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It has been an interesting year

2016 has been a momentous year, the most earthshaking event being Brexit in my opinion. Trump is ‘interesting’ but ultimately the underpinning structure of the USA today will be more or less the same when Trump leaves office. Like all presidents, he is a transitory political figure. He may (or may not) prove to be a significant player in the on-going culture wars, but we will just have to wait and see.

Brexit on the other hand, like it or loath it, fundamentally changes the ground rules in the UK, and it may take some time before we understand what that shockwave has actually shaken loose. It presents dangers and opportunities for friends of liberty in almost equal measure.

Yes it really has been an interesting year and I suspect the impending one will be filled with ‘interesting times’.

So allow me to wish readers of Samizdata a prosperous and hopefully freer new year in 2017. Let us not be unduly careful out there 😀

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32 comments to It has been an interesting year

  • Paul Marks

    Happy New Year everyone.

    The independence of the United Kingdom has not happened – European Union law continues to be the law of the United Kingdom. This may change in 2017 (after all it would take only a few days to have independence if the government wanted it – there is no real need for “Article 50”) – but Mark Remain Carney, Philip Remain Hammond and Teresa Remain May possibly have other ideas.

    Note if anyone does not know – the so called “Single Market” is nothing to do with Free Trade, it is really about detailed control of the economy via E.U. regulations. Someone who says “I want independence, but I support the Single Market” is really saying “I am a liar”.

    As for Mr Trump – there is a 20 trillion Dollar American Federal government debt, plus vast numbers of trillions in “unfunded liabilities” (the unlimited American Welfare State that the Economist magazine refers to as a “safety net” – as it was in about 1956), and Mr Trump plans to spend MORE money.

    An early test for 2017 – how many people in Congress vote against the “infrastructure” spending orgy, and the new “child care” entitlement.

    Of course good people will lose (that need hardly be said) – but it would be nice to have slight show of defiance (holding the sword against the endless Legions of Hell) before inevitable doom as both the impossible fiscal situation, and the Keynesian monetary Credit Bubble, comes crashing down.

    Both in the United States and everywhere else.

    Considering the above perhaps wishing people a Happy New Year was not really justified on my part.

  • Considering the above perhaps wishing people a Happy New Year was not really justified on my part.

    But then you only ever see the downside of everything, Paul, which is as much as the failing as people who only see sunshine and roses. There are also golden opportunities the like of which we have not seen in a generation.

  • “Brexit … presents dangers and opportunities for friends of liberty in almost equal measure.”

    I think the dangers to versus the opportunities for liberty, especially if weighted by their likelihood, are not at all equal. I am also sure that both, if compared with not-Brexit, are very unequal indeed. Be of good cheer. 🙂

    I am nevertheless sure that there will be much for friends of liberty still to do after Brexit is done and dusted. This blog will not become needless. Be of even more good cheer. 🙂

  • Cal Ford

    I am currently getting all these e-mails from people selling audio production gear who preface their mails with the claim that 2016 was a famously terrible year. Guess they know their market.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Perhaps the most iffy ‘good news’ of the year is the apparent workability of the EM Drive, which, if it does work, signals a revolution in physics, with who knows what consequences.

    We are probably going to need a miracle to escape the eventual effects of profligate governmental spending. A revised physics may make one possible.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Happy New Year indeed! or perhaps i should say (in view of a somewhat befuddled article i read a few days ago, claiming that it is best to strive for meaning rather than happiness) Meaningful New Year!

    It is not unreasonable to think that Brexit and Trump were the Big Events of 2016, but history might prove it to be an Anglo-centric view.

    My view of why the Brexit vote was important: it shows that ever closer union is not inevitable. That is of import not just in the UK.

    But let’s not dismiss the import of Trump.
    First, it has been a source of hope, worry, and/or entertainment, starting more than 1 year ago.
    Second, it shows that the conventional wisdom on how to get elected in the US, was wrong.
    Third, even if the Trump presidency is business as usual, the alternative would definitely not have been business as usual: with Hitlery, the US would have had a President above the Law, who was above the Law even before being elected; and her absolutist rule would have had the seal of approval of the vast majority of US voters: not just those who voted for her, but also those who could not be bothered to vote against her.

  • bobby b

    “Perhaps the most iffy ‘good news’ of the year is the apparent workability of the EM Drive, which, if it does work, signals a revolution in physics, with who knows what consequences.”

    The commonly-accepted rules concerning energy may well be rewritten. Aside from the happy results, start imagining the weaponization of such new rules. I highly doubt there’s any actual violation of conservation of energy or momentum, but this may expose subtleties we’ve not explored.

    “We are probably going to need a miracle to escape the eventual effects of profligate governmental spending. A revised physics may make one possible.”

    Yes. Extinction of life extinguishes debt.

    Happy New Year, y’all!

  • bobby b

    Snorri, we strive for meaning because it makes us happy.

    So, I think the traditional greeting still works.

  • bobby b

    Perry, Trump is already here, occupying some space in between President and President-elect.

    Brexit, meanwhile, remains a real possibility, but you still await your version of the electoral college, where your “betters” still retain the choice of validating the popular vote or not.

    Brexit, if attained, will trump Trump as Story #1, but there’s many a civil war between cup and lip.

    So, give “2016 Story of The Year” to Trump, and reserve 2017 for Brexit.

  • And compliments of the season too, from down under.
    Rather than waiting with fear or excitement for what 2017 may hold, may I suggest the year should be kicked off with a small but significant project; to reclaim the word progressive.
    I understand that its first use – in the 1920’s and 30’s applied to groups that supported among other things eugenics and vivisection. Its use now seems to apply to any political identity, party or action that propels the state to the political left. Progress clearly does not accompany failed and discredited ideology.
    I invite Samizdata readers to comment in the hope of energising the debate and reclaiming the progressive high ground. Any thoughts?

  • PersonFromPorlock

    >bobby b:

    The possibility of annihilation through science has existed at least since Pasteur and Koch proved the germ theory of disease; we’ve managed to avoid it so far.

    Happy new year to those of us who prize happiness, and a satisfying dose of misery (hopefully at second hand!) to the Eeyores. 😆

  • RAB

    I just roll with the punches…

    Happy New Year all.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . a satisfying dose of misery (hopefully at second hand!) to the Eeyores.”

    Sorry – that was supposed to come off as tongue-in-cheek. Upon re-reading what I typed, I’m having a hard time seeing how.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Bobby:

    we strive for meaning because it makes us happy.

    Indeed, that was the starting point of the article i mentioned. What made it befuddled was that it goes on to say that meaning and happiness are orthogonal, and we should disregard happiness, pursuing only meaning.

    Mobfiz:

    may I suggest the year should be kicked off with a small but significant project; to reclaim the word progressive.

    Since we are at it, we should also reclaim the word Left: it used to be the party of the people, as opposed to the Right which was the party of the ruling class; but in the US, “the left” has always been the party of the ruling class. There used to be at least the pretense that “the left” acted in the interests of the working class, but in 2016 that pretense has completely gone (in the US).

  • Stonyground

    Regarding 2016 having been a bad year, I think that Newsbiscuit pretty much nailed it.

    The 1,785,653 people who have commented on social media that 2016 has been the worst year ‘ending in 16′ have been invited to get a fucking grip. Historians have pointed out that years ending in 16 are normally more than a bit shit and this one has been no worse than any of the others.

    ‘Assuming they were paying any attention, most people would grudgingly concede that 1916, which saw a five-month trench battle along the Somme with over a million casualties, was a bit of a bummer,’ said Dr Edward Wilson, Emeritus Professor of Getting Some Bloody Perspective Studies at the University of Durham. ‘However, even that was a stroll in the park compared to some of its predecessors.’

    1816 was the infamous ‘year without a summer’, in which the eruption of Mount Tambora caused rapid falls in temperature and major food shortages across the Northern Hemisphere, just when the end of the Napoleonic Wars had resulted in chronic unemployment, exacerbated by the introduction of the first of the Corn Laws. 1716 was not quite as awful but still saw the start of 44 years of one-party rule by a corrupt aristocratic plutocracy that would be almost inconceivable for the moment.

    ‘You think it’s a big deal about Bowie, Prince and Terry Wogan popping their clogs?’ asked Professor Wilson. ‘Listen sunshine, Shakespeare and Cervantes died in the same bloody WEEK in April 1616. Hieronymus Bosch, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and, um, er, the Spanish explorer Juan Díaz de Solís all went in 1516. Celebrity massacres are nothing new, trust me.’

    With the worst famine in English history at its peak in 1316 at the same time as the worst year of inflation in the history of the pound sterling, the French Dauphin invading and actually being proclaimed king in the chaos after King John repudiated Magna Carta in 1216, the misery associated with ‘16’ years stretches back as far as the chronicles go.

    ‘1016 may actually have been the worst of the lot,’ said Wilson. ‘It started with Aethelred the Unready dying and ended with three massive battles and the Danes occupying the whole of England under Cnut. You can do the rest of that joke yourself. Basically, it’s just what happens. Either that or the whole of human history is a stop-start cavalcade of death, stupidity and misery, I couldn’t say. Anyway, happy New Year. I’m sure 2017 will be just fine.’

  • bobby b

    Iowahawk has a good post pertinent here:

    “God, I can’t wait for this crummy year to get over.” – People of 1938.

  • Jacob

    “But let’s not dismiss the import of Trump.”

    Democracies have this venerable and laudable custom of changing the party in power on a regular basis, every 8, 10 or 20 years. There is absolutely nothing special about Trump, it’s business as usual.

    We love to dramatize everything and exaggerate and get exited. 2016 was just another year…not a bad year, there were worse ones.

    And, it is just possible that 2016 is also the year that the bloody and terrible civil war in Syria ends. This would be good news.

    Happy 2017.

  • Jacob

    The economic melt-down has been postponed. Economically 2016 was a good to very good year.

  • staghounds

    The Brexit vote was big news. Much bigger news is that your masters’ loyalty to the EU is greater than even their desire to keep the prime minister’s office.

    The smothering of representative liberty is a bigger story than the actual useless vote.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Democracies have this venerable and laudable custom of changing the party in power on a regular basis, every 8, 10 or 20 years.

    By this criterion (which i accept) Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, and the USA have not been fully democratic for much of the xx century.

    Sweden: Social Democratic rule 1932–>1976, with a brief interlude in 1936.
    The Social Democrats have been in power for 23 of the following 40 years.

    The Netherlands: Christian Democrats (originally not a single party) in government from 1918 to 1994, back in government 2002–>2012.

    Italy: Christian Democrats the senior party in every government 1946–>1994.
    (Needless to say, Italy was not much of a democracy for a couple of decades before 1946.)

    USA: Democrats controlling the House 1955–>1994. For all but 8 of those years, the Democrats controlled the Senate as well; and often they also had the White House, of course.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Be the ’16s as they may, they are behind us for a bit now. Happy New Year, every one! 🙂

  • Laird

    I think Brexit and Trump’s election are of equal importance. We’ll all have to wait to see what (if anything) changes as a result of both, but it seems to me that the mere fact that both votes went the way they did sends a message of massive significance. One with which the Powers That Be haven’t yet come to grips.

    Anyway, Happy New Year everybody. And just as in every other year, I Just Move On.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    In lieu of “Progressives”, I suggest “Left Puritans”; it has the virtue of being both insulting and accurate in immediately accessible ways.

  • Runcie Balspune

    the EM Drive, which, if it does work, signals a revolution in physics

    The revolution is already starting with he confirmation of gravitational waves, this is the element that could knock the standard model out the window.

    In lieu of “Progressives”, I suggest “Left Puritans”

    Just keep it capitalized, it has the same implication as capital C Conservatives versus small c conservatives.

  • Paul Marks

    Quite so Perry.

    As Peter Baelish from “Game of Thrones” would say “chaos is a ladder” – even if most people hack each other to death or starve, a few few clever (and ruthless) people may prosper (and get to watch the show).

    I tend to prefer Ned Stark – but even before his execution he always seemed miserable. Peter Baelish really enjoys life.

    A good example of how Socrates was wrong – moral virtue is NOT the road to happiness. Something pointed out by Harold Prichard in “Mind” (in 1912 if my memory does not fail me) “Is Moral Philosophy Founded Upon A Mistake?”

  • PersonFromPorlock

    >Runcie Balspune

    Just keep it capitalized, it has the same implication as capital C Conservatives versus small c conservatives.

    True, if you’re dealing with not only readers, but readers who notice capitalization. But “Left Puritans” works conversationally as well, and while “Progressives” still implies that there’s something forward thinking and liberal about Progressivism, “Left Puritans” implies the movement’s authoritarian roots.

  • Paul Marks

    “Hero” that was the title of the Chinese film – a celebration of a tyrant who made Peter Baelish look mild. Rather than kill the tyrant the “nameless man” saves him so that various Kingdoms can be “unified” (read conquered) under an incredible nightmarish tyranny.

    The only time (as far as I know) that I have agreed with the “Village Voice” leftist newspaper in New York – while the critics were going on about how wonderful the Chinese film was, the “Village Voice” pointed out the little detail that it was incredibly evil.

  • Darin

    2016 ended well – Hillary Clinton will not be in the White House, the whole world dodged a big bullet by hair’s breadth.

    I absolutely do not see Trump as savior of America or anything else, but he was not the candidate that explicitly promised to shoot down Russian planes and bomb Russian forces in Syria. An compared to WW3, nothing else mattered in this election.

  • Darin

    Paul Marks

    The only time (as far as I know) that I have agreed with the “Village Voice” leftist newspaper in New York – while the critics were going on about how wonderful the Chinese film was, the “Village Voice” pointed out the little detail that it was incredibly evil.

    The critics were right – the movie was work of art, and this is what made it effective (although not in the West, probably not one of 100 viewers knew anything about Chinese history).

    This is not surprising – there is enormous number of the most inspiring, uplifting and awesome socialist, communist, anarchist, fascist, nationalist and religious art, but nothing libertarian. This is why libertarian movement is on the road to nowhere.

    Ayn Rand understood it, and tried hard (and failed hard) to get out the message. Since her, few libertarians grasped it.

  • Jacob

    “2016 ended well – Hillary Clinton will not be in the White House, the whole world dodged a big bullet by hair’s breadth.”

    That is indeed the biggest blessing of 2016.

  • Laird

    On the other hand, this is probably the worst news to come out of 2016 (at least, for Samizdistas).