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]

Looking for turning points

As the editor of CityAM points out, getting the narrative right is essential. The Left is great at understanding this, whereas classical liberals/libertarians have tended not to be, although part of it comes down to numbers of people.  That is why it is essential, in my view, for people who want to push the tide of affairs in a better direction to break into the MSM, as well as keep pushing new channels of media in the internet age.

With that thought of narratives in mind, it seems to me vital to keep pushing back at the idea that 2008 was caused by “unregulated capitalism”. It is utter nonsense. And the “Austrian” school is the best place to go in figuring this out:

Austrian economists were among the main critics of the pre-2007 economy and financial system – there, were, of course, critics from other backgrounds too – warning of the absurd monetary policies being pursued by central banks, of the moral hazard from the authorities’ interventions, and of the hubris inherent in many mathematical financial models. Neo-Hayekians criticised Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke long before it became fashionable to do so, blaming them for the dot.com and housing bubbles. Austrians were aghast at the bailouts.

Hayekian ideas form the basis for an alternative intellectual framework being developed by a record number of scholars, especially in eastern Europe, the US, Latin America and even China. They are looking at ways in which market institutions can be harnessed to prevent another crisis, tackle the environment and find better ways of providing welfare, education and health. Politics is in a deeply statist phase. Eventually, however, the tide will turn, and Thatcher’s guru will be celebrated once again.

Heath is right – we are in a statist phase right now, not just in the UK. Perhaps the turning point may come from a country that hasn’t been considered. Maybe, for example, one of the continental European nations takes a dramatic turn towards sanity, although at present the odds look low on that. I still think Asia is going to be where the impetus will come from. Consider what might happen if China, India or, say, Indonesia adopts a gold-backed currency and other radical reforms. If Asian policymakers quote Hayek and Mises more than, say, Keynes or Krugman.

Hong Kong’s example of vibrant, laissez faire success eventually changed the mainland of China. Could Asia eventually force the old West to change course and come to its senses?


27 comments to Looking for turning points

  • Jason

    Forgive me if this seems over-simplistic, but it strikes me that, quite simply, the interest rates by which financial markets measured risk were decided not by the market, but by the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve, probably for reasons of political expedience. And I haven’t seen any sign that this will change.

  • Snorri Godhi

    At least one Eastern European country has taken a dramatic turn towards sanity in 1992, and has not looked back. I now live in it, and am not looking back either.

    Except that i look in dismay at the UK, and to some extent at the US. Not even the Greks think that their problems could be solved by leaving the eurozone, and yet this is dogma for most British “conservatives”; including, if i am not mistaken, Ron Paul admirer Dan Hannan, and possibly even Nigel Farage.

  • RRS

    Would it be too pedantic to note that we tend to concentrate a wee bit much on that human conduct which we categorize as economic?

    Have we not neglected to some larger degree considerations of the ways in which human relations with one another and with their surroundings (the perceived physical and the conjectural other) are conducted?

    Are we not avoiding recognition of the forces that result in the determination of those ways in which human relations are now conducted; and the effects upon the nature of those relations of the particular ways of widest effect?

    Human Action and Human Conduct do present “economic” perspectives, but they in turn are governed by those human relationships and the ways in which those relationships are conducted.

    As the core of Western Civilization has moved westward, and may very well continue to the Pacific Rim, the nature of human relationships has constantly changed. Are we sufficiently cognizant and attentive to the nature of the changes that have occurred in the past century of conflicts, and are continuing to occur as we talk about “economics?”

  • Stephen Fox

    I understand the highest GDP growth in Europe is currently to be found in Estonia, with a 21% Flat Tax rate.
    Shame the rest of us don’t learn from them…

  • Laird

    RRS, I don’t understand what you’re getting at. Economics is nothing more than applied human psychology. What are those “forces” which you think we’re failing to recognize?

  • RRS, I don’t understand what you’re getting at. Economics is nothing more than applied human psychology.

    It’s off topic, but your quote reminds me of this cartoon. 🙂

  • Laird

    Yes, that’s one of my favorites, Ted.

  • Mr Ed

    @ Ted except that Physics wanders off into mysiticism as theories fail to correspond to reality, fudge factors are ‘found’ to account for discrepancies in reality.

  • And math is in the wrong category there anyway.

  • veryretired

    Oddly enough, I have some hope for China, as the kind of turning point you’re describing requires a critical need for re-thinking and restructuring, and the crash the Chinese faux-economy is steaming toward just might fit the bill.

    The populace is hardly passive, as reports of hundreds of protests and other acts of defiance toward the corrupt ruling gangs amply demonstrate, and the endless turbulence of the last several decades gives the people there an enormous longing for a society based on the rule of law and protected rights.

    Perhaps it is a legacy of the relentless propaganda and ideological twisting of the cold war, but far too many people around the world have relegated the underlying philosophy of the western democratic societies to obscurity and irrelevance.

    This is an enormous error, as the concepts of equality before the law and the rights of man are the most powerful revolutionary ideas in history, and continue to inspire those searching for a social order based on liberty and the dignity of the individual.

    The current ruling regime in Beijing is desperately trying to claim the “reformist” label to justify its continued exercise of power, but it remains to be seen if it can adequately address China’s many significant social and economic problems.

    My guess is it can’t do much more than make cosmetic adjustments as long as it tries to maintain its monopoly of all political power. When their grip on the reins begins to slip, that’s when the startling “preference cascade” begins, and the walls come tumbling down.

    They didn’t have a facsimile of the statue of liberty in Tianamin Square by accident. If they can find their own version of Jefferson and Washington, one to formulate the theories, and the other to give up the reins of power in accordance with a legal structure, they just might make it.

    But, then, I dream the same dream for the US.

  • RRS

    Ah! Attempts at brevity have their penalties.

    I think the original post about the ways human relations are conducted is “on thread.”

    They are looking at ways in which market institutions can be harnessed to prevent another crisis, tackle the environment and find better ways of providing welfare, education and health. Politics is in a deeply statist phase. Eventually, however, the tide will turn, and Thatcher’s guru will be celebrated once again.


    Taking just those four, human relationships are involved in the provisions of all four. How are those relationships conducted, through what mechanisms institutions or organizations; and how do they come to be conducted in that fashion? Most are conducted through the mechanisms of governments. In the case of “health” there is an extensive measure of relationships conducted through employments (corporate structures) in the US. These conditions of the ways in which these relationships are now conducted did not arise principally from economic forces.

    Politics is in a deeply statist phase.

    Think about the human relationships in “Politics.” In what ways are they conducted that produces a “deeply statist phase?” What forces shape the determination of the ways those relationships are conducted? Is it all “economics?” NBL!

    Back to absorbing taxation matters.

  • Paul Marks

    I think we will have to go through de facto bankruptcy (economic break down) before their is a real chance of reform.

    I have given up any hope of reason influencing the minds of the academic elite (or those influenced by them). Indeed I will never put myself into a position where I have to listen to these people again – if that be “intolerant” then I plead guilty to intolerance. If I can not answer back (with equal time) I am not interested.

    However, ordinary people are not ideologically committed to “Social Justice” and the rest of crack brained insanity – so, with things collapsing around them, they may be convinced to reconsider policy.

    As for Asia.

    Most major countries in Asia are committed to credit bubble finance, and to social services (they are just not so far down the road as we are)

    This is an INTERNATIONAL a WORLD ideology.

  • RRS

    Once again, the Paul marks Organization nails it:

    Transnational Ideologies, without the requisite commonalities of the members of the separate social orders in the recognition and acceptance of objectives (as well as obligations) and in the selection of the means for their attainment.

  • Snorri Godhi

    In the Great Scheme of Things, I trust in Darwinism:
    societies based on economic freedom + freedom of speech will prosper (as long as they can restrain the growth of the State); other societies will collapse under the weight of the State.

    In the short term, my worry is how to survive individually.
    In the medium term, my main worry is the likely collapse of the Pax Americana: pretty much all economic growth per capita in human history has happened under the Pax Britannica and Pax Americana, and what next?

  • Trying to convince a statist of the error of their ways is a waste of time. Many can’t even be convinced in the time between the falling of the trap and the end of the rope. It will take a global conflagration to bring about any change, and even there the risk is high that the argument that it was caused by “unbridled capitalism” will be the first one put forth.

    In my old age I find my reservoir of faith in my fellow man to be close to exhausted.

  • Paul Marks

    Snorri – I agree with you.

    But (as you know) there is a problem – the world ideology I mentioned (which all major nations share).

    Even in China the academics (and the schools) teach that the state should provide XYZ, and teach credit bubble money, and the media act as an echo chamber for these ideas.

    So where is the choice?

    Where are the societies that dissent from this line? In the Islamic world it is much the same.

    I hope we are not heading for Globel Dark Age – but it would be nice to be able to cite a major nation that did not have this ideology.

    They have even projected this ideology into the past.

    For example, Brian Tierney (in his “The Idea of Natural Rights” – a book much praised by conservatives who have not read it carefully) claims that “positive rights” (rights to things belonging to OTHERS) have been a part of the rights tradition from the start, and that “compulsory charity” (dry water, square circle) was the position of all theologians and legal scholars in the Middle Ages (remember most legal scholars were clergy).

    If the Tireney thesis is true then the West never existed. And this “positive rights”, “complusory charity” conception it is not reflected in the laws of the actual Feudal Realms of the period. However, doubtless, this idea is being taught everywhere.

    As the old Russian saying has it – “first they smash your face in – then they say you were always ugly”. First the Social Justice crew destroy the present (and the future) – now they are destroying the past as well.

    Perhaps the world needs Athena (the personification of reason-in-arms – a Goddess of Justice about as far away from “Social Justice” as it is possible to be)in order to survive. But Athena does not really exist.

    The lady is not going to appear to drive back the forces of evil.

  • Red Dorking

    The Left’s success is in large part due to being more consistent than its opposition. They are now so confident that their language is more open and true to their beliefs. In 2007 we heard “progressive” as their watchword. This week, on MSNBC, it was “collectivist.” A Soviet KGB defector, Anatoliy Golitsyn, predicted this in the 1980s. Phase one of communizing America would take decades, he told us then. The final phase occurs over a few weeks.

  • Paul Marks

    Red Dorking.

    Yes the final stage is fast.

    By that time the only choices people have are to flee, submit, or fight to the death.

    And if they choose “fight” they fight without real hope of victory (indeed their resistance will be used as a reason for the the new state).

    The question is, how close are we to the final stage?

  • Snorri Godhi

    Paul: it occurred to me that possibly the best thing about the English speaking people is that English speaking collectivists are idiots: they’ll never achieve anything comparable to what Chinggis Khan, Napoleon, Bismarck, Lenin, and Mao achieved.
    (Not that i am equally repelled by all of the above: certainly there is much to learn from Chinggis Khan.)

    WRT the ideological issue i am not sure there is much reason for pessimism: “our” ideas are probably more popular now than they were before Thatcher+Reagan; and besides, if the Chinese can get around internet censorship, what ground do we in the West have to complain about ideological conformity?

  • Paul Marks

    I do not agree with you Snorri – many of the collectivists in the English speaking world are highly intelligent (far more intelligent than I am), they are full of cunning and guile, and they have captured all the cultural insitutions and shaped them (perverted them) to further their objectives.

    In any tactical battle of wits the collectivists tend to win – and deservedly so.

    Of course their objectives (if achieved) would destroy then – as well as everyone else. But that is a quite different point.

    Intelligence is not wisdom – they are unwise, but highly intelligent.

  • Sorry Paul, but that is nonsense. Collectivism and individualism have nothing to do with the level of intelligence. If collectivists do tend to win, it is because they are willing to use coercion and violence, as well as deceit and outright lies much more than individualists do.

  • And there we have it. The collectivists don’t feel bad about anything they do because it’s for the greater good for the greatest number. Individualists on the other hand are condemned for looking out for no one but themselves, the selfish bastards.

  • Paul Marks

    Well I would not say “collectivism and individualism” I would say “collectivism against voluntarism” to say (or imply) that we are “atomistic individualists” against cooperation is an old trick of the collectivists (of course you know that Alisa – but others do not).

    As for intelligence.

    If I am so smart – why has my life been one of menial jobs (secuity guard, gate warden, whatever) whereas the left have the sort of jobs (such as teaching and research) that I, when young, would love to have had?

    It is really just because of deceit and lying?

    Or are people like that young lad from the ASI who I had to put my finger nails into the backs of my hands till the blood flowed (to stop myself from tearing him to bits) a week ago, cunning (intelligent) in a way that I can not even grasp.

    There he stood, smiling face, gentle (playful) voice and manner – as he talked about using a firearm to force people to jump into lakes (to “save a baby”) whilst his thugs (who turned out to be informers also) tried to crush any dissent (even a dissenting facial expression). And on it went – pro private property people were sexist men (with a picture of Ayn Rand only a few feet from his head) and “racists” (like Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell?) and on and on……

    Otherwise (if it is not some form of great cleverness) how could a collectivist get to such a position in an organisation (the Adam Smith Institute) set up to roll back the state – to fight against Social Justice?

    Is it all just deceit and lying? Surely there must be great intelligence at work also – even if I am unable to see it.

    If they are not clever I must be really stupid – as I am unable to defeat them.

    I can not even touch them – it is as if they are behind a glass screen (or in a different world – and I just see an broadcast of them from this other world).

    There is no way to debate them (it is not allowed – they are on a sacred pillar, and behind a invisible screen), and one can fight them either. For if they pick a fight and it goes badly for them – they turn informer.

    There is nothing that can be done – nothing.

    The very institutions set up to fight them – fall under their control.

    And it appears to be without effort.

    Just the natural order of things – as the universe falls apart.

    And as I type this – Sky (of which Rupert Murdoch’s News International is biggest shareholder) is busy pushing Oliver Stone’s (Communist) “History of the United States”. I.E. they are pushing the lies of a man who would send their shareholds (not just Mr Murdoch) to death camps.

    How does one oppose them?

    One can not speak against them – there is no opportunity.

    And one can not fight them.

    Nothing – there is nothing.

  • Red Dorking

    Paul Marks – My apologies for interrupting this fine melee.

    The Statists/Collectivists have a plan, but not a timetable: a primary strategy and an alternate one, in case of something unexpected (Admiral Nelson complained he had no power over weather, but Patton ordered his chaplain to compose a prayer). Unplanned events are exploited where possible.

    Pay attention to their probes–attempts to move the public by some announcement or rumor, then analyzing the result. They try to determine whether to execute an operation, or back off and claim they didn’t mean it. Your response always should be: don’t try it. The onset must be delayed, but not indefinitely. A counterrevolution is needed.

    From your later remarks, I surmise you are British. That complicates things a little, for my own grounding is in federalism, of the Madisonian kind.

  • Snorri Godhi

    The main reasons why collectivists tend to get higher in most hierarchies are probably much more complex than intelligence or lack of scruples. For one thing, people who are not interested in using their power of coercion, are not interested in acquiring it.
    Anyway, if that fellow at the ASI is so smart, then how come he did not found a great empire, like Chinggis Khan? (Who incidentally did not have the advantage of a formal education.)
    Also, one has to be pretty stupid to associate the free market with racism; and sure enough, the idea can be traced back to an American charlatan, Richard Hofstadter. (If if goes back further, i am not aware of it.)
    As for Paul’s relative lack of success, his talent seems to be in “soft” subjects such as history and moral philosophy: in these fields, intelligence is probably much less important than toeing the party line, for professional success. (In fact, some would claim that nobody intelligent would pursue such a career, unless (s)he happens to be independently rich.)

  • Paul Marks

    Red Dorking – Federalism should have been ideal, with the Federal government looking after national defence and the States free to engage (or NOT engage) in such things as “internal improvements” (and other government interventions). But few national politicians were totally sincere about Federalism (and James Madison is a complex and rather contradictory figure).

    Once the PRINCIPLE of limited government goes (once “the common defence and general welfare” stops being the PURPOSE of the specific powers granted to the Federal government – and becomes a catch all “general welfare spending power”) everything else is just a matter of time – it could be argued that evil people (such as Barack Obama) have just brought forward the decline.

    Indeed John Adams (in his “Defence of the American Constitutions”) argued that without an “independent Senate” (i.e. one NOT elected on the same principle as the House) then politicians promising “the poor” the goods of “the rich” were bound to gain power eventually. And the “indendendent Senate” died a century ago (1913) in the same year the “Progressive” income tax came to the United States.

    However, in Prussia they a three house legislature (so John Adams would have been pleased) – yet they had a Progressive income tax (and in peacetime) from about 1891.

    For example of someone who was sincere I would point to Martin Van Buren – a President who even sold off the tools the Federal government (unconsitutionally) used for its “Internal Improvements”, and who neither supported a National Bank nor put the money of the taxpayers in “pet” State banks.


    They have created a great Empire.

    They control the cultural insitutions (and thus, in the end, the POLICY) of the world.

    True they are not great individuals – like the Great Khan.

    They are more like cells in an organism – see Mr O’Brian in “1984”.

    Accept (and this is George Orwell did not understand) it is a SELF DESTRUCTIVE organism.

    It may destroy civilisation – but, in doing so, it will also destroy itself.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way I like “Old O.K.s” house in New York State.

    Of course I will never visit the village – but if anyone else can, I would advice them to do so.