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

“When you stop judging men by the content of their character, eventually you’ll run out of men of good character.”

Stephen Green, known to some as “Vodkapundit”, writing about more identity politics insanity over at Instapundit. Here is a link to the original article.

Folk are saner on the Continent, apparently

If you think a lot of TV and live comedy shows have got tired recently, then I think this fellow, a columnist at Bloomberg, could stir things up a bit, albeit without realising it:

Voters in the major continental nations may get angry and disappointed — say, with French President Francois Hollande’s feckless leadership or with the recent inflow of refugees from the Middle East — but they don’t get desperate enough to vote in a Donald Trump or to inflict Brexit-style turmoil on their countries.

Leonid Bershidsky

Absolutely, Mr Bershidsky, voters in France, for example, continue to elect people who preside over the grandeur, nay, the stability, of double-digit unemployment, of all those jolly car-burning festivals that so enliven the outskirts of Paris or Marseilles. And they vote for the sort of structures that will admit a country such as Greece, or for that matter, Italy, into a single currency predicated on economic fundamentals that are for the fairies.

But hey, they don’t vote to leave a transnational progressive union with centralising intent, and they don’t vote for property developers from Queen’s. So I guess Europe’s okay then.

Where the hell does Bloomberg find these people?

Samizdata quote of the day

Yet it is the Democrats’ relentless focus on minority issues that has enabled the GOP to capture parts of the white middle and working class vote. Trump exploited that opportunity more effectively than any other Republican. But he did it – with the alt-right’s help – by borrowing from the Democrats’ playbook. Aping the left’s identity politics, Trump adopted the alt-right’s cultural narrative around the oppression of white people. Gone was the traditional Republican belief in individual responsibility. In its place came the leftist credo of perpetual victimhood.

Simon Gordon

Another way of putting it is that Trump is a bit like Bernie Sanders, with skyscrapers and funny hair.

The costs and benefits of Brexit

Andrew Lilico, who in my view is one of the sharpest and sanest commentators on issues such as Brexit (he is for it) has this to say about the benefits not just to the UK of leaving the EU behemoth, but arguably, to the remaining members of said behemoth:

We’ll also be able to do new trade deals with non-EU countries, which by 2030 will constitute around two thirds of our trade. The eurozone will grow faster, because by leaving the EU we will allow it to function better, enabling the euro to work. And future UK regulation can involve more experiments, where we try something, get it wrong and u-turn, rather than all our regulation being subject to the EU’s “ratchet” whereby once any measure in place it is almost impossible to undo. The ratchet works well when the best thing to do is obvious — cut tariffs, strip away non-tariff barriers. When it is not obvious — e.g. how best to regulate the sharing economy, the commercial exploitation of space, vaping, or green technologies — being able to experiment and u-turn is valuable. The UK can become an international leader the regulation of these new sectors by being able to experiment.

Of course at present many, if not all, EU member states will see the UK’s departure in these terms. They might suspect (as libertarians such as I hope) that the UK will head down a less regulated path, although it is worth noting that UK politicians are quite as capable of coming up with dotty rules as any Brussels civil servant (but at least those politicians can be voted out of office, which is the key thing). It bemuses me when I hear people wail that the UK is trying to become a tax haven. If only.

But it is an interesting observation that with the UK out of the EU, the eurozone (the UK is not a member of it) will “work”. Maybe it might. Maybe Germany, France and the others will, without those pesky Anglo-Saxons carping about regulations of carrots, vitamins and light bulbs, be able to create some sort of federal European entity where policy is in sync with the demands of a single currency. The UK gets to break free of an arrangement that has become increasingly vexatious, and the Continentals can make their vision (well, that of their political class) come true.

It might just be that the best thing for the Continentals is to get shot of we Brits and push ahead. Of course, if or when the dream of a European federal union turns out to be the authortarian clusterfuck of Biblical proportions that some expect, the UK will be in the beneficial position, hopefully, if having insulated itself from this by bringing up plenty of new trading relations with non-EU nations near and far. And it will be able to give the ultimate “I told you so” to the continent on the follies of transnational progressivism.

 

 

On free trade after the UK leaves the EU’s customs union

I liked this statement by Julian Jessop, chief economist (recently appointed) of the Institute of Economic Affairs, the classical liberal think tank in the UK:

“It’s disappointing that the decision to convert existing EU laws is again being justified in terms of continuity and certainty. Instead, Brexit should provide an opportunity to reduce the burden of regulation on UK households and firms alike.

“It’s also disappointing that the default option in the event of no agreement is being framed in terms of the most pessimistic WTO scenario, ignoring any benefits that might come from unilateral free trade. The UK will have the opportunity to lower barriers that prevent our consumers and businesses from accessing the best and cheapest goods and services, wherever they come from. What’s more, we should consider doing so even if other countries – including the rest of the EU – continue to embrace protectionism.

“However, it’s welcome the commitment to a quick agreement on reciprocal rights for people from the rest of the EU already living and working here and for UK citizens on the continent. Now that Article 50 has been triggered there is no longer any excuse for either side to delay. Indeed, this will be an early test of the willingness of politicians in the rest of the EU to put the interests of ordinary people above their own narrow political projects.”

 

Getting out of the EU

Surely now, no-one can doubt that the EU is so much more than a set of laws regulating trade and commerce?  Why did so many UK politicians try and pretend this was just a business or commercial arrangement? As this declaration reminds us in a timely way, at the heart of the EU is the strong desire to create a single country. It will have common borders, one currency, one foreign policy and one social policy. It will have its own energy policy, its own transport policy. Indeed, it has much of that already. It is only those who refuse to read EU documents who can think otherwise.

John Redwood MP, referring to “The Rome Declaration” of EU states drawn up a week ago, which he says shows a clear intent to create a single European state, from which the UK has today, via the Article 50 process, begun to extricate itself.

Samizdata quote of the day

A lot of strange stuff has been written about the referendum and its aftermath, so a writer really has to go some to stand out from the crowd. As was highlighted today by Walter Ellis (brilliant Reaction Remainer, who shows we are a broad church while generally being for enthusiastically getting on with Brexit), the case of Christopher Booker is most strange. Booker was, along with his associates, a robust voice for leaving the EU for many years. Now he writes it will be a disaster because we are leaving the customs union and because NO-ONE WILL LISTEN TO HIM AND HIS FRIENDS, or something. Let’s face it. There is a strand in the Eurosceptic movement that liked being a minority interest. There is a similarity there with music fans who like showing their alleged superiority by being into an obscure act. What they hate most is when other people start buying the records of their hitherto little-known favourites.

Iain Martin

Samizdata quote of the day

The problem is that a lot of data suggests that countries with more robust welfare states tend to have stronger far-right movements. Providing white voters with higher levels of economic security does not tamp down their anxieties about race and immigration — or, more precisely, it doesn’t do it powerfully enough. For some, it frees them to worry less about what it’s in their wallet and more about who may be moving into their neighbourhoods or competing with them for jobs.

Zack Beauchamp, Vox.

(Yes, I am putting up a SQOTD from a lefty news service. If readers’ blood pressure rises, sorry. The article contains a few errors and arguments I don’t agree with, but I like to find signs, or glimmerings, of intelligence wherever I can. Maybe, just maybe it is dawning on some of the smarter souls in the Left that the identity politics game has been a catastrophe, and that some of the so-called solutions for our ills as advocated by socialists/Welfare Statists have been an abject failure. Politics/ideas are in ferment right now, and this article is a sort of suggestion of what the ferment is causing. I also commend the author for the amount of data here.)

I added this to the pushback in the comments:

Let’s consider: the article goes into considerable detail to point the fact that in those countries with high levels of Welfare State spending and the rest, support for the far right has increased often more than among those places with less of this, and the author concludes that one reason might be that citizens in those places feel their welfare frees them up to worry about non-economic issues, such as the allegedly malign impact of foreigners entering a country. That seems to be just as plausible a reading of the facts – and in some ways an original and perceptive one – as the standard line that high welfare has sucked in lots of foreign scroungers who have provoked a backlash. For a start, there is no clear evidence that immigrants in net terms consume more welfare than the indigenous population. Secondly, there is the point that the sort of people who want high welfare spending (paid for, they naively think, by other, richer people) tend to have a zero-sum, economically illiterate view of the world (hence their support for a Welfare State), and people who hold wrong-headed views about the State tend also to hold fearful views about immigrants “taking their jobs” or whatever. And the kind of folk who are turned on by the politics of identity tend, given their collectivist assumptions about life (bosses, workers, them, us, etc) to be the sort who like Big Government.

This article shows why it is no accident that Labour Party voters, who by and large aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer, have switched to UKIP, or even further to the right, and why socialism often blends very easily with nationalism.

Like I said, what I hope (naively!) this article suggests is that there are people on the Left who are seeing this, and who realise there is a problem. At the very least, rather than simply criticise and pick holes, it is a good idea in my view to engage with these folk, to show where they are correct and draw them out. This is how intellectual shifts occur; smart advocates of liberal free markets and limited government should embrace anyone who seems honestly to be wrestling with what is going on.

 

Putin and Trump

President Donald Trump, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton before him, hoped to “reset” Washington’s dismal relationship with Moscow, but that was always the longest of long shots. Vladimir Putin’s ideology and perceived national interests require the West as an enemy, and no matter how many times Trump tweets that he respects Putin’s “strength” and says it would be “a good thing” if we could get along with Russia and unite against ISIS, neither the Kremlin nor permanent Washington will allow it.

Michael Totten.

The whole article makes a lot of sense. I particularly liked the point about how Putin might be annoyed that with Trump in office, he (Putin) no longer has a perceived monopoly on being That Unpredictable Guy. I think that is a very astute observation. Putin liked being the man who was constantly messing with our heads over Syria, or Ukraine, or wherever. But if he is up against a US president who makes unpredictability part of his central appeal, that changes. Then maybe Vlad. has to change, to be more predictable in certain ways. And this whole saga also somewhat undermines the “Russian spies put The Donald into the White House” narrative, although given the self-deception and insanity I see on part of the Democrat Party and its media allies, this is likely to continue for some time.

Another couple of paragraphs:

Before long, anti-Russian sentiment in the United States could eclipse anti-Americanism is Russia. The only reason that hasn’t happened already is because so many Americans hoped for so long against hope that Russia shorn of totalitarian communism would eventually return “home” to the West like the prodigal son.

Russia, though, hasn’t been fully European since the Mongol invasion of Rus in the year 1240. Its forcible incorporation into the Golden Horde Empire endured for more than 200 years. Sure, Russia’s capital is on the European continent, but Russians see themselves as Eurasian. (North Korea and China, don’t forget, border Russia.)

Putin crafted the Eurasian Economic Union—which includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia—as an authoritarian crony state-capitalist competitor to the liberal democratic West that he detests. There isn’t a damn thing anybody in Washington can say or do to convince him to dump that project and align himself as a junior partner with the European Union and NATO, not when he’s the undisputed one-man boss of an entire continent-spanning alternative.

Totten is right, I think, that Putin had not expected Trump’s winning last autumn. He might, naively, have hoped for such a win, but I am not sure he actually expected the result. Totten is also right to point out that Putin is not some sort of chess-playing genius from From Russia With Love. He makes mistakes.

 

Samizdata quote of the day

America needs a new party, one that will — in the present emergency — bravely rise to the defense of the republic and the grand alliance of the free nations which it leads. It needs a party of economic sanity, which will not destroy the basis of our livelihood through either a combination of trade war and immigration restriction, or top-down suppression of business. It needs a party of humanity, which rejects tribalism, not only for the harm it inflicts upon its targets but for the moral and intellectual degradation it infests within the minds and hearts of its converts. It needs a party of liberty, one which will defend not only the borders of freedom, but the ideas and institutions that make freedom possible.

Robert Zubrin

Samizdata quote of the day

“So much of our popular culture depends on the loudly proclaimed pose of being “rebels,” of being outside the mainstream, of being “transgressive”—while repeating clichés that have become deadly boring through decades of repetition. It reminds me of a brilliant little bit in The Onion: “Purchase of Jeans Ushers Man into Exclusive, Ultra-Cool Subculture of Jeans-Wearing Americans.” They all want to be nonconformists just like everyone else.”

Robert Tracinski

On political ignorance

A commenter over at the Guido Fawkes blog, with the joyful name of “Rasta Pickles”, comments on the notion that the UK electorate is too thick to figure out the complexities of Brexit, and that such complex matters should be left to a political class that has done such a tremendous job down the years. He or she notes a flaw in this “argument”:

“99.9% of the UK electorate have no idea what they’re voting for every time they vote in a council election; they regard local elections as a popularity poll on what’s happening in Westminster. Your local Labour/Tory council might well be planning on a compulsory purchase order on your house and those around you in order to build a new mega-PoundLand store and you’d still have people voting for them out of sheer ignorance.”

Even so, there are libertarians/classical liberals who point out that democracy, unless hedged with checks and balances, isn’t compatible with liberty and can be harmful to it. Bryan Caplan’s The Myth of The Rational Voter is a good read, as is this recent effort by Jason Brennan. But my problem with the arguments they make is that what, realistically, can they propose other than the sort of return to oligarchy of “smart people” that, as history tends to show, descends into corruption pretty damn quick?