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]

Inflation: what happened last time

A lot of people in the media are calling it the “cost of living crisis” but us lot who were around in the 1970s know it as “inflation”. Back then – if the government’s figures are/were to be believed – it peaked at 25%. The 1970s were a pretty horrible decade all round. As well as inflation, there were constant strikes, bankrupt nationalised industries and a general air of doom. A Samizdata contributor, growing up in France even had an economics text book with a chapter entitled, “Britain: headed for the Third World?”

Since the mid-1980s inflation has been much lower. It’s been present but until now it has been far less of a day-to-day problem. So, what happened? The Thatcher government put up interest rates. For reasons that I may have once understood, but no longer do, this reduced inflation. But it came at a price. Huge numbers of businesses went bust or reduced their workforces. Unemployment skyrocketed. By the mid-1980s growth had returned but many previously industrialised areas did not recover and still haven’t. I doubt they ever will.

Are there lessons in this? Harbingers more like. Interest rates have been very low for a very long time. Homeowners – as opposed to businesses last time round – have borrowed a lot. If you are on an average income and want to own your own house and bring up a family that is what you have to do. Should interest rates go up, millions will find they cannot pay their mortgages. A cynic might argue that at least in the 1980s, the pain was borne by people who weren’t going to vote Conservative anyway. This time, that’s not so clear.

Update 16/4/22. I see from the comments that a lot of people in the US have fixed rate mortgages. Very sensible. I wonder if that is the case here in the UK? Also, how easy is for banks to call a loan in?

It occurs to me that lots of people with fixed-rate mortgages might not be all that good a get-out-of-jail-free card. If interest rates do go up that would severely depress house prices. Sure, homeowners would still be able to pay off their mortgages but their properties would be worth a lot less.

Homeowners of course are not the only borrowers. A few years ago – when I was into this sort of thing – I came across a couple of reasonably-large, barely-profitable companies with large amounts of debt that periodically needed to be refinanced. If interest rates go up they would be in a lot of trouble. I wonder how prevalent this is?

Will a dictator always shoot his bolt?

We don’t know what exactly was in Putin’s mind when he decided to invade Ukraine but despite some initial scepticism on my part it looks awfully like he did want some sort of swift victory in which he either conquered the whole country or perhaps just the eastern half plus Kiev. If that indeed was the aim, he’s failed. In doing so he has underestimated the West.

This week marks 40 years since something similar happened in the South Atlantic. When Argentina’s Junta decided to invade the Falklands they thought it would be a cakewalk. It had never occurred to them that Britain might fight. Ten weeks later the Falklands were back in British hands and the Junta were out of office. They too had underestimated the West. They’d also got the timing horribly wrong. If they had been a bit more patient, Britain would have gifted them the islands.

Any other examples? Hitler? Ach, let’s not do Hitler. Saddam Hussein certainly got it all wrong when he invaded Kuwait. Milosevic? From what I can work out he did nothing but underestimate his opponents.

Does it work historically? Off the top of my head, Cromwell would seem to be the first modern dictator. He had the good sense not to go to war against another state (or did he? What about the Dutch? We were always fighting the Dutch in those days weren’t we?) Whatever, probably not a disaster. And let’s face it, they didn’t have bolts to shoot in Cromwell’s day.

Napoleon famously got it wrong when he invaded Russia. But did he have a choice?

It occurs to me, while proposing this grand theory, that Putin may have done the precise opposite of shooting his bolt. Far from having too little patience he may have had too much. Would anyone have stopped him if he’d tried this in the wake of Maidan?

Update Turns out that Cromwell did indeed go to war with the Dutch.

Update 2/4/22 Lots of good comments mostly telling me how wrong I am which is a Good Thing, even if I have to say it through gritted teeth. I particularly liked this from Chester Draws, “In the west individuals have shorter attentions, because fortunately they stay in power less long, but parties can keep it up far longer than individuals. The Democrats in the US are playing a very long game, quite independent of who their leader is.”


Samizdata quote of the day

Dominic Cummings was completely right in his belief that ‘Generally, the better educated are more prone to irrational political opinions and political hysteria than the worse educated’. The history of communism is the most obvious example, Bolshevism being a student cult that was passionately believed in by some very intelligent, brilliant people long after it was exposed as a disaster.

Ed West

Or maybe not

The internet is awash with armchair generals (not that there’s anything wrong with being an armchair general – I am one myself) telling us that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is not going according to plan. They point out that the frontlines have barely moved in the last week, that a lot of Russian vehicles have been knocked out or broken down, that the Russian air force seems to be absent and various other things (twenty-year old rations is one of my favourites.) Some are even suggesting that the Russians might get kicked out of Ukraine. 

I, and I am sure most Samizdatistas, would dearly like this to be true. But the facts don’t care about our beliefs. The truth may be very different. So, if you are looking for an antedote to the narrative I would suggest checking out Task & Purpose’s YouTube on the subject. He points out that the Russians have had victories and that during the Iraq War there was a similar narrative about the allies being bogged down when they were nothing of the sort. The thing I really like about it is that he – that would be presenter Chris Cappy, an Iraq War veteran – admits that he doesn’t know what’s going on. And that’s kind of the point.


Vlad the Mad?

I’ve seen this idea expressed a couple of times in the last day. Here’s Nigel Farage:

I always thought that we were dealing with somebody who was actually very logical. But I now begin to wonder whether he is. 

The Daily Sceptic, which is really branching out now that most Covid-related restrictions have ended – and in ways I tend to agree with – has a whole article speculating that Putin is paranoid about his health and further speculating that this has sent Putin a bit mad.

I don’t think we have to assume a lunatic in the Kremlin to explain what is going on. Imagine for a minute, you are a Russian imperialist. You have no time for this democracy crap. You have no time for this self-determination crap, or this international law crap. You regard it as Russia’s manifest destiny to rule over Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and a few other places. You look at your opposition, the West. These are people who are bankrupt. They argue about whether men should be allowed to use women’s toilets. They have elites who despise the populations they govern and the customs and traditions that made their countries strong. They have universities that have become communist re-education camps. They fritter away their prosperity on wind farms and useless railways and welfare. They spend little on defence and when they do it is mostly on making sure that their forces embrace diversity. Almost all of them are to a greater or lesser extent dependent on your natural resources. And the “leader” of this rabble is at best a stubborn, wishy-washy, incompetent. And you say to yourself “Why shouldn’t I go to war? Who is going to stop me?” 

P.S. Having drafted this I tuned into YouTube to find that David Starkey has made much the same point but much more eloquently than I ever could.


“Xi Jinping is *a***i** himself dry”

That’s Konstantin on Triggernometry’s YouTube on Ukraine. Lots of good, thoughtful stuff on Putin, Western weakness and everything in between. Well, not so much on that country in between, you know, Ukraine which is all the more remarkable when you consider that Konstantin has Russian-speaking family there. But, as he says, he doesn’t think people in the West are particularly interested in what is best for Konstantin’s family.

Update Maybe that title (see comments) should be toned down.

Why I am against most Covid restrictions if not all of them

  1. Because freedom matters. 
  2. Because freedom is nice in itself. 
  3. Because freedom makes for richer people. 
  4. Because freedom makes for happier people. 
  5. Because freedom makes for a more interesting life.
  6. Because freedom makes for a better life even for lazy so-and-sos like myself.
  7. Because once you lose your freedoms it can take ages to get them back if at all.
  8. Because I disagree with the apparent (i.e. never stated but always assumed) belief that the only thing that matters is reducing death and hospitalisation as a result of Covid.
  9. Because I disagree with the apparent belief that living as long as possible is the sole purpose of life. [I say that and then think, “Well, actually, freedom tends to make for longer lives, in the long run.”]
  10. Because freedom makes for longer lives.
  11. Because I doubt that the restrictions have worked even on their own terms. Or if they have worked on their own terms they haven’t worked that much.
  12. Because it is going to take years to pay for this.
  13. Because in addition to all the ways the government has already buggered up the lives of the young (housing, education, minimum wages etc (probably)) this just makes things worse.

Update 13/1/22

I notice that the subject of “early treatment” has come up. First of all, what constitutes “early treatment”? Secondly, what do we know about their effectiveness? I guess we’re talking about hydroxychloriquine, ivermectin and zinc. Are there any studies pointing to their effectiveness? Any studies saying the opposite. Whatever the case may be you would have thought that if the government genuinely wanted a quick resolution to the [I was going to say “crisis” but that’s controversial] problem they would have said, “Well, that’s interesting let’s do some studies as quickly as possible.” Instead – if memory serves – they said, “Move along, nothing to see here, conspiracy theory.” Which is kind of suspicious.

Samizdata quote of the day

In recent times, the common courtesy of trying to avoid wantonly stepping on people’s toes has developed into an editorial phobia of almost psychotic intensity.

This exaggerated concern for the tender toe has, of course, been vociferously encouraged by every sort of hypersensitive minority. The most frantic form of it is displayed by movie producers, who are more sensitive to the tinkle of the cash register than any other species of artistic entrepreneur, and who also know they are catering for a more infantile audience than any other medium other than television.

…Even on the domestic scene, Negroes, Chinese, Jews, Catholics, Baptists or Holy Rollers, can only be depicted as lovable paragons. It has reached the point where the only villain who can be safely used to-day is a white American or British agnostic, preferably named Smith.

– Leslie Charteris, The Second Saint Omnibus, Hodder & Stoughton: London, 1952, p55. No I don’t know what a Holy Roller is either. This volume came into my possession as a result of the Plunder Party on Friday night in which a number of us gathered at the late Brian Micklethwait’s flat to pillage and loot his book and CD collection. Judging by the rather full shelves when I left, libertarians are unlikely to make good Vikings. Mind you, I am told there were some 5,200 books to choose from.

Brian and I chat for the last time

As promised.

By the way, I found this rather good obituary of Brian by Sean Gabb at The Critic.

Update. The post was initially put up with the wrong link (hence Paul’s comment). It has now been corrected.

Brian (Micklethwait) and I chat about how lucky we are to NOT live in the Middle Ages

Brian and I recorded a couple of conversations which remained unpublished at the time of this death. This is the first.

Any comments – which would be gratefully received – are probably best left here on Samizdata.

Interesting and significant (probably) to see Brian’s influence all over the preceding post. My apologies to anyone reading this who didn’t know him and feels left out.

I thought it was only the other lot who suffered from cognitive dissonance


  1. Naomi Wolf is a loony feminist.
  2. James Delingpole is a heroic leader of the resistance.
  3. The heroic leader of the resistance has recorded and published a podcast with the loony feminist.
  4. The loony feminist comes across as sane. I mean really sane. Thoughtful, informed, careful to stick to what she knows and prepared to be honest about what she doesn’t know.

My head hurts. Is this a weird departure from reality? Will the universe will right itself before too long? I hope so, but maybe it isn’t a departure. I am having dark thoughts here, but what if Naomi Wolf has other opinions that are worth listening to? What if other loony feminists have opinions worth listening to? What if some of them are sane? What if a majority are sane? Have I spent a large part of my life being… yernow… wrong?

Three cheers for the European Super League!

Nothing official yet but it would appear that there are plans for a European Super League. Yes, I know you’re thinking, “Don’t we already have one of those?” Sort of, except that the Champions League is not a league let alone one of champions. This, on the other hand, would be a proper week-in, week-out competition to determine who – really – is the best team in the world.

Shockingly, some people don’t seem to like it. UEFA doesn’t like it. FIFA doesn’t like it. The British Government – you really would have thought that Boris Johnson would have bigger things on his mind right now – doesn’t like it. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “If *a**e*s like FIFA and the British government are against it, it must be a good thing.” And you know what? you are absolutely right. But there are other reasons to like it. What it means is that ordinary people will be able to watch the best football in the world on a weekly basis. It also means that the footballers who people actually want to watch will get their just rewards. In many ways it is just as revolutionary as the creation of the Premier League in 1993 or the creation of the world’s first league in 1888 or the decision to ban handling and kicking people in the shins. Frankly, it’s about bloody time.

Of course, it is bad news for rubbish teams. But who cares about them? As it happens, I do. I support one of them, well, when they’re not promoting communist thuggery (but that’s another story). But I don’t expect the world to be discombobulated just so I can watch them pulverise the best team on the planet every once in a while. I will still be able to support them – subject to semi-permanent Covid restrictions, of course. They’ll just have to cut their coat to suit their cloth that’s all. Who knows, maybe the competition will stir the game’s organisers to improve it. Perhaps, we’ll see an end to the ridiculous offside rule or sin-bins instead of bookings or even the re-introduction of handling and kicking people in the shins.