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]

Ars longa, vita brevis

The Guardian reports, “Sculptor Antony Gormley plans Brexit giants off the French coast”:

Now, on the eve of Britain’s potential departure from Europe, Gormley is planning a new and dramatic intervention on the beaches of northern France. He wants to erect a group of seven huge sculptures, made from iron slabs, on the coast of Brittany. They will look towards Britain, the lost island of Europe.

There is something in that image that can appeal to both sides. I think Mr Gormley might make better art than his predictable opinions might lead one to suppose:

Gormley describes Brexit as “a stupid moment of collective fibrillation” and argues that such an imposed separation from the rest of Europe will be damaging and false. “We belong to Europe, geologically as much as anything else. We were only separated five thousand years ago. The whole idea that somehow we can go it alone by making greater relationships with the former Commonwealth and with our friends and cousins in America is just ridiculous,” he tells Wilson.

Mind you, it will take about thirty seconds flat for some wag to call these figures standing on the coast of France as they wistfully look towards Albion “the illegal immigrants”.

Stephen Davies on the Wealth Explosion (1): How Europe was and was not exceptional

About two hundred and forty years ago, the human species began to experience a wealth explosion. Poor people, who had been living and dying on the edge of starvation for millennia, began to get less poor, and slightly richer people started to become even richer, and much more numerous. Every graph measuring human comfort, wealth, progress, length of life, and so on, switched – historically, in the blink of an eye – from being a nearly horizontal line to being a nearly vertical line. This wealth explosion began in North West Europe, and quickly spread to other parts of Europe and to the USA. Now, poor people everywhere are getting less poor in unprecedentedly vast numbers. It’s a different world, and for just about everyone, a hugely better one.

What caused this wealth explosion? And why did it first erupt where it did, in Europe?

For some time now I have been getting to grips with a new book by Stephen Davies entitled The Wealth Explosion: The Nature and Origins of Modernity.

The central and most striking arguments in this book concern how Europe was – and just as significantly, was not – exceptional, as a potential detonator of this wealth explosion.

Clearly there was something exceptional about Europe, or the wealth explosion that we all now enjoy would not have started here. And equally clearly, all the positive ingredients needed for the explosion had to be present here for it to start happening. But the mere presence of all these positive ingredients, says Davies, is not what made Europe exceptional. Until Europe started exploding economically at the end of the eighteenth century, it had been, globally speaking, an economic and cultural backwater. All of these ingredients – demographic, economic, social, institutional, intellectual, spiritual – had been present, in greater strength and for far longer, in other parts of the world, most notably in China. The economic and cultural centre of the world, at least until the late eighteenth century, was not Europe but rather the lands around the Indian Ocean. So, why did the wealth explosion not happen there?

The answer that Davies supplies in The Wealth Explosion is that Europe was exceptional in being the only one of the world’s great civilisations that was not, at the historical moment when it mattered, politically unified. No European “hegemon” emerged in the centuries just before the wealth explosion got started, in the way that single imperial regimes had emerged to dominate Russia, the Middle East and India, and as had long been in successive imperial command in China.

This was the decisive negative ingredient that Europe possessed but which was lacking elsewhere, and this was what made the difference. The wealth explosion got seriously explosive in Europe because, when it started and from then on, nobody in Europe was powerful enough or motivated enough to stop it. On the contrary, the rulers of Europe never stopped competing with one another, and were therefore strongly incentivised to keep their wealth explosion going, despite all the upheaval that it caused. Economic stasis, and cultural stagnation of the sort that would have stopped the wealth explosion, was not, for the various contending rulers of Europe, an option. They needed guns, guns which had to keep on getting better. They needed money, to pay for the guns, and for the ever increasing numbers of people needed to develop, fire and later to carry the guns into battle. They needed the wealth explosion, no matter how much it was empowering new classes of citizen producers and citizen warriors. So, they let it happen. They even encouraged it. At which point the only way not to be beaten by the wealth explosion was to join it. And there we have it: the modern world.

The above is my best shot at summarising what I think is the most important line of argument in The Wealth Explosion. I had intended to write a single, quite long, mostly glowing review of this book. And I tried, I really tried. But the task defeated me (especially the “quite” long bit). Despite its small size for such a subject (only 248 pages) The Wealth Explosion contains so many interesting ideas besides those summarised above, so much pertinent historical detail, and so many judgements based on the voluminous writings and discoveries of other historians, that I found it impossible to say everything that I wanted to say about it in one blog posting, while remaining confident that anyone at all would want to wade through all that I had written. So, I abandoned the attempt to say everything, and instead decided to make a start by merely saying something. I now intend that there will be several more postings here about The Wealth Explosion (in the manner of these recent postings here by Patrick Crozier about Ulster).

That’s the plan anyway. I’ll end this first posting about The Wealth Explosion by saying that, although I don’t now want to elaborate on why I find the central argument of this book, as outlined above, to be so persuasive, I do find it to be very persuasive, and the book in general to be fascinating. And since the historical event in question is arguably the biggest single fact that there is about the world that we now live in, that makes this a very good book indeed. How do you write an excellent work of grand historical theory? You ask important questions and you supply convincing answers. You support these answers with many other interesting and closely related truths, and with reports of relevant debates among and with your fellow historians. This is what I think Stephen Davies has done.

Meanwhile, to learn more about The Wealth Explosion, read the review of it that Ananya Chowdhury did manage to write, for the Adam Smith Institute blog. Or, read what Stephen Davies himself wrote about his book and its conclusions, for CapX. Or, if you like it when people are good at talking to camera as well as good at writing (Stephen Davies is very good at both), listen to what Davies said to the Cato Institute about his book, as recorded in this video.

Have we vanished into the night?

The good folk at Lawyers for Britain have published a short paper by an eminent QC, recently retired, on whether or not the latest ‘extension’ of the ‘Article 50’ 2 year period for making arrangements to leave the EU is valid, if it is not, the upshot of this would be that the UK left the EU at 23.00 hours on 29th March 2019 (without anyone realising it).

The author of the piece, Stanley Brodie QC, puts his argument around the way in which Article 50 is worded, and suggests that there was only power within Article 50 for one extension to the negotiation period, which the hapless Mrs May used up in her botched attempts at getting an extension to ram through Parliament her ‘Withdrawal Agreement’.

Our learned friend’s view of the proviso for an extension of Article 50 includes:

The proviso could not be used to reopen, or continue, never ending debate. Nor can it be used as a general power to extend time.

One might hope, but this is the EU. He also says that when the EU made a counter-proposal for extension of the negotiation period with the UK, this was not lawfully done.

On 25th March 2019, the UK government set out its plans for delaying departure, in brief, there was this announcement:

“3. However, the agreement reached with the EU provides for two possible durations:
a. An extension to 11pm on 22 May 2019 if the House of Commons approves the Withdrawal Agreement by 29 March; or
b. An extension to 11pm on 12 April 2019 if it does not, before which the UK would need to put forward an alternative plan on decide to leave without a deal.
4. The Government has therefore laid today, Monday 25 March, a draft SI under Section 20(4) that provides for both these possibilities; …”

Mr Brodie’s view includes the following:

The Agreement provides for two possible durations; whereas the proviso to paragraph 3 provides for a unanimous decision “to extend this period”. The two concepts are wholly different. Extending “this period” is one outcome; two possible durations, without any certainty, are certainly something else, not authorised anywhere in Article 50. If one can have two hypothetical durations, can one make an Agreement under Article 50 which includes more than two durations – a kind of take your pick deal? It is obvious that such an arrangement would be incompatible with the need for an orderly, or credible exit from the EU. The conclusion, I would suggest, is that the Agreement used and implemented by the Prime Minister, Mr Barnier and President Tusk was unlawful and ultra vires Article 50. It was without any legal foundation in accordance with Article 50. Purporting to use their Agreement as compliance with the requirements of Article 50, paragraph 3, and in particular its proviso, was unsustainable. That meant that the illegal nature and purpose of the Agreement invalidated it; there was no unanimous decision to “extend this period”. The requirements of Article 50 were ignored. It was not an application to extend this period as required by the proviso.

Our learned friend also takes issue with the advice given by Civil Servants to Parliament (well, the House of Commons iuam) about what was going on around the various extensions, I have added some emphasis:

5.2 Next, on or about the 14th March the Government issued a note entitled Parameters of Extending Article 50. It contained inter alia the following statement:
What are the legal requirements for an Article 50 Extension set out in the EU Treaties?
The Article 50 period is set at 2 years unless, as provided for in Article 50 “the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend [it]”. Article 50 does not establish any upper limit on the length of an extension. However, given the Article 50 period is explicitly time-limited, any extension would have to set a specific end date, because it is necessary for reasons of legal certainty to be clear on the date on which the UK will leave the EU.”

5.3 It is at this point that there occurs a curious mishap. The first and second lines of the quotation purport to be an accurate reproduction of Article 50. They are not. If one looks at Article 50, it is apparent that the last three words of paragraph 3 are “extend this period”; but in the quotation the last two words are “extend [it]”. So the version put out by the civil servants was false. The differences in meaning between the two versions were considerable.

(a) The true version
Under this version the EC and the Member State can agree to extend “this period”. This period is the two year period after which the Member State ceases to be a member of the EU automatically. But it would appear that the power to extend Article 50 can only be used once; “this period” appears to be limited to the two year period, making it clear that no further extensions to Article 50 could be made. That would certainly curtail any power to make any further extension.

(b) The false version
The last four words of this version of Article 50 now read “decides to extend it”. The wording of this version is apt to enable the Prime Minister to seek as many extensions to the Article 50 process as she wishes; she is no longer inhibited by the restrictions contained in Article 50. It is relevant to point out that in the Parameters paper there appears this statement at paragraph 2:
“This paper provides a factual summary to inform parliament’s debate on that motion”.
5.4 So the civil servants responsible for briefing parliament to enable an informed debate to take place, themselves were misleading it. The alteration of the text of Article 50, and of the proviso to paragraph 3, must have been deliberate.

The beneficiary of this misconduct was the Prime Minister, who could and did arrange for extensions of time without hindrance. The text of the Parameters paper makes it clear that the civil servants had no qualms about extensions or their supposed length and legal foundation. October 31st 2019 is the latest.
This is a truly alarming state of affairs; it should be exposed sooner rather than later.

In summary, he includes the following:

(i) The application by the Prime Minister for an extension of time until June 30th under the proviso to Article 50, made on or about the 14th March 2019, was legally valid, but was rejected by the EU.

(ii) This was followed by the Agreement proposed by the EU. It did not comply with the terms of the proviso; nor was Article 50 referred to or relied on by the EU. It was not effective to stop the Article 50 process running up to and including the 29th March at 11 p.m. Whichever way one looks at it, the Agreement was either unlawful or made for an unlawful purpose or ultra vires .That means that the UK left the EU on the 29th March 2019 by default as there was no valid or lawful impediment to prevent it.

I am not aware of any proposals to test these arguments by seeking a declaration from the High Court, which would be the usual method for deciding a question of law regarding the UK’s affairs. I would say that even if these arguments have merit, I am afraid that I doubt that any application would get a fair hearing in the UK.

However, wouldn’t it be a superb outcome for Mrs May to have taken us out of the EU by accident without realising, and therefore to have resigned by mistake, should she carry out that avowed intent? She would become the ultimate, Universal Champion clusterf*ck politician of all time, although she’s probably made that podium already.

ADDENDUM: APL points out that there is apparently a legal case brought by Robin Tilbrook of the English Democrats. The most that I can find about his case, which appears to rely on some other matters, is here.

Resisting ethnic prejudice by other means

Germany resists islamophobia. German law seeks to purge the public domain of such offensive views.

Germany also resists anti-semitism. The German government’s anti-semitism commissioner has warned Jews to avoid being Jewish in public.

The BBC sees the German far right behind the rise in anti-semitism that prompted the commissioner’s advice. Is it just me or are they ignoring a rival explanation?

Also, is it just me, or is the German method for resisting anti-semitism rather different from the German method for resisting islamophobia – so different, in fact, that their advice to Jews resembles what their law demands of ‘islamophobes’: become invisible in the public domain lest you cause offence?

I wrote a poem about this a while back.

Do please feel free to say that it’s just me and there is really nothing more to see here. After all, I expect that’s what the German government’s anti-semitism commissioner would say – but he might be only obeying orders, or only obeying the anti-islamophobia law.

A distant mirror

“Turkey officials order re-run of Istanbul election, voiding win for Erdogan opposition”, reports the Independent:

Turkish authorities on Monday ordered a redo of an election won by an opponent of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political party, snatching away a major victory from the country’s opposition.

Under heavy pressure by Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) Turkey’s High Election Commission (YSK), which is described as packed with the president’s loyalists, cancelled the results of 31 March Istanbul mayoral elections narrowly won by Ekrem Imamoglu, a rising star in the Turkish opposition.

The news was reported by Turkey’s state-run Anatolia News Agency. It sent the Turkish lira, already battered by inflation and high borrowing costs, tumbling.

Mr Imamoglu appearing before a crowd of supporters struck a defiant tone.
“We won this election by the hard work of millions of people; they attempted to steal our rightfully won elections,” he said. “We are thirsty for justice. The decision-makers in this country may be in a state unawareness, error or even treason, but we will never give up.”

The Times has also reported on this story: “Election chiefs order re-run of Istanbul poll Erdogan lost”.

Imamoglu, the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate who won the March 31 poll by 14,000 votes, of the office and duties that he had already assumed.

In a statement to crowds waving Turkish flags in the city’s Beylikduzu district hours after the announcement was made, Mr Imamoglu, 48, urged his supporters to “stand up against what you know to be immoral”.

Street protests broke out across the middle-class, secular neighbourhoods of Istanbul where support for Mr Imamoglu and his party runs highest.

The Guardian has followed Mr Imamoglu’s rise closely in recent months, not surprising given that Mr Imamoglu is a liberal secularist standing up for democracy against the Islamist demagagogue Erdoğan. For instance this admiring profile of Mr Imamoglu by Bethan McKernan appeared last month: “Ekrem İmamoğlu: a unifying political force to take on Erdoğan”. As it usually is, the Guardian‘s straight reporting of the story that the election is to be run again is fair enough: “Outcry as Turkey orders rerun of Istanbul mayoral election”. But something tells me that the newspaper’s liberal, secularist columnists may not leap with their customary vigour to defend Mr Imamoglu’s hard-won democratic victory against those in power who would use their control of procedure to make him fight it again. On the other hand, perhaps I am too pessimistic. They are all devotedly pro-EU, after all, and the left-wing MEP who might be thought of as the European Union’s spokesperson on Turkish affairs has spoken clearly and well:

Kati Piri, the European parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, said the decision “ends the credibility of democratic transition of power through elections” in the country.

Discussion point: have you kept the libertarian faith on freedom of movement?

The Independent reports, Let Us Vote: New campaign launched to give everyone living in UK the right to vote in elections

The “Let Us Vote” campaign, which has the backing of more than a dozen MPs and peers, is seeking new legislation to extend the voting franchise, which has not changed significantly since the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1969

It has been launched by campaign groups the3million, representing EU nationals in the UK, British in Europe, which represents UK citizens in the EU, and anti-Brexit group Another Europe is Possible. The campaign says it is strictly neutral on Brexit and party politics.

In an open letter published in The Independent, supporters including MPs, peers, and NGO leaders wrote: “The outcome of the next few weeks in politics could determine the course of our lives for decades to come.

“But many of the people who are most affected by the current situation – migrants living in the UK, and UK citizens living abroad – have never been offered the chance to have a stake in our democracy.

“Whatever our views on Brexit and party politics, we are united in the belief that it is fundamentally wrong that so many millions of people whose lives will be deeply affected by developments at Westminster are currently denied a vote.”

The letter was signed by Labour MPs Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Clive Lewis, David Lammy and Stephen Doughty, plus Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran.

The “Let Us Vote” campaign’s own website is here.

What was your first thought upon reading this proposal? What would it have been ten years ago?

My first thought was this was David Lammy’s way of ensuring he never again loses another referendum. (My second was, “Leave campaign: use this on C2DE voters.”) Ten years ago I might have said, “It’s a difficult question”. I do not think I was ever unambiguously in favour of complete open borders on libertarian grounds but I knew plenty of people who were and I was open to persuasion. It was seen as one of the questions that sorted the committed Libertarians from the dilettantes. That, I think, is where my instinctive casting of the question in religious terms came from.

My impression is that my loss of belief in free movement of people is shared by many. Is it shared by you? Or have you kept your faith strong? Have you converted to this belief?

Leaving the EU – a Jersey jaunt and a Guernsey gallivant

Rightly not trusting our leaders to deliver on their statements (there were, IFUC, no promises about leaving the EU from Mrs May), the Sage of Kettering and I have left the EU in that recently, we have visited our nearest escape hole, the Channel Islands. A fleeting visit, one day in each, but we have seen a future, and it works, more or less. For our more distant readers, Jersey and Guernsey are ‘Crown Dependencies’, historically part of the Duchy of Normandy, owing allegiance to the British Crown but not part of the UK. The UK government has arrogated to itself the overlordship of the islands, holding responsibility for foreign affairs and defence (well, sort of, as we shall see), but the two Bailiwicks are otherwise independent jurisdictions with autonomy in most areas, crucially taxation, and are outside of the European Union, albeit within EU Customs arrangements, allowing them to trade with the EU. Here, they say, the Queen is the Duke of Normandy, although monuments refer to ‘la Reine’. She is the only Duke I can think of married to a Duke. Whether or not they can simply declare independence is constitutionally unclear, but with Labour dangerously close to power, they might be advised to make some plans.

→ Continue reading: Leaving the EU – a Jersey jaunt and a Guernsey gallivant

Enemies everywhere

Lovers of liberty are surrounded by enemies. Paul Marks posted a video by tech and social commentary YouTuber Computing Forever explaining possible consequences of yesterday’s votes on articles 11 and 13 of the EU Copyright Directive. I am also fond of the gaming YouTuber ObsidianAnt, who is less certain but still worried.

It is unclear how this directive will be implemented, but it seems awfully unpleasant. Even if this is not the end of the Internet, regulations have ratcheted a little bit more and there is no sign of any future change in direction. At best, life will be made harder for small content creators and innovation will be stifled. YouTube, I suspect, will make a minimum effort to implement tougher content filters which will annoy the big channels and kill off marginal smaller ones. Google will pay the occasional big fine since the system will be impossible to implement perfectly. Some other content sharing platforms will exit the EU or be killed off. All kinds of unseen new things will never come to be. To some extent rules like the link tax will be ignored and not enforced, except against people who are sufficiently unpopular. To some extent people will work around the directive, and in response the EU will try to tighten regulations further.

This is a great example of just how hard it is for grass roots efforts to change the minds of the European Commission. Years of campaigning could not stop the directive. I can not imagine any way the direction of travel can be reversed. The EU is making a really good case for Brexit.

On the other hand, when asked, the British government responded: “We support Articles 11 and 13, which seek to ensure creators and producers are rewarded when their works are used online, but agree they must include safeguards for freedom of expression.” I do see any sign of safeguards. Will the UK government now refuse to implement the directive during the transition period? Boris is against it, at least.

Meanwhile, some more EU plans are afoot to fit cars with speed limiters and black boxes. “The Department for Transport said the system would also apply in the UK, despite Brexit.”

The British government may not be much better for liberty than the EU and in some cases may be worse, but I can at least imagine how it might be possible to change it. I think we need to get out of the EU so we can concentrate on opposing opponents of liberty in Westminster. Perhaps in a few weeks we will have some idea how close a prospect that is.

The enforced prosperity inflicted upon Jean Sibelius by the government of Finland

I continue to be obsessed by the Seventh Symphony of Sibelius, after hearing it performed at a live concert. (In a comment on that posting, Nick M expressed admiration for how Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra performed this piece. I assume he meant this recording. Having listened to many recordings of Sibelius 7 recently, I find myself strongly agreeing with Nick M. (My surprise second favourite Sibelius 7 is, as of now, John Barbirolli and the Halle Orchestra. (But Karajan and the BPO are much better recorded.)))

While seeking to learn more about this amazing piece, I came across a delightful start to some writing about it by Paul Serotsky:

So often does adversity transmute talent into greatness that we seem to consider it a general rule. Sibelius would be an exception to prove that rule. While still only 32, the Finnish government awarded him a pension for life, a year before he even began work on his First Symphony. That he went on to produce some of the Twentieth Century’s finest and most original music says much for his strength of character in the face of enforced prosperity.

Much is made of the last few decades of Sibelius’s life and of how, during all that time, he composed nothing. But he was over ninety when he died, and sixty isn’t a ridiculous age at which to be retiring from the creative life. In general, his life is usually regarded as a case of a government arts subsidy scheme working out pretty well. As Serotsky says, Sibelius is exceptional in being so creative, after receiving a guaranteed minimum income. (Incidentally, I wonder if the government of Finland had its collective brain cells scrambled by what they surely saw as the success of their Sibelius experiment, and thus thought that a generalised version of the same scheme would be other than a dismal failure, that echoed the end of Sibelius’s life rather than his earlier creativity?)

Serotsky’s words remind me that I did a couple of other music-based postings here, quite a few years ago now, about how adversity can sometimes indeed transmute talent into greatness.

Samizdata quote of the day

O Lord our God arise

Scatter her enemies

And make them fall

Confound their politics

Frustrate their knavish tricks

On Thee our hopes we fix

God save us all

– the little-used second verse of the National Anthem, quoted in a 2015 Independent article entitled “God Save the Queen lyrics: The troubling words of the National Anthem that are being ignored”.

To be clear, this is not the verse dating from 1745 containing the line “Rebellious Scots to crush”. That was never official anyway. I just thought the lines about politics and knavish tricks somehow seemed appropriate to our current situation.

Nissan, Brexit and the state of journalism

Guido Fawkes has a smart observation about the recent announcement by Japanese carmaker Nissan that it will not produce a new model from its plant in the UK’s Northeast. This has produced a storm, with people claiming that this shows the UK’s move towards independence from Brussels is a mistake, and that all those thick Northerners who voted for Brexit were misled, and will suffer, etc, etc.

However, there’s a big fat problem with this “a pox on Brexit” narrative. If moving out of the snug embrace of the EU and its Single Market is such a dumb idea, only to be entertained by fools or knaves, etc, why hasn’t Nissan relocated to France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, or some of the other benighted states of the EU, rather than produce the new models in far-away Japan?

Guido also mentions EU emission standards and other issues as a factor for the firm pulling out. Of course, it may be that one reason why not a single other EU state appeals to the folks in Tokyo is the high labour costs and restrictions of doing business in these places (imagine Italy, for instance!), but if that’s true, then the Single Market’s alleged charms aren’t enough to outweigh the Big Government features of the EU’s constituent members. The EU is, in this sense, stagnating under the weight of its own bureaucracy.

Guido asks why Sky News and others haven’t asked the kind of questions asked here, but that misses how for much of the UK media, to ask these questions assumes a level of objectivity and understanding of business that simply isn’t encouraged in journalists today. (I should know, as I have been a financial reporter, but being a crazed libertarian I just about avoided the infection when I was being trained.) Most UK journalists regard business with suspicion and tend to tilt left politically, in my experience. So points about regulation and red tape encouraging a firm to move from A to B just don’t compute. As a result, the questions aren’t asked. (Just imagine, if you will, how the average Western journalist would react to a book such as this, by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins of the Ayn Rand Institute, defending banking and modern finance. You just know what the response will be.)

A few months ago, a US-based commodities and derivatives business, ICE, decided to pull certain futures contracts out of London and back to Chicago, because the costs of complying with EU regulations known as MiFID II were so great they outweighed the benefits of being in the Single Market. As the regulatory process gets worse (I see zero desire to reverse it), the presumed desirability for non-EU countries to be involved will wane. This is a point that we cannot expect the likes of the BBC, or Financial Times, Economist or most of the rest to grasp. And part of the reason is the mindset of the journalists who work for these entities.

Thomas Piketty gets the Theodore Dalrymple treatment

In Britain, as in other countries, more than a quarter of the income tax is paid by 1 per cent of the population. But this is not enough for the Professor, irrespective of whether increasing the rate would increase the take (the purpose of tax being primarily symbolic). He would like capital to be taxed too, from above the not very high limit of $900,000. This would increase both equality and efficiency, according to the Professor, in so far as the money raised would then be redistributed and invested productively by the philosopher-kings of whom the professor is so notable an example.

All this is to be done in the name of what Piketty calls solidarity. ‘If Europe wants to restore solidarity with its citizens it must show concrete evidence that it is capable of establishing cooperation’: that is, it must raise taxes on the prosperous. Overlooking the question of what Europe actually is, or how it is to be defined (I suspect that the Professor thinks it is not continent or a civilisation, but a bureaucracy), this seems to me the kind of solidarity that only someone suffering from autism could dream up, solidarity equalling taxation administered by politicians, bureaucrats and intellectual advisers.

Theodore Dalrymple.