hours to children in one of the most deprived parts of London, regardless of race or social class or ability to pay. For those children whose parents can’t afford to go private, the school will be a godsend – possibly the single thing that makes all the difference in their life between success and failure.

Does it constitute a strong, persuasive argument against this project that Katharine Birbalsingh has a name which you can twist with an unfunny pun? Or that she’s disliked by some of her colleagues? Or that, in the eyes of her accuser, she speaks “BS.”?

No, it doesn’t. Indeed I’d suggest that these comments are actually counterproductive. They draw attention to the fact that criticism of Katharine Birbalsingh’s noble project is based not on reasoned argument but on prejudice and incoherent rage. This is why they’re so well worth quoting: because they let the enemy do our work for us.

Delingpole comments on a comment.

Benefit-farming landlords

Mark Wallace, recently “seen elsewhere” by Guido, makes a good point, in response to a piece by Tim Leunig in the Guardian, about the nature of the mixed housing economy:

Leunig’s Guardian piece claims to calculate that the benefits cap would leave people living on 62p a day. The most crucial element of his workings is that a 4-bedroom house in Tolworth costs £400 a week. That’s true right now, but it wouldn’t be the case once a cap has been brought in.

The truth is that some of the main beneficiaries of overly high benefits are private landlords. They may not get payments from the DWP direct, but they reap the cash anyway through inflated rents, secure in the knowledge that every time they put the price up, benefits levels are raised to pay them. This is a racket, exploiting the foolishness of officials in pumping more and more money out and the absence of taxpayer power to rein in this behaviour.

Tim Leunig is right that if rents were fixed as they are now then his hypothetical family would pay £400 a week. But rents aren’t fixed, they are fluid. If you remove a large amount of cash from the system then prices will fall. By arguing for the system to remain as it currently is, rather than accept a cap, this supposed “progressive” is effectively fighting the corner of benefit-farming landlords.

Government hand-outs to “the poor” enriching the not-so-poor is a familiar story. It explains a lot about the current state of politics. In fact politics generally, down the ages.

Crusader latrines

Michael Jennings is now, as he recently said here that he would be, in Israel. Knowing my fondness for amusing multilingual signs, he today emailed me this photo, taken in Acre:


At first I thought that “Crusader” was some kind of business brand, although on second thoughts probably not. Maybe … actual crusader latrines? To clear up any doubt, Michael added:

It means exactly what it says.

Yes indeed, these are latrines which were once upon a time used by crusaders. And here, I presume, are those very latrines.

Don’t you just love the internet?

Bjorn Lomborg’s climate think tank to close. And catapults.

With a whoop and a holler the Guardian reports that Bjorn Lomborg’s climate sceptic think tank is to close. Before anyone tells me, yes I know that “climate sceptic” is not a good description of Lomborg’s opinions. The article itself is more accurate.

It seems the Danish government cut off funding:

… Denmark’s general election last year ushered in a new administration less keen to support his views. Earlier this month, the Danish government confirmed that it had cut more than £1 million in funding for Lomborg’s centre. As a result, he only has funding in place until the end of June.

Good news for the Danish taxpayer, one might think, but I suspect that the stream of kroner diverted away from Lomborg’s think tank is unlikely to be returning their way.

The Guardian commenters, mostly warmists in a much stronger sense than Lomborg, assume that this closure (if it happens) is a benefit for their cause. I doubt that is entirely true. They are living in the world before the internet. In that world, the major weapon in the battle of ideas was the catapult. The difficult bit was throwing your ideas hard enough and far enough. These days, though the loss of a big catapult is still a blow, anyone who cares to fight can find a little catapult and, er, my military metaphor has gone the way of the mangonel, but the new difficult bit is not projection but acceptance. Getting believed. If your problem is that the people are already half inclined to think that your opinion has a little too much of the pravda, the official line about it, the last thing you want to do is have it known that the opposition were silenced by anything other than argument.

Even the Dutch tulip bubble was the fault of too much money in circulation

One example of a speculative bubble that gets mentioned sometimes is the Dutch Tulip Bubble of the 17th Century. I have occasionally come across the argument that says that this bubble, like some others, cannot be blamed on expansion of the money supply, ergo, those hairshirt Austrians banging on about the evils of elastic money are wrong, there are sometimes bad things that happen in capitalism and we need laws against it, etc, etc.

But according to this guy at the Mises Institute, even the mania for tulip bulbs in the Netherlands had a monetary cause. So that’s that issue settled then.

Samizdata long quote of the day

“On the basis of economic theory and historical experience, the life expectancy of a societal model with 50 percent or more government control over the economy does therefore not look promising. The taxing, resources-consuming state-parasite must constantly weaken and sooner or later kill the productive and wealth-creating market-host. When does this happen? Well, we are about to find out, as we are now all part of some gigantic real-life experiment, bravely conducted by the current policy establishment in Europe and elsewhere at our own expense and that of our children. Across the EU, the share of government spending in the economy is already around 50 percent, depending whose numbers you believe. If we could account for regulation and interventionist legislation, the state’s grip on economic decision-making is certainly larger. To call such an economy capitalist is a joke, albeit perhaps not as cruel a joke as the one the economy itself, with its persistently anaemic performance, is playing on the Keynesian economists and their ridiculous clamour for ever more government spending to boost ‘aggregate demand’.”

Detlev Schlichter, making a point that needs hammering home. What we have in the West, right now, is a million miles from laissez faire capitalism.