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]

Culture Wars Update

This video appeared in the Illuminatus’ Facebook feed recently:

In it, participants line up for a running race but before they start a man lists a number of life advantages (such as having a father, or money, or a good education) and instructs people to take two steps forward for each of those advantages they enjoyed. He is explaining that people with certain advantages are more likely to win. There is an element of truth, but it is so obvious as to be trite: yes, some people are at a disadvantage in ways that are not their fault. Yes, as Baz Luhrman quoted Mary Schmich, don’t congratulate yourself too much on your successes or berate yourself too much for your failures. Hard work is part of the story but if you are successful you probably had some lucky breaks along the way.

Which would be fine for a trite bit of social media wisdom if it had been about “advantages”. But this video is about “privilege”, an altogether more loaded term. And at 2 minutes 55 seconds the host remarks that some of the black dudes would win the race if it was fair. As an eldritch horror from the underworld, the Illuminatus is not qualified to have an opinion, but it wonders whether it really is “woke” for a white guy to tell a bunch of black dudes that they have no chance. Certainly that is the sort of thing that Candace Owens was talking about; that Kanye West seems to like. It does not seem too much of a stretch to worry that if you keep telling a group of people that their only hope of success is to be rescued by others then they might believe it and miss out on some opportunities as a result.

Matt Christiansen deconstructs the privilege race video. He notes its flaw as a metaphor for economics: there is not a single race for a single prize; each individual can maximise his gains at no cost to others. The Illuminatus muses changing the rules of the game in the video such that prizes of descending value are handed out in order of finishing: that would much more interesting.

In a more recent video, Christiansen discusses Count Dankula and freedom of speech in the UK, and Chelsea Russell who was convicted of posting some rude rap lyrics on the internet.

Paul Joseph Watson, who is a bit unhinged on some topics, but very entertaining on the subject of the culture wars, has a video about the Candace/Kanye incident. At the end he claims that the establishment is terrified of West, and of social media conservatives like Owens, because they are the new counter-culture. Later, a show on Comedy Central mocked him for claiming that conservatism is the new punk rock. So he replied:

It’s the left who consistently act like joyless puritans and literally try to ban fun. Whether it’s cheerleaders, offensive songs, topless models or free speech, you’re the new censors. You’re the new puritans. And that’s not very punk. Being owned by a monolithic transnational corporation and a 94-year-old billionaire [Sumner Redstone]: that’s not very punk.

He’s not quite right, though. Conservatives aren’t the real counter-culture, libertarians are. If conservatives are punks we are the weird kids too busy playing Dungeons & Dragons to be into cool music. Our day will come.

Samizdata quote of the day

When I hear someone say we should ‘democratise’ something, that’s code for ‘make civil things political’ because that much misused word ‘democracy’ doesn’t mean ‘interacting civil society’, it means politics (i.e. struggle to control means of collective coercion)

– Perry de Havilland

Samizdata quote of the day

Earth Day is a classic religious holiday: The interpretation of destructive weather as the gods’ punishment of men for the sins of Man is ancient.

Benjamin Zycher

Samizdata quote of the day

First, as much as the authors insist that previous examples of socialism were not “really” socialist, none of them can tell us what exactly they would do differently. Rather than providing at least a rough outline of how “their” version of socialism would work in practice, the authors escape into abstraction, and talk about lofty aspirations rather than tangible institutional characteristics.

“Charting new destinations for humanity” and “democratizing the economy” are nice buzzphrases, but what does this mean, in practice? How would “the people” manage “their” economy jointly? Would we all gather in Hyde Park, and debate how many toothbrushes and how many screwdrivers we should produce? How would we decide who gets what? How would we decide who does what? What if it turns out that we don’t actually agree on very much?

These are not some trivial technical details that we can just leave until after the revolution. These are the most basic, fundamental questions that a proponent of any economic system has to be able to answer. Almost three decades have passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall—enough time, one should think, for “modern” socialists to come up with some ideas for a different kind of socialism. Yet here we are. After all those years, they have still not moved beyond the buzzword stage.

Kristian Niemietz

Pure genius…

Not sure of the provenance but this is pure genius…

Samizdata quote of the day

The EU is quite clear however that it stands as the champion of democracy, just not the kind of democracy that involves people voting. No, for the EU democracy means compliance with the EU’s standards and rules – any departure indicates a drift towards un-democracy that must be checked by sanctions and punishments, even if people voted for it. The EU’s democratic principles, you understand, trump stuff like elections and voting; they are a purer form of democracy, crafted by unelected officials and demagogues free from popular approval. And yes, there are many in Brussels who actually believe all that.


Samizdata quote of the day

The key point though is that overall wealth inequality just isn’t rising. In fact, wealth inequality is low by historical standards. Looking at the wealth share of the top 10 per cent and top one per cent, it peaked around 1914, and then fell substantially through to the 1970s. Though there is some academic dispute about movements since then, the consensus is that it has either risen very modestly or remained essentially stable since the 1980s.

In other words, levels of wealth inequality are neither unprecedented nor exploding. In fact, they’d look a whole lot lower if implicit wealth entitlements, such as the state pension and healthcare promises by government, were included.

Ryan Bourne

Samizdata quote of the day

Lady Thatcher’s observation encapsulates the main change in public discourse that I noticed when I returned to these islands in 2011, after nearly twenty years away. The English pride in rationality and the traditional “stiff upper lip” approach to emotion has vanished to the extent that I experience living here now as akin to being on some dreadful afternoon TV show. All media presenters are more or less Jeremy Kyle or, at best, Ellen Degeneres. Whereas as a young law student I was trained that “hard cases make bad law” and that legislation should be made in a detached spirit, not driven by the passions of those close to the problem, I now hear every day the ludicrous assertion that only victims can truly hope to understand issues and that it’s ridiculous to believe that a calm, rational analysis by a detached person, “privileged” by not being in a given group of victims could lead to the right outcome.

Tom Paine

Samizdata quote of the day

I am not worried as much about ‘surveillance capitalism’ as ‘surveillance government’. The former is only a problem because it is one backdoor away from the latter. I don’t use Google or Facebook, but sadly I can’t stop ‘using’ my government.

Perry de Havilland

Samizdata quote of the day

It’s dangerous to enjoy the sight of the Labour Party – home of cynical grievance-mongers for decades – hoist by its own petard over anti-Semitism. It’s perilous to succumb to anger over the way that Leftist political correctness has thrown thousands of white girls in Telford or Rotherham to the wolves for fear of the juju word “Racist”. Lives are being lost (and many more lives degraded) in the United States as the uncontroversial assertions that “Black Lives Matter” and “All lives matter” are used as tribal battle cries. The Alt-Right’s so-called “fascism” would evoke snorts of derision from history’s real Fascists, as it amounts to White people lamely joining the destructive game of identity politics.

– ‘Tom Paine

Samizdata quote of the day

Peterson wryly remarked, as swarms of Antifa clones were pounding at the door and breaking windows during his brilliant presentation at Queen’s, that “the barbarians are at the gate.” In a way, this was not quite accurate. They are here milling among us, inhabiting the universities, marching in the streets, dismantling the civil order, engaged in the perversion of values, and, like Marcuse, promoting tyranny in the name of freedom. Their freedom.

The barbarians are not at the gate. The barbarians are inside the gate.

David Solway

Samizdata quote of the day

Zuckerberg must also be contemplating a second oddity. There was no privacy outcry when Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign took advantage of the same Graph API to exfiltrate information of tens of millions of Facebook users without each voter’s knowledge and consent.

Declan McCullagh, writing: Obama harvested data from Facebook and bragged about it. Why are we only freaking out about this now?

Of course we actually all know the reason why.