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]

What happens if Putin uses a nuclear device?

In the course of the Ukraine War, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s dictator, has from time to time hinted that he is prepared to use nuclear weapons. There is a tendency to downplay this. Many believe these are idle threats. When I hear this sort of talk I am reminded of the words of the late Helen Szamuely, “They mean it!” she would say. Having been partially educated in Moscow Szamuely knew what she was talking about. Not that we need her wise words. Just before the war, Mark Steyn interviewed his old boss, Conrad Black, on GB News. Black opined that Putin’s sabre rattling was “Kabuki theatre” or some such. As we now know, it wasn’t. He meant it.

But whether he means it or not we should at least be prepared.

What would he do first? Would he, for instance, use a tactical nuclear weapon to eliminate Ukrainian forces in front of him? Or we he indulge in nuclear blackmail: surrender or Kiev gets it? And what does the West – by which I suppose I mean the United States – do? If it’s a tactical nuke I suppose it could offer to supply Ukraine with tactical nukes of its own. But how keen would Ukrainians be to nuke their own territory? If it’s the blackmail option, does the West really threaten a nuclear response? Would such a threat be credible?

In the Cold War I was never particularly worried. I knew that if the Russians dropped the bomb on us we would drop the bomb on them. And I knew that the Russians knew that, so they wouldn’t. Now, things are not so clear.

Update 2/5/22

It’s very difficult to argue with Niall when he says, “The logic of deterrence is as valid as ever it was. The more the west radiates a will to react, the less likely Putin is to act. And the best way to radiate a will to react is to have the will to react.”

Also, thank you to Subotai Bahadur for his lengthy comment in which he points out that the nuclear club – both official and unofficial – is likely to get quite a bit bigger.

My dear friends on the Left: what happened to you?

Half a century ago, when I was a young man, you were the ones celebrating individuality and anything-goes self-expression.

Back then, you were the ones burning the draft cards and defying authority. Today you’re a masked lump sitting on an airport bench, scolding with narrowed eyes anyone who delights in the air touching her face. What happened to you?

Back then, you were the ones demanding to be heard, saying the things the establishment didn’t want to hear, speaking truth to power. Today the phrase “free speech” terrifies you, and you offer a dozen excuses why we’re better off muzzled and restrained by those in power, like some kind of pet.

Henry Racette

(h/t David Foster)

Samizdata quote of the day

“It says a great deal about the impotence of the European Union’s response to the Ukraine crisis that Poland should have emerged as the bloc’s most effective cheerleader in confronting the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. It was only a few months ago that Brussels was seeking to demonise Poland as a rogue state over accusations that it was violating the EU’s democratic agenda. This led the European Court of Justice to rule in favour of denying Warsaw access to more than 75 billion euros in funds. Today, with Poland taking the lead role in condemning Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, the EU’s attempts to humiliate the Poles appear ill-judged, to say the least.”

Con Coughlin, Daily Telegraph (£)

Samizdata quote of the day

Once upon a time there were Progressives who actually believed in progress, who despite their flaws did believe in a brighter and better future. These were supplanted c. 1970 by a new Left with the new motto “Learn to live with less, you hate-filled greedy bastards!” The Apollo program was the last hurrah of the old Progressives and Earth Day environmentalism was a manifestation of the new Left that supplanted them.

Now those actually-for-progress Progressives had some major flaws. One was a willingness to bulldoze people’s personal plans in favor of their own Big Plans For Society. Another was to seriously underestimate just how poisonous socialism and government regulation are to an economy. But they still favored a better, brighter, more prosperous future in a way the “Learn to live with less!” Earth Day leftists did not.

Deep Lurker

Return of the Bird…

The social media link buttons to Twitter and certain IM platforms have returned. I wonder why? 😀

Samizdata quote of the day

The anti-anti-Putin Left are most usefully described as “campists”, whose geopolitical philosophy is summed up by the phrase “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. America is the font of all evil, therefore its opponents must have something going for them.

The British-Syrian writer Leila Al-Shami calls this “the anti-imperialism of idiots”: “This pro-fascist Left seems blind to any form of imperialism that is non-western in origin. It combines identity politics with egoism. Everything that happens is viewed through the prism of what it means for westerners — only white men have the power to make history.” Russia’s unprovoked war of imperialist aggression is as inconvenient to campists as China’s oppression of the Uyghurs. Either they must find a way to blame America after all or they must downplay the issue. Left-wing support for corrupt authoritarians such as Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega is disappointing enough, but sympathy with Vladimir Putin, Bashir al-Assad and Xi Jinping is symptomatic of a morally broken worldview.

Dorian Lynskey, making observations that also apply to certain libertarians/conservatives in the grip of the Americocentric delusion.

St George’s Day (Part II)

From the ever-brilliant Kristian Niemietz

Click for slightly larger version

St. George’s Day

On this particular day, I will commemorate St. George with a picture I took in Kyiv a few years ago, the symbolism of which is even more apt.

Screw ‘Earth Day’

Sorry but someone needed to say it… 😀

Samizdata quote of the day

Information liberalism was already in trouble in 2016, when Brexit and the election of Donald Trump made it clear that freeing information didn’t always produce progressive results. Perhaps, respectable voices began to suggest nervously, all this fake news and misinformation means more discourse isn’t always better.

Since then, ever more of our public life has been forced online. And with it, information management has intensified and grown more organised. Facebook has censored anti-vaccine content; UnHerd interviews and even British MPs have been removed from YouTube; “free speech” messaging app Parler was kicked off Apple and Android platforms after the Capitol riot; Donald Trump was banned from Twitter; what turned out to be a true story about Joe Biden’s son was censored at a delicate moment in Biden’s election campaign.

In the digital age, then, the right side of history no longer wants to free information, but to curate the right message. To that end, many erstwhile cheerleaders of free speech have pivoted to claiming for themselves the place of those bishops and inquisitores haereticae pravitatis Leo X tasked in 1515, with controlling what could be published.

Mary Harrington

People can collaborate in free markets too

The author of this Reuters article on the German jobs market plainly hasn’t heard of Linkedin, or jobs advertising, or even old-style labour exchanges where people can go to find out where vacancies are and retrain. Time for a good old fisking:

Germany’s industrial heavyweights are teaming up to retrain workers in areas such as software and logistics to fill a growing skills gap and avoid layoffs among workers of all ages as the economy shifts to clean energy and online shopping.

There is nothing wrong with firms exchanging ideas with one another to fix an issue. (Although ironically, government “anti-trust” laws might work against that.) It is worth noting, of course, that losses of jobs in areas such as petrol-driven cars are partly caused by government policy itself, such as the Net Zero decarbonization efforts that, depending on your point of view, are necessary or barking insane.

More than 36 major companies, ranging from auto suppliers such as Continental (CONG.DE) and Bosch (ROBG.UL) to industrial firms BASF (BASFn.DE) and Siemens (SIEGn.DE), have agreed to coordinate on redundancies at one firm and vacancies at another, training workers to move directly from job to job.


The scheme underscores Germany’s long-term social market economy model, which gives more influence to labour unions as opposed to free-market capitalism focused on maximizing profits.

Does it? I mean, I assume German firms want to pursue a profit. They’re not charities.

The costs of the initiative will be shared by the companies involved on a case-by-case basis. So if a factory closes, a dialogue will begin on what to do with its workers and then involve another company which may be seeking new skills.

Again, this seems like rational self-interest to me. There’s no objection I see to firms liaising with one another, and forming pacts about dealing with the need for skilled people. The key is that the State keeps its nose out of it. Also, if firms try and steer staff who might lose a job to another firm, that needs to be weighed against whether and how the employee might want their lives to go. The tone of the article seems to be that what is needed is a sort of hand-holding paternalism, but that creates a vicious circle where employees lose the desire to manage their working careers in a proactive way.

A study by think-tank Ifo Institute warned that 100,000 jobs linked to the internal combustion engine could be lost by 2025 if carmakers failed to transition fast enough to electric vehicles and retrain workers.

Forcing an entire industry to abandon a reliable, effective technology used for a century and switch to an arguably less reliable, and more costly one. Yep, there are going to be consequences. It also doesn’t help that German government policy in the past 20 years on energy has been almost calculated to harm its manufacturing base in the long run.

Engineering, metalwork and logistics are among the sectors seeking high numbers of people in Germany, alongside care work, catering and sales.The demand for skilled workers is coming from overseas companies too, highlighted by Tesla’s (TSLA.O) decision to build its European electric vehicle and battery plant in the state of Brandenburg, where it will create 12,000 new jobs.

Good news, so long as the jobs are financially viable.

Ariane Reinhart, board member responsible for human resources (HR) at Continental and chief spokesperson of the [jobs] business-led initiative, was quoted as saying: “Leaving it to the free market is not enough – it would not be what’s best for workers, or the economy.”

Wrong. For a start, none of the ideas about firms collaborating to move workers with desired skills around could not happen in a free market without state interference. Employers (I am one) know that finding talented staff is one of the most important issues there is, and in an open economy, there are all kinds of ways people with skills in demand can find jobs. Further, it is hardly a mystery to employees that they should keep on top of new skills to make themselves more desirable and increase what they earn. That’s the “free market”. The author of this article might want to reflect that it was the free market economy, and not some sort of top-down socialism, that helped propel West Germany after 1945 into being one of the richest economies on earth. By 1960 or thereabouts, that country had matched the UK in terms output per head.

To repeat an important point: there is no reason why firms could not and would not collaborate, if their self-interest coincided, in figuring out how people with desirable skills could be moved from place to place. What the author of this article cannot or will not address is whether firms in the article are not just doing what they might do anyway? Why did this question not get asked? Why just accept, at face value, that this sort of collaboration is some wonderful example of a less market-based system? After all, I can log on to the internet and find jobs, homes, flights, hotels, courses for training in new skills, etc, without anyone from government or some official entity holding my hand. Amazing, isn’t it, this “free market” of ours.

An utter croc

“Boris Johnson has said any peace talks over Ukraine are likely to fail as he compared holding talks with Vladimir Putin to negotiating with a crocodile.”

BBC reports that Boris Johnson made crocophobic remarks today, with LGBTQIAC activists decrying this blatant display of Tory prejudice as “triggering”. A Tory spokesman dismissed the criticism as “a complete croc”.