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]

The censorship temptation

Dr. Douglas Young, U. of North Georgia-Gainesville political science professor emeritus.

There’s no shortage of temptations to ignore our First Amendment free expression rights and pervert the law into a billy club to banish disturbing speech. Indeed, ever more people demand we outlaw all “hate speech” and “disinformation” in the name of “equity” and “social justice.”

In this vein, to justify their recent attempt to ban any pro-Israel speaker from the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, the school’s Law Students for Justice in Palestine explains: “Free speech and the exchange of ideas cannot be romanticized when the by-product of such rhetoric causes harm to marginalized communities.” Of course, this “reasoning” can easily justify the suppression of any statement alleged to “harm” some preferred group.

But freedom fans know that, as George (Animal Farm; 1984) Orwell observed, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” Indeed, as Justice Harlan Fiske Stone noted, “If only popular causes are entitled to enjoy the benefit of constitutional guarantees, they serve no purpose, and could as well not have been written.” Furthermore, we’re all vulnerable to the whims of speech censors. As Thomas Paine understood, “He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression.”

Ironically, totalitarians may appreciate even more the power of freedom and the ideas it conveys. Vladimir Lenin (not good Beatle John, but bad commie Vlad) proclaimed, “It is true that liberty is precious, so precious that it must be rationed.” His even less tolerant and bigger mass-murdering disciple, Joseph Stalin, stated, “Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns; why should we let them have ideas?”

Alas, the world has been littered with formerly free lands transformed into totalitarian plantations by snowballing restrictions on individual expression, and usually out of a sincere conviction to stop speech many decent folks find repellent. Anyone wanting the right to voice politically incorrect views is deemed as defending the indefensible.

In today’s U.S., to deter “hate speech” against “LGBTQ+” and other groups preferred by the ruling class, to protect “public health” against “disinformation,” and to “save our democracy,” so many controversial views are excised from Twitter and other media outlets that free public discourse has been substantially restricted.

But, as for unsettling internet content, who’s a better filter for what you read: big tech, the state, or you? Why entrust others to be nannies for your mind? As Thomas Jefferson declared, “We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.” So fight bad speech with your own informed judgment and good replies.

Contrary to what 1984 implied, it’s precisely the modern flowering of the means of mass communication that has empowered more people than ever to stand tall for truth and freedom, making it harder for dictators to keep their citizens ignorant and oppressed. Witness the fall of the cruel communist tyrannies of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the liberalization of post- Maoist China, and exciting liberty liberation movements, even in a Muslim theocracy like Iran.

The root of censorship is a lack of faith in people. The censor is an arrogant elitist idealist bent on saving the rest of us from our own ignorant, depraved selves. Since he also lacks confidence in his ideas’ currency, he stifles all opposition. Furthermore, as Joe Sobran observed: “If a would-be censor could express himself so well, he’d have no need, or urge, to censor. He’d be content to oppose words with better words. Censorship is a confession of failure…. [A]ll the qualities such people tend to lack [include]: candor, humor, self-confidence, and self-respect.”

This typifies today’s speech cops on so many American campuses who are true totalitarians seeking what censors sought in 1984. As Orwell explained, “It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all, and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought … should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words.”

There’s never a dearth of fervent ideologues and purists, secular and religious alike, eager to legally pounce on any deviation from their enlightened orthodoxy. But witness the bitter fruit of such repressive regimes as Revolutionary France, communist Russia and China, Nazi Germany, Muslim theocratic Saudi Arabia and Iran, Castroite Cuba, and socialist Venezuela and Nicaragua. While none would permit the controversial expressions many seek to end here now, neither would any of these statist societies sanction the most basic right of the people to even question their rulers. Remember that our Bill of Rights is a Ten Commandments of thou-shalt-nots restraining the state since rights are granted by God – not government.

Secular political fanatics

Dr. Douglas Young, political science professor emeritus at University of North Georgia-Gainesville, has some interesting views about political fanatics: secular edition.

There are loads of obsessives today: folks fixated on their phone, TV, sports, race, sex, etc. But the only ones labelled “fanatics” by secular media are religious. And, Lord knows, they are among the last people with whom I’d ever want to get stuck in an elevator. As Deepak Chopra said, “God gave man the truth. Then the Devil came in and said, “Hey, let’s organize it and call it ‘religion’.” A bumper sticker is more blunt: “Dear Lord, save me from your followers.”

Yet there are secular/worldly fanatics too. Because they lack a religious centre, many have a spiritual/emotional hole crying to be filled. So as traditional religion declines, we see a marked rise in political activism, especially save-the-world groups concerning “climate change”, “equity”, and “social justice”.

For many, their new religion is politics, their faith is their political ideology, and their church is their political party. Like religious zealots, they fervently believe they have a monopoly on truth and are hell-bent to spread their convictions, whatever the consequences.

But history shows secular political fanatics do far more harm since they lack a Ten Commandments, Golden Rule, or fear of a judgmental God to restrain them. The godless want to create a heaven too – but right here today since they think this is all there is. So, they have a peculiarly uncompromising urgency to remake society NOW.

And what a horrific toll many political true believers have wrought. With no religious humility to reign them in, they have created the first totalitarian dictatorships in which the party-state (national secular church) prescribes every aspect of citizens’ lives. Inspired by the French Revolution’s Jacobins who sought to create “a republic of virtue”, 20th century communists fought to forge a new “revolutionary man”. So Marxists in Russia, Eastern Europe, North Korea, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Cuba criminalized all religious, political, social, and even private personal conduct deemed “ideologically incorrect”. A Russian Bolshevik once asked dictator Joseph Stalin to execute a group because “They have no [communist] faith”. The stridently secular Nazi Adolf Hitler declared, “Anyone who interprets National Socialism merely as a political movement knows almost nothing about it. It is more than religion; it is the determination to create a new man.”

The death toll alone from such anti-religious regimes is light years worse than that of all religious wars and tyrannies combined – and in such a terribly brief span of time. Indeed, tolerance and forgiveness can be mortal sins to atheist political puritans.

→ Continue reading: Secular political fanatics

The Life of Brian

Dear fellow friends of Brian,

Many of you will have received Tim Evans’ email below with a message from Brian Micklethwait telling us that he has lung cancer. Brian asks that we boost his morale by telling him if and how we have been inspired or influenced by what he has written, said, or done.

Since several of us at the IEA have been inspired by Brian, we would like to invite you to celebrate ‘the life of Brian’ Micklethwait on the evening of Friday September 3rd, at the Institute of Economic Affairs, 2 Lord North Street, London SW1P 3LB. The event will be from 6pm to 8pm, but you are welcome to stay on until Brian decides to go home. Consider it a special edition of Brian’s Fridays, with Brian being the topic rather than the host.

If you are able to attend, please can you reply to VIPEvents@iea.org.uk so we know numbers in advance. If we have more than the maximum capacity of the IEA, we may have to seek another venue.

Please save the date in your diary and forward this email to fellow friends of Brian who are not in Tim’s distribution list below.

Can I also ask for a volunteer who would be willing to be the recipient of photos and short videos of Brian as well as video messages from those unable to join us, so that these can be shown on the evening.

We will send further details over the next few weeks. In the meantime, please do keep emailing and/or phoning Brian and writing about him. I know Brian is looking forward to us all joining him on September 3rd.

Best wishes,

Professor Syed Kamall, Institute of Economic Affairs

The fundamental hubris of modern humanity

Some interesting analysis by commenter Wintergreen.

When I ponder the societal response to COVID, the theme that leaps out at me is the fundamental hubris of modern humanity. Of course I’m speaking in sweeping generalities that don’t apply uniformly to all individuals, but modern man has convinced ourselves that we are the masters of the universe. We scoff at the benighted fools who went before us, we tear down their statues if they do not rigidly adhere to every tenet of certain strands of modern philosophy. We laugh at their belief in the old gods, or in old now-falsified scientific theories, but always lacking the self-awareness to see that our recent forebears who are now the target were doing the same and that we will soon be the butt of the joke.

We have torn down the old gods, and I’m not here to tell you that they were true (or to agree that they were false), but it is audacious hubris to be certain that there was nothing at all to be taken from the millennia of distilled thinking on the human condition that they represented. They sometimes led to horrors – crusades, inquisitions, jihads, witch hunts, and those horrors confirm our rectitude. But in their place, men have been forced to find other animating reasons for being. Nationalism, Marxism, socialism, totalitarianism, environmentalism, and now scientism and Wokism have all attempted to fill this void, and they have produced their very own horrors, but no matter. Yesterday’s intellectual craze that lit the world on fire is discarded and replaced by a new one, and this time it will surely be utopia.

So confident are we in our status as masters of the universe that when the utopia fails to materialize, it takes at least a generation to consider that perhaps the new ideology was not the answer. In the mean time, it must be that other humans have foiled the triumph, because humans have conquered all (confusingly, the high priests sometimes acknowledge that we are small, not particularly physically-gifted creatures trying to use our brains to carve out an existence for ourselves on a small rock circling a small star in a small galaxy in some far-flung corner of a largely empty and cold universe, but do so to buttress their own authority rather than admit their own fallibility). So some group must be otherized and the blame laid on them. Depending on the ideology that’s been foiled, it might be a religious or ethnic group, it might be the opponents of the ideology in question, or it might be polluters, capitalists, or the unvaccinated. In any event it must have a purely human source because to consider other possibilities would be to shake the foundations of the fundamental hubris. If people are hungry, it must be because some other human is hoarding resources. If people are not reaching their potential, it must be because some other human is oppressing them. If people are sick, it must be because some other human is failing to subjugate themselves enough to “stop the spread”.

Even an ideology that rejects objective truth and grand narratives like post-modernism is used not as it might be to reject human hubris but rather simply as a cudgel with which to kill the old gods and the old ideologies. All ideologies have the potential to fall into hubris and otherizing, but the risk can be greatly reduced when an ideology embraces the notions of inalienable individual rights, freedom of thought, and freedom of expression — notions that if they were ever truly embraced have now been disregarded as the the cynical refuge of the scoundrels who are blocking utopia.

The opiate of the masses being deployed in this moment is not promises of an afterlife but promises of a life after – a life after two weeks then months then years of being deprived of some of the most simple pleasures of human existence. Just as the priests of old could not actually deliver on their promises in a verifiable manner, neither can the priests of today. As many of their parishioners await their future reward, they may die of non-COVID diseases, suicide and drug abuse, their intellectual and social skills may atrophy, but surely they will emerge on the other side sicker and older and weaker because no amount of intellectual posturing can overcome the physical constraints of the human condition itself.

Scientism is proving to be one of the most dangerous of the new ideologies because it mutates with the speed of a virus, and each mutation wipes out the memory of the previous iteration so as to not puncture the hubris of its adherents. It can credibly claim to do so by expropriating the mantle of science, which is a way of thinking that requires old beliefs to be jettisoned when evidence demands. Scientism, though, plays fast and loose with the evidentiary requirements, treating hypotheses as theories and requiring that the currently fashionable hypotheses be venerated as in a faith.

So now a vast campaign of othering has commenced against those who refuse an experimental vaccine for a disease they are very unlikely to suffer serious harm from. That it is completely infeasible, even with an utter disregard for individual rights, to vaccinate 8.8 billion people in time to prevent new variants from emerging is no matter. The first major campaign demonized those who refused to accept indefinite house arrest, the wonton suspension of economic and civil liberties, and the complete disregard for all aspects of life other than virus avoidance. The second demonized those who questioned the efficacy of cloth talismans. Woven throughout was the dismissal of those who questioned how this disease emerged and whether it may in fact itself be a manifestation of human hubris, and of any possible remedies that didn’t line the pockets of DME manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies. But this new campaign is the most vicious, because while the others were at least theoretically temporary in nature, there is no way to walk back an injection, and the campaign now seeks to physically rather than simply rhetorically otherize its opponents.

The admirers of the experts (e.g. Fauci) will defend their flip-flops by saying “the science changed”. Well, actually, the science didn’t change. Perhaps our understanding changed, but the workings of the natural world that we are grasping to understand did not (of course, viruses evolve and conditions change etc., but that’s not how it’s being invoked). Maybe you should show a little humility as a result, and submit yourself to honest cross-examination while allowing people to dissent.

Private sector Public Health to get shops open

Simon Gibbs has a suggestion for a way forward

We have been under house arrest now for 10 months. I think now is the time to demand a little bit of libertarianism.

Some of you might disagree with me over details of the science which I wrote about on Samizdata, but I am sure most of you agree that you want to be let out of your house and that you are willing to do something about it.

I have been watching the debate over Coronavirus response and it seems too binary. One side says let us out, the other says they can’t – we’ll die, or our mums will. The Government is following the science, says one, the Government isn’t doing enough, says another. This is immature.

What is missing is serious discussion of what the people could do to make themselves safe. Handwashing and masks feel like small-minded details, and plainly that message is not making any more free, or much safer.

Many of us are advocates for privately run social infrastructure. I am advocating, in plain sight of my employer, a bit of privately managed Public Health infrastructure. A system, or an agreement really, that if a business that is otherwise unsafe (by mainstream opinion) to be open in a pandemic might choose to run Public Health screening – a testing program – at it’s own front door. That it might, without compulsion, use a bit of cheap technology to reduce the risks for its customers of coming into its premises.

The petition wording is not entirely of my creation, it was edited by the petitions team after a long delay. I didn’t want to specify what kind of test would be used. I’m sure I don’t know enough about tests, or enough about the businesses that might benefit. Gyms, theatres, beauty salons, conference venues, and hotels are examples of businesses I think might benefit but it is not for me to decide. Nor is it for the Government to decide.

All I am asking is that if a business wants to have a serious go at keeping customers safe (or even safer, if you prefer), then it should be up to the people involved to set that up and make that happen.

If we demand this freedom, we might get it. If we don’t then it is likely all of us will need to wait until everyone over 50 is vaccinated. That is too long already. Please support this demand by signing the petition.

No, Joe Biden is not President-Elect

On Saturday, the establishment media did something incredibly irresponsible. In the midst of the most contentious election in modern history, instead of acting as neutral observers of the political process, they decided to embrace the undemocratic role of kingmaker by prematurely calling the election for Joe Biden. Yes, in normal times it has been a time-honored tradition that the media act as the unofficial scorekeeper in presidential elections, but this role has no official standing, despite the desperate attempt by the media to usurp that role for itself.

These are not normal times and the media’s action amounts to an attempt to short circuit the official and legal process of selecting the president. The outcome of this election is still very much in doubt. The electoral margins are razor thin, votes are still being counted, recounts will be held in a number of states, and there are legal challenges that have yet to work their way through the courts. Regardless of the false claims of the media, the election process is not yet over.

The media is compounding its own malfeasance by making the false claim that there is no evidence of election fraud and by suppressing any reports of the many problems with the vote counting. Although it may be true that there is yet to be any proof of election fraud, this is not the same as there being no evidence of fraud. Evidence and proof are not the same things. And the proper bodies to judge any evidence are courts of law. In our constitutional system, neither the news media nor the laughably misnamed “independent fact checkers” of the social media have any place deciding the merits of the evidence of fraud taking place in this election.

Of the many actual pieces of evidence of election fraud surrounding the vote counting, the most damaging are the cases of GOP poll watchers, in violation of election laws, being kicked out of the vote counting rooms in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Atlanta. It was in these very Democrat-controlled cities that partisan political machines in charge of the vote counting, now behind closed doors, somehow managed to find enough additional votes to flip the vote counts in their respective states from being in favor of Donald Trump to being in favor of Joe Biden. The media has become wilfully blind to this clear violation of the law.

Any ballots counted during the period when GOP observers were locked out of the counting rooms are now tainted and legally suspect. If the courts eventually do throw out these votes, as they should, the fault would not be on Donald Trump for bringing a legal challenge, but on the Democrats for attempting to use their partisan political machines to control the vote counting.

One final point. If Joe Biden wanted to ensure that any victory would be seen as legitimate by Trump’s supporters, he should have immediately joined the Trump campaign in demanding that GOP poll watchers be allowed to observe the vote counting, as they are entitled to by law. The fact that he remained silent, as did the entire Democrat establishment (including their media allies) makes him complicit in any illegal activities that occurred behind those closed doors and will forever taint any claim that he has on being legitimately elected as president.

Nick Forte, re-posted from The Pelican Report

Test results are not binary. Good tests are not all the same

Simon Gibbs of Libertarian Home renown has some interesting information about Wuhan Coronavirus testing.

By the end of this article, I want you to be writing to someone and sharing this link. That person could be your MP, your employer, or if you are in a position of power, someone in your organisation who you will want to start making a plan. Preferably, all three.

There is a lot of drama in comment sections and on the street about false positives and tests for The Coronavirus producing positive results for other coronaviruses, like the common cold. Usually this is understood to mean you should ignore the Government. I have some sympathy for that, obviously, but what I have come to understand about tests, however, is that they are not binary. They are not limited to producing yes and no answers – if the person using them allows for it.
Usually the people doing tests don’t allow it, for reasons that are basically economical, but actually the missing subtlety is interesting. Tests can tell you how much virus is present – the “viral load”.

There are two other interesting properties of tests:

Specificity – a test with good specificity only detects SARS-COVID-2 i.e The Coronavirus, and not older or similar bugs

Sensitivity – a test with good sensitivity will tell you if your body has ever come into contact with SARS-COVID-2 even if the “viral load” is small.

There were, apparently, some issues with specificity at one point. The major issue at the moment is that most tests are far too sensitive.

If you just caught the virus yesterday then you are probably not spreading it yet, but you’ll test “positive” because there are already a few thousand bits of virus DNA in the sample. If you had it in January then you will have stopped spreading at the very latest by mid-February but would still be testing “positive” in March, because there are still thousands of bits of virus DNA in the sample. Either of these results makes it unclear what you, as an individual, should do about it.

What researchers have learned is that SARS-COVID-2, specifically, is mainly transmissible in a period between 1 to 6 days when your body is producing trillions of copies of the virus. If the test was able to tell you that you had trillions of copies in your body, then you would know what to do. You would know that tomorrow will be a bad day for you, and that going to a party today would make next Saturday a bad day for everyone at the party.

The brevity of this period is easy to overstate. It might be up to six days long, but by day two of that period you will probably want to be in bed anyway, and limited transmission will actually happen after that.

Testing as a means to stop transmission has only one day to do anything useful.

→ Continue reading: Test results are not binary. Good tests are not all the same

Putting students first

Dr. Douglas Young, Professor of Political Science at the University of North Georgia-Gainesville, has strong views about where the priorities of a university should be.

What a blessing to teach college for over 33 years. Educating folks on government and politics is my life’s work, and it has been such a joy teaching students at the University of North Georgia since 1999 where there are so many fine professors, staff, and administrators.

But recent disturbing trends have harmed students across the country. Indeed, on too many campuses there is an obsession with homogenization, bureaucratization, research, and money. As acclaimed University of Georgia Professor Emeritus Dr. Parker Young notes, “Any college worth its salt is a true free marketplace of ideas.” Yet there has been a huge increase in campuses with constipated “hate speech” codes or climates hostile to free inquiry. In the Orwellian guise of protecting “diversity,” too many higher education administrators restrict basic speech rights and, often invoking “social justice,” too many professors substitute agitprop for teaching many sides of issues.

So what should be the most free places in America are often the least. As the legendary liberal U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black warned, “the freedoms of speech, press, petition, and assembly guaranteed by the First Amendment must be accorded to the ideas we hate, or sooner or later they will be denied to the ideas we cherish.”

Universities should provide an outstanding education and vibrant campus life that spur students to grow intellectually, emotionally, and morally. We should not just teach them propaganda but help them reason critically. They need to question everything – including their professors – and always think analytically for themselves.

Yet there is also far too much emphasis on uniform “assessment” at college. In ever more freshman and sophomore classes, administrators make professors give the same assignments using the same “rubric” to grade papers, a la high school. So much for hiring the best teachers to each create their own class assignments and grading methods. But so many bureaucrats crave the very standardization which has so stifled innovation and achievement in k-12 schools.

Education should help students learn, mature, and achieve the most meaningful lives possible. Instead, often administrators see students as little more than dollar signs, numbers, and means to get their offices, departments, or schools more funding, recognition, and power. Indeed, many administrators don’t teach and know little and care less about good instruction and the need for schools to create a challenging, yet nurturing environment for students navigating a vulnerable time in their lives. But all college and university workers should recall who pays our salaries.

Sadly, too often students get real world lessons in Machiavellian campus politics. In fact, U.S. Secretary of State and Harvard University professor Dr. Henry Kissinger concluded that “university politics are vicious”. In short, when administrators or professors put personal professional interests ahead of our students, we undermine the very purpose of education.

Alas, the biggest lessons I learned as a graduate student at a large “prestigious” (see: “publish-or-perish”) university were how NOT to teach and NEVER to treat people. Classmates and I got daily doses of just how cold and uncaring too many bureaucrats and faculty could be. Yet ever more administrators push precisely this publish-or-perish model.

When a professor knows he has to get published in X number of officially approved journals by Y date, time spent with students detracts from researching and writing – and keeping his job. So a closed office door with its window papered over and the light on inside tells students to go away. While some professors are inspiring teachers and researchers, the combination is uncommon. But too many universities covet the prestige (U.S. News & World Report rankings!) and government funding that follows an emphasis on research. Again, students’ education is sacrificed on the altars of reputation and money.

The surge in on-line courses further compromises instruction since posting lessons on a computer is a poor stand-in for in-person lectures and real-time discussions. There’s also far more cheating with on-line tests. Yet many schools covet on-line classes to make more money since they don’t need buildings. One day a salary-free computer might “teach” 100 such classes.

Making everything worse are the outrageous costs of tuition and textbooks that have followed the huge increases in government grants and loans to students in recent decades. Colleges have responded by spiking costs ever more, causing far too many students to go deeply in debt.

I pray every university rededicates itself to providing the best instruction at a reasonable cost to the largest variety of students cherished in a warm, welcoming environment that celebrates a true diversity of ideas and free inquiry. May students always come first, and may all educators be Good Samaritans who make a special effort to see no student is lost due to institutional neglect.

Note: we last heard from Douglas back in 2009.

Fiction that stinks like Bernie…

Hector Drummond has some views of the rotting state of popular culture…

Dr Who actually died in 1981, although that fact wasn’t apparent until much later. He died when Tom Baker was replaced by Peter Davidson. Davidson was clearly an inferior actor, at least in that role, but Doctor Who fans thought that the show would rise again. Of course it didn’t, with more and more unsuitable actors taking on the role, and the writing got more and more left-wing to the point where even the ordinary viewers could see that the show was essentially about politics rather than science-fiction.

Some Dr Who fans are still very upset that the BBC killed it off in 1989, but the show had become an idiotic waste of money, and had to be put out of its misery. It had become obvious that Dr Who was no more. He was an ex-Doctor.

When Russell T. Davies revived the show in 2005, it seemed like the good Doctor was reborn, especially when the unsuitable Christopher Eccleston was quickly replaced by David Tennant’s more traditional interpretation. But the show went gradually downhill, and then politics started to take over again. The best episode of those years was Blink, the first weeping angels episode, but it was noticeable that that hardly featured the doctor.

I started to gradually lose interest, especially after episodes where the moon turned out to be a giant egg, which made me hide behind the sofa, not in fear but in embarrassment. And when they started to overdo the historic episodes where the doctor turns out to be great buddies with famous historical figures. Plus the new episodes had relationships and romance in them, and that just wasn’t Dr Who. And they messed with things you shouldn’t mess with, like the Neil Gaiman episode where the Tardis turned out to be a madwoman. Oh, and the Doctor turned out to be married to the most annoying woman in the Universe, except perhaps for Polly Toynbee. It’s making me pissed off just recalling this stuff as I’d sort of repressed it.

→ Continue reading: Fiction that stinks like Bernie…

Not quite an ‘homage to Catalonia’: making sense of the recent upheaval

Editor’s note: this was posted by commenter ‘Onkayaks’ under the article: “Only in Spain is a man’s mistress uglier than his wife”. As this has the virtue of being written by someone who has local knowledge, it seemed worth promoting to an article.

For the sake of disclosing my personal predilections, I ought to state that I am a Spaniard who was mostly schooled in Catalonia, and that I do not favour secession. Most of my friends do, though.

To Berenguer Alpicat: Catalans do have their own Romanic language, a wealth of cultural traditions, while a sizeable and vocal percentage but not yet and absolute majority, of the population supports independence. However, Catalonia has never been independent, neither as a nation state nor as feudal counties. The idea that “Catalans are different people” is true in the same sense that Geordies are known for drinking everyone under the table and for their amazing accent.

Regarding the police action against the poll stations, I must add that though I am not much a police person myself, the standards of Spain’s police forces for civility may be below the British one, but certainly they are Pollyanna if compared to France, Germany or Switzerland, and certainly Catalonia’s, whose local police has a dubious record of dead and injured detainees while under custody. Truth is the police action on the polling stations was hoped for, and scrupulously provoked by the Nationalists who relied -wisely- on their impact on foreign media. As for the number of people injured, one day after the events, just four are still in hospitals, while the rest have needed ambulatory medical assistance. Adding to that, a good number of the most blatant photos of injuries have proven false or doctored. I know however, first hand of a case of a friend of mine whose wife and son were harassed by police officers, and one of the car’s windows broken after they took a photo of a police patrol in the outskirts of Girona. My friend though, did not press charges as no one was injured, and the police officers excused themselves after the incident.

The reason of deploying anti-riot police yesterday —I believe they were grossly misused by the Home Office— was because for more than three years the Catalan Regional Government had announced its intention to secede from Spain after holding a vote in the region. It is true that they have asked repeatedly for an agreed plan for a referendum; it is also true however, that their offers amounted very much to: “We’ll hold a secession referendum, or we’ll hold a secession referendum”.

As for the real deal: taxes. Nationalist claim that Catalonia is overtaxed, and that it receives in return less than it pays to the Treasury. This is true. Basques on the contrary are not overtaxed as a territory as they keep a tax convention that is very favourable, and that the Catalan Nationalist rejected in the draft of the Constitution, or so I’ve read. However the point is that the Spanish tax system does not take into account the territory, but just wealth that is taxed progressively. This does not bode well for individuals making money in Catalonia, nor it does for wealthy chaps elsewhere in Spain. There have been endless op-eds about tax balances between Catalonia v. Spain, but most papers agree that if the odious effect of taxes is examined on territories, Madrid comes out far worse in Catalonia, and I have the feeling that the Balearic Islands are if we believe that places share our pangs and worries, experiencing the same problem.

Again on taxes: the Catalan Regional Government —the right term is Autonomous Community, but I’ll refer to it as Regional for the sake of clarity though I know how much the term regional offends Nationalist— leans on heavier taxes than the Government of Spain does, and that is saying a lot. Taking into consideration that the same enthusiastic approach to taxes is shared by the parties that endorse independence, and that Spain is so de-centralized a country that most of public spending is done by the regional governments, it is safe to say that the meme of a prosperous Catalonia deprived of their tax revenue by undeveloped Spaniards, is nothing but a sophism. In short it is individuals who are unfairly taxed at disproportionate rates, not territories, and if so, rural Catalonia is the one milking wealthy Barcelonans, and not Spain.

Yet, would the Nationalists had made the case for an independent country outside the EU with rule of law, reasonable taxes, a sensible degree of bank secrecy, I would have started polishing my Catalan, and considering a move since day one. Sadly, the project is wildly different.

To resume it my opinion, the case for independence in Catalonia rests not in History, nor in actual grievances, nor in a oppressed culture by Franco (which begs the questions of how then was possible that literary awards were hosted in Catalan right after the Civil War, and why it is not possible for schoolboys to study their curricula in Spanish language anywhere in Catalonia but in a few private schools), but in the perceived wrongs instilled by Nationalism, a longeur of what could have been in an imaginary country would they have been left alone, a desire that transcends patriotism as the abiding purpose of every Nationalist is to force their wishes on other people living in their territory, the passion to fulfil the duty to spread their own language to the detriment of rival languages, the urgent obsession to doctor History school books removing facts, and placing the focus of Geography in Catalonia.

In short, as much as I like Catalonia, I abhor Nationalism as backward. As a ending note, I leave this quotes from Orwell who knew and liked Catalonia well, and from a favourite Czech of mine, Ernest Gellner:

“Every nationalist is haunted by the belief that the past can be altered. He spends part of his time in a fantasy world in which things happen as they should.”
—George Orwell

“(Nationalism believes that) just as every girl should have a husband, preferably her own, so every culture must have its state, preferably its own.”
—Ernest Gellner

“Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness; it invents nations where they do not exist…”
—Ernest Gellner

Book review: First Hook

Simon Gibbs has a review of Clive Fox’s cute quick techno-thriller ‘First Hook‘, which has launched today.

The series is modelled on shows like the A-team, but produced natively for consumption in written form as a serial short story. Much as Bleak House was originally published by Charles Dickens as a regular newspaper feature this punchy little story will be added to over time in the way that a TV show is added to with a new episode broadcast each week, except that future episodes are not yet all written. As such it borrows something of the currency of a soap opera, able to evolve and adapt constantly, but is firmly in the sci-fi category. This is an interesting and novel form of written fiction.

Anyone questioning why a lightweight techno thriller should be reviewed on Samizdata would do well to read Brian Micklethwait’s summary of The Power of Fiction, a talk given by former City AM managing editor Marc Sidwell. Anyone wondering what on Earth they might do about it, finding themselves unable to write fiction of their own should read the thoughts of Richard Gleaves, author of Ride Headless and Ride (itself reviewed on Libertarian Home).

So anyway, here is the Amazon review. You can buy it, read it and write your own review on Amazon:

Clive Fox is making an important contribution at a critical time.

When business paper The Financial Times offers advice to tech CEOs it is to warn them of their waning popularity and their “responsibilities”. Tech giants in California bring fantastic wealth to the area, and amazing technology to mankind, only to be slammed for the crime of gentrifying impoverished San Francisco – their staff hounded on company minibuses. Those companies branch out to the UK bringing us world changing products and brilliant new services, only to be pumped for more cash. Modern society fails to appreciate the source of it’s modernity.

Aftermath clearly know all about the problems of modern – and future – technology. Yet they have the balls to value it, master it, become one with it, and when necessary to beat it. The resulting tensions and dramas are evident in this first outing. I am thirsty for the next instalment.

– Simon Gibbs

An intolerance of leftists

The sight of the profoundly illiberal Jeremy Corbyn preaching to the young-and-ignorant at a music festival moved Christopher Barrow to pen some remarks

Just in case anyone missed it, Jeremy Corbyn gave a speech at Glastonbury last Saturday. Tens of thousands of British young people, high on a false sense of community and overpriced hash, lapped up his vision of a wonderful future. Why shouldn’t they? Just about everyone is apparently due to benefit, all at the expense of an unspecified ‘elite’.

Of course it was a vague speech offering goodies to young people, old people, sick people, students, European residents and ‘refugees’. The plan would actually mean higher tax for all working people (who the Labour Party are supposed to prioritize) and a vast raising of our National Debt, as Obama did.

The really concerning matter however is the lack of logic and common sense that lies beneath current leftist and ‘liberal’ (in the US sense of the word) ideologies now prevalent in our societies. There are huge dangers that cannot be overstated, though they remain hidden in Corbyn’s recent advertisement for Leftism, especially to young people.

As I see it the main problem with leftist rhetoric is that it is solely focused upon “what it is not”. Granted it is anything but the stereotypical mindset of a bigoted white male; the wolf-whistling, England for the English brigade (who would actually be virtually impossible to find these days). Let’s call this “Retro Racism”.

The left have decided that as long as they vehemently oppose anything approaching this, then anything goes: they’ve achieved ideological enlightenment. The danger of this leftist viewpoint, the source of their strength and smugness, is that opposition to Retro Racism is actually all its got. It fails to understand that there are higher and more sophisticated points of view than just a strong distaste for Retro Racism. The are important paths of logic and sense that it doesn’t allow itself to explore.

This is precisely what Political Correctness is. It makes everyone hypersensitive about going anywhere even close to the vilified Retro Racism. This becomes the total scope of the political toolkit of active ‘liberal’ leftist. Facing the many and varied problems of the world principally tied to an aversion to anything not Politically Correct is irresponsible in the extreme. Political Correctness shuts down sophisticated discussion, at a time in the world when it is needed most. There are far more levels of sophistication beyond being “not racist”! Naivety isn’t the pinnacle of intelligence, nor is it of kindness.

Perhaps the most glaring example of this is the question of immigration. Corbyn glows with smugness and vanity as he proclaims “bridges not walls for refugees”. One question of actual reality (a place where leftists don’t like to venture) is at what point would you erect a wall instead of a bridge? A 100,000,000 population for Britain? 150,000,000? Maybe a population like this is the best thing for the country, but at least lets talk about it! It isn’t racist.

However aren’t leftists are a shining example of tolerance, love and unity? Well yes to everyone BUT white males who don’t cower to their ideology. If not, you’re fair game for abuse, violence and assassination if they had their way. The strong white male is anathema to the feminized West. Leftism appeals to repressed aggressive individuals and offers a safe environment to direct their anger. This is so dangerous for our future. Jungian Shadow anyone!?

It is not an exaggeration to state that we see shades of the violence of Communist Russia in the leftist pursuits of the modern Western world. Namely people believing they are correct to defend an ideology with violence when they are so convinced about it. This is a slippery slope indeed…

Of course we all want a world somewhat like the one described by Corbyn at Glastonbury. But the key point is to understand human nature. We have to be open and honest with ourselves as a starting point. Leftism is a dangerous meeting of repression with naivety. It we start out falsely misjudging ourselves, we are heading for deep trouble.

The problem is that understanding the problems of leftism is a sophisticated endeavour. You can’t communicate this to 50,000 young people in a field. There is always hope for the future. Lets just hope the youth discover truth over platitudes. Wisdom over naivety. And Love over vanity.

– Christopher Barrow