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]

Imagine there’s no countries

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine, John Lennon

The Times editorial I am about to quote, like John Lennon’s much-loved song, begins with the word “Imagine”. It describes a little incident, seemingly unimportant to all but those most directly affected, that took in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. At least, Vanuatu calls itself a nation, and it has a flag and a seat at the UN and all the paraphernalia of a nation, but it seems to have decided that it no longer wishes to function as a separate state. A little incident that took place there four days ago gives a preview of what Lennon’s dream of a world where borders did not matter would really be like.

Imagine for a moment that last Friday a charter flight full of police officers from a foreign power landed at Heathrow. Picture those officers then driving to a series of addresses, identifying four British and two foreign citizens and then, declining to tell British authorities on what grounds they were taking this action, detaining them and forcing them on board the aircraft, which then took off. What might we call such behaviour?

This exact scenario was played out just before the weekend in the South Pacific republic of Vanuatu. Vanuatu might be the answer to a quiz question, but though it has a population the size of Hull it is also an independent sovereign country and a democracy. Nevertheless, last week the Chinese government sent officials to Vanuatu and arrested five men and one woman, all of Chinese ethnicity.

That the republic’s government was complicit in these arrests makes the position more and not less worrying. Before the Chinese police arrived it is reported that the six had been held without charge for several days on the premises of a Chinese company. Though the Chinese informed the government that their officers possessed Chinese arrest warrants, neither the islanders nor anyone else has been told what the charges actually are. In spite of this, local police assisted with the accompanying of the detained individuals to the China-bound aircraft.

Almost incredibly the internal affairs minister of Vanuatu has told the press that the reason why the six detainees did not appear before a Vanuatu judge was that they were not charged with any crime in the territory. Presumably if they had been then they would have had their day in court. As it is the minister has, in effect, connived at an abduction of his own citizens by a foreign power almost certainly in contravention of his country’s laws.

The South China Morning Post report on the same story is quite bold to make an explicit link to the protests in Hong Kong against the proposed bill allowing extradition to mainland China, given that the newspaper has itself been subject to pressure from Beijing.

Why is Russia trying to influence other countries’ elections by means of targeted advertising wrong?

“Nick Clegg denies misuse of Facebook influenced Brexit vote”, reports the Guardian.

Umm, okay. A lot of people are saying “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?”.

Sir Nick Clegg, for those readers who have forgotten this rather forgettable chap, used to be leader of the Liberal Democrats and was Deputy Prime Minister for a while, back when the Lib Dems were in coalition with the Conservatives. He lost his seat in the 2017 election, which made him sad. Then he got a “communications” job with Facebook at a salary that probably made him feel better.

So nine years after Cleggmania, here he is back on our TV screens again. The Times report on the same story says,

The former Liberal Democrat leader said that social media could not be blamed for the vote to leave the European Union.

He said: “Much though I understand why people want to reduce that eruption in British politics to some kind of plot or conspiracy — or some use of new social media through opaque means — I’m afraid the roots to British Euroscepticism go very, very deep.”

Sir Nick added: “Yes, Facebook has a heavy responsibility to protect the integrity of elections from outside interference. I also think we have a duty to explain fact from some of the allegations that have been made.”

Calling for greater regulation of the internet, he said: “We forget that though these companies are huge and affect every aspect of our lives — our social lives, our business lives — nonetheless it has all happened in such a short period of time.

It is no surprise to find Nick Clegg “calling for “greater regulation of the internet”. Not only was more regulation of corporations his schtick when he was a politico, it also suits his current employers very well. Facebook can buy another twenty floors of lawyers whenever it needs them; struggling new startups cannot.

But to hear such a lifelong Europhile admit that the roots of British Euroscepticism go deep was a surprise. He is right. Russia’s puny efforts to interfere in the EU referendum were the equivalent of the eternally slandered King Canute calling the tide forward.

But in all this debate about how effective or ineffective Russia’s “outside interference” in the referendum was I have not yet heard a convincing explanation of what exactly is wrong with “outside interference” anyway.

I need not list the real crimes – waging unjust wars, murders, domestic repression – that can be laid at Putin’s door. On an infinitely smaller scale, making use of harvested data that people did not agree to make available is a bad if commonplace thing. But what is bad in principle about Russia trying to persuade British people to vote a particular way by advertising? Where did this idea come from that only British ideas are allowed to enter British brains during an election or referendum campaign? In a democracy you are allowed to vote on any criteria you like. You can vote for a candidate because you carefully researched his or her voting record and found that it best aligned with your political beliefs, or because your family has always voted for the Reds or the Blues, or because you think the candidate has nice eyes, or because your imam told you which way to vote, or because Vladimir Putin did. They all count equally. If we were to operate a system of Juche when it comes to political thought, would that not also exclude political ideas originating in the European Union?

John Lewis Gaddis on good versus evil in the Cold War

One of the particular pleasures of twenty-first century life is that it is now easy to purchase interesting books which have been around for quite a while, cheaply and easily rather than expensively and complicatedly. I recently bought, from Amazon, We Now Know, by John Lewis Gaddis, which is about the Cold War and was published in the 1990s. I’ve been meaning to acquaint myself with this book ever since I first heard about it, which must have been well over a decade ago.

I have so far only skimmed We Now Know, but I have already encountered a rather striking passage, towards the end. (Skimming usually involves looking at the end, doesn’t it?)

The Cold War, says Gaddis, was not decided in the Third World, but rather in such places as Europe and Japan. And why, asks Gaddis (pp.286-7 – his italics in bold), did “Washington’s empire in those pivotal regions”, generate so much less friction that Moscow’s:

One answer may be that many people then saw the Cold War as a contest of good versus evil, even if historians since have rarely done so.

Let me focus here on a single significant case: it has to do with what happened in Germany immediately after the war as its citizens confronted their respective occupiers. What Stalin sought there, it now seems clear, was a communist regime in the east that would attract Germans in the west without requiring the use of force, something the Russians could ill afford given their own exhaustion and the Americans’ monopoly over the atomic bomb.

Obviously, this is not what he got. Germans first voted with their feet – fleeing to the west in huge numbers to avoid the Red Army – and then at the ballot box in ways that frustrated all of Stalin’s hopes. But this outcome was not fore-ordained. There were large numbers of communist party members throughout Germany at the end of the war, and their prestige – because of their opposition to the Nazis – had never been higher. Why did the Germans so overwhelmingly welcome the Americans and their allies, and fear the Russians?

→ Continue reading: John Lewis Gaddis on good versus evil in the Cold War

Samizdata quote of the day

At a news conference last week in Brussels, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, admitted that the goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological calamity but to destroy capitalism.

“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,” she said.

Referring to a new international treaty environmentalists hope will be adopted at the Paris climate change conference later this year, she added: “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model for the first time in human history.”

The only economic model in the last 150 years that has ever worked at all is capitalism.

quoting the remarks of Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, in 2015.

h/t David Bolton

Samizdata retort of the day

Mr Putin said people living in Donetsk and Luhansk who considered themselves Russian were entitled to Russian passports.

On Saturday, he said: “We’re considering providing a simplified procedure [of obtaining Russian citizenship] to all the residents of Ukraine.”

How did Ukraine respond? Mr Zelensky said a Russian passport provides “the right to be arrested for a peaceful protest” and “the right not to have free and competitive elections.”

I am starting to cautiously warm to Mr Zelensky.

Discussion point: have you kept the libertarian faith on freedom of movement?

The Independent reports, Let Us Vote: New campaign launched to give everyone living in UK the right to vote in elections

The “Let Us Vote” campaign, which has the backing of more than a dozen MPs and peers, is seeking new legislation to extend the voting franchise, which has not changed significantly since the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1969

It has been launched by campaign groups the3million, representing EU nationals in the UK, British in Europe, which represents UK citizens in the EU, and anti-Brexit group Another Europe is Possible. The campaign says it is strictly neutral on Brexit and party politics.

In an open letter published in The Independent, supporters including MPs, peers, and NGO leaders wrote: “The outcome of the next few weeks in politics could determine the course of our lives for decades to come.

“But many of the people who are most affected by the current situation – migrants living in the UK, and UK citizens living abroad – have never been offered the chance to have a stake in our democracy.

“Whatever our views on Brexit and party politics, we are united in the belief that it is fundamentally wrong that so many millions of people whose lives will be deeply affected by developments at Westminster are currently denied a vote.”

The letter was signed by Labour MPs Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Clive Lewis, David Lammy and Stephen Doughty, plus Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran.

The “Let Us Vote” campaign’s own website is here.

What was your first thought upon reading this proposal? What would it have been ten years ago?

My first thought was this was David Lammy’s way of ensuring he never again loses another referendum. (My second was, “Leave campaign: use this on C2DE voters.”) Ten years ago I might have said, “It’s a difficult question”. I do not think I was ever unambiguously in favour of complete open borders on libertarian grounds but I knew plenty of people who were and I was open to persuasion. It was seen as one of the questions that sorted the committed Libertarians from the dilettantes. That, I think, is where my instinctive casting of the question in religious terms came from.

My impression is that my loss of belief in free movement of people is shared by many. Is it shared by you? Or have you kept your faith strong? Have you converted to this belief?

Her Britannic Majesty’s Government should do something….

British woman faces Dubai jail over Facebook ‘horse’ insult

Shocking news from Dubai, a British woman, formerly an expat in Dubai, has been arrested there and is facing up to 2 years in jail, after travelling to her ex-husband’s funeral. This is an ex-husband whose new wife she had allegedly rudely deprecated on Facebook (whilst in the UK).

Ms Shahravesh was married to her ex-husband for 18 years, during which time she lived in the United Arab Emirates for eight months, according to the campaign group Detained in Dubai.
While she returned to the UK with her daughter, her husband stayed in the United Arab Emirates, and the couple got divorced.
Ms Sharavesh discovered her ex-husband was remarrying when she saw photos of the new couple on Facebook.
She posted two comments in Farsi, including one that said: “I hope you go under the ground you idiot. Damn you. You left me for this horse”.

Sadly, her ‘wish’ came true. The target of her ire reported the comments and is refusing to drop the case, it seems.

The Foreign Office said it was supporting the mother-of-one.

Well that is reassuring, the same Foreign Office that is campaigning for freedom of speech in the media by appointing a relatively low profile barrister with a rather more well-known husband as its special envoy on media freedom.

Whilst at the same time, social media freedom in the UK is coming under attack from the UK’s government.

Websites to be fined over ‘online harms’ under new proposals

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has proposed an independent watchdog that will write a “code of practice” for tech companies.
Senior managers could be held liable for breaches, with a possible levy on the industry to fund the regulator.

Discussing financial penalties on BBC Breakfast, he (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Jeremy Wright) said: “If you look at the fines available to the Information Commissioner around the GDPR rules, that could be up to 4% of company’s turnover… we think we should be looking at something comparable here.”

Well, a proposal for yet another self-financing regulatory agency, (the business model of the Spanish Inquisition, I understand). What will they do with all the surplus funds? What of Dr. Bonham’s Case, all fines belong to the King?

Just out of interest, what exactly might HM Government be complaining about to Dubai when certain social media postings in the UK can get you fined or jailed for 2 years anyway?

A draft speech for Mrs May’s approval

After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in Our Empire today, We have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

We have ordered Our Government to communicate to the Governments of the European Union and its Member States that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their Political Declaration.

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of Our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by Our Imperial Ancestors and which lies close to Our heart.

Indeed, We declared our intention to leave Europe’s Union out of Our sincere desire to ensure the United Kingdom’s self-preservation and the stabilization of Gibraltar, it being far from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.

But now the Brexit row has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone — the gallant fighting of the diplomatic forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our sixty million people — the Brexit situation has developed not necessarily to the United Kingdom’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel £39,000,000,000* divorce bill, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent businesses. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the British nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects, or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Political Declaration of the Powers.

The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, Our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable.

* it could be a lot more.

The Art of (No) Deal

Via Instapundit I came across this fine editorial from the New York Sun:

“Sometimes You Have To Walk”

The collapse of President Trump’s summit with the North Korean party boss, Kim Jong Un, certainly takes us back — to October 12, 1986. That’s when President Reagan stood up and walked out of the Reykjavik summit with another party boss, Mikhail Gorbachev, of the Soviet Union. We can remember it like it was yesterday. The long faces, the dire predictions, the Left’s instinct to blame the Americans.

“What appears to have happened in Iceland is this,” the New York Times editorialized. “Mr. Reagan had the chance to eliminate Soviet and U.S. medium-range nuclear weapons in Europe, to work toward a test ban on his terms, to halve nuclear arsenals in five years and to agree on huge reductions later. He said no.” The Times just didn’t see that the Hollywood actor turned president had just won the Cold War.

It’s too early in the morning — this editorial is being written at 3 a.m. at New York — to know whether that’s the kind of thing that just happened at Hanoi, whence news reports are just coming in. Messrs. Trump and Kim were supposed to have a working lunch, to be followed by the signing of some sort of agreement. The next thing you know, Mr. Trump is heading home.

It’s not too early, though, to caution against over-reacting to this development. What appears to have happened is that the Korean Reds wouldn’t agree to the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization that we seek. Absent that, we wouldn’t agree to the dismantling of all the sanctions the North Koreans seek. “Sometimes you have to walk,” Mr. Trump told the press.

Good for him, we say. It would be a fitting epitaph for any statesman.

The tags I chose for this post will serve as my only further comment.

Samizdata quote of the day

That there are now more overweight humans than starving humans is one of mankind’s greatest achievements.

Damien Counsell has said it many times. Good for him.

The Prince of Prosperity and Secession

Here is a fascinating YT documentary on Liechtenstein, that remote Elysium high on the young Rhine, with a long interview with the Prince himself, starting just before 6 minutes in, and running mostly to the end, in all 38 minutes. Some fascinating commentary from him on his policies and his country’s history, including the slightly farcical Nazi ‘March on Vaduz’ of 1938. Having started as a ‘rotten borough’ in the Holy Roman Empire, the first Prince to live there moved in as late as 1938. He is a fan of being in the EEA, unlike the Swiss, but he got it through via direct democracy. Every village has the right to leave the nation. He found inspiration for local democracy from Switzerland and the United States (at the State level one can infer).

They have a system where 11 municipalities (villages) engage in tax and regulatory competition with each other. He says that he is trying to make government work. (He’s not done badly). He wants them to deliver services with low cost and therefore low taxation.

Are you listening Mrs May, or are you changing your slogan to ‘Brexit means Anschluß’?

There is direct democracy, where you have to explain your policies. That actually means that people discuss government proposals and it provides stability despite the low threshold for proposing changes. He also has his royal veto power, last used in 1961 for a hunting law. The only law he can’t veto would be the abolition of the monarchy. Some less ‘royalist’ politicians note with almost heart-breaking sadness in their faces that by popular vote, the royal veto was retained, so they cannot prevail.

“…One kept taxation as low as possible so as to attract business…”

He asks why should taxes support banks. He notes that people are getting detached from governments, and states can get over-centralised.

GDP per capita: $139,000 (USA $59,000).

Of course, the people and what they do are what make Liechtenstein what it is. By God, it looks like a decent place.

“Jordan Peterson aims at a refounding of Western Civilization …”

I like this, about Jordan Peterson, in Esquire, by Wesley (good name, considering his subject) Yang:

Many of Peterson’s seemingly grandiose pronouncements are, in fact, quite modest. He is often derided for repackaging banal common sense in a vague and pretentious idiom, and there is something to this. Peterson is an apologist for a set of beliefs that we once took for granted but now require an articulate defense, such as: Free speech is an essential value; perfect equality inevitably conflicts with individual freedom; one should be cautious before attempting to reengineer social institutions that appear to be working; men and women are, in certain quantifiable respects, different. His life advice concerns the necessity to defer gratification, face up to the trials of life with equanimity, take responsibility for one’s own choices, and struggle against the temptation to grow resentful. How such traditional values came to be portrayed as a danger adjacent to Nazism is one of the puzzles of our time.

The next paragraph solves this puzzle:

Viewed another way, Peterson’s intellectual project is exceedingly immodest, and can be stated in a sentence: He aims at nothing short of a refounding of Western civilization, to provide a rational justification for why the materialists of the digital age should root themselves in the soil of Christian ethics despite having long ago lost the capacity for faith.

The more rabid leftists call anything they don’t like Nazi. And the thing they dislike most is The West, which they want trashed. The West’s power, and everything good that The West stands for. Anything – anything – which is anti-West, they support.

Jordan Peterson is preaching virtues, public and personal, virtues which are the total opposite of Nazism and which might, unlike Nazism, greatly strengthen The West, by persuading a generation of Western and Westernised wastrels to sort themselves out, and to have good lives with good consequences. Therefore Peterson must be denounced as a Nazi, regardless of what he says he is, and regardless of what he actually says about the Nazis.