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]

Sir Humphrey returns (not that he ever went away)

SkyNews’ Sophie Ridge reports:

Whitehall departments spent £1.4 billion in an attempt to save £159 million by sharing back-office functions such as personnel and procurement.

Similar methods in the private sector typically cut a fifth off annual spend within five years, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

Sir Humphrey [in Yes, Minister – The Economy Drive (1980)]:

Asking a town hall to slim down its staff is like asking an alcoholic to blow up a distillery.

Capitalists @ Work says STFU

…to the UK’s anti-capitalist left in a truly splendid rant:

The callous capitalist west is happy to house you if you want to be housed. It will educate for free from 3 to18 years. It will attend to your medical needs, cradle to grave, regardless of what you do to your own body. It agrees to protect you from hostile countries with a military and from hostile fellow citizens with a police force, whether or not you yourself are a criminal. If you catch on fire it will send someone round to put you out. It will have a justice system to ensure you are fairly treated and will provide a lawyer for you if you need one.

The state doesn’t care what religion you are. What you call yourself. What you wear or where you travel. The state will provide infrastructure every citizen may use regardless of how much taxation that individual has contributed to its development. Anyone may use terminal 5 or New Street station or the M25. It will give you money every week and ask only that you sign for it once every month. More money if you’re ill. Or if its cold.
When you’re sixty five or sixty eight it will give you more money if you have never saved or earned any any of your own.

It won’t even ask you what you’re doing with the cash. It will let you spend it on cigarettes, booze, Cheesy Whatsits, gambling or an E Harmony subscription. The state doesn’t care.

It won’t demand you serve in the military or a national service labour scheme. It doesn’t even ask you to give blood or take part in medical experiments. Or sweep up the streets or even just sign an agreement that you promise only to say nice things about the government.

And that’s just a democratic government. Capitalism adds choice. Technology. Medical advances. Communications. Longevity. Energy. Transportation. Travel. Comfort.

The whole of civilisation has been a struggle to secure enough food to eat and enough shelter to survive.

That’s the argument. The last line stands on its own: what the Wolf-Klein-Monbiot corner sees as the wicked selfishness of trade and the terrible vulgarity occaisioned by choice and freedom, are medicine, not sickness. Read the whole thing here. (H-T: Worstall)

Alternative Samizdata quote of the day

I don’t think earning about the same as Kenwyne Jones of Stoke City is cause for apoplectic outrage.

– Mark Littlewood of the IEA on the UK political storm about the head of the world’s sixth largest bank getting a bonus of something under one… meelion… pounds. (US readers may wish to read that again. A million, not a billion.)

Stoke City is currently the 8th best soccer team in England. It has 44 players in its squad.

Facts and attitudes

This morning I was prodded by the scourge of epidemiocracy, Chris Snowden, to read this piece by Theodore Dalrymple. What most struck me was not the main argument (I find predictable agreement almost as wearing as disagreement) but this piece of supplementary information:

A higher proportion of the Dutch population smokes than average for a developed country (27 percent), and fewer Dutch people are aware of secondhand, or second-lung, smoke — that breathed in from other people’s tobacco — than any other comparable country.

Why should that be? I think it demands an explanation. Certainly the Dutch population cannot easily be classed as ill-educated or poorly-informed. (I have been sworn at by a drunk tramp on an Amsterdam tram who switched instantly to English invective when he realised that it was going to be more effective in my case.) My mind leapfrogged towards ideas about the Dutch liberal tradition. They choose not to know, because they do not like to hassle people about their private behaviour, perhaps…

Unfortunately there are no sources quoted. When I looked for stats and background info, I found something even odder. That remarkable factoid contains no truth. → Continue reading: Facts and attitudes

Some cheerful holiday facts about recreational drugs

Even as supplied by an unscrupulous underground market and taken blind by consumers in a variety of unsuitable ways, they really aren’t very dangerous:

According to the ONS data, in 2010 there were more helium deaths [32] than cannabis, ecstasy, mephedrone and GHB related deaths put together.

‘Helium?’ you may ask… It’s classed as a drug but no, it doesn’t do anything. But it is so hard to buy anything reliably lethal in the UK that helium is a sophisticated means of self-asphyxiation for suicide. So even those 32 cases should not be classed under malign side effect of drug-use. Death in those cases was a positive result.

From the carthorse’s mouth

Why don’t [union leaders] be selective and call out only those members who can cause damage to the government? There are places in the public sector that could go on strike for years and it would make little difference.”

– Letter in the New Statesman, 12 December 2011

Assuming the unions were to agree with that—which I suspect they dare not, and is indeed one strategic reason why one-day strikes are preferred—in what places in the public sector would staff striking for a significant period damage the government more than the unions? Maybe there are some. But it is hard to think of any.

Samizdata quote of the day

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.

War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honours, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.

– James Madison [Thanks to Sara Scarlett for reminding me]

Samizdata quote of the day

As the scientific forester may dream of a perfectly legible forest planted with same-aged, same-species, uniform trees growing in straight lines in a rectangular flat space cleared of all underbrush and poachers, so the exacting state official may aspire to a perfectly legible population with registered, unique names and addresses keyed to grid settlements; who pursue single, identifiable occupations; and all of whose transactions are documented according to the designated formula and in official language. This caricature of society as a military parade-ground is overdrawn, but the grain of truth that it embodies may help us understand the grandiose plans [for a planned society] we will examine later. The aspiration to such uniformity and order alerts us to the fact that modern statecraft is largely a project of internal colonization, often glossed, as it is in imperial rhetoric, as a “civilizing mission.” The builders of the modern nation-state do not merely describe, observe, and map; they strive to shape a people and a landscape that will fit their technique of observation.
The more static, standardized, and uniform a population or social space is, the more legible it is, and the more amenable it is to the techniques of state officials. I am suggesting that many state activities aim at transforming the population space and nature under their jurisdiction into the closed systems that offer no surprises and that can best be observed and controlled.

– James C Scott,Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (1998)

Samidata quote of the day

The fallacy at the heart of this crisis is that every financial problem has a political solution.

Jeff Randall He’s talking about the euro’s problems, but the same fallacy is at work nearly everywhere.

Samidata quote of the day

It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness. […]
I don’t believe the majority always knows what’s best for everyone. The fact that the majority thinks they have a way to get something good does not give them the right to use force on the minority that don’t want to pay for it. If you have to use a gun, I don’t believe you really know jack.

Penn Jillette

Samidata quote of the day

The Left needs to defend the riots; not to valourise the burning of grannies’ cars, but to make clear that we reject the whole bourgeois construction of events, that we stand in solidarity with the oppressed and that, when it comes to it, we will, without hesitation, join the “rioters” to overthrow the legitimised exploitation, state-sanctioned violence and sham “democracy” that oppress us all.

Ian Grigg-Spall

Headline of the year

There are few headlines I have enjoyed more, ever. Sadly, owing to BBC Online’s disreputable habit of invisibly editing stories, this one has lost its original title, which was:

Deadly cucumbers claim more lives

What’s glorious in this story is not just that incongruity, not amusing if you or people you know suffer organ-failure owing to an infected salad vegetable; it is the way the world stubbornly refuses to adopt superstitious man-made categories of what’s safe and wholesome. The cucumbers were deadly because they were organic.