We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

“What can’t be stressed enough about what happened in 2008 is that for economies to grow and markets to rise, it’s necessary that the mediocre and lousy constantly be replaced by the good and brilliant.”

Real Clear Markets, reflecting on the decade since the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.

(Hat-tip, Stephen Green of Instapundit.)

A letter from Marcel Bich

In 1973 Marcel Bich wrote a letter to shareholders when Société Bic was made a public company.

These principles of management have been developed over the past 20 years since I founded the company and then managed it. They were not shaped by a formal education in a French or American business school but are the result of the tough school of business which I entered at the age of 18 by the smallest door. Nobody will deny me the title of “money maker” as our company started in 1953 with an initial investment of 10,000 new Francs and today, it has grown to 150 million francs par-value share capital, all through internally generated funds, representing on average of almost doubling each year over the last 20 years.

Bic lowered the price of pens from something normal people could not afford to the point where they were disposable and cheap.

Bich didn’t just profit from the ballpoint; he won the race to make it cheap. When it first hit the market in 1946, a ballpoint pen sold for around $10, roughly equivalent to $100 today. Competition brought that price steadily down, but Bich’s design drove it into the ground. When the Bic Cristal hit American markets in 1959, the price was down to 19 cents a pen. Today the Cristal sells for about the same amount, despite inflation.

Of course, there are those who do not like this. But never mind that: back to the letter, Bich sounds like an excellent chap:

We are fiercely anti-technocratic. The way to keep the price of beef down is not by government price regulation, but by producing beef efficiently.

Technocracy is a widespread disease today. Starting at the top with the ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Administration ), it reaches all levels. It is particularly attractive to French people, Cartesian by nature. It results in a large number of administrators and organizers, but when it comes to rolling up your sleeves and doing the actual work there is nobody. Technocracy results in high production costs and, much more critical, low morale among employees who become discouraged and bored with their jobs in which they cannot take any initiative. By placing confidence in workers, employees and executives, everything becomes simpler. Contrary to popular belief, private enterprises have a greater chance of success today than they ever did. As proof, just look at the increasingly serious difficulties in which large state -owned companies find themselves.

It is an excellent letter.

What could have caused the crisis in Venezuela? It is a total mystery

It was tides. No, chemtrails. Or Trump? No, Jews, you can never go wrong blaming Jews. Or maybe it was just ‘bad luck‘. Or perhaps Brexit? Ah, it was global warming! Yes, global warming is what stymied the wise policies of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. For sure.

Perry de Havilland, helpfully providing feedback when a thoughtful fellow on Twitter suggested we need to figure out what caused the crisis in Venezuela.

Samizdata quote of the day

As originally reported by Janet Burns of Forbes, the New York City Council has denied city residents access to additional ride-sharing services. In a 39-6 vote, the bill caps the current supply of New York City Uber and Lyft drivers for the next 12 months and implements a minimum wage of 17 dollars per hour. In what City Council Speaker Corey Johnson referred to as reforming an industry “without any appropriate check or [government] regulation,” Councilman Eric Ulrich argued, “This is like putting a cap on Netflix subscriptions because Blockbusters are closing.”

Nicolas Anthony

Samizdata quote of the day

“As for those “bad ideas” the Kochs have, they’re the reason for whatever governing success Mr. Trump has had so far. Pro-growth cuts in tax rates, deregulation and originalist judges have been the most successful parts of the Trump agenda. And they were Koch beliefs when Mr. Trump was still donating to Bill and Hillary Clinton. The President gets credit for winning the election and making the policies happen, but the Kochs also gave his agenda major support over the last two years. Contrast that success to Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda, which has gone nowhere in Congress; his ill-thought border enforcement that ended up in the debacle of family separation; and the tariff assault that has so far raised costs for U.S. consumers and producers without any compensating trade opening. Whose ideas are the “bad” ones?”

Wall Street Journal.

Elon Musk just made a lot of enemies in Britain

There is a lot to admire about Elon Musk. I thought the space car was glorious. The whimsicality of it, which so many objected to, delighted me.

It is sad that Mr Musk has now shown that his whims can take a nastier turn.

British cave diver considering legal action over Elon Musk’s ‘pedo’ attack

A British cave diver who was instrumental in the rescue of 12 children trapped in a northern Thailand cave says he is considering legal action after the inventor Elon Musk called him a “pedo” on Twitter.

Vernon Unsworth told the Guardian on Monday he was “astonished and very angry” at the attack, for which Musk offered no evidence or basis. The billionaire initially doubled down on the comments made on social media, but has since deleted them.

Apparently it started when Mr Unsworth was rude about Mr Musk’s offer of his mini-submarine to help in the rescue:

Previously, Unsworth had described Musk’s offer to help the rescue effort as a “PR stunt”, and had told CNN Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts”.

If nothing else had been said, my sympathies would have been with Mr Musk. Even if it was something of PR stunt, I am sure Musk did genuinely want to help save lives. Still, I dare say tempers often flare in these high pressure situations. One man’s praiseworthy offer of aid can be another’s dangerous distraction from an urgent task.

However then Mr Musk went on to call Mr Unsworth a “pedo”, not just once – in which case it might have been written off as a random zero-content insult like calling someone a “bastard” when you neither know nor care whether their parents were legally married – but repeatedly. Mr Musk’s “evidence” for this allegation out a blue sky was that Mr Unsworth is a white guy living in Thailand. Musk said that that in itself was “sus”, meaning suspicious.

Angry comments are coming thick and fast to the Times article “Thai boys’ rescuer Vern Unsworth could sue Elon Musk over paedophile smear”. If even a fraction of those commenting on the Times website and those of other British newspapers who have said that they are about to cancel their Tesla order follow through with it, Musk’s UK operation could be in real trouble. That comes on top of the doubts already raised about the company by Tesla’s failure to live up to some of Musk’s earlier extravagant promises. For all the fame of the brand, the number of Tesla electric cars in the UK is still only in the low thousands, and Times subscribers are exactly the sort of people who would be most likely to buy them.

Charismatic individuals can push forward scientific innovation. They can also screw up big time.

Samizdata quote of the day

Congratulations Mr. Brokenshire, you’ve just killed every buy-to-let mortgage. of which there were 1.8 million even back in 2015. It’s a standard clause in every single one of those mortgages that they be rented out on a six or 12-month shorthold assured tenancy. The reason being that in the event of default the bank or building society understandably wants to be able to sell the place without having to deal with an immovable sitting tenant.

No one has any problem with increasing the choices available in terms of types and terms of tenancies. But imposing new terms on all landlords and tenants either means that 1.8 million rental dwellings are off the market, or we’ve got to persuade every bank and building society in the country to alter their existing contracts. For a price, of course.

We might, then, politely suggest that this hasn’t been properly thought through. Although of course we’d never compare James Brokenshire to Tony Blair, I’m not too clear who that would be unfair to.

Tim Worstall

Destructionism – with a few British examples

The last part of Ludwig Von Mises great work Socialism is entitled “Destructionism” and is not, formally, about socialism at all.

In the main body of “Socialism” Ludwig Von Mises proves that it is impossible (yes impossible) for socialism to equal capitalism economically, let alone to exceed capitalist economic performance (as socialists had been promising for over a hundred years) socialism must always produce inferior results. Now the language of Ludwig Von Mises may sometimes suggest that he believes that socialism can not function AT ALL (i.e. that it can produce nothing – no goods and services), but that is a misinterpretation of the position of Mises (which is partly the fault of Mises himself – who sometimes lets elegant language get in the way of fully stating the correct position, as I detest such things as “grammar” I do not make this mistake). By copying the prices of the capital goods in “capitalist countries” socialist countries can make a crude approximation of “capitalist” economic activity – never very good, but certainly not no economic activity at all.

However, in the last part of his work “Socialism” Ludwig Von Mises turns to “Interventionism” government spending, taxes and regulations which (supposedly) improve on the work of voluntary cooperation. “Market forces”, of supply and demand, are as my friend Mr Ed often points out – partly a matter of physical reality (weather and so on), but mostly a matter of human choices (voluntary interaction).

Government intervention (by spending, taxes and regulation) far from improving economic and social outcomes can (as Herbert Spencer pointed out in “Man Versus The State” in 1883) only make things worse than they otherwise would be. Ludwig Von Mises takes great pains in “Destructionism” to show that the fashionable polices of his time (and our own time) of government spending, taxes and regulations make things worse, not better, than they otherwise would be. And that the supposedly new idea of interventionism – is, in fact, a return to the absurd fallacies of past centuries that the Classical Economists of the had exposed.

Has the penny dropped, do politicians (and the public) yet understand that government spending, taxes and regulations make things worse (not better) than they otherwise would be? Sadly no – most politicians and most of the public do not understand.

→ Continue reading: Destructionism – with a few British examples

Samizdata quote of the day

A few weeks ago in central London, I watched a group of protestors holding aloft anarchist signs as they demanded greater government spending. They seemed almost as confused as the fellow who tweeted me his denunciations of globalisation the other day – using a mobile device made in Korea and software written in California.

Douglas Carswell, Rebel, page 295.

Stealth taxes

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

According to Lucian Armasu of Tom’s Hardware, in one week’s time I might no longer be able to link to Lucian Armasu of Tom’s Hardware and quote him like I’m about to do. Or have I misunderstood? I hope I have, because this sounds serious:

EU Expected To Pass Censorship Machines, Link Tax On June 20

As soon as June 20, next week, the European Parliament will vote a draft legislation proposed by the European Commission (EU’s executive body). Critics have attacked the proposal as being quite extreme because it could impact many digital industries too severely.

Censorship Machines (Article 13)

One of the biggest issues with the new EU copyright reform proposal is the Article 13, which mandates that websites that accept user content (anything from videos to online comments) must have an “upload filter” that would block all copyrighted content that’s uploaded by users. Critics, such as Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Julia Reda, have also called upload filters “censorship machines.”

Under the censorship machine proposal, companies would be required to get a license for any copyrighted content that is uploaded to their site by its users. In other words, websites would be liable for any content their users upload to the site. It goes without saying that this could significantly hamper innovation on the internet.

For instance, YouTube or a site like it, probably wouldn’t even exist today if the site would have been liable for what users uploaded from day one.

Link Tax (Article 11)

The “link tax” proposal in Article 11 of the copyright reform directive is another idea that’s not just seemingly bad, but it has also failed in countries such as Spain and Germany, where it has already been attempted. Instead of getting companies such as Google or other publishers to pay for the links, or article excerpts and previews, those companies simply stopped linking to content coming from Germany and Spain.

To make matters worse, the EC will allow EU member states to decide for themselves how the link tax should work. This seems contrary to the Commission’s “Digital Single Market” objective, because it will create significant complexity for all online publishers operating in the EU. They will have to abide by all the different copyright rules in the 27 member states. Existing fragmented copyright laws in the EU is one of the reasons why services such as Netflix took so long to arrive in most European countries, too.

Reda believes that a link tax would significantly reduce the number of hyperlinks we see on the web, which means websites will be much less connected to each other. Additionally, the link tax could boost fake news, because real publishers may require others to pay for linking to its content, but fake news operations evidently will not. These groups will want their content to be spread as easily as possible.

Reda also said that the link tax would be in violation of the Berne Convention, which guarantees news websites the right to quote articles and “press summaries.”

I have heard of Julia Reda MEP before. She sits with the Greens in the EU Parliament but don’t hold that against her; she is actually a member of the Pirate Party. She is fighting the good fight.

Not enough people to exploit too much

Thanks to Brexit fruit is going to be left to rot in the fields. How can we cope without a reliable supply of cheap foreign labour and zero-hours contracts to cover the seasonal summer work? All this will push the cost onto society in the form of more expensive grocery bills.

Meanwhile, those evil Capitalists at Amazon are exploiting cheap labour and forcing people to work zero-hours contracts to cover the seasonal winter work, pushing the cost onto society in the form of tax credits.