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

Once we take measures to not be threatening to the government, it should finally stop harassing us. And then maybe we can learn to live together in peace, simply paying the government whatever tribute it demands and abiding by whatever rules it decides to impose. And while we may witness the government committing some atrocities in the form of spending excesses and insane regulations, we will have to resist the urge to once again try to invade it and fix things. Because any future political attacks on the government will only give it reasons to come after us. So we’ll have to ignore the minor slights so we don’t anger it into lashing out in more extreme ways. Any attempts to reduce the government’s power will only make it worse — unless, you know, we completely obliterate it, reducing the government so much that it barely has any power over its citizens whatsoever.

Oh, actually, now that I think about it, I kind of like that obliteration option better than appeasement. Forget what I just wrote; instead let’s get a sledge hammer and smash apart this government until all those bureaucrats who think they can bully us are completely powerless to do anything but whine at deaf ears. Rubble don’t make trouble.

Frank J. Fleming

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists… investigating people on behalf of governments worldwide

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists are an interesting outfit, a group crowd sourcing denouncing people to various states across the globe.

Just as we see the edifying example of Edward Snowden revealing routine US surveillance of hundreds of millions of people, we have as a counterpoint the ICIJ, who are folks that clearly think there is not nearly enough surveillance being carried out by nation states… and so they want to see if like minded folks can help nations worldwide ensure there is nowhere anyone can keep their money free from appropriation by the world’s tax men.

The ICIJ no doubt warms the cockles of Tory leader Dave Cameron’s heart as much as the likes of Edward Snowden scare the crap out him.

Yet I suspect many people who have not really thought this through very well might assume people like NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden on one hand, and the ICIJ on the other, are actually doing much the same thing.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The unimaginable happens on Greek television – to Greek television

Last night I, and millions of others, saw a little bit of television history. Television history is not when they do a particularly fine historical drama. It is when the drama happens to television itself. Yesterday it did, to Greek television anyway, when Greece’s equivalent of the BBC was shut down, in mid show, live, on television. The BBC showed it, last night. Then they showed one of the sackees saying, in English, to the BBC, that the public sector of Europe was indeed rather too “bloated”.

Someone described in the headline above this piece as the “Europe TV chief” has said that Greek TV should be switched back on immediately:

The head of Europe’s public broadcasters has arrived in Greece to show support for 2,600 fired state TV and radio staff and demand that the country’s conservative government put the stations back on the air.

I had not realised that there was a “head of Europe’s public broadcasters”. Blog and learn.

Jean-Paul Philippot, president of the Switzerland-based European Broadcasting Union, said he would meet with Greece’s Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras to hand him a petition signed by 51 European broadcast executives calling for the broadcaster’s signal to be restored immediately.

A “petition”, “calling for” business as usual to be restored forthwith. Yes, that’ll do it. Clearly, these people fear that they and their underlings could be next, as they could if the Euro-crisis gets worse, as it will.

What I particularly like about this drama is that it changes what is imaginable. Public opinion does not tend to waste its time desiring what is unimaginable. But when what is unimaginable becomes imaginable by actually happening, that can also change what is then desired.

Names can be complicated


There is, in this world, something called the Budweiser trademark dispute. The giant American brewery Anheuser-Busch produces a beer named Budweiser, an industrial mass produced lager that is not greatly revered by beer connoisseurs but which sells in large quantities, and a brewery called Budweiser Budvar Brewery in the Czech city of České Budějovice (Budweis in German) produces another beer called Budweiser, which is considered an excellent beer by most beer lovers. The two breweries have been fighting in courts throughout the world with respect who has the right to the name Budweiser ever since the end of Communism in Czechoslovakia. In some countries the Americans have won and the Czechs have had to find a different name, and in others the Czechs have won and the Americans have had to find a different name. In Britain the courts have made the eminently sensible ruling that both brewers can use the name and drinkers are smart enough to be able to tell the difference, but I don’t believe this has happened anywhere else.

Beer lovers are often sympathetic to the claims of Budvar, because the beer is better and because it actually come from Budweis, and this is therefore the “Original Budweiser”.

This is not really true, however. Anheuser-Busch started brewing the American Budweiser in 1876, due to the fact that the beers of Budweis were famous, including amongst German Americans. However, the Budvar brewery did not exist at that point. This brewery was not founded until 1895. At some point after that, they also started using the name Budweiser, possibly because the name had been given further fame by Anheuser-Busch. At least to some extent, the Czechs at Budvar may have started using the name because of the use of it by Anheuser-Busch, and not the other way round. Budvar was founded by ethnic Czechs, and the only reason they would have had for using a German name was that the German name had already been made famous by other brewers.

However, what of those earlier beers from Budweis, responsible for Anheuser-Busch starting to use the name? Well, there is another, much older, brewery in Budweis / Budějovický Budvar. This brewery, known as Budweiser Bürgerbräu until 1945, made beer in Budweis under the Budweiser name at least as early as 1802. It is almost certainly this company’s beers that Anheuser-Busch was copying when they started using the name “Budweiser”. This brewery was run by ethnic Germans from its founding until 1945, after which it was taken over by ethnic Czechs and de-germanised. The brewery is now called Budějovický měšťanský pivovar, which is a precise Czech translation of its original name. When de-germanisation took place, the brewery ceased using German words and names, including “Budweiser” (it regained some interest in using them post-1989). However, this brewery has by far the strongest claim that it produces the beer that is the original Budweiser.

That said, the trademark battles between the other two, larger companies have been so ferocious that Budějovický měšťanský pivovar has stayed clear of them, despite apparently having a stronger claim to the name than either of them. The brewery is quite a substantial one, and produces a significant quantity of (excellent) beer. It sells the beer under a variety of names including Crystal, Samson, B.B. Bürgerbräu, Boheme 1795, and more. It only uses the word “Budweiser” in places where trademark law is weak.

This is why I took the above photo, in Tbilisi in Georgia last month. It was certainly not the first time I had consumed beer from the brewery that actually gave us Budweiser, but it was the first time I had ever seen beers from that brewery actually using the word. It is not the most prominent word on the label, perhaps, but it is still prominently there.

Who watches the watchers? It really ain’t that simple…

There is an article in The Guardian by Paddy Ashdown that falls at the first fence… i.e the tagline at the very top…

NSA surveillance: who watches the watchers? It’s not the widening of state intrusion that’s wrong, but the weakening of the safeguards that should be there to protect us

No that is the key error. It is not the lack of safeguard that is the issue, it is the huge amount of power in the hands of the state. It is indeed the widening of state intrusion that is wrong because there are simply no ‘safeguards’ that can stop the abuse of that amount of power by whoever currently controls the political process.

As has been said before, this is not a “left vs. right” issue, it is a “top vs. bottom” issue. NO ONE and NO INSTITUTION can be trusted with that kind of power. Ashdown is one of the people at the top, there is simply no way for him to understand.

Samizdata quote of the day

Who knew that China was being funded by the Koch brothers?

WUWT? commenter Alphaeus responds to the news that the Heartland Institute’s anti-climate-alarmist publication Climate Change Reconsidered has been published, in Chinese, by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The most grotesque article I have read in quite some time

David Brooks has written an article for the New York Times called The Solitary Leaker that contains so many grotesque notions I will just point out one and leave the rest for you, gentle reader, to wade through yourself…

If you live a life unshaped by the mediating institutions of civil society, perhaps it makes sense to see the world a certain way: Life is not embedded in a series of gently gradated authoritative structures: family, neighborhood, religious group, state, nation and world. Instead, it’s just the solitary naked individual and the gigantic and menacing state.

State… nation… are not ‘mediating institutions of civil society’, they are mediating political institutions and the observation these are materially different things is hardly a new one. They are violence backed imposers of laws, the means of collective coercion… and the process for deciding who gets the guns pointed at them is what we call ‘politics’, which is quite quite different to how elective things like ‘family’, ‘neighbourhood’, ‘religious group’ (unless it happens to be Islam) and ‘world’ work as these are collections of people you can invite to mind their own damn business and turn your back on them, with all the good and bad things that might come of that… or embrace them wholeheartedly, as you see fit and as they deserve, generally without the cops kicking down your door one way or the other.

But of course to a statist like David Brooks, the realm of the voluntary, the elective give and take of the civil, the marketplace of not just things but customs and affinity, the realm of personal moral judgement, is subordinate to The Tribe, The Collective, The Institutional. Duty is not to moral truth or decency or charity, it is to The Hierarchy of your Betters and knowing your place in it. David Brooks’ world view is that which rejects the moral courage to say “No, to hell with your orders, this is wrong”. His is the view that does not care if something is ‘moral’, just so long as it is ‘lawful’.

Stephen Davies on consistent libertarianism versus consistent authoritarianism

As Perry de Havilland has just said, there is to be a Stephen Davies talk organised by Libertarian Home next Monday (June 17th), As Perry also said, several Samizdatistas will be attending, definitely including me.

By way of a further teaser, here is an interesting titbit of verbiage that I rather laboriously typed out recently, from an earlier talk that Davies gave, last October, at Essex University. I did Sociology at Essex University in the early 1970s, and I recently learned that there is now an Essex University Liberty League, who organised this Davies talk. We never had that in my day.

The complete talk lasts 46 minutes. Here, at 41:00, is what Davies says about how politics now is currently in a process of realignment. I don’t know if I entirely agree with him about this, but it certainly is an interesting idea:

I think that what we’re seeing at the moment is a major realignment in politics. We’re in the early stages of it, but I think it will be completed within the next decade or less.

For the last thirty or forty years, politics has essentially been about an argument between two large blocks, if you will, of voters and the politicians who represent them. On the one side you have people who combine social conservatism and traditionalism with free markets and support for limited government. Their opponents are typically people who are their mirror image. They are in favour of individual liberty in the social area, but they favour government activism in the economic area. What I think is happening – and this is not only happening in the UK; it’s happening is several other countries, in some it has already been realised, like Poland – what we’re seeing is a shift towards a different polarity underlying our politics, between on the one side more consistent libertarians – people who are consistently pro-liberty in the way that perhaps they were in the early to late nineteenth century, against government intervention in the economy but also in favour of individual liberty in other regards, and opposed also to aggressive state action at the global or international level, and on the other side people who are consistent authoritarians – people who favour large scale government intervention in the economy, and industrial policy for example, protectionism, things of that sort, a heavy degree of economic planning by the state, but who are also nationalistic and strongly socially conservative.

Watch, as they say, the whole thing. If you can’t watch the whole thing, at least watch from 41:00 to the end. Or not, as you please. It is, after all, about liberty.

If I know Simon Gibbs of Libertarian Home, which I do, this Stephen Davies talk next Monday will, like that Essex University Liberty League talk, be videoed. And if I know Stephen Davies, which I do, this talk next Monday will be a fascinating and excellent performance.

I’m guessing that the new talk may be covering similar ground to the one at Essex University, but for me this is a feature not a bug. I generally have to read or listen to things several times in order to absorb them properly. (Which is another reason why I am such a particular fan of repetition.)

Samizdata quote of the day

Not everyone is an entrepreneur. Still, everyone should try—if only once—to start a business. After all, it is small and medium enterprises that are the key to job creation. There is also something uniquely educational about sitting at the desk where the buck stops, in a dreary office you’ve just rented, working day and night with a handful of employees just to break even. As an academic, I’m just an amateur capitalist. Still, over the past 15 years I’ve started small ventures in both the U.S. and the U.K. In the process I’ve learned something surprising: It’s much easier to do in the U.K. There seemed to be much more regulation in the U.S., not least the headache of sorting out health insurance for my few employees. And there were certainly more billable hours from lawyers.

Niall Ferguson.

I am not quite sure about his assertion about the UK being so much freer, but I get the general point. By the way, I have just returned from a week in Singapore, and the pro-capitalist vibe there is so strong you could almost put in a bottle. (Actually they do: you go to the bar at Raffles Hotel, natch.)


The History of Individualism – an evening lecture with Dr Steve Davies

Libertarian Home is hosting an evening lecture next week with Dr Steve Davies called ‘the History of Individualism’ in London.

Most libertarians would agree that to build a free society “we wouldn’t start from here”, but we here we are. Dr Davies will put the present rise of libertarian politics into context and show how the progress of liberty, and the words used to describe it, have changed through the ages. Dr Steve Davies is a historian, a PhD, and Education Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

This inaugural lecture takes place in the Griffin Room above the Counting House pub, a first class meeting space in The City.

The event will be catered for with a buffet of pub fare sponsored by the Pro Liberty Party.

Formality begins at 8 and will be concluded by 9. Please RSVP.

7:00 pm, Monday June 17th
The Counting House
50 Cornhill, London EC3V 3PD (map)

This event is highly recommended if you are in the London area. Several Samizdatistas will be there to hear the lecture.

On the sort of sofa I am looking for – and on the impact of digital photography on trade

My last Friday of the month meetings are now under way again, and they are accomplishing everything I here hoped they would. Worthwhile thoughts are being thought. I am making new friends. I am also reconnecting with friends from way back, which is a bonus I should have seen coming but did not. The most recent meeting was especially fine. About it I will surely be saying more, by and by.

Meanwhile, however, I continue making my small living room into the best place that it can be for these evenings. What I need next is one of these:


I came across that in a Pret a Manger (it seems they allow you to forget about accents) near Waterloo Station. The Wi-Fi there proved unsatisfactory for my purposes, but the above item of seating is exactly the sort of thing I now want.

It seats three in comfort, as do many sofas on sale these days. But it also has two other features which seem to be harder to come by.

First, unlike most the sofas I am now looking at, this one is not too deep from front to back. This comes partly from this sofa not also being a sofa-bed. I already have a sofa-bed. The last thing I need is another sofa-bed. A sofa(-bed) that sticks out too far into my small living room is no good to me. But many sofas that are not sofa-beds also stick out into the room far too much for my purposes. A sofa like the one above is what I need.

Second, the above sofa does not have wide and rather squishy arm rests. Instead it has narrow wooden ones. So just as it economises on depth space, it also makes the most of sideways space, space that I need every inch of for more seating.

Such wooden arm rests, in between meetings, can be easily used to rest a big plank on, which is helpful for when I am battling with paperwork, which I am, now and always. Also, during meetings, the wooden arms would be good for resting drinks on, in the way that big squishy arm rests are not.

Nevertheless, I would definitely consider something which is the same shape as the sofa in the picture, but without any arm rests at all. The important thing about this sofa is how well it uses space, compared the usual lumbering monster sofas that are to be seen in every furniture shop or furniture website in such abundance. Pret a Manger presumably have a problem not unlike mine, that made them want what I want. I want one sofa that helps me get as many people into my small living room as I can. They want as many sofas as possible, to get as many people as they can get into a larger space.

The sofa I seek doesn’t have to be any particular colour, or in as good condition as the one above. Rather battered would probably be rather good, because cheaper. It just needs to be that particular sort of shape, or as near to it as I can find.

So, can any of my London friends, or for that matter anyone reading this and living in London, or, really, just anyone, help? All relevant information would be gratefully received. (Comment, or email me by going here and clicking where it says Contact, top left. (That needs to be a slightly complicated process, to deter spammers.))

In order to rescue this posting from being an unadulterated personal advert, let me adulterate it with a broader observation about modern life. Notice how much harder it would have been for me to get across what kind of sofa I am seeking, had I not been able, at zero additional cost to me, to include a photo in this posting of what I am looking for.

→ Continue reading: On the sort of sofa I am looking for – and on the impact of digital photography on trade

Clear evidence that things are about to get much worse in the €uro zone…

If you doubted that the €uropocalyse was at hand…

French President Francois Hollande has declared an end to the eurozone debt crisis, which has gripped the region for the past four years.

… well everything is going to be okay after all then! Thank goodness for that!