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

“The coronavirus outbreak gives us a neat experiment in what happens when humans suddenly dramatically reduce both production and consumption. And, to put it mildly, most of us are not enjoying it one bit. That suggests that instead of the hair shirtery favoured by the Gretas of this world, our best solution is creating the technologies that allow us to keep consuming while also keeping the planet cool with our doing so.”

Tim Worstall.

39 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Mr Ecks

    Just seen a newspaper headline–during an questionable shop visit–“Britains worst recession for 100 years (ie worse–substantially– than the Great Depression)–but we’ll be alright in three months”

    And it will be all over by Christmas.

    Greta and the Green gang are finished–as are likely Blojo and his gang–no one will have any time for green crap after a taste of real austerity.

  • Greta and the Green Gang are looking at this as a playbook.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Seen in several places: so how did you like your free 30-day trial of socialism?

  • Tim the Coder

    While I agree with Ecksie about the Ecoloons suffering terminal damage from this rehearsal, I think he underestimates Bojo’s irrepressibility.
    Much of the Green Madness was inherited from May, and Boris hasn’t done all that much to advocate it – a little repositioning, and when the wind has changed…
    I think we will see the returning Boris already tacking in the new direction, as he returns to the fray.

    Hope so, anyway. He’s the best of a very poor bunch, and not just in the UK. If only something could act as a purge, or filter…but enough Chinese curses.

  • Gary

    It’s certainly the most incompetent and laziest government ever.

    Bojo’s “illness” looks like a PR stunt designed to shield him from criticism, though the spineless shills in the British media have done little to hold the government’s utterly crap, scandalously inept handling of this mess, to account.

    One need only look to South Korea, Germany Taiwan, New Zealand, and Greece to see the difference a competent government and actual leadership makes.

  • APL

    “what happens when humans suddenly dramatically reduce both production and consumption.”

    You can only reduce consumption to a certain minimum level.

    But production can go way, way below that.

    The way the food production industry was explained to me the other day. Animals are reared and at particular times the animal is of an age when it’s to be sent for slaughter.

    The farmer can’t keep them after this time – and if they do, they can’t feed them. So animals that can’t be sold will be slaughtered. That means the farmer makes a complete loss.

    But the next generation is arriving at the stage where they should be slaughtered, ( government having shut down the restaurants and cafe’s, pubs and clubs ) this lot can’t be sold either. The farmer can no more afford to feed them, they get slaughtered too. Another loss for the farmer.

    Pretty soon, the farmer is out of business. Food production falls.

    Same with milk production, millions of gallons of milk being poured away.

    Now farms are out of food production. But now you notice there are food shortages

    But you can’t just bring the the farms back into production overnight. It takes a while to rear a piglet, or a calf.

    I think we can be assured the US won’t be in a position to provide aid, either.

    I guess we are about to find out who is correct.

  • APL

    Gary: “One need only look to South Korea,”

    You could of course, go and live in South Korea.

  • neonsnake

    Now farms are out of food production. But now you notice there are food shortages

    I predict a rise in “invegs”.

    Incidentally, your explanation of food production, specifically meat, although a similar scenario can be painted for seasonal vegetables, is largely accurate – with a few (very) minor quibbles around whether the animal is grass-fed or not, and the size of the farm, in terms of being able to feed them. Doesn’t affect your overall point in the slightest, mind.

    There are mitigating options, if things get really bad (which I’m not at all sure they will!). I’ve thought for a long while that the definite first step given an “incident” would be to secure a method of creating (growing or rearing of) food. Indeed, I’ve often thought that failed revolutions probably fail when the less ardent revolutionaries realise that they have access to the palace, but no fucking bread (any historians care to correct or elaborate?), so they lose their fervour; ergo we need to learn to create food.

    Might need a bit of a re-purposing of the local pitch-and-putt, but still…;)

  • bobby b

    Now’s the time to buy a freezer and drive out to the country to the farmers who are more than eager to sell you halves and quarters of beef and pork for a highly discounted price.

    The food is all there. It’s going for a fraction of the price of three weeks ago. It’s the distribution system that’s disrupted right now.

  • Snorri Godhi

    It seems to be true that farmers are throwing away milk and eggs. I don’t understand why, though: people are eating less in restaurants, but surely they are making up for that at home!

    Unless people are trying to lose weight, since obesity is a risk factor? 😉

    Another thing: if we can use freezers, why can’t farmers do the same?

  • neonsnake

    Now’s the time to buy a freezer

    Not sure how true it is, but colleagues from a previous job (working for a, uh, large and well-known electrical retailer, akin to Best Buy) reckon that you can’t hold of freezers for love nor money right now. They had a run on them in mid-late March, similar to the run that “we” had on masks in early Jan.

    That aside, yes, absolutely. I’m having a lot of luck in the UK with farm shops etc – they’re desperately trying to convert product into cash, and I’m happy to support.

    Youtube is, as ever, good for basic butchery skills if you need it; it’s not as difficult as it seems.

    For the uninitiated, I strongly advise butchering into meal-sized portions before, not after, freezing!!

  • Snorri Godhi

    For the uninitiated, I strongly advise butchering into meal-sized portions before, not after, freezing!!

    I myself bought a couple of hams a couple of weeks ago [no, make that 3 weeks ago], about 1.5 kg each. I bought them from the producers at a stand in a shopping mall, at the regular price. I cut them into generous portions before freezing.

    I am about halfway through, but i have been assured that more will be available. Unless the government shuts them down; which seems unlikely, given the conditions here.

  • neonsnake

    I don’t understand why, though

    Hey Snorri! Are you keeping well?

    This is all a bit speculative, so don’t put too much weight in it: my view is that the smaller the “unit”, the more accurately it can plan. So, I know to a reasonable degree of accuracy how much milk I need to get me through a week (and if I fuck it up, I’ll just make yogurt out of it before it goes bad). Go one level up, to a restaurant, and they have to approximate, so they probably buy too much and have to throw some away. And yogurt might not be appropriate for that restaurant’s menu.

    Go up a few more levels to a super-market, and they’re probably throwing out a lot of milk (keep going, higher and higher, and you have the Central Planning problem so beloved of types like us…)

    My very speculative guess is that they’ve always over-produced for the super-markets, but the super-markets bear the cost of excess product. The supermarkets might now be being a bit less cavalier with over-stocks?

    Or maybe there was a boom and bust? I went through a week where I couldn’t find milk anywhere (my mother, who could drink tea at Olympic-levels, almost had a breakdown. Luckily, she was able to get hold of red wine, which she can also drink to gold medal standard. I judge not the substitution in these troubled times…)

    Then, there’s the supply-chain problem that bobby mentioned. Product exists, but getting it to people right now isn’t easy.

    I’m unsure if people are buying more or less food. I have no accurate data (everyone’s doing DIY, I can tell you that much…), so I really don’t know.

    Another thing: if we can use freezers, why can’t farmers do the same?

    Completely anecdotal from one source (the Lady’s father, a beef and lamb farmer in Argentina) – he just doesn’t have enough freezers No more than that. Practically, he’s just not set-up to do so. He can freeze and store a small amount of meat, but not to the levels we’re talking about.

    But: I’ve no idea how that translates to the “big guys”, the truly corporate level farms. I have no idea. Again – speculation – but maybe they are freezing it in enormous sci-fi industrial-scale freezers?

    Which is fine, but that’s stock instead of cash, right? What they need, as APL noted, is cash to buy feedstock, not frozen cows that they have sitting in deep-freeze and are not converting to cash.

    Also, I’ve no idea whatsoever whether food will depreciate in value – typically, stock becomes worth less over time, but I’ve never worked in FMCG, so I’m not qualified to venture an opinion. Of course, all bets are off right now. Again, someone else might be qualified to interject, and I’d welcome the insight, it’s just out of scope for me.

  • bobby b

    Snorri Godhi
    April 15, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    “Another thing: if we can use freezers, why can’t farmers do the same?”

    They can and do. But they’re full now.

    Plus, they need cash right now, not assets sitting in a freezer consuming electricity.

    People are a bit clueless right now in the USA about the impending shortages. Meat processing is a highly centralized industry here, and in the past couple of weeks, several of the largest national processing plants have turned out to be centers of Covid-19 infection, and are shut down (which is why farmers are getting stuck with their product.) I believe that half of South Dakota’s Covid cases arose in one packing plant.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Very informative, neonsnake and bobby.
    Thank you.

  • Snorri Godhi


    my view is that the smaller the “unit”, the more accurately it can plan.

    That is why i am happy to be in Estonia! (population 1.3 millions.)

    Partial lockdowns, but we can go outdoors any time we want. Except in Saaremaa. But note what the BBC narrator says @1:54:

    With all non-essential businesses shut, many of Susan’s friends lost work after the outbreak, but quickly found it elsewhere.

    Note also that, compared to the collapse of the Soviet Union, this crisis looks like a holiday. And even the collapse of the Soviet Union was a holiday, compared to annexation to the Soviet Union.

    The prediction of 1000 people in Saaremaa needing hospitalization seems way too pessimistic, btw. The number of cases does not seem to be increasing any faster in Saaremaa than on the mainland. And neither of them looks exponential.

  • neonsnake

    And, to put it mildly, most of us are not enjoying it one bit.

    There is, incidentally, an argument for dismissing with “aww you poor wittle diddums” those people who aren’t “enjoying it one bit”, those who thought that they could live forever on other people providing them with services and goods at artificially (state-sponsored) lowered prices, those who can’t survive on their own (or in small communities that they’ve put the work in to build) and are suddenly being forced to confront that fact.

  • Bruce

    Mr. Ecks wrote:

    “And it will be all over by Christmas.”

    And “they’ll still respect you in the morning”

    Because; “They’re from the “government” and they’re here to “help”.

  • Phil B

    @ Gary April 15, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    if you think that the Ardern Government here in sunny New Zealand by the flyover is competent, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale … used, small denomination notes only in a plain brown envelope please.

    As for the farmers slaughtering and storing their livestock, before you suggest that I would advise looking up the regulations regarding slaughterhouses and the demands for meat for human consumption. In short, only a big, approved and certified slaughterhouse can process the animals.

  • Chester Draws

    Jacinda Ardern got lucky.

    She closed the border at the same time as the US, but luckily all the outbreaks were localised. If it had got into a couple of our communities that live closer together, there’s no way that it would have been contained. We’d be on exactly the same path as all of Europe. It wasn’t skill.

    That said, if no vaccine comes along soon, NZ is going to be up poo-creek. No-one coming in without quarantine — so basically no-one will bother — and the local population unable to go out without severe risk of catching it — which isn’t that bad a risk, but the population still think it is the Black Death v2, so won’t go. We might be able to hunker down with Australia, if they squash it too.

    Until that vaccine or cure, we are going to be as physically isolated as North Korea (Trump would love a wall as good as our moat!). I just hope that our economy doesn’t head North Korea’s way in sympathy.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Natalie, this is not Real Socialism- the death rate is too low!
    We here in the antipodes don’t hear much about the individual countries in Europe- for instance, how is Switzerland going? I wonder if its’ strong Canton system is helping the average Swiss citizen. And will the EU break up over this, or will it be used to create a top-heavy bureaucracy and a super-strong centralized Union?

  • Whahappan?

    Regarding the issue of switching animal product distribution from commercial to retail, a big part of the problem is packaging, as well as regulations. The products are packaged differently for commercial and retail, and that creates a problem for supermarkets who aren’t set up to process commercially packaged meat. But the bigger problem is the FDA prohibits selling commercially packaged product to retailers.

  • Pat

    Sorry to disappoint but an awful number of people are enjoying this immensely. Some feel empowered. Some feel a sense of purpose.
    I don’t suppose that will last a lot longer, but that is where we are.

  • TJ

    Some Swiss data is here, https://swprs.org/a-swiss-doctor-on-covid-19/?fbclid=IwAR30wrasXEEOfWEPgnr3iw8bpz-uxtS3RFyF3EbjkuT4Rh5hnb3rz8TL-PE

    My sister in law was a nurse in Aargau, and was on the list to be called up to help, they even had a spare hospital, they had just built a replacement but kept the old one open to cope… But they have so few cases some staff have been put on part time and the emergency call up staff are still sitting at home.

    To give themselves work they have imported sick from France…

  • Mr Ecks

    Pat–the dozy bastards will soon have a sense of permanent purpose–struggling to survive amidst a sea of economic ruin.

    As Doug Casey once put it: “no more need for professional sports–day to day the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat will be all too real”.

  • APL

    Whahappan?: “a big part of the problem is packaging, as well as regulations. ”

    Yes, we saw this in the UK with the complaints about shortage of eggs.

    Eggs are bulk packaged for caterers, manufacturers, restaurants an’ all.

    But the consumer typically only wants half to a dozen at one time.

    Result, millions of eggs available but only if you want a thousand at once.

    It really is a tribute to the free market, it provides to all intents and purposes infinite variety.

    And illustrates why the command economy is such shite.

    People aren’t noticing that, and they are demanding the government do something to alleviate the shortages.

    They haven’t yet made the connection that the whole crap shoot was created by the government in the first place.

    Unfortunately, we are likely to be stuck with the new regulations for ever.
    Rumour has it that the choice of pig that is reared in the UK for pork & bacon was decided by a bureaucrat at the ministry of agriculture in 1915 under war time conditions.

    Every time there is a swine fever outbreak in the heard, it rips through the herd because we’ve only one strain of commercially raised pig.

    The regulation introduced for war time conditions in the UK has never been rescinded.

    Prior to 1915 we had loads of different breeds of pig – today we call them ‘rare breeds’.

    That’s government for you.

    I might even have picked that up off Samizdata some time over the last ten years. It sounds like something Paul or Niall would post.

  • Paul Marks

    I do not know how much PRODUCTION has been reduced in the United Kingdom – I do not know what factories are open and what factories are shut.

    The reporting of this crises has been just awful – lots of “clap for the NHS” and so on, very little factual reporting.

    Even death figures are buried (no pun intended) – just under 13 thousand people have died, but the figure is buried on websites (Sky News being even worse than the BBC News) under utterly trivial (indeed absurd) stories.

    As for how much PRODUCTION has been reduced – I have not got a clue, because the British media does not provide good reporting. The mainstream “journalists” are just as much “Chocolate Teapots” as the politicians – who just compete on how much money they will spend. “I will destroy the country!” “No, I will destroy the country fast than you will!” “Spend! Spend! Spend!”.

    We can withstand the reduction of CONSUMPTION for a long time – but we can not stand a massive reduction of British PRODUCTION.

    The economy was already a Credit Bubble of wild spending BEFORE the virus struck, as to what it now – I fear it is vastly worse, but I NOT know.

    Where is the factual reporting?

  • Nullius in Verba

    Paul, you’re never going to get any sort of detailed technical analysis off TV! It’s for the low-information voters. If you want that sort of information, you’ll have to search for technical reports and statistics on the internet.

    And you’re always going to be limited by what statistics they collect. Businesses don’t report their day-by-day profit and loss to either the government or the media. (Many would argue that’s none of their business.) The government collect statistics every few months, normally, and it takes time to analyse them, so anything you see is always going to be out of date. Or an unreliable estimate from models and assumptions.

    However, the media have recently been reporting the OBR predictions, which you might be interested in. There are some estimates of output losses by sector there that may give you an indication.


  • Confused Old Misfit

    Our thirty day trial of socialism was not free and worse some people liked it.

  • Gary

    The leaders who have responded to Coronavirus most effectively are almost all women.

    The leaders of Taiwan, Iceland, New Zealand, Germany, Norway, and Finland are emerging as the champions in this crisis.

    Almost without exception, countries with female leaders are doing far better.

  • Mr Ed

    The leaders who have responded to Coronavirus most effectively are almost all women.

    So I take it you are saying that they are mosaic hermaphrodites? 🙂

    Last time I checked, Elizabeth led 16 countries as Queen, only one is on your list.

  • Mr Ecks

    Gary–more blovating Marxist tripe. There are competent women but the crowd you allude to are leftist shite who should have their marxistic necks stretched in a public glade somewhere.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Gary writes: The leaders of Taiwan, Iceland, New Zealand, Germany, Norway, and Finland are emerging as the champions in this crisis.

    I have seen this meme put out on Facebook by some women friends of mine and the sort of men that qualify as blue-pill betas.

    What you seem to ignore is that countries such as Taiwan and South Korea, which have responded well to this shitshow, had experience of the SARs crisis and put plans in place years ago. Back when they were led by men. The Nordics? Well, the Swedish experience does not quite fit. Singapore is run by male politicians in the main, and it has handled things well.

    This sort of silly “women are better leaders” might give a warm, fuzzy glow to self-hating men and women with green hair, but there is little value in it from a causal point of view.

    Go and do one, Gary.

  • Clovis Sangrail


    Prior to 1915 we had loads of different breeds of pig – today we call them ‘rare breeds’.
    That’s government for you.

    Your implication may be true but I suspect not entirely.

    I (my wife and I) hobby-farmed a rare breed of sheep for the past 30 years (we had 1% of the world population throughout that period, even as the numbers massively expanded to the point where it’s a minority breed rather than rare). Wonderful tasting joints (less good chops), but we were always told that they were too large and too fatty “for most housewives” (about 5-8lb, about the right amount of fat for a good, moist roast).

    The push for a long time, I believe, has been for the most successful/marketable strain of animal/plant, for obvious reasons. The obvious problem is susceptibility to a single infection. This is why (I think) seed banks and rare breeds are a public good-we need them as a genetic reservoir in case of these sorts of catastrophes (animal SARS2 – coronavirus anyone?).

  • Fraser Orr

    It seems to me that this thing brings out the biases and cowardice of our institutions in spades. For example, the reporting on infection numbers and deaths are plainly, and ridiculously wrong, but our intrepid reporters have done nothing but parrot the company line. It reminds me of various other untouchable subjects — subjects that one must parrot the party line or be branded a racist, a hater or a fool. Subjects that are so toxic nobody dare speak anything but what our betters tell us is true.

    I know almost nothing but even an ignoramus like me can see the numbers reported are ridiculously wrong, or perhaps “ridiculously misleading” might be a better way to say it. The number of “infections” is plainly massively under reported because it is based on the number of infections in tested people not all people. The last I checked about 2 million people had been tested in the US population that is less than 1% of the population. Which means that actual number of infected might be 100 times the reported number. I don’t think that is actually right because the tests are not to a random slice of people, and so are probably biased toward the infected, but what is clear is that the infection rate is FAR higher than reported, like orders of magnitude higher. Recent truly random tests in California indicated an infection rate of 15%, but who knows if that can be generalized since it is plain that something odd is going on with this virus in California. (Though randomized tests in other countries seem to give this result fairly consistently too.)

    As to death rates, these have been greatly over stated. Our own Dr. Birx has said as much indicating that these statistics are the number of people who died WITH covid, not OF covid. So just doing the math, about 350,000 people die each month of various causes in the USA, if the infection rate is 15% that means 60,000 people would die each month WITH covid regardless of the leathality of the virus. I don’t think that is an accurate number either, since the reporting requirements are not quite that stupid. And the cynic in me might well wonder if there are federal funds being made available to pay for Covid patients, so an elevated covid death rate could be quite profitable.

    But my point is that these numbers are extremely questionable with even the most cursory examination, but for some reason they are treated as holy writ, and nobody dares question them, to four significant figures of confidence. And this matters a lot.

    The certainty of their conclusions is completely unjustified. Governor Cuomo assures us that the hospitalization rate is coming down because of the state shutdown, but what evidence does he have to support that claim? This virus has behaved completely differently in California and New York and there seems to be not one shred of curiosity as to why that is. As a scientist that is probably the FIRST thing I’d want to know. Moreover the eschewing of repressive measures in Sweden with basically the same result seems to belie that claim entirely.

    Like I say, I’m no genius, it seems to me that these facts are plainly obvious to anyone who gives a moment of clear thinking to the facts.

    Our public health officials are making recommendations based on completely faulty data. They should have been doing truly randomized testing (as they should have conducted large scale trials of Hydroxychloroquine) but they seem reluctant to do so. I really wonder why that is.

    So, to me this whole thing is just kabuki theater. Nobody, even King of the World, Dr. Fauci, has the first clue of what is going on, and they are making recommendations for mass socialism with our pathetic media so cowed in fear that they dare not question a single word King Fauci utters, as if he is speaking Ex Cathedera, with a medieval papal bull. “Oh sure, internal passports to work and to travel might be a good idea” he opines, while our brainless, uncritical, unthinking journalists jot down his every pronouncement like Moses on the mountain.

    Fauci isn’t Jesus. In fact, the meek mannered scientist, rolled out from the dusty basement and imbued with almost unlimited power, scares the living crap out of me.

  • APL

    The finest minds in the medical profession and MSM can’t grasp why poor Rebecca Mack only 28, was overehelmed by Covid-19

  • Paul Marks

    Thank you Nullius.

    So the government is expecting a 55% decline in manufacturing in the second quarter. Well better than a 100% reduction.

    Someone who would deliberately order such a thing is unfit for public office. And yet the only opposition in this country is that the government should have “done more” and shut down the economy “sooner”.

    A political culture is tested by hard times and tough decisions.

    These are hard times – and our culture has failed the test.

    I repeat it is NOT a party political thing – as the “opposition” parties are demanding that the government should have done even more harm.

    This is the failure of a political (philosophical) culture.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Someone who would deliberately order such a thing is unfit for public office. And yet the only opposition in this country is that the government should have “done more” and shut down the economy “sooner”.”

    Yes, because there are two competing interests here, and you are only looking at one of them.

    You have been offered a choice between a high chance of more than a million dead, or temporarily losing 55% of the economy for a few months. If you had decided that more than a million dead was a small price to pay to save the economy, there would be a lot of people saying that it was you who wasn’t fit for office. There are different views on where the balance should lie. But as a political leader, it is neither *your* economy nor *your* lives at stake. It is the public’s. The public say they are willing to pay that price to save those lives. So shouldn’t the public judgement on their respective value hold some weight? If most of the public think their lives are worth more than your money, who are you, as a political leader, to say you know better?

    There’s no problem with saying you don’t agree with the rest of the population. But they have a right to their opinion too. There are no easy, obvious answers here.