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

We’ve all felt that need to tell the hard truth. Assert the raw and unadorned core repeatedly and dogmatically. React with righteous anger and fury, even without elaboration, to the point of being downright offensive. There is a role for this. Injustice in our midst — and there is so much of it — cries out for it. I wouldn’t call this brutalist. I would call this righteous passion, and it is what we should feel when we look at ugly and immoral things like war, the prison state, mass surveillance, routine violations of people’s rights. The question is whether this style of argument defines us or whether we can go beyond it, not only to lash out in reaction — to dwell only in raw oppositional emotion — but also to see a broad and positive alternative.

Jeffrey Tucker, whose recent essay on what he sees as being the less charming features of libertarian commentary has provoked quite a storm, thereby validating his point.

Not just physics, Indigenous Australian physics

As JGrossman, one of the commenters to the Guardian article I will quote extensively below, says of it, there are some views to which the only possible response is to quote the physicist Wolfgang Pauli:

This is not only not right, it is not even wrong.

The article I am about to quote falls, crashes and burns into that category.

Some background: the writer, Dawn Casey, is an Australian museum director and a well known Indigenous (i.e. Australian aboriginal) public figure. Warren Mundine, mentioned in the article as head of Tony Abbott’s Indigenous Council, is of the same heritage. Christopher Pyne, the Australian Education Minister, isn’t. How sad that one needs to spell out such things to understand what is being debated here. Here is what Dawn Casey writes:

Last week, Warren Mundine, head of the prime minister’s Indigenous council, was quoted in the Australian as saying that it is ridiculous to include an Indigenous culture perspective in the teaching of science and maths. Mundine said: “I agree with Christopher Pyne, I think in some areas we have got ridiculous. What is Indigenous physics? Physics is physics. If we are to compete in the job market we must learn technology and engineering, we need to be taught subjects properly.

“I agree that we need to reassess the curriculum because we need real units that teach the subjects without this ridiculous insertion of culture, the idea that you have to have an indigenous or Asian perspective, to be frank, is silly. The sciences and maths should be taught properly.”

Mundine’s comments add nothing to the very important debates on what should be included in the national curriculum and how children, regardless of their cultural background, should be taught. They ignore that culture permeates everything we do — including maths and physics — and reinforces stereotypical views that Indigenous culture is only about language, kinships systems and hunting and gathering – important as they are.


For centuries, people from all cultural backgrounds have been developing ideas andsolving problems. Euclid who lived in Alexandria more than 2000 years ago laid the foundations for mathematics. Australia’s Aboriginal people represent the longest-living culture on earth. It is incredible that our culture should be treated as a stand-alone subject or as part of the humanities.


To go back to a time when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture was put into an ethnographic box, as some sort of anthropological curiosity, and excluded from the breadth of mainstream knowledge, including maths and science, is to disadvantage all Australians.

The commenter who quoted Wolfgang Pauli chose his example well. Pauli was born in Germany but had to flee to the United States in 1940 because of his Jewish ancestry. So he would have been familiar in his own life with the concepts of “Jewish physics” and “German physics”. One can guess what he would have made of “Indigenous physics”.

Samizdata quote of the day

The government lost the crypto-wars. Crypto is now freely available, but in a sense they won because there are so many ways at people’s data that bypass the cryptography. What we’re learning from the Snowden documents is not that the NSA and GCHQ can break cryptography but that they can very often render it irrelevant… They exploit bad implementations, bugs in hardware and software, default keys, weak keys, or they go in and break systems and steal data.

Bruce Schneier

No one needs Vince Cable

The idea that Vince Cable is a statist thug is hardly controversial in these parts. Moreover he affects some of the same nauseating fatherly manner as the late Tony Benn, and frankly they have more than a little in common. Well, not the dead bit yet. Sadly this approach is something folks in Britain are total suckers for, and indeed my utter hatred for these people is often greeted with genuine bafflement.

“Yes, I grant you he may not always be right,” they say, giving me a bemused smile, “and he a bit of a leftie, but he is such a nice chap!”

Generally the sound of my grinding teeth goes unnoticed as I try to resist the urge to shout “it’s a tactic you guileless English moron!”

Cable is someone who is strongly of the view his notions of what other people can earn should have the violence backed power of the state enforcing them. In short, he agrees with the approach of Castro’s Cuba, he is just willing to set the maximum wage rather higher. But in principle… yeah.

If he does not ‘understand’ why someone else earns the amount they earn, it must not be allowed.

What I have never ‘understood’ is how anyone could regard the LibDems as a party of civil liberties when you tot up all the pluses and minuses. Indeed if the Tories are the Stupid Party, Labour is the Evil Party… then the LibDems are perhaps the Incoherent Party.

Tony Benn, elder political figure, colossus of the left…

…and apologist for the greatest mass murder in human history, Mao Tse-tung, has died. He outlived by some 38 years the 50–60 million people who were murdered directly or starved to death at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party that he so admired in his moronic youth.

Piers Morgan’s deserved fall from grace

Here’s why the CNN gig didn’t work out: Morgan was too rude. A lot of Brits go to America and presume that a) all Americans are fake and b) they’ll appreciate someone explaining to them what’s wrong with their country. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Oh, Americans can take criticism – which is why Christopher Hitchens and John Oliver flourished out there. But they’re not “fakes” and they don’t like being told by foreigners that they’re “messed up”. Who would? Americans are, nine-times-on-ten, honestly nice people who appreciate good manners. Be polite to them and tell them how much you like their country before you offer any spiky observations about their (often) bizarre way of life. In other words, act like a polite guest would. Not like the jerk who turns up uninvited to the party, helps themselves to a beer from the fridge and starts asking the host why his kids are so fat.

To rudeness, Piers added arrogance. Take the guns debate. When the Sandy Hook massacre happened it was right for Morgan to broadcast about it and, as a Brit, he was entitled to raise questions about America’s gun laws. But he acted as though no one had ever thought to discuss the subject before. Like, ever. He tried to make gun control his own personal crusade, to “school” the Americans on law and order. And he displayed a crass insensitivity towards issues such as the importance of the Constitution or the American tradition of self-reliance. The scale of his ego was extraordinary. No US liberal has ever managed to challenge their country’s fundamental respect for gun ownership. Why did he imagine that a guy with an English accent – the accent of George III no less – would succeed where Bill Clinton, Teddy Kennedy or Barack Obama had failed?

To put it more succinctly, Piers Morgan is a supercilious tosser. Quite why CNN bosses imagined he would be a hit in the US is beyond me. And even Tim Stanley’s article, linked to here, is a bit patronising. Americans do indeed have their oddities, but so does every national grouping. The mark of a good journalist is to understand them thoroughly first.

Morgan is also an example of why the idea of a common “Anglosphere” culture has its limits. He might as well come from Mars, as far as many people are concerned.

The advisability of acknowledging the elephant

This post is not about elephants. I gave you elephants yesterday. Nor is it really about Gypsies and Travellers per se. If you want my thoughts on them, I had some in 2004 and some more in 2011. My post of 2004 was better than my post of 2011 and my post of 2011 was better than this one, but even this late night biscuit of a post is better than this Guardian comment piece which is intended to help Gypsies and Travellers but has evidently made most of its readers more hostile to them. Too many Gypsies and Travellers end up in prison, says the writer, Joseph Cotrell-Boyce, and “this must be addressed”.

It can be assumed that Mr Cotrell-Boyce would like you to sympathise with Gypsies and Travellers, since he is Policy Officer for the Traveller Equality Project. So why does he stir up fury against them by never acknowledging what everyone knows, that Gypsies and Travellers disproportionately end up in prison because they are at the present time disproportionately criminal? For stir up fury he does; comments loudly saying what he will not say have hundreds of recommends, while comments that you would think Guardian-readers would lap up, blaming all the ills of the Gypsies on cuts in council services due to a “Tory big-business agenda”, have, at the time of writing, a zero to the right of them. I am mystified that anyone can argue so ineffectively. To put in a brief nod to Jumbo – “yes, there is currently a crime problem among Gypsies and Travellers” – would not commit him to the belief that this state of affairs is eternal, or is the result of them being lesser beings, or that all Gypsies are criminals, or that most Gypsies are criminals, or that unfair prejudices against them do not exist, or that more education would be wasted on them. He could even continue to assert (may God mend his wicked ways) that what Gypsies and Travellers need is more state welfare and Equality Projects, and would meet better success in doing so. Debate abhors a vacuum and it is a delight to the human soul to shout out what someone else is reluctant to say.

I see this type of counterproductive elephant denial everywhere, but mostly in the pages of the Guardian.

The elephant in the auction room

Qatari money fuels record price at ivory auction, reports Adam Sage of the Times.

An auction of elephant tusks in France has fetched a world-record price and illustrated the enduring lure of ivory for collectors.

Quite why the Qatari riyal in particular has the power to drive up prices Mr Sage does not say. One of the big bidders was a Qatari. That is the only justification for the headline. Strangely enough Mr Sage was also the author of another Times piece from a month ago that might give a slightly more plausible explanation for record prices at an ivory auction in France:

Ivory worth £6m is ground to dust next to Eiffel Tower

Three tons of impounded ivory were crushed next to the Eiffel Tower yesterday in an operation designed to highlight French opposition to the illegal wildlife trade.

However Mr Sage did not appear to perceive any possible connection between the two stories.

Picking battles

I found this comment from a business owner (correction, “Chief Architect of BitcoinStore“) poignant. The context is that it is a response to people moaning about Reddit moderators removing links to a hacked database file, but it is widely applicable. Now I am middle class with children I find myself going along with a lot of things that I would really prefer to fight against.

I haven’t been able to look through the leak fully myself (still setting up the VM) but the fact still remains that this is stolen property containing other peoples’ data. If you fear what the people in fancy costumes with guns will do to you, you comply with their demands. That’s not censorship, that’s self-preservation. [ …] Sadly it doesn’t change the fact that there are people with guns who will take your money, lock you in a cage or just plain beat/kill you for not complying with their version of the rules.

For example, at BitcoinStore we state true value on exports and that results in citizens of some countries being charged absurdly high import tariffs (VAT). Our customers don’t like this and neither do we. We’re repeatedly asked to state false value, but we never do. We don’t do this because we agree with the concept of VAT or the idea of being forced to reveal the value or contents of a shipment, but because the people with guns can and will take away our money, freedom and lives.

Does the threat of having our awesome stuff taken away reduce the amount of awesome stuff we could have? Yep. Is it horrible terrible bullshit? Yep. Will they still put us in a cage no matter how much we are against them having the power to do so? Yep.

As a group of freedom-loving people it is indeed our responsibility to change all of these things, remake the world in a more favorable image, but we also must recognize that we are NOT the side that has all the guns, tanks and political power. We’re the side throwing rocks at the people with M16s and we need to behave accordingly. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight, it means we need to be smart about it.

This is guerilla warfare, we fight only the battles we know we can win and we take all the weapons we can off our fallen enemies we can carry. A series of small wins makes us stronger and we can go after bigger wins with time. Charging headlong into the enemy is suicide.

Smart tactics, not loud voices will win this fight. Choose your battles.

How will the artist fare when UKIP take over?

This was the question asked on the Guardian

“How will the artist fare when The Ukip take over?”

And I was moved to reply thus:

Well if ‘the artist’ does something that people care enough about to pay for willingly (for example ‘the artist’ formerly and once again known as Prince…said to be not short a bob or two), then they will continue to do just fine.

But come the UKIP revolution, for the most part I imagine ‘the artist’ currently funding their decaf macchiatos by gnawing on the public teat, justly receiving money from the appropriately taxed philistine lumpen-proletariat (who inexplicably stay away from Ken Loach films in droves) … oh dear, I fear they may indeed have to get a real job. Oh the humanity! Damn you Farage! Damn you to hell!

Or more likely, ‘the artist’ will just find a different way to live off the forcibly appropriated money of others, of which the many and varied ways are always advertised in the Guardian.

Thus I council against despair. Indeed, after a challenging period of adjustment for the bourgeois left, I foresee ‘the artist’ eventually living happily ever after, regardless of the brutality of the Farage Brownshirts, by becoming a Diversity Enforcement Officer for some tier of local government.

Samizdata quote of the day

When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him

– Jonathan Swift, as quoted here.

Germany readies its people for war

Over the last few days (this is 1914 we’re talking about just in case anyone was in any doubt) a large number of articles have appeared in the German press on the threat posed by Russia. And still they come:

There is, if anything, an increase to-day in the Press discussion of present and future and possible and probable Russo-German relations. The Berlin Bourse, which was troubled last week by the beginning of the campaign in the Cologne Gazette, was disturbed again to-day – chiefly by the spreading of the infection to the Radical and “pacific” Berliner Tageblatt. This journal published this morning an anonymous article by somebody who is described as distinguished and experienced in all branches of international politics, which, without indeed advocating war, advocates the adoption of a very firm policy towards Russia.

This is co-ordinated and there’s only one body that would be doing the co-ordination: the German government. They are preparing the population for war. The argument being used is precisely the argument being used in the corridors of power: the Russians are building up their forces and in a few years they will be too strong and it will be too late. In other words: it’s now or never.

The Times 10 March 1914 p5

The Times 10 March 1914 p5

It is not just the Russians the Germans are worried about. The Russians on their own would be fairly harmless (as indeed they proved to be) but they are in alliance with France. This leads to Germany’s worst nightmare: the prospect of a war on two fronts. This in turn leads to the development of the Schlieffen Plan with its aim to eliminate one of those fronts before the other one got going.

There is an alternative. Germany could return Alsace-Lorraine to France. At a stroke they would eliminate the one and only bone of contention in the Franco-German relationship and as a consequence break up the Franco-Russian alliance. But no.

There are good reasons why the German government isn’t so keen on such a move. By accepting self-determination in Alsace-Lorraine they would be accepting the principle of democracy. This is hardly the sort of thing that a monarchy can do. There would also be the element of losing face that weak regimes are very reluctant to do.

As I mentioned earlier the claim is that Germany must go to war soon or else it will be too late. The odd thing is that they were even wrong about this. The Russians were utterly incompetent in the First World War and there is no reason to think they would have fought much better even after their arms build up.

What is interesting is that even the Socialists appear to be unnerved by the Russian threat. This might explain why after the war broke out and despite the fact they had been left out of the loop, they were so willing to vote the government the funds to carry on the war.

There’s more:

To-day the Pan-German Press is advocating German claims of all sorts, especially in Asia Minor, “which is still to be had, but only if Germany does not shrink from the extreme test and is ready to risk war against Russia and France as well as England.”

This is fascinating. They have clearly made up their minds that if war means war with England then so be it. It is suicidal but that’s the point the German High Command has reached in 1914.

It was Fritz Fischer, writing in the 1950s who claimed that the outbreak of war in 1914 was no accident. He traced it back to what has become known as the War Council of December 1912. From there, Germany abandoned the naval arms race with Britain so that it could build up its army. Shortly afterwards it launched this campaign. Everything is ready. Now all they need is a pretext.

There is also the claim that the Russians are running riot in the Balkans:

The writer insists that “pretences” shall be dropped and that both Berlin and Vienna shall recognize that they have step by step been retreating before Russian pretensions with lamentable results.

This is absolute nonsense. The people who are winning are the Austrians. They have annexed Bosnia, created the state of Albania to deny the Serbs a port, faced the Russians down in the mobilisations of 1912 and made an ally of the Bulgarians – a country hitherto in the Russian sphere. Meanwhile, a German, Liman von Sanders, has more or less been put in charge of the Turkish army, completely putting the kibosh on (the admittedly somewhat far-fetched) Russian ambitions to control the Bosphorus.

Incidentally, it is one of the claims of Christopher Clark’s book The Sleepwalkers (p330) that the German government did not embark on a campaign to ready its people for war. This, he felt, showed that the so-called War Council was not quite as decisive as others have claimed. What this article (and others) show is that this claim is nonsense.