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

To a great extent, the threat to free speech posed by iPlod will depend upon how its employees exercise their discretion and whether they’re politically neutral. Unfortunately, it will be staffed by the same sort of quangocrats that run the Advertising Standards Authority, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and Public Health England, and we know from experience that these busybodies will use whatever powers they have to extend the reach of the nanny state. That nearly always involves enforcing left-wing orthodoxy, whether consciously or not.

Toby Young

Samizdata quote of the day

Canute’s point wasn’t that he could control the tides and waves. Rather, that fawning courtiers needed to learn the lesson of the limit to State competence. A thousand years later we’re still waiting for the lesson to sink in.

Tim Worstall

What do people think of Open Rights Group?

The White Paper expresses a clear desire for tech companies to “design in safety”. As the process of consultation now begins, we call on DCMS to “design in fundamental rights”. Freedom of expression is itself a framework, and must not be lightly glossed over. We welcome the opportunity to engage with DCMS further on this topic: before policy ideas become entrenched, the government should consider deeply whether these will truly achieve outcomes that are good for everyone.

– remarks by Jim Killock and Amy Shepherd on the ORG site.

Seems to me that ORG thinks the ‘Online Harms Strategy’ just needs to be written better rather than the very notion of the government poking its nose into the internet is an abomination that needs to die in a fire. I have not followed the ORG closely, so am I being unfairly critical? Perhaps I am just allergic to the incredibly dangerous ‘positive rights’ language I see in some ORG articles. Opinions?

The King of Spain is belatedly singeing many a landlord’s beard…

Mr Ed: This post is made on behalf of Paul Marks, the Sage of Kettering, as he appears to have some issues with posting. I have put my pennyworth in.

Centuries ago the Kings of Spain forbad landlords to remove tenants at the end of their tenancy contract (at least in Castile) – the Kings wanted to be seen as the “friends of the poor”. This was the true start of the decline of Castile and it spread to Latin America – where landlords just became interested in collecting-the-rent rather than improving their estates (as it was not lawful for them to remove tenants). Soon rents became “customary” – fixed under the “just price” doctrine, close kin of the “fair wage” doctrine.

Spain and Latin America lagged behind the Common Law world not because Spanish is somehow an inferior language to English – but because Spanish law became inferior to the Common Law which was based upon Freedom-of-Contract not “Social Justice” with its “just price”, “fair wage” and “security of tenure” (regardless of contract). The government of British Prime Minister Theresa May now seeks to copy the “Spanish Practices” of centuries ago – by making contracts meaningless. For example, if a tenant can not be removed after the term of their contract (their tenancy) is over then only a fool would let out a property in the first place. What is intended to “reduce homelessness” will end up increasing it.

Mr Ed: This piece on Conservativehome sets out the aptly-named Secretary of State’s view, Mr Brokenshire, he is indeed going to scour the Shires, and the towns and cities too. Someone said rent control was the second-surest way to destroy a city after carpet bombing.

James Brokenshire: Why we have decided to abolish no fault evictions

The legal position (England and, I think, Wales but it may be devolved) is not set out very well in the piece, so the explanation on the government’s website is here. Basically, the legal mechanism is a Section 21 notice, whereby a property owner can evict a tenant after a 6-month tenancy has ended, i.e. it has run its minimum term, or when it is of indefinite duration. This is to be abolished, leaving in place the much less effective Section 8 Notice, whereby tenants can play cat-and-mouse by not paying rent, then paying arrears and stopping an eviction, amongst other things.

Bastiat’s ‘What is seen and what is not seen’ might seem to be the issue here, but I fear that there are those who will not ‘see’ when it does not suit them, and unlike Nelson, it is from cowardice and calculation.

Of course, if the Sage is right, Mrs May is making England that little bit more like Venezuela, singeing Mr Corbyn’s beard and stealing his clothes.

Samizdata quote of the day

But in the post-war period, rights have been transformed from negative freedoms to positive goods for the individual, such as education and employment, and then to positive goods for groups, including the protection of identities. With each step there has been a move away from holding the authority of the state to account, towards empowering the state over goods which it is increasingly difficult to guarantee. The result is that the state has become more coercive in its attempts to deliver those goods.

Don Trubshaw

Her Britannic Majesty’s Government should do something….

British woman faces Dubai jail over Facebook ‘horse’ insult

Shocking news from Dubai, a British woman, formerly an expat in Dubai, has been arrested there and is facing up to 2 years in jail, after travelling to her ex-husband’s funeral. This is an ex-husband whose new wife she had allegedly rudely deprecated on Facebook (whilst in the UK).

Ms Shahravesh was married to her ex-husband for 18 years, during which time she lived in the United Arab Emirates for eight months, according to the campaign group Detained in Dubai.
While she returned to the UK with her daughter, her husband stayed in the United Arab Emirates, and the couple got divorced.
Ms Sharavesh discovered her ex-husband was remarrying when she saw photos of the new couple on Facebook.
She posted two comments in Farsi, including one that said: “I hope you go under the ground you idiot. Damn you. You left me for this horse”.

Sadly, her ‘wish’ came true. The target of her ire reported the comments and is refusing to drop the case, it seems.

The Foreign Office said it was supporting the mother-of-one.

Well that is reassuring, the same Foreign Office that is campaigning for freedom of speech in the media by appointing a relatively low profile barrister with a rather more well-known husband as its special envoy on media freedom.

Whilst at the same time, social media freedom in the UK is coming under attack from the UK’s government.

Websites to be fined over ‘online harms’ under new proposals

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has proposed an independent watchdog that will write a “code of practice” for tech companies.
Senior managers could be held liable for breaches, with a possible levy on the industry to fund the regulator.

Discussing financial penalties on BBC Breakfast, he (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Jeremy Wright) said: “If you look at the fines available to the Information Commissioner around the GDPR rules, that could be up to 4% of company’s turnover… we think we should be looking at something comparable here.”

Well, a proposal for yet another self-financing regulatory agency, (the business model of the Spanish Inquisition, I understand). What will they do with all the surplus funds? What of Dr. Bonham’s Case, all fines belong to the King?

Just out of interest, what exactly might HM Government be complaining about to Dubai when certain social media postings in the UK can get you fined or jailed for 2 years anyway?

The European Union has passed Articles 11 and 13 of the Copyright Directive. How can this be reversed?

The European Parliament has voted in favour of Article 13, reports Wired:

European politicians have voted to pass Article 13 and Article 11 as part of sweeping changes to regulation around online copyright. The European Parliament passed the legislation by 348 votes to 274.

As Guido put it, “348 MEPs you’ve never heard of overruled 278 MEPs you’ve also probably never heard of. So much for all that democratic accountability Remainers like to go on about…”

Previous relevant posts:

Anyone know how the new EU internet censorship & link tax law will affect the UK? June 13 2018

Two days before the EU (probably) votes to end the free internet. Should we care? June 20 2018

EU votes yes to copyright reform, also June 20 2018

Those MEPs, eh? September 14 2018

And just to show that Samizdata has been warning of this for a long time (hey, at least Cassandra had the satisfaction of being right), here is a post from 2002: The European Copyright Directive.

If I have missed any posts that should be in that list, let me know.

So how does one repeal a bad EU law? As the politicians say, I am glad you asked me that. Let me direct you to yet another past post in which a denizen of Reddit Europe called Ask_Me_Who explains:

MEP’s can not create, amend, or reject proposals. They can act as a method of slowing them, requesting changes or rethinks of proposed policies, but if the other (unelected) parts of the EU want to force through a proposal they can just keep pushing it until it gets through in the knowledge that elected MEP’s will not have the power to propose future updates, changes, or abolition of legislation.

The European Commission only has to win once and it can never be repealed without the European Commission wishing it so.

Samizdata quote of the day

There should be no such thing as a ‘hate crime’… If someone gets assaulted & hit with a brick, their identity group should not make the crime more or less of a crime. And stating an opinion should never be a crime (such as what gender someone else is).

– Perry de Havilland, discussing this amongst other things.

Free market meat

Vegans have a point: the great thing about civilisation is we can overcome basic natural urges to improve the world. Animals do not want to be eaten; humans have the ability to reduce animal suffering; not eating them is a good thing to do.

On the other hand, bacon tastes good. If I honestly answer the question of why I am not a vegan, the answer comes out something like this: I care about eating bacon more than I care about the welfare of pigs.

There is a spectrum, though. A well-cared-for pig can live happily on a pleasant farm for years, oblivious to its impending doom. I imagine it is possible to sneak up behind it one day and kill it painlessly. Probably such methods of bacon production are more expensive than intensive factory farming of pigs, but if I have enough spare disposeable income I will pay that price to alleviate a little bit of bacon guilt. It is quite likely the bacon will taste nicer too.

This sets the scene for this question:

So you’d be happy for us to have low animal welfare and environmental standards in the name of consumer choice?

Or this question:

How would you maintain environmental and animal welfare standards in your model? Would it be entirely a matter of consumer choice?

These questions are asked in the context of a discussion about free trade. If we just allow people to buy food from wherever they want, the argument goes, then they will buy meat from places where animals are poorly treated because it is cheaper.

One possible answer to that is: so what? People ought to be able to choose how much they care about things like animal welfare. Honestly, I agree with this. I do not think the non-aggression principle applies to animals. I do not think it is right to harm a human solely to protect an animal. Whatever the role of the state is, it is not to intervene in individual choices about animal farming.

That is not to say that treating animals nicely is not desirable. I happen to think there is a good chance that as people get wealthier, they start to be able to afford to care about such things as animal welfare, and they do. This is why there is a market for free range animal products, and in the UK meat branded “Organic” is purchased partly because the Soil Association, who license that brand, mandate strict animal welfare standards. This is exactly how it should work. Somebody cares about animal welfare, somebody puts their money where their mouth is and markets products which promise better animal welfare, people voluntarily buy these products.

Banning imports of food from certain countries because they have lower animal welfare standards is harming people solely to protect animals. It is insisting on threatening people with violence for treating their farm animals in a certain way. And it is threatening people with violence for voluntarily trading in animal products from certain sources. It takes choice away from people. It is regressive: by removing cheaper products from the market, poorer people have to eat less meat. It might be argued that eating less meat is better for them, or that the trade-off is worthwhile because it is perfectly possible to cheaply obtain enough protein from other sources, but this is paternalistic nannying. If these things are true then it ought to be possible to persuade people to change their ways. Resorting to the violence of trade regulations is admitting that you can not persuade people to make these decisions voluntarily. Complaining that people make the wrong voluntary decisions is condescending.

However, I have a problem. My Big Idea (such as it is) is that the left tends to win arguments because it successfully appeals to people’s sense of virtue, and we ought to get in on that action. Helping people who are suffering is virtuous. Reducing animal suffering is virtuous. Our job is to demonstrate that freedom achieves these things better than the ideas of the left do.

A Guardian article by Chris McGreal is an example of the left being really good at this.

In these industrial farming units, pigs, cows and chickens are crammed by the thousand into rows of barns. Many units are semi-automated, with feeding run by computer and the animals watched by video, with periodic visits by workers who drive between several operations.

The article paints a picture of rural America reduced to a few people farming grain to feed animals in factories in the worst possible conditions. All this is done in the name of profit because nobody cares about animals suffering; they only care about getting dinner on the table as cheaply as possible.

This might actually be true. If so we have a paradox: being kind to animals is virtuous; people want to be virtuous; but everybody is choosing voluntarily to buy meat from producers who are cruel to animals. Perhaps they are misinformed, in which case opponents of this type of animal production need only to inform them; there is no need to use violence against people who buy meat from the USA.

Or perhaps all this talk of virtue is mere signalling. Perhaps nobody really does care about animal welfare. If true, then persuasion will not work. People who care about animal suffering have no choice but to resort to violence. This is the problem with the state, of course. You use clever semantics to hide the nature of the violence: you call it regulation; you say it is legitimised by democracy. At the ballot box you trick people into thinking that other people will pay the cost of the decision. Someone voluntarily buying Organic bacon pays the price and they see that they are paying the price. If you convince people to vote for the politician who will instruct the police to arrest the person who buys bacon from the USA, you remove from the marketplace the cheap bacon and nobody sees.

What path, then, is left for us to convince people that freedom minimises suffering, even of animals?

It might just be true that state meddling does not work to minimise animal suffering at all. If so, we should make sure of it and tell people.

In Everything I Want To Do is Illegal, Joel Salatin writes,

I want to dress my beef and pork on the farm where I’ve coddled and raised it. But zoning laws prohibit slaughterhouses on agricultural land. For crying out loud, what makes more holistic sense than to put abattoirs where the animals are? But no, in the wisdom of western disconnected thinking, abattoirs are massive centralized facilities visited daily by a steady stream of tractor trailers and illegal alien workers.

But what about dressing a couple of animals a year in the backyard? Why is that a Con-Agra or Tyson facility? In the eyes of the government, the two are one and the same. Every T-bone steak has to be wrapped in a half-million dollar facility so that it can be sold to your neighbor. The fact that I can do it on my own farm more cleanly, more responsibly, more humanely, more efficiently, and more environmentally doesn’t matter to the government agents who walk around with big badges on their jackets and wheelbarrow-sized regulations tucked under their arms.

Okay, so I take my animals and load them onto a trailer for the first time in their life to send them up the already clogged interstate to the abattoir to await their appointed hour with a shed full of animals of dubious extraction. They are dressed by people wearing long coats with deep pockets with whom I cannot even communicate. The carcasses hang in a cooler alongside others that were not similarly cared for in life. After the animals are processed, I return to the facility hoping to retrieve my meat.

And when I return home to sell these delectable packages, the county zoning ordinance says this is a manufactured product because it exited the farm and was re-imported as a value-added product, thereby throwing our farm into the Wal-mart category, another prohibition in agricultural areas. Just so you understand this, remember that an abattoir was illegal, so I took the animals to a legal abattoir, but now the selling of said products in an on-farm store is illegal.

The picture here is one of the state actively stifling innovative attempts to make a profit at selling well-cared-for animals. It may well be that without all this regulation, being cruel to animals may not be the most profitable way to produce them. Or at the very least that marginally more people would buy meat from well-cared-for animals because it would be marginally cheaper.

The other case to make is that economic growth solves all problems. Enough economic growth gets you tasty lab-grown meat at a fraction of the price of tortured-animal meat. Anything that impedes economic growth by a fraction of a per-cent per year directly causes the suffering of millions of additional future animals, not to mention people. If we can market that argument in an appealing way and counter the more-to-life-than-profit rhetoric of the left, we will be onto a winner.

Due process of law is just so 19th Century

As some in the US will know there have been moves to ensure that when a university/college student (usually male) is accused of rape or some other form of sexual assault, the matter must be handled by a court of law, not simply for the accused to be put in front of some sort of academic panel and, without even hearing from an accuser or with a chance to challenge the version of events, can be expelled, and hence ruined for life. (Here are comments from a while ago from Tim Worstall.)

UK journalist and documentary-maker Louis Theroux thinks that when a person is acquitted by a court of law, that’s not the end of the matter. Perhaps he is a bit fuzzy on his understanding of the law of libel. When I trained as a reporter, I distinctly remember that articles about a person who was acquitted of sex assault must never imply that somehow the verdict was, you know, not the end of the matter and that X or Y was probably a bit dodgy, to be shunned and avoided, etc. (In reality, of course, social ostracism is still a factor and people who are thought of as “having got away with it” might find their lives get more difficult. To some extent that’s inevitable.)

Anyway, here he writes:

“There are two different standards. There’s a criminal standard in which you go to prison, but just because you haven’t been found guilty of a crime doesn’t mean that you haven’t done anything wrong – that you haven’t made someone very uncomfortable and possible committed a gross violation.”

Theroux says that just because a person has been acquitted by a jury does not mean there aren’t problems. Well, up to a point. The reason we have juries, due process, burdens of proof, etc, is because it is considered better to avoid innocent people being wrongly accused of crimes, even if it means a criminal goes free. Given how emotions can and do run high, risks of mistrials are large. (This is arguably even more so when public figures are implicated.)

The fact that universities and other entities hold less onerous tests of guilt than courts is not something to celebrate and at the very least, a student who joins a university should be made aware that they could be accused of bad conduct, expelled, and so on, even if their case does not go to court. That’s unlikely to encourage people to go to these places, particularly in the current climate where men are presumed to be “toxic”. (It is worth adding that recruits to the armed forces can go to a court martial that holds slightly different standards to a civilian court, at least under the English Common Law, and that recruits are to some extent waiving due process protections by signing the dotted line. Maybe a student should be asked to do the same.)

Theroux takes what I think is a rather odd turn in arguing that maybe sex assault/rape should not be such serious offences so it would be okay to bypass the courts and still get the perpetrators. I think I have got that right:

“If you define rape very, very narrowly – as it was, someone being dragged behind a bush – it kind of gives license to anyone who sexually assaults someone in a way that’s not as bad as that to sort of say ‘Well, I’m not a rapist’.

One of the signs that we live in mad times is the way that the bar is being lowered, it seems, as far as accusations of ill conduct are concerned and over how traditional checks and balances over this are being eroded. The erosion is being called for in plain sight. And scarily, there appears to be relatively little objection to this.

Spanish practices

Taxi drivers in Madrid are on strike over “unfair competition” from online ride-sharing services such as Uber and Cabify, reports El Pais. In English. On the internet.

Discuss.

‘…If there are not… …great private fortresses… …to which you can flee from the State, …’ . And then the Patreon/Mastercard question….

The words of economist and philosopher Anthony de Jasay, in a long interview on YT. The full quote, as I transcribe it:

‘…The State can starve you if it has sufficient power over the economy. If there are not (as Schumpeter put it) great private fortresses in the economy to which you can flee from the State, when all these private fortresses are demolished, then you are utterly delivered to the State….’.

. He also said

‘…the State can starve you if it has sufficient power over jobs, over the economy, because it can decide that you will not get a job…’

But with the Patreon and Mastercard blacklisting of certain ‘right wing’ voices on YT, such as the brave Robert Spencer and where no state appears to have done anything, we have a situation where private companies are choosing to end contracts with individuals on what can only sensibly be termed political grounds. This might be the thin end of a very broad wedge. In a cashless society, it could make like very difficult indeed for certain individuals.

Now a libertarian might say that this is unfortunate but simply the choice of a business whether or not it wishes to do business with any particular person, and is not a matter for any form of legal regulation. Furthermore, if there is a breach of contract (e.g. a bogus justification for not processing payments), then damages are limited to the losses that flow from the breach and would cease at the point at which the contract could lawfully have been ended.

A counter argument might be that if it is to do this, a business (assuming that we are talking about the legal fiction of a body corporate) which seeks to refuse custom on political grounds (rather than on grounds of breaching the law), then it should be open about its aims, and be specifically empowered to pick and choose customers in its terms of service and in its company rules. So if Mastercard advertise to me that I can use my card for payment, without qualification, then it has fraudulently mis-represented to me what it will do since in an objective reality, making payment to Mr Robert Spencer, (pbuh) is perfectly innocuous, and my custom has been obtained by deceit, and Mastercard has in fact a general obligation to process payments made by me to whomever I choose, except where an illegality issue arises, where it need not advertise the fact.

And of course, a company does nothing, it has the legal fiction of a corporate personality, whereby it is supposedly liable for its acts, not always those who work for it. But if those who work for a company are not acting in its best interests, but in the interest of their own malevolence, can that company claim against them? Should the ‘veil of incorporation’ be pierced?

And what sort of a weapon might that be in certain judicial circuits in the United States, or other jurisdictions, where ‘social justice’ might be deemed a requisite corporate objective?

So, what would those who tend towards libertarianism, and some around here may be 0.999 (recurring) in the direction, others not so close to being an integer, say could or should be done about the situation, if anything?

And does the State (from its own pov) need to do anything more to restrict the internet if there is a ‘private’ solution to undesirable speech on the internet?