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

“It is conceivable that Mrs May could, with Labour support, push such a half-baked Brexit though Parliament. But her party would be finished. For most of its advocates on the Government benches, Brexit is about global free trade or it is nothing. Leaving the single market is not enough; Britain must also regain the power to trade freely with the rest of the world. Anything less would not just be a monumental betrayal but would tear the Conservatives apart. The party split in 1846 after the Corn Laws were repealed; it would surely do so again if Mrs May sells out her Brexiteers.”

Allister Heath

Big regulation

War and Peace is 1,200 pages long. Bleak House spreads to 1,000. Dodd-Frank, the US’s sprawling overhaul of financial regulations after 2008, runs to 848 pages – earning itself the nickname `Dodd-Frankenstein’. And the EU’s bumper trade deal with Canada reaches a hearty 1,600 pages. Last week, surmounting all of these achievements, the EU introduced a truly spectacular piece of regulation. `Mifid 2′ is its name and it weighs in at a princely 7,000 pages. That’s 1.4 million paragraphs, or six Bible-lengths. It must surely be a contender for the longest piece of red tape ever.

Juliet Samuel (Daily Telegraph, registration required). Needless to say, people continue to drone on about “neo-liberalism” and “unfettered markets”. If only.

I can predict a standard retort: that if the UK wanted to be an enthusiastic EU member (no laughing at the back, kids) then it could influence the EU machine and reduce this regulation. But how has that worked out, really? True, I know of some politicians who have tried to slow this process down, but it continues regardless.

Sure, when the UK leaves, then UK-based firms that wish to do business with the EU will need to comply with EU regulations just as they must do so with the laws of the US, or Canada, Australia, or Planet Zog. But the process cuts two ways. If the UK parliament has any sense (big if, course) and keeps rules within bounds rather than “gold-plates” whatever is in force in other countries, then the UK will gain. Further, the very existence of countries with independent rule-making makes it harder for policymakers in transnational groupings such as the EU to create tax/regulatory cartels. (This is why countries such as Switzerland drive Brussels nuts.)

In time, the regulatory costs of doing business in the EU will cripple its financial markets, and that makes it rather harder to persuade yours truly that being outside this regulatory behemoth is so bad for business. Being outside a relatively free and flexible customs union, which is what the Single Market is, can sound risky, even daunting. Being outside an expensive, inflexible, bureaucratic nightmare is far less so. In fact, getting as far away as possible from such a structure is not just a smart gamble, but essential.

The police hit-job on Damian Green

Matthew Parris recently, in the Times (registration required):

The media and political world is in a lather about whether the (now) de facto deputy prime minister once accessed pornography in his office. Here I am, fretting — some will say nitpicking — about whether it was appropriate for a now-retired Metropolitan Police officer (1) to have gathered and kept what he claims to be the evidence for these allegations, though there is no suggestion the law was broken; (2) to have disobeyed orders by keeping the evidence; and (3) nine years later to have put the allegations into the public domain.

My acquaintance with Damian Green is slight. He strikes me as one of those necessary second-rank men (in a world of third and fourth-rank men) who combine a useful level-headedness with a dispiriting blandness: podgy and unflappable, with the advantage at least — a quality in a Tory MP to be fallen on with relief — of not being mad. So my strong sense of injustice in this case has little to do with the merits of Mr Green and everything to do with what looks like a co-ordinated police vendetta against a politician they’ve clashed with.

He concludes:

When it comes to issues of rumour and reputation I’m no dry rationalist. Every journalist knows that the appearance of things does matter, and that stern logic cannot always rescue a wounded public figure. We know too that “process” stories often fail to hold public attention, and this column’s complaint about the abuse of police powers is essentially a process story.

But behind process may lie principle. What Damian Green was alleged to have watched might be thought disgusting, but what two former Met officers have been up to is little short of sinister. Disgust can rule the headlines and may win the day, but former police officers are trying to destroy a senior minister with whom they have clashed. This is London, not Chicago. Parliamentarians, in retreat for a decade now, should unite to push back.

I hold no particular brief for Mr Green; I disagree with him on Brexit. It actually worries me that some Brexiters I know are almost gloating that a pro-Remain senior Tory has had to resign after giving, it is said, less-than-truthful answers about the matter of his computer, but the fact remains that, as Parris says, evidence gathered in a decade-ago investigation, and not remotely connected to it, was brought up for no other reason than I can think of to embarrass and damage an elected politician. The ex-copper in question, who appears to nurse a grudge, seems, as Parris says, to be arguing not that what Green did was illegal, but improper. So we are getting into the murky territory of police officers taking moral stands, they claim, about what a democratically elected political figure does. (See here, for a version of events in the Guardian.)

I remember in the early days of this blog that we sometimes used to refer to the UK police as the “paramilitary wing of the Guardian newspaper”, more concerned about enforcing PC doctrines, or chasing after real or alleged bogeymen of the Right, such as those saying mean things about homosexuals, Muslims, etc, than catching crooks. The recent period post the Jimmy Savile fiasco (a paedophile who preyed on people for decades) seems to have seen the police morph, perhaps out of guilt about failing to nail the old BBC presenter, into a hyperactive pursuer of alleged perverts, with due process of law taking a back seat. The recent shabby treatment of Sir Cliff Richard, the entertainer, is an example of where this sort of zeal leads.

As an aside, it appears that the Tory Party, in its enfeebled parliamentary state, is or has been unwilling to clamp down on the police, to insist on reforms and push back against the assault on Common Law principles of fairness and due process. The Met are not necessarily part of any sort of Deep State (conspiracy theory alert!) taking root but they are certainly showing a level of presumption that is dangerous in a liberal order. The police are, in some respects, out of control, and need to be reined in. Just imagine the damage that can be done if police are emboldened to chase after enemies if or when Mr Corbyn and his re-heated Marxist allies take office. Something to think about for 2018.

Signs perhaps of MPs waking up to the problem.

 

“Despite Brexit”

From Forbes magazine’s website:

Wells Fargo and Apple both made substantial moves within London since the Brexit vote. Wells Fargo spent $400 million to buy a new European headquarters in London’s financial district. Apple announced plans to open a new London campus in 2021 that covers nearly 500,000 square feet of space. Facebook is also in the market for 700,000 square feet to accommodate 9,000 employees.

The whole article is worth a read. And it reminded me that there are now dozens of stories, tracked by the likes of Guido Fawkes,  going on about how This or That splendid thing has taken place “despite Brexit”. The joke here, of course, is that the Remain-leaning folks who write for the likes of the Financial Times and others have a hardwired assumption that Brexit is bad, will damage the UK economy, and that anything that appears to be positive is therefore in some sort of defiance of said presumption, to be dismissed, or cast aside. (This is not all one way, of course, there can be over-inflation of optimism about what the UK departure will mean, but my impression is that the volume of “despite Brexit” stories and the bias they reveal is much greater than the other sort.)

The point is soon being reached when an entire volume of news stories could be gathered into one place and the title of the book could be called “Despite Brexit”. Maybe those folk at Guido Fawkes or the Spectator, etc might bring out one in time for next year’s Christmas. I suspect the book will run to several hundred pages. (OK, I demand copyright on the idea, now!)

Samizdata quote of the day

We are in the midst of a revolution in our understanding of sexual harassment and assault. We’re told, as we are often told in the midst of media-driven manias, that everything has really changed this time. As satisfying as this narrative might be for feminists on the warpath against “toxic masculinity” and conservatives who revile the sexual libertinism of the past half-century in America, it isn’t true. As long as men and women are thrown together in the workplace—and are placed in competition with each other—sex will, in part, be a means to achieve power, a weapon wielded by both men and women. The question is what we can do to mitigate the damage. The record so far—and by so far, I mean over the past four decades—is not encouraging.

Christine Rosen, Commentary Magazine.

On Trump, Jerusalem and how social media makes me aware of what people really think

It is sometimes said in a disapproving sort of way that social media is bad in that it reduces social inhibitions. “You’d never say that to a person’s face”, sort of argument. It is a bit like the argument made as to why people are rude when behind the wheel of a car because, encased as they are behind metal and glass, they feel able to shout and swear at the real or alleged berk in front. (Needless to say, being the brilliant driver I am, all those who receive my ire deserve it.)

On places such as Facebook, which I use, I occasionally see people whom I thought are quite reasonable people write or say things that make me think again. A case in point is the recent outpouring of rage over the fact that Donald Trump had decided that the US embassy should be shifted to Jerusalem. Apart from anything else, he is merely executing on a policy that had been approved of, in a bi-partisan vote, in Congress back when Clinton was in office. But, my FB room-mates shout, he should have not done this, he is stoking up the “Arab Street” (such people have, I suspect, never been to the ME), and this shows he is reckless, silly, has an orange face, yada fucking yada. And in one case, an acquaintance went into “the Jews running Congress and American politics mode”, making various references to Trump’s relations, his being a New Yorker (full of those ghastly people), and so on. I decided not to put the point to this FB fuckwit lest I cause a total meltdown, which is that if it is so terrible for Jerusalem to host a US embassy, with the implied recognition of said city as the Israeli capital, then why not just come out with it and say that the state of Israel should not exist at all?

A lesson learned, therefore, is that there are a lot of people out there who buy into the whole “Jewish conspiracy thing”. Now I know that not all anti-Israel people are Jew-haters, and that one can and should be able to discuss what that country does without falling down the rabbit hole of anti-Semitism. But there is, from my own impressions, considerable overlap between the two. And while not infallible as a guide, I take the view that people who dislike or fear Jews, and Israel, are fuckwits, and people whose judgement should be regarded with scorn.

So Donald Trump, thankyou for clarifying a few doubts I have had about certain people I know out there. I am beginning to think, what with the tax bill, the Supreme Court, agency and most cabinet picks, and now this, that the man is actually proving to be a decent POTUS, and a lot less scary than I had previously thought. All he needs to do is turn down the Twitter feed, but maybe enraging people in the way he does is precisely part of what makes him effective, even if it upsets our fastidious tastes. As Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has remarked, he’s even got “liberals” talking about the separation of power and Constitution again.

Here is an article by John Podhoretz on the issue of the embassy.

Key quote:

The idea that Jerusalem is not Israel’s capital has been a global pretense for decades, including here in the United States. It’s a pretense because Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital from the moment the new country secured a future by winning a bloody war for independence waged against it by Arab nations after they rejected the UN partition of the old British mandate into a Jewish state and an Arab state.

 

Thoughts on why Britons and Americans have different views about guns

An interesting, and to my mind convincing, posting by Eric Raymond:

Decentralized threats are the mother of liberty because the optimum adaptive response to them is localist and individualist – the American ideal of the armed citizen delegating power upward. Centralized threats are the father of tyranny because the optimum response to them is the field army and the central command – war is the health of the state.

There is an implication for today’s conditions. Terrorism and asymmetrical warfare are decentralized threats. The brave men and women of Flight 93, who prevented September 11 2001 from being an even darker day than it was, were heroes in the best American tradition of bottom-up decentralized response. History will regret that they were not armed, and should record as a crime against their humanity that they were forbidden from it.

He links to this essay by Dave Kopel.

A book comparing and contrasting UK and US experiences with guns, by Joyce Lee Malcolm, is also worth reading. Here is her website. 

Terror at living outside the EU, ctd

Recent UK gross domestic forecast predictions, issued this week via the glum figure of UK finance minister Philip Hammond, have encouraged some of my friends who are EU Remainers to shout about how Brexit is damaging Britain, we are going to lose tens of thousands of jobs to the continent, or wherever, etc, etc. The rage is not dying, in fact. Some of the language (Brexit supporters are “retarded” being a recent one) is not becoming milder. We haven’t yet reached the acceptance phase after the initial shock and anger.

Apart from the devaluation of sterling after June last year, there hasn’t been all that much of a shift on the economics front. The underlying performance of the UK economy does not appear to have altered that much. Some American banks such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan talk of shifting some business to the continent to create subsidiaries in anticipation of any EU access shenanigans, as I would expect, but it hardly fits with a Biblical level of terror to justify some of the vehement language I see on forums such as Facebook.

Assume we must take seriously the risk of life outside the joyous embrace of the EU Single Market, this is worth considering, from Tory MP and former minister, Peter Lilley:

The Single Market is talked about as if it were some inner sanctum accessible to a privileged few. In fact, every country has access to the Single Market – with or without tariffs. The Single Market programme, which I implemented, involved harmonising product rules – sensible, since businesses can now make one product range for the European market, not 28. But that benefits American and Japanese exporters as much as German or British firms. Although often invoked as particularly benefiting UK service companies, in fact UK service exports to the EU have grown less rapidly since the Single Market reforms than any member state except Greece and Italy

He also responds to the point that apparently, by being outside the EU, the UK will now submit to EU rules without being able to influence them:

People assume Britain benefits from participating in setting these rules. But rules provide a framework within which all companies operate – not an advantage to any individual country. Britain set the rules of tennis but rarely wins Wimbledon! British exports to the EU have grown less rapidly since the Single Market than they did before 1993, less than our partners’ and much less than non-EU countries’ exports! Maybe that is partly because we suffer EU regulations on 100% of our companies (costing our economy billions of £s) whereas non-EU firms need only comply with EU regulations on activities carried out within the EU.

And on the “passporting” issue that comes up:

How important is the right to passport services to the EU? Passporting lets financial institutions operate throughout the EU via branches supervised by their home country regulator without seeking authorisation from local regulators. Having introduced the Single Market measures, I decided to make a speech extolling how they had removed barriers to trade, not least through passporting. Unfortunately, my officials could not find a single company doing business it previously could not do! Banks were almost invariably operating, not through branches, but via subsidiaries which still needed local authorisation and regulation. (Emphasis mine.)

And on the terror that outside the EU, the UK will be hurt, Mr Lilley looks at EU-regulated mutual funds and alternative investment funds regulation (private equity, real estate, private equity, etc):

Since then the UCITS, MiFID and AIFM directives have extended passporting rights to other financial service providers who do take advantage of it. However, most UCITS funds choose to operate via subsidiaries in Luxembourg and Dublin without causing an exodus of jobs from London. Also the AIFM directive provides for recognition of equivalent standards of regulation by non-EU providers which is intended to be granted to Hong Kong and Singapore, so could scarcely be refused to the UK post Brexit.

In other words, you don’t have to be in the EU to manage investments sold within its borders. And yet if you take some of the Remainer arguments at face value, you would think that the UK is to be cast into a dark, lonely place.

A final thought. One of my Remainer co-jousters talks of the folly of the UK “going it alone”, as he claimed we had done after 1945. That, however, not only ignores our membership of NATO but also the UK’s web of trade with not just the continent of Europe, but also the old Commonwealth nations and places such as Argentina, and of course the US. The UK was hardly living under a rock during the period before EEC membership began in 1973, and further, that membership involved slapping tariffs on many of those countries. As Mr Lilley says, it has taken ages for the EU to hammer out free trade deals with nations such as India, China, etc, and to improve on what we have with the US. (I have even seen some of my Remainer friends dismiss this range of countries as “minor”, or “colonial outposts”). So let me get this straight: the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, parts of Latin America, the Pacific-Rim, etc, are “minor”, but the European Union is a powerhouse. Great, got it.

Have a good weekend everyone.

 

Samizdata quote of the day

“Many seem to believe that the capital based in so-called tax havens is sitting there gathering dust, like many a Saudi prince’s Lamborghini. It isn’t. For the most part, capital in offshore centres is invested around the world, fetching rates of return far in excess of bond yields and the value that most government expenditure can generate. It is unfashionable to praise tax avoidance, but ask yourself the following: would you rather corporate profits be spent on the white elephant of the day, whether HS2 or a ghost airport in Spain? Or is the money better allocated on research and development by private firms? Bear in mind that nothing illegal is going on here: we are talking about entirely legal alternative uses of capital. If capital mobility were halted, individuals and firms would have a much harder time voting with their feet against confiscatory rates of taxation such as those implemented by François Hollande. People in countries with a weak rule of law would be at the mercy of satraps and triple-digit inflation. Never mind that Meg Hillier, the surely well-meaning chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, is just calling for greater transparency. The reason we have banking secrecy is precisely so that persecuted groups, such as Europe’s Jews in the run-up to World War II, could take financial refuge from their persecutors.”

Diego Zuluaga

He is writing following the latest mass data “leak” (aka theft) of offshore account data from the law firm Appleby. The saga is being dubbed “Paradise Papers” (the data comes from the Caribbean, geddit?) Here is another item in defence of offshore centres. 

Samizdata quote of the day

Two decades after the Guggenheim fell from the sky on Bilbao, the global arts establishment clings to the faith – and it is a faith, a belief with no empirical evidence to support it – that run-down cities can be healed by something called cultural regeneration: by building museums and galleries. The number of people unemployed and dependent on welfare in Bilbao has risen during those two decades. Like prayer or relics, it seems not to work.

Jonathan Meades

Something’s very rotten in the state of Malta

Oh my beloved Malta:

An investigative journalist in Malta who exposed her island nation’s links to offshore tax havens using the leaked Panama Papers was killed in a car bombing on Monday, an attack that shocked Malta and was condemned by leaders of the European Union.

The journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, died when the car she was driving exploded in Bidnija, a hamlet in north-central Malta. Her final blog post, accusing the prime minister’s chief of staff of corruption, had been published about a half-hour earlier.

Even if, like yours truly, you don’t think that there is anything necessarily wrong with offshore tax havens (haven is a place of safety, and I am quite keen on being safe from the predations of the State), it is worth getting angry about politicians who talk a good game about compliance with taxes salting – allegedly – kickbacks in far-off locations and hoping no-one will notice. We live in a world where governments the world over, through pacts such as the Common Reporting Standard, are to all intents and purposes creating a global tax “cartel” in pursuit of high net worth individuals’ wealth. Assuming, for example, that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party wins power at the next UK general election, and imposes all manner of controls (including capital controls) then UK residents may now already be thinking of where to park their money. Global anti-tax avoidance/evasion efforts make those bolt-holes harder to reach. So on certain levels I don’t have an issue with Malta being a tax haven, or its citizens being wily about it. What I do, however, have an issue with is the double-standards, and furthermore, the tolerance of bribery and corruption that is not just a by-product of an expansive state, but part of a culture that has become too embedded in certain countries.

Malta wants to become an important financial centre; it is already pretty significant in that regard. But it is in competition with rivals such as Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Mauritius, Singapore, etc. All of these places have their faults, but the murder of a campaigning journalist by the use of a car-bomb in broad daylight in Malta represents a shock even to those wearily familiar with the nastiness of current affairs.

Final point: whatever her merits or faults, the journalist known to many as “Daphne” was rightly famed for her courage in facing up to some very dodgy people. Such persons have also paid a price in countries such as Russia.

If the Maltese were astronauts, they would be saying the equivalent of “Houston, we have a problem”.

 

 

Samizdata quote of the day

“The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.”

Thucydides

This quote appears in an article pointing out that present UK Conservative Party seems to have more or less given up on making the case for liberty.