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]

Samizdata quote of the day

It is untrue that the fires are historically huge or unprecedented. NASA says the Amazon fires are ‘slightly below average this year’. Many are pointing out that we are witnessing the highest number of fires in the Amazon for seven years. But as meteorologist Jesse Ferrell reports, prior to 2012 there were many years in which the Amazon had worse fires than this year’s: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010. As Ferrell says, there are always fires on Earth: ‘Thousands of fires are continually burning across the Earth every day of every year, and they always have.’ The idea that what is currently happening in the Amazon is shockingly unusual or apocalyptic or proof of man’s fascistic disdain for his environment is an entirely politicised interpretation of a perfectly normal event.

Brendan O’Neill

The King of Spain is belatedly singeing many a landlord’s beard…

Mr Ed: This post is made on behalf of Paul Marks, the Sage of Kettering, as he appears to have some issues with posting. I have put my pennyworth in.

Centuries ago the Kings of Spain forbad landlords to remove tenants at the end of their tenancy contract (at least in Castile) – the Kings wanted to be seen as the “friends of the poor”. This was the true start of the decline of Castile and it spread to Latin America – where landlords just became interested in collecting-the-rent rather than improving their estates (as it was not lawful for them to remove tenants). Soon rents became “customary” – fixed under the “just price” doctrine, close kin of the “fair wage” doctrine.

Spain and Latin America lagged behind the Common Law world not because Spanish is somehow an inferior language to English – but because Spanish law became inferior to the Common Law which was based upon Freedom-of-Contract not “Social Justice” with its “just price”, “fair wage” and “security of tenure” (regardless of contract). The government of British Prime Minister Theresa May now seeks to copy the “Spanish Practices” of centuries ago – by making contracts meaningless. For example, if a tenant can not be removed after the term of their contract (their tenancy) is over then only a fool would let out a property in the first place. What is intended to “reduce homelessness” will end up increasing it.

Mr Ed: This piece on Conservativehome sets out the aptly-named Secretary of State’s view, Mr Brokenshire, he is indeed going to scour the Shires, and the towns and cities too. Someone said rent control was the second-surest way to destroy a city after carpet bombing.

James Brokenshire: Why we have decided to abolish no fault evictions

The legal position (England and, I think, Wales but it may be devolved) is not set out very well in the piece, so the explanation on the government’s website is here. Basically, the legal mechanism is a Section 21 notice, whereby a property owner can evict a tenant after a 6-month tenancy has ended, i.e. it has run its minimum term, or when it is of indefinite duration. This is to be abolished, leaving in place the much less effective Section 8 Notice, whereby tenants can play cat-and-mouse by not paying rent, then paying arrears and stopping an eviction, amongst other things.

Bastiat’s ‘What is seen and what is not seen’ might seem to be the issue here, but I fear that there are those who will not ‘see’ when it does not suit them, and unlike Nelson, it is from cowardice and calculation.

Of course, if the Sage is right, Mrs May is making England that little bit more like Venezuela, singeing Mr Corbyn’s beard and stealing his clothes.

Samizdata quote of the day

After years of having their dignity drained from them by corrupt, ruthless and cold men, Venezuelans are now fighting for their freedom and demanding an end to an illegitimate regime.

They know what so many in this country do not, which is that Venezuela has, indeed, shown the world that another way is possible. It has exposed to the world an inhumane dictatorship whose coercive ideology has brought brutality, mass poverty, disease, and tremendous suffering to its people. And the name for that system? As Mr Corbyn told us himself, it’s called socialism.

– Conservative MP Priti Patel

All that the socialists now have to agree about is at what point real socialism in Venezuela was abandoned, betrayed, done wrong, blah blah. Kristian Niemietz is good on this subject. His point being, as explicated in this IEA podcast, that if real socialism was supposedly driven off a cliff by bad or stupid people, its inherent tendency to slide towards and then go over that cliff, no matter who is driving, need not be faced.

Meanwhile, back in the batcave…

As described by Paul Canning in “Venezuela: the Left’s giant forgetting”, Jeremy Corbyn prudently deleted a slew of pro-Chavez and Maduro content from his website in 2016. The same pattern was followed by others on the Shadow Front Bench who had once described themselves passionate defenders of the Venezuelan Revolution but who have now rediscovered the advice their mothers gave them about how if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing.

However one of Mr Corbyn’s most devoted allies, Chris Williamson MP, still has nice things to say about the Maduro regime. I must praise him for his rare honesty – the “Deleted by the PC media” tag this post bears applies to his leader, but not to him.

The Spectator‘s “Steerpike” writes,

Chris Williamson on the joys of Venezuela

Venezuela is a country in crisis: inflation hit one million per cent last year and GDP has plummeted by half since 2013. Those who dare stand up to president Nicolás Maduro risk finding themselves locked up – or worse. Many have opted to leave: three million migrants and refugees have fled the country in the last few years. But ever the optimist about the joys of socialism, Labour MP Chris Williamson has managed to find some good news about Venezuela – the country’s social housing programme is ‘on track

Here’s the tweet itself.

A crime control measure from the new president of Brazil

PJ Media, quotes the Wall Street Journal, to the effect that in Brazil, the new far-right (meaning: not-left) President is going to crack down on gun crime by allowing the law-abiding citizens of Brazil to have guns too, to defend themselves. At present, Brazilian citizens are defenceless against armed criminals.

This news did not surprise me. I had the pleasure of hosting an excellent talk about recent political dramas in Brazil, given last November by Tamiris Loureiro and Bruno Nardi, Brazilian libertarians who now live and work in London. They flagged up this policy then.

It will be interesting to see how this defiance of conventional expertise will work out. Experts say: badly. But they would, wouldn’t they? Root causes of gun crime, blah blah. My prediction is: well.

What could have caused the crisis in Venezuela? It is a total mystery

It was tides. No, chemtrails. Or Trump? No, Jews, you can never go wrong blaming Jews. Or maybe it was just ‘bad luck‘. Or perhaps Brexit? Ah, it was global warming! Yes, global warming is what stymied the wise policies of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. For sure.

Perry de Havilland, helpfully providing feedback when a thoughtful fellow on Twitter suggested we need to figure out what caused the crisis in Venezuela.

Venezuela is a mess due to terrible policies

“Why is Venezuela a country in turmoil?” asks Adam Parsons, writing for Sky, whereupon he talks about monetary policy, the price of oil, hyperinflation, increases in the minimum wage.

I suppose this all came about due to rip tides or adverse alignment of stars or maybe even ‘bad luck‘.

For an article that asks the question ‘why’, for some reason Mr. Parsons makes no attempt to suggest what could be motiving and informing President Maduro’s actions, a man whose day job is running Venezuela, but who also happens to be president of something else too.

‘Strangely’ nowhere in this article does the word ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ appear. Go figure.

The spirit of Nongqawuse lives on

Nongqawuse was a fifteen year old Xhosa girl who in 1856 had a vision in which three ancestral spirits told her that if the Xhosa people showed their trust by destroying their crops and killing their cattle, then on the appointed day the spirits would raise the dead, bountifully replace all that was destroyed, and sweep the British into the sea. Thousands believed this prophecy and slaughtered their cattle. But the dead slept on and the British remained in place.

Nongqawuse explained that this lack of action was due to the amagogotya, the stingy ones, who had kept their cattle back from slaughter. She urged everyone to greater efforts. A new date was set for the prophecy to finally come true. The rate of cattle-killing rose to a climax.

Eventually the Xhosa lost patience, and, with remarkable mercy, handed Nongqawuse over to the British. By then famine had reduced the population of British Kaffraria from 105,000 to fewer than 27,000.

*

City A.M. reports that John McDonnell says Venezuela is failing because it is ‘not a socialist country’.

Oh, and our Chancellor-in-waiting says that he will overthrow capitalism.

If you want to watch the Sunday Politics interview where he said all this, this BBC link will work for another 28 days.

The view from Brazil is that peace is also the health of the state

The most recent of my Last Friday of the Month meetings was actually not on the last Friday of March because that was Good Friday, and my speaker Bruno Nardi and I decided to hold it a week earlier, on the 23rd. Bruno Nardi is a Brazilian libertarian and he spoke, unsurprisingly, about Brazilian libertarianism. The Brazilian state having become more than usually obtrusive and kleptocratic in recent years, libertarianism in Brazil is doing rather well just now. (I very much fear that libertarianism in Britain may soon be about to do rather well also, but that is another story.)

Before telling us about the contemporary libertarian scene in Brazil, Bruno prefaced that story with some Brazilian history, which I am rather ashamed to admit was almost entirely new to me. On the other hand, his basic point was that Brazilian history is rather undramatic, so maybe I needn’t be so ashamed after all.

Brazil started out as a Portuguese colony, but did you know that, in or around 1814, it became an independent Kingdom? Perhaps you did, but I didn’t. I did know that around that time, various armies were crashing about in Spain and Portugal, because the Duke of Wellington and his army were busy pushing Napoleon’s army back over the Pyrenees. But as to what happened in Brazil as a result of its Mother Country being invaded, well, I had never given it a thought. If Hitler had managed to invade Britain in 1940, you can well imagine Churchill and our Royals and a boat full of government functionaries hopping across to Canada, and setting up a new and “independent” kingdom of Canada. In Brazil, this is what actually happened. (Googling has made me more confused about the exact date of all this, but it definitely happened around then.)

In general, however, the history of Brazil is notable for its paucity of dramatic history dates. After 1814-ish, the next history date that Bruno focussed on was some time around 1880 or 1890, when there was this big Constitutional change, the nature of which I now forget, and which in any case, said Bruno, had little effect on regular life for most Brazilians. Then something else political happened in 1930. And then the next date to be discussed was 1964! I thought: hang about. Weren’t the times between 1930 and 1964 rather dramatic for the world? Well, yes, these were dramatic times, for the world. But for Brazil, not so much. Brazil pretty much sat out World War 2, just as it had pretty much sat out World War 1.

A little light googling has told me that Brazil has been involved in warfare, a bit, as Bruno did mention, especially during the nineteenth century against neighbouring states, notably Paraguay. There were a number of internal rebellions, all defeated. And Brazil did get involved in the world wars, fighting against Germany in both, a bit. So there definitely is such a thing as Brazilian military history. But Brazilian involvement in war was indeed nearly nothing compared to what the European nations were doing to one another and to the rest of the world during those same times, or compared to such events as the American Civil War.

War, we libertarians are fond of telling each other, is the health of the state. Peruse the most recent posting here by our own WW1 historian, Patrick Crozier, to see how we often think about such things. So, what about that increasingly obtrusive and kleptocratic Brazilian state that has been putting itself about lately, stirring up misery and libertarianism? There have been no big wars to make the Brazilian state as healthy as it now is, and especially not recently. What of that?

The story Bruno Nardi told made me think of the book that explains how peace is also the health of the state, namely Mancur Olson’s public choice theory classic, The Rise and Decline of Nations. It is years since I read this, but the story that this book tells is of the slow accumulation and coagulation of politics, at the expense of mere business, as the institutions of a hitherto thriving nation gang up together to form “distributional coalitions” (that phrase I do definitely recall). The point being that if you get involved in a war, and especially if you lose a war, the way Germany and Japan lost WW2, that tends to break up such coalitions.

The last thing on the mind of a German trade unionist or businessman, in 1946, was lobbying the government for regulatory advantages or for subsidies for his particular little slice of the German economy. Such people at that time were more concerned to obtain certificates saying that they weren’t Nazis, a task made trickier by the fact that most of them were Nazis. Olson’s way of thinking makes the post-war (West) German and then Japanese economic miracles, and the relative sluggishness of the British economy at that time, a lot more understandable. Winning a war, as Olson points out, is not nearly so disruptive of those distributional coalitions, in fact it strengthens them, as Crozier’s earlier posting illustrates.

You’ll get a bit more of the flavour of Olson’s thinking if you read this SQotD from 2012.

I met up with Bruno Nardi again last week at a Libertarian Home meeting, where I spoke to him along the lines sketched out in the previous paragraphs, mentioning the title of Olson’s book, and I ended up by asking: Does that ring any bells with you, as a way of talking about Brazil and its history? Yes, he said, that’s what it was like. Gradually the political crooks got their various acts together and made their various deals and accommodations, and it got worse and worse and the state that they negotiated between them got bigger and bigger.

In Brazil, the idea of libertarianism has usually been felt as foreign. But it’s an idea that Brazilians are now definitely getting told about.

You can read Bruno Nardi’s recent postings at Libertarian Home by going here. I particularly like the one entitled Take the hypothetical seriously. What if? What if, although Bruno didn’t ask this in that piece, Brazil was governed differently, in a more freedom-friendly way to the way it has been governed for the last few decades? And what if the same applied everywhere else?

Samizdata quote of the day

Recent reports only help raising more questions, and eyebrows, as a staggering 87% of Venezuelans are reportedly now under the poverty stats. When it comes to food, 6 out of 10 lost an average of 11 pounds of body mass in 2017, not for fitness purposes (don’t go getting any ideas, NHS, Corbyn) and 9 out of 10 are unable to afford daily food.

Tamiris Loureiro

Child stealing, then and now?

A senior English police officer has called for children of extremists to be taken away from them.

Terrorists should have their children taken off them in the same way that paedophiles do, Britain’s outgoing top anti-terror policeman has said.

Assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan police, Mark Rawley, said that children of terrorists were exposed to environments equally as “wicked” as victims of paedophiles were and so should be afforded the same protection.

In his valedictory speech, he told the Policy Exchange: “If you know parents are interested in sex with children, or if you know parents believe that people of their faith or their belief, should hate everybody else and grow up to kill people, for me those things are equally wicked environments to expose children to.”

Meanwhile, far away in Argentina, the Grim Reaper has finally called for one of the old ‘Dirty War’ Generals, Luciano Benjamín Menéndez (cousin of the clown who was ‘Gauleiter’ of the Falklands in 1982 until some Paras, Guards, Marines and Gurkhas et. al. turned up).

Menéndez, also known as “The Hyena,” was the military commander of ten Argentine provinces from 1975 to 1979.
Some 30,000 people are estimated to have been killed by the military in its infamous Dirty War against dissidents.
Menéndez was also convicted for abducting children from detained anti-government activists and giving them up for adoption.
The children were often adopted by families of military officials, who strived to give them a non-communist upbringing.

The Montoneros were a murderous bunch for sure. But why does a senior English police officer think it is appropriate to imitate a South American Junta?

The future Jeremy Corbyn wants for the UK

Was out for a wander this evening and saw this right in front of the Venezuelan Embassy in London.

It is astonishing that in 2017, anyone can still openly call themselves a socialist in polite society and be treated with more respect than if they called themselves a fascist.