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]

The fall of the Temple of Reason

Terrible news from Paris of the fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral. As I write, I understand that not all is lost of this masterpiece. The collapsed spire was a 19th Century addition, but the damage must be immense.

When I was last in Paris, over a decade ago, I recall looking at Notre-Dame and shuddering as I thought of it as ‘destroyed’ (not that I believe that there are ‘holy’ places), as, during the French Revolution, it was closed as a cathedral and was declared a Temple of Reason. When egalitarians appeal to reason, you know heads will roll.

There followed years of neglect, before, AIUI, in 1905, the French State (which had assumed ownership), effectively provided the cathedral to the Catholic Church as a permanent ‘tenant’. The cause of the fire may well be nothing more sinister than incompetence, perhaps we will never know. I would like to think that commercial aviation levels of caution would go into fire precautions in such a building, (perhaps they did) which, whatever your view of the use or purpose of it, is surely one of the great buildings on Earth. However, the neglect under State ownership has continued, and yesterday’s cathedral was a revived corpse of the pre-Revolutionary building.

It is pretty shameful that neither Hitler nor the Kaiser managed to do as much damage to Notre Dame as the fire. It had survived them, and rioting Hugenots. In WW2, it was relatively unscathed. Some lost mediaeval glass was, I understand, replaced by abstract crap in the post-War period, so the scoundrels were already circling.

Perhaps the fire is a Randian moment, wasn’t there a train crash in a tunnel for which ‘no one is responsible’? Is the burning down of a ‘temple of reason’ an allegory for France after its great economists are all-but forgotten?

Does it matter if, in rebuilding Notre-Dame, stone that is geologically ancient is replaced by other just as ancient stone, carved a few mere centuries later? Should, as with the Campanile in Venice, the order be: ‘Com’era, Dov’era.‘. ‘How it was, where it was.‘?

Or will something more ‘inclusive’ replace it or be grated on to it?

April fool, suckers! It was me all along!

French literati embarrassed after Marxist hero admits to murders

An anguished debate has erupted among French intellectuals after an Italian Marxist whom they lionised as a victim of oppression and injustice confessed to being a murderer.

Cesare Battisti, 64, a former member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism…

Who could have guessed that a member of Armed Proletarians for Communism might have been violent?

…embarrassed the French literati who were his most ardent defenders when he admitted last week to a series of killings and knee-cappings in Italy in the late 1970s.

Battisti lived openly in France for 14 years from 1990 despite having been convicted in his absence in Italy of carrying out two murders and aiding and abetting two others. He earned a living as a crime writer, a television scriptwriter and an occasional contributor to Playboy.

When a French court upheld an Italian extradition request in 2004, authors, artists, philosophers and politicians sprang to his defence. They denounced Italian justice as biased, proclaimed his innocence — even though he refused to do so explicitly for many years — and said that he should be able to live freely in France.

Battisti fled to Brazil then Bolivia.

…but was arrested there in January and extradited to Italy. Under questioning he not only admitted to the crimes but said that he had “never been a victim of injustice”. He went on to say that his backers had been interested only in his ideology and not in his innocence or guilt.

Ho ho, what a joke. Except for the people he murdered and their families.

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

Samizdata quote of the day

“The irony of Europhiles is that they replace one form of nationalism with another: “country first”, is out, but “Europe first” is in.”

Nathan Pinkoski. He analyses a recent speech by French president Emmanuel Macron that deserves far more scrutiny than it is getting.

A cursory search of the soul

“France has an antisemitism problem – and not just from the gilets jaunes”, writes Cécile Guerin in the Guardian.

With a headline like that the obvious next question is where else is France’s anti-semitism coming from, besides the gilets jaunes?

France, like every nation in Christendom, has a long history of Christian hatred of Jews on religious grounds, which gradually morphed into the “traditional” anti-semitism of the far right, exemplified by Jean-Marie Le Pen. That tendency is by no means extinct. I had forgotten that despite his expulsion from the le Front National by his daughter, Le Pen père remains a serving Member of the European Parliament. But though it still has venom, that style of anti-semitism is clearly in decline and is not the source of the upsurge in recent years. So where is it coming from? To answer this question, it surely makes sense to look at the most serious manifestation of Jew-hatred: the murder of Jews. The following is a list of Jews who were killed for being Jews in France this century:

– In 2006 Ilan Halimi, 23, a Jewish mobile phone salesman, was kidnapped and tortured to death over a period of three weeks. The leader of the gang that killed him, Youssouf Fofana, arrived in court shouting, “Allah will be victorious”.

– In 2012 Mohammed Merah, shot and killed three French soldiers, two of whom were, like him, Muslims. He then moved on to the Ozar Hatorah Jewish day school in Toulouse. The Wikipedia article records that “Four people were killed at the school: 30-year-old Rabbi Jonathan (Yonatan) Sandler; his two oldest (out of three) children, Aryeh, aged 6, and Gabriel, aged 3; and eight-year-old Miriam Monsonego, daughter of the head teacher.” Merah said in a call to a TV station that the killings were done “to uphold the honour of Islam”.

– In 2015 Amedy Coulibaly, a supporter of ISIS and associate of the two brothers who had carried out the Charlie Hebdo massacre two days earlier, and who had himself killed a policewoman the previous day, entered a kosher supermarket in Paris and took hostages. He murdered four of them, all Jews. According to Wikipedia, “Coulibaly stated that he targeted the Jews at the Kosher grocery to defend Muslims, notably Palestinians”. It should be noted that during the seige a Muslim employee of the supermarket, Lassana Bathily, courageously hid people from Coulibaly in a cold storage room.

– In 2017 Sarah Halimi was killed by Kobili Traoré, a native of Mali “who shouted about religious ideas in Arabic during the murder”. One could argue that since her killer was not a French citizen her murder is not relevant to a discussion of French anti-semitism. But it is certainly relevant to anti-semitism in France, and by a cruel irony, Sarah Halimi was a relative of Ilan Halimi, the first entry on this list.

– In 2018 an 85 year old Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knolle, was murdered. The authorities have arrested Yacine Mihoub, a Muslim neighbour of Ms Knoll who she had known since he was a child and Alex Carrimbacus whom Mihoub had met in prison. Carrimbacus has claimed that Mihoub called out “Allah Akbar” after killing her.

My list was compiled from memory, backed up by the Wikipedia article on antisemitism in 21st century France. It may contain mistakes or omissions; if you see any please let me know in the comments. But whatever its deficiencies, it is doing better than the Guardian article on anti-semitism in France that I linked to at the start of this post. That has plenty about the far right and a little about the far left but omits mention of Islam entirely.

Cécile Guerin’s article ends with the words, “More soul-searching and longer-term solutions are needed”, but if she cannot bring herself to say the words “Islam” or “Muslim” in an article about French anti-semitism, when so far as I can judge every single anti-semitic murder in France during the 21st century had a Muslim as the sole or leading perpetrator and was proclaimed by the killers themselves to have been done in the name of Islam, then she is not serious about seeking a long term solution. Perhaps she should search her own soul a little harder.

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.

Some riotous graffiti in London

Yesterday, as daylight was ending, I encountered this item of graffiti:

In case – what with the rather unhelpful lighting and this blog’s preference for making photos smaller – you can’t read that, it says:

FRENCH RIOTS GET RESULTS! U LOT ARE INSTAGRAM ZZZOMBIES.

The above transcript has the added advantage that if anyone sees this same proclamation and types the words of it into the www, there’s a good chance they’ll get sent here.

This message is (or perhaps now: was) to be seen on the bridge where the top end of Tottenham Court Road goes north over Euston Road and turns itself into Hampstead Road.

I’m not sure what to make of it. He (it probably is a he) has a point, I suppose, if by results you include the riot police getting a pay rise. Riots do sometimes get results, but only in rather particular circumstances, I think. Things like a very weak and unpopular government, and preferably also a dithery and indecisive one; and like: a symbolic issue of great potency, and like: the absence of any other means to express discontent.

But, my prejudice is that the sprayer of the above message is a hell of a lot more interested in rioting, for the sheer hell of it, than he is in what the results of any particular riot might be. “I riot therefore I am” is what this says to me. Or, to adapt that old Marlon Brando line: “What are you rioting against?” “Whaddaya got?”

Personally, I prefer taking photos.

Melvyn Bragg on England’s verbal twins

Whenever I learn of a book about the history of the English language, then provided the price is not too steep, I tend to buy it. Only this month, I bought another such book. Although short, as promised, this one looks like being very good.

You may recall learning about how some Normans conquered the English speaking rulers of England in the eleventh century. 1066 and all that. You may even know something of the bit of the story of English that most fascinates me, which is when, in the late fourteenth century, English, in England, conquered Norman French as the language of those ruling England.

That I like wallowing in this story is why, when I was today looking for something to read while answering nature’s call, I noticed in and picked out from my large and disorganised book collection The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg, to rediscover what he had said about this particular moment in the history of English.

→ Continue reading: Melvyn Bragg on England’s verbal twins

Samizdata quote of the day

“Thatcher had to see off the fury of miners fighting pit closures, a dispute that dragged on for a year but which failed to mobilise other industries or the public at large. Macron is confronted by a nationwide rebellion that unites people of different regions, classes, occupations and political allegiances. While protestors rampaged through Paris last Saturday there was also violent unrest in Toulouse, Bordeaux, Calais, Marseille, Narbonne, Nantes and many towns. This week, more than 100 high schools have been blockaded by pupils who, emboldened by the gilets jaunes, have relaunched their springtime protest movement against educational reform. Farmers, lorry drivers, construction workers and ambulance staff are also threatening to go yellow.”

“It has been said that the gilets jaunes movement is to Emmanuel Macron what the miners’ strike was to Margaret Thatcher in the mid-1980s. Not in the slightest. While the comparison might please Macron — who, from the moment he was elected, has staked his reputation on his determination not only to reform his country’s economic model but also to stand firm when the inevitable backlash erupted — it hides the fact that what the French President faces is far more serious.”  

Gavin Mortimer, Spectator (£).

The unsung genius of the yellow vest

Whatever one thinks about the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests/riots in France – and I happen to know that they are the result of a deal made between a French green activist wishing to see more protests about what the government was doing to combat climate change and a particularly literal minded demon – the choice of the yellow Hi-Vis waistcoat or vest as a symbol of the protests was inspired. As every schoolboy knows, St David told the Britons to wear leeks in their caps to distinguish friend from foe in their battles with the Saxons. In many struggles since then some item snatched up in haste from whatever was lying around in order to improvise a uniform has duly become an icon of that cause. Here are some reasons why the gilet jaune is destined to join that illustrious list:

One: Protesters want to be seen. Hi-vis vests make people highly visible. This is one of those linkages that manages to be both obvious and surprising at the same time. Why did no one think of this before?

Two, anyone driving a car in France has got one in the boot anyway because a 2008 law says they must. Might as well put the thing to use.

Three, and this is the one I love, it turns a symbol of compliance into a symbol of defiance. Cop pulls you over. Cop saunters up to the car. “Is monsieur carrying a gilet de haute visibilité as required by law?” “Why of course, officer. I always carry my yellow vest. One never knows when one might need it.”

Could it really be that the Maginot Line was a good idea?

I was always taught that the Maginot Line was a military white elephant – colossally expensive and easily by-passed. But this guy begs to differ – kinda sorta. Short version: it would have worked if it hadn’t been for those flibbertygibbet Belgians! Even so he doesn’t address the question of how Germany would have been brought to heel by means of an entirely defensive strategy.

I love this sort of challenge to the narrative and I understand that Samizdata’s own Bertrand Maginot will be joining me. For once.

Atlas shrugs as Sark faces the shocking truth about price controls

The island of Sark, a small, remote Channel Island, with a population somewhere around 500, part of the Duchy of Normandy and the Bailiwick of Guernsey, but almost entirely autonomous, noted for not having any cars, having been one the last feudal jurisdictions in the World and having had very low taxes, is currently in crisis over its electricity supply. The problem can be summed up in two words ‘price control’. Sark is taking on the appearance of a small, cooler, oil-free Venezuela (or perhaps a preview of Corbyn’s – or even May’s- UK in 2022). It even has the example of France, home of ‘égalité‘, the guillotine and generally poor economic ideas (and some excellent ones), a few miles away over the choppy Channel.

It will no doubt not surprise almost all our readers that Sark, having in recent years had democracy foisted on it, has got a legislature (28-strong) that seems to think that it has solutions to problems. The islanders have also found that as the price of electricity has risen in recent years, and as people have not been happy with the sole supplier to the Island, they have been generating their own power. Falling demand has led to higher unit costs for the supplier, which creates a vicious circle.

Enter the Commissioner established and authorised, nay, required, under the The Control of Electricity Prices (Sark) Law, 2016 to look into the price of electricity and to set a ‘fair and reasonable price’.

Looking at his powers more closely we see that they are in fact, nothing short of miraculous, under Section 13:

Determination of fair and reasonable price.
13. (1) Following completion of an investigation under this Law, the Commissioner shall, determine whether a price which is charged by a regulated electricity supplier for the supply of electricity is, or is not, fair and reasonable.

(2) In determining whether a price is, or is not, fair and reasonable the Commissioner shall take all material considerations into account, including without limitation the following matters –
(a) the cost of generating and distributing the supply of electricity, including the cost of –
(i) acquisition and maintenance of any plant and equipment,
(ii) fuel and other consumables, and
(iii) labour, required to generate the supply,
(b) the replacement cost of any plant and equipment required to generate and distribute the supply,
(c) the quality and reliability of the supply of electricity and the economy and efficiency with which the supply of electricity is generated and distributed,
(d) the margin of profit obtained by the regulated electricity supplier,
(e) the margin of profit obtained by such other electricity suppliers, generating and distributing a supply of electricity in similar circumstances in such other islands or territories, as the Commissioner thinks fit,
(f) the entitlement of the regulated electricity supplier to receive such reasonable return, as the Commissioner thinks fit, on the value of assets (including plant and equipment and working capital) operated or used by the supplier for the purpose of generating and distributing the supply, and
(g) any representations made in response to a request given under section 14, or otherwise.

Funnily enough, he is not expressly directed to consider the laws of economics, or supply and demand. You can see where this is going I am sure. So why can’t the fools on Sark? How many thousand of years and examples will it take? Here we have the closest thing to a laboratory for economics, 500 or so ‘lab mice’, and yet we already know how it ends. Here is his consultation paper.

So cutting to the chase, a price control has been issued, and the Island’s sole electricity provider intends to close on 30th November 2018, as they are losing £20,000 a month supplying power at the ‘fair and reasonable‘ (and that’s official) price. May I introduce here, the Managing Director of the Sark Electricity Company Ltd, Mr Atlas Shrugger (I jest), his name is… Mr Gordon-Brown (David being his first name), and his company wishes to challenge the commissioner’s decision.

SEL was to mount a legal battle against the commissioner move this December.

However, a review of the company’s financial affairs by its independent auditors found that although the company could withstand the temporary £20,000 loss per month caused by a new 52p price for electricity, SEL could not afford to mount the legal case at the same time.

Back in December, the tariff was set at 69p per unit.

‘We have already suffered through a 40% decline in consumption caused by Sark’s economic collapse and we cannot cut our costs any further,’ said SEL managing director David Gordon-Brown.

‘A 25% price cut for a company that has already lost £65,000 this year is obviously unmanageable.

‘Attempting to operate the company under these conditions would be a breach of my responsibilities as a company director.’

He said if Chief Pleas wanted the company to continue providing power, it would have to provide for the cost of fighting the commissioner order.

‘We cannot operate the company at a loss over £20,000 a month under the new pricing scheme nor can we find the money necessary to fund the legal fight.’

He added that if Chief Pleas did not come to the table as a financial backer in time, it would be required to shut down, leaving the island without water or electricity.

This, I understand, is because the cost of a legal challenge (in this tiny island) to the Regulator would be in the region of £250,000, and Mr Gordon-Brown has asked the Chief Pleas (the Parliament of Sark) to fund a legal challenge to the body established by the Parliament, as obviously, his company can’t afford that sort of money. Can anyone else see the obvious short-cut here, the one that doesn’t involve legal fees?

Mr Gordon-Brown was reported last December as saying:

David Gordon-Brown, the manager of Sark Electricity, says the recommendation by the island’s first electricity regular to reduce electricity prices tells “a story of betrayal”.
For the past eight years the people of Sark have been betrayed by a committee of incomers with so little understanding of Sark that they expect Electricity Prices here to be comparable to their experience in the UK.

Now the Company has been betrayed by a commissioner with so little understanding of Sark that he expects the costs of producing electricity here to be comparable to his experience in the UK.

The commissioner is doubtless a dedicated and decent chap, committed to fulfilling his statutory duty, he is only following the law and only giving orders, safe, as it happens, in his home in Long Buckby, Northamptonshire, England.

But has the Commissioner considered economies of scale, transportation costs, economic law and reality? Does he have to?

The situation now is that the Electricity Company is shutting down on 30th November 2018, and they supply water.

I have to say that all those who voted for those who voted in this law, and those who voted it in and implement it, are quite simply, fully deserving of their adumbrated trip back to the Stone Age. I would propose evacuating from Sark all those who opposed it, or were too young (or insane) to know better (i.e. under 16), and leaving the rest to enjoy their new, low prices. To keep us safe from contamination, we should establish an an air and sea blockade, and air-drop a copy of Bastiat’s writings so that they may learn the error of their ways. Socialism (or price fixing) is just slow-motion cannibalism. It looks like Sark is heading that way, by choice. But as the BBC reported, they did have this terrible problem:

In August 2018, Sark Electricity was forced to lower its price by 14p to 52p per kilowatt hour (kw/h) after the island’s electricity price commissioner found the cost “neither fair nor reasonable”.
Despite the reduction, Sark residents still pay significantly more than the 17p per kw/h in nearby Guernsey or the UK the average of 14p.

Meanwhile over in Jersey, the press speculate about the evacuation of the island.

Asked if there was a real possibility of people having to leave Sark, Mr Raymond -(deputy chairman of Sark’s Policy and Finance Committee)- replied: ‘Not if we can get our contingency plans in place.

‘They are in the development stage at the moment so I can’t give out too much detail, but it will involve consolidating around certain centres – making sure there are certain buildings that have power so people can congregate there. It really is a war-time mentality. Do you really expect people to be living like this in the 21st century?’

Yes, I do, because if they are socialist dickheads implementing their plans, they will eventually get what is coming to them, good and hard.