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 – special JFK anniversary edition

The King of Camelot was killed by a commie loser. The impossibility of processing that drove the left crazy, and they still can’t face it.

Glenn Reynolds, who clearly enjoys annoying conspiracy theorists, as I do. Meanwhile, Janet Daley reflects on what it was like to be a Kennedy supporter back in the early 1960s.

The superior virtue of the oppressed

It’s no coincidence the MPs found guilty of fiddling are all Labour, writes Peter Oborne.

The book can at last be closed on The Daily Telegraph investigation into the MPs’ expenses scandal. More than 300 Members of Parliament have paid back wrongly claimed expenses. Several of the worst offenders have stood down from Parliament. Now that the former minister Denis MacShane has at last pleaded guilty to fraud, no further prosecutions are planned, and all criminal investigation is reported to have ceased.

But one puzzling question remains. Why is it that only Labour MPs have been found guilty of expenses fraud as a result of the Telegraph revelations?

His argument that there is “only one chance in 64 that Labour’s score of 6/6 was a coincidence” should be saved as an Awful Example for the probability chapter in a GCSE mathematics textbook, with calculation of the precise odds that he has let the Tories off far too lightly left as an exercise for the student.

This part of his explanation, however, is accurate:

It is especially perplexing because the party in general strongly feels itself to be the embodiment of decency and morality. Indeed Labour has always insisted that the Conservatives are the party of venality, greed and selfishness. How baffling it is, then, that only Labour MPs have been sent to jail as a result of the Telegraph revelations.

Paradoxically, I believe that it is Labour’s belief in its own higher morality – what Bertrand Russell called the “superior virtue of the oppressed” – that has led to its downfall.

Many Labour people cannot believe that anything done by the oppressed classes or their champions can ever really be wrong, not when there are Bullingdon-educated toffs who were in the Eton club out there for comparison. The jailed MPs and their supporters know in their hearts that their very sentences are part of the oppression. They take comfort as the prison gates clang behind them from the thought that when they hear that sound they join the company of heroes.

Stanley Kurtz described a similar persecution envy burning in the breasts of greens and climate change activists in The Wannabe Oppressed:

What do America’s college students want? They want to be oppressed. More precisely, a surprising number of students at America’s finest colleges and universities wish to appear as victims — to themselves, as well as to others — without the discomfort of actually experiencing victimization. Here is where global warming comes in. The secret appeal of campus climate activism lies in its ability to turn otherwise happy, healthy, and prosperous young people into an oppressed class, at least in their own imaginings. Climate activists say to the world, “I’ll save you.” Yet deep down they’re thinking, “Oppress me.”

And deeper yet, “Oppress me a little bit so that I can resist you with visible heroism safe in the knowledge that you will not actually hurt me.”

If you like your health plan you can…

An entertaining story from the Guardian:

Obamacare website developers rush to fix bug suggesting hacking methods

Flaw in Affordable Care Act site records hack attempts through its search box and re-presents code as autocomplete options

Graduates and the UK jobs market

“Almost half of the UK’s recent graduates are working in non-graduate jobs, demonstrating that pain continues to be felt in the labour market despite the start of economic recovery.”

The Financial Times, today (behind a paywall). I’d add that this also suggests that some of the degrees that people have acquired – at some cost – are not marketable, and unlikely ever to be so. The whole idea that at least 50 per cent of the school-leaving population should go straight into higher education needs to be re-thought.

By coincidence, over at the Econlog blog, Bryan Caplan has this to say about the issue of “malemployment”. That is a term that deserves to be used more widely.

This is not about ‘child abuse’… it never was and never will be

The governments of the world love to use crimes that produce an understandable emotional revulsion as justification for measure of vastly wider reach.

Child abuse is perhaps the most common of these.

The current moves to make unacceptable sites simply not show up on search engines is actually about getting the infrastructure in place to make whatever is deemed ‘unacceptable’ invisible with the flick of a switch.

I do not believe for a moment that the people pushing for this do not have as their ultimate goal giving the state the ability to control everything you can see online. And if you think the state, any state, can be trusted with that kind of power, then you are either a fool or a totalitarian.

A very London dialogue…

The setting is North End Road in Fulham, London, near a large street side food and fresh produce market. There is a stand with a whole roasting hog covered in fennel, described as ‘Italian Roast Pig’ by a large sign. It is in fact run by a couple Bulgarian guys who I know. The food tastes… exquisite. I eat there every Friday.

A man walked up to them, obviously a Muslim. He peers at the roasting pig, sniffs and look at the man inside the stand.

(Muslim bloke, pointing a large bowl of sauce. Good english with an East London accent) “Hmmm… what’s that?”

(Bulgarian proprietor. Good english with a South London accent) “Apple sauce. We make it ourselves from English apples.”

(Muslim bloke, pointing at the roasting pig) “Is that halal?”

(Bulgarian proprietor, looking perplexed) “Er… not really.”

(Muslim bloke, winking) “Oh, right. I’ll have mine with the apple sauce then.”

Fools and their futile appeals

White Sun of the Desert writes on Obamacare.

Parallels between the soft evils of the modern UK or US and the monstrous twentieth century dictatorships do not usually appeal to me for reasons I need not rehearse. However I think that in this post Tim Newman has made an acute psychological comparison.

Time to appeal to the vozhd.

What is digital photography doing to us?

I have just fixed to do one of Christian Michel’s 6/20 talks at his home in west London, on January 20th of next year.

In the spirit, which Christian encourages, of lots of us being libertarians but not droning on all the time about libertarianism, I have chosen a subject that will, I hope, cut across and rearrange the usual ideological divisions at these evenings.

Here’s the bit of the email I sent to Christian, explaining what I had in mind to talk about:

What Digital Photography is doing for us and what Digital Photography is doing to us.

I will speak first about the recreational pleasures and economic benefits of digital photography, making fun and memories for us, and communicating information about products for sale and work progress, or lack of progress, accidents, and so on. In general, I would say that the fun side of digital photography is quite well understood, but that the (other) economic impacts of digital photography are less often talked about.

And I will also muse more speculatively, about the effects that digital photography is having on our lives, minds and culture. What difference does it make to how we live, how we experience the present and the past, and how we feel about such things as privacy, and the right to turn over a new leaf when changing from crazy adolescent to responsible job-seeker? Or from crazy adolescent to solid married person? What does digital photography do to personal relationships? I have trouble predicting what I’ll say in this bit, because I have lots of further thinking to do.

I have never spoken formally about this subject before, and will be making guesses and asking questions, as well as supplying answers. In both parts of my talk I will solicit assistance from whatever audience shows up. Almost all of us have experience of using digital photography (perhaps in surprising ways), and have thoughts (perhaps also surprising) about its impact on our lives.

Christian’s reply included this:

The second part of the talk is clearly the more interesting one, at least to me. You have much time to develop it.

I have already written here about the economic impact of digital photography, here, and here. But what of the second part of my intended talk, the part that Christian would prefer me to concentrate on? Does the Samizdata commentariat have any thoughts as to how I might set about answering the questions above about the difference that digital photography makes to how we live, and to how we feel about how we live? Any thoughts along these lines would be greatly appreciated.

I think it was the experience of dashing off the commentary on these wedding photos that got me thinking about giving this talk. In that posting, I speculated about how the contrasting ways in which photography was done in the past (very clunkily and expensively and rarely) and now (with ridiculous ease) has affected our picture (literally) of the past. That’s the kind of not-quite-obvious effect I am looking to be told about.

The President of Mongolia preaches freedom to North Korea – in North Korea

This report (spotted by the ever alert Mick Hartley), describes a remarkable speech made by the President of Mongolia, at the end of a visit he made in October to North Korea.

A speech given at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang by the president of Mongolia late last month has caused raised eyebrows for its starkly critical portrayal of the follies of tyrannical rule and the repression of human rights.

President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj delivered the speech on the final day of his visit to North Korea. Mongolia has traditionally maintained friendly relations with the North, but the tenor of the speech is bound to have caused surprise even though it was delivered before an audience of relative loyalists.

Relative loyalists. Now there’s a choice phrase. I’m guessing it does not mean people who are literally blood relatives of the ruling dynasty.

Under this report, Daily NK reproduces the full text of the President’s speech, and it is well worth a read.

Quote (and it is very quotable):

I believe in the power of freedom. Freedom is an asset bestowed upon every single man and woman. Freedom enables every human to discover and realize his or her opportunities and chances for development. This leads a human society to progress and prosperity. Free people look for solutions in themselves. And those without freedom search for the sources of their miseries from outside. Mongols say, “better to live by your own choice however bitter it is, than to live by other’s choice, however sweet”.

See what I mean about quotable?

No tyranny lasts forever. It is the desire of the people to live free that is the eternal power.

You surely do now.

In 1990 Mongolia made a dual political and economic transition, concurrently, without shattering a single window and shedding a single drop of blood. Let me draw just one example. Over twenty years ago, the sheer share of the private sector in Mongolia’s GDP was less than 10%, whereas today it accounts for over 80%. So, a free society is a path to go, a way to live, rather than a goal to accomplish.

As I say, remarkable. Pessimists may say: it’s just words. But words matter. Why would any of us bother with reading and writing the stuff here at Samizdata if words did not matter?

I never used to like those Mongols much. Now, I find myself warming to them.

Yet another reason to visit Las Vegas…

A couple weeks ago I had a several hour stop over in Las Vegas on the way from Chicago to LA. Las Vegas has never been one of my favorite places since I do all my gambling in real life and find little need for games of chance. However, this one sign may be enough to draw me back for a visit…

A very good reason to visit Las Vegas.

A very good reason to visit Las Vegas. (Copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved)

Samizdata quote of the day

We need a free-market version of corporate social responsibility. We need to equip businessmen with an ethical code that tells them there’s a principled reason not to get in bed with the government.

– Jonah Goldberg, in this week’s Goldberg File email, quoted (quotulated?), at much greater length, by Nicholas Russon.

Ivory poaching and the law of supply and demand

Ivory is valuable and this leads to poaching (which is another way of saying ‘seeking more supplies of rare ivory’).


The US government had decided to reduce the global supply of ivory by destroying six tonnes of the stuff.

“These stockpiles of ivory fuel the demand,” said Dan Ashe, director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, “We need to crush the stores of ivory worldwide.”

And when supply is reduced, what happens to prices and therefore the motivation to secure new supplies? Anyone?

Surely if they wanted to reduce the incentive to poach ivory, rather than crushing their stockpile, they should have flooded the market with it. But of course Dan Ashe and his ilk work for governments and thus know nothing of this ‘economics’ malarkey.