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]




The poor are getting richer

Tim Worstall wrote, “The economic policies of the last 30, 40, years have led to the greatest reduction in absolute poverty in the history of our species.” This sounds about right, but on its own the assertion will not convince the types of people I might want to persuade towards my way of looking at the world, the people who accept the litany that inequality is increasing and that must mean that the rich are making the poor poorer. A lot of these people are not Marxist true believers, they just imbibe the world-view of the BBC by default. To them, a claim such as “poor people are richer than ever before” sounds like a strong claim that needs strong evidence.

I often point people to Human Progress. Its headline evidence is often a bit specific, though. Today’s headlines are about malaria, seafood consumption, China’s environment, primary school attendance and teenage pregnancy in Africa. These are all good wealth indicators but I could be accused of cherry-picking.

Then I found a graph showing absolute numbers of people living in extreme poverty since 1820. Extreme poverty means living on less than $1.90 per day, adjusted for price differences and inflation. The graph is made by combining a 2002 (peer-reviewed!) study and numbers from the World Bank. It does leave the question of how many people are living on other, similarly low incomes. Another chart has a green line showing “poverty” being $25 per day of income. The trend is in the right direction. There are many more charts along these lines put together by Max Roser.

Mr. Worstall also recommends Branko Milanovic’s blog, and an article by him presenting data about who is getting richer and who is not.

The real surprise is that those in the bottom third of the global income distribution have also made significant gains, with real incomes rising between more than 40% and almost 70% [between 1988 and 2008]. (The only exception is the poorest 5% of the population, whose real incomes have remained about the same.)

Those 5% must live in some truly awful places.

I have ideas for future study. I want to correlate increased economic freedom with poor people getting richer in a way convincing to people with the default BBC world-view. And I heard somewhere that fewer people than ever are less than one failed harvest away from starvation. That is a compelling image; it would be useful to be able to back it up.

What did Sam Allardyce do wrong?

Yesterday, the England manager resigned. “What’s odd about that?” you may say – assuming you’re not saying “Who cares?” – “They’re resigning all the time.”

They are but this is slightly unusual. For once – glossing over the departures of Fabio Capello and Glenn Hoddle – we have a resignation that has nothing to do with England’s performance on the pitch. Mr Allardyce has not failed as a manager but – we must assume – as a human being. Except in all the talk about “third-party ownership” and “bungs” I have no idea what he is supposed to have done wrong.

So, commentariat – at least, that tiny proportion of you that follow such things – tell me: is he being accused of doing something immoral or something illegal i.e. breaking the Football Association’s rules? [I assume he isn’t being accused of breaking the law.]

There will, of course, the usual frantic and incompetent search for a replacement. Luckily, I have a suggestion which I think will solve England’s run of disappointment forever: abolish the team. Sadly, I don’t think the FA will be taking me up on that so I can only hope they get someone cheap.

I wonder if Neil Warnock is available?

Metamaterial mechanisms

Dezeen is, for me, a daily visit website. Why? Well, partly it’s for the, sometimes amazing, big modern buildings they feature, in among all the, usually boring, small modern buildings which are their daily bread. And partly it’s for postings like this one which appeared today, entitled “Metamaterials make it possible to create mechanisms from a single piece of plastic”.

How on earth can a single piece of plastic be a mechanism? Follow the link, and watch the little scrap of video which shows you such an object in action. Maybe you’ve already seen a door handle like this, but I never have.

What this video doesn’t show is the details of how on earth this was accomplished. If you want to know that as well, keep reading the Dezeen posting linked to above. And if you really want to get to grips with who they are and what they are up to, try reading this paper, entitled “Metamaterial Mechanisms”. I won’t be doing this myself, but this is why Samizdata has commenters.

Even though the names of those doing this (Frohnhofen, Lindsay, Kovacs, Lopes, Chen) seem to span the world, my impression, for whatever it may be worth, is that what we see here is Germany doing what Germany does best. Which is: taking some newly discovered form of creativity which more Anglo-inclined tinkerers have been tinkering with for the last few years, for the fun of it, and studying it systematically, so that it can then be studied properly, by many more people, and then done properly, on an industrial scale. Fun, in Germany (as this guy is fond of explaining), is what happens after the working day has ended.

There is a lot wrong with the world, now as always. But one good thing that shows no sign of stopping is the invention and development of amazing new gadgets, processes and manufacturing techniques. Long may this continue.

A moment of profound self-discovery! I am an LGBT activist!

Liberty, Guns, Beer & Totty.


The desired end-state

Finally it all makes perfect sense.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Imagine is probably John Lennon’s worst lyric. Against a sparse, effective musical backdrop (influenced by McCartney’s quasi-spiritual triptych Hey Jude, Let it Be and Maybe I’m Amazed), the rich Beatle John bleated on in 1971 about imagining a world in which there are no possessions. Somewhat at odds with the anti-market proselytising of Lennon’s most famous post-Beatles song is the awkward reality that the track was recorded in the studio built at Lennon and Yoko Ono’s then very grand house, Tittenhurst Park near Ascot. The Grade II listed building is set in 70 acres of grounds and was purchased with the proceeds of Lennon’s fortune made from the record industry, one of the most thoroughly capitalist businesses on earth.”

Iain Martin

As an aside, my father, a serious classical music fan (he is also a jazz and blues nut) once said, in one of those comments that a slightly weary Dad tells you when seeing something on the TV about pop music, that in decades to come, very little of the Beatles’ music will be played or recalled, while the works of J.S. Bach are likely to endure until the heat death of the universe.

Doing referendums differently so the oiks don’t win again

The Electoral Reform Society has released a report about the conduct of the EU referendum called “It’s good to talk: Doing referendums differently after the EU vote”.

The title “It’s good to talk” suggests a conversation, a dialogue. Unlike some commentary by prominent Remain supporters, it does not seek to rule that some people are not qualified to take part in the dialogue at all and their votes should be disregarded. In fact if I chose to use this particular document in order to criticise a paternalist tendency in British politics, it is because it shows this tendency at its most well-meaning. But however reasonably expressed, the purpose of the measures suggested by the Electoral Reform Society is to stop the wild voters ever getting loose again.

So it’s time for a root and branch review of referendums, learning the lessons of the EU campaign to make sure the mistakes that were made in terms of regulation, tone and conduct are never repeated.

“Regulation, tone and conduct.” How very British, how very Sir Humphrey! Yet the people who wrote this probably object to being called “The Establishment”. The report assumes that the referendum was ill-regulated and that the referendum was something that should be regulated. By people like them.

We’ve made nine key recommendations to improve the conduct of future referendums. They are:

Laying the groundwork

1. Mandatory pre-legislative scrutiny for any Bill on a referendum, lasting at least three months, with citizens’ involvement

2. A minimum six-month regulated campaigning period to ensure time for a proper public discussion

3. A definitive ‘rulebook’ to be published, setting out technical aspects of the vote, as soon as possible after the passing of any referendum Bill

Better information

1. A ‘minimum data set’ or impartial information guide to be published at the start of the regulated campaigning period

Written by their sort of people, containing the information that their sort of people think is relevant, impartial in the sense of being in the middle of the spread of opinion that is socially acceptable for their sort of people.

2. An official body should be given the task of intervening when misleading claims are made by the campaigns, as in New Zealand

“An official body” means a body with power. “Given the task of intervening” means given the power to silence. And, of course, the official body will be staffed by suitably qualified people. So some more of their sort of people will have new powers to censor the unenlightened.

3. Citizenship education to be extended in schools

I don’t really need to say it, do I?

alongside UK-wide extension of votes at 16

With the result that those who have only known a life where the majority of their waking hours were spent under the control of the clerisy will mostly vote as directed. There is another point, too. The extension of the franchise to children is no longer an anomaly if all the voters are treated as children. Like children, all the information they receive will be censored and filtered by their wise teachers, who get to decide what claims are misleading.

More deliberation

1. The government should fund a resource for stimulating deliberative discussion/debate about referendum

2. An official body should be tasked with providing a toolkit for members of the public to host own debates/deliberative events on the referendum

“Providing the toolkit” for debates is an example of the agenda-setting power.

3. Ofcom should conduct a review into an appropriate role for broadcasters to play in referendums, with aim of making coverage/formats more deliberative rather than combative/binary

It’s a referendum, for goodness sake. How can it be other than binary? Ah, I think I know. I came across many comments by Remainers saying that the simple option “Leave the EU” was too easy and the question in the corrective referendum should be broken up into multiple different flavours of Leave plus one flavour of Remain. This would have the happy effect of splitting the Leave vote.

We think our new report, ‘It’s Good to Talk: Doing Referendums Differently After the EU Vote’, will be a useful resource in tackling the big questions about where we go from here when it comes to referendums. We hope you agree.

I do not agree. The report suggests various measures that would reduce the chance that polite conversation will be interrupted by shouting. Another way of putting that is that the report puts forward measures to make it harder for angry, inarticulate people to be heard, harder for them to sense that they are not alone, harder for referendums to fulfil their function of yanking the people’s representatives back into contact with what the people actually want.

More than that though, we hope the recommendations we suggest lead to some genuine change so that the public get the referendum debates they deserve in the future.

The wording is revealing. Although the mention of the public getting what they deserve is meant politely rather than literally, debate is seen as something the public get given to them, not as something they do themselves, however raw and “combative” and “binary” it may be.

Samizdata quote of the day

As most LGBT activists are aware, gay white men are the most privileged members of the queer community and therefore should siphon their activism toward holding space for those who are more oppressed, like transgender women of color for example.

Ethan Jacobs, without irony.

What is that sound I hear off in the distance?

Hurrah! The struggle for the leadership of the Nationalsozialistische Britisch Arbeiterpartei has been won by Jeremy Corbyn, and the re-branding as the Party of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists is now complete! I look forward to reading of this momentous moment in the Great Leader’s memoirs, which I assume will be titled “My Struggle”. Our friends from Hamas and Hezbollah are thought to be very happy with this outcome, as well they should.

But what is that sound I hear off in the distance? Gunfire? Has the revolution started already? Ah, no, it is the pop of champagne corks coming from 4 Matthew Parker Street in London!


Update: strangely not everyone is happy 😉

Dual Universe

Dual Universe is a computer game being worked on by some developers in France who are currently looking for extra funding on Kickstarter. It is a multiplayer game set in space that is attempting to have a player-driven economy, much like Eve Online, with resources in the game being bought and sold between players on markets. It goes further than Eve, though, with players able to design new items from scratch and even script them with Lua, which should allow for invention of new in-game technology, which should allow for player-driven economic growth within the game.

Another feature which caught my attention is their approach to the dilemma of enabling player versus player combat while allowing for players to enjoy playing the game without being attacked at random. There is the concept of a safe zone in which an anti-violence bubble is generated by expending energy. What is more, the player who owns the machine that generates the safe zone can give out mining rights within it, and exclude other players who do not pay him a tax.

I think they should rename this game Libertarian Utopia Simulator.

Corbyn is terrible, but so-called “heavyweights” aren’t much better either

Nick Cohen is one of those socialist writers I read because he has a core of decency – he is right on the money around Islamism – although he is uneven and his spit-the-dummy turn over the Brexit vote did not impress me one jot. He has an article out about the awfulness of Jeremy Corbyn and his circle, and of course he is right, but he has lacunae of his own:

“The last upsurge of left-wing militancy in the 1970s had Eric Hobsbawm, E.P. Thompson and other formidable socialist thinkers behind it. Joseph Stiglitz, Thomas Piketty and Danny Blanchflower looked like their successors. They too have produced formidable work on how to make society fairer. They agreed to help Corbyn, but walked away after discovering that Corbynism is just a sloganising personality cult: an attitude, rather than a programme to reform the country. That attitude is banal in content, conspiracist in essence, utopian in aspiration and vicious in practice.”

These four men’s reputations are greatly overblown. All of these men were or are capable of producing work and comments of quite outstanding levels of imbecility. Thompson was a prominent supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament during the 1970s and 1980s at a time when the Cold War was very far from being obviously won; his Marxian treatment of English history, for example, while not without its merits, infected a generation of students. Hobsbawm, whose treatment of history could be equally tendentious, to the end of his long life was an unrepentant defender of the Soviet Union; Stiglitz, while he might produce good work (I cannot think of any off the top of my head), is not renowned for his judgement, as his praise for Venezuela’s catastrophic socialist regime a few years ago attests. And finally, we have Thomas Piketty, whose immense book on inequality, while it gives a sort of spurious intellectual cover for leftists looters, contains fundamental conceptual errors and its policy prescription of massive wealth taxes would be catastrophic.

In other words, some of the people on the Left may sound as if they have more intellectual gravitas than, say, Jeremy Corbyn. This is not exactly difficult. But the fact is that in varying degrees, these men were/are deeply wrong and their ideas are dangerous nonsense.

As an aside, Dr Roger Scruton has issued an updated edition of his excellent study, Thinkers of the New Left, which goes into a lot of detail about this sort of intellectual. By the way, he has praise for some aspects of their work and tries to see merit where it exists (he is fond of EP Thompson on his understanding of the English working class, for example). Recommended.


And then they came for Instapundit…

First they came for Robert Stacey McCain but I had no idea who he was…
Then they came for Milo but I had no idea who he was either and anyway, he had silly hair…
Then they came for Instapundit…

A little earlier today Instapundit’s Twitter account got blocked. Due to Twitter’s Orwellian… no, Kafkaesque censorship policy it was not initially clear which tweet or tweets had earned Twitter’s ire. There was certainly no question of Glen Reynolds (Instapundit’s webmaster) being allowed to defend himself. At least not to Twitter – to the rest of the world Reynolds is most robust.

This is serious stuff. Instapundit was one of the original blogs. Although I was not present at it’s conception, my belief is that if it hadn’t been for Instapundit there wouldn’t have been a Samizdata. Certainly, Instapundit blazed a trail for hundreds, if not thousands of others and crucially Reynolds is not a nutter. If they can ban him they can ban us all.

Worse still, it is not as if Twitter is alone. It is remarkable how quickly internet stalwarts like Google, Facebook and Twitter have gone from being dynamic, “don’t be evil”, believers in freedom to being fully paid up members of the bansturbationary elite.

The question is what do we do now? Rob attempted to answer this very question earlier this week and I am happy to give gab.ai a go. The key question is if anyone else is prepared to. These things need critical mass and right-wingers are not known for engaging in collective action.

Like many I had high hopes for the internet. I thought it would lead to a renaissance of freedom. Instead it is quickly coming to resemble the very MSM I hoped it would check. And what have we got to show for our 15 years or so of being able to say what we think?