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]

Canadian bank goes in for “struggle sessions”

As several commenters here note, a big feature of the current “woke” cultural revolution is how corporations have been actively going along with the drive towards “diversity” and “inclusion”. As I like to point out, free enterprise capitalism at most competitive is arguably the best way to drive out irrationalism and bigotry – an irrational firm that blocks the advance of men and women because of race etc is likely to lose money and be outperformed by firms not run in such a way.

Let me repeat: bigotry is a cost. (Check out this article about racism, the Jim Crow laws, and free markets.) Which is why it is wrong to claim that capitalism is somehow intrinsically racist.

Some of the actions that firms take to make their products, services and hiring polices more supposedly enlightened have, however, backfired if they contrast with actual reality. A case of about a year or so ago is Gillette, the brand of Proctor & Gamble, which decided that a way to connect with younger men was to denounce “toxic masculinity” and make out that many men are a bunch of loutish, beer-swilling boors who like barbecues. Seems like a winning, er, strategy. That was a case of a business that decided to trash its core audience – men. Great work, chaps!

Another, more recent example of how a commendable desire to avoid bigotry has tipped over into Maoist-sounding insanity comes from Royal Bank of Canada, Canada’s largest bank. I got a press release the other day. Here goes:

“At RBC, we acknowledge wide-spread systemic racism has disproportionately disadvantaged Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) for far too long, significantly impeding the ability of those communities to compete equally in opportunities for economic and social advancement.”

I like how the bank refers to “systemic racism” without a need for scare quotes. It uses the term without any sign that this is controversial or might be contentious. It refers to it as a fact.

But the kicker is in the following, and I suggest anyone who thinks of working for RBC and similar institutions, had better take note of this “struggle session”:

“The only way we can truly represent the communities we serve and harness the potential of our diversity is to grow the number of BIPOC leaders across our bank. We’re starting with enhancing our existing company-wide Unconscious Bias training, and making anti-racism and anti-bias training mandatory for all employees.”

In other words, everyone – whether they have been hauled before HR for a supposed misdeed or not – are going to be lectured about their “unconscious bias”, just to be sure there are no gremlins inside their heads. No more using “micro-aggressions” such as the term “colour-blind”, or too much reference to dodgy stuff such as “merit”, “professionalism”, or, god forbid, “boosting shareholder value”. (Running a bank to make a profit – how fucking evil would that be?)

And RBC is hardly going to be an exception. At more or less any large organisation, this is going to be the standard, not the exception. I wonder how many people who try to get a job there (and given the wreckage caused by the lockdowns, people may not be able to be choosy), will have hours of their lives wasted while some HR idiot asks them to talk about their “unconscious racism” rather than learning about how to deliver services and products, or come up with new ones.

Part of this will no doubt play to the fact that part of the contemporary higher education system is churning out people with degrees that have limited traction when it comes to building successful business, but might be absolutely perfect for jobs in HR. Expect further gains in demand for people working in “diversity and inclusion” but who can barely comprehend a balance sheet, a profit-and-loss account, or for that matter, compound interest.

One consequence of all this is that people with an ounce of self respect, if they think they must work for a large corporation for a while to learn skills and build contacts (which is what I did) will want to break free asap, and work for themselves, and run their own businesses. If corporate HR continues down a route of compulsory indoctrination about “critical race theory” and all the rest, no-one of real talent or enterprise will want to waste time there. And when the lousy shareholder performance shows itself, you can bet that those arguing for all this will not own the consequences. And they won’t be willing to confront the fact that a firm’s future is increasingly under pressure if it spends more on HR “resources” than R&D.

There is, of course, a more “pragmatic” reason why firms such as RBC and others are doing things such as this. They are covering their behinds, and fear (with some justification) what could happen to them if they don’t go along. Read that press release again, folks, and note that while it talks about hiring goals, there is no specific time-frame or reference to quotas (yet). Ryan Bourne has this measured article saying that some of this corporate “wokeness” might not even be all bad at all, and just how firms shift with the times. But even Bourne realises how some of this culture war stuff is getting dangerously out of hand.

Discussion point – current events show why universal basic income would be a terrible idea

There are lots of reasons in my mind why UBI would be a bad idea. I know that some libertarians/classical liberals, such as the late Milton Friedman, favoured a form of it in the form of “negative income tax”, but largely because they wanted to sweep together existing welfare benefits into a single payment, and for that payment to be cut fairly low so as not to kill incentives. More recently, I have seen folk such as some (not all) “transhumanists” claim that in our marvellous tech future where there is no scarcity, we can have all these goodies for “free” (no more of that stuff about “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”), and that therefore UBI will be affordable and that it will be needed, as conventional “work” no longer exists. This sort of argument is bound to be made more and more because of how work practices have been hammered by the lockdowns, among other forces.

Apart from the implausibility of the idea that scarcity will be overcome – as seen by this critique of a Charles Stross book, another reason why I distrust UBI is that it is going to create a whole class of entitled brats if UBI were to not just replace existing welfare, but be added to them in significant ways. We have had a recent demonstration of what happens when lots of people are paid for doing nothing, with only a few diversions to amuse them, and the results aren’t pretty.

Do we want to scale that issue of people living in prolonged adolescence even more? The cultural/economic consequences of a world in which a handful of evil capitalists are paying all the taxes while the rest of the population loll around on UBI, updating blogs and being generally bored out of their minds is not one I look forward to. It could end up as Ray Bradbury-meets-George Orwell-meets Aldous Huxley. Here is a good case against UBI from David Henderson.

UBI is a terrible idea, at least in terms of somehow covering a vast chunk of the population and funded by a small group who, apparently, are happy to do so without conditions. If people think I misrepresent what UBI is, and can achieve, by all means come back to me in the comments. So far, all too often it appears to be sold as some sort of utopian replacement for work. I am not buying it.

Samizdata quote of the day

“….the Americanisation of culture wars deserves resistance in itself. It homogenises national priorities, obscuring cultural and political differences, to such a ludicrous extent that British people end up arguing about police violence in a year when, yet again, it was revealed that the police had sat back and done next to nothing as a gang of men had groomed and raped young girls in Britain. Police brutality and overzealousness might be a particular problem in a Midwestern US state, while not being a priority in a northern English county; the globalisation of politics obscures local conditions.”

“It also distorts our understanding of the world, limiting our awareness of international affairs to those which are the focus of the narrow spectrum of social media trends. Whether you are a progressive or a conservative, you should be so in the terms of your national circumstances, and with broader frames of references than those which have been provided by social media monopolies.”

Ben Sixsmith

A dilemma if you think private individuals shouldn’t own firearms

Here’s a thought for today: If the Democrats claim (the cynic in me suggests that party is full of BS on this) that police forces must be “defunded”, ie, that fewer resources should be steered to said police, how are they also going to make good on any threats to outlaw the private possession of firearms?

I know that those of a more libertarian slant have no problem with wanting to reform policing to reduce abuses and so that police actually protect life and property rather than enforce victimless crime laws, and be corrupted by the likes of asset forfeiture rules, politically-motivated “woke” crime enforcement, and so on. One thing to be clear on is that if qualified immunity is removed from cops, cops are also entitled to be protected against frivolous lawsuits from idiots since otherwise no rational man or woman will want to serve as a cop in such a situation. And that applies to any kind of policing or security, including private security guards.

And a more libertarian model of policing is congruent with a population of law-abiding persons being free to own firearms and competent to look after themselves. In fact, having law-abiding people own guns, and be trained in their responsible use, is a net plus for civil society and peaceful order. (An armed society is a polite society, as R A Heinlein liked to point out.) But what is NOT compatible is to claim that we should shut policing down, empty the jails, and all the rest of it, and still push for gun control. To take that stance is to treat the public as idiots.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Rather than aiming for a better future, woke militants seek a cathartic present. Cleansing themselves and others of sin is their goal. Amidst vast inequalities of power and wealth, the woke generation bask in the eternal sunshine of their spotless virtue.”

John Gray

(As a reminder to readers, quoting a person does not imply I endorse everything that the writer in question says. Gray is a decidedly mixed bag of a thinker. Far, far too gloomy for my liking and he buys the whole Green deal, or at least he did. But this essay makes important points about the parallels between the culture war being played out in the West right now and the madness of the 15th and 16th centuries. Yes, I think those parallels are accurate. This is a rat with a long tail.)

Samizdata quote of the day

“The only corner of the world that you can control is yourself.”

– Richard Cooper, of the “Entrepreneurs and Cars” show he does (he’s one of the “manosphere” chaps out there), talking about the shit-show going on lockdowns, identity politics nonsense.

I don’t buy into all of his views – I am not a big evolutionary psychology fan – but he is on the mark here in this brief broadcast. He looks like a guy on the edge a bit, in a state of despair. I suspect there are an awful of lot of others like him out there now.

Discussion point

The far-Left’s attempted putsch in places such as Seattle and the statue-defacing/removal frenzy in the UK, among other outrages, are a delayed reaction not so much to a specific police act in Minneapolis, but because the far Left suffered a major electoral setback in December 2019 in the UK (yes, I get that the Tories ran to the political centre, but it was still a reverse for Corbyn & Co) and also because of the dawning horror that Trump could well retain the White House in November. Trump was on course to win because of factors such as the Russia-gate scandal that wasn’t, the pre-COVID-19 economy, the fact that the Democrats are led by people either out of their minds or losing them to infirmity, etc. So street politics – or “riot ideology” fills the vacuum of political power that parts of the far Left perceive they have lost. (See a related discussion here.)

Related thoughts from Joel Kotkin on the economic drivers of anger (not that he is excusing it).

A list of abuses

I saw the following list of problems with the US legal and law enforcement system, which taken individually may not appear to be major issues in terms of it being a “systematically unjust” country, but which taken together do tend to suggest there is a big problem. This is mirrored to a certain extent in other countries, such as here in the UK.

qualified immunity;
LEO unions;
LEO militarization;
inadequate civilian oversight;
plea bargains;
victimless criminal statues (e.g. drugs, sex-work, immigration);
occupational licensing;
civil asset forfeiture;
eminent domain (esp in re gentrification);
unaccountable fines & fees, and quota-based policing;
private prisons;
FISA Courts; and
no-knock warrants.

That is a good list for radical classical liberals and small-government conservatives to get to deal with.

Lording it over history can get out of hand

A Facebook friend of mine put this on her timeline, and after asking, she said I could post this here. I am sure Samizdata readers will appreciate the sentiments.

Since banning and toppling is now the lockdown activity de rigeur, I didn’t want to be left out, so have decided to add to the list:

– The Colosseum – hotbed of slave suffering and anti-Christian persecution. Turn it in to a car park, I say. Whilst we’re at it, the Pyramids and Acropolis didn’t build themselves, so send in the JCBs.

– The Guardian newspaper – founded by a man whose fortune was made on the back of the slave-intense cotton trade. Naughty.

– The Labour party – one of the founding organisations was the Fabian society, which, in the early 1900s called for eugenics and forced sterilisation. Off with your heads.

– Jeeves and Wooster – we all remember how they blacked up as minstrels in one of their episodes? Silence them.

– Most of Southern Spain – conquered and occupied by the Moors for over 300 years, around 1 million white Europeans were sold IN to the African slave trade (well before European colonialisation, Africa had booming slave markets). The historical legacy is everywhere, not least in those colonial place names (Al-Andalus, Al-Meria, Qurtoba) – abolish the lot.

– Scandinavians – what were they up to, sending their vikings over and enslaving our tribes? Actually, add the bloody Normans to that too.

– Mongolia – rapist-in-chief warlord, who had more slaves in his tenure than ever existed in the Western colonial slave trade, and killed 40 million people during his rampages. Apparently, there are 16,000,000 living direct descendants of his wayward penis. No yurts for you.

– Ghandi – Had a few unsavoury things to say about black Africans. No more blacked-up Ben Kingsley for you.

– All of us – that’s right, there is virtually no one alive today who is not the product of what is today considered paedophilia. Women were often married off as children, and started giving birth at 12 or 13, so we should no-platform ourselves and our ancestors.

OR

We could just grow the fuck up and consider that man has evolved faster in the last 3,000 years than any other species on this planet. We have gone from cave dwellers to sending humans in to space in a period of time that is barely a blink in the cosmic scale.

To apply our 21st century morality on our ancestors is so completely ridiculous, as to defy morality or reason. To educate our youth fairly and equitably on our progression is a far more powerful tool than to deny our pasts. This attempt to pretend that Britain has a history only to be ashamed of is not only factually incorrect, but so counter-productive and divisive, that we will make whatever problems we think we have, far, far worse.

Everyone calm down.

The Anglosphere and our present discontents

Contemplating the riots/demonstrations of the weekend (statues defaced and pulled down, police officers assaulted, social distancing ignored, etc) I ask myself about the extraordinary power of events a thousand-plus miles away in the US to excite supposedly “spontaneous” reactions here in the UK. And yet if, say, French police get all heavy with yellow-jacket protesters, I don’t recall marches of demonstrators in front of the French embassy. Or nor do I see this if or when there are problems in Germany, Italy or Spain (racism is a thing in these countries, after all).

Ironically – and this must drive those of a pro-EU frame of mind nuts – it is still North America, with its rawer culture and politics, its legal similarities to the UK (for good and for ill) that resonates, even in the minds (for want of a better noun) of the sort of folk going on BLM demos. What goes on in France, Germany or Italy tends not to have the same grip on the mind. The Atlantic is wide and the Channel is narrow, but in every other sense, it is the other way around. To that extent, then, the Anglosphere lives, even in the hearts and minds of the far Left.

And even with the lockdowns, there is the same focus in large part on what the US is doing or not doing, rather than say, what our continental European neighbours are up to. One reason for this is that those who want to sacralise the National Health Service face the uncomfortable fact that even in more socialist Europe, healthcare isn’t a state, centrally planned system, but rather more decentralised, particularly in Germany.

The sleep of reason brings forth monsters – a continuing series

Glenn Reynolds’ Instapundit has put up a long set of videos of the riots, here. Be sure to share this widely. People need to know what has happened. This is not about rectifying an injustice.

The vast majority of the people I see in these clips are young, probably in their late teens, early 20s. Many are white, and they look like gawky college students, out for a bit of mayhem and maybe to steal some stuff. They are the sort of morons who get called – not always correctly – as “snowflakes” – the ones beating up people they dislike on university campuses, etc. There are a few women in here too, nearly all young.

Because nearly all are wearing masks, video ID recognition tech will not pick them up, but they may find they still get identified at some point, and I hope – naively perhaps – that some of these idiots are hit with the full force of the law.

Obviously some of them are angry for a host of reasons, and such is the wreckage of our culture and education system that they lack the intellectual tools to know what to do other than strike out in rage. Ayn Rand wrote about this phenomenon 50 years ago. She contrasted people rolling around in the mud at Woodstock with Aldrin and Armstrong walking on the Moon, – see this article. In the end you need to choose a side: are you for values grounded on reason, independence and liberty, or are you a nihilist who wants to blank out your brain with trash?

I imagine that quite a lot of the youngsters here are hoping to go to college, or in it, or have recently graduated. The kind of people on the receiving end of their thuggery – security guards, truck drivers, store clerks, maintenance staff and so forth – are not from such backgrounds. Another point, which is not original to me of course, is that the “Antifa” thugs involved in some of this are well organised, and have probably planned these attacks for some time. Some may even be in cahoots with radical Islamist groups (although I haven’t seen any specific evidence of this so far, to be clear), and funded by people who want to do ill to the US. In any event, any graduate who has left college, been involved in this, and now wonders why he or she struggles to pay off their huge loan for studying some liberal arts degree might want to ask themselves a few questions. (A side-issue is that much of the Western Higher Ed. sector needs to be drastically restructured. What we are seeing here are mal-educated people, and on a large scale.)

Here is a podcast from Reason Magazine involving a discussion about the mayhem. Charles Cooke and Kevin D Williamson of National Review have their take on this, and other issues, here.

Samizdata quote of the day

“It is high time we stopped talking about the Chinese Government as if it were presiding over just “another way of doing things”. For all its economic progress, it is hell-bent on control, not just at home but abroad too. For decades, Hong Kong has been the exception to the rule. It is a hub that has plugged China into the world and the world into China. It was the place where Chinese intellectuals could publish books that couldn’t get through the mainland’s censors. It was the place readers went to buy books or use Facebook. It was where mainlanders went to buy formula milk that wouldn’t poison their babies when it turned out China’s most popular brand was tainted. It was the gateway through which Western capital flooded in to build factories and it is the escape hatch through which the Chinese try to get their wealth out, away from the CCP. But the Chinese Communist Party does not want its citizens to be plugged into the world. All it wants from the world is technology, money and obedience. The least we can do is refuse to grant the CCP any of them.”

Juliet Samuel.