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]

There are experts and there are “experts”

As I work away at a talk I am to give tomorrow evening at Christian Michel’s, I am also, of course, wandering about in the www. And during the latest wandering I was provoked into thinking about another talk, one that I will be hosting rather than giving, on the last Friday of February. Marc Sidwell will, that evening, be speaking about: “Twilight of the Wonks? Promoting freedom in a post-expert world”.

This rather witty cartoon, which I came across here, is very pertinent to Marc Sidwell’s talk, I think:

This cartoon is now to be seen all over
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When people cite experts, be careful

So the idea this letter represents mainstream economics must be challenged. When Sky is reporting it without an alternative viewpoint, it can mislead the public. But this also shows something interesting about the political left. People across the political spectrum like to appeal to the authority of “experts” to improve credibility. But for the left, this is crucial. Unlike supporters of markets, left-wing interventionists believe experts can direct economic activity for us. Building up the idea that “experts” support these interventions and believe they work is therefore of critical importance to obtaining public acceptance.

– Ryan Bourne, Institute of Economic
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An ‘arrogance’ of experts?

They are at it again. Medical experts are advising the state that they should mass medicate the population of Britain against a non-infectious disorder.

Perhaps a ‘totalitarianism’ of experts might be more accurate as Food Standards Agency seem to think it is the super-owner of the bodies of everyone in the country.

The State…and its experts… do not know best

Mad cow disease (vCJD), foot-and-mouth, MMR, salmonella in eggs… the list goes on and on. The reality of life is that no one has a monopoly on insight, intelligence and information. Yet the state would have us believe that in their case when they say something, is somehow of a higher order compared to any other institution or individual. After all, it that was not the case, how could the fact the state backs its views with the threat of violence be justified?

Yet time and time again we are told in patronising tones that the state’s experts know best,
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Celebrity experts save the world!

I am trying not to laugh as I watch rock musician Bono hold forth on satellite television about issues of Third World debt and so on at the World Economic Forum held in New York. Perhaps we can look forward to getting Britney Spears on the fight against terrorism, Mick Jagger on Aids and Tiger Woods on global warming. I guess I am being irreverent, but what the heck, it’s Friday!

A muddle of psychiatrists

Here is a fun little article in The Independent about psychiatrists who think Donald Trump is mentally ill, and it is their professional duty to warn people. They are saying this sort of thing:

I’ve worked with murderers and rapists. I can recognise dangerousness from a mile away. You don’t have to be an expert on dangerousness or spend fifty years studying it like I have in order to know how dangerous this man is.

This sounds like complete nonsense, but it turns out that “clinical evaluation for predictions of future dangerousness, have become integral to the function of the
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Yuval Noah Harari on how the knowledge economy reduces war

In this earlier posting about a book I had been reading, I talked about how reading can turn sort of knowledge into knowledge of a more solid sort. The author says something which you already sort of knew, but as soon as he says it, you know it much better. Often such knowledge consisted of things you already knew about separately, but you hadn’t connected them in your mind.

Recently this happened to me again. Like many others, I have lately been reading Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. And I soon learned that Harari, like Steven Pinker, has noticed
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How to win like Trump

Marc Sidwell’s book How To Win Like Trump: Nine Simple Rules for Victory Against the Odds explains how Donald Trump won the US presidential election. It is written in the style of a self-help book and in simple Trump-like language. This makes it a fast and easy read: it does not take itself too seriously. And it avoids “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity”. But it is packed with insight.

For example, politicians and the press are between them largely acting out a fiction which has similarities to the kayfabe of professional wrestling.

Trump had two insights, thanks
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Samizdata quote of the day

The idea that an economist is an expert even in Economics is a dubious one. I would like to see two control groups shadowing every team of ‘expert’ economists – one making random predictions, the other a group of astrologers. After five years we compare their predictions for accuracy.

– Samizdata commenter Rob

“The LibDems only won by 4% in Richmond, there should be a second by election.”

“Richmond Park marks the start of a new, cross-party rejection of Brexit”, says Hugo Dixon in the Guardian. Predictably. People like Geraint Davies MP and David Lammy MP been weaselling away since the week of the referendum. Zac Goldsmith’s defeat at the hands of the Liberal Democrats in the Richmond Park by-election has worked on the Remainers like a psychotropic drug in their carrot juice.

A Reddit user called “lordweiner27” neatly turned around every cliché of the Weasel genre. His or her post seems to have been removed from r/ukpolitics, so I thought I would preserve it here:

The
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Right. We’re going in. Those trees gonna die.

Jennifer Saul, a professor of philosophy at the University of Sheffield, has a had a figurative and literal rude awakening. Writing in the Huffington Post, she says,

Authoritarianism in Sheffield

…you might think, local Labour councils would be on the side of the good—fighting authoritarianism and working to preserve what they can of the quality of life in their cities.

This morning, however, Sheffield’s Labour council showed us beyond a shadow of a doubt how they feel about the authoritarianism on the rise round the world. Overruling their own hand-picked Independent Tree Panels, they decided to descend on Rustlings Road,
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This will be Obama’s enduring legacy

The effort to wire the world — or to achieve “extreme reach,” in the NRO’s parlance — has cost American taxpayers more than $100 billion. Obama has justified the gargantuan expense by arguing that “there are some trade-offs involved” in keeping the country safe. “I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” he said in June 2013, shortly after Edward Snowden, a former contractor with the National Security Agency (NSA), revealed widespread government spying on Americans’ phone calls.

Since Snowden’s leaks, pundits and experts (myself
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