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]

When dangerous fantasies come true

Famously, while Nigel Farage was debating Nick Clegg in April 2014, the latter said that the idea of an EU army was a “dangerous fantasy”. Ed Miliband repeated the line a year later.

Three days ago, the man who was the EU’s Brexit Guy – the EU Parliament’s former Brexit Coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt MEP – tweeted,

BREAKING — Conference on the Future of Europe approves radical overhaul of the EU: end of unanimity, abolishment of veto’s, launch of Joint Armed Forces of the Union, transnational lists and many other reforms…

Now, just because the Conference on the Future of Europe says a thing, that does not necessarily mean it will come to pass. Wikipedia describes the Conference thus:

The Conference on the Future of Europe is a proposal of the European Commission and the European Parliament, announced at the end of 2019, with the aim of looking at the medium to long term future of the EU and what reforms should be made to its policies and institutions. It is intended that the Conference should involve citizens, including a significant role for young people, civil society, and European institutions as equal partners and last for two years. It will be jointly organised by the European Parliament, the EU Council and the European Commission.

In other words, the usual cheerleaders duly led the cheers. Nonetheless the very fact that the “young people, civil society and European institutions” who took part in the Conference were pre-selected for their obedience means that when they say they want an army that means that the leaders of the EU now want an army.

Discussion point: Watching Clegg and Farage spar over Vladimir Putin’s 2014 aggression against Ukraine, does anyone feel a newfound sympathy with Clegg’s position? These are dangerous times. It is no longer a matter for us in the UK to decide, but maybe the EU does need an army.

Samizdata quote of the day

“It says a great deal about the impotence of the European Union’s response to the Ukraine crisis that Poland should have emerged as the bloc’s most effective cheerleader in confronting the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. It was only a few months ago that Brussels was seeking to demonise Poland as a rogue state over accusations that it was violating the EU’s democratic agenda. This led the European Court of Justice to rule in favour of denying Warsaw access to more than 75 billion euros in funds. Today, with Poland taking the lead role in condemning Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, the EU’s attempts to humiliate the Poles appear ill-judged, to say the least.”

Con Coughlin, Daily Telegraph (£)

Digital Markets Act

With the Digital Markets Act, the EU wants to make competition between tech giants more fair. What could possibly go wrong?

In his weekly podcast, Linus Sebastian gushes about all the wonderful things it will bring: ensuring interoperability of instant messaging services (so you can more easily abandon Apple devices even if all your friends have them and use iMessage); the ability to use alternative app stores (which is what Epic games was hoping for so it could sell Fortnite VBucks to iPhone users without paying Apple); the right to uninstall pre-loaded apps (aka bloatware); no self-preferencing (e.g. putting your own products at the top of search results); more rules about combining personal data without consent; no more requiring developers to use certain services to get their apps onto app stores, making it easier to, for example, use alternative payment processors; allow app developers fair access to supplementary functionalities of smartphones (for example access to NFC for third party apps on iPhones).

“This is just such an obvious list of things that no consumer should oppose,” says Linus. And he is right. All these things would be very convenient.

But Linus does not consider the means by which these things are being attempted. One wonders what minor inconveniences he would not resort to legislation to solve. The non-aggression principle does not occur to him. Never mind the motivations of the people behind it or the time-proven tendency for all state regulation to have unintended consequences.

At 18:48 he responds to a commenter. “BFire just outed themselves as someone who doesn’t get it. ‘More government control. You’d think Canadians would have learned.’ No! This is a government body stepping in to reduce corporate control. Everything here is about loosening an iron fist. How is it not clear? This is one of those things: I just don’t get it. How can you oppose being allowed to remove crap you don’t want from your devices?”

Linus has fallen into a semantic muddle. No-one is being allowed to do anything. People are being forbidden from doing things. The answer is easy: if you want to be allowed to remove crap you do not want from your devices, simply buy devices that do not take that control away from you. The beauty of this is that it does not require any violence!

Linus must know on some level that violence is involved. His next sentence: “Companies being forced to make their products inter-operable. How can you oppose pro-consumer legislation?”

Perhaps one might oppose it because it is legislation which means that force is used. You might also oppose it because it may not lead to the utopian world its proponents imagine. Alec Muffet tweets that enforced interoperability will weaken end-to-end encryption of messages (and he goes into much more detail in a recent essay). There is a consequence that might not actually be unintended by the state actors behind this legislation and that might well harm the very consumers they claim to help.

The whole thing is also obviously unnecessary. In the video there is some discussion of Google search results becoming a bit rubbish lately since many more of the top results are just adverts. Luke Lafreniere (the chap on the right who works with Linus) talks about using Duck Duck Go to get better results, not just for privacy. So there is a free market solution to these problems that is already working.

At 29:39 Luke straight up announces that he would consider not buying Pixel phones if other phones allowed him to remove all the crapware. He seems completely unaware that the problem of crapware is already solved: simply buy devices that do not have crapware.

But for all the practical considerations, there is an easy way to counter all of this from first principles. Violence is bad, and the ends do not justify the means. You just need to have the semantic discipline to see through such constructs as “pro-consumer legislation”.

Samizdata quote of the day

Well, I was in Brussels last week and, contra the mood on Twitter, Europe feels more buoyantly European than it has in a long time, and Britain is absolutely a part of it, sending weapons to Ukraine, beefing up Nato and generally putting some stick about. It is UK Remainers who now seem parochial, refusing to move on from yesterday’s hurt and even, in the case of that fake news flick Boris Does Brussels, reimagining contemporary events as a commentary on unrelated stuff that’s still grinding their gears six years later.

When President Biden said that meetings that bring America and the EU closer are a “victory for all of us,” Alastair Campbell added that they are also “a defeat for the UK. Which is why Brexit was a foreign policy goal for the Kremlin.” Bingo: a conspiracy theory and a contradiction all in one Tweet!

Tim Stanley

Samizdata quote of the day

It is telling that so many cosmopolitan liberal globalists now care about sovereignty for Ukraine, yet spent years telling Brits sovereignty was some kind of fascist fantasy. It’s now okay to be a ‘flag shagger’ if you’re from Lviv or [Kyiv], but not if you’re from Leeds or Kings Lynn.

– Commenter Martin

Net Zero is “in Nigel Farage’s sights”

I have considerable respect for the Guardian‘s John Harris. Though a Remainer himself, he was one of the first left-wing journalists to see that the campaign to leave the European Union had popular support, particularly among the working class, and the reason he could see that while others could not was because he and his colleague John Domokos did what others did not and put in the legwork to report from “Anywhere But Westminster”.

But respect does not mean agreement. Mr Harris writes that “Nigel Farage’s hard-right faction won Brexit. Now net zero is in its sights” like that’s a bad thing.

Meanwhile back in the EU

Old rules die, new ones are born.

Belarus border crisis: EU suspends asylum rules to speed up deportations

Omicron variant: EU should encourage compulsory vaccines, says Ursula von der Leyen

Both Times reports are behind a paywall, but the headlines make the point well enough.

As the late Brian Micklethwait – I still cannot quite believe that I am writing that – said in a post called “On the future of photography in public (and on what I think of the EU)”:

The way the EU works is that at any one time EU-ers propose a million laws, and the winning laws are the ones that nobody objects to. If anyone at all persuasive does object to any particular law, then the plan is dropped, with a charming smile, and put to one side for another go in a few years time. No no no, you misunderstood entirely what we were talking about. We never had any intention of doing what we previously did intend to do if nobody had complained! Fuss about nothing! Europhobic scaremongering! Why do you hate foreigners?

Stephen Davies on Brexit and political realignment

Writing books about “current affairs” is tricky. If you write your book while whatever you are writing about is not yet over, you are liable to be wrong-footed by later events, especially if you thought it was over.

But if you wait until you are sure that whatever it is has finally finished, your book is liable to be lost in a throng of rival books on the same subject, written by people all of whom, like you, know that it’s now or never, and at a time when whatever happened is now pretty much obvious to all. But what if you are spot-on about what is happening while it is still happening, but you wait until the dust settles? Then you miss your chance to have been “prophetic”. “That’s what I said!” works far better if you actually did say it, loud and clear, before it all became obvious.

Stephen Davies latest book, entitled The Economics and Politics of Brexit: The Realignment of British Public Life, is a rather cunning answer to this dilemma.

Davies has written a book about a process which still has a way to go, but also about one of the consequences of this process which is already very clear. The larger process is the political realignment which Britain is now still in the thick of. But one of the many consequences of this realignment has now been pretty much settled.

→ Continue reading: Stephen Davies on Brexit and political realignment

Brexitalgia

Posted to Samizdata by me on 23rd June 2016: “Well, I dunno”. The link to an image of the Daily Mirror‘s cover for that day showing a deep dark well with the slogan “Don’t take a leap into the dark – vote REMAIN today” seems to have died, but it can be seen in this collection of front pages from that day compiled by the Atlantic. I was not despairing but definitely a little pessimistic, as were many of the commenters.

But in the wee small hours of June 24th things began to look different: “Well, well, well”.

And in the bright fullness of day: “Now is the winter of our discontent, or perhaps just two very English words”.

The European Digital Identity is born

The Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age loves the idea:

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age said: “The European digital identity will enable us to do in any Member State as we do at home without any extra cost and fewer hurdles. Be that renting a flat or opening a bank account outside of our home country. And do this in a way that is secure and transparent. So that we will decide how much information we wish to share about ourselves, with whom and for what purpose. This is a unique opportunity to take us all further into experiencing what it means to live in Europe, and to be European.”

However Laurie Clarke of TechMonitor is not so keen:

“The EU digital ID scheme could be a boon for SMEs but a security nightmare”,

Today, the EU announced plans for a bloc-wide digital identity scheme that will allow citizens to use public and private services online. The digital wallet would store payment details, passwords and digital ID cards, and be interoperable across the 27 EU member countries. But the scheme is yet to settle on technical standards, and could be besieged by privacy and security concerns before it gets off the ground.

The EU will reportedly force a structural separation preventing companies that use the system from repurposing customer data for other commercial activities, such as marketing. It also stressed that users of the digital identity solution will be in control of their data. But the melding of public and private services could pose privacy concerns in future. Privacy advocates have repeatedly warned about the potential for digital ID cards to erode civil liberties – particularly when data collected by the scheme ends up being used for immigration control or policing purposes.

On the security side, “This puts an awful lot of sensitive data in one place,” says Marcus. Cybersecurity threats have been growing over the years both from commercial and government-sponsored hackers, which could threaten the digital ID scheme. “This is a high-value target, both for criminal gangs and for governments. If this data gets out in the wild, it would be bad.”

Some of the responses to Ursula Von der Leyen’s tweet are less enthusiastic still. Someone called “Tom” says,

This would sound like an impending Orwellian nightmare if not for the inevitable certainty that the Commission will find a way to f*** it up.

Europe’s vaccine mental breakdown

“On the surface, it is hard to understand why the EU is resorting to such extreme measures. According to the consultancy firm Airfinity, even if the EU does ban exports, it will gain only an extra week of supply, while the British will lose two months. The political and economic price will be high. The EU will trash its reputation as a place in which to do business. Why base a plant in somewhere such as Leiden if the authorities will seize control of production lines whenever it is convenient? If these contracts get overridden by bureaucratic fiat, then so can any other agreement. (After all, if the AstraZeneca deal with the EU was legally binding, the company would have been hauled before a judge in Brussels by now.) The EU risks turning itself into a pirate state, for very little gain, which helps explain why smaller countries that depend on multinational investment, such as Ireland, have become nervous. Blind panic is the only explanation that makes sense.”

Matthew Lynn.

In the past, some classical free market types preferred that the UK stay in the EU as the lesser of two evils, and although I think they were misguided, I understood that basis of such a concern (loss of free movement, etc). Given the behaviour of the EU over vaccines, including an obvious contempt for private property, contracts and so forth, the classical liberal case for EU membership looks very ragged now. At the very least, the risk-reward trade-off of being in such a bloc must have shifted. I wonder whether one or more of the smaller nations might bug out if this sort of shit continues. And I am sure some Scottish voters, tempted by independence but concerned about what it means to stay in the EU and be under its single currency, are now thinking.

Eureka!

In 2012 scientists found the Higgs Boson. In 2015, after fifty years of trying, they finally found gravitational waves.

In 2021…

Leave camp turned Brexit into a religion to capture votes, study finds

Vote Leave turned Brexit into its own religion to capture supporters, a recent study by the universities of Birmingham and Warwick has found.

Researchers said slogans such as “take back control” used the NHS as the country’s Holy Grail that could be rescued from European forces threatened by Britain’s unique historical place in the world.

They also said Brexiteers focused on secular theological concepts such as sovereignty and nation to engage voters.

A study found it. It is Science.