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]

A label suggestion

These days, government laws mandate that food produce sold in stores must contain lots of information in the label, such as trans-fats, sugar, salt, etc. There are warning labels on certain products, such as cigarettes, all the way through to household detergents, home DIY equipment, paints, plastic bags, you name it. It isn’t clear to me how much of this ever is read closely by consumers, but presumably policymakers hope people do study the label. And when it comes to food allergies, those who suffer from them (nuts, gluten, dairy, etc) will look at them.

I have been listening to this Reason podcast about Phil Harvey and Lisa Conyers, authors of a book who go into the gazillions paid out in subsidies to various business sectors in the US. Their book covers everything from Elon Musk’s Telsa through to the sugar farmer lobby. And during the podcast a suggestion was made – perhaps tongue-in-cheek – that goods and services that have received a subsidy/tariff or other privilege from the State should have that fact posted on the label. Imagine buying a car and having a label in the contract stating “this car has been produced with taxpayers’ money”, or, to take a different example, “This sugar has been made more expensive because of public policy”, etc.

This is the cause to rally around now

I want to ‘build back better’. I don’t know what the world leaders and international organisations are calling for when they parrot this phrase. But after the pandemic, we need far more critical thinking, rationality and constitutional protections. As soon as our liberties are restored, we must make sure they can never be taken away again. That is the cause to rally around now.

Laura Dodsworth

Samizdata quote of the day

Looking back, what I most clearly remember now about the febrile atmosphere of February and March last year was my own naïve optimism. I knew that some people were panicking. But I ascribed this to social media-led melodrama that would soon blow over. And I genuinely thought I was part of a silent majority of sensible people who weren’t getting swept up in the frenzy. I don’t think I appreciated at the time that I am, actually, a bit unusual: my father died of the ‘flu, so the idea that respiratory viruses can really be quite nasty was not a shock to me; I have lived through a bona fide life-threatening natural disaster and know what an actual catastrophe looks like; I don’t have any social media accounts so my antennae have not been borked by echo chambers; I have spent a long time overseas so I don’t imbue the NHS with quasi-religious significance or see it as my duty to ‘protect’ it; I have read my Hayek, my Bastiat, my Friedman, my Smith, and I am predisposed to value freedom and limited government. I hadn’t realised that I was somewhat different from my countrymen in these respects. So I was genuinely flabbergasted on March 23rd when it turned out people were actually going along with the nonsense. And since then I have found myself constantly surprised at just how out of step I am with the people around me.

David McGroggan, Associate Professor of Law, Northumbria Law School

So what is your Covid-19(84) risk calculation?

This interesting Oxford University Covid risk calculator produces number that do not surprise me at all.

This is what my results were (COVID associated death):

(a) Absolute risk = 0.0256% 1 in 3906

(b) Absolute risk with no risk factors = 0.0227% 1 in 4405

Relative risk (a/b) = 1.1278

I had Covid-19 in March 2020 & recovered in two weeks (plus a couple weeks more until taste and smell fully recovered).

I wonder how long it will take for this risk calculator to be taken down, as I suspect it will make many people very angry at those in authority who have intentionally terrified them regarding this disease.

Statists of the world unite!

Monbiot sounds like a cross between Chairman Mao and a 17th century Puritan, banning anything that doesn’t fit his world view. The really weird thing is that the authoritarian Left are making alliances with authoritarian Right. The above-mentioned covidfaq website is run by Sam Bowman who used to take his shilling from the right-leaning Adam Smith Institute, one of the many so-called “think tanks” out there. At this point it’s worth mentioning – in line with documentary maker Adam Curtis – that think tanks don’t actually do any thinking. They are in effect PR operations for ideologies. And were previously sworn enemies of the Masons and Monbiots of this world.

In a similar vein, Mason has called for Boris Johnson to silence (or at least mock) the dissidents. He tweeted: “I don’t just want Johnson to say “Stay home, save lives” etc. I want him to call out and ridicule the bull**** anti-maskers, lockdown skeptics and denialists in his own party – and order social media platforms to suppress/label Covid disinformation. That’s leadership.”

No Paul, that’s tyranny. As I said, it’s sad to see a formerly radical thinker abjectly submitting to authority in this way. And we’re perhaps lucky that, for all his faults, Boris is not actually a tyrant; at least, not yet. The problem for the Left is that it’s been the contrarian Tories like Toby Young and James Delingpole who have led the questioning of government policy on lockdowns. So, almost instinctively, people like Mason recoil against lockdown scepticism simply because Young, Delingpole and their shock-jock ilk are lockdown sceptics.

Tom Hodgkinson

Hodgkinson is a left-statist with a tenuous grip on economic reality and an equally poor grasp of the inevitable civil liberties implications of his world view. Nevertheless, as many on my side of the fence have long known, one should never just read people you always agree with. We are far more likely to have read Communist Manifesto, Capital, Mao’s Little Red Book, Revolt against the Modern World etc. than the other side is to have read Fatal Conceit, Human Action or Wealth of Nations.

The linked article makes many good points, and he is certainly on-the-money about Sam Bowman, who was always an authoritarian; I think the ASI is well shot of him. In a similar vein, I need to also write an article about the not unrelated reason I also stopped giving a token monthly pittance to the Institute of Economic Affairs. These days I give substantially more to Lockdown Sceptics than I ever did to the IEA.

But I think the “touchingly naïve disappointment” also applies to Hodgkinson, who failed to see long ago that George Monbiot and Paul Mason were always up the Orwellian INGSOC end of the political spectrum. In many ways Monbiot and Mason are just more consistently applying the ideology they share with Hodgkinson.

But hey, if Hodgkinson and his ilk are starting to see the light, the war we are well and truly in today is such I for one care little who is in the trench next to me, just so long as they are pointing their weapon of choice at the enemies we share. A great many things are realigning on oh so many levels.

Samizdata quote of the day

Journalists have often tended to be on the Left – some of the most feared murderers of the French Revolution were hacks – but there has definitely been an acceleration. In the 1960s the trend was about 2 to 1, but by the 2000s as little as 7% identified as conservative, compared to 33% of the US public, a figure repeated in a report a decade later.

Rather unsurprisingly, polls show American trust in the media declining, a trend that accelerated in 2008 when swathes of Americans came to believe journalists were conspiring to get Obama elected. I don’t think Donald Trump’s open hostility to journalists did him any harm, nor do I think it will harm the prospects of any future populist.

Ed West

Why do so many Americans get their news from British newspapers? This is why.

Today’s Daily Mail:

“Nothing to see here: How most of the left-leaning US media totally ignored Biden’s Air Force One stumble – while the foreign press did their job for them”

The Mail’s Keith Griffith writes,

Major left-leaning U.S. press outlets are largely avoiding mention of President Joe Biden’s repeated stumbles as he boarded Air Force One, while many foreign publications are devoting prominent coverage to the incident.

As of Friday afternoon, the homepages of MSNBC, CBS News, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and New York Times had no mention of Biden’s stumbling incident earlier in the day at Joint Base Andrews.


In contrast to the lack of interest in Biden’s stumbles, mainstream U.S. outlets heavily covered an incident last year, in which Trump took mincing baby-steps down a ramp at West Point, which he later explained was ‘very slippery.’

Although Trump did not stumble during the incident, it sparked rampant speculation about his health and criticism over his capacities, including from Biden himself.

‘Look at how he steps and look at how I step,’ Biden said in September 2020, in a clip featured on CNN. ‘Watch how I run up ramps and he stumbles down ramps. OK? Come on.’

If you want to follow Mr Biden’s own advice and compare Trump to Biden on Trip Advisor, the indefatigable New York Post is one of the few US papers with clips of both.

Samizdata quote of the day

This has long been an aim of a certain type of authoritarian, to abolish juries in criminal trials. After all, how can the authorities jug those they dislike if juries won’t convict people merely of being someone the authorities don’t like?

This actually being the entire point of juries from their beginning. The King doesn’t get to jug just anyone he doesn’t like. There must be a crime, on the books, which someone is convicted of. And the jury is there to agree that what is being convicted of happened, it was ‘ee wot dun it, and that it should be a crime to be punished. It’s that last bit which is the protection of freedom – jury nullification as we’re not supposed to mention in the English courts.

Tim Worstall

How to win the libertarian argument

The converting-Libertarian-Alliance-pamphlets-to-HTML phase of the Brian Micklethwait Archive project continues.

When I add something new, I also add a news update post about it. These usually briefly describe what the update is with, perhaps, a quote. Today’s update about How to Win the Libertarian Argument contains some of Brian’s most important and useful wisdom: how to spread libertarianism by arguing (and not necessarily by winning arguments). I could not choose which quote to use, so there are a lot of them. I’ll repost them here.

When was the last time you *won* an argument, right there in front of you? When was the last time someone said to you: “By heavens! You’re right about this, and I’ve been wrong about it all of my life, until you took the trouble to straighten me out. How can I possibly thank you? Let me, as a pitifully small token of my infinite gratitude, kiss your shoes.”? Not recently, I would guess.

The article covers the importance of politeness:

The *right* way to be an extremist is to say what you think and why, while absolutely *not* assuming that the person you are talking to has any sort of obligation to think likewise, and if anything while making it clear that you rather expect him not to. You think what you think, and he thinks what he thinks. And if he hasn’t told you already what he does think, then an obviously polite next step would be to ask him to talk about that. The two of you can then try to pin down more precisely how you disagree, assuming you do. It is possible to be an extremist without deviating from good manners, and that is how.

By merely proving that libertarianism and decency can cohere in the same personality, you will be a walking advertisement for the cause, as I might not be.

And it covers how to sell your ideas:

First announce your product, and try to spin out the conversation about it. You do this by finding out what your audience wants, and you try to explain, if you can, why your product will supply this. In the case of El Salvador, find out what the man thinks is now wrong with El Salvador and explain how your ideas might improve things, and why his ideas might only be making things worse.

It offers the sort of wisdom that people on Twitter could do with hearing:

No matter how “extreme” is the opinion I may read in a pamphlet or magazine, I am never, so to speak, at its mercy. I can stop reading it at any moment, and so in the meantime I need not feel threatened or even discomforted by it.

The world is full of people with wildly different views about the philosophical foundations of life, of the universe and of everything, yet on the whole they get along peacefully enough. Where there are major breaches of the peace, these are just as likely to be between peoples with near identical views on “the fundamentals” as between people without such philosophical affinities.

And there are descriptions of the ways in which people change their minds.

The notion that one can “convince” somebody of the truth of libertarianism with one mere “argument” is rooted in a false model of how people think about political matters. Political thought is rooted not merely in “facts” but in contrasting “world views” or “models” of how the world is and how it ought to be improved.

For some anti-libertarians it comes as a shattering revelation to learn that there actually are real live libertarians, and that we mean what we say. Until then they had assumed that people only believed in capitalism for the sake of their dividends. The mere *existence* of a sincere libertarian might for such a person be the decisive, conversion-inducing “fact”.

Do keep an eye on the updates, or follow the Twitter feed if you are so minded. I have been managing about two per week so far.

Samizdata quote of the day

The Scottish Crown Office subsequently wrote to us on March 5th demanding we remove the article. Guido decided to ignore it as it seemed unlikely to prejudice matters or reveal witnesses. The Spectator has taken the same approach to the same letter.

Guido Fawkes

Samizdata quote of the day

“The precautionary principle is a gigantic paternalistic arm around humanity to keep all risk at bay.”

Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph. (Item behind paywall.)

I have friends and relations in the EU (Italy, Malta, Germany, Belgium) so I cannot take pleasure from the Biblical-level clusterfuck of the EU’s approach to vaccines, and I am certainly angry at the bullying of Brussels vis a vis the UK as the EU top brass attempts to save face. But leaving my obvious personal reasons aside, it is hard not to also enjoy watching the European political classes make such tits of themselves, and in bright lights.

Last year’s official guidance is this year’s misinformation

“Coronavirus: Face masks could increase risk of infection, medical chief warns” reported the Independent on March 12 2020:

Members of the public could be putting themselves more at risk from contracting coronavirus by wearing face masks, one of England’s most senior doctors has warned.

Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said the masks could “actually trap the virus” and cause the person wearing it to breathe it in.

“For the average member of the public walking down a street, it is not a good idea” to wear a face mask in the hope of preventing infection, she added.

Sales of the masks have sky-rocketed since the Covid-19 outbreak began, with retailers including Boots and Amazon selling out of the products before the virus had even taken hold in the UK.

Asked about their effectiveness, Dr Harries told BBC News: “What tends to happen is people will have one mask. They won’t wear it all the time, they will take it off when they get home, they will put it down on a surface they haven’t cleaned.

“Or they will be out and they haven’t washed their hands, they will have a cup of coffee somewhere, they half hook it off, they wipe something over it.

“In fact, you can actually trap the virus in the mask and start breathing it in.”

Asked if people are putting themselves more at risk by wearing masks, Dr Harries added: “Because of these behavioural issues, people can adversely put themselves at more risk than less.”

I do not post this in order to mock Dr Harries. She made several reasonable points in the video. If she was nonetheless wrong about the overall effect of the population wearing masks, she was wrong in good company – that was medical orthodoxy at the time. I do not post this in order to advocate for or against wearing face masks. (I wear one when circumstances require, while seeking to avoid the behaviours that Dr Harries warned against.) I post it to show how dangerous it is to censor unorthodox views on medical issues. If would-be censors like the Guardian‘s George Monbiot had had his way, we would have banned all talk of mask-wearing in March 2020.