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]

Polarisation, intolerance and Americanisation

Just 20 years ago when this site got rolling, many of the best ideas flowing into UK came from USA, whilst at the moment, I would say they tend to be the very worst.

Yet outside the distorting funhouse mirror of social media, we have ‘progressed’ somewhat less towards shrill intolerance and a preposterous rejection of objective truth than ‘progressive activists’ wish was the case. I contend race relations in Britain, whilst not optimal (but what is?) are much better than preposterous Brits cosplaying at American civil rights activists pretend.

That said, on other issues our police have gone off the deep end in their rainbow painted cars. Perhaps this indicates the UK needs an explicit and un-caveated ‘First Amendment’ of some kind. That is the kind of ‘Americanisation’ we might actually need.

Also, support for Brexit, by no means confined to the lumpenproletariat of Guardian reader’s imagination, might not indicate what purveyors of the high status opinion fondly imagine. The conflation of Brexit with the ‘Trump phenomenon’ was always overblown, given the deep social and structural differences between UK and USA. Yes, we are influenced by America, but we are not the same in oh so many ways.

But western civilisation, not just Britain, is undeniably going through a very strange phase. The insane and demonstrably pointless covid lockdowns seem to have had a pressure cooker effect, with every -ism being dialled up several notches. The mainstreaming of transsexuality, a largely harmless hobby until a lunatic fringe grabbed hold of it, indicates the world is not running in well-oiled grooves. An inability to define “what is a woman?”, by sages and politicians who nevertheless expect to be treated as serious people, would have seemed implausible just a few years ago.

But the covid lockdowns, that is the ‘biggie’: an egregious abridgement of liberty & common sense that placed the global economy into repeated bouts of cardiac arrest. The worldwide end of the Nuremburg code.

The lockdowns were an even more polarising issue that Brexit or Trump or indeed anything else. Why? Because there was no opt-out, you could not just go to work, or visit granny, no ability to ignore the whole thing and just head down the pub or retire for a macha latte in some café. The effects of that will be enduring. That was the issue that taught a lot of people to fear what other people believe to be true, and people always hate what they fear.

Now just wait to see what happens when the green lunacy that stopped investment in reliable power supply and new reservoirs means we start running out of power and water. I suspect that will be what makes the cork finally blow off.

“The media could not be played”, and that frightens me even more

The video embedded in this tweet from Laurence Fox apparently shows someone being arrested for tweeting. I cannot see the video, but the top comment says,

“Chap shares a post by @LozzaFox and the police arrest the chap, even though Laurence is actually stood there 👀

This is disgraceful. People upset by hurty words need to turn the Internet off and remember the old children’s rhyme – Sticks and Stones.”

Apparently the arrest had something to do with that meme that shows four LGBTQ+ Progress Pride flags (my goodness, “Newsround” has changed a lot since John Craven presented it) arranged so that the triangular inserts form a swastika. Fox’s Wikipedia entry says, “In June 2022 Fox tweeted an image of a swastika made from the LGBTQ+ Progress Pride flag with the caption ‘You can openly call the [Union Jack] a symbol of fa[s]cism and totalitarianism on Twatter. You cannot criticise the holy flags’. This led to him being temporarily suspended from Twitter for a day.”

This tweet from Richard Taylor of GB News may show the same video.

As you can probably tell, I am not at all sure what is going on. Is my inability to play the video censorship by Twitter, or just my old computer not being up to the job? Some accounts seem to imply that that the threatened arrest was not carried through, although that reassures me very little. As we have all seen, making the process the punishment has been a very successful way for the police to chill free speech while avoiding having to defend their actions in court.

Samizdata word for today: paraprofessional

their paramilitary character must be understood in connection with other professional party organisations, such as those for teachers, lawyers, physicians, students, university professors, technicians and workers. All these were primarily duplicates of existing non-totalitarian professional societies, paraprofessional as the stormtroopers were paramilitary. … None of these institutions had more professional value than the imitation of the army represented by the stormtroopers, but together they created a perfect world of appearances in which every reality in the non-totalitarian world was slavishly duplicated in the form of humbug. (Hannah Arendt, ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’)

After seizing power, the Nazi party ‘coordinated’ all the existing professional organisations they had already duplicated. Sometimes the party organisation was the direct instrument of ‘coordination’ but at other times it could be just the threat – the ‘coordinated’ organisation could survive and even thrive if it outdid its party rival in zeal for “working towards the fuhrer”. For people and for the organisations they led, out-radicalising your rival was key to survival.

David Burge described today’s ‘coordination’ technique in fewer words: Identify a respected institution. Kill it. Gut it. Wear its carcass as a skin suit, while demanding respect.

Each organisation they gain helps the paraprofessionals conquer the next. In the US, coordinating education helped them coordinate the media step by step. The death of standards in those two then assisted coordinating some electoral processes, which in turn is now enabling more vigorous work on coordinating the military – and much else.

Meanwhile, the trains themselves may not run on time but those who run them are well-coordinated. If your bank is not doing much for your wealth, then it’s probably doing wonders for your pronouns. Medical organisations march in coordinated lockstep, from the psychologists to the pharmacists; even your pet had better get used to the care of a coordinated vet. And I could write so much more.

Paraprofessional: I think it is a word we need again today. And, like Hannah Arendt, I think its relationship to ‘paramilitary’ needs to be understood.

“Biting and hitting, overwhelmed around large groups of other children”

“Evidence grows of lockdown harm to the young. But we act as if nothing happened”, writes Martha Gill in the Guardian.

I had been beginning to forget that the Guardian occasionally publishes good journalism that expresses opinions outside the comfort zone of its readers. Ms Gill’s previous work had not led me to expect this example of exactly that to come from her. She writes,

Then there are the very young. During the pandemic, parents spoke heartbreakingly of having to tell toddlers to stay away from others and not to hug their friends. In May, research published by the Education Endowment Foundation claimed that lockdown had affected England’s youngest children worst of all. Four- and five-year-olds were starting school far behind, biting and hitting, overwhelmed around large groups of other children and unable to settle and learn.

It came of necessity, perhaps, but we need to admit it. From 2020 to 2021, we conducted a mass experiment on the young. In recent history, there is perhaps just one comparison point: evacuation during the Second World War. Only it’s the opposite experiment. In 1939, children were sent away from their parents. In the past two years, they have been shut up with them.

and

Lockdown Britain had all the aesthetics of fictional big-state dystopias – the empty city squares, the mass-testing centres, the tape around park benches, the twitching curtains of neighbours who would love the chance to report you to the police. It was easy to see then that something bad and lasting might be happening to us all. But the unworldly, futuristic atmosphere disappeared as infections cleared up – and life has mostly snapped back to normal.

But we have to remember what we did. Keeping a generation of children away from their classrooms and friends felt unnatural and harmful, because it was unnatural and harmful. We should at least be collecting far more data on the matter than we seem to be doing. We have, after all, done the experiment. Now we must bother with the results.

The siege

“I’ve farmed this land my whole life. I won’t sell.”
“We’ll see about that, old man. We own the land all around yours. We control your water supply.”

A scene like this could have come from the trailer for a cowboy movie set during a ranch war, or perhaps for a film set in a future propertarian dystopia. I wouldn’t have guessed Cambridgeshire, 2022.

This series of tweets by the Fews Lane Consortium beginning with the words, “This is Clive’s farm. Clive has lived here his whole life” and later including the words,

To get rid of the groundwater that fills Clive’s well and that Clive uses to grow fruit, vegetables, and flowers, developers installed at least 800 underground well points and pumped the groundwater out of the ground near Clive’s farm.

describes a situation that reminds us that, although it is certainly true that the State is the prime oppressor, it is not the only oppressor. When I was first getting interested in libertarianism, I remember reading a lot about scenarios that were a challenge to it – e.g. where a property owner could inflict outrageous harm on another person without breaching the latter’s property rights – but as the years went by, the prime oppressor kept my outrage-tank filled and I’m afraid I largely stopped thinking about such things.

Perhaps I am off the hook. In the modern UK any question of land use inevitably involves the State, in the form of your friendly local council. This report from 2020 suggests that the developers might be hand in glove with the prime oppressor after all: “Cambridgeshire council ‘completely ignoring the law’ is taken to the High Court”:

The council [South Cambridgeshire District Council] is accused of having secret, unannounced meetings, from which no agenda or minutes are ever published, in violation of the Local Government Act 1972.

Another issue is that the council apparently announced a public consultation on a planning application, but then approved it anyway before the consultation had closed.

The council constitution is also allegedly being violated, but instead of rectifying the situation, the council has confirmed it intends to change the constitution, so it is no longer in violation of it.

and

The council has allegedly been acting in violation of this for at least two years by deciding whether to take the decision to the committee behind closed doors with just the chairman, vice-chairman, and a council officer in attendance.

The claims are being brought forward by the Fews Lane Consortium, a community group advocating for sustainable development around the villages, of which Mr Fulton is the director.

The decisions made by the council have had a damaging environmental impact too, according to the consortium.

I must also bear in mind that I have only heard one side of the story.

Nonetheless, I think that supporters of property rights should think about hard cases like Clive’s. What do you think about it?

Some thoughts on the Assange case

Julian Assange is on the verge (as he has been for ten years, but this time for real) of being extradited from the UK to the US. The question I ask is, has he done anything wrong?

If it were the case that he had supplied information that would have been useful to a hostile power then I would say hang the bastard. But that is not what the US government is accusing him of. The accusation is that he helped to steal the information. Now, if someone steals my stuff, I want them to have their hands cut off. Along with a few other appendages. But Assange “stole” information not stuff. And remember the US government is not claiming that that information would have been useful to a foreign power.

Which puts a rather different gloss on things. US government information is – if we are to take the US government’s own position seriously – owned by the US people. They have every right to see it. More or less. As well as military secrets there may be commercial contracts which – possibly – they don’t want to disclose. For instance, one of my frustrations in the UK was that you couldn’t inspect the contract of a Train Operating Company because it was deemed to be “commercially confidential”. Whatever, it doesn’t apply in this case.

So, it would appear that all Assange has done is to supply the US population with something it already owned and had every right to have.

Have I got that right?

Bret Weinstein: I will be vindicated over Covid

Highly recommended

When an abuser controls your finances, they control you

I assumed this was about the state but apparently not.

Us, censor?

WEXFORD County Council’s Head of Communications has refuted suggestions that criteria he put forward to the Managing Director of South East Radio when discussing the renewal of an advertising deal worth some €50,000 amounted to an attempt to influence the radio station’s editorial output or “censor” them in any way.

In the course of a leaked correspondence between Mr Minogue and Managing Director of South East Radio Eamonn Buttle, it emerged that Mr Minogue had asked that, going forward, South East Radio would not broadcast “personal views or opinions of presenters”; that they retain all raw recorded material for a period of two years in case of a dispute with the local authority and that once Wexford County Council avails of a right to reply on an issue, that this should be the end of the matter and it should not be raised again.

I do not think that word “refuted” means what you think it means, Mr Head of Communications.

The quotation comes from an article in the Wexford regional edition of the Irish Independent called “Wexford County Council Head of Communications denies attempt to influence output of local radio station”, though I first saw the story in the Irish section of the Times called “Micheál Martin weighs into editorial independence row at Wexford county council”:

The taoiseach has said he is “concerned” about reports that Wexford county council requested some form of editorial control over a local radio station in return for advertising revenue.

The council has insisted that South East Radio has “significantly misinterpreted” the correspondence that clearly laid out the “criteria” that asked for commitments over certain editorial decisions that are usually the preserve of a media organisation.

The fact that the taoiseach has weighed in probably means that South East Radio’s independence is safe for now. But as a Times commenter called Helena says, “One small insight into the pressure state bodies with lavish advertising and PR budgets may exert over a financially struggling “independent” media sector. The extensive “no go” areas for media scrutiny in Ireland reflect this imbalance.”

Ireland is far from the only country where this is true.

Children without parents

Inevitably, it was Friday afternoon by the time Kevin [not his real name] was slowly and ineptly explaining in the headmistress’ office. All parents know what a talent children have for falling ill on Friday evening. The headmistress knew what a talent pupils have of presenting hard-to-handle problems on Friday afternoon.

Kevin had been acting up in class that morning – not unusual for either Kevin or the school, but this seemed different. The headmistress already knew somewhat about Kevin, of course, but only as three-in-the-afternoon came and went, did his full situation begin to emerge.

Years ago, mummy and daddy had little Kevin. Some years later, mummy and daddy had a falling out. Usually it’s the father who disappears first in this situation but in Kevin’s case it was his mother. Maybe she had some thought of retrieving him when she had a place he could stay and events just got on top of her – or maybe not. Kevin stayed with his father and step-mother, the new woman in daddy’s life. In time, this relationship too soured and daddy walked away from it, leaving Kevin cohabiting with his step-mum and, soon enough, his step-dad – a man she acquired. This occurred once or twice or thrice more – it was not entirely clear how many ‘step-‘s preceded the courtesy titles of the final ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ with whom Kevin was cohabiting when the Friday I’m talking about rolled round.

On that Friday, for reasons not worth detailing, Kevin’s step-(step-)parents were departing that habitation (whether in the same direction or in two different directions was uncertain) so other people could take vacant occupancy of it. It had been made clear to Kevin that he was not going to sleep there that night. He had no idea where he was going to sleep that night.

Of course, the Scottish government has assigned people, institutions and funding to handle this kind of situation. And of course, when you pay people to care, some work for the pay and not because they care (luckily for Kevin, his school’s headmistress was an exception). She was not surprised to discover, after she got her head fully round Kevin’s problem and phoned them, that the clock-watchers in the relevant social work department were almost all gone and no-one still there would take any responsibility or do anything before Monday.

Further questioning and checking elicited that Kevin had some kind of granny/step-granny/whatever living in the city. The headmistress managed to work out an address and phone number. Granny didn’t want Kevin – let’s be frank about it, he was not the kind of kid one instantly warmed to, although his distress and (when it penetrated his thick skull she would help him) willingness to cooperate made the headmistress like him a bit better than she ever had before. However granny did not have that icy determination to get her off the phone before imminent departure for the weekend that had been shown by such social workers as had not departed even before she rang. (To be strictly fair, that city was unusually well supplied with the kind of people who consume social workers’ time and state handouts, and some of them greatly exceeded Kevin in being the kind of people one did not instantly warm to.) The strong-willed headmistress extracted consent to Kevin’s sleeping at granny’s for the weekend, “but he goes to school on Monday morning and he does not come back”.

Why am I telling you this? Two-thirds of the way through this long post, I mention Rotherham, where many of the abused girls were in the state’s not-so-tender care. My post below says power should be given to parents and taken from educational bureaucrats (especially the ones in that city, of whom I could tell you a tale). So, why indeed am I telling you this?

Well, if anyone ever implements (or just argues for) the scheme in my post below – to protect children by empowering their parents and disempowering the educational bureaucracy – then I want them to know beforehand, not discover afterwards, that these situations happen. Woke tyrants love their theories, but we believe in learning from experience – from the many that tell us the family is the best protector of children, and also from the few that warn us that parents aren’t always good, that step-parents can be worse, and that on a Friday afternoon, someone in our brave new-old educational world might suddenly discover that the parents, and the step-step-parents, and the clock-watching employees of that ultimate step-step-…step-parent the state, have all gone.

An education in the true meaning of power

We laugh at them for not knowing what ‘woman’ means. They laugh at us for not knowing what ‘power’ means.

“Only power arrests power.” (Montesquieu)

“In a conflict between mere law and power, it is seldom law will emerge as the victor.” (Hannah Arendt)

The state of Tennessee has laws. A law taxes its citizens and gives a hefty chunk of the proceeds to maintain a large education bureaucracy. A law compels Tennessee children to attend the schools this bureaucracy administers. A law forbids this education establishment to push critical race theory on the kids – but the education establishment is not as eager to obey this law as they are to enforce the others.

“We don’t really let anybody tell us what to do.”

The same casual contempt of the idea that laws apply to teachers, not just to parents and children, can be seen in Oklahoma. In Florida, laws force parents to pay education taxes and children to go to school from a young age, and they get enforced. But the law against teachers sexualising kindergarteners is another matter. Amber junior doesn’t feel like going to school? Amber senior doesn’t feel like paying so much tax? “Tough!”, says Amber the teacher. “You can’t break the law but I can.”

The educational establishment’s belief in its right to ignore the parents and those they vote for – its right to confine their role strictly to providing the kids and the money – is not new. They will behave this way while they have the power to do so. While the tax laws and the attendance laws provide the base for the educational establishment’s power, it will be hard to impose an external power to restrain their power. The parents may want it, but the parents have been deprived of direct power – they must pay taxes to a bureaucracy that can (and prefers to) ignore their wishes. The kids may want it, but the kids are compelled to attend school, and to treat the teachers’ narrative as fact and their doubts as ignorance. As long as all that operates, it will be hard to find the additional taxes and the additional government employees and lawyers to make a contemptuous bureaucracy obey an external power. Until the power dynamic can be changed, expect the education bureaucracy to spend much time laughing at the impotent rage of governors and the despair of parents while grooming their kids, or punishing them for teacher-defined *isms and *phobias. It will be hard work for even an unusually able and energetic governor to focus external power effectively upon them. As for parents, the bureaucrats think they have no right even to know, and ‘interpret’ the rules to impose costs on any who try.

Parents are pretty-well the only available independent resource with which to counter this power-dynamic. The idea of giving back to parents the power the bureaucrats took from them has been around for a long time. Past ‘school choice’ schemes have often offered parents only a little choice – ‘Education vouchers’ that let them choose an education-establishment-run school that is less full than others of inept teachers the teacher’s union will not let be weeded. Any legislature that wants the education laws they pass treated as facts, not jokes, needs to transfer a lot more power. Make the definition of school minimal. Give administering that definition to a small finance authority focussed on avoiding fraud, not on enforcing a narrative. Tie the tax money to the child and transfer it directly to the school they attend – and to the new school attended if the parents pull the kid from the old one. Cut the education bureaucracy out of every decision. In legal theory, the state will lose some power, but in actual reality they will lose the illusion of it; the education bureaucracy will lose the reality of it.

The education bureaucracy has a long track record of cheating to destroy voucher schemes. Everything I said about why they will nullify state law applies tenfold to a state law designed to give parents more power and them less. That’s why the handling of the money must be pulled back from the education department to an adjunct of the revenue. Revenue is everything. Taking the receipt of education revenue away from the education bureaucracy is everything. Taking the disbursement of it to schools and teachers away from the education bureaucracy is everything. Until that happens, a child’s parents may have the law on their side but the educational establishment will have the power.

Sci-Fi dystopia or real world?

A drone appears when people start singing from balconies in protest at the lack of supplies after being forcibly locked in their homes.

“Please comply with covid restrictions. Control your soul’s desire for freedom. Do not open the window or sing.”

And for extra added dystopian flavour…