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.

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Dick Puddlecote’s Fantasy Front Bench

That dependable wag and foe of darkness Dick Puddlecote (who is still blogging in spite of dying in 1305, which is pretty damn hardcore if you ask me) has come up with his Fantasy Front Bench for freedom lovers!


What do you make of Ol’ Dick’s choices?

Samizdata quote of the day

I wish you all the luck in the world Baltimore. And I truly wish you had the courage to change. If you ever do, send up a flare. Until then, there is nothing anyone can do for you. You are victims of your own choices, and no one can make choices for you but you.

– John Nolte, from ‘Baltimore is a Democrat problem, not America’s problem

Nothing splendid about splendid isolation

If Capaldo’s claims were right, Europe should have economically disintegrated as a result of its trade integration with any other part of the world. The Capaldo reasoning suggests that Europe’s trade integration with China, for instance, would have fractured EU economic integration. In fact, European economic integration deepened considerably even though import competition from the Asia-Pacific increased significantly over the past two decades.

According to the Capaldo reasoning, economic integration within the European Single Market should have triggered a tremendous fall in wages and employment due to the greater exposure of EU economies to trade and the proclaimed negative impact on income and aggregate demand. None of this has happened.

– Fredrik Erixon & Matthias Bauer, from “Splendid Isolation” as Trade Policy: Mercantilism and Crude Keynesianism in “the Capaldo Study” of TTIP

A contrarian take on the “UK housing crisis” that says there isn’t a crisis at all

We need to continue to build more houses.  And it is likely that, with accelerating population growth, the rate of new house-building in the future in the UK will need to be more rapid than it was in the recent past.  But we do not have a housing shortage in England as a whole or in any region of England.  High house prices are not because we have run out of houses.  It’s perfectly understandable, given the data at the time, that people believed that in 2000.  It’s simply refusing to look at the data if people continue to believe that now.

Andrew Lilico.

He is going to annoy a lot of people with this article because it cuts so much against the narrative. And he’s going to make people go nuts because of the battery of data he provides to prove his point. There isn’t enough of this sort of analysis today: methodical, comprehensive, non-hysterical. I was recently watching one of those Sunday lunchtime TV programmes about politics, pitting some leftist lady complaining about a lack of “affordable housing” and all those evil rich foreigners buying the good stuff, and a Conservative London senior councillor – who was actually pretty good compared with many of them – pointing out that foreigners only own about 7 per cent of all London’s housing stock and that they were hardly to blame for any problem. (He is correct). But the overall thrust of the programme was depressing: a total failure to even consider that the planning system in the UK restricts supply, and hence lifts prices, and that a decade or more of central bank money creation has encouraged people to think of their homes as investments rather than the most important consumption item they are ever likely to spend money on. And it is also a sign of how tawdry this election is that we see anti-foreigner sentiment on both ends of the spectrum, with socialists resorting to bashing wealthy foreigners who “dodge taxes” and the Ukippers making our flesh creep about hordes of Romanians.

What caused the First World War? Part V: Monarchies and Republics

[This is the text of a talk I gave on 20 March to the 6/20 Club in London. This is the final part. Part IV is here.]

Could the outcome provide a clue? Four monarchies: Germany, Austria, Russia and Turkey were swept away by the First World War.

When I say monarchy I am not talking about the wishy-washy monarchy we pretend to have in the UK. I am talking about real monarchies, monarchies red in tooth and claw, monarchies that can at minimum hire and fire ministers and start wars.

Now, I can almost hear the pedants shouting “But those are precisely the powers the Queen has” To which I say “Only in theory”. Should the Queen or any of her successors ever attempt to actually exercise those theoretical powers they would be out of office in a matter of nano-seconds. Britain is a republic.

When did it become one? I think we can be pretty precise with the dates: sometime between 1642 and 1694. 1642 is the date of the outbreak of the English Civil War, when Charles I tried to impose his idea of absolute monarchy. 1694 is the date William III accepted that his powers were extremely limited. Since then it has been Parliament that makes the laws and votes funding – without which making war becomes extremely difficult.

But think of what happened in that period: four civil wars, one military dictatorship and a foreign invasion.

You think that was bad? Try the French. Between 1789 and 1871 they saw four monarchies, three republics, three foreign invasions and a 20-year war with the rest of Europe.

And now look at what happened in the 20th century. Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, China, Turkey, Spain and Portugal all made the same transition from monarchy to republic. I need not dwell on the German or Russian experiences – they are well enough known but all the others follow a similar pattern. China saw a 20-year civil war followed by Mao’s communist regime; Spain, a monarchy, followed by a republic followed by a civil war followed by a dictatorship followed by a monarchy followed by a democratic republic. Even Portugal saw two revolutions, a dictatorship and a series of bloody colonial wars.

The point is that in every case the transition from monarchy to republic is bloody and protracted.

If there is an exception to the rule it is Japan. Japan is odd because in the middle of the 19th Century it had two monarchies. The one we know about – which was as powerless then as it is now – and the Tokugawa Shogunate. The downfall of the Shogun was remarkably swift and afterwards, as I understand it, Japan was pretty stable up until the 1920s. That’s about 40 years. But assuming Japan is an outlier and we have a pattern, then why the bloodshed?

My guess is that once a monarchy looks vulnerable and anachronistic thoughts turn to a future blank slate. This blank slate is an invitation for idealistic, Utopian and statist ideas to fill the vacuum. And so they do. Even England got the Puritans (and, I might add, the Levellers).

This process was in full swing well before the First World War broke out. The Revolution of 1905 had forced the Tsar to call a parliament. The largest party in the Reichstag, the German Parliament, was the Socialists.

There were two basic majoritarian ideas knocking about Europe at the time: socialism and nationalism. Monarchs can’t do much with socialism but it is just possible for them to embrace nationalism (unless they’re Austrian, that is). And so we see Europe from about 1890 on divide on nationalist lines. Russia and Germany started to become hostile. German politicians began to talk of a coming racial struggle.

This put Austria in a bind.

When he was single there was a time when Franz Ferdinand would regularly visit an eligible duchess. The assumption was that he was courting her and that the two would eventually marry. Not so. He was courting Sophie Chotek one of her ladies in waiting. Sophie was from a noble family herself but just not noble enough. The emperor was furious when he heard that the two wanted to marry.

In English we have a rarely used word, morganatic. So rarely-used is it that I have only ever heard it used in one context. This one. It means that in a marriage one of the partners and the children and not allowed to benefit from any of the privileges of the other partner. Franz Ferdinand and Sophie had a “morganatic marriage”. The children were not allowed to inherit Franz Ferdinand’s titles or status. They could not become Emperor or Empress. On state occasions Sophie could not accompany her husband. One of the reasons the couple loved England so much – their last trip was in 1913 – was that Sophie was granted the same status as her husband. One of the reasons Sophie was in Sarajevo on the fateful day was because it was one of the rare occasions on which she could accompany him. It was also their wedding anniversary.

I have often wondered about the significance of this. Why was the Emperor so furious about Franz Ferdinand marrying beneath him? I think the reason is that Austria-Hungary being a multi-national state could not embrace nationalism. The only unifying factor was the monarchy and so everything had to be done to preserve the mystique and uniqueness of the institution. As the Emperor might have seen it when royals start marrying lowly nobles pretty soon you give the impression anyone could do the job. Bye bye monarchy, bye bye empire.

Ultimately, no one is to blame for the First World War as such. The First World War is principally a chapter in the story of central Europe’s transition from monarchy to republic. As such the principal actors were subject to forces that were way beyond their ability – or indeed anyone’s ability – to control. Although, this does not entirely absolve them of blame it absolves them of a lot.


Assessing Russell Brand’s place in the revolutionary pantheon…

I found this quite scholarly work assessing how history is likely judge that later day Che Guevara, Russell Brand. Fascinating stuff.

Samizdata quote of the day

We have discarded Occam’s Razor (the explanation which uses the fewest assumptions is best) for Occam’s Nail File (if there is a gender difference that reflects unfavourably upon women, discrimination is the only allowable explanation).

Ferox Ludum, commenting on Samizdata.

The strange durability of really, really crap ideas

The story of rent controls has been the same everywhere they have been tried. Until they were abandoned, rent controls in Seventies Britain led to a catastrophic fall in the number of rented properties available, and they did nothing to stop unscrupulous Rachmanite landlords. Rent controls accelerated the woeful degradation of much of New York’s housing stock, and in so far as there has been a boom in New York property, it has taken place in housing not subject to rent controls.The Swedish economist Assar Lindbeck has said that rent control is “the most effective technique presently known to destroy a city – except for bombing”; and the reason he has come to that conclusion is that experience has shown that it is an idiotic way to tackle the problem of high rents.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, and newspaper columnist.

I should add that one of the things I notice about Ed Miliband, the Labour leader – and many others who share Miliband’s views – is not so much ignorance of economics, as hostility to the idea that humans act as they do. The assumption seems to be that to bring about desirable objective X, one should pass a law to ensure X happens, and if it doesn’t, then evil intent has caused it. So, if you want to raise pay, you pass a minimum wage law decreeing that employers must pay staff so much money; if you want to hold down the cost of rentals, you pass a law banning landlords from pushing up rents above that level, and so on. And the fact that landlords and employees might alter their behaviour as a result or that unemployment and crap rental housing might ensue is the fault of evil people, not the forseeable result of interfering in the market. And on housing prices, as Boris mentions, the main problem is that supply in the UK is artificially suppressed by planning laws. (It should be noted that people of all political persuasions favour these, either for aesthetic or more narrowly self interested reasons.) But to admit that is, for the Miliband mindset, unthinkable: the State cannot have caused a shortage of something, surely! It must be because bad, uncaring people have somehow failed to provide enough housing!

To put it even more simply, with the Milibands of this world, we are dealing with the mentality of a child. Now, I don’t care whether Miliband looks or sounds odd, or is a tosser who knifed his brother in the back, so to speak, although I suppose these things do matter. What, at root, terrifies me about the idea of this fuckwit taking power is that he is a fuckwit, and alas, insufficiently self aware of his fuckwittery and inability to deal with reality. Or perhaps another way of seeing this is that he is an example of a mindset that goes back to JJ Rousseau and further back: the idea that what matters is that one is sincere, one cares, rather than reflect on the actual results of what one does.

Everything you ever needed to know about trigger warnings and safe areas


Trigger warnings, eh? Well now you know! You are welcome. This public service announcement was brought to you by samizdata.net

London for Londoners

I spent some time in and around Leicester Square / Covent Garden / Oxford Street in central London this afternoon. The centre of the metropolis on a Saturday afternoon is full of people from other places. These people walk too slowly, don’t know when to stand and when to walk on the escalators (and which side to stand on), sometimes attempt to start conversations with strangers, and lack the proper air of purposefulness that is an integral part of the ancient London culture. At times they speak with absurd accents, totally different and much more jarring than the Slavic, Francophone and Hindustani accents that are so comfortable and reassuring, and that I am so used to hearing.

At times like this afternoon I feel alienated. I am culturally in a foreign place. This is no longer my city. This is not the city I did not grow up in.

When the London Independence Party (LIP) comes to power, something must be done about this. I fear that it is going to be necessary to impose border controls – at least on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. These must be imposed near Watford, Epping, Reading, and a few other places, so that LONDON FOR LONDONERS can be maintained on our weekends.

Simultaneously we must maintain, defend, and keep open at all costs the corridors to Stansted, to Gatwick, and to Luton – to our precious airports. Desirable people must be allowed the freedom to come and go as they please, of course.

Galileo reborn

“This week Short, probably Britain’s greatest-ever chess player, suggested that women were biologically worse at chess and that “rather than fretting about inequality, we should just get on with it.” The reaction has been predictably bitter.”


“I like Nigel Short. I went to see him play his 1993 world championship game against Kasparov. But I’m dismayed he said this — even if it turned out he was right — because it can become self-fulfilling.”

Tom Whipple, who writes on scientific matters for the Times.


“Eppur si muove!” (“And yet it moves!”)

– Some say these words were muttered defiantly by Galileo Galilei after he was forced by the Inquisition to recant his theory that the Earth goes round the sun.


“I want more women to do computer science, not because of my views on gender equality but because I want more people in general to do science. The chess debate will make that harder. It takes enough courage as it is to decide you want to become the only girl on your computer science course. Hearing that you are also hard-wired to be worse at it is not going to help.”

Tom Whipple, who writes on scientific matters for the Times.


“In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration”

Thomas Henry Huxley, known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” for his robust defence of Darwin’s theory of evolution in public debate.


“Whatever biological influence on mathematical ability there may or may not be, there is indisputably a far greater influence: culture. Publicly debating biology directly influences that culture — for the worse.”

Tom Whipple, who writes on scientific matters for the Times.

Age of Adaline

Friday night is usually my movie night out here in the desert and there was nothing in particular I really wanted to see. After perusing the options, I settled for ‘Age of Adaline‘, the story of a woman of the 1920’s who through an accident and a process explained through a bunch of made up technological gobbledygook stopped ageing at twenty-nine.

Part of the movie was fairly good, a study in the fear of being different and the pain of watching those you love grow old while you remain the same and try to stay under the radar.

There were two things I found wrong with the movie, both of which are ignorable if you just want an unusual love story. Whomever came up with the narrated ‘scientific’ explanations should be taken out and shot. They were painfully idiotic. The script writers would have been better off if they’d just said she had a genetic mutation which did not kick in until her body was put under a life threatening stress she’d never before experienced.

And second of all… Hollywood cannot deal with the idea of people living long lives. They believe that healthy extended lives must by necessity lead to boredom and emotional problems. They nearly always fall back on a plot device that anyone who has it will yearn for a return to the Mayfly life or even immediate joyful death as in “Zardoz”. This movie is not as bad as some. It hints that the accidental process which gave her long life would be discovered in 2035, with the implication that perhaps it was then used.

What I find humorous is that very wealthy A list actors, producers and directors will be among the first in line to embrace the initially very costly technologies of life extension and anti-aging technologies, perhaps right behind the techies who are already inventing it for real in labs all over this planet. They will sing a wholly different tune when it is they who face age and death as fashion options.

Personally, I long for the day when we eliminate both of the presently unavoidable scourges of humanity: death and taxes!