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

My personal point of view is that if you hire a backwoods redneck fundamentalist Christian to star in your reality show, you should expect him to say the sort of things a backwoods redneck fundamentalist Christian might say – about gays, ducks, and other subjects.

Likewise, nobody should expect Snooki to start talking like she’s been possessed by Kate Middleton.

Amy Alkon

Samizdata quote of the day

Actual capitalism is thin on the ground. We have democratic and undemocratic socialism, democratic and undemocratic fascism, and miscellaneous varieties of corrupt cronyism. But to the extent that capitalism currently exists, it’s not free-market capitalism but chained-market capitalism, weighted down with laws and regulations – and then criticized for its inability to function efficiently.

Of course, even if capitalism hadn’t been chained down, we still might not see lunar resources being exploited. Not because of “market failure” but because of the market correctly deciding that it would currently cost more than it’s worth. There’s an old quote I wish I could find the source for. It applied to “market failure” regarding insurance for flood or hurricane damage but the same principle might apply here. “That isn’t ‘market failure’ – that’s the market working. That’s the market saying ‘Don’t build there! Are you crazy?'”

– Samizdata commenter ‘Deep Lurker’

Samizdata quote of the day

I think people come to Chomsky and essentially worship him for precisely that reason. He allows them to feel justified in their refusal to think. They never have to ask themselves any difficult questions or provide any difficult answers. It’s a form of intellectual cowardice essentially, but I’m sure you can see its appeal.

This may be one of the reasons for Chomsky’s hostility to psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis may be many things, but it is certainly a method of gaining self-knowledge, of asking difficult questions about one’s self and others. And that is precisely what he, and his followers, want to avoid.

Benjamin Kerstein speaking with Michael Totten

A Marxist throws down the space-gauntlet

Why outer space really is the final frontier for capitalism

The question is, why haven’t the moon’s resources been thoroughly plundered by now? Why hasn’t it provided us with the energy necessary to colonise the rest of space? I’ll tell you why: it’s because capitalism is weak and timid.

In principle, it shouldn’t be this way. Capitalism, said Rosa Luxemburg, always needs a periphery. There needs to be a non-capitalist outside to appropriate – new land, new resources, to provide profitable investment opportunities. Whether it takes the form of colonisation, privatising public goods, turfing peasants off their lands or creating “intellectual property”, there is a need to accumulate beyond the existing realm of capitalist property relations.

The geographer David Harvey points out that the world capitalist system needs to find $1.5tn profitable investment opportunities today in order to keep growing at its historical average of 3% a year. In 20 years’ time, it will need to find $3tn

Let he who dares accept the challenge in proper fashion. Still, betcha Richard Seymour will be the first to complain when the space barons do start exporting capitalist property relations where no man has gone before.

Tax evasion doesn’t destroy wealth

Tax evasion does not, of course, whatever Ritchie says, cost the world anything. We are still a closed system. That less money goes to governments does not mean that that money ceases to exist. It still gets spent or invested somewhere or other. Indeed, dependent upon what happens to that money, and how badly the government that didn’t get it would have spent it, tax evasion could, conceivably, result in an improvement in the human condition. But even leaving aside such an extreme (for example, someone takes the loot from tax evasion and invests it in a malaria vaccine, as opposed to the British Government which would have used £10 billion to build an NHS computer system that does nothing at all) it’s still true that tax evasion does not mean a loss for the world. Only a different distribution of the cash.

Tim Worstall

The “Richie” he refers to is Richard Murphy, a self-styled campaigner against offshore financial centres, state-supporting socialist and champion of a fascistic-sounding concept, the “courageous state”.

One of his standard lines is attacking firms for obeying the letter of the law by registering in low-tax locations, such as, say, Luxembourg (a member of the European Union) and claiming that this is wicked, thereby demonstrating a strangely elastic concept of what is considered legitimate business practice. He is taken quite seriously on parts of the left, so I hear, and if we have another Labour-led government, he might be influential. Come to that, some of his ideas are even taken quite seriously by the Tories, so the partisan point should not be pressed too far.

Innocent until proven male

We have a challenger! First it was “No smoke without fire”. Then “We will never know what really happened that night” became the passive-aggressive hint of choice for the modern feminist forced to contemplate a man somehow left unconvicted of rape despite being accused of it.

Now there is a fresh new contender. Diane Roberts!

Does the Heisman Trophy still stand for integrity after Jameis Winston’s win?
Although allegations of the football player committing rape resulted in no charges, we should reconsider who we call a hero.

It is probable that Diane Roberts did not write that standfirst. She definitely wrote this:

Much as we want to think we know Jameis Winston, we don’t. Maybe what happened that night was consensual, just like his lawyer says. Maybe it wasn’t. We don’t know. Nobody knows, except Jameis Winston and that young woman. There will always be a bruise on this glorious season of big scores and big awards, always an asterisk. And in Florida somewhere, there is a woman who’s not famous and who still maintains she was raped.

Anton Howes on the industrial revolution – now available on video

One of the intellectual highlights of my year has been hearing Anton Howes (whom I first noticed while noticing the Liberty League) expound the idea that the British industrial revolution was, at heart, an ideological event. The industrial revolution happened when it did and where it did because certain people in that place and at that time started thinking differently. To put it in Samizdata-speak, the metacontext changed. Particular people changed it, not just with the industrial stuff that they did, but with what they said and wrote.

I first heard Howes give this talk at my last Friday of the month meeting in July of this year. Happily, Simon Gibbs of Libertarian Home also heard Howes speak that night, and immediately signed him up to do a repeat performance, this time with a video camera running, for Libertarian Home at the Rose and Crown.

And the good news is that the video of this Howes talk at the Rose and Crown is now up and viewable at Libertarian Home. If spending half an hour watching a video does not suit, then you might prefer to read Simon’s extended summary of the talk. The same video is also up at YouTube.

I wrote a bit at my personal blog about that subsequent evening, and there is lots else I want to say about what Howes is saying. But one of the rules of blogging is not to let hard-to-write and consequently not-yet-actually-written pieces interrupt you putting up easier-to-write pieces that you actually can write and do write.

So: Anton Howes is a clever guy. Watch the video. And watch out for him and his work in the future.

Samizdata quote of the day

Today, if you carry a cell phone in Sao Paolo, the NSA can and does keep track of your location: they do this 5 billion times a day to people around the world. When someone in Florianopolis visits a website, the NSA keeps a record of when it happened and what you did there. If a mother in Porto Alegre calls her son to wish him luck on his university exam, NSA can keep that call log for five years or more. They even keep track of who is having an affair or looking at pornography, in case they need to damage their target’s reputation.

American Senators tell us that Brazil should not worry, because this is not ‘surveillance,’ it’s ‘data collection.’ They say it is done to keep you safe. They’re wrong. There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying, legitimate law enforcement – where individuals are targeted based on a reasonable, individualized suspicion — and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever. These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.

Edward Snowden

Yet it is Snowden who is the indicted fugitive…

A US Federal Court has found against the NSA’s ‘Orwellian’ mass surveillance on the grounds it is probably unconstitutional… yeah no kidding.

So… even if the NSA’s programme of indiscriminate data mining is shut down (yeah right), will a large number of people… hell… will anyone actually go to jail for this blatantly illegal project? Will anyone even lose their jobs? I would not hold my breath on that score if I were you.

In the meantime, Snowden remains an indicted fugitive for revealing what a court has now ruled unconstitutional.

JK Rowling and the Libertarian Sub-Text

Thanks to a recent Instapundit link, I found my way to an essay by Benjamin H. Barton, entitled Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy, which deserves to be linked to for its title alone. It is about the decidedly libertarian and not very sub anti-government-bureaucracy sub-text that Barton finds in the Harry Potter books generally, and in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in particular.

The truly surprising aspect of The Half-Blood Prince is how effortlessly Rowling covers the questions of the nature, role and legitimacy of government in what is ostensibly a work of children’s literature. I must admit that when I sat down to reread the Harry Potter books in light of The Half-Blood Prince I did not expect to find the overwhelming skepticism of government that seeps through Rowling’s work.

Barton’s argument is that Rowling presents the Ministry of Magic as a classic Public Choice Theory bureaucracy, staffed by selfish power-seekers rather than by selfless servants of the public good. Barton further suggests that Rowling’s own experiences as a welfare-recipient might have radically lowered her opinion of state welfare as an actual purveyor of welfare.

I read the first Harry Potter book a long time ago but have read none of the subsequent Potter books, so I have no independent opinion about how right or wrong Barton is about these books, and in particular about The Half-Blood Prince, which I have in particular not read. Comments from libertarians who have read all the Harry Potter books would be especially welcome.

One of the big reasons why I have not read more than one of the Harry Potter books, aside from the fact of me now being a childless old man, is that there are so many other books that I want to read. However, I have long suspected that JK Rowling, while not exactly an overt libertarian, might well be some kind of quasi-libertarian useful not-idiot, so to speak. One of the many items on my current to-read list is Rowling’s own (non-children’s) novel, entitled The Casual Vacancy, which I already possess and which I did make a start on earlier this year, before other reading intervened. This seems to be a story about the interaction of politics with the welfare system, about the people who do the politics and who have the welfare done to them and about how these two groups interact.

If I had to guess, I’d guess that Rowling is one of those people whose understanding of state socialism is that it tends not to supply “socialism” of the sort she would like, rather than as any kind of root-and-branch opponent of state socialism as such. Which is a good start. Socialism is, among other things, a huge and hugely false promise. Realising that it comprehensively fails to achieve even its own declared objectives – never mind any other worthwhile objectives – is a huge step in the right direction.

But that is an ignorant guess, and I now definitely intend to finish reading The Casual Vacancy, and then maybe also Rowling’s new detective novel. She wrote this detective novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, under an assumed name, but was then outed, surprise surprise. The name that Rowling the detective novelist has assumed is: “Robert Galbraith”. This name was, as I have just learned by following the above link, “partly inspired” by the name of Robert F. Kennedy. This would suggest to me – summarising ruthlessly, as befits my ignorance of the matter – a lady who mostly wants government to do better rather than one who mostly wants government to do less.

Samizdata quote of the day

Equally annoying has been the whitewashing of [Mandela’s] history. He was given a fair trial and a fair sentence, even Amnesty fucking International said so. He WAS a terrorist.

He was also a politician upon release, who had some good ideas and equally, some fucking insane ones. Ironically, he replaced a notionally democratic but really one party state with another notionally democratic but really one party state, although to be fair, this was hardly his fault.

Obnoxio the Clown

Fears of instability?

The execution of the once-powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has rekindled fears of instability in the secretive nuclear-armed state.

Huh? Fears of instability? What. The. Fuck.

Here, oh most vile and dismal of BBC copywriters, let me fix that for you…

The execution of the once-powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has rekindled hopes of instability in the secretive nuclear-armed state.