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]

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.

Samizdata quote of the day

The Turkish cab drivers aren’t opposing Uber because it is bent. But because it is honest.

– ‘Chester Draws’ commenting on the Continental Telegraph.

Globalisation in reverse

I clicked on a link to an article about food marketing failures and came upon a notice that due to GDPR, the publisher just could not be bothered dealing with people from Europe for now. It turns out the even the Los Angeles Times thinks people from Europe are too much of a pain in the ass to talk to.

If they can not cope, what chance does a small US-based pizza restaurant with an online ordering system have, having been told that they have to comply with GDPR in case any customers from the EU visit?

Things look set to get even worse for the Internet within the EU. But it is not just the EU. Amazon will stop shipping things to Australia because of a global sales tax. Trump seems very keen on tariffs. The UK does not appear to be in any hurry to turn into a small-state unilateral-free-trading nation after Brexit. In fact we are likely to have to choose between outright full-steam-ahead socialism and slowly-boiled-frog socialism at the next election.

Governments really do like their borders. As Guy Herbert says: The nation state is still our biggest problem.

To reach the sukhbaatar is a major ambition of mine.

Recently (by which I mean about six weeks ago), I ordered a 3D printer kit to be sent to me from China. It was much cheaper to order it directly from a seller in Shenzhen than via an intermediary like Amazon. Because I was in no real hurry to get it – and because I am cheap – I selected the cheapest shipping option – Europe Railway Priority Mail.

My printer has clearly been coming via the Trans-Mongolian Railway, which joins the Trans-Siberian railway north of Mongolia. Given that it has taken over a month to get to Budapest, it has clearly not made the journey on a single train, even on the sections where this is theoretically possible, such as Beijing to Moscow.

I give you my wonderful tracking information. I particularly like “Arrived in changsha chardonnay coagulation loading bays”. Also, let’s face it. “Get to Russia off sharply” is good advice for anyone. (Click to make the image larger).

This evening Dominic Frisby is doing another try-out of his Edinburgh Festival Financial Game Show

Yes. Dominic Frisby tweets:

North Londoners. The next try-out of my Financial Game Show is Tuesday May 22 at @downstairskhead. Entertaining, informative, exciting. What more could you want on a Tuesday evening?

Get tickets here. More about the show here.

I can confirm that this is a fun show, having already seen two earlier try-outs of it. One of these was in my own home, at my last Friday of the month meeting on April 27th. And earlier that week, I attended the very first try-out of this show (to check out what my Friday was likely to consist of), and greatly enjoyed it.

That first outing was in the same venue, downstairs at the King’s Head, that tonight’s show will be at Despite the extreme contrast in the space he had available, Frisby then made his second try-out performance at my place work very well, because he is a good humoured, thinks-on-his-feet performer. Nevertheless, a bigger venue is certainly needed for the show to have its full effect. I’m thinking in particular of how successful competitors in the quiz, such as the lady I went with to the first show, get asked to sit themselves in different and more visible seats as they progress, none of which could happen in my postage stamp of a living room

Nevertheless, Frisby seems to find early run-throughs at my place helpful, because he did a similar early run-through of his previous Edinburgh Festival show at my home, a couple of years ago, and now here he was inviting himself back to do this year’s show. Glad to be of assistance.

Without giving away too much in the way of answers, I can tell you that Frisby’s questions all point to the subtleties and surprises and oddities of economic life, of the sort that are familiar to devotees of Austrian Economics, with its emphasis on the subjectivity of value and the way that economic decisions so often involve making sometimes rather strange bets about the future. The contrast in the price of this small but expensive house and that bigger but cheaper house; Fading Footballer A getting paid, counter-intuitively, more than Superstar Footballer B; that kind of thing. Frisby thus communicates an inquisitive and amused attitude to economic life that will likely draw at least some of the people who see this show in Edinburgh towards his more opinionated intellectual products.

Who knows, some of these people may even end up reading this book? I wrote admiringly about it here.

LATER: More dates here.

Why Corbynites think that antisemitism is a feature rather than a bug and why Corbynite antisemitism won’t go away until Corbynism itself is destroyed

Labour is now described as having an antisemitism problem. But those who talk like this are neglecting the fact that for many Corbynites antisemitism accomplishes something very important. It helps to drive out of the Labour Party all of those Labour supporters who think that the badness of antisemitism ought to be publicly talked about, instead of these Labourites silently or vocally caving in, for now, to the Corbynite project. And that, as far as the Corbynites are concerned, is a feature rather than a bug.

We can see this process described in this piece, by “New Labour” (i.e. the kind of Labour that the Corbynites are determined utterly to destroy) Prime Minister Tony Blair’s senior shouter-down-the-phone, Alastair Campbell:

In a speech to centre-left campaign group Progress, Mr Campbell said: “All my life I have been tribally Labour. But my Labour tribalism is being pushed to the limit – by the return of Militant style nastiness in local politics; by my revulsion that any anti-Semitism has been allowed to fester; by the feeling that some in the leadership, and their supporters, feel much greater animus against other Labour supporters than against Tories.”

Campbell is right. The Corbynites do indeed hate Campbell and his ilk far more than they hate the Conservatives. The Conservatives, by allowing themselves to be lead by people like Theresa May, are bringing the day of glorious socialist triumph ever closer. Campbell and his sort are a far more immediate threat to Corbynism. So if antisemitism serves to cure Alastair Campbell of his tribal love of Labour, … good for antisemitism.

As of now, the Corbynites are far more interested in establishing themselves in unchallengeable command of the Labour Party than they are in merely winning elections. Their thinking is that, sooner or later, capitalism will be hit by another crisis, and that at that point they’ll win a general election, and then the question will be: will there be any New Labour Alastair Campbell type bastards around to prevent them from turning Britain into Venezuela or worse? Meanwhile, they can agitate, do local activism, recruit the right sort of unswervingly loyal cadres, on the internet and in real life, and generally speed up the arrival of that crisis of capitalism and be ready for it. Having helped to bring about their crisis of capitalism, they can then blame capitalism for it and sweep to power.

At some point during all this, Corbyn will step aside and be replaced by a younger, better dressed and better shaved personage, more emollient, more “centrist” in tone, in appearance more like Alastair Campbell. Britain as a whole will be fooled. That “crisis” general election will be duly won, and then the “project” can really begin. And an essential part of that process is clearing out backsliding scum like Alastair Campbell, who, if they hang about and continue to attend Labour events, might blow the gaff in time to stop all this. At the very least such persons will be an unwanted nuisance.

Personally, I think that this is all a very long shot. But I wish it was a whole lot longer than it is.

The other thing to be said about antisemitism is that eradicating it from the Corbynite clan will be impossible. The Corbynites may, any year now, once all the Blairites are flushed out or permanently silenced, tone it down in public, once that besuited and beshaven person steps forward. But they will still all be antisemites.

→ Continue reading: Why Corbynites think that antisemitism is a feature rather than a bug and why Corbynite antisemitism won’t go away until Corbynism itself is destroyed