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]

Refelections on wealth from City 17

Sometimes you do not quite appreciate a thing until you find you can not get it. In the game Half Life: Alyx (one of the best things you can do in virtual reality right now), the Earth is oppressed by totalitarian inter-dimensional rulers and the player must roam the deserted, alien biohazard-infested quarantined streets of City 17 as part of a resistance attempting to sabotage enemy super-weapons. Needless to say luxuries are hard to come by. It is all a bit close to the bone for a game that was in development for four years and released on March 23rd.

As Alyx, controlled by the player, has to make her way down a dark, slime-soaked, head-crab-infested passageway, she asks her friend Russ to talk about the past to provide some comfort. What was life like before the coro^H^H^H^H Combine? “Alyx, have you ever heard of a club sandwich?” Er, nope, not once.

Right. To make a club sandwich, you need to start with bread. Not from a bread line. From a bakery across the street, baked that day, okay? You add tomatoes, lettuce — not vegetable paste — fresh. Then you add bacon — that’s from an animal we used to call the pig. You toast the bread, and you put all that inside it.

You guys had all that? That’s insane.

It is! And I’m not done. Then you add a second sandwich on top of the first one. You put ham in it — also from a pig — and turkey, from an animal we used to call the “turkey,” and more tomato, more lettuce, and a bunch of other things I’m forgetting. It was six inches tall and weighed a pound and had a dozen ingredients from five different continents. It was the most impossible food item you could imagine in any age before ours.

Wow. That does sound pretty amazing. I am really going to appreciate my next club sandwich.

Masks, pollution and implied consent

I occasionally follow the Institute of Economic Affairs’ weekly videoed chats about issues of the day, and obviously the IEA, as fronted by Mark Littlewood (he now sports a sort of “bovver boy” haircut associated with football gangs circa 1980 – the lockdown hairdo!), spends a good deal of its time on the pandemic. I thought the latest discussions were particularly interesting, and certainly did not lead to an echo-chamber of jolly agreement. In fact things got quite fiery when Sam Bowman, formerly of the Adam Smith Institute and now in public affairs, got going at 1.21:44.

Sam’s argument is, I hope I summarise fairly, something like this: Government experts now conclude that wearing masks in shops and other places is a good idea, even though it is annoying that they have changed their minds a lot and this has not helped public trust. Wearing masks cannot be left up to private discretion and choice; it is a response to a very serious menace, and wearing masks is more about protecting others than oneself. As Britons often lack any civic sense and the “negative externality” of not wearing a mask is potentially deadly, fines for non-compliance with the rules are acceptable, because experts say it is necessary, given what we know about how people can catch this virus. So stop being a bunch of anarchists, and do what you are told!

Okay, maybe I simplify but not by a lot. Sam talked about the “negative externalities” of human behaviour, such as coughing over others when you have an illness, or playing v. loud music late at night, etc. Translation: he means pollution.

And where I thought the discussion took an interesting turn was when Mark Littlewood, defending his stance, asked Sam where one draws the line about human actions that might affect others in a negative way? Isn’t there a “slippery slope” here – should the State, in its wisdom, coerce the benighted public to wear masks/other whenever there is a flu season or some other scare about health, etc? None of the other panelists gave what I thought was a very good answer to this, particularly for anyone coming to this discussion from a cold start. At one point, when responding to Mark L’s point about how all kinds of behaviour can negatively affect others, Sam replied that murder obviously harms people, and that is why we punish it. At this stage I rubbed my eyes – no-one consents to murder, by definition, but one might, for instance, consent to moving into a neighbourhood where people play music late at night if one knows that in advance.

This is the guts of the matter. This IEA discussion was flawed – albeit stimulating – because the issue of “implied consent” wasn’t really fully aired here. A shame because that is where it could have gone. Also, not enough was done to stress the importance of several property rights to handling issues, since a person entering a building is giving his implied consent to the rules of the place. This also speaks to the need for a “bottom-up” set of solutions to problems, rather than a requirement for a top-down approach.

There can be, of course, an issue of a “tragedy of the commons” problem where there aren’t walls or fences to keep a virus from harming A or B. It is for this reason alone that a State might have some justification to enforce pollution-minimising actions (like wearing a mask) but always with the proviso that such actions should be strictly limited by time, and second, that where possible people should be encouraged to do the sensible thing, and not endlessly nagged with contradictory advice, often doing so by wild exaggeration.

One feature of Sam’s comments I object to is where he said that there is no sense in trying to distinguish between the mask-wearing rules as they apply for vulnerable people with underlying health conditions, such as the elderly, and everyone else. But without some ability to distinguish between young adults and the elderly, we are faced with an indiscriminate and open-ended lockdown/enforced mask regime. Given the economic costs of the situation, this seems to ignore the cost/benefit issue. Sam rightly said that even younger people who get coronavirus suffer. But the death rate for the older population is of a magnitude higher, and to ignore that and demand everyone is treated the same is bizarre.

Another thing: there should be a burden of proof on those who demand coercive laws to deal with such alleged externalities, and not on those who resist or who are sceptical. That presumption of liberty, in my view, was shockingly absent in Bowman’s account and the others on this segment of the IEAs’ show did not really make that point. Perhaps what this also shows is that even in classical liberal think-tank land, understanding of the proper meaning of liberty is uneven.

For as we have seen, the apocalyptic predictions about COVID-19 and the drastic measures to contain it have undermined a great deal of public trust in the advice given to governments, and the actions taken by them. As even Sam Bowman acknowledged, this trust deficit is a big problem and being arguably made worse by policies that look more like arse-covering than the public welfare.

Samizdata quote of the day

Twitter is not on the masthead of the New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing moulded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.

Bari Weiss

The political purity spiral as experienced by the Instagram knitting community

I cannot knit and I am not on Instagram, but as someone who sews and is into politics, I cannot think how I came to miss this article from Gavin Haynes when it came out in January of this year. After seeing it recommended on the UK Politics subreddit, I hastened to post it here:

How knitters got knotted in a purity spiral

Mr Haynes discusses purity spirals throughout history, then narrows his focus to a couple of examples from 2018/19:

Our documentary analysed just two latter-day purity spirals — Instagram knitting culture and young adult novels. Both seemed perfectly-sized to be taken over — they were spaces big enough to have their own star system, yet small enough for the writ of a dominant group to hold.

In each, a vast tapestry of what were effectively small businesses competed for attention online by fluidly mixing personal and professional brand. On social media, opinion, diary and sales often existed within the same posts. Each individual small business was uniquely vulnerable to being un-personed, ‘cancelled’. But, simultaneously, each could benefit enormously from taking on the status of thought leader — from becoming a node that directed moral traffic.

To take the example of Instagram knitting: the unravelling began with a man called Nathan Taylor. Gay, living with HIV, nice as pie, Taylor started a hashtag aimed at promoting diversity in knitting, Diversknitty, to get people from different backgrounds to talk. And he did: the hashtag was a runaway hit, spawning over 17,000 posts.

But over the following months, the conversation took on a more strident tone. The list of things considered problematic grew. The definition of racism began to take on the terms mandated by intersectional social justice ideology.

The drama played out in the time-honoured way:

Finally, just as the guillotine had eventually come for Robespierre, Nathan Taylor, who had founded the #Diversknitty movement, found himself at its sharp end.

When Taylor tried to inject positivity back into Diversknitty, his moral authority burnt up inside minutes. A poem he’d written asking knitters to cool it (“With genuine SOLEM-KNITTY/I beg you, stop the enmity”) was in turn interpreted as a blatant act of white supremacy. When the mob finally came for him, he had a nervous breakdown. Yet even here, he was accused of malingering, his suicidal hospitalisation described online as a ‘white centring’ event.

Gavin Haynes also made a half hour Radio Four documentary telling the same story. (A BBC iPlayer sign-in is required to listen.) I am about to listen to it now.

VIDEO: Boris Johnson with two naked men

No, this is not one of my clickbait headlines. The video is from 2000 and at 1:03 we see a younger, slimmer Boris express commendably libertarian views on the right to be naked in conversation with two people exercising that right.

Sad to say, an older, fatter Boris has recently “ditched ‘libertarian’ position on obesity after coronavirus battle”, according to PoliticsHome.

The Prime Minister is not the only one to cut a poor figure compared to his earlier self. His host on that trip to Glastonbury – for there it was that these events took place – was the singer and songwriter Billy Bragg. Bragg has always been a massive lefty, of course, but in that video from the turn of the millennium he came across as enjoying the exchange of political barbs with Johnson. In contrast, the Billy Bragg of a few days ago who wrote this miserable article in support of cancel culture in the Guardian comes across as an old man abasing himself before the cult of youth.

A change of tune

“Brussels moves to preserve access to London clearing houses”, reports the Financial Times.

Brussels is to adopt emergency measures to preserve Europe’s access to crucial UK financial market infrastructure after the country’s post-Brexit transition period expires, the bloc’s regulation chief said on Thursday.

Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission’s executive vice-president in charge of financial policy, said Brussels would adopt “time-limited” access rights to make sure that European companies could still access UK-based clearing houses after the end of this year.

“This decision is being taken to address the possible risks to financial stability related to the specific area of derivatives clearing,” Mr Dombrovskis said. “However, we would encourage all market participants to prepare for all possible eventualities, as we have consistently called on them to do throughout this process.”

Mr Dombrovskis did not specify when the access rights would expire, but the move will provide short-term certainty for traders in the specific area of clearing while Brussels continues to discuss future relations with the UK.

To be frank I have only the vaguest idea what a clearing house does. It sounds worryingly like tidying. But whatever it is, for the EU to adopt “emergency measures to preserve Europe’s access to crucial UK financial market infrastructure” seems a distinct change from its previous policy, also mentioned in the article:

Brussels has repeatedly urged the financial sector and companies to adapt to the fact that Britain is leaving the single market; the EU also adopted legislation last year to make it easier to force clearing houses to relocate to the continent. But progress has been slower than the EU had hoped and investors have kept their business in the UK.

I am not surprised at the investors’ decision. I do not need to be an expert in decluttered differentials to be able to work out that if the EU felt the need to pass laws to make it easier to force investors to move their business out of the UK that means they would be better off staying put.

Samizdata quote of the day

It is ironic that this Cultural Revolution is being presided over by a Cavalier Prime Minister who is himself the embodiment of Libertarianism made substantial flesh. Boris Johnson faces the grim, unsmiling Roundhead figure of Sir Keir Starmer – perfectly typecast as a finger-wagging Puritan Witchfinder General. Ironic, too, that demands are being made to pull down the statue of Oliver Cromwell, the founding father of Puritanism made stone. But logic and consistency were never the hallmarks of the judgemental nay sayers to whom we must all now bow the knee.

Nigel Jones

Canadian bank goes in for “struggle sessions”

As several commenters here note, a big feature of the current “woke” cultural revolution is how corporations have been actively going along with the drive towards “diversity” and “inclusion”. As I like to point out, free enterprise capitalism at most competitive is arguably the best way to drive out irrationalism and bigotry – an irrational firm that blocks the advance of men and women because of race etc is likely to lose money and be outperformed by firms not run in such a way.

Let me repeat: bigotry is a cost. (Check out this article about racism, the Jim Crow laws, and free markets.) Which is why it is wrong to claim that capitalism is somehow intrinsically racist.

Some of the actions that firms take to make their products, services and hiring polices more supposedly enlightened have, however, backfired if they contrast with actual reality. A case of about a year or so ago is Gillette, the brand of Proctor & Gamble, which decided that a way to connect with younger men was to denounce “toxic masculinity” and make out that many men are a bunch of loutish, beer-swilling boors who like barbecues. Seems like a winning, er, strategy. That was a case of a business that decided to trash its core audience – men. Great work, chaps!

Another, more recent example of how a commendable desire to avoid bigotry has tipped over into Maoist-sounding insanity comes from Royal Bank of Canada, Canada’s largest bank. I got a press release the other day. Here goes:

“At RBC, we acknowledge wide-spread systemic racism has disproportionately disadvantaged Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) for far too long, significantly impeding the ability of those communities to compete equally in opportunities for economic and social advancement.”

I like how the bank refers to “systemic racism” without a need for scare quotes. It uses the term without any sign that this is controversial or might be contentious. It refers to it as a fact.

But the kicker is in the following, and I suggest anyone who thinks of working for RBC and similar institutions, had better take note of this “struggle session”:

“The only way we can truly represent the communities we serve and harness the potential of our diversity is to grow the number of BIPOC leaders across our bank. We’re starting with enhancing our existing company-wide Unconscious Bias training, and making anti-racism and anti-bias training mandatory for all employees.”

In other words, everyone – whether they have been hauled before HR for a supposed misdeed or not – are going to be lectured about their “unconscious bias”, just to be sure there are no gremlins inside their heads. No more using “micro-aggressions” such as the term “colour-blind”, or too much reference to dodgy stuff such as “merit”, “professionalism”, or, god forbid, “boosting shareholder value”. (Running a bank to make a profit – how fucking evil would that be?)

And RBC is hardly going to be an exception. At more or less any large organisation, this is going to be the standard, not the exception. I wonder how many people who try to get a job there (and given the wreckage caused by the lockdowns, people may not be able to be choosy), will have hours of their lives wasted while some HR idiot asks them to talk about their “unconscious racism” rather than learning about how to deliver services and products, or come up with new ones.

Part of this will no doubt play to the fact that part of the contemporary higher education system is churning out people with degrees that have limited traction when it comes to building successful business, but might be absolutely perfect for jobs in HR. Expect further gains in demand for people working in “diversity and inclusion” but who can barely comprehend a balance sheet, a profit-and-loss account, or for that matter, compound interest.

One consequence of all this is that people with an ounce of self respect, if they think they must work for a large corporation for a while to learn skills and build contacts (which is what I did) will want to break free asap, and work for themselves, and run their own businesses. If corporate HR continues down a route of compulsory indoctrination about “critical race theory” and all the rest, no-one of real talent or enterprise will want to waste time there. And when the lousy shareholder performance shows itself, you can bet that those arguing for all this will not own the consequences. And they won’t be willing to confront the fact that a firm’s future is increasingly under pressure if it spends more on HR “resources” than R&D.

There is, of course, a more “pragmatic” reason why firms such as RBC and others are doing things such as this. They are covering their behinds, and fear (with some justification) what could happen to them if they don’t go along. Read that press release again, folks, and note that while it talks about hiring goals, there is no specific time-frame or reference to quotas (yet). Ryan Bourne has this measured article saying that some of this corporate “wokeness” might not even be all bad at all, and just how firms shift with the times. But even Bourne realises how some of this culture war stuff is getting dangerously out of hand.

On why feminists ought to be glad about skyscrapers

Asks the headline above this Guardian piece by Leslie Kern: Do cities have to be so sexist?

Let me ask a similar question: Do skyscrapers have to be so tall and yet so comparatively thin? Do skyscrapers have to be shaped, that is to say, like penises? The answer is: yes. That’s the whole point of skyscrapers. Their reason for existence is to fit a lot of floor space upon a very small patch of land, in a place where land is very expensive to buy because lots of people are needed to work in this one spot, and consequently where the elaborate technology needed to build them is justified by the advantages gained.

Says Leslie Kern:

From the physical to the metaphorical, the city is filled with reminders of masculine power. And yet we rarely talk of the urban landscape as an active participant in gender inequality. A building, no matter how phallic, isn’t actually misogynist, is it?

I’d say that the urban landscape is not actually that misogynist. After all, the basic economic fact that made female political, social and economic equality something which it made sense for women to demand was that the modern economy depends far less on physical labour done in fields and factories, and far more upon mental work, done in places like skyscrapers. Men are, on average, physically stronger than women, so in a world dependent on sweated labour, men were the dominant sex. But now, it counts for more that women have always been, again on average, just as clever as men, and rather more conscientious, while also being rather more biddable and risk-averse than men. Very useful corporate functionaries, in other words. How would all this new indoor and sexually more egalitarian mental labour have been accommodated in the exact places where it has been most needed, without the “urban landscape”, and in particular without skyscrapers? Instead of grumbling about skyscrapers, feminists ought to be glad about them. Even if skyscrapers are shaped like penises.

I once had an unpaid job in the office of the recently deceased and much lamented architect Ivor Smith. Much lamented, because even as I was, even way back then, beginning to have my doubts about his architecture, I had to acknowledge, and I say again now, that he was a lovely man, just as all the obituaries I have today been reading said he was.

One of my more vivid recollections of Ivor Smith was when he and some of his young colleagues were discussing a tower that some other architect had designed, and Smith speculated that this architect had done his design by slapping his cock down on the drawing board and drawing round it. Having only just stopped being a rather nerdy schoolboy, and having just become an equally nerdy student, I was a bit startled to hear a grown man in a suit and tie make a joke like this, in an office, as I think were some of the other architects. But there was as much masculine self-mockery in this joke as there was mere masculinity. Smith was no misogynist. I still remember also how much Smith’s wife and daughters adored him, and he them.

But then again, although I don’t know if this applies to Leslie Kern, many feminists don’t approve of happy families, any more than they approve of skyscrapers.

BLM (Black Lives Murdered)

The “Black Lives Matter” movement took yet another black life on Saturday. Eight-year-old Secoriea Turner was murdered when ‘Black Lives Matter’ activists shot up the car she was in after its driver had the misfortune to exit the interstate near one of their barriers.

If they order you to take the knee, stand up. Stand up for Secoriea; don’t kneel to her murderers. Honour Secoriea Turner, who was 8 and did no harm; don’t honour George Floyd, who thrust his gun into the stomach of a pregnant black woman during a home invasion.

I could say a great deal more – but if you or I are ever in that position, the narrative’s finger will be poised over the ‘Cancel’ button. So I advise thinking about what brief words you will say, when they tell you to kneel to a bunch of murderers and you suspect the next words you utter might be the last they’ll let anyone hear in the public domain.

Thoughts on Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech

For me, the most important thing about President Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech, apart from the splendour of what it says, is that, thanks to the internet, we can all of us, if we wish, read the entire speech, without depending upon any of those people whom Instapundit refers to as Democratic Party operatives with bylines to tell us what they merely want us to think that Trump said. We now live in a world where those old broadsheet “newspapers of record” have been reborn, and are now readable at no extra cost by anyone with an internet connection.

I’m a libertarian, and what I really want is a really libertarian enclave of territory, somewhere in the world, which will really prove to the world for ever the superiority of all of my opinions about how the world should really be, over the opinions of all others. But meanwhile, I’m the sort of libertarian (which nothing like all libertarians are) who will settle for the actually existing United States of America, as it is now is and as it has been since it was founded, a vast but very imperfect nation, constantly disfigured by unfreedoms imposed upon it by collectivist would-be despots of one sort or another, yet constantly disappointing those same despots with those pesky freedoms which it started out by proclaiming. Likewise, American military might is frequently hurled by careless American adventurers at places that ought to be left to solve their own problems, in a way which only makes such problems even worse. Nevertheless, the world is surely a better place than it would have been had America made no attempts of this sort to bully it into behaving better. A world that consisted only of the Old World would surely be a much duller and poorer and more brutal place.

The New York Times and the Washington Post, echoed by many other organs in America and beyond, have described Trump’s speech as “dark and divisive”. Well, it was a bit divisive. It divided Americans into two camps. In the one camp are violent looters and rioters and despotic cancellers, and their enablers in slightly less impolite society, like the people who run the New York Times and the Washington Post. In the other camp are all the many Americans of the sort who feel approximately as I do about America and its flawed and violent but nevertheless inspiring history.

I especially like what Trump said about how the fundamental principles of the USA meant that those principles would, in the end, put an end to slavery and legally imposed racial discrimination. The fundamental principles bloody well took their time, but they eventually did just this.

Here, in case you doubt me, is how Trump said this:

We must demand that our children are taught once again to see America as did Reverend Martin Luther King, when he said that the Founders had signed “a promissory note” to every future generation. Dr. King saw that the mission of justice required us to fully embrace our founding ideals. Those ideals are so important to us – the founding ideals. He called on his fellow citizens not to rip down their heritage, but to live up to their heritage.

To call this speech racially divisive, as many have, is a flat out lie.

And, a “dark” speech? Again, I don’t think so. Naive and optimistic, starry-eyed even, historically over-simplified, yes, maybe all of that. But “dark”? Hardly.

But what of Trump’s enemies? The rioters are saying: “Screw America, smash America!” Their Democrat enablers indoors are saying: “America, you want this to stop? Vote for us, and then we’ll stop it. Meanwhile, it’s all Trump’s fault.” That’s rather “dark”, isn’t it?

Trump’s America, aka “America”, is now resisting this uprising, and the uprisers and their enablers are now turning on each other. The rioters and outdoor looters, after all, have no love at all for Democratic Party insiders. On the contrary, they regard them as the people who stole the Democratic nomination from them and their man in 2016. Other rioters merely hate the rich and the powerful in their entirety, including those paying the wages of the people urging them to riot.

It is now – is it not? – almost entirely in Democrat-governed places that the rioting, and now the crime waves consequent upon the hobbling by Democrat politicians of local police forces, are happening. Those McCloskeys, rather inexpertly waving their guns at rioters outside their nice big home are classic Democrat insiders. As is the Mayor of Seattle, who only shut CHOP down after her own home had been attacked by rioters.

So, I want Trump’s America now to prevail and its enemies now to retreat in ignominy, many of them also to prison, because of their various crimes, indoors and outdoors. We win, they lose, as President Reagan said when asked about how to settle the Cold War. Reagan also made very “divisive” speeches about that big old misunderstanding, didn’t he? After which the Good Guys did win and the Bad Guys did lose. Again please.

In this same spirit of melodramatic divisiveness, I would like now to suggest that the way that the writers of the New York Times and the Washington Post, and their many imitators, are using the word “dark” is blatantly racist. These people are assuming that to be “dark” is to be bad. This is the language of white supremacist slave-owners. Next thing you know, they’ll be referring to African Americans as “darkies”.

I’m kidding, but I also sort of mean it. I entirely get what the wokist media are trying to say, and are not trying to say, with the word “dark”. Punishing them for being racist for using this word in this way is not a rule I’d want to see universally applied. On the other hand, rules of exactly this perverse sort are the rules that these people have been unleashing upon others. So the wokists now deserve, if not actually to die by this rule that I just made up, then at least to be chucked out into the streets for a while, there to think about what they’ve been doing.

But my basic point here is that you don’t need to take my word, or anyone else’s word, for any of this. Trump’s speech itself, the complete text of it, is worth a second link. Read the whole thing. And as I said at the start of this, be glad that you can.

LATER: Further thoughts from me about Trump’s speech in a piece entitled Trump as Republican Party Reptile. This is about how his Mount Rushmore speech echoes a piece by P.J. O’Rourke in the 1980s, about an epic journey across America in a Ferrari.

Someone made a profit from finding a cure for a deadly disease. This must never happen again.

Citizens for Financial Justice have a new article out!

Who are they? You mean you don’t know?

Citizens for Financial Justice is a diverse group of European partners – from local grassroots groups to large international organisations. Together, we aim to inform and connect citizens to act together to make the global financial system work better for everyone.

We are funded by the European Union and aim to support the implementation of the Sustainable development Goals (sDGs) by mobilising EU citizens to support effective financing for development (FfD).

A cosy arrangement. Thank God the UK is out of it. Here is the article:

World Hepatitis Day: How Gilead Science Profits from Hepatitis Deaths

Alternative title #1: How Gilead Science Profits from Ending Hepatitis Deaths

Alternative title #2: How the Profit Motive Led Gilead Science to Find a Cure for Hepatitis C

Guys, my apologies. I have to do some work – work work, can you believe that? – so when I remembered that I had already written a post that said what I wanted to say about about this lethal idiocy, I decided simply to post it again. It is seventeen years old. It does not require updating.

Life is still tough for the owners of lazy slaves

An extract:

Now, just possibly you the reader aren’t very sympathetic. Just possibly you opine that the slaveowners had only themselves to blame – “Well, of course,” you are saying, “it’s no surprise that if people are forced to work for nothing then they don’t bust a gut.”

So why do so many people expect these familiar laws of human behaviour to suddenly change when the time is now and the work to be done is AIDS research?

In this link Stephen Pollard quotes Roger Bate, writing in the Wall Street Journal, as saying that AIDS drug development is trending downwards.

Why the decline?

Because the drugs companies no longer believe that they are going to get rich out of AIDS research. In fact they begin to doubt they will get any compensation at all. They read the newspapers, they study the speeches of politicians, and they sense that the popular wind is blowing against them. They think, probably rightly, that governments will either force them to sell at a loss drugs that were developed at huge expense or will bypass them and the law entirely by buying generic copies of patent drugs. Governments, after all, are the ones who can change the law when it is inconvenient. One minute the authorities will come down like a ton of bricks on pirate music or pirate videos. The next minute they will say that it is ‘unacceptable greed’ for companies to actually want to profit from patents on medical discoveries. I accept that there are subtleties and genuine conflicts of principle in the field of intellectual property – but the bottom line is that if pharma companies get nothing but abuse for the work they put in they bloody well won’t put in much more of it. Just as for the slaves, it’s no surprise that if people are forced to work for nothing then they don’t bust a gut.