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]

Finally, an achievable socialist goal

Abolish profit is the proclaimed goal of The New York branch of Democratic Socialists of America (they would also like to abolish prisons, cash bail and borders, but abolishing profit comes first). Normally, I think that, this time, socialism won’t work – because it didn’t last time, and the time before that, and the time before that – but for once, that logic points in the opposite direction.

Sure, I’m for social insurance, medical care and the rest, provided it’s given to the people from the profits which the State, as owner and operator of the factories, makes on them – the profits that formerly were made by the capitalists – and not from the earnings of the workers themselves. In that was the gist of the revolution.

But where are your profits? Your industry and your whole economy work at a loss. And we, the citizens, are forced to cover those losses.

Revolutionary socialist Andrei Kravchenko said that to his son, communist official Victor Kravchenko, in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1936. Socialism’s ability to abolish profit was later confirmed by Mao, Mugabe and Chavez – and by a number of nationalised industries in the UK. So I believe socialism can do this.

Unfortunately, the DSA’s second goal – abolish prisons – is one that socialists have never achieved, since prisons are the means by which “we, the citizens, are forced to cover those losses.”

An interesting exchange of fire in the culture war

I found this interesting, just a mere twitter exchange relating to the Day of Freedom rally that you will never see the BBC say much (or indeed anything I suspect) about.

I am increasingly willing to accept almost anyone on the correct side of this as an ally, and if the Guardian wants to tar anyone who supports free speech as ‘far right’, well who cares? It turns out that support for free speech is in fact ‘multicultural as fuck’.

“Jordan Peterson aims at a refounding of Western Civilization …”

I like this, about Jordan Peterson, in Esquire, by Wesley (good name, considering his subject) Yang:

Many of Peterson’s seemingly grandiose pronouncements are, in fact, quite modest. He is often derided for repackaging banal common sense in a vague and pretentious idiom, and there is something to this. Peterson is an apologist for a set of beliefs that we once took for granted but now require an articulate defense, such as: Free speech is an essential value; perfect equality inevitably conflicts with individual freedom; one should be cautious before attempting to reengineer social institutions that appear to be working; men and women are, in certain quantifiable respects, different. His life advice concerns the necessity to defer gratification, face up to the trials of life with equanimity, take responsibility for one’s own choices, and struggle against the temptation to grow resentful. How such traditional values came to be portrayed as a danger adjacent to Nazism is one of the puzzles of our time.

The next paragraph solves this puzzle:

Viewed another way, Peterson’s intellectual project is exceedingly immodest, and can be stated in a sentence: He aims at nothing short of a refounding of Western civilization, to provide a rational justification for why the materialists of the digital age should root themselves in the soil of Christian ethics despite having long ago lost the capacity for faith.

The more rabid leftists call anything they don’t like Nazi. And the thing they dislike most is The West, which they want trashed. The West’s power, and everything good that The West stands for. Anything – anything – which is anti-West, they support.

Jordan Peterson is preaching virtues, public and personal, virtues which are the total opposite of Nazism and which might, unlike Nazism, greatly strengthen The West, by persuading a generation of Western and Westernised wastrels to sort themselves out, and to have good lives with good consequences. Therefore Peterson must be denounced as a Nazi, regardless of what he says he is, and regardless of what he actually says about the Nazis.

Bernie Sanders fails to compete with the AAPP

Bernie Sanders announces a plan to guarantee every American a job, but he fails, yet again, to come even close to the promises made by the And A Pony Party (“AAPP”).

We remind you, once again, not to be swayed by politicians hopping on to the bandwagon by cynically pushing inadequate substitutes for the program of the only political party that really cares.

Stay the course. Support the AAPP.

Poujadisme, in Desborough, Kettering, England

10 ‘Conservative’ Councillors (of the 12 complement) on the Town Council in the little town of Desborough in Northamptonshire have resigned after an apparent hostile response to a 400% tax rise imposed by the local council, and there is an alleged undercurrent of unpleasantness in the local reaction, perhaps the spirit of Poujard lives on.

The BBC tells us:

Desborough Tory councillors’ mass ‘bullying’ resignation

Well, who is the bully?

Is it the Council for ramping up tax by 400% from £19.10 to £96.98 per year on those who have to pay, with the sort like the Chairman, Councillor Pearce, of whom it is reported:

Ms Pearce… …said “with hindsight we perhaps should have sent out some kind of warning it was coming”.

and then went on to say:

“But I absolutely whole-heartedly believe it was the right thing to do and I would do it again tomorrow in a heartbeat,”

That’s a ‘Feck you!‘ if ever I heard one, and which I assume is a reference to the true costs coming through after some financial juggling used to disguise the costs of the Council ended (more like that later). And the article goes on, Ms Pearce said that:

she was “shocked by the ferocity” of the reaction.
“My husband’s taken abuse on Facebook. I’ve had comments made to my eldest child who’s only 15. I’ve had people try to stop children playing with my nine-year-old daughter.

So a frank expression of views and voluntarily withdrawing social interactions is shocking when you start robbing people under colour of law?

Her observation?

“They didn’t ask for that and they don’t deserve that.”

I think that is exactly what the residents are telling you, Madam! Action and re-action, this is not bullying, it is intra-election consultation.

For our more international readers, this council is about the smallest unit of local government that can levy taxes, and this council probably doesn’t need to exist, it can add a local ‘precept’ onto the taxes levied by the other local authorities, (4 layers are possible, 3 with taxing powers), all of which is loaded onto the ‘Council Tax’ bill that households pay, overall bills can be in the region of £1,200 to £2,000+ p.a.

To the resigning Councillors, I say ‘Oh dear, how sad, never mind‘, and count yourselves lucky that you live in such temperate times.

Meanwhile, at a County level, the County Council for Northamptonshire have spent £53,000,000 on a new headquarters, and in true Parkinson’s Law fashion, with the new HQ, matters have started to disintegrate, with spare money running out, so they have had to go to the government and tell them that they have cocked things up and run out of discretionary money to spend.

So having moved into a new HQ in October 2017, they are now looking to sell it to keep themselves going (by which they mean ‘sell it to a company who will lease it back to them, so that they can squander the capital and saddle locals with rent charges’ rather than ‘downsize and cut costs’). It’s just as well that the entire County is not rising up to berate the County Councillors, but perhaps the whole thing is too complicated and remote for people to care.

But at least the spirit of Poujade stirs from time to time, the BBC might think like Durin’s Bane, but actually more like Beorn. There is hope yet in England. And the Sage might wish to maintain a discretion on this one.

Edit: an erroneous ‘r’ removed, my apologies to the Gods of Accuracy, Spelling and M Poujade, and my thanks to Appianglorius, the price of accuracy is eternal vigilance, its true.

Happy birthday Helen Szamuely!

Happy birthday Helen Szamuely. You got to see both of your life’s works achieved, proving that in your case, “a life in politics is NOT doomed to end in failure” . How typical that you’d contradict Enoch Powell in the process!

The USSR is gone, UK Independence Day was one year and two days ago. Brian Micklethwait once described the job of the Libertarian Alliance in the Cold War as “making it end in victory at least 15 seconds sooner” .

You saved us all a lot of time!

Thanks! I shall toast your life’s work on this beautiful Sunday. Wish you were here.

[Crossposted at Antoine Clarke’s not very active blog.]

“But she knows me !”

Late one night near the start of the 1930s in Germany, Leni Riefenstahl dropped in on friends whose house she chanced to pass as she returned from the very first Nazi rally she attended. For ten minutes, she raved about the the glorious future awaiting National Socialism, the insight of Hitler  – until the expressions on the faces of her stunned-into-silence hosts finally penetrated the haze she was in and she recalled that this married couple (that she’d been friends with for years) were two of her several Jewish friends. She murmured something about how she was sure that aspect of National Socialism would not amount to anything that need concern them. Then she finished her coffee and left. She never came back. Her circle of friends changed to contain fewer Jews, then fewer still.

(Leni’s next chance to meet Jews in numbers came in the early 1940s, when she borrowed concentration camp inmates to be extras in crowd scenes in her films, returning them to the camps after their scenes were shot. The couple who gave her coffee were not among them. Before that night, they were typical intellectuals, sure that National Socialists were all very stupid self-defeating people. That a girl like Leni – clever, strong-willed, career-minded, inventive, unorthodox – could become one was incomprehensible to them, so incomprehensible that it shattered their intellectuals’ conviction that they were the ones who understood things. Therefore they fled Germany early and so they lived – long enough to tell the story of that night on a television programme I watched long ago.)

I was reminded of this by the woman named by Sarah Hoyt in a recent post. Like the rest of Sad Puppies, Sarah has been accused of every sin in the politically-correct calendar by SJWs who’ve never met her, but also, to her astonishment, by Rose Beteem, a woman who knows her, who knows her views, who knows she’s from Portugal and can look like she comes from somewhere south of it, who knows Sarah is no more plausibly accused of all these -isms and -phobias than Leni’s friends were of starting WWI. Sarah was astonished that Rose could do that since “she knows me.”

I wasn’t. Beteem’s knowledge of Sarah Hoyt is part of her experience. Beteem’s knowledge that all Sad Puppiers are vile people, guilty of every -ism and -phobia, is part of her political theory. To be politically correct is to value theory above experience. Khrushchev noted the strength of Stalin’s tendency to believe a thing if he’d read it in a book or report, whatever the counter-evidence. In C.S.Lewis “That Hideous Strength”, Mark treats a sociology report on agricultural labourers as the reality and the actual agricultural labourers he meets as irrelevant because his modernist views meant “He believed as firmly as any mystic in the superior reality of that which is not seen.”

Treating the theory you’ve been taught as a surer guide than your own experience is the essence of political correctness. SJWs don’t just refuse to learn from the past; they resist learning from their own present. If this ever changes, they become that well-known type who is a socialist at 20 but wiser at 40. Otherwise, don’t rely on their knowing you to make a difference.

[All quotations are from memory. Khrushchev’s remark is in Robert Coquest’s, “Stalin, Breaker of Nations.”]

Is fintech-for-all now saving us?

Yesterday, at my personal blog, I expressed extreme gratitude to Christian Michel for letting me talk last Friday, at his home, on a subject which, when I first floated it to him, must have seemed very vague and vacuous, although judging by what he said about my talk afterwards, he was almost as pleased by it as I was.

Tonight, I will be attending another meeting organised by Christian Michel, partly out of gratitude for last Friday’s meeting. There is a London tube strike happening today, and I am pretty sure that Christian is now feeling a bit nervous about attendance, so I will make a point of being there.

The title of tonight’s talk is “The Collision of Fintech and Traditional Banking”. The speaker will be Sasha Karim. (I’m guessing that this is the Sasha Karim mentioned here.)

I am hoping that what Sasha Karim will say is, among other things, that, by radically lowering transaction costs and thereby making the life of a “financier” (formerly only available to ultra-clever (but not necessarily ultra-wise) people who had access to or who were attached by ultra-rich (but again, not always ultra-wise) employers to expensive machines in expensive buildings) “fintech”, aka the new world of financial transactions on mobile phones, now available to all people who are above dirt poor, is creating a world in which the old dream dreamed by the likes of Friedrich Hayek of denationalised money, can become a reality and rescue us all from the great catastrophe that has been governmentalised fiat paper currencies, of the sort denounced by another friend of mine, Detlev Schlichter. We shall see. But maybe I am being too optimistic, both about the talk and about the world. Concerning the talk, I will report further.

Hayek’s crucial little book on denationalised money has long been available on the www as a free .pdf download, but I only just found out that Detlev Schlichter’s book is now available as a free-to-download .pdf file also. Blog and learn.

Requiem for a Comrade: Tony Hollick (1942-2016)

Like all London-based libertarians of a certain vintage, I have fond and vivid memories of Tony Hollick, who died in October of this year. At the time when he was most active in the British libertarian movement, when that movement’s membership was numbered only in the dozens or less, people like Tony made a huge difference, attending and helping to organise meetings, writing and editing and, as is explained so well below, above all, arguing, which is what you are bound to do with ideas if you take ideas as seriously as Tony Hollick did. The moral and intellectual support that Tony supplied, in particular, to the late Chris R. Tame, was especially important and valuable. And see also this obituary of Tony Hollick, by Tim Evans.

Last week, on Wednesday December 7th, Tony Hollick’s funeral took place at Beckenham Crematorium, London. Below is the eulogy that his much loved godson, Gerald Hartup Jnr, wrote and read out on that sad occasion:

Tony was my godfather and I loved him dearly. He was one of my father’s oldest and closest friends and was much loved by all in the Hartup family.

He was a spectacular teacher, kind, generous with his time and very patient. As I was growing up reading philosophy, economics, politics and following current affairs I would always discuss these matters in depth with him. He was a superb sounding-board and I was very lucky to have spent so much time speaking with him. I learned a vast amount from Tony and am eternally grateful to him for that.

Tony did not like authority (huge understatement!). He particularly disliked authority when combined with a sense of injustice. He was a man with an extremely strong view on what is right or wrong and had an unbendable set of guiding moral principles. He was stubborn, passionate and had fire in his belly which would be shown in glorious style when he encountered something he considered wrong or unfair. This was a trait he displayed early on when as a boy he was expelled from two of the finest schools in the world – Dulwich College and Geelong Grammar School. A common theme behind both of those expulsions was a steadfast refusal to accept or yield to what he felt were unfair treatments and practices. He had a powerful sense of righteousness and this was always evident in the social or political causes he championed.

Tony is one of the most erudite people I have known. Not attending university did not hinder his accumulation of knowledge as he devoured swathes of books. His studies were broad, varied and extensive. His favourite fields were political philosophy and physics both in which he developed an awesome depth of knowledge. He was very thoughtful, intellectually curious and he carried himself with a scholarly disposition.

Politics was a big part of Tonys life. He had a unique take on matters and he would have described himself as a left leaning libertarian. In terms of political activity he was a founding member of the Libertarian Alliance, he worked at the alternative bookshop (a focal point of the Libertarian movement at the time), The National Association for Freedom (later the Freedom Association) and FOREST (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco). He certainly practised what he preached. He was a self-styled defender of freedom political activist and he put his health and his body on the line for the cause. It is important that this is remembered.

He was always entertaining to debate with and wow, he loved to argue. As a child I would always hear my father on the phone with Tony arguing passionately about some political topic. As I got older and smarter the baton was passed to me and I too would spend considerable time on the phone with him arguing and debating whatever matter was at hand. It really could be anything – political, philosophical, religious, historical, moral, cultural, you name it – he would have a view on it and would argue it. I think he just really loved the sport of it. Verbal sparring must have been one of his favourite things to do and with my father and I, he had some tenacious and willing sparring partners. He could have made a very imposing barrister. I do pity the many hapless victims who would have stumbled into a debate with him unknowing or unprepared for his assault! Debating him was great fun, challenging and at times exasperating – it certainly sharpened up my and my father’s oratory skills.

He was an intriguing character with some fun interests. He was a tech savvy early embracer of computers and the internet. He loved science fiction, film and literature. The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and The Matrix were sources he would often use for analogies or making comparisons from. Working on designing and producing electrically powered roller-skates was a hobby of his. He was a horologist and truly loved the beauty of watches. His prized possession was an Omega Speedmaster pre moon landing watch which he took immaculate care of for 50+ years, it gave him immense joy and he never tired of talking about it. He adored cars and motorbikes and over the years he owned some really cool vehicles. He was a cat person, long after his dear cat Beeper passed away he would affectionately recall stories about how brilliant, intelligent and lovable a creature Beeper was.

“Athens or Sparta?” was a question Tony considered crucial to ask when trying to get an understanding of a person. Of course, with Tony, it was never a simple question but the start of a long, playful and philosophical dialogue. It is very difficult to sum up a character as colourful and complex as Tony but to do so in one word I would choose “Athens”. He was unquestionably “Athens” and I think he would be happy with that.

One from Milo’s college tour

It is worth watching the panel session with Milo Yiannopolous, Stephen Crowder and Christina Hoff Summers at the University of Massechusets.

Of course the event, organised by the Republican Club, is disrupted by heckling lefties who think that the format of a panel session infringes their free speech. And Milo is typically provocative.

But watch out too for very good arguments from Milo and Christina. Milo in particular demonstrates his ability to concisely make powerful, well-reasoned arguments.

That the talk is punctuated by heckling with Milo’s provocative one-liners and Stephen Crowder’s rants just makes it all the more entertaining.

Finally, here’s a quote from Milo that could forecast the end of the PC movement:

This is the year the public starts to see these videos. My college tour is penetrating way outside the media that is usually interested in this stuff. Your parents are going to start pulling you from college if you keep this shit up.

Learning patience from Jeremy Corbyn

I have always thought that we libertarians have a lot to learn from socialists. Not about what are true ideas. They can tell us very little about that, although the process of combating those ideas is very valuable. But about how to spread ideas – how to make ideas count for something – the socialists can tell us a great deal. Their success in spreading their own ideas is all the more impressive when you consider how very bad most of these ideas are.

We can learn, for instance, patience. This is from a piece in the Guardian a few days ago by Rafael Behr:

Whatever else Corbyn’s surprise ascent last year represents, it demonstrates the value of patience. It takes a particular temperament to plug away in apparently futile opposition, making pretty much the same speech to the same fringe meeting for 30 years, letting no belief be washed away by shifting political and economic tides, but instead sifting events for bits of evidence to support the unwavering faith. Not everyone who is cast on the wrong side of history sticks around, confident that history will swing by again in the opposite direction. Yes, Corbyn has been lucky, but fortune only furnished the battle. He gets the credit for winning.

And he is still winning. The tendency in Westminster is to measure success by the restless pulse of the news cycle and the temperature of public opinion. In those terms, Corbyn is not doing so well. It took the best part of a fortnight to conduct a shadow cabinet reshuffle from which the casual observer will have gleaned that Labour is in chaos, divided over nuclear defences with a new bias towards the view that Britain shouldn’t have any. By conventional measures this is bad, but the tradition from which Corbyn hails does not respect those conventions.

To sneer at 14 days of reshuffle-related mess is an error based on the Westminster canard that a week is a long time. Corbyn and friends come from a place where 14 years is a pause for breath; where 30 years of barren rhetoric can whizz by without frustration. Set that as the tempo of achievement and the appointment of an anti-Trident shadow defence secretary is a monumental triumph. Every day in the leader’s chair is more triumphant still if it stops the Labour party returning to what it was.

When libertarians have contrived serious victories, these are the sorts of ways we have done it. When we start winning bigger and more dramatic victories, these are the sorts of ways we will do it.

My 2015 in pictures

Like Michael Jennings, I end my 2015 blogging efforts here at Samizdata with a clutch of pictures. Unlike Michael, I haven’t managed to do anything like this for every one of the last ten years. I did do something similar two years ago, but this time last year my retrospective attention was concentrated on the speakers at my monthly meetings, without any pictures of them.

I began my 2015 in France.

→ Continue reading: My 2015 in pictures