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

That there are now more overweight humans than starving humans is one of mankind’s greatest achievements.

Damien Counsell has said it many times. Good for him.

Roseanne Barr denounces the regressive media

Quite a few days ago now, Roseanne Barr tweeted this:

The liberal media is an absolute joke – they no longer provide real news or information. They have made it their ultimate goal to undermine our dually elected president everyday. I encourage real Americans to find other reliable sources for their news and share their information.

It seems that Roseanne is copying the technique pioneered by her “dually” elected President of the USA, by including grammatical and spelling mistakes in her tweets, thereby getting these tweets noticed and written about by pedants like me, who would probably have had nothing to say about them had they been more properly phrased.

Even better would be if she had misspelt duly as “duelly”. Imagine POTUS being chosen by literal single combat. Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have won that either. (By the way, how do you not misspell “misspell”? Misspell doesn’t seem right. But miss-spell doesn’t seem right either.)

See also: The liberal media “is” an absolute joke. Should be “are”, surely.

On a more serious verbal point, I personally don’t like the way Roseanne Barr calls them the “liberal” media. I don’t like either “liberal” or “progressive” to describe people who seem to have no sane idea of what liberty or progress actually are.

But at least Roseanne Barr refrains from calling these media the “mainstream” media. This is a usage I am starting seriously to dislike. It attributes to these very particular media a cultural dominance that they did once possess, but no longer do. “Mainstream” says to me that any other media only have significance if they are tributaries of this main stream. But now, other streams can find their own way directly to the great sea that is public opinion, with no help from that still supposedly “main” stream at all.

I will now elaborate on what I mean.

→ Continue reading: Roseanne Barr denounces the regressive media

Listening to Patrik Schumacher

Podcasts don’t suit everyone. Simply, for many, they tend to take too long to make their points. They have an additional drawback for me, which is that I love to listen to classical music, i.e. the sort of music which can also demand a lot of time to make its various musical points.

This morning, for instance, I was happily listening to one of the very longest symphonies of all, Mahler 3.

But, I paused it. I paused it because my Twitter feed had told me about a podcast. I am listening to this podcast now. The guy asking the questions is someone American whose name I didn’t catch from the Centre for Innovative Governance Research, and the Podcastee, so to speak, the man answering the American guy’s questions, is Patrik Schumacher. Patrik Schumacher is the boss of one of the world’s most formidable architectural practices, the one founded and bossed, until she recently died, by the formidable Zaha Hadid.

Like classical music, the design of architecture, and especially of urban environments on a larger scale, seems to encourage dirigiste habits of mind and of action, politically as well as aesthetically. City planners tend to assume that cities have, so to speak, to be conducted (the German word for conductor being dirigent). Conducted, that is, by them. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? Schumacher challenges these kinds of assumptions.

The American guy asking the questions has been very badly recorded. But it’s mostly Schumacher, and Schumacher, thank goodness, mostly sounds somewhat better. I am learning a lot about how Schumacher thinks and about what he does. You might too. The podcast lasts a bit over an hour.

Mahler 3 will have to wait.

What Neema Parvini thinks and what Neema Parvini does

Instapundit’s Charles Glasser calls this Quillette article “nail on the head stuff”, which it is. It’s very good. But, you know: very good in a way I am now fairly used to. If, like me, you are one of the many and extremely varied persons whom the left calls “extreme right”, and if you have been reading both inside and beyond your various internet bubbles for quite a few years now, this article will probably tell you little that you don’t already know.

Sample quote:

One side effect of dealing with political opponents in this manner is that the left has become increasingly accepting of straw man fallacies created out of their own righteous bigotry and refusal to respectfully address counterpoints. They have no concept of Jonah Goldberg’s philosophical world of Burkeans, Straussians, Hayekians and so on, because many of these people are so ignorant that they genuinely believe that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher sit closely on a political continuum with Adolf Hitler. Hence, here in the UK, Labour activists burned effigies of Thatcher when she died and also draped a sign saying “HANG THE TORIES” over a bridge in Manchester, without any of their moralistic cheerleaders batting an eyelid. The left generally revels in its own distasteful behaviour not only without critique but also as still further confirmation of their righteousness. When you see your enemies as pure evil as opposed to trying to understand the merit of their ideas, bigotry becomes inevitable.

My main doubt about this piece is that its author, Neema Parvini, maybe attributes to “the left” rather too much of the same ignorant unanimity of thought that he accuses “the left” of attributing to “the right”. I agree that “the left” is more unanimous than “the right”, but there are still distinctions to be made within “the left” which are worth acknowledging.

But, Parvini makes many good points, especially in the small spreadsheet he offers, where he describes leftist definition hopping with words and phrases like “outmoded”, “here to stay”, and (a particular unfavourite of mine) “progress”.

But now for the really interesting bit, the bit where I was both very surprised and where I learned something seriously new to me. It comes right at the bottom of the article:

Neema Parvini is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Surrey. He is the author of five books, the most recent being Shakespeare and New Historicism Theory (2017) and Shakespeare’s Moral Compass (forthcoming 2018). He also presents a popular podcast series called Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory.

And there was me thinking that the literature departments of all the Anglosphere’s universities are now just swamps of leftist unanimity and sub-Marxist, post-modernist obfuscation, with all seriously dissenting voices silenced. Not quite so, it would seem.

Neema Parvini is clearly a man worth attending to. Especially by me, because I have long been a Shakespeare fan.

Douglas Murray on Tommy Robinson

If you want to understand the ongoing Tommy Robinson affair, then this article by Douglas Murray strikes me as as very good next thing to read. Read the whole thing says Instapundit, quoting a big chunk of it.

It occurs to me that Tommy Robinson’s public performances are a lot like President Trump’s tweets. If Trump phrased everything perfectly, his tweets would be ignored. But faced with a spelling mistake or some such vulgar blemish, his critics can’t help themselves, and they wade in, making pedantic fools of themselves, thus drawing attention both to what Trump is saying and to the fact that they typically have no actual arguments against it.

Tommy Robinson makes legal “errors”. And people whose real objection to Robinson is that he is an oik who speaks truths to them that they don’t want to be told, about Islam and about Muslims, likewise can’t help themselves. They loudly pontificate about what a bad person Robinson is. Such persons are now linking to pieces like this.

Thereby drawing attention to what Robinson says.

If you read the comments on our previous Tommy Robinson posting, you will see claims that he is an “idiot”, or even a “tit”. But I think Robinson is quite a formidable operator, saying important things with skill and flare and drama. He is getting himself heard.

In my opinion the Gandhi comparison is also a good one. Gandhi also used to break laws and provoke public dramas. He also got himself imprisoned. And heard.

The only way that respectable citizens will shut Tommy Robinson up is if they are willing to pay proper attention to the things he says. Douglas Murray has been doing this for quite a while.

Samizdata quote of the day

A media that taught us to mock authority and culture was unprepared for the day when the audience would mock their authority and their culture.

wretchardthecat

This evening Dominic Frisby is doing another try-out of his Edinburgh Festival Financial Game Show

Yes. Dominic Frisby tweets:

North Londoners. The next try-out of my Financial Game Show is Tuesday May 22 at @downstairskhead. Entertaining, informative, exciting. What more could you want on a Tuesday evening?

Get tickets here. More about the show here.

I can confirm that this is a fun show, having already seen two earlier try-outs of it. One of these was in my own home, at my last Friday of the month meeting on April 27th. And earlier that week, I attended the very first try-out of this show (to check out what my Friday was likely to consist of), and greatly enjoyed it.

That first outing was in the same venue, downstairs at the King’s Head, that tonight’s show will be at Despite the extreme contrast in the space he had available, Frisby then made his second try-out performance at my place work very well, because he is a good humoured, thinks-on-his-feet performer. Nevertheless, a bigger venue is certainly needed for the show to have its full effect. I’m thinking in particular of how successful competitors in the quiz, such as the lady I went with to the first show, get asked to sit themselves in different and more visible seats as they progress, none of which could happen in my postage stamp of a living room

Nevertheless, Frisby seems to find early run-throughs at my place helpful, because he did a similar early run-through of his previous Edinburgh Festival show at my home, a couple of years ago, and now here he was inviting himself back to do this year’s show. Glad to be of assistance.

Without giving away too much in the way of answers, I can tell you that Frisby’s questions all point to the subtleties and surprises and oddities of economic life, of the sort that are familiar to devotees of Austrian Economics, with its emphasis on the subjectivity of value and the way that economic decisions so often involve making sometimes rather strange bets about the future. The contrast in the price of this small but expensive house and that bigger but cheaper house; Fading Footballer A getting paid, counter-intuitively, more than Superstar Footballer B; that kind of thing. Frisby thus communicates an inquisitive and amused attitude to economic life that will likely draw at least some of the people who see this show in Edinburgh towards his more opinionated intellectual products.

Who knows, some of these people may even end up reading this book? I wrote admiringly about it here.

LATER: More dates here.

Nico Metten on the Electric Vehicle Revolution

Is The Electric Vehicle Revolution Real? That is the question that Nico Metten asks, over at Libertarian Home. Metten’s answer, surprise surprise: no. His English could do with a little cleaning up by a native of these islands, but that quibble aside, and on the basis of far less technical knowledge than him, I share his doubts, although in my case the proper word would probably be: suspicions. I suspect everything tinged with Green to be … suspect.

Ken Ferguson, commenting at Libertarian Home on the matter of electric vehicles, argues, in contrast, that this “revolution” is real, and is driven by the need to cut down on air pollution. He supplies this link.

And indeed, you do now see electric vehicles all over the place. Here is one I photoed a while back, just a walk away from where I live, getting an electro-refill from a special roadside charger:

But are electric engines n vehicles the only way to cut down on harmful vehicle engine emissions, or could regular or not-so-regular petrol engines be part of similar reductions, perhaps by having something bolted onto the end of them to take care of those emissions? Or, could vehicle emissions be somehow cleaned up by other means, with devices not attached directly to any vehicles? Do such things already happen? And: How harmful are those emissions, actually? (See above: “suspicions”.)

Since concocting the bulk of this posting, I notice that another Libertarian Home commenter, Jordan Lee, echoes many of my doubts, and one in particular of my questions:

Is there a way to make fuel burning cars more efficient in cutting emissions?

Cars are now being sold on this exact basis. But how far will they get in doing this, and how efficiently will such cars continue doing their number one job, of being cars?

The Samizdata commentariat contains some notably well-informed techies. I’ll be interested to read whatever anyone may feel inclined to say about this.

Why Corbynites think that antisemitism is a feature rather than a bug and why Corbynite antisemitism won’t go away until Corbynism itself is destroyed

Labour is now described as having an antisemitism problem. But those who talk like this are neglecting the fact that for many Corbynites antisemitism accomplishes something very important. It helps to drive out of the Labour Party all of those Labour supporters who think that the badness of antisemitism ought to be publicly talked about, instead of these Labourites silently or vocally caving in, for now, to the Corbynite project. And that, as far as the Corbynites are concerned, is a feature rather than a bug.

We can see this process described in this piece, by “New Labour” (i.e. the kind of Labour that the Corbynites are determined utterly to destroy) Prime Minister Tony Blair’s senior shouter-down-the-phone, Alastair Campbell:

In a speech to centre-left campaign group Progress, Mr Campbell said: “All my life I have been tribally Labour. But my Labour tribalism is being pushed to the limit – by the return of Militant style nastiness in local politics; by my revulsion that any anti-Semitism has been allowed to fester; by the feeling that some in the leadership, and their supporters, feel much greater animus against other Labour supporters than against Tories.”

Campbell is right. The Corbynites do indeed hate Campbell and his ilk far more than they hate the Conservatives. The Conservatives, by allowing themselves to be lead by people like Theresa May, are bringing the day of glorious socialist triumph ever closer. Campbell and his sort are a far more immediate threat to Corbynism. So if antisemitism serves to cure Alastair Campbell of his tribal love of Labour, … good for antisemitism.

As of now, the Corbynites are far more interested in establishing themselves in unchallengeable command of the Labour Party than they are in merely winning elections. Their thinking is that, sooner or later, capitalism will be hit by another crisis, and that at that point they’ll win a general election, and then the question will be: will there be any New Labour Alastair Campbell type bastards around to prevent them from turning Britain into Venezuela or worse? Meanwhile, they can agitate, do local activism, recruit the right sort of unswervingly loyal cadres, on the internet and in real life, and generally speed up the arrival of that crisis of capitalism and be ready for it. Having helped to bring about their crisis of capitalism, they can then blame capitalism for it and sweep to power.

At some point during all this, Corbyn will step aside and be replaced by a younger, better dressed and better shaved personage, more emollient, more “centrist” in tone, in appearance more like Alastair Campbell. Britain as a whole will be fooled. That “crisis” general election will be duly won, and then the “project” can really begin. And an essential part of that process is clearing out backsliding scum like Alastair Campbell, who, if they hang about and continue to attend Labour events, might blow the gaff in time to stop all this. At the very least such persons will be an unwanted nuisance.

Personally, I think that this is all a very long shot. But I wish it was a whole lot longer than it is.

The other thing to be said about antisemitism is that eradicating it from the Corbynite clan will be impossible. The Corbynites may, any year now, once all the Blairites are flushed out or permanently silenced, tone it down in public, once that besuited and beshaven person steps forward. But they will still all be antisemites.

→ Continue reading: Why Corbynites think that antisemitism is a feature rather than a bug and why Corbynite antisemitism won’t go away until Corbynism itself is destroyed

“Jordan Peterson aims at a refounding of Western Civilization …”

I like this, about Jordan Peterson, in Esquire, by Wesley (good name, considering his subject) Yang:

Many of Peterson’s seemingly grandiose pronouncements are, in fact, quite modest. He is often derided for repackaging banal common sense in a vague and pretentious idiom, and there is something to this. Peterson is an apologist for a set of beliefs that we once took for granted but now require an articulate defense, such as: Free speech is an essential value; perfect equality inevitably conflicts with individual freedom; one should be cautious before attempting to reengineer social institutions that appear to be working; men and women are, in certain quantifiable respects, different. His life advice concerns the necessity to defer gratification, face up to the trials of life with equanimity, take responsibility for one’s own choices, and struggle against the temptation to grow resentful. How such traditional values came to be portrayed as a danger adjacent to Nazism is one of the puzzles of our time.

The next paragraph solves this puzzle:

Viewed another way, Peterson’s intellectual project is exceedingly immodest, and can be stated in a sentence: He aims at nothing short of a refounding of Western civilization, to provide a rational justification for why the materialists of the digital age should root themselves in the soil of Christian ethics despite having long ago lost the capacity for faith.

The more rabid leftists call anything they don’t like Nazi. And the thing they dislike most is The West, which they want trashed. The West’s power, and everything good that The West stands for. Anything – anything – which is anti-West, they support.

Jordan Peterson is preaching virtues, public and personal, virtues which are the total opposite of Nazism and which might, unlike Nazism, greatly strengthen The West, by persuading a generation of Western and Westernised wastrels to sort themselves out, and to have good lives with good consequences. Therefore Peterson must be denounced as a Nazi, regardless of what he says he is, and regardless of what he actually says about the Nazis.

The view from Brazil is that peace is also the health of the state

The most recent of my Last Friday of the Month meetings was actually not on the last Friday of March because that was Good Friday, and my speaker Bruno Nardi and I decided to hold it a week earlier, on the 23rd. Bruno Nardi is a Brazilian libertarian and he spoke, unsurprisingly, about Brazilian libertarianism. The Brazilian state having become more than usually obtrusive and kleptocratic in recent years, libertarianism in Brazil is doing rather well just now. (I very much fear that libertarianism in Britain may soon be about to do rather well also, but that is another story.)

Before telling us about the contemporary libertarian scene in Brazil, Bruno prefaced that story with some Brazilian history, which I am rather ashamed to admit was almost entirely new to me. On the other hand, his basic point was that Brazilian history is rather undramatic, so maybe I needn’t be so ashamed after all.

Brazil started out as a Portuguese colony, but did you know that, in or around 1814, it became an independent Kingdom? Perhaps you did, but I didn’t. I did know that around that time, various armies were crashing about in Spain and Portugal, because the Duke of Wellington and his army were busy pushing Napoleon’s army back over the Pyrenees. But as to what happened in Brazil as a result of its Mother Country being invaded, well, I had never given it a thought. If Hitler had managed to invade Britain in 1940, you can well imagine Churchill and our Royals and a boat full of government functionaries hopping across to Canada, and setting up a new and “independent” kingdom of Canada. In Brazil, this is what actually happened. (Googling has made me more confused about the exact date of all this, but it definitely happened around then.)

In general, however, the history of Brazil is notable for its paucity of dramatic history dates. After 1814-ish, the next history date that Bruno focussed on was some time around 1880 or 1890, when there was this big Constitutional change, the nature of which I now forget, and which in any case, said Bruno, had little effect on regular life for most Brazilians. Then something else political happened in 1930. And then the next date to be discussed was 1964! I thought: hang about. Weren’t the times between 1930 and 1964 rather dramatic for the world? Well, yes, these were dramatic times, for the world. But for Brazil, not so much. Brazil pretty much sat out World War 2, just as it had pretty much sat out World War 1.

A little light googling has told me that Brazil has been involved in warfare, a bit, as Bruno did mention, especially during the nineteenth century against neighbouring states, notably Paraguay. There were a number of internal rebellions, all defeated. And Brazil did get involved in the world wars, fighting against Germany in both, a bit. So there definitely is such a thing as Brazilian military history. But Brazilian involvement in war was indeed nearly nothing compared to what the European nations were doing to one another and to the rest of the world during those same times, or compared to such events as the American Civil War.

War, we libertarians are fond of telling each other, is the health of the state. Peruse the most recent posting here by our own WW1 historian, Patrick Crozier, to see how we often think about such things. So, what about that increasingly obtrusive and kleptocratic Brazilian state that has been putting itself about lately, stirring up misery and libertarianism? There have been no big wars to make the Brazilian state as healthy as it now is, and especially not recently. What of that?

The story Bruno Nardi told made me think of the book that explains how peace is also the health of the state, namely Mancur Olson’s public choice theory classic, The Rise and Decline of Nations. It is years since I read this, but the story that this book tells is of the slow accumulation and coagulation of politics, at the expense of mere business, as the institutions of a hitherto thriving nation gang up together to form “distributional coalitions” (that phrase I do definitely recall). The point being that if you get involved in a war, and especially if you lose a war, the way Germany and Japan lost WW2, that tends to break up such coalitions.

The last thing on the mind of a German trade unionist or businessman, in 1946, was lobbying the government for regulatory advantages or for subsidies for his particular little slice of the German economy. Such people at that time were more concerned to obtain certificates saying that they weren’t Nazis, a task made trickier by the fact that most of them were Nazis. Olson’s way of thinking makes the post-war (West) German and then Japanese economic miracles, and the relative sluggishness of the British economy at that time, a lot more understandable. Winning a war, as Olson points out, is not nearly so disruptive of those distributional coalitions, in fact it strengthens them, as Crozier’s earlier posting illustrates.

You’ll get a bit more of the flavour of Olson’s thinking if you read this SQotD from 2012.

I met up with Bruno Nardi again last week at a Libertarian Home meeting, where I spoke to him along the lines sketched out in the previous paragraphs, mentioning the title of Olson’s book, and I ended up by asking: Does that ring any bells with you, as a way of talking about Brazil and its history? Yes, he said, that’s what it was like. Gradually the political crooks got their various acts together and made their various deals and accommodations, and it got worse and worse and the state that they negotiated between them got bigger and bigger.

In Brazil, the idea of libertarianism has usually been felt as foreign. But it’s an idea that Brazilians are now definitely getting told about.

You can read Bruno Nardi’s recent postings at Libertarian Home by going here. I particularly like the one entitled Take the hypothetical seriously. What if? What if, although Bruno didn’t ask this in that piece, Brazil was governed differently, in a more freedom-friendly way to the way it has been governed for the last few decades? And what if the same applied everywhere else?

Samizdata quote of the day

From this laborious work, and from all my other efforts in this field, I have drawn the conclusion that the evidence for social constructionism is a mirage in the desert. It does not exist. Most people in the humanities – including those who are able to express their opinions freely without fear of being fired – presuppose that gender roles are social constructs, and that the results obtained by natural scientists are determined by their social and political environment. Thousands of pages of academic ‘research’ express such notions, and thousands of university students are taught that this is how things are. But it is all hot air. The whole scenario is reminiscent of The Emperor’s New Clothes – nobody listens to the little boy who alone has the courage to point out that the Emperor is naked.

Much of this material – and Judith Butler’s obscurantism, in particular – functions like a Latin liturgy. It is not meant to be understood. About 600 years ago, the clergy in England supposedly existed to combat evil and make the world a better place. The sermons were in Latin, and the Bible was only available in Latin, so laypeople had no means of verifying what the clergy told them about religious doctrine. When a number of idealists translated the Bible into English so that common people could read and understand it, the idea – in principle, anyway – was that this would give more people direct access to God’s word. But instead of embracing this opportunity, the clergy fought all attempts at translation. And when the Bible became available in a language that people understood, the clergy burned the English translations, and those who distributed them were caught and executed. Given the choice of either supporting the wider dissemination of God’s word or preserving their own power and authority, they chose the latter.

A similar pattern of motivated self-interest is in evidence today (although opponents are no longer executed). Social constructionism has transformed the humanities departments of many universities into a kind of postmodern clerisy. In its own understanding, this clerical class strives to improve the world by insisting that all differences between groups of people are social constructs that testify to the unfairness of society. Society, therefore, can and must be reconstructed to dismantle these iniquities. But if wide-ranging social change is being demanded, then the basis for those demands needs to be firmly established first. Scholars ought to be labouring to prove the extent to which such differences are indeed social constructs and the extent to which disparities can be mitigated or dispelled by the radical reorganisation of social policy and even society itself. But this step in the process is simply absent. Instead, theorists make claims without bothering to substantiate them. Confronted with a choice between the disinterested pursuit of truth and understanding, or preserving their ideologies and positions of influence, they consistently opt for the latter.

And so, large swathes of the humanities and social sciences have been corrupted by ideology. Pockets of integrity remain but they are the minority, and they are only tolerated so long as they do not contradict the central planks of the accepted narrative. The unhappy result is that our universities are corroding, and our students will graduate with nothing more than the ability to further corrode the rest of society.

– The concluding paragraphs of Kåre Fog’s essay for Quillette, entitled Lost Down Social Constructionism’s Epistemic Rabbit-Hole