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]

Bloated ambitions, thin justifications

Last summer, I went on very public record with my opinon that the überhyped and screechingly hysterical ‘obesity epidemic’ was nothing but a crock of shit, cooked up (in this country at least) by grasping public sector vested interests and amplified by their MSM handmaidens.

While I will continue to do whatever is in my power to undermine this whole wicked, mendacious plot over here, I am pleased to note that there is also some serious fightback going on over on the gun-toting side of the Atlantic:

One would be forgiven for thinking CDC stands for Center for Damage Control. Just a year after its widely-publicized and exceedingly controversial announcement that excess weight kills 400,000 Americans annually, the agency is rumbling, bumbling, stumbling toward an explanation for a new study that says the real figure is just 26,000.

Unfortunately, trial lawyers who see dollar signs where the rest of us see dinner have seized on the CDC’s 400,000 deaths number to justify their frivolous crusades.

Now word comes from experts within the CDC that excess weight is about one-fifteenth as dangerous as previously thought, and has a lower death toll than diseases like septicemia and nephritis. Each death is of course tragic. But has anyone heard of the septicemia “epidemic” or the nephritis “tsunami”?

It’s said that a lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. Well, the truth about obesity is finally lacing up. And that’s bad news for trial lawyers pursuing obesity lawsuits against food and beverage companies as well as the self-appointed diet dictators seeking extra taxes on foods they don’t like.

Not that that will stop them, mind. Truth has little currency when compared to the value of a well-forged career-path or the tantalising lure of brimming public coffers. (By the way, the link above is to the website of an American organisation called the ‘Center for Consumer Freedom’. Not only do they appear to be on the side of the Angels but their website looks like an excellent activist resource that is well worth a bookmark).

Still, the backlash has to begin somewhere, somehow and debunking the fraudulently inflated statistics is an important part of that process. However, it is equally important to maintain the principle that, even if all the har’em-scar’em statistics were true (which they clearly are not) then the responsibility for and solution to the problem of obesity lies with the obese themselves and not with judicial system or the apparatus of tax-collection.

[My thanks to Dr.Chris Tame who posted this link to the Libertarian Alliance Forum].

Chips with everything

As strange as it may sound, I still maintain a smidgeon of sympathy with all those wretched, deluded souls who sincerely believed that technology was going to liberate us all from the leviathan. I am but fearful. They, on the other hand, must be both fearful and crushed:

The British government acknowledged Monday that it would consider using implanted ID chips to track sex offenders, raising the specter of forced chipping.

While not yet a reality, implants that can remotely check bodily functions and location are just around the corner: Microchips are being developed for a variety of health functions, and a Florida company is planning to develop a prototype of an implanted GPS device by the end of the year.

When the Food and Drug Administration green-lighted the use of ID chips in humans last month, civil liberties advocates worried that people could be forced to get chipped as a condition of employment or parole. News that the British government may implant sex offenders in the future fanned those fears.

Of course, it will start with convicted (or maybe even suspected) child molesters. Who could possibly object to that?

What about the workers?

Occasionally, life throws up little synergistic surprises. Last Sunday, I was reading a rather interesting opinon piece in the Daily Telegraph in the morning and then (quite unexpectedly) found myself breaking bread with the author of that article in the evening.

In common with a great many pundits (both amateur and professional) John O’Sullivan casts his eye over the persistantly and curiously comatose Conservative Party and, in doing so, makes a rather astute observation:

Throughout the West, but especially in the English-speaking world, parties are changing their class composition. Working and lower-middle-class voters are moving Rightwards, middle and upper-class voters, Leftwards. George W Bush won the votes of West Virginia miners in the last two elections; in Australia, John Howard was cheered by loggers: both lost votes among their own progressive middle class. Most “missing” votes in Britain belong to the working and lower-middles who have left Labour and are repelled by the Lib Dems but have not been given good reasons to vote Tory.

That may seem like a strange and rather radical suggestion to some but, actually, it does make quite a lot of sense. A great swathe of what we now call the ‘middle-class’ are not really bourgeois in the true sense of that word. Rather they are public sector professionals or elsewise beneficiaries of the client-state whose wealth and status is entirely dependent on a bloated and active government. Lower tax and less regulation is simply not in their interests.

On the other hand, members of the lower-middle and working class are having to hand over ever more of their hard-earned (either directly or by stealth) for ever less in return. It is their elderly parents who are expiring, neglected, in the corridors of state hospitals; it is their children who are being turned out from state schools without being able to read, write or articulate themselves.

This changing dynamic is just begging to be seized by anyone with the political savvy to spot the opportunity. Mind you, that probably rules out the Tories.

Stick to what you don’t know

There can surely be no more conclusive evidence of market success than the trademark name of a particular company becoming the commonly used verb to describe the activity for which said company provides its products. Have you ‘googled’ anyone today? Have you ever been ‘googled’ yourself?

As someone who ‘googles’ on pretty much a daily basis, I can find no material fault with this richly-deserved and glowing tribute in the UK Times:

Google is the modern Oracle, the all-knowing mechanical sage we consult to find, if not the answers to life’s questions, then at least a comfortable, reasonably priced hotel in Torquay. But is Google God?

I cannot recall such a mystical (and, for some, blasphemous) suggestion ever crossing my mind but, like the author, I am only too ready to wax lyrical about the benefits of Google’s simple and effective information gathering machine.

Google may have all the answers but, unlike God, lots of Google’s answers tend to be wrong, loopy postings from lonely people typing late at night in their underwear. Google moves in mysterious ways all right, but some of those ways are downright weird.

To whom could he possibly be referring? → Continue reading: Stick to what you don’t know

Publik Scules

One of the regular contributors to the Libertarian Alliance Forum posted this salutary tale concerning his local state school.

I felt that it deserved a wider audience.

Yesterday my wife went to register our oldest child at the local ‘gubmint’ school here in the Atlanta ‘burbs. It will be his first year in the public school system.

To prove that we live in the catchment area, she had with her an electricity bill with our address on it. There was a printed notice posted in the registration area. It listed the only forms of identification that would be accepted. At the bottom of the notice was printed “NO ACCEPTIONS!”

My wife found this illiteracy in a supposed place of learning to be very disconcerting, but carried on with the process.

Next, she was handed a slew of forms to complete and sign. One of the forms was a waiver for field trips. This form explained that “our student’s will attend a number of field trips…”

That was it. Glaring spelling mistakes on professionally printed notices, moronic misuse of an apostrophe on a form that must surely have been reviewed by the principal. A sickening feeling came over her and she had to make her excuses and leave, explaining that she would fill in the forms later.

The received wisdom of our day holds that only the state can be relied upon to provide children with a proper education. I wonder how long that canard can hold fast in the face of all the glaring evidence to the contrary?

[My thanks to Rob Worsnop who posted this to the Libertarian Alliance Forum]

Beer drinkers beware!

In some parts of the world, non-performance is a serious matter:

An Italian man who married without telling his bride he was impotent must pay damages for abusing her “right to sexuality”, a top court has ruled.

The man had failed to fulfil his conjugal duty and deprived his wife of the chance to be a mother, Italy’s Supreme Court said.

His wife had already had the marriage annulled on the grounds of non-consummation.

The amount of damages will now be decided by a lower court in Sicily.

If this poor guy’s self esteem low to begin with, it must be hurtling down through the earth’s crust by now.


I have now had some time to reflect on the outcome of last week’s General Election.

In many respects it was something of a non-event. Nobody seriously expected any result other than another Labour victory and the only matter which gave rise to any material speculation was the size of the Labour majority.

As it transpired, that majority was considerably reduced, providing some electoral benefit to both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats but nonetheless leaving the re-elected government with a perfectly playable hand.

On the face of it, last week’s elections appears to have changed nothing. Tony Blair is still the PM and his brand of ‘modernised’ social democracy appears to be what the public have again decided they want. Yet, a closer analysis of the voting figures reveals what I believe to be a significant development, albeit one that may take a while yet to manifest itself.

I will expand on this but, before I do, I want to make a few observations about the other two main parties. → Continue reading: Naked

Were you up for Twigg?

Some brief news about the UK General Election.

With some 40 or so constituencies still to declare, ZaNu-Labour have (as expected) won a third term in office, though with a much reduced majority. Tony Blair looks rather chastened. The Conservatives have done rather better than I (or anybody else) had expected. Michael Howard looks rather pleased. The truly hideous Leninist-Democrats have gained a few seats but, fortunately, nowhere near as many as they were expecting. They are still in third place by some distance.

Oh and George Galloway is back in Parliament.

I will offer up some more thoughts later and as soon as I have some time to spare.

Our Soylent Green is GM-free!

It takes some nerve to announce this on the day of a General Election. Mind you, I doubt very much that it would at all influence the outcome:

Patients should be refused treatment because of their age in some cases, government advisers have proposed.

Where age can affect the benefits or risks of treatment, discrimination is appropriate, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said.

Charities representing older people said the recommendations were outrageous and sent out mixed messages.

Wrong. The message is quite clear and will gradually become more acceptable. Within five years, people over 75 will be offered euthanasia when they get sick. Within 10 years it will be mandatory.

“More money for (insert government agency of choice)”

Not that anyone would know it from reading this blog, but there is a General Election taking place here in Britain later today.

Of course, I cannot and would not presume to speak for any of my fellow contributors, but for my part, my hitherto silence on this ostensibly ‘big’ issue is due entirely to boredom. I suppose I could delve into my rhetorical box of tricks and rummage around to find some sound ideological justification for denouncing the whole process as illegitimate and antithetical to genuinely liberal ideas, but I simply cannot muster the enthusiasm to do so.

If there had been anything like a real debate in this campaign or anything resembling a challenge to the prevailing intellectual hegemony then I might have been moved to add my voice to the throng. But, as it is, I cannot recall any national election being so stultifyingly dull, so suffocatingly vapid, so determinedly anodyne and strictly-by-the-numbers that the task of making a difference is rather like trying to move mountains by simply shouting at them. Some battles are not worth fighting.

And the issues? Well, there are no issues. Instead there is one, universal promise, writ large in every syllable of every soundbite of every candidate. It is a promise, nay an earnest pledge, to hose down the public sector with money. To the extent that there is any debate at all, it is merely some sporadic bickering about how widely to open the valve and the direction in which it should be aimed. This is the only constant, the sole electoral standard and the only message (so orthodoxy holds) that the public wants to hear.

I cannot say for sure whether or not this is true. If the bleatings of the pundits are to believed then something like a half (or possibly just over a half) of eligible voters will trudge along to a voting booth tomorrow to endorse the ‘new boss’ and even among those dutiful citizens, I detect little passion or genuine commitment. They will go through the motions, more out of habit than conviction. The rest merely shrug with indifference and resignation. Not even the revelations that the process is shot through with fraud seems to have stirred any ripples.

This is such a strange place to live right now. A deep wellspring of tired cynicism with the same old, same old runs congruent with an abject fear of the unfamiliar. An apparently universal conviction that none of the candidates are going to improve any single persons life by so much as an iota is inexplicably coupled with a refusal to countenance any public acknowledgement that this, in fact, the case.

For what it is worth, I expect that the government will win the election and win it handsomely and things will just grind on pretty much as before. How long will this last? I cannot say. Maybe this is some temporary trough; a mere interregnum between great periods of flux and change. Or maybe it really is the ‘end of history’? It certainly feels like it.

Carefree (wherever you may be)

What’s on your mind tonight? Global warming? Economic collapse? African poverty? Islamic terrorism? Demographic decline? Mass immigration? The rise of China? The fall of Europe? Avian flu? AIDS?

Well, none of that matters to me right now. I am content to float aimlessly in the warm bath of deep, spiritual joy that I have been immersed in since Saturday afternoon when I finally got to see my beloved Chelsea clinch the Premier League Title.

I have never been here before. The last time Chelsea lifted the crown was in 1955, several years before I was born. In my 37 years of devotion to this club I have known pain, disappointment, frustration, humiliation, exasperation and occasional (and infuriatingly short-lived) elation. The term ’emotional rollercoaster’ does not even come close.

Yet, on Saturday afternoon, all those years of hurt just seemed to melt away like April snow. My ‘ugly duckling’ team has grown into a beautiful swan and (for the moment at least) nothing else matters.

Colour me happy. Very happy.

Feeling a little flat

On first viewing, my instinctive reaction would be to punch the air with triumphal joy:

Flat taxes, once a fantasy of free-market ideologues, are sweeping across the European Union and could be introduced in more than 10 of the bloc’s 25 member states.

The European commissioner for taxation, Laszlo Kovacs, described flat taxes, – one rate for all income and corporate taxation – as “absolutely legitimate” and said Western European nations may be tempted to adopt them. His comments will fuel debate that low-tax, low-cost economies of the East are undercutting Europe’s industrial heartland.

However, and in my experience, this needs a second viewing and even a third viewing.

First off, what they are sloppily referring to here is not ‘flat tax’ but actually ‘flat-rate tax’. The prospect of a flat tax (however remote) would most certainly have me breaking out the bubbly.

Secondly, let us assume that Mr. Kovacs and his posse somehow manage to persuade Western Europe’s nabobs to swallow this idea and go with the flow. I would not put it beyond them to agree to a flat-rate tax and then set the rate at 60%. The fate of politicians in Western Europe is decided almost entirely by their bloc-vote public-sector clients and they are not going to kick them in the teeth any time soon or at all.

Thirdly, there is no mention at all of what happens to the various extant reliefs and allowable deductions. A great deal of the complexity in the tax system results not from calculating the rates but negotiating the brain-fryingly difficult issues of the applicability of reliefs and the legitimacy of deductions. Hence, simply establishing a ‘flat-rate’ will not simplify the system to any material degree. Furthermore, it is only those reliefs and deductions which save many businesses and self-employed people from being bled white.

This could all turn into a lamentably hollow ‘victory’. I can easily see HMG apparently agreeing to a ‘flat-rate tax’ and even agreeing to set it at a reasonable level and, while we are all celebrating, promptly announce the abolition of all reliefs and deductions which would result in a great many people paying a lot more tax and not less.

No, I am not happy. Not yet anyway. There are far too many devils lurking in the detail.