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]

“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.


“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.


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.

A deadly epidemic

The United States Surgeon-General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, has issued an advisory on America’s epidemic of loneliness and isolation.

The report says that loneliness poses health risks as deadly as smoking.

I do not make this post only to say the obvious “Gotcha”. In fact Dr Murthy’s document is more honest than I expected in acknowledging that the Coronavirus lockdown increased social isolation among all age groups. By saying that isolation is more deadly than smoking (the big medical bête noire before and after that slot was taken by Covid-19), the document implicitly admits that the Covid “cure” may have been worse than the disease. I would cut the medical establishment a lot more slack about lockdowns if they had been this honest about the inevitable tradeoffs at the time.

Loneliness lies like a black cloud over modern Western societies. Of course this is, literally, a First World problem: people struggling to survive do not have time or energy to feel lonely. But the fact that others suffer from more desperate evils does not make this one minor. We do need to think about it. Unfortunately the Surgeon General’s document is written entirely within a statist paradigm.

Chapter 4 has the title “A National Strategy to Advance Social Connection”. It recommends “Six Pillars to Advance Social Connection.”

The six pillars are

1. Strengthen Social Infrastructure in Local Communities
2. Enact Pro-Connection Public Policies
3. Mobilize the Health Sector
4. Reform Digital Environments
5. Deepen Our Knowledge
6. Build a Culture of Connection

If you want to see what Dr Murthy thinks these goals should involve, look at the graphic on page 47. All of them are driven by the state, including the innocent-sounding “Deepen Our Knowledge”. He hopes to build a culture of voluntary connection between individuals by decree.

In praise of Tommy Robinson

And lo, there be pestilence in the land. And the King didst decree that all should partake of the magic potion. And then Andrew of Bridgen didst say, “All my followers are dying!” And the gods of Tory didst smite him. And then John of Campbell didst say, “Funny. All my followers are dying!” I must make haste to Bridgen by means of fibre optic cable and parlay with him. And the gods of Google didst smite him. But the Lord had spoken to Tommy of Luton – that most unpromising of his servants – and said “taketh a recording of this YouTube and uploadeth it to Telegram so that my people might hear the word of Campbell and Bridgen.” And he did. And the Lord was pleased.

Update: And the Lord did command that all his brethren didst install Telegram on their tablets of silicon that they might hear the word of Campbell and Bridgen.

Update 2: the censored video of Dr. John Campbell interviewing Andrew Bridgen is also available on BitChute

Why are some forms of surgical body modification legal and others illegal?

“Two men admit removing body parts in ‘eunuch maker’ case”, reports the Guardian.

Two men have admitted removing body parts of a man who is accused of carrying out castrations and broadcasting the footage on his “eunuch maker” website.

Nathan Arnold, 48, a nurse from South Kensington, west London, admitted the partial removal of Marius Gustavson’s nipple in the summer of 2019.

Damien Byrnes, 35, from Tottenham, north London, admitted removing Gustavson’s penis on 18 February 2017.

Gustavson, who is originally from Norway, is said to have been the ringleader in a conspiracy involving up to 29 offences of extreme body modifications, the removal of body parts, the trade in body parts and the uploading of videos.

Given that these people were all consenting adults, I do not understand why their actions (other than the theft of the anaesthetic) should be a criminal offence, particularly as surgical operations to remove people’s penises are legal in male to female sex change operations. Does it make a difference in principle whether the appearance aimed for when surgically removing a penis is female or eunuchoid?

My question is not designed to provoke the reaction “Of course it should be legal to do this, just as it is legal to perform sex change operations”. Nor is it designed to provoke the reaction “Of course it should be illegal to perform sex change operations, just as it is illegal to do this.” I can see reasonable justification for saying that changing someone’s body to be like lots of other people’s bodies is much more likely to go well than changing their body to a form few others have. By “go well”, I mean be likely to increase the wellbeing of the person upon whom the operation is performed, or be less likely to decrease it, and also to go well in the same ways that any surgical operation is judged a success or a failure.

Related earlier Samizdata posts:

Discussion point: circumcision from October 2013.

Discussion point: can children consent to puberty blockers? What about other drastic treatments? from October 2020.

If you feel moved to comment, please seek neither to be offended nor to offend, and try not to get hung up by questions of terminology.

Permission to speak not granted: the editor of Science gives his ruling

This “Threadreader” page shows a now-deleted set of tweets by the Editor-in-Chief of Science magazine, Holden Thorp:

In light of @Nature’s excellent editorial about why it makes sense to comment on politics (all the way, in their case, to making an endorsement), this is the Pew finding that is most relevant. Following the admonition to stick to science is conceding the idea that scientists can be sidelined in policy decisions. “Stick to science” infantilizes scientists and tells us to sit at the kids table and let the adults decide. We must fight back. Here’s the editorial:

Should Nature endorse political candidates? Yes — when the occasion demands it

Political endorsements might not always win hearts and minds, but when candidates threaten a retreat from reason, science must speak out.

Sure, if you ask if folks in the public if they lose faith in science if journals venture into politics, many will say yes. But they don’t actually want science, they want scientific information they can use as they see fit. 3/n @Magda_Skipper @laurahelmuth @KBibbinsDomingo

This gives people the permission to say things like “climate change may be real, but I don’t think we should have government regulation to deal with it,” which is unacceptable. We can’t concede that by letting people pick and choose. Good for @Magda_Skipper for speaking out.

Emphasis added. Found via Stuart Ritchie.

Samizdata quote of the day – NHS religious cult update

Why does everything have to be justified on the basis that it will help the NHS? Especially when the NHS is failing its patients so badly? UK healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP now ranks fifth highest in the OECD, yet the system isn’t delivering even the most basic forms of care. Some 2.7 million people are sitting anxiously on the waiting list.

Kate Andrews