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

A libertarian meeting at my home on the last Friday of this month

From about 1990 until about 2005, I held speaker meetings at my home in London SW1, on the last Friday of each month. I began them because I was a libertarian and we wanted such meetings, and because, having acquired a settled home, I could. And I ended them because their main purpose for me had been to stir up writing for the Libertarian Alliance, which by 2005 I was no longer doing. When the internet arrived as a mass experience, available to anyone with a computer, a telephone line and a few quid a month to spare, around the year 2000, I ceased being an editor of paper writings for an organised group, and became instead a citizen of the blogosphere. Most especially, I became a regular contributor to Samizdata. Suddenly, the blogosphere was where the action was, where the big opportunity was, and it supplied more than enough food for thought and for writing.

But now, my Last Friday of the Month meetings are to resume. Partly, I have discovered that their incidental benefits to me personally were more real than I had realised. Basically, I felt that, very gradually, I was losing touch with people who were in that vital social hinterland between friends and strangers.

But there is also a more public – altruistic, you might say – reason for me to crank these meetings up again. In retrospect, I think we can now see that the arrival of blogging was a most unusual time for us libertarians. Libertarian notions had spread rapidly during the years just before the internet and then blogging arrived among us. But because the number of libertarian enthusiasts involved was small compared to the population at large, these ideas had found few outlets in the late twentieth century mass media, which meant that we libertarians reacted to blogging like drowning sailors encountering a lifeboat. Meanwhile, our statist adversaries, many of them comfortably ensconced in what were clearly now the old school media, could at first only grumble about how their seemingly God-given intellectual hegemony had been so insolently challenged. At first, these hegemons behaved as if enough bitching by them about the new media, in the printed pages and on the TV chat and comedy shows of the old media, would send us amateur upstarts back to the oblivion from which we had so rudely emerged. When that didn’t work, they tried linkless fulminating in their, at first, very clumsily electrified newspapers. Only when it became clear even to them that the “new media”, and the new voices enabled by them, were here to stay, that anyone could say to anyone whatever anyone wanted to say, did at least some of the old school journos and organs start seriously adapting.

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I like this:

Given that time is a continuous variable, there is a certain arbitrariness to the way in which it is measured. For a long time, society has agreed a system composed of multiple units and one of those units, you may have noticed, just went up by one. Welcome to 2013.

It’s Simon Gibbs of Libertarian Home, greeting the new year and looking back over the old one. The posting contains many things of interest, but allow me in particular to draw your attention to one of Libertarian Home’s projects that Gibbs lists as having done well, in the year 2012:

Getting a push from Samizdata my video and article on the The Reality of UK Uncut is a late entrant from December.

The push in question being this. A reminder, if any of us Samizdata contributors need it, that our blog can make quite a difference, in this case to the morale of a fellow libertarian, with a bit of linkage that consumed only a fraction of the time and effort that went into the item being flagged up.  When I did that Samizdata posting I had no idea how definite would be the boost supplied to Libertarian Home’s traffic. Good.

And here is a mention of another libertarian whose links can make a huge difference to whoever and whatever he links to.  Says Gibbs:

The Newtown shooting however is the grim source of this year’s number one story. Receiving a push from Guido the story earned 10% of the sites total traffic in the last few days of the year. It’s an interesting kind of success story for a blog that starts with the death of 26 people, but it’s a success story that makes me proud.

Something like 2000 people saw that graph on this website, a graph that rubbished the idea that the UK’s “gun free” society is automatically safer than the United States as a whole. The real picture being far more complicated. It is a small contribution to a very important and intense debate but it is the kind of detailed analysis that can change the minds of many rational readers. The graph has also been widely copied and linked to and I like to think that this blog, and Richard’s number crunching will make it a little bit harder for the Obama administration to succeed in a further clamp down on gun ownership. If you believe, as I do, that gun ownership prevents violent crime then this blog’s success story is one that might make the world a little bit safer and a little bit better and that’s why we do this.

As I am sure Gibbs realises, at any rate in his more pessimistic moments, Libertarian Home is probably not daily reading in the White House. But, politicians do react to the opinions of others, even if their own opinions and ambitions remain unchanged by mere analysis.  Every little helps.

Wishing our readers…

… a prosperous and subversive new year.


Expect some new voices and views here soon.  And some confusion over names…


Road pricing at the IEA

Yesterday, as earlier reported, I attended an event about road pricing. It was typical IEA. Men in suits and ties with irreconcilable beliefs took it in turns to be irreconcilably polite about everything, while other men in suits and ties listened with equal politeness:


There are some of the men in suits and ties waiting their turn to be polite. And look, one man in a suit and a tie is even straightening his tie, James Bond style, although there the resemblance ends. That’s Oliver Knipping, co-author, together with Richard Wellings (the man in a suit and a tie on the right whose face is blocked out by the video camera) of a recent IEA publication entitled Which Road Ahead – Government or Market? Do you see what they did there? Which road, as in policy, metaphorically speaking, for dealing with roads, as in roads, literally.

I am being much too rude. It was actually pretty interesting if you like that sort of thing, which I only somewhat do, hence my rudeness. I went because I knew that although I would be rather bored during the event, I would afterwards be glad that I had attended, and so it has proved. I got a copy of Which Road Ahead for only a fiver, and better yet, I met a man with a blog, called Road Pricing.

I like road pricing, for the same reasons I think that governments shouldn’t give away train tickets to everyone just because the train system is government owned and/or government controlled and people have already paid for it that way. What if some people don’t like trains and never use them? It’s not fair. Without journey pricing, the trains will get even more impossibly crowded. Privacy? That argument was won and lost when they introduced number plates, I reckon. A man called Gabriel Roth was quoted as saying that the road systems of the world are the last bastions of Soviet style central planning. Which isn’t true. What about central banking? But I like the sentiment. This is a product for which people queue for the product on top of the product thereby destroying the product. That can’t be the right road ahead, now can it?

Scott Wilson, the Road Pricing blogger, agrees. But you won’t read many arguments at his blog about why road pricing is good. What you will read is reports about how road pricing is being done in various parts of the world, well or badly, and criticisms of places where it is being done badly, like, surprise surprise, the UK. In that posting there is a picture of people being charged to get across the Thames which makes you think, not road pricing, but: crossing a national frontier, of the sort that is taken seriously.

I ought to have known about this blog two years ago, when it started. But no matter, now I do. This is the kind of thing that you learn if you go to rather boring meetings instead of just staying home glued to a computer, the way I am now. Besides which, a blog is merely a blog. If you actually meet the man who runs it, see his suit and his tie, and hear him talking, quite intelligently, that makes you actually want to pay attention to his blog.

Bishop Hill has written another book

When historians get around to describing the late twentieth and early twenty first century hysteria about climate, Andrew Montford will get a big mention as one of the individuals who particularly contributed to turning back this bizarre tide of irrationality.

He blogged. Then he started blogging in particular about climate. Then Climategate happened. He had meanwhile written a book about it all. He blogged some more. And now he has written another book:


Whenever I write about how blogging has made the world a significantly different and better place, the words “Bishop”, “Hill”, “Andrew” and “Montford” always seem to be included in what I put.

Says a Bishop Hill commenter:

Will buy.

Me too.

Samizdata quote of the day

That’s just my opinion, of course, but I happen to be right.

Lynn Sislo speaks for us all.

The House of Commons Committee on Energy and Climate Change will be inquiring into wind farms

Bishop Hill always likes to see the best in people. He assumes good faith unless it is overwhelmingly obvious that it is absent.

So he is pleased to report that the House of Commons Committee on Energy and Climate Change has announce that it is to hold an inquiry into the economics of wind power. But this time, says the Bishop:

Looks like policy-based evidence making to me.

Confession: when I first read that, I assumed that I was reading this:

Looks like evidence-based policy making to me.

I have had to do a complete rewrite of this bit of the posting. I contrasted that with the following comments. In fact the following comments agree! Deep apologies. This is the biggest mis-reading I have ever committed as a blogger. I think. I hope. Anyway, back to that evidence-based policy making.

A commenter assumes that to be sarcasm. No. He means it.

Or as I should have put: A commenter read most of the questions the Committee says it will ask as I did, at first, and he wondered: why the sarcasm?

But most of the Bishop’s commenters are not nearly as charitable as he is agree with him. (Which concludes the corrections.)

The first one says:

It’s 2012. The Climate Change Act was passed in 2008, committing us to the most costly programme ever legislated in our history. Now they want to examine the economics!

And another says:

The last question reveals the true intent of the inquiry, “What methods could be used to make onshore wind more acceptable to communities that host them?”

And another:

Tim Yeo, MP, is in the Chair.

Expect the conclusion to be “We are getting it about right”.

Then in ten years time the lights will start to go out on still winter nights.

Biggest question of all: Is it actually necessary to fret about “climate change”? Something tells me that this Committee will assume a yes on that.

So, take your pick. Better late than never, or too bloody late? Enough of the right questions, or too many wrong assumptions?

What I mostly think is: Keep blogging away Bishop. Kudos for spotting this, and further kudos for reporting what gets asked and what answers are forthcoming, as I assume you will when the time comes.

There is something very old fashioned about blogs like Bishop Hill. While the newspapers mostly now bang on about celebs and football tournaments, here is a blogger actually spotting some at least potentially quite significant news, and reporting on it.

Why am I blogging about Brett Kimberlin?

I have been following the Brett Kimberlin case, much linked to of late by Instapundit, with interest, but with some confusion.

It is not that I consider exercises like Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day to be pointless. It is that I remain genuinely confused about what that point might be. Who, exactly, are we all trying to convince, and of what, exactly?

I get the impression that all those blogging about this do know their answers to this question, but to them, it’s obvious, and if they ever did spell it out, that was many days ago. So, what are those answers?

Kimberlin is a bad, bad man, who has a history of villainy generally, and in particular of trying to intimidate bloggers who point this fact out. So yes, the cost in potential intimidation from Brett Kimberlin of lots of us blogging about Brett Kimberlin is small, and all the smaller for lots and lots of us doing this, especially from a nice safe distance like from London. But what exactly does me mentioning the name of Brett Kimberlin, on the blog that I write for, accomplish?

Does it intimidate Brett Kimberlin himself, and thereby stop him intimidating any more bloggers and from intimidating any more the bloggers he is intimidating now? How? Isn’t Kimberlin rather pleased to have got up the noses of so many bloggers whom he already detests and despises, and turned into a minor internet celebrity like this?

Does it persuade the forces of law and order to stomp all over Kimberlin, more than they have been doing lately? Again, how?

Is the idea to show to mainstream Americans that the mainstream media are rubbish, for not mentioning this story? If so, what exactly is the plan for reaching mainstream America with this proposition?

Leading directly on from the previous question, is the idea to embarrass the mainstream media into mentioning the story? Their current opinion of all this is, presumably, that a lot of stupid right wing blogs are making a gigantic fuss about a small-time crook, who has gone some way towards rejoining polite society by making himself useful to the left-wing cause, which just goes to show that Kimberlin is doing something good, having annoyed all the right right wing nutters. And given that not even that opinion will find its way into the mainstream media any time soon, nothing much would seem to be being accomplished on that front either.

The pieces I have been reading during the last week or so have entirely convinced me that Brett Kimberlin is a bad man, and that those who support him with money, or who did once upon a time, are at best very stupid, and probably not at all stupid but very, very bad also, arguably even worse than Kimberlin himself, in particular Barbra Streisand and Brett Kimberlin’s evil and/or stupid aunt. My opinion of George Soros, to mention another Kimberliner, has gone done (even further). I had not realised until now quite what a brazen villain he is. But convincing someone like me of things as simple as these hardly amounts to much by way of an objective. I have no objection in principle to preaching to the choir. This can often be a very valuable exercise. I am positively asking for exactly such preaching now. But what valuable lesson might this particular chorister be learning from the Kimberlin affair, that I might otherwise have neglected? Or is it that all this just makes me … think about things?

Is it a case of all of the above? The matter is easily blogged about, fun to blog about, and will achieve a wide variety of relatively small but desirable things.

My questions are genuine, rather than sneeringly rhetorical. If I truly thought that Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day was pointless, I would not have mentioned it here at all. But, please somebody tell me why it is not pointless, and not perhaps even counter-productive on account of being so over-the-top for what it is actually accomplishing.

I am sure that our commentariat will have useful answers to offer me, and I look forward to reading them.

How Steve Cooksey is being prevented from expressing his opinions

Instapundit today links to this report, about how a blogger and diabetes sufferer called Steve Cooksey is being told by a North Carolina regulator that he is breaking the law by giving tips, based on his own experience, to others about how to deal with diabetes. Good for Instapundit.

This is the kind of spat which, if it gets a decent slice of publicity, can be won by the forces of free speech and freedom of expression. Hence this posting of mine in response to the Instapundit posting, which I offer as another straw on the bureaucratic camel’s back. It will surely not be the only such straw. I like to think that, if Steve Cooksey finds out about this posting here, the fact that it is happening Abroad may cheer him up that little bit more. “Hey, this damn regulator is making me world famous!”

It helps that they have a Constitution over there, which includes a bit about how you can say what you want, even if a mere state law says otherwise.

Is Steve Cooksey, who has no “license” to offer the advice he is offering, in fact giving bad dietary advice? If so, the correct response from those who think this is to say so, and to explain why they think this. Perhaps one of them could start another blog, saying things like: “Steve Cooksey is talking nonsense.” “Don’t do what Steve Cooksey says, and this is why you shouldn’t.” And so on.

That is, or ought to be, the American way. (It ought to be the way everywhere.)

Tom Clougherty makes the case for gold

Incoming: another of those emails that I get from being on the Cobden Centre insider list that surely won’t mind being reproduced here, this one being from Tom Clougherty:

City AM asked me to make the case for gold in 140-words, for this morning’s comment pages. Not an easy task, but I’m fairly pleased with how it came out.

I’m off out now, and will read this later, but Clougherty’s a good man and I’m sure I’ll like it.

Blog and learn. I just found out that he has his own blog.

Picture of a younger Clougherty (with friends) here.

Further evidence that James Delingpole is now talking seriously about the money racket as well as the climate racket

As noted here, first there was this. Now there is this.

Delingpole quotes Aussie blogger Jo Nova at length, and also Detlev Schlichter, thereby also giving another plug to the Cobden Centre, and mentions that meeting at the House of Commons where Schlichter spoke.

The Jo Nova quote ends thus:

If real people had to earn real money, investment bankers would need to make real decisions, scientists would have to find real evidence, and politicians would have to come up with real reasons.

To which Delingpole adds:

Exactly, Jo. Welcome to the Austrian School – the only economic education worth having right now.

Is the parallel between climate “science” and economic “science”, or between climate skepticism and the Austrian school, that exact? Details. I said in my posting earlier that if Delingpole did decide to take all this paper money stuff seriously, it might really be something. He clearly has and it truly might.

Andrew Breitbart, RIP

I was stunned to read this news. Andrew Breitbart, one of the movers and shakers in the conservative/libertarian side of the internet media world, has died, at the age of just 43. My condolences to his family and friends.