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]

Aiden Gregg tomorrow night at the Rose and Crown

Yes, tomorrow night at the Rose and Crown in Southwark, Aiden Gregg will be giving a talk entitled Sax and Violence, hosted by Libertarian Home.

Aiden Gregg already did an earlier version of this same presentation, at my home on May 31st. The second half of his talk that night was him reading out this essay, which concerns a country called Equistan. Attenders tomorrow night are asked to acquaint themselves with this interesting and thoughtful text.

Equistan is afflicted by extreme sexual inequality between different men, caused by there being many more men in Equistan than women. Luckily for Equistan, however, it has a government which addresses this issue by imposing sexual justice, of a sort that redistributes some of the sexual favours bestowed by women upon appealing men to less appealing men. Most Equistanians understand that these arrangements are both fair and necessary. A few sexual libertarians (such as the so-called “Liberty Belles”) grumble about them, but such malcontents are an extremist fringe, whose arguments are briefly described and refuted.

The talk at my place was not recorded, but this one at the Rose and Crown, assuming nothing goes wrong, will be. Highly recommended.

LATER: Libertarian Home has more.

Tory Peer gets it in the neck for stating the bleeding obvious

Top Conservative Lord Howell sparks fury over ‘desolate and uninhabited’ North claim

trumpets the headline in that paragon of Little England statism, the Daily Express. This is because Lord Howell thinks fracking for gas in the north of England would actually be a good idea given that most of its inhabitants are goats and seagulls.

As a quick glance at this map indicates, he called the North of England ‘desolate and uninhabited’ because it is, er, desolate and pretty damn uninhabited.

Jude Leitch, of Northumberland Tourism, said the North East was known for its spectacular scenery, and although it had a history of heavy industry, those areas were concentrated and relatively small. She said: “It’s not hard to refute what he said. He’s probably never been up here in his life.”

Well I have no idea if Lord Howell has ever been up north but I have and yeah, it is desolate and uninhabited for the most part and many of the inhabited bits are ugly as hell. So I am very much in favour of fracking the fracking hell out of it.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Nudges can turn into shoves pretty quickly.”

– via Glenn Reynolds

Moneylending: not as easy as you might think

I see that the Church of England is about to go into the moneylending business. They appear to think that it is easy. If so, they might like to consider this moneylender’s words:

The Times, 11 July 1913 page 3.

The Times, 11 July 1913 page 3.

Or this one. (I liked the bit about even the Church having to lend out its money.)

The Liberty and Property Defence League also has a few things to say.

A public intellectual shares her thoughts for the public good

Once upon a time there was a wise princess. She lived in a magic castle together with her friends, who were also wise. One day, the princess, taking pity on the ignorance of the common folk, decided to go among them and teach them.

Alas! Some rough people said rude and nasty things to the princess. She had to run back to her castle and issue a proclamation. This what it said: Anthea Butler: Conservatives bashed me for speaking out about the Zimmerman verdict.

The princess was very sad. She even wondered if the people were worthy to go on being allowed to hear her wise words.

What is the role of a public intellectual in the age of Twitter and soundbites? Is it to share your thoughts for the public good, or is it to curate the heaps of hate emails, tweets and right-wing articles that trash your intellectual and social work?

The princess felt that she had to choose between sharing her wisdom and keeping a record of all the bad things the rough people had said to her. Why she felt that way, we do not know, but we know the reason was wise.
Anyway, the princess held her head high as befitted her rank. Who cares what peasants say anyway? Then she had a good idea. She gave herself a medal.

In the age of conservative grievances about education however, how many people will be willing to go through what I do every time I publish an op-ed or in order to share what they have spent a lifetime to learn?

Allister Heath on the great global bond bubble

QE has had another effect which is rarely quantified. The Newedge study calculates that 47 per cent of all S&P 500 earnings growth since 2009 has been derived from the interest expense savings from declining interest rates, a large chunk of which has been created by the Fed’s interventions. A puncturing of the credit bubble would send the cost of borrowing shooting up, and thus reverse many of these gains.
We have had the tech bubble (partly driven by cheap credit); we had the property bubble (driven by cheap credit), we now see a bond bubble (ditto)…….
Read the whole article. The CityAM piece is not the first to broach the issue, but as an overview, it is very good indeed.


Samizdata quote of the day

It’s a problem when the people who are supposed to be the curators of your culture fundamentally don’t like it.


Samizdata quote of the day

“How did it come to pass that so many teachers and students, in some of the freest and most scientifically accomplished nations in the world, entertained such an illiberal, illogical, and politically repressive account of the relationship between science and society? Part of the answer may be that universities generally, and humanities departments in particular, are more backward than is universally recognised. For most of their history, universities functioned primarily as repositories of tradition. It was professors, not priests, who refused to look through Galileo’s telescope, and who drove genuinely progressive students like Francis Bacon and John Locke to distraction with their endless logic-chopping and parsing of ancient texts. Similarly it was twentieth-century humanities professors who, confronted with the glories of modern science and the triumph of the liberal democracies over totalitarianism, responded by denigrating virtually every political philosophy except totalitarianism.”

– The Science of Liberty, by Timothy Ferris, pages 257-8.

This is the Timothy Ferris who writes mostly about science, not the Timothy Ferris of the “Four-hour body” and other such works.

Admit it. You love cheap clothes. And you don’t care about child slave labour…

Admit it. You love cheap clothes. And you don’t care about child slave labour…

So sayth Gethin Chamberlain in The Observer.

Well… seeing as he puts it that way… I suppose it would be better if these Third World folks were unemployed (and thereby provide a lower carbon footprint of course, not to mention gainful employ for First World NGOs involved in the Pity & Guilt Industry) and depending for their survival on First World aid money, disbursed via their government. The important thing is that The Islington Set can feel good about increasing the price of clothes for the British lumpenproletariat… and just remember that a lot of those bastards with their false consciousness and lack of class awareness voted for Thatcher back-in-the-day!

Of course much the same was said about The Dark Satanic Mills of the industrial revolution. But just as in India, people moved into the ghastly factories of the Midlands and elsewhere because it was better than the subsistence of grinding rural poverty… and this ultimately led to the technological mass affluence of today that has taken the vast majority of humankind beyond one-failed-harvest-from-starvation.

On diminishing expectations, or how an Australian liberal could enjoy tales of American motorists escaping red light camera fines just a little too much

As a liberty-loving individualist, it is easy to become pessimistic in the face of the ever growing authority of The State. Perhaps you were delighted to be a part of replacing your centre-left governing party with your centre-right opposition party, but your lesser of two evils still turned out to be pretty damn evil. Or perhaps you were one of those libertarians who embarrassed themselves way back in 2007 by getting all excited over that compelling Democratic candidate whose background screamed **extreme belief in government action across society** to the point that his beltway CV was visible from space, yet was Hopefully going to usher in a libertarian-flavoured Change somehow. Or perhaps you’re just one of those goodly folk drinking in the glorious sight of the irrepressible green shoots of free association, free enterprise and free will that sprout up in spontaneous order everywhere, whilst simultaneously despairing of their vulnerability to the everpresent Big Farmer (how to work a Big Pharma pun in here?) who really loves to harvest. Is his scythe getting sharper? That’s not a soithe, this is a soithe.

Even when faced with the depressing reality of the modern welfare state, you can still find hope in minor but heartwarming tales of individual defiance and bureaucratic incompetence. Consider an article with a very boring title published by Popular Mechanics. If I were the PM subeditor, I think I would have gone with a food metaphor; Several Small Delicious Canapes Of Little Nutritional Consequence Which Nevertheless Make For Highly Enjoyable Eating Plus A Few Which Give You The Trots. Much snappier than 10 Crazy Red-Light Camera Cases, right?

Not feeling it? Well, me neither. I’m not a fan of pieces with excessively long titles. Still, there’s plenty of grist for the anti-authoritarian mill here, anyway. O, the palpable, glorious schadenfreude felt reading about how the city of San Bernadino tried to wring extra red light camera tickets out of motorists by illegally shortening the yellow/amber/orange light (this is an international blog, after all) duration by a second and got busted. The blood-red light revenue infusion henceforth became a revenue haemorrhage, particularly when the company the city had hired to run the haemorrhage insisted on sticking to the terms of their contract. Most unsporting. This contributed to the city’s bankruptcy. What a shame. All right, you may feel pity for the unfortunate residents of San Bernadino – well, perhaps only for those who didn’t vote for a Democrat to create new problems as well as expand existing problems created by a previous Democrat. (Regarding the majority of those who didn’t vote for a Democrat, what was I saying about the lesser of two evils above? Drat.)

Ah, San Bernadino, sitting pretty in the California sun. No rustbelt industrial decay there. Things aren’t so bad. Its bankruptcy was not the biggest municipal default in American history. Detroit’s was bigger. It’s not the poorest city of significant size in the USA. Detroit is poorer. That must be of some comfort.

However, the tale of San Bernadino’s red light blues isn’t my favourite vignette from the article. It is the following:

When Tacoma, Wash., motorist Kevin Schmadeka received a ticket accusing him of running a red light, courtesy of the Australian company Redflex that installed the system, he wanted to face his accuser and challenge the ticket. Just one problem: He was told he’d have to pay $670 in travel expenses to bring in a Redflex employee from out of state. “When I was at the clerk’s office inquiring about chain-of-custody information, the employee at the counter mentioned that if I wanted to subpoena a camera company representative that there was a fee,” Schmadeka told TheNewspaper.com. The judge singled out the Sixth Amendment right to face one’s accuser and dismissed the charges against Schmadeka.

This has got it all! A city authority falling afoul of their nasty little arrangement with one of those horrible private sector firms which exist solely to assist government authorities big and small to meddle in the lives of their subjects more effectively. A plucky individual fighting City Hall by asserting his natural born rights – and winning. A judge telling the state where it can stick its not-just-ridiculous-but-also-unconstitutional bureaucratic imposts. USA! USA! USA! There’s hope for us all yet!

Incidentally, I found this jolly article on the venerable Instapundit. Trouble is that the venerable Instapundit is liable to follow such an article up with a link to some story about how the NSA’s been collecting your e-mails, toenail clippings and belly-button lint, or perhaps an update on the IRS’s campaigning efforts during the recent Presidential campaign, or maybe even the media’s primary role in exorbitantly publicising and racialising the Zimmerman trial…and you, as an Australian small government-type, you start to feel a bit depressed again. Come on, America! We’re relying on you to somehow tow us out of this illiberal bog our ruling class has quite contentedly driven us into! It is really quite depressing to see that you are stuck in the same mud (if not quite down to your wheel arches like us)!

But after that flush of exasperation has passed, your thoughts may drift back to sunny California and San Bernadino, and you realise…well, at least we’re not Detroit. There will always be Detroit.

Samizdata technical quote of the day

There is a lot of debate as to whether the FSF’s “free software” or the OSI’s “open source” is the better term. But I don’t think either fully describes the idea, or why it’s a good thing in this context. I prefer something like “open development”, because the point isn’t simply that you or I can read the code – I’m not much of a coder, and most people aren’t at all – it’s that as a result, the development of that code takes place in public. (It’s worth emphasizing, because although it appears obvious when put plainly like that, it’s not always immediately apparent to anyone who hasn’t been involved.) Even if the leaders of a particular project were to have closed-doors talks with some governmental agency, the code they produce will be seen and examined by all. Nothing is impossible, but this makes the sort of collusion we’ve seen between Microsoft and the NSA extremely difficult to pull off.

Hardware, as Shuttleworth points out, could still be a problem. Open drivers help, but the chips themselves could be doing nasty things that we don’t know about. Open hardware is the next frontier.

– Sam Duncan

Mark Shuttleworth on open source and privacy

I recently blogged about how open source software is one of the answers to government using technology against us. Mark Shuttleworth, space tourist, venture capitalist and founder of Canonical and Ubuntu, was answering questions yesterday about a new smartphone he is working on.

We’re entering a really interesting phase where in a sense our very own tools spy on us.

We will certainly have an easier time providing transparency on the origin of the code in the platform than, say, your average android device, where it’s all a big hacky mush. The core OS which will be updated regularly on the Ubuntu phones is all traceable directly back to standard Ubuntu source and binary packages.

There will be a core piece on each phone which handles the hardware, consisting of kernel and drivers and firmware and interfaces to things like the radio. That’s where unhealthy things could creep in from manufacturers and carriers. We can offer… constructive guidance there.

I am not sure the comparison to Android is entirely fair, though some phones are more open than others. What can be done about remaining blobs of closed source code on phones? The resistance to opening this code comes from device and chip manufacturers as well as mobile network operators.

There may be blobs in the first generation device. The way to a blob-free future is to show demand from folks who care about that, not to be ideological about it.

Incidentally, the same discussion also contained this nice piece of evidence of open source software creating wealth:

Thanks for empowering millions of people from developing countries like India (I’m from India) to have an alternative to Pirated Windows XP. We can’t afford OS like Windows and the simplistic nature of ubuntu (native graphic and audio support with indic language support) really helps many people in the villages to learn computers.