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

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

The mayor of London reads Leviathan and applies its lessons to cheese

Hobbes was right. We must have government. If men were to try to live without ‘a common Power to keep them all in awe’, life would be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’, there would be ‘a perpetuall warre of every man against his neighbour’, and there would be adverts for cheese on the London Underground.

City AM reports,

TfL [Transport for London] has left a cheese company’s bosses feeling blue after banning ads depicting their products on the tube – saying the diet staple is too unhealthy.

London’s transport network has been cracking down on unhealthy food advertising on the tube, but according to The Times this now includes the dairy favourite.

The founder of Cheese Geek, Edward Hancock, said the ban was “crazy” and said he couldn’t understand why fizzy drink ads were allowed on the network but not artisan cheeses.

Hancock said cheese “has been shown in numerous recent studies to be beneficial for health.”

TfL banned high fat advertising in 2019. It was intended to capture fast food but appears to have widened in scope to high-end cheddar.

TfL said the cheese ads – which were to be part of a campaign run by Workspace, the office provider and consultancy – could not go on the network because TfL uses “the Food Standards Agency’s model to define foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt.”

I think Sadiq Khan got to the bit in Leviathan about “Power to keep them all in awe” and thought, “I like the sound of that”.

Samizdata quote of the day – lost of trust

I’m sure that vaccination might be the right thing for some – assuming that we are talking about an effective vaccine that doesn’t do more harm than good. Oh, right… As you were. As they admit, it isn’t something we should be concerned about, URTIs happen every winter and every winter some people fall off their perch because it is their time and that’s what finally sees them off. No, I’m not being harsh, just recognising basic biology. If there was an effective, safe vaccine, then I’d say go for it. However, I no longer have faith in our vaccination programme, so I will not be partaking. That loss of trust is nothing to do with me. I didn’t lie, obfuscate and demonise anyone who dared to raise concerns and I didn’t rush something through before long term results were in.

Longrider

Playing the NHS card does not always win

Katie Morley is the Telegraph’s “Consumer Champion”. People who feel they have been mistreated by companies write to her and she puts their tales of woe in the paper and threatens the company with even more bad publicity if they won’t put things right. Her articles usually end with a line about how So-and-so company has issued a full refund and apologised.

Usually, but not always. Her most recent piece was this one:

‘I spent £27,000 on a cruise I can’t afford, and Cunard won’t give me a full refund’

Her anonymous correspondent says,

Back in early 2022, I had a serious health scare. While waiting for an operation, I decided that I needed something to look forward to. Both my wife and I love to travel and so, on the spur of the moment, I decided to use our savings to book a £27,000 cruise around the world.

I put a £1,500 deposit on a Cunard World Cruise in 2024 on the Queen Victoria. I thought a trip like this would compensate for everything we missed during the pandemic.

In the meantime, friends asked us to join them on a Christmas cruise in 2022, also on the Queen Victoria. We thought this would give us the opportunity to acquaint ourselves with the ship. However, the whole trip was a disaster from the moment we embarked.

After listing some of the things wrong with this ‘preparatory’ trip on the Queen Victoria, the writer finishes by saying,

We then realised that we could not spend three months aboard the Queen Victoria. Also, as a result of the economic downturn, our savings had reduced drastically and we no longer had the money to pay for the cruise. We are both retired NHS workers and live on our pensions so we decided that we would have to cancel.

As soon as we got back from the cruise in January 2023, we contacted ROL, which we had booked through, saying we wanted to cancel. We were shocked and disappointed when Cunard said that we could cancel without losing our £1,500 deposit, but we would have to book a future cruise for the equivalent amount of money (£27,000), or alternatively, a number of cruises adding up to this total.

Ms Morley did express sympathy for the writer’s health and financial troubles, but her sympathy did not extend to taking up the cudgels on his behalf. She wrote,

…you say you can no longer afford this cruise, yet when I asked, you said you and your wife’s NHS pensions were guaranteed defined benefit arrangements which are still in place. So what had changed since you booked the £27,000 cruise, I asked? You told me you’d invested a significant sum in Vodafone shares, which had tanked, causing you to lose half your money.

I’m sorry if this sounds harsh, but your stock market misfortunes have absolutely nothing to do with Cunard and, as such, I was not prepared to ask it to break its terms and conditions because you had a disastrous flutter and can no longer afford the cruise you booked. If you really can’t go on the world cruise or book alternatives, then I’m afraid you’ll just have to swallow this £1,500 loss and put it down to experience.

What really interested me was the response from the Telegraph readers. I expected them to support Cunard, and they did, but I had not expected so many of them to specifically resent the way that the writer had attempted to garner sympathy by mentioning that he and his wife were retired NHS workers.

The most recommended comment was by Roger Sidney and said, “Love the bit about ‘we are retired NHS workers’. Come one everyone, give ’em a clap!” Someone called Mytwo Penneth said, “Former NHS workers booking £27k cruises and speculating on shares. Then they have the brass neck to get KM involved in an attempt to recover a deposit.” Brian Gedalla said, “Nice to see some backbone from Katie. You could have played “Entitlement Bingo” with this one. Like Roger below, I laughed out loud when I got to the “we are retired NHS workers” line.” There were many other similar comments.

Although I have long since ceased to believe that a command economy is a good way to arrange a nation’s healthcare, my own experiences with the National Health Service have been good. Those people I know who work for it are hardworking, and I did clap during the pandemic, and meant it. My view that it would be desirable to privatise the NHS is only shared by about 2% of British people. Even among Telegraph readers, the great majority still support the NHS model. I do not think that the anger in these replies was motivated by hostility to the NHS per se. But something has changed in Britain when so many refuse NHS workers the automatic deference that this pair clearly expected to receive.

Samizdata quote of the day – murderous nurse edition

“What strikes you when reading about any number of NHS scandals since then isn’t so much the systemic failures, it’s the instances of individual cruelty to patients. Bereaved parents repeatedly told the Ockenden report about a lack of compassion from staff and some even said they were told they were responsible for their own child’s death. All of this amounts to a sense that the health services continually privileges the institution over the needs of patients at the most vulnerable times of their lives. When you consider how utterly inhumane that is, it becomes easier to understand how the NHS could contain a monster like Letby.” (See here for details on the Ockenden saga.)

– Alys Denby, Editor, CapX, in a weekly letter to subscribers of that platform. Denby writes about Lucy Letby, a nurse convicted last week of murdering a number of babies in a NHS hospital.

Monsters can flourish in certain institutions, and it strikes me that those that are treated as near-sacred institutions provide cover for them. The NHS needs to be nuked from high orbit for various reasons, and these scandals surely add to the list.

In which I praise an article by Simon Jenkins praising the SNP

“Scottish politicians have the courage to decriminalise drugs, but Westminster is too timid to let them” – Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian.

Returning from Htrae, I have to say that the SNP’s courage was the courage of desperation. Scotland has had the highest rate of drugs death in Europe for years.

While it seems likely that the problem in many countries is worse than official figures suggest, Scotland’s drug-related death rate is by far the highest.

It is more than three and a half times that of England and Wales.

It is said that when it comes to addiction to alcohol or drugs, sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can recover. I think this can be true of legislators’ attempts to find a solution for drug addition as much as for drug addiction itself. The Scottish National Party has not seen the light, it has merely run out of other options. And given that the SNP’s longstanding stance on alcohol contradicts its new position on drugs, they’ll probably make etizolam compulsory the day they raise the minimum price of alcohol to infinity.

Nonetheless, I think this is a good move on the part of the Scottish Government. I do not think it will solve Scotland’s drug problem. I do not think anything will solve Scotland’s drug problem, or humanity’s drug problem. I merely think it will work less badly than the strategy of prohibition, which Scotland and the UK as a whole has been trying for my entire lifetime without success.

“Covid censorship proved to be deadly”

“Covid Censorship Proved to Be Deadly”, writes Bret Swanson in the Wall Street Journal, but you could leave the first word off the headline and it would still be true. It is not necessary to agree with or even understand every one of Mr Swanson’s specifically Covid-related points to see the inevitable truth of what he says below:

Legions of doctors stayed quiet after witnessing the demonization of their peers who challenged the Covid orthodoxy. A little censorship leads people to watch what they say. Millions of patients and citizens were deprived of important insights as a result.

The worldwide system of individual doctors reporting and pooling their observations of how diseases progress and treatments work out has been a major factor in the spectacular medical progress of the last two centuries. For it to work, obviously, all must be free to say what they have seen and all must be free to see what others have said. I had thought this understanding was an unshakeable pillar of science, one of those innovations, like literacy and the scientific method itself, whose advantages are so clear that once discovered it is never abandoned.

This turned out not to be the case.

The most damaging paper of the pandemic has just been published in The Lancet

The most damaging paper of the pandemic has just been published in The Lancet and it makes stunning reading.

Tax the legal cigarette industry to death, watch the illegal industry replace it

Youth smoking has increased six-fold in Australia since 2019 despite the highest cigarette taxes in the world.

That is what is shown by the orange line on the graph in Snowdon’s tweet. The graph is taken from page 8 of the Australian government’s own publication, “Current vaping and current smoking in the Australian population aged 14+ years: February 2018-March 2023”.

If you seek to understand why this has happened, cross out “despite” and replace it with “because”.

In an article called “Introducing the Snowdon Curve”, Tim Worstall explains further:

There is an optimal amount of regulation, taxation, meant to discourage an activity. Going further than this actually increases the amount of the undesired activity, not decreases it.

If, for example, spirits were taxed so highly that it was near impossible to afford them then how much would home distillation rise? It’s possible to think by more than the drinking discouraged. We do not insist on that particular example, it is just an example.

But here with smoking the thing that everyone wants to discourage most is the teen smoking of cigarettes.

[…]

Australia, as the news keeps reminding us, does have a large illegal tobacco sector. The taxes, the restrictions, are worth people working in and supplying it – which leads to the real price of smokes and baccy to be considerably lower – thus consumption higher, than the legal status would suggest.

There really is a curve here. Restrictions can be so onerous that the society simply declares “Bugrit, millennium hand an’ shrimp” as with this example of teen smoking and Australian tobacco restrictions.

It’s possible to generalise this further too. Some of us have lived in societies where everything is so tediously regulated that no one bothers to obey any of the laws. This explains the Soviet economy and Italian driving.

There really is this Snowdon Curve, it is possible to have non-optimal levels of tax and regulation which end up increasing the amount of the undesired activity. As with the base Laffer contention, this is unarguable. That we are now beyond this point in many aspects of society, well, let the arguments begin.

Now do Biden

This first-person account by Jim Newell of Slate is being widely quoted: “A Brief, Concerning Conversation With Dianne Feinstein”

It was about a minute later that I encountered Feinstein coming off an elevator, sitting in a wheelchair and flanked by staff. It’s been hard to find the senator since her return; she’s kept her movements mostly to the least-populated passageways and skipped luncheons and non-urgent committee hearings.

I asked her how she was feeling.

“Oh, I’m feeling fine. I have a problem with the leg.” A fellow reporter staking out the elevator asked what was wrong with the leg.

“Well, nothing that’s anyone concern but mine,” she said.

When the fellow reporter asked her what the response from her colleagues had been like since her return, though, the conversation took an odd turn.

“No, I haven’t been gone,” she said.

OK.

“You should follow the—I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working.”

When asked whether she meant that she’d been working from home, she turned feisty.

“No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting,” she said. “Please. You either know or don’t know.”

After deflecting one final question about those, like Rep. Ro Khanna, who’ve called on her to resign, she was wheeled away.

Senator Feinstein, who is 89, appears to have forgotten that she was in hospital with shingles for two and a half months.

The left wing journalist Mehdi Hasan tweets,

If you’re a Democratic senator and you’re not at least privately urging Feinstein to resign, and urging Schumer and Durbin to take action, you have failed the people who sent you to Congress. You’re lying to yourselves that this 👇🏽 is *okay*

He is right, but Feinstein’s is not the only photograph that could be placed below that downward-pointing finger.

‘Government insulation scheme ruined my home’

‘Government insulation scheme ruined my home’ is the headline of this BBC piece about a man who says his flat has been ruined by black mould caused by a government “green” insulation scheme. The words “insulation” and “home” could be replaced by many other words and the headline would still hold.

Although the piece describes Blaan Paterson as a “homeowner”, it seems from the text that his ex-council flat is still under the control of South Lanarkshire Council to some extent. He insists he was signed up to the Universal Home Insulation Scheme (UHIS) in 2011 without his consent.

Things done by governments to people without their consent often turn out badly.

Things done by governments for people who grab them with both hands under the impression that they are getting a free benefit often turn out badly, too. “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, goes the proverb. Buyers have an incentive to think carefully about whether a proposed purchase is wise before they commit their money. Recipients of free stuff don’t. The incentives on government contractors not to think about whether insulation is right for a particular property are also strong.

Tom Woolley, a semi-retired professor of architecture, has been highlighting “cavity wall insulation disasters” for a number of years.

He has also advised pressure group Cavity Insulation Victims’ Alliance (CIVALLI), which has given evidence at the UK Parliament and Welsh Assembly.

He told BBC Scotland: “The problem with filling up the cavity either with glass fibre and perhaps, to a lesser extent, polystyrene is that it stops the building ‘breathing’.

“Vapour collecting in the building or dampness that gets into the walls can’t escape because it’s blocked up by this stuff.

“It tends to lead to dampness and mould inside the houses. We have plenty of evidence of this. I would say there are hundreds of thousands of examples of this throughout the UK.”

Ideology and Insanity on the New York subway

The first few dozen grownup books I read were an odd selection. As I sampled them almost at random from my parents’ bookshelves, I became dimly aware that my parents were different people from each other, were different from what they had once been, and read books by people with whom they disagreed. Alongside the works by G K Chesterton and C S Lewis one would expect on the shelves of liberal British Catholics of the 1970s, I found such things as a book of essays by the Stalinist physicist J D Bernal – and a copy of Ideology and Insanity by Thomas Szasz. Attracted by the strangeness to my young eyes of the name “Szasz” and the wonderful cover art of the Penguin edition that depicted two men playing chess across a Escher-like dimensional warp, I gave it a go.

Almost a decade before I heard the term “Libertarian”, I thus had my first introduction to an important strand of libertarian thought. Until the copy of that same 1970 Penguin edition I just ordered on eBay arrives, I shall have to go by memory and Szasz’s Wikipedia biography as to exactly what the book said, but I do remember being thrilled to feel my perspective suddenly widen, in a manner akin to what I had felt when I realised that the Earth was but one of an infinite number of possible vantage points in the universe.

Szasz cited drapetomania as an example of a behavior that many in society did not approve of, being labeled and widely cited as a disease. Likewise, women who did not bend to a man’s will were said to have hysteria.

He thought that psychiatry actively obscures the difference between behavior and disease in its quest to help or harm parties in conflicts. He maintained that, by calling people diseased, psychiatry attempts to deny them responsibility as moral agents in order to better control them.

And

Szasz believed that if we accept that “mental illness” is a euphemism for behaviors that are disapproved of, then the state has no right to force psychiatric “treatment” on these individuals

Great stuff. I think Szasz still has much to teach us… but I suppose by now you have all heard of the killing of Jordan Neely on a New York subway train?

→ Continue reading: Ideology and Insanity on the New York subway

Daily Sceptic administers a kicking to Sp!ked

Myers clearly regards Bridgen’s claim that the mRNA vaccines may be doing more harm than good to be nonsense, but in fact it is well-supported by evidence. For instance, British Medical Journal Editor Dr. Peter Doshi along with Dr. Joseph Fraiman and colleagues examined the data from the vaccine clinical trials and found that, compared to controls, the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were associated with an increased risk of serious adverse events of 10.1 events per 10,000 vaccinated for Pfizer and 15.1 events per 10,000 vaccinated for Moderna. When combined, the mRNA vaccines were associated with an increased risk of serious adverse events of 12.5 per 10,000 vaccinated, or 1 in 800. Note that the adverse events they looked at included those from COVID-19 itself, meaning the findings imply that among trial participants the vaccines were doing more harm than good.

Similarly, Dr. Kevin Bardosh and colleagues – hailing from the Universities of Harvard, Oxford, Johns Hopkins, Edinburgh and Washington, among others – found that for every COVID-19 hospitalisation prevented by boosters in previously uninfected young adults, 18 to 98 serious adverse events occurred, including 1.5 to 4.6 cases of booster-associated myocarditis in males. That’s more harm than good, at least for healthy young adults.

Will Jones

Nice fisking, read the whole thing.