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]

Those MEPs, eh?

For me, one of the arguments for getting out of the EU (the list of reasons is very long, but this is a Friday, and the pub beckons) was due to the lack of decent democratic accountability of the EU as a structure. That doesn’t of course mean that I am a naive believer in majoritarian democracy (I’m well aware of Tocqueville’s wisdom about the tyranny of the majority). But given that the direction of travel of the EU is towards more centralisation of powers, which may be needed to make the dysfunctional euro work (fiscal transfers, more ability to shuffle money around, etc, etc), such a process requires serious democratic legitimacy. Such a polity does not exist, and an example of its non-existence came this week with the EU Parliament’s vote to agree moves to move against the internet in certain respects.

A big majority of MEPs voted for the directive, and a thousand curses upon them. So here’s a thing: how many European citizens, even if they are interested in this matter around copyright, the internet and use of memes, know who their MEPs are? I’d wager that only a small, single-digit percentage, do. Now I am a Londoner who writes about current affairs a bit and follows these things, and I had to Google up a search to find out who my MEPs are. And given how such MEPs don’t directly represent a constituency as with an MP under our first-past-the-post system but are elected via proportional representation under a list system, there’s no real connection between voters and the chap or woman in suits sitting in the parliament. Add to the fact that the parliament has no great ability to repeal directives as far as I know, and cannot initiative laws, etc, then its value as a break on power appears to be very low indeed. But the parliament does, as this case shows, have the ability to confer a sort of cloak of legitimacy over the law-making engines of the European Commission. The lack of connection between voter and MEP also means the latter’s vote will be a mystery to the electors in whose name the members supposedly act.

There may be other reasons why the UK is leaving the EU that are easier to put into a newspaper headline, but for me this is the sort of reason why the EU is a remote, yet malign force, and not, as far as I can see, a bulwark of anyone’s liberties.

Samizdata quote of the day

“I wasn’t even aware that Corbyn was an expert on the subject of English irony. I always assumed he preferred the robust congeniality of Gerry Adams over the acerbity of a Michael Palin or Ian Hislop. But I am no expert on the mind of Mr Corbyn, which seems like a sort of ball bearing ricocheting around a pinball machine, illuminating one Marxist trope after another. And the face of the Corbyn Labour Party is rarely one that smiles, being both humourless and menacing all at once. It is, after all, the party which includes as High Apparatchiks the likes of Dawn Butler and Emily Thornberry, neither of whom strike one as likely secretaries of the PG Wodehouse Appreciation Society.”

Sean Walsh. The whole article, even though it is about the disgusting subject of the Labour Party leader’s anti-semitism and association with terrorists, is an essay containing several mirthful sentences such as the final one of the paragraph above. My only beef with the comment is that frankly, I don’t find Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, very amusing these days.

Samizdata quote of the day

“What can’t be stressed enough about what happened in 2008 is that for economies to grow and markets to rise, it’s necessary that the mediocre and lousy constantly be replaced by the good and brilliant.”

Real Clear Markets, reflecting on the decade since the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.

(Hat-tip, Stephen Green of Instapundit.)

Moderation is often not the best policy

“It’s a crowded space, this search for the so called moderate centre ground. It is defined as going back to Brussels, saying we are sorry for ever thinking of leaving, and accepting the full swathe of laws, taxes, budgets and common policies that characterise the modern EU. What ever is either moderate or democratic about such an agenda? How is it democratic for more and more laws to be made behind closed doors, drafted by officials we cannot sack or make accountable, and approved by Ministers from 27 countries under pressure not to rock the boat? What is liberal about the austerity policies of the EU’s budget controls, requiring higher taxes, lower spending and lower deficits from countries mired in unemployment in the south and west of the EU? How is the EU’s policy of helping pay for Turkey’s heavily defended borders with the Middle East moderate? What is green about the fishing discard policy or the dash for diesel and the reliance on coal for power by Germany? Why does everything proposed by the EU get through without a whisper of criticism? When will they apologise for the huge damage the Exchange Rate Mechanism did to the livelihoods and businesses of many in the UK, or for the revenge the Euro crisis visited on Cyprus, Greece, Ireland and Spain?”

John Redwood.

A very good article, even if you might not agree with all of Mr Redwood’s politics. His observation that “moderate” Labour MPs (they still want to seize private property, tax us up to the neck and so on) are caught between understandable loathing of Mr Corbyn, and their own foolish Europhilia, is very well made.

As Mr Redwood said, there’s nothing “moderate” about defending a creaking customs union, unaccountable bureaucracy, etc. But then what really does this sort of “moderation” really mean? I’m reminded of Ayn Rand’s excellent essay, The Wreckage of the Consensus, where she pointed to the foolishness of imagining that wisdom is to be found in some sort of “middle” between some sort of polar opposites.

Take another case: We are sometimes told to take “a moderate amount of exercise” when, in fact, what we might want to do for better health is high intensity interval training, for instance, or heavy lifting with barbells, rather than messing around by jogging a short distance (and buggering up one’s knees and back, by the way). Sometimes the “moderate” course isn’t really a course at all, but a sort of cop-out.

Back to the subject of Mr Redwood’s post, it reminds me that the voice of genuine political liberalism, to use that fine old word, has been quiet for a very long time in the UK. There appears zero chance of it being encouraged by the current Liberal Democrat Party, which even before its demise, was scarcely connected to the great traditions of Cobden, Gladstone or, even in a more recent example, the late Jo Grimmond.

Samizdata quote of the day

“From a libertarian perspective, the best course of action is not to elevate Trump to Satan or to Saturn, but to acknowledge that he is a mixed bag. In this, he’s perhaps more like Bill Clinton than anyone wants to admit. The major successes of the Clinton years—welfare reform, balanced budgets, capital-gains tax cuts, acknowledgment that the “era of Big Government was over”—came not out of one faction winning but the tension among various factions. If there is a problem to be solved, it’s not a president who, like his predecessors, refuses to cut the size, scope, and spending of government. It’s Congress, which has abdicated its constitutional role of actually writing legislation. And it’s government at all levels, which seeks to control and regulate the hell out of social and economic innovation in the name of some imaginary greater good. There are midterms afoot, so it’s easy to understand why people in the dying Republican and Democratic parties are desperate to view everything through partisan lenses. But the rest of us, especially libertarians, are free of such blinders and do well to remember that independence means first and foremost not making everything about politics.”

Nick Gillespie.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Perhaps Corbyn really is just unlucky. But it seems more probable that he’s not. And that, far from being the decent man of legend he’s actually thoroughly indecent. The only possible alternative is that he’s thunderously, crushingly, toe-curlingly thick. On balance, however, it seems more probable that he is, in fact, both. Enough of this. Enough, already.”

Alex Massie (Spectator is behind a registration paywall.)

Samizdata quote of the day

“I heard the other day of a quite senior minister who has not been rung for the last six years by the political editor of the newspaper in his local city because he, the minister, can be relied on to say absolutely nothing. No one has ever written a profile of this minister. As he transacts the business of his department, he might as well be wearing a cloak of invisibility. One cannot help wondering whether his own family have any idea of who, politically speaking, he is, for even if he knows himself, he lacks the command of language needed to explain himself to anyone else.”

Andrew Gimson, musing on the terrible communications skills and speech-making calibre of our political class.

Samizdata quote of the day

Perhaps, then, the most dangerous piece of ‘common sense’ in Peterson’s new book comes at the very beginning, when he imparts the essential piece of wisdom for anyone interested in fighting a powerful, existing order. ‘Stand up straight,’ begins Rule No. 1, ‘with your shoulders back.’

Caitlin Flanagan, in the Atlantic Monthly.

The Windy City

“An explosion of drive-by shootings erupted on Chicago’s South and West sides this weekend. At least 74 people were shot, and 11 killed, between 3 p.m. on Friday and 6 a.m. on Monday. In one seven-hour stretch, starting around midnight on Saturday, at least 40 people were shot, four fatally, as gunmen targeted a block party, the aftermath of a funeral, and a front porch, reports the Chicago Tribune. Over two and a half hours that morning, 25 people were shot in five multiple-injury shootings, including a 17-year-old who died after being shot in the face. An 11-year-old boy, a 13-year-old boy, and a 14-year-old girl were also hit over the course of the weekend’s bloodbath. Mt. Sinai’s emergency room shut down for several hours due to the overload of bodies; in May, the entire hospital went into lockdown following a virtual riot in its lobby among gangbangers, reported Tribune columnist John Kass.”

Heather MacDonald.

Here is a link to the status of gun laws in Illinois.

This article says gun laws in the state of Illinois are “relatively strict” compared with those in other states of the US.

As far as I can see, the level of shootings in Chicago is driven by drug gangs that thrive in one of the most corrupt, welfare-screwed cultures in North America. The level of violence in that city (Chicago has always been a rough town) is of a level that stands comparison with the grimier parts of Iraq during the post-invasion phase of 2003. Things are reaching the point where President Trump could, with some justification, send in US military forces and put that city under external control. Of course, with my classical liberal hat on, that would probably cause more harm than good in some ways, perhaps. I’d imagine that more law-abiding people are leaving the city, creating a vicious circle where the middle class has gone, and there’s a sort of mix of gangs, welfare dependents and political hucksters running the show, rather like the favelas of Brazil but without the entrepreneurial energy. And bear in mind that this is going on while the US is, at least according to official statistics, enjoying decent economic growth and low unemployment. But in such wrecked towns, I’d wager that labour force participation rates are weak and business dynamism isn’t all that evident.

A final thought: in the UK the media reports, often to the maximum, on spree shootings (although as I noted before, things went weirdly quiet after a short while after the Vegas mass shooting). But the remorseless killing counts in Chicago, Baltimore or other cities barely registers a flicker. It’s as if it is seen as normal, or, to coin a phrase from London’s unpleasant and useless mayor, part and parcel of living in a big city.

The shambles of the European Arrest Warrant system

Damien Phillips, a friend of mine, has an excellent article on why Theresa May’s “Brexit-in-name-only” stance is so bad. One reason, he states, is that it keeps the UK within the odious embrace of the European Arrest Warrant system. So far, the EAW hasn’t been the kind of issue to get most people, even most Brexiteers, exercised. But in many ways it represents some of the worst features of what the EU now is.

As the Daily Telegraph is behind a paywall, here are a few choice paragraphs:

The Prime Minister and the British establishment are simply unwilling to recognise the risks that ‘close cooperation’ on security with the European Union poses for the United Kingdom. Such is the desperate desire to maintain close ties, they are blind to the gathering storm in key parts of Continental Europe.

Due Process, a cross-party campaign group launched by, amongst others, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee Graham Brady MP in late 2017, has been fighting an uphill battle to highlight the serious abuses and injustices being perpetrated by EU member states against both their own citizens and ours. Their latest report explodes the presumption, alarmingly pervasive amongst the British judiciary, that EU member states will comply with their obligations under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Court of Human Rights.

This idea underpins the entire EU project and in particular the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system of extradition, based on the ludicrous proposition that all EU member states have legal systems of equivalent probity and repute.

These damning findings are echoed by Fair Trials International, whose recent review of the operation of the EAW uncovers a Kafka-esque nightmare for ordinary citizens. Reviewing over 220 extradition case files and interviewing more than 250 legal experts, they find the EAW being used disproportionately to force people into lengthy pre-trial detention away from home, exposing them to appalling prison conditions, leading to job losses and separation from their families, and putting them at the manifest risk of having an unfair trial.

Both reports should be alarming for anyone who can see the security implications of a collapse of basic legal standards in countries that Britain is sharing intelligence, security and law enforcement information with. States without effective legal institutions are highly vulnerable to corruption, making them prime targets for Russian infiltration and destabilisation. Combine this with the EAW which allows any British citizen or resident to be directly targeted by any EU state they draw the ire of and you have a recipe for “lawfare” on a grand scale. Once a legal system resembles that of the Russian Federation, there is nothing to stop authoritarian politicians or rapacious intelligence services operating with impunity and exploiting the judiciary for their own wicked ends.

It is in light of this crisis that the Irish High Court recently issued a landmark judgement to halt all extraditions to Poland because they can no longer trust the Polish judiciary to deliver a fair trial. Likewise, German courts have blocked politically motivated attempts to extradite the Catalan leader, and even Costa Rica and Serbia have granted political ‘refugee status’ to what are now recognised as being Romanian dissidents.

In the face of the mounting evidence, our Prime Minister continues with her reckless desire to keep our membership of the EAW intact and to cooperate unconditionally with states whose judicial and state machinery are plumbing the depths of Russia, Romania and Turkey.

Instead, the PM should proactively shun the EU’s one-size-fits-all security and legal architecture. She should name and shame those EU member states that don’t fulfil the high standards required for a security partnership with the UK, while calling out the European Commission for its total failure to ensure respect for the rule of law and human rights across the EU. She should reject any form of jurisdiction by the European Court of Justice which has done a parlous job of preventing abuse of an increasingly toxic and politicised EAW system.

In this new age of lawfare, the PM must implement an immediate review of Britain’s extradition treaties, where necessary imposing interim measures to halt all extraditions to those countries that are so clearly falling short of the basics of due process and human rights. The government should enable a “prima facie” evidence test on those governments suspected of foul play or with potentially corrupt legal institutions. Under such a system the burden of proof would be placed on the prosecuting authority and a case would have to be proved to have sufficient evidence to justify a trial – standard practice under English common law.

This new system would have the granular flexibility not just to treat all other states on the basis of equality and reciprocity. It would avoid the wishful, fantasy land thinking of Brussels, and instead rely on the hard-headed reality and principles that have evolved through English common law over many centuries.

Samizdata quote of the day

“In relation to the Irish border, we need to be tougher and call the EU’s bluff. Currently a border already exists between the UK and Ireland – in currency, VAT, excise duties and security which do not present any problems at all. Using new technology as well as extending schemes such as the Authorised Economic Operator scheme means any post-Brexit customs checks can be done without a hard border. The EU insists on customs checks but in reality no UK or Irish Government would ever accept a hard border. Those making the case for the Chequers plan off the back of threats about the Irish border are simply playing into the EU’s hands.”

Ross Thomson, MP.

Samizdata quote of the day

“As for those “bad ideas” the Kochs have, they’re the reason for whatever governing success Mr. Trump has had so far. Pro-growth cuts in tax rates, deregulation and originalist judges have been the most successful parts of the Trump agenda. And they were Koch beliefs when Mr. Trump was still donating to Bill and Hillary Clinton. The President gets credit for winning the election and making the policies happen, but the Kochs also gave his agenda major support over the last two years. Contrast that success to Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda, which has gone nowhere in Congress; his ill-thought border enforcement that ended up in the debacle of family separation; and the tariff assault that has so far raised costs for U.S. consumers and producers without any compensating trade opening. Whose ideas are the “bad” ones?”

Wall Street Journal.