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]

Free market meat

Vegans have a point: the great thing about civilisation is we can overcome basic natural urges to improve the world. Animals do not want to be eaten; humans have the ability to reduce animal suffering; not eating them is a good thing to do.

On the other hand, bacon tastes good. If I honestly answer the question of why I am not a vegan, the answer comes out something like this: I care about eating bacon more than I care about the welfare of pigs.

There is a spectrum, though. A well-cared-for pig can live happily on a pleasant farm for years, oblivious to its impending doom. I imagine it is possible to sneak up behind it one day and kill it painlessly. Probably such methods of bacon production are more expensive than intensive factory farming of pigs, but if I have enough spare disposeable income I will pay that price to alleviate a little bit of bacon guilt. It is quite likely the bacon will taste nicer too.

This sets the scene for this question:

So you’d be happy for us to have low animal welfare and environmental standards in the name of consumer choice?

Or this question:

How would you maintain environmental and animal welfare standards in your model? Would it be entirely a matter of consumer choice?

These questions are asked in the context of a discussion about free trade. If we just allow people to buy food from wherever they want, the argument goes, then they will buy meat from places where animals are poorly treated because it is cheaper.

One possible answer to that is: so what? People ought to be able to choose how much they care about things like animal welfare. Honestly, I agree with this. I do not think the non-aggression principle applies to animals. I do not think it is right to harm a human solely to protect an animal. Whatever the role of the state is, it is not to intervene in individual choices about animal farming.

That is not to say that treating animals nicely is not desirable. I happen to think there is a good chance that as people get wealthier, they start to be able to afford to care about such things as animal welfare, and they do. This is why there is a market for free range animal products, and in the UK meat branded “Organic” is purchased partly because the Soil Association, who license that brand, mandate strict animal welfare standards. This is exactly how it should work. Somebody cares about animal welfare, somebody puts their money where their mouth is and markets products which promise better animal welfare, people voluntarily buy these products.

Banning imports of food from certain countries because they have lower animal welfare standards is harming people solely to protect animals. It is insisting on threatening people with violence for treating their farm animals in a certain way. And it is threatening people with violence for voluntarily trading in animal products from certain sources. It takes choice away from people. It is regressive: by removing cheaper products from the market, poorer people have to eat less meat. It might be argued that eating less meat is better for them, or that the trade-off is worthwhile because it is perfectly possible to cheaply obtain enough protein from other sources, but this is paternalistic nannying. If these things are true then it ought to be possible to persuade people to change their ways. Resorting to the violence of trade regulations is admitting that you can not persuade people to make these decisions voluntarily. Complaining that people make the wrong voluntary decisions is condescending.

However, I have a problem. My Big Idea (such as it is) is that the left tends to win arguments because it successfully appeals to people’s sense of virtue, and we ought to get in on that action. Helping people who are suffering is virtuous. Reducing animal suffering is virtuous. Our job is to demonstrate that freedom achieves these things better than the ideas of the left do.

A Guardian article by Chris McGreal is an example of the left being really good at this.

In these industrial farming units, pigs, cows and chickens are crammed by the thousand into rows of barns. Many units are semi-automated, with feeding run by computer and the animals watched by video, with periodic visits by workers who drive between several operations.

The article paints a picture of rural America reduced to a few people farming grain to feed animals in factories in the worst possible conditions. All this is done in the name of profit because nobody cares about animals suffering; they only care about getting dinner on the table as cheaply as possible.

This might actually be true. If so we have a paradox: being kind to animals is virtuous; people want to be virtuous; but everybody is choosing voluntarily to buy meat from producers who are cruel to animals. Perhaps they are misinformed, in which case opponents of this type of animal production need only to inform them; there is no need to use violence against people who buy meat from the USA.

Or perhaps all this talk of virtue is mere signalling. Perhaps nobody really does care about animal welfare. If true, then persuasion will not work. People who care about animal suffering have no choice but to resort to violence. This is the problem with the state, of course. You use clever semantics to hide the nature of the violence: you call it regulation; you say it is legitimised by democracy. At the ballot box you trick people into thinking that other people will pay the cost of the decision. Someone voluntarily buying Organic bacon pays the price and they see that they are paying the price. If you convince people to vote for the politician who will instruct the police to arrest the person who buys bacon from the USA, you remove from the marketplace the cheap bacon and nobody sees.

What path, then, is left for us to convince people that freedom minimises suffering, even of animals?

It might just be true that state meddling does not work to minimise animal suffering at all. If so, we should make sure of it and tell people.

In Everything I Want To Do is Illegal, Joel Salatin writes,

I want to dress my beef and pork on the farm where I’ve coddled and raised it. But zoning laws prohibit slaughterhouses on agricultural land. For crying out loud, what makes more holistic sense than to put abattoirs where the animals are? But no, in the wisdom of western disconnected thinking, abattoirs are massive centralized facilities visited daily by a steady stream of tractor trailers and illegal alien workers.

But what about dressing a couple of animals a year in the backyard? Why is that a Con-Agra or Tyson facility? In the eyes of the government, the two are one and the same. Every T-bone steak has to be wrapped in a half-million dollar facility so that it can be sold to your neighbor. The fact that I can do it on my own farm more cleanly, more responsibly, more humanely, more efficiently, and more environmentally doesn’t matter to the government agents who walk around with big badges on their jackets and wheelbarrow-sized regulations tucked under their arms.

Okay, so I take my animals and load them onto a trailer for the first time in their life to send them up the already clogged interstate to the abattoir to await their appointed hour with a shed full of animals of dubious extraction. They are dressed by people wearing long coats with deep pockets with whom I cannot even communicate. The carcasses hang in a cooler alongside others that were not similarly cared for in life. After the animals are processed, I return to the facility hoping to retrieve my meat.

And when I return home to sell these delectable packages, the county zoning ordinance says this is a manufactured product because it exited the farm and was re-imported as a value-added product, thereby throwing our farm into the Wal-mart category, another prohibition in agricultural areas. Just so you understand this, remember that an abattoir was illegal, so I took the animals to a legal abattoir, but now the selling of said products in an on-farm store is illegal.

The picture here is one of the state actively stifling innovative attempts to make a profit at selling well-cared-for animals. It may well be that without all this regulation, being cruel to animals may not be the most profitable way to produce them. Or at the very least that marginally more people would buy meat from well-cared-for animals because it would be marginally cheaper.

The other case to make is that economic growth solves all problems. Enough economic growth gets you tasty lab-grown meat at a fraction of the price of tortured-animal meat. Anything that impedes economic growth by a fraction of a per-cent per year directly causes the suffering of millions of additional future animals, not to mention people. If we can market that argument in an appealing way and counter the more-to-life-than-profit rhetoric of the left, we will be onto a winner.

My comments on social media to a True EU Believer

I wrote this on Facebook today in response to a guy arguing that the EU was necessary for the following reasons:

As global trade widens and becomes more complex, rules must be harmonised and we need large bureaucracies to enforce this, so the UK should be involved, to influence this necessary process:

The UK’s own democratic arrangements are poor or not working well so why is the EU so bad?

We need to regulate even the most basic items, such as how lightbulbs are made, because, er, fair trade.

The costs of all this EU stuff are well worth it because it stopped a war for the past 70 years between the major continental powers. So stop going on about free trade, silly rules and farm subsidies. Look at the bigger picture.

As you can detect, I am not impressed by these statements. This was my response:

A few things: it is a big claim that the EU (or what used to be the EEC) has been the major reason for stopping Germany from invading France yet again after 1945. I would argue that the “glue” of the EU has had some positive impact, but surely, the fact that Germany was utterly destroyed in 1945, split in two, and that the Western powers faced the Soviets, and were protected under the NATO umbrella, was the key to why there wasn’t another continental war. And even if all the red tape, rule harmonisation, costly farm subsidies and all the other palaver was justified as a price worth paying on that basis, why would the UK, which wasn’t a defeated power and with a different history, want to subsume itself into a federal project? It does not follow at all. The case is not made. De Gaulle was also correct in his “non” to UK entry in the early 60s as he rightly feared that his Franco-German compact would be bent out of shape.

As global trade expands and the world becomes “smaller” with the Internet and jet travel and containerisation, it doesn’t require ever larger, more elaborate bureaucracies of transnational states to be built. In fact, what things require is more, not less, devolution of power, more variety, and less one-size-fits-all thinking. Why should complexity require more centralisation, rather than less?

The idea that we need single EU rules on how lightbulbs and other materials of the modern world are made is not justified on the basis of protecting “fairness”, and in fact all too often, such regulations are imposed and lobbied for by industry groups knowing that they raise barriers to entry against cheaper or different manufacturers, and reduce competition. Unless there are very clear-cut safety issues, I invariably smell a rat when people defend government bans on certain mechandise by talking about “fair trade”. It’s protectionism with a nice tie.

My position is not an “anarchist” one. It is more in tune with a general classical liberal approach to business, government and diplomacy, and above all driven by scepticism about big projects to reshape very old institutions and national loyalties. The launch of the single currency was an exercise in hubris, the results of which are still with us.

Take-home fact: Members of the European Parliament cannot, as far as I know, repeal a directive once it has become law. Nor can MEPs initiate a new law on their own, as an MP can. The MEPs are pale shadows of truly effective legislators and the democratic deficit in the EU is unsustainable.

The Gilded Age and William Jennings Bryan – Modern parallels?

At the end of the 19th century, a young William Allen White—a critic of William Jennings Bryan’s populist Democrats—wrote a column titled “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” There he mocked the wealth-haters, saying the populist felt that “what we need is not more money, but less capital, fewer white shirts and brains… We need several thousand gibbering idiots to scream about” the power of financial titans, because “we don’t care to build up, we wish to tear down.”

Karl Rove, who sounds vaguely familiar.

There are all kinds of parallels between the “Gilded Age” of Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Morgan, and the populist, anti-gold standard levelling views of Bryan, and what is going on today, with AOC, Robert Reich saying billionaires must have all done something evil, and the rest.

Bryan was famously opposed to the gold standard, as well as being an opponent of teaching Darwinian evolution to children and supported taxing land and was for prohibition of alcohol. It’s sometimes odd to find a political figure who is wrong on so many issues in one go, and so dangerously appealing to people seeking a person on a white horse who is going to drive the “money changers out of the temple”, as it were. Right now, with the rubbish coming out about why billionaires should be banned, and must have got their wealth immorally, it feels all very familiar.

Of course – and this is where these issues get complex – some of what is going on with the Big Tech entrepreneurs of today, and the Leftist grandstanding or PR they sometimes engage in, is creating renewed enthusiasm for government powers that came out of the late 19th Century in the era of Teddy Roosevelt. I note that Instapundit blog supremo and law professor wants the US government (I mean, what could possibly go wrong?) to use anti-trust powers to bust up the Facebooks and the rest, and in part this appears driven by political animus as much as any ideas of competition, although Glenn Reynolds’ arguments that there are problems certainly are strongly made.

Yes, it is true that it looks odd to say captains of business taking what appear to be annoying SJW stances, but part of me cannot help but think that these people aren’t sincere enough to willingly wreck their firms by so doing, by “going broke by going woke”. To some degree, they have entered a Faustian Pact of making nice SJW noises, getting close to various causes, in the hope that the Left’s crocodiles forget to eat them. If there’s a recession, as there will be eventually, expect this trend to change. Firms cannot afford to damn their customers (as in Gillette, for example) if business is on the skids.

And in contrast to the Bryan denunciation of the “cross of gold”, today’s Left and Trumpist Right rarely refers to the massive balance sheet expansion of the US Federal Reserve (quantitative easing), which juiced asset prices such as real estate and equities after 2008, disproportionately benefiting the already-wealthy. In fact, if anything, today’s Left is beholden to the print-until-you-drop approach, without a thought for the Zimbabwe/Venezuela/Weimar consequences. Take its recent enthusiasm for something called Modern Monetary Theory.

The recent row about Amazon and its planned new big offices in Queen’s, New York, suggests that a sort of high point to this strategy has been reached and that maybe the Silicon Valley Big Techs will realise that there is no point trying to make all nice to those who want to destroy them. Eventually, the malevolence of the looter Left shows itself. Even though some critics of these firms might be motivated by dislike of corporate welfare (NYC wanted to give Jeff Bezos a fucking helipad, when the multi-billionaire has his own private space programme), it is hard not to smell are far more pungent smell of anti-capitalism. They cannot be appeased.

Joel Kotkin has written an interesting study of some of these modern “Gilded Age” trends, such as the culture of modern Silicon Valley, Hollywood and Washington, vs the rest of the US. On a far smaller scale, there are echoes of this in the UK.

But Kotkin, as he shows in a thoughtful (mostly) item on all this, has his own rather William Jennings Bryan-like blind spots:

One can appreciate the economic benefits that firms like Uber, Lyft, Salesforce, and others have brought to San Francisco and other tech-oriented cities. Yet the concentration of high-end businesses has also helped create a neo-Dickensian reality: sky-high housing prices, widespread homelessness, and a rapidly shrinking middle class. There are now more drug addicts in San Francisco than high school students. Rising rents have undermined that city’s cherished bohemian culture and hastened a rapid decline in the minority population, both in the city and across the tech-dominated Bay Area. In 1970, 96,000 African-Americans lived in San Francisco; today, barely 46,000 make their homes there, constituting less than 5 percent of the city’s population. More than half of the Bay Area’s lower-income communities, notes a recent UC Berkeley study, are in danger of mass displacement. Amazon, it seemed to many progressives, threatened to bring the same conditions to New York.

This is zero-sum thinking on steroids. For a start, much of why the cities of San Francisco and others are so expensive is not because of demand but lack of supply (ie, planning laws); are Kotkin and others arguing that they would prefer for modern, disruptive businesses to not exist at all? A century-plus ago, the Sears catalogue business made its fortunes by blending the tech. of telegraph wires and railroads to bring supplies across the plains of the US. Sears today is in financial dire straits, as times change. But the Kotkins of this world would, presumably, have complained about how all the folk working for these businesses were driving up prices to “sky-high levels”. How dare they be so successful. As for the demise of the “cherished bohemian culture”, well, your mileage may vary as to how cherished that is.

Finally, I recently met Adrian Wooldridge, co-author with Alan Greenspan, former Fed chairman, of Capitalism in America. The book makes a number of claims (it is a good read) about American economics, and one of them is that the appetite for the “creative destruction” of capitalism is waning. Recent trends suggests that this is true. And that’s bad news for the world in general.

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.


Now it is fashionable to sneer at Starbucks. The coffee, once recognised as a marked improvement on what was available before, is disparaged as being bitter or tasteless or inadequate in any one of a number of different ways. That is the proof of Starbucks’ success. You are free, and indeed able, to complain about the quality of its product because of Starbucks.

In that respect, the company is a shining example of how capitalism and the market is supposed to work. A new product creates a new market and is in turn — for some, anyway — superseded by other competitors offering, in this case, smaller, independent, more innovative and interesting, coffee served in a less “corporate” environment. Innovation inspires emulation and then, in turn, the original innovator begins to look cumbersome and outdated. But your local independent artisan coffee shop selling coffee sourced form a single Indonesian estate only exists because of Starbucks and the corporate muscle it flexed to create the very market upon which smaller competitors can piggy-back. This, again, is the way the system is supposed to work. The rising tide, in this instance, really has lifted all boats.

Alex Massie.

Well, it may be “fashionable” to dislike Starbucks (usually a pose taken by those who haven’t the faintest notion of what building a business involves) but I could not give a flying expleted-deleted about a lot that passes for fashion. I use Starbucks quite a lot and it has also helped spawn the model of the coffee shop that is also a sort of office/study zone for anyone with a laptop.

The dislike of Starbucks is often nothing more than a reworking of the general hatred of enterprise and trade that is indulged by people who, hypocrically, enjoy its fruits. I recall this great episode of South Park and how it lampooned the hatred of big business chains of this type.

And who can possibly dislike a business that got a name-check in an Austin Powers movie?

Oh behave!

The beating heart of NYC

Today I am reading and watching all those weather reports about how extremely cold it is in the US and some of my friends in New York and Chicago have been telling me about it. But what impresses me above all is that these urban hubs, these centres of modern human civilisation, go on. And we take it for granted that apart from certain disruptions, they do. I came across this wonderful graphic item on the web that visually conveys the daily commute volume into and out of Manhattan.

Have a good weekend and keep warm and safe. This global warming is a real bitch.

Ah, happy days

“Bill Gates says poverty is decreasing. He couldn’t be more wrong”, writes Jason Hickel, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics.

Prior to colonisation, most people lived in subsistence economies where they enjoyed access to abundant commons – land, water, forests, livestock and robust systems of sharing and reciprocity. They had little if any money, but then they didn’t need it in order to live well – so it makes little sense to claim that they were poor. This way of life was violently destroyed by colonisers who forced people off the land and into European-owned mines, factories and plantations, where they were paid paltry wages for work they never wanted to do in the first place.

The comments give me hope.

Yes, a certain perspective is in order

“It’s entirely true that China’s economic growth rate has fallen to the lowest levels in 28 years, back to the dreadful stagnation of 1990, when China was only growing at 4 percent or so. That’s more than the U.S. is growing even in the middle of the Trump boom. We’d all kill for a gross domestic product growth rate as high as what China calls low. This is not, though, a commentary on how bad our own economic policy is, nor really one on how good China’s is today. Rather, it’s one on how terrible, appalling, and truly awful China’s economy used to be.”

Tim Worstall, writing in the Washington Examiner.

It is indeed worth noting, in these times of trade protectionism worries, concerns about Chinese building of runways and facilities in the South China Sea, its surveillance state apparatus, and so on, to step back and reflect on just how far that nation has come since the mass murdering rule of Mao. Tens of millions died from war and Man-made famines and dislocations during the “Great Leap Forward” and the “Cultural Revolution”. These are grim realities that, by the way, appear not to be as well known among Western-educated folk as they should be. It does not do any harm, and might even give us all a bit of calm, to realise that what has happened in China, with all caveats thrown in, is infinitely better than what happened before. The rise of a large middle class in China is, or should be, a positive force in the world.

Spanish practices

Taxi drivers in Madrid are on strike over “unfair competition” from online ride-sharing services such as Uber and Cabify, reports El Pais. In English. On the internet.


Persuading people that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is wrong

Sure enough, it cropped up in my Facebook feed: “As usual, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right: There should be no billionaires.” What does she say?

A system that allows billionaires to exist when there are parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don’t have access to public health is wrong.

I came here to write about it, but Jonathan got here first. And he is right that classical liberal ideas are not popular. But I am optimistic that this can be changed.

I explained on Facebook that I thought Ocasio-Cortez is wrong for two reasons: Wealth is created. There’s not a fixed quantity of it. So billionaires don’t take anything away from anyone. Even just stating it like that is worth doing. Because deep down, people know it is true. They know that people do useful things or make useful things when they do work. Once you get past semantic misunderstandings about what “wealth” is, it is self-evident.

Even my second reason did not meet much objection: that the “system” that allows billionaires to exist is also the best there is. There is no other way of distributing resources without removing incentives from people. If people cannot keep the fruits of their labour, you get less labour in the world, and people on the whole will be poorer. It is not a hard point to understand. The example with the butcher and the baker works. There are plenty of examples of places with different “systems” and even more poor people.

I encountered the argument that no-one needs all that money and that billionaires are greedy. This is an opportunity to discuss how billionaires become so rich. The popular image of Scrooge McDuck and his pile of gold does not bear much scrutiny. Typically, billionaires are rich because they are useful in small ways to vast numbers of people. Businesses like Amazon, Paypal and Windows are very scalable. Bezos, Musk and Gates do not wake up thinking, “5 billion is not enough, where can I get my next billion?” They simply keep doing what they do because they enjoy it and they know how to do it.

Another objection I encountered is that nobody needs all that money. I think people have an image of a pile of gold being kept from poor people but it is not hard to pierce that misconception. There is only so much stuff a person can have. Billionaires do not have much more stuff than an ordinary, moderately rich person. Once you have a nice house, a boat, and a fancy car (which in any case has no more utility than a cheap family car), there is not so much more a person can have. What happens to the rest of the money? It is spent paying people to do things that are ultimately useful to other people. It is invested. Billionaires tend to be quite philanthropic, and they tend to have their own pet projects related to making the world a better place. Because there is very little else to do with so many resources. It is not hard to turn it into a discussion about whether Gates, Musk and Bezos are more likely to know how to improve the world than, say, the US Federal government. And it is hard to have an especially strong opinion that the US government knows best how to improve the lives of poor people. There is at least room for doubt.

And so ordinary voters, even ones who have suffered good educations, can be persuaded that billionaires are not a problem, and perhaps also that capitalism is not a problem, and perhaps also that redistribution of wealth is not the best way to improve the world. We need to develop the marketing techniques to do this, and then sell these marketing techniques to politicians. The left have claimed a monopoly on virtue for too long. It should not be so hard for classical liberals to dispense with the greedy banker image and market themselves as the ones who care about the poor and downtrodden enough to have solutions that work.

Let’s be blunt: classical liberalism is losing

I put this comment up on a group page on Facebook about the latest comments from the young Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, quoted approvingly by two academics in the US, and re-post them here, with some adjustments:

The problem, as I keep noting, is the zero-sum mentality. For such an approach, creating wealth is incomprehensible, and that therefore having much wealth must be evil. She carries the assumption that for A to be richer than the average, B must have been robbed in some way. There’s no sense of a rising tide of wealth, or any grasp of the division of labour, the benefits of innovation, anything. And then there is a sort of hatred of the good for being the good, a hatred even for people who have achieved great success. Even if her concern for poor people is sincere, she’s just treating rich people as means to an end (giving that wealth to others); she just assumes that their wealth was gained wrongly. (In case Paul Marks or others make this point in the comments, some of the rise in inequality in recent times is down to central bank creation of money, which has tended to benefit owners of real estate and equities, but I suspect that Ms Ocasio-Cortez isn’t going all Ludwig von Mises on the Fed.)

She’s not alone in calling for massive redistribution and it is obviously tempting these days to be patronising and poke fun at a not-very-smart young woman (she has a certain cunning in how to market herself), but we should not do so. I don’t pity her. I despise her and her revelling in what amounts to thuggery (which is what coercive state redistribution amounts to, stripped of the fancy language). The rot goes far wider. Prominent academics (such as the people quoted in that NYT article I linked to above), the likes of Thomas Piketty, newspaper columnists, TV broadcasters and arguably even the Pope all press the same, flat-Earth economic buttons. They haven’t been confronted enough. So many “right-wing” politicians aren’t any good at this; they behave all too often like rabbits caught in headlights. Since 2008, this has become worse.

This book, Equal is Unfair, by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins, is particularly good at skewering this egalitarianism.

Also I would argue that Robert Nozick’s renowned book, Anarchy, State and Utopia, and its chapter on egalitarianism and the flaws of Marxism contains just about the most deadly critique of this egalitarian mindset I have ever read. It’s now almost 50 years’ old, but it remains totally on target.

At some point, Ms O-C is going to over-reach, and make an ass of herself, as they often seem to do. Or she may be shocked at being outflanked by people even more collectivist than she is, and start to get a bit wiser. Who knows?

But the mindset she represents is not going away. And our universities and colleges are full of people who imbibe re-heated Marxist, egalitarian notions from their post-68 lecturers. There’s a huge task for genuine classical liberals to take up.

Going “woke” is bad for business – hopefully

There has been something of a trend, it seems, of big firms adopting “woke” or politically correct agendas (here is a definition of “woke” for the befuddled) in recent months and years. The latest example is that of razor and men’s grooming products business Gillette, part of consumer giant Proctor & Gamble. Here is the advert and a discussion around it by the Wall Street Journal. Here is another version of the advertisement.

So what’s going on here? In my view, this is an attempt by a firm that is keen to stem outflow of market share to rivals, and which also fears a reduced demand for its products at a time when a lot of men seem to want to grow beards these days (although they still will want to trim them and keep them neat, etc). The firm’s top brass have concluded that in the current culture, where masculinity is considered to be “toxic”, and probably a contributor of right wing views, global warming and competitive team sports, that a change of tack is required. Make men buy something by worrying about their primal urges! Get into the good books of the chattering classes and the distributors of ad. industry campaign awards!

The problem here is that this illustrates the disconnect that there now is between that segment of the chattering classes that is influenced by leftist ideas and the rest of the population. The CEOs of modern firms may not all tack in this direction, but they have become convinced, or been convinced, that going “woke” is smart for business. Also, the kind of folk most likely to rub up against CEOs are the consultants and advertisement gurus who imbibed such modish ideas in colleges and unversities.

We see this kind of agenda at work in the wealth management industry, where firms are keen to stress how much of what they do is to promote environmental, social and governance-linked investment, never mind actually making money for clients and owners. Entrepreneurs are as celebrated as much for giving their wealth away as for the grubby process of, you know, making it in the first place. (One of my least-favourite expressions used by business folk of a certain type is how they want to “give back” to the “community” – this implies that they “took” something initially that wasn’t fully theirs.)

Clearly, a lot of this may be incubated in Western universities, and you have to wonder what sort of business decisions will be made by the kind of “coddled” youngsters now going through universities. I have been reading the Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, and what alarms me, as it should anyone, is what sort of future businessmen and women we will get if they are drawn from the sort of ranks these academics describe. What will be their desire to take risk, to invest wisely, to cater to genuine client needs? How susceptible will they be to political fads entering the boardroom and factory floor?

In the end, as some classical liberals say, the ultimate arbiter of all this is profit/loss. If Gillette’s market share rises after these ads, maybe the management will say “there, I told you so” and move on. I have made my own tiny vote on this by ensuring I buy from rivals such as Wilkinson’s Sword instead. Possibly, so will others of us “toxic males”.