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]

China’s crackdown on profit-making education

China appears to be doing its level best to harm itself in the long term. This story hasn’t so far stirred a lot of international commentary, but it matters, I think. It shows that the rising nationalism (and arguably, a degree of paranoia) in China is reaching the point where it is damaging the domestic economy.

According to one report in Forbes:

Chinese authorities have ramped up their crackdown on after-school tutoring companies by unveiling a new set of sweeping regulations that bans the firms from making profits and raising capital from overseas markets.

Tutoring companies that teach school subjects are now required to register as non-profits. They are also banned from raising capital from overseas investors or through public listings.

What’s more, authorities will stop approving new tutoring companies seeking to teach China’s school syllabus, and require existing ones to undergo regulatory reviews and apply for licenses. The companies found to be in violation will be rectified or eradicated, according to the rules, without further elaboration.

The moves by Chinese authorities have hammered shares of firms operating in the space.

One story I read in the Wall Street Journal said that China, while hitting private sector education, is at the same time trying to make it easier for young couples to have more kids, reversing decades of its odious “one child” policy.

Why does this matter? Because the ever-shifting moves of Chinese authorities on certain sectors must make it hard for entrepreneurs in that country to plan ahead. One moment a chap like Alibaba’s Jack Ma is a sort of business “rock star”, and the next, he’s “disappeared”. In my job in the financial services industry, I have heard a lot of comments over the years on how vibrant, dynamic and coherent Chinese policymaking is, so much better than all that messy Western “neoliberalism”.

Well, it turns out that things in China aren’t quite what they are cracked up to be.

Samizdata quote of the day

“When something is free, only the well-connected get much of it.”

George Gilder, The Scandal of Money.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Today’s targeting of successful Asian-American kids lacks the crudity of a Jim Crow lunch counter or a whites-only drinking fountain. But it is no less ugly—and no less racially discriminatory—for being more genteel.”

William McGurn, Wall Street Journal ($).

Here is a non-paywalled story at USA Today outlining the issue, and highlighting what a steaming pile Critical Race Theory is. And its doubly outrageous given the demoralising impact it has on children who study and work hard and on the families who encourage this effort. Given how these things work, this story is worth reading outside the US as well.

Samizdata quote of the day

“The cliche goes that the UK is a former empire in search of a role. That is not strictly true. The NHS has become Britain’s all-consuming project, the millstone around its neck and the cloying source of confected national pride. Its hold over the country is so powerful that even a libertarian Conservative PM decided this week to risk sacrificing our ordinary freedom rather than dare to reform it.”

Sherelle Jacobs, Daily Telegraph, 13 July (£) My only quibble is the appellation “libertarian”, in this case. Mr Johnson’s libertarian views increasingly resemble entities of myth and legend, such as the Loch Ness Monster, Atlantis, or the 1966 English World Cup winning football team.

The sleaze factor around Matthew Hancock, the disgraced UK health minister

As well as the hypocrisy of a man who seemed at times to delight in locking down fellow citizens during the pandemic, here are some other reasons for enjoying the spectacle of this turd being forced to spend time having rotten tomatoes, dead cats and other items thrown against him in the stocks:

Among the beneficiaries of his department’s largesse are Topwood, a company run by his sister and brother-in-law, in which he has a 20 per cent stake, which secured a contract with NHS Wales worth £150,000; Alex Bourne, who used to run Hancock’s local pub and won a £30million deal for Covid tests despite having no previous experience in the sector; and Hancock’s married lover Gina Coladangelo, appointed to a taxpayer-funded role, and her brother, an executive at a private healthcare company which has won a string of public sector contracts.

From an article by Daniel Miller.

What is perhaps unsurprising is that there is not more anger about this. It’s as if this level of jobs-for-the-boys/girls is now par for the course. The ironies abound. A few years ago, the UK enacted something called the Bribery Act, designed to stop UK companies bribing officials and others into winning contracts. To be clear, it is not stated anywhere I know that what Hancock (an unfortunate surname) did was illegal, but it sails pretty close to the wind. Directors of companies and those in public positions have to disclose a lot these days. I’ll be interested to see what ultimately happens.

To go all libertarian “meta-context” here, a berk such as Hancock is political road-kill, a footnote to history as and when it this melancholy period of history is written. But what he represents is how in the hunt for fame and riches, the public realm attracts such bottom-feeders. Brass neck, a certain pushiness and so forth, can take certain people very far. With such a large chunk of our lives controlled or mediated by the State, such creatures flourish. Large C and small conservatives are supposed to understand all this. Yesterday, the US marked Independence Day and the Founders crafted the Constitution and the elaborate set of checks and balances with such issues in mind. What is troubling about today is that I see zero sign anywhere, and certainly not from the Boris Johnson administration, about learning wider lessons from the venality on display in the Hancock case.

Addendum: I see the Queen (who would have been advised by Mr Johnson) has conferred a collective George Cross medal on the National Health Service. In the eyes of some, the NHS should have been renamed the National Covid Service over the past 18 months or so. To honour a socialist entity such as the NHS is quite a bold step. The only two other collective holders of the GC are the island of Malta (my second nation by marriage) and the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Samizdata quote of the day

“The truth is that China has come out of the lockdowns grimmer, stronger and more assertive. The world we knew has gone.”

– Daniel Hannan, Sunday Telegraph today (behind paywall).

He is writing on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. An organisation responsible for the deaths of tens of millions and which continues to run a heavily authoritarian and dangerous place. It is nothing to celebrate – quite the reverse.

Samizdata quote of the day

“The `robber barons’ gave us railroads and public libraries. Zuck gave us Farmville and censorship.”

Glenn Reynolds, apropos criticisms of how Big Tech bosses such as Mark Zuckerberg carry on. For what it is worth, the censorship operated by the Facebook and other Big Tech folk is still, in my view, less serious than of the traditional government kind. If you don’t like Facebook then don’t use it. By contrast, with government, we are forced to pay taxes to the bastards, regardless of what we use or how we vote.

And by the way, most of the “robber barons” weren’t robbing anyone, but adding value and doing such evil things as producing cheaper steel, oil and transportation. Much of the anti-trust furore was built around a total failure to see competition as an active process across time, not a static sport. The “perfect competition” model of neoclassical economics has done a lot of damage.

What our canine friends are owed, and what they’re not

“Your dog is alert, plucky and a fearsome guardian of your property. For all we know, without his services, you would have been burgled over and over again. Your belongings would be depleted and the utility you derived from your home would be much reduced. The difference between the actual value of your home and its unguarded value is the contribution of your dog, and so is the difference between the respective utilities or satisfactions you derive from it. We do not know the exact figure, but the main thing is that there is one.”

Anthony de Jasay, the late French political philosopher.

His essay addresses a form of argument one sometimes hears from communitarians of the Left and Right, as in the case of former President Barack Obama, who infamously told US entrepreneurs and other such movers and shakers that “you didn’t build that”. (Some people claim that Obama was quoted out of context, so in fairness here is a link to a discussion on that.) It is an argument – if we can dignify it with that word – used to undermine defences against tax and other State predations of private property.

On a related note, one of my least-favourite expressions is “giving back to society”. The term carries the implication that one took something, or rented it, from some sort of collective entity, and must return it to the rightful pool. Of course there can be genuine gratitude of living in a free, prosperous place and wanting to leave something even nicer for others. That’s totally fine. But the “giving back” expression, unless qualified and understood in context, carries a sort of embedded reproach. It’s a way of saying “nice piece of property you have there but don’t get too comfy and it would be a shame if anyone wanted to take it”. (Here is a related discussion about such attitudes.)

The point about people benefiting from what others have done is rarely considered the other way around when the costs are involved. We also inherit, or deal with, lots of bad things that others intentionally or unintentionally impose upon us, such as hostile attitudes towards those who are successful and so on. There are liabilities and costs imposed on us that we have no control over, and which are a burden to handle. So the “you didn’t build that” works in the other direction too.

Back to De Jasay’s point, he’s noting how the protection we are afforded by a guard (“woof!”) can and has been used to command political fidelity and support for all manner of State institutions. He brilliantly dissects this way of thinking. It is one of those essays that ought to be better known.

Samizdata quote of the day

“There’s also the problem of, as our liberal friends would put it, power dynamics. At least when Stewart was battling the Bush administration, you could make the argument that liberalism was a minority persuasion in America. Today, the left is a political and cultural juggernaut, dominating the elected federal government, the civil service, the mainstream press, Hollywood, Big Tech, increasingly even the corporate world. It’s our new civic religion, which has turned its comedians into something like high priests, mouthing its tenets and ridiculing its apostates. All the old rules of satire — don’t punch down, afflict the comfortable — amount to a generally anti-authoritarian and iconoclastic mindset. Yet Stewart’s imitators exist only to reinforce the existing authorities while at the same time pretending they don’t have any authority at all.”

Matt Purple. He is writing in the US edition of the UK-based Spectator, so usual health warnings apply to the American misuse of the word “liberal”.

Samizdata quote of the day

“It has become something of a cliche, but it also happens to be true. If you want to do your bit for the planet, forget Tesla and other super-expensive electric vehicles: just carry on driving the same old gas-guzzling banger you’ve always had. As much, if not more, carbon tends to be expended producing a new car as actually driving one.”

Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph (£).

I own an S-Type Jaguar (V6, 3-litre) – one of the last ones to be built – and it drives as smooth as you like, and what makes it all the sweeter is knowing that every time I turn that big black cat’s engine on, a little bit of Greta Thunberg’s cult hopefully dies.

Samizdata quote of the day

“It is no surprise that a liberalism that embraced the “1619 Project’s” rewriting of the U.S.’s founding history would not stop there and try now, despite its almost invisible congressional majority, to displace the country’s originating idea of individual opportunity with a broad birth-to-death entitlement state.”

Daniel Henniger, Wall Street Journal (paywall).

Remember, for some of the hyenas of the Left, the plot of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged isn’t a warning, but an inspiration.

Samizdata quote of the day

“It is one thing to compete with China. I firmly believe we need to do that in every domain, from artificial intelligence to Covid vaccines. But the minute we start copying China, we are on the path to perdition.”

Niall Ferguson, in the Spectator. He also writes about Prof. Neil Ferguson, the character whose modelling of pandemics has had such a baleful impact on our existence.