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

When poor countries catch up with rich countries, the actual absolute level of inequality between them can increase. Now that’s just wierd. My head hurts.

– Tony Stephenson responding to Brian Micklethwait

Samizdata quote of the day

The argument for collectivism is simple if false; it is an immediate emotional argument. The argument for individualism is subtle and sophisticated; it is an indirect rational argument.

– Milton Friedman (via Ilana Mercer)

Samizdata quote of the day

“We need Crossrail to keep London’s Economy ticking over so that we can continue to pay for the Scottish to live the lifestyle to which they are accustomed.”

– Ken Livingstone (via Guido Fawkes)

Samizdata quote of the day

“Power corrupts. Powerpoint corrupts absolutely.”

Edward R. Tufte, professor emeritus of political science, computer science and statistics, and graphic design at Yale

J K Galbraith on the USSR

“Partly, the Russian system succeeds because, in contrast to the Western industrial economies, it makes full use of its manpower.”

John Kenneth Galbraith (1984), an American intellectual who passed away yesterday.

Samizdata quote of the day

“If there is a businessman who has gone out of his mind and supports the left, I think he must have a lot of skeletons in his cupboard and a lot of things to ask forgiveness for.”

– Silvio Berlusconi quoted in the Financial Times (via Open Europe‘s email list).

Better than Fairtrade

While activists call for consumers to buy Fairtrade coffee, critics – like the author of the documentary The Bitter Aftertaste – say that the achievements of the Fairtrade movement are too modest. Hostility to the movement is on the rise from right and left alike. As Reason magazine puts it:

The movement has always aroused suspicion on the right, where free traders object to its price floors and anti-globalization rhetoric. Yet critics from the left are more vocal and more angry by half; they point to unhappy farmers, duped consumers, an entrenched Fair Trade bureaucracy, and a grassroots campaign gone corporate.

It has always seemed to me that there is a better, more sustainable approach to raising living standards. That approach is to help farmers move away from just growing coffee and exporting the beans (with very little processing) to the developed world. If coffee-producing countries actually did the processing and packaging, and even stuck their own trademarks on the finished product, developing countries would be able to capture more of the value in a bag of coffee sold in shops in the high street.

When I’ve spoken to Western companies selling Fairtrade produce, they never seemed all that interested in the idea – or they though it was not feasible. So I am delighted to have found a company that actually does it: coffee grown in Peru and Costa Rica where the packaging and processing is also done there too. I went to their UK online store and bought some which I will be tasting in the office on Monday, but it strikes me as a superb way of increasing living standards. More information is here.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Almost every young libertarian I come in contact with these days is equally opposed not just to the sort of new copyright protections that the content providers seek, but even to traditional copyright laws and rules that pre-date the 76 Act. And not all of these people are wacko libertarian-anarchist types. Many respected young libertarian minds are turning against copyright. I don’t believe that the best strategy is to ignore them. You guys should engage them in debate and defend your views before this extreme anti-IP position becomes more mainstream.”

Adam Thierer of the Progress and Freedom Foundation (many years ago, he worked at the Adam Smith Institute), quoted here.

Education, education, education

We have had over thirty years of comprehensives and eight years of Blair’s “education, education, education”. The result? According to The Guardian:

New research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and conducted by Michael Shayer, professor of applied psychology at King’s College, University of London, concludes that 11- and 12-year-old children in year 7 are “now on average between two and three years behind where they were 15 years ago”, in terms of cognitive and conceptual development.

“It’s a staggering result,” admits Shayer, whose findings will be published next year in the British Journal of Educational Psychology. “Before the project started, I rather expected to find that children had improved developmentally. This would have been in line with the Flynn effect on intelligence tests, which shows that children’s IQ levels improve at such a steady rate that the norm of 100 has to be recalibrated every 15 years or so. But the figures just don’t lie. We had a sample of over 10,000 children and the results have been checked, rechecked and peer reviewed.”

Astonishing. The opponents of choice and higher standards in schools definitely deserve a Saturday detention.

Samizdata quote of the day

“I think this nanny state business, you know, is just nonsense.”

– Tony Blair, today’s BBC2 Newsnight, responding to the allegation that he is creating a nanny state

Samizdata quote of the day

Protectionism does not aid development. Developing countries with open economies are catching up with rich ones; those with closed economies are falling further behind.

Andrew Mitchell, the UK’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

Samizdata quote of the day

“No man in the country is under the smallest obligation, moral or other, so to arrange his legal relations to his business or property as to enable the Inland Revenue to put the largest possible shovel in his stores. The Inland Revenue is not slow – and quite rightly – to take every advantage which is open to it under the taxing statutes for the purpose of depleting the taxpayer’s pocket. And the taxpayer is in like manner entitled to be astute to prevent, so far as he honestly can, the depletion of his means by the Inland Revenue.”

– The Lord President Clyde, 1929