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]

Different city, same old story. This time it’s Rotterdam.

In the Telegraph, Ruby Hinchliffe writes,

The city that declared all-out war on landlords – and what happened next

The Dutch have launched wide-ranging crackdowns on the buy-to-let sector, but renters are paying the price

“Landlords have no friends in politics anymore,” Tjeerd Sijtema, one of Rotterdam’s 15,000 civil servants, tells me.

Last year, city officials made Dutch history when they became the Netherlands’ first lawmakers to introduce a ban on landlords buying properties to let.

Red-rimmed signs warding off landlords were erected in 16 of Rotterdam’s 71 neighbourhoods – where around a third of its housing stock resides.

Smug-looking faces shaped like houses stare down at residents who cycle past it in quick succession. Above read the loaded words: “We are working on a healthy housing market here.”

“Working on”, as in “destroying”:

But one glaring consequence of the ban is the downward pressure it is having on rental housing supply, which props up those who cannot immediately afford to buy a house – typically younger residents, migrants and fresh divorcees.

The ban also pushed up rents for tenants in regulated neighbourhoods by around 4pc last year, damaging housing affordability for renters which the Erasmus School of Economics said “undermin[ed] some of the intentions of the law.”

Even students are feeling the negative impacts. In a quaint coffee shop at the heart of leafy Kralingen-Oost, a popular area amongst undergraduates, one student told me it’s much harder to live in larger groups now. “I’m only living with one other person this year,” she told me.

And, naturally,

Meanwhile the waiting list for social housing in Rotterdam – which makes up a staggering 55pc of the city’s overall housing supply – is now five years’ long.

The obesity of the State and its consequences

In his book, After America (published in 2011, which already seems a loooong time ago), Mark Steyn wrote this:

“Any visitor from the Fifties would soon discover, in a bleak comment on the limits of predictive fiction, our brains didn’t get bigger. But our butts did. If DC Comics had gone with the `Super-Ass of Jimmy Olsen,’ they’d have been up there with Nostradamus. `Our culture’s sedentary character – our strong preference for watching over doing, for virtual over real action – seems closely related to our changing body shape,’ wrote the Harvard historian Niall Ferguson. `We now consume significantly more fats and carbohydrates than we actually need. According to the standard measure of obesity, the body-mass index, the percentage of Americans classified as obese nearly doubled, from 12 percent to 21 per cent, between 1991 and 2001. Nearly two-thirds of all American men are officially considered overweight, and nearly three-quarters of those between 45 and 64. Only Western Samoans and Kuwaitis are fatter.’ We are our own walking (or waddling) metaphor from consumption unmoored from production.”


“Our `changing physical shape’ (in Ferguson’s words) seems an almost literal rebuke to the notion of republican self-government. Never mind the constitution, where are our checks and balances?”
Mark Steyn, After America, pages 225-6.

Steyn is connecting two things: a government/central bank policy mix that focuses on consumption, rather than production, and ties policy to that, including welfare policy (ideas such as Univeral Basic Income, etc). Also, the risk-adverse, Precautionary Principle of our time seems to go against humans being adventurous, taking calculated risks, getting up and going places, etc. For example, he notes how young adults today can go through their teens and early 20s without having a job. When, as I did, you worked on Saturdays and during the summer holidays (paper rounds, working on farms, in shops, etc) there were various consequences – all good – including the fact that you had to be physically active. (Glenn Reynolds writes in a similar vein on why teenagers should work before going to college.) Now, the idea of young people working is treated as being on the same plane as evil Victorian mill owners out of a Dickens novel. But Steyn is also making the point about production – and a very anti-Keynesian point. As the “Austrian” school notes (as in George Reisman’s book Capitalism), to consume, you have to produce and that means accumulate capital (physical capital, and mental capital, such as skills and habits). So much present policy seems to work against accumulating capital (taxes, regulations, inflation, the general demonisation of wealthy people, etc). And we print or have printed money to fill the gap. So our economy becomes zombified on ultra-low rates, and like someone who hasn’t taken a regular walk, lifted weights or performed physical work, we get bloated and sick.

Much of what Steyn wrote 12 years ago was accurate, and many of his predictions hold true. I think where the book is a bit off is that he thinks the threat from fundamentalist Islam was the biggest threat to the US while he did not write lot about China, although China does figure in this book quite a bit, to be fair. And the idea of Russia running amok in Ukraine or wherever, while he hints at this risk, it does not really figure all that much. I am quibbling, though. This is a book that holds up well. Its conclusion – that we have to shrink the State, remains as valuable as ever.

Right, off to the gym.

Samizdata quote of the day – investment is an expense

Investment is an expense and don’t let anyone tell you different – not even a fashionable professor.

Tim Worstall, who is probably annoyed at how often he has to state the bleedin’ obvious.

The “fatal conceit” of Western environmental policy, ctd

“The key insight driving the environmental movement historically was that complex natural systems must be treated with respect. Crude interventions, however well-intentioned, can make things worse. Removing an apex predator can change a whole ecosystem. A flood-control dam that eliminates natural wetlands can make floods more dangerous. Attuned to the costs of unanticipated consequences, environmentalists urged caution and restraint by policy makers and advocated letting nature take its course.”

“Today’s green activists have largely forgotten these truths. The consequences are visible all around, and the payback has only begun. Ham-fisted, poorly thought-out green policies, too often designed by self-interested renewable-energy lobbyists, will exact economic and political costs even as their effects on emissions continue to disappoint. The most likely result, sadly, is that the political temperature over climate interventions will keep rising even as green climate policies fall short.”

Walter Russell Mead, Wall Street Journal ($). When I read these paragraphs, I was reminded of the F.A. Hayek publication, The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism. For what we have here is a conceit that the top-down approach can be brought to bear on containing CO2 emissions and forcing billions to adopt new energy sources, by force if necessary. What this approach misses is how rules can be gamed. For another part of WRM’s article is that Western policy is, intentionally or otherwise, transferring manufacturing power on a gigantic scale to China, and to a regime that doesn’t really give a brass farthing for climate, human welfare or liberty.

What a time to be alive.

Samizdata quote of the day – the bank sees all

“Banks have been put on the front line of defense against financial crime. That makes sense because they have the personal data and handle the money, but it takes a lot of work to check out clients’ sources of income and business relationships. To speed up the process and limit costs, banks have turned to third-party data firms and automated systems. The bureaucracy has been industrialized. It could be throwing up too many false positives, but it almost certainly is making it hard for individuals who get wrongly classified as risky to overturn those results. Once you’re in a database that is replicated and resold many times over, it can be an endless task to get yourself scrubbed from it. Politicians have made the most noise and got the regulator’s attention, but it seems likely to be others suffering bureaucratic nightmares. The FCA’s own data shows one in 10 British Muslims don’t have access to banking, compared with 2% of all UK adults. Regulators should look not only at banks’ policies for applying the rules, but also examine their systems for performing the job.”

Paul J Davies, columnist at Bloomberg ($). He makes excellent points about how banks, using tech services to keep on top of potential money launderers, have allowed their systems to run amok. The analogy here is the “no fly lists” that countries have for people suspected of terrorism, etc. If you get on these lists, and haven’t done anything wrong (such as if your name comes up as a “false positive”) it is a hellish job to get off them.


“It is likely that the central bank will assist/require the banks to provide the same interest rates and terms on replacement Scottish pound mortgages and loans as you had on your old sterling ones.”

– Dr Tim Rideout, from an article in the National with the title “How a Scottish currency will impact mortgages and other loans”.

Dr Rideout, who was let back into the Scottish National Party after agreeing to undergo anti-racism training, is a member of the SNP’s Policy Development Committee and Convener of that party’s Scottish Currency Group. He is fully entitled to refer to himself as “Dr Rideout”, since he has a doctorate. He is also entitled to call himself an economist, as he has a BA in economics. He is “Dr Rideout, Economist” just like he says, and if you got the impression from that that his doctorate was in economics, that’s your fault for not checking. Same as it is your own silly fault if you got the impression that the website featuring his writings with the URL https://www.reservebank.scot/, bearing the title “SCOTTISH RESERVE BANK/ Banca Cùl-stòr na h’Alba”, and including on its front page the words “Welcome to Scotland’s Central Bank” was the website of an official body called “the Scottish Reserve Bank”. If you thought that the splendid neoclassical building in the first picture, which features in many photographs and paintings of Edinburgh, was the bank because of all those pillars, more fool you. A simple reverse image search would have told you that it was the disused Edinburgh Royal High School. Dr Rideout (Economist) cannot be held responsible for your inability to use Google. In any case, the website does say, “Please note, the Scottish Reserve Bank is not legally a bank.” Where? Right there, in the paragraph at the bottom of the “About” page, just before the bit where it says, “Website by Great-Value-Websites.Com”. It was your job to read every word of every page in full.

After all that, readers might think I planned to cast doubt upon Dr Rideout’s prediction that “It is likely that the central bank will assist/require the banks to provide the same interest rates and terms on replacement Scottish pound mortgages and loans as you had on your old sterling ones”, or his prediction that “Your bank will contact you near the time and ask if you would like to change your mortgage into the Scottish pound or take out new Scottish pound credit cards and loans.”

Perish the thought. Several of the replies to Dr Rideout’s tweet (or “X-cretion” as I believe they are meant to be called now) in which he flags up his piece in the National do point out that the banks would be insane to do any of these things, but a little thing like that does not invalidate his prediction.

If Scottish independence comes to pass while the Scottish National Party is in power then you can bet that the Scottish government will indeed assist/require the banks to pretend the new currency is equal in value to the old. History is full of governments making insane declarations about the value of their currency and requiring, sorry, assisting, their citizens to impoverish themselves by acting as if the fantasies were truth.

As Dr Rideout says himself,

When the Central Bank tells the commercial banks to jump, the only answer is ‘how high Sir?’.

Understanding Turkish geopolitics

Highly recommended…

Samizdata quote of the day – ESG hypocrisy edition

“Arms contractors get lumped in with tobacco, oil, alcohol and other so-called `sin stocks’ that are regarded as a threat to society. Yet, Ukraine’s predicament has shown that the biggest threat to Western freedom is Putin himself and without the West’s support for Kyiv, Russia may have been able to continue its imperial march beyond Ukrainian territory, further into Europe. City minister Andrew Griffith and defence procurement minister James Cartilidge have warned perfectly reasonably that the UK’s long-term security is being put at risk by the Square Mile’s growing aversion to defence stocks.”

Ben Marlow, Daily Telegraph (£)

Samizdata quote of the day – ‘Get Woke Go Broke’ really is a thing

Who actually has the power in a capitalist and free market economy? Quite clearly it’s us as consumers. Even something – as here – as trivial as an ad for a beer can lead the capitalists, the producers, losing substantial amounts of money. Billions off the market capitalisation in fact. And all just because some of us consumers decide to switch where and how we’d like to spend our money.

Tim Worstall

A film explaining the monetary system, from The Cobden Centre

The good folk at The Cobden Centre have put together a very good documentary to explain how the fiat money system works, and has some suggestions as to what to do about it. At the instigation of the Sage of Kettering, (full disclosure, his cousin made it), here it is.

I have watched it and it is very good. Ex Nihilo: The Truth about Money. My only quibble is that it repeatedly refers to banks creating money out of thin air, but there is some substance to ‘thin air’, which, after all, can sustain respiration and hold up aircraft.

Anti-Brexit campaigner is “de-banked”

Anyone who gloated about the “de-banking” of Nigel Farage over his account will now realise, or they should have anyway, that the sword is double-edged:

Monzo initially refused to tell Ms Miller why her “True and Fair” party account would be closed in September. After the BBC contacted the bank about the case, it said it did not allow political party accounts and had made a mistake in allowing it to be opened. Monzo said it recognised the experience would have been “frustrating for the customer and we’re sorry for that”.

It is too easy to roll the eyes, and say “karma is a bitch”. What appears to be the case is that, as discussed in my post here, and in the comments, we just don’t have a fully free market banking system in the UK and much of the world today. The next time you read some idiot going on about “unbridled capitalism” or “neoliberalism”, point this out to them.

“De-banking” for wrongthink, a CEO’s resignation and destruction of a brand

(Updates with correction about the dossier. Thanks to eagle-eyed readers for the pointer!)

A few days ago, Patrick Crozier of this parish wrote about the decision by Coutts, a UK bank that is part of NatWest Group, to end an account of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage. At the time, Farage speculated he may have been targeted for cancellation of this account (he was offered a retail, mass-market NatWest account instead) because he was what is called a Politically Exposed Person (PEP), or that someone had flagged him following allegations (which he denies) of receiving lots of money from Russian-backed state media, and he also wondered whether his role in driving Brexit, and his scepticism about a climate crisis, etc, were factors. (Here are some of my comments on the case.)

In the following days, the former CEO of NatWest told a BBC journalist that a reason for the debanking of Farage was that he lacked the funds to justify a particular Coutts account. The BBC journalist ran a story; this was a clear breach of client confidentiality – also possibly a serious regulatory/criminal offence – and Alison Rose, the CEO, resigned this week. Peter Flavel, the Coutts CEO, has also resigned.

It also turned out that NatWest had compiled a dossier about Farage, which was sent to him after he requested it and he later shared this with the Daily Telegraph newspaper, showing that his political views and associations – including friendship with tennis ace Novak Djokovic – were reasons to suspect that Farage was a bad egg, and his “values” did not “align” with those of NatWest. NatWest has championed ESG investing, diversity, equity and inclusion, to a degree that puts it out front of other banks. NatWest is 38.6 per cent owned by the UK government. In the furore about its treatment of Farage – now a presenter on GB News – Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and other ministers, and yes, even columnists in the Guardian, have argued that the treatment of Farage was beyond the pale.

The reputation of Coutts and NatWest has been damaged. Coutts is a “posh” bank, supposedly used by the UK Royal Family – for whatever that’s worth – and in days of yore, having a Coutts account was a bit of a brag point. Well, no longer.

Meanwhile, in the US, the banking group Chase has shut an account of a businessman and those of his relations because, as far as I can tell, he has been a prominent critic of US vaccine policy and the policy response to the pandemic. There is the disgraceful Canadian case of the government freezing accounts of people donating to truckers protesting about vaccine mandates. The PayPal account of the Free Speech Union was closed (PayPal eventually overturned that decision.)

The “debanking” of people for the offence of holding the “wrong” views appears to be a general trend. At HSBC, in what I consider the most shocking act so far, earlier this year it was reported that the UK-headquartered bank, which does most of its business in Asia, had blocked pension payments to Hong Kong dissidents who fled the jurisdiction following Beijing’s national security crackdown. In 2020, when China imposed its law on Hong Kong, HSBC and Standard Chartered, another UK-listed bank, issued public statements supporting this law. So much for their concerns about “sustainability”, “inclusion” or all the other cant expressions of modern finance.

Even so, the optimist in me hopes that these cases, especially the NatWest/Farage one, might signal a high watermark for this sort of nonsense. The mask is well and truly off. People, not just those on the Right side of politics, can see what is going on.

People don’t have a “right” to a bank account, any more than they do to “free” healthcare, but they have the freedom to go about their lawful business unmolested. Now, in conditions of laissez faire capitalism, competition would weed out the idiots and ensure people could have a choice of bank services, with even the most eccentric or troublesome individuals being able to conduct financial affairs, even if with just cash. But we don’t have such a situation. We have a banking system umbilically linked to the State, fed on cheap central bank funny money, resting on a set of monopoly fiat currencies, and hedged by regulations, and as a result, stuffed with people whose main function is compliance with this or that rule, not focusing on building value. The upper reaches of these banks are filled with mediocrities who shuffle between private and public sectors with alarming ease, and who know all the right words.

Farage is an excellent campaigner and he knows how to get a message across. He does not respond well to slights. NatWest chose the wrong man to antagonise and be rude about. Maybe, as investors contemplate the falling share price of NatWest, and the tarnished image of Coutts, they’ll realise that indulging political prejudices instead of doing an honest job is not survivable. Maybe, just maybe, this may be the beginning of the end of the idiocy sweeping through the commercial world. As interest rates go up, and the zombification of corporate life ends after over a decade of QE, the harsh realities of making a profit return to the fore. As Allister Heath argues in the Daily Telegraph today, Milton Friedman’s attacks on the foolishness of corporate “social responsibility” become more relevant by the day.