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]

Moral blindness

“Danny Baker’s excuses don’t cut it – the impact of racism is inseparable from the intent”, writes Kuba Shand-Baptiste in the Independent. Or rather her headline writer does, since the headline claims that intentions matter deeply and the article claims they matter not at all. No, I’m wrong; on closer reading, the headline-writer took the headline from the penultimate line of Ms Shand-Baptiste’s article. But that line contradicts everything that went before. Oh, I give up. You can read it yourselves.

For context, Ms Shand-Baptiste’s article is about the sacking of the DJ Danny Baker for tweeting an old black and white picture that showed a very posh couple with a dressed-up chimpanzee, to which Baker added the caption “Royal baby leaves hospital”. Given that baby Archie is mixed race (a touching photo of him surrounded by beaming relatives from both sides of his multi-racial family went round the world in an instant), and there is a long history of racist depictions of black people as being apes or monkeys, Baker was a fool not to see how his tweet could be misread. But he says it was misread. He says he was jokingly making a left-wing point to the effect that all the royals are in a sense performing animals, dressed up for the cameras. I see no reason to disbelieve him. Neither does Kuba Shand-Baptiste in the Independent, she just thinks innocent intent does not matter:

When it comes to racism in Britain, naivety has long been key to pushing the harmful messages we accept as inadvertent or good natured. But there’s no excuse. Whether or not these acts are accidental, the impact is almost always inseparable from the intent. You don’t have to have a “diseased mind” to be part of the problem, but blind belief in your own sense of decency in the face of facts that suggest otherwise, definitely helps.

Wait a minute, “blind belief”? Kuba Shand-Baptiste just used the word “blind” as a metaphor for a moral failing!

When it comes to ableism in Britain, naivety has long been key to pushing the harmful messages we accept as inadvertent or good natured. But there’s no excuse.

Never mind the context, never mind her intention, the Independent must fire her now.

Added 10.20pm, 10/05/19: Good grief: Danny Baker being investigated by police over ‘stupid’ royal baby tweet that saw him sacked by BBC.

To be fair to the police this looks like a case of “someone has made a complaint so it must be investigated”. Welcome to the world you made, lefties.

Less economy of truth, please: who pays whom?

In today’s UK, we can only envy the US its first amendment, but Brits familiar with the PC narrative on race over here still find some US excesses hard to credit. Even Brits who hang out with lefties can be astounded by the wilder shores of the US narrative.

Enthroned on this mad narrative, Ta-Nehisi Coates nevertheless gets some push-back. He’s not hard to criticise. In his own memoir, some shoving on a crowded New York escalator is the worst that white people ever did to him in propria persona, but their malign influence is everywhere: when a black kid points a gun at the young Coates, it’s the fault of whites; when a black friend is shot by a black cop in a black majority area, it’s the fault of whites.

However, those who dare question this feel they must virtue-signal even as they do so.

“Coates’s book is … angry about things we should be angry about” signals an article that shreds Coates’ memoir.

“Coates reminds us of the shame of the American inner city … His account of slavery and the ensuing discrimination against blacks is powerful and true.” says an article titled ‘The Toxic World-View of Ta-Nehisi Coates’.

While cringing white ‘liberals’ tell each other that “Coates is right about white supremacy — but that doesn’t mean that Bernie Sanders is wrong”, other critics seem to be saying that “Coates is absurd, dishonest or channeling racism – but that doesn’t mean I’m a racist for saying so.”

This lets lies survive even in the words of those fighting against them. After denouncing “genocidal whiteness”, Coates demands “reparations” for slavery. Consider the following thought experiments.

– Suppose the US government tells Mr Coates they have just learned he was in fact born in Senegal and adopted as a tiny infant by his US parents, who neglected the relevant legalities – so he is not a US citizen and should depart for his true country. In this thought experiment, Mr Coates’ true parents were not descended from slaves sold to white traders on the West African coast centuries ago. His true ancestors did not suffer from “genocidal whiteness”. How much money would Mr Coates spend on lawyers and investigators to overturn this assessment? How much money would Mr Coates pay to reacquire the legacy for which he says he should be paid?

– As another way of asking the same thing, suppose a powerful witch offers to wave her magic wand over Mr Coates. His ancestors’ past will be changed. The “genocidal whiteness” that has affected that past will be expunged. At every moment when one of his ancestors was about to be pushed onto a white trader’s ship – at every moment when the white western world was about to impinge upon them – they will instead be among the unselected, remaining in Africa. As a special bonus, the witch will ensure that they are not instead sent into the King of Dahomey’s murder spectacle, nor have their eyes gouged out by the Bemba, nor die entertaining the Ashanti, nor be eaten by a cannibal tribe. They will instead live to give rise to Ta-Nehisi Coates, still himself, but now a slave-descended citizen of Senegal from whose past all “genocidal whiteness” has been erased. How much would Mr Coates pay the witch not to wave her wand?

It seems so superfluous to point out that the sums Mr Coates would pay (in these hypothetical examples) to keep his heritage are the sums he should pay, not be paid, if his agitation for reparations ever overcame the many better, more fundamental reasons against it.

I understand the urge to utter that ‘but’but I’m not a racist, but I know evil things were done, but I’m not Adolf reborn. Even I find myself wanting to tell you that being sold as a slave by his jealous brothers, and then falsely accused by Potiphar’s lustful wife, worked out really well for Joseph in the end – but they all needed Grand Vizier Joseph’s forgiveness, not his thanks, and his giving it was an act of grace, forgoing the punishment he could so justly have inflicted. I so needed to make sure you all knew I knew that – even though I already knew you all knew I knew that. Even though I already knew what surely we all know by now: that cringing to the PC only encourages them. Even though I already knew that anyone who would have pretended not to know I thought it if I did not say it will still pretend just as hard although I have.

And that is how this need to virtue-signal lets lies survive even in the words of those fighting against them. Yes, all the perpetrators and victims are dead. Yes, how could we unravel all their clashing inheritances. Yes, reparations for the past opens a pandora’s box of endless complications. But all this general philosophy merely hides specific points. You can hate the British Empire or you can hate slavery but no-one honestly hates both – and the PC hate that fact. If Mr Coates’ ancestors had never been put on the ships, their enslaved descendants might have had to wait decades longer for the Empire to reach and free them in their homeland. Reparations for centuries-old events may be philosophically impractical in general, but focussing on that only obscures that when you indict a whole society’s dead past on behalf of another, as Coates does, then you should ask whether that society was peculiarly guilty, or peculiar only in its relative lack of guilt. Slavery was ‘the peculiar institution’ in the pre-war south. In the non-western world, it did not look peculiar – and would not today, but for the western world.

“You’re taught that on race issues you are morally obliged to suspend your usual standards of logic. Faced with a choice between some benign mendacity and being mauled, few human beings choose the latter.”

Those who do ‘choose the latter’ know what Burke did about economy of truth: “a man may speak the truth by measure that he be allowed to speak it longer”. But Burke never thought mendacity could be ‘benign’ – and nor do I. I think we should be less economical.

Ah, happy days

“Bill Gates says poverty is decreasing. He couldn’t be more wrong”, writes Jason Hickel, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics.

Prior to colonisation, most people lived in subsistence economies where they enjoyed access to abundant commons – land, water, forests, livestock and robust systems of sharing and reciprocity. They had little if any money, but then they didn’t need it in order to live well – so it makes little sense to claim that they were poor. This way of life was violently destroyed by colonisers who forced people off the land and into European-owned mines, factories and plantations, where they were paid paltry wages for work they never wanted to do in the first place.

The comments give me hope.

Mock the anointed at your peril

Then:

Laws protecting a nobleman’s “honor” illustrate the importance which the noble attached to his person. Preservation of honor (i.e., reputation) was a serious matter, essential to ensure that society would respect noble rank. Honor was a distinguishing mark which set nobles apart from commoners, since townsmen and peasants were not thought to possess it. Offences against honor included insulting the noble personally, charging him with a crime, or calling into question his own or his mother’s legitimate birth. If the antagonist could not prove his charges, he was punished at law. According to King Casimir III’s statute for Little Poland, a person who impugned the honor of a noble had to pay a fine and retract his insult in court, repeating “with a dog’s voice” the words: “I lied like a dog in what I said.”

– from East Central Europe in the Middle Ages, 1000-1500 by Jean W Sedlar.

Now:

Portland State University Says Hoax ‘Grievance Studies’ Experiment Violated Research Ethics

Peter Boghossian, a professor of philosophy best known for his involvement in the “grievance studies” hoax papers, is now in trouble with Portland State University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), which has accused him of violating its policies regarding the ethical treatment of human test subjects in the course of his experiment.

“Your efforts to conduct human subjects research at PSU without a submitted nor approved protocol is a clear violation of the policies of your employer,” wrote PSU Vice President Mike McLellan in an email to Boghossian, according to Areo.

This charge makes Boghossian sound like Dr. Frankenstein. But the “human subjects” in question are the peer reviewers and journal editors who accepted Boghossian’s hoax papers for publication. Their reputations may have suffered as a result of being duped—and they were indeed unwitting participants in the experiment—but their physical well-being was not compromised. Moreover, it may not have been obvious to Boghossian and his co-conspirators that research conducted outside his field, bearing no formal connection to Portland State University, was still subject to IRB approval.

Nevertheless, the professor could face sanctions for his conduct, including possible termination.

– Robby Soave, writing for Reason magazine.

This new thing we have instead of respect for the elderly

Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, says the Book of Leviticus, alongside other injunctions about such matters as how to sprinkle of the blood of the sin offering upon the side of the altar that even Leave voters might concede do not go so well on an inspirational poster.

For a while after the EU referendum result was announced there was a trend among some particularly enraged Remain voters to be about as willing to honour the face of one of those senile, bigoted, gammony, UKIP-voting coffin-dodgers as to bring a young bullock without blemish to the door of the tabernacle and kill it before the LORD. I lost count of the number of times I read young activists claiming that “their future had been stolen from them” and arguing that since the old had fewer years of life left their votes should not count.

This trend has now receded, either because it finally dawned on them that in the coming Brexitocalypse we will all be counted old at thirty or because the United Nations Independent Expert told them to can it.

That must have hurt. The United Nations telling them, who had thought themselves free from blemish, that though they wist it not, yet are they ist. Yeah verily, they are guilty of an ism, and shall bear their iniquity.

And now everyone’s at it. Out: “We should ban old people from voting”. In: “Age is a protected characteristic”.

The UK is “completely and institutionally ageist”, according to the chief executive of Care England, the largest representative body for independent social care services in the UK.

Prof Martin Green, also the chair of the International Longevity Centre, said ageism in the UK was “a national scandal” that should be challenged in the courts.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) should, he added, “hang their heads in shame” over its failure to pursue as many ageism cases through the courts as other protected characteristics, such as racism or homophobia.

The people of the past thought that the old should be treated with respect because they could be presumed to have gained wisdom through experience. The only lens strong enough to let modern Britain see the elderly as worth being treated with respect is that “old age” has joined the official list of “protected characteristics”. Better than nothing, I suppose, but the image of how to treat old people as seen through the “anti-discrimination” lens is one that most of the old people I know would say is distorted. For instance Professor Green indignantly writes,

If you just flip the categories, you see how unacceptable ageism is. You hear those in the NHS say: ‘That person is too old for an operation’ but they’d never say they are ‘too black’ or ‘too gay’ for treatment.”

I have known many people who have had lifesaving operations in old age. Though I do not share in the national worship of the NHS, I am grateful that the skill of its doctors and surgeons has allowed friends and family of mine to enjoy more good years of life. But if you are going to have a taxpayer-funded health service, then, yes, at some point the NHS must say, as it does say, “That person is too old for an operation”. Eventually the law of diminishing returns cuts in. The amount that could conceivably be spent on medical treatment to give a very old person a few more months of life is almost infinite. Fine if they are paying from their own purse – though even then a time comes when a honest doctor would advise against further treatment – but not if they are competing for NHS resources against a three year old child needing an urgent operation.

Acceptance

“Haters are not going to hate here,” asserts a young lady speaking for Scotland in this Scottish government video called “Your hate is not welcome here, Yours Scotland”. “That’s why if we see anything we’re calling the police,” says another virtuously. The philosophy of the whole is explained by the young man at 0:46: “We believe in acceptance.”

Atlas shrugs as Sark faces the shocking truth about price controls

The island of Sark, a small, remote Channel Island, with a population somewhere around 500, part of the Duchy of Normandy and the Bailiwick of Guernsey, but almost entirely autonomous, noted for not having any cars, having been one the last feudal jurisdictions in the World and having had very low taxes, is currently in crisis over its electricity supply. The problem can be summed up in two words ‘price control’. Sark is taking on the appearance of a small, cooler, oil-free Venezuela (or perhaps a preview of Corbyn’s – or even May’s- UK in 2022). It even has the example of France, home of ‘égalité‘, the guillotine and generally poor economic ideas (and some excellent ones), a few miles away over the choppy Channel.

It will no doubt not surprise almost all our readers that Sark, having in recent years had democracy foisted on it, has got a legislature (28-strong) that seems to think that it has solutions to problems. The islanders have also found that as the price of electricity has risen in recent years, and as people have not been happy with the sole supplier to the Island, they have been generating their own power. Falling demand has led to higher unit costs for the supplier, which creates a vicious circle.

Enter the Commissioner established and authorised, nay, required, under the The Control of Electricity Prices (Sark) Law, 2016 to look into the price of electricity and to set a ‘fair and reasonable price’.

Looking at his powers more closely we see that they are in fact, nothing short of miraculous, under Section 13:

Determination of fair and reasonable price.
13. (1) Following completion of an investigation under this Law, the Commissioner shall, determine whether a price which is charged by a regulated electricity supplier for the supply of electricity is, or is not, fair and reasonable.

(2) In determining whether a price is, or is not, fair and reasonable the Commissioner shall take all material considerations into account, including without limitation the following matters –
(a) the cost of generating and distributing the supply of electricity, including the cost of –
(i) acquisition and maintenance of any plant and equipment,
(ii) fuel and other consumables, and
(iii) labour, required to generate the supply,
(b) the replacement cost of any plant and equipment required to generate and distribute the supply,
(c) the quality and reliability of the supply of electricity and the economy and efficiency with which the supply of electricity is generated and distributed,
(d) the margin of profit obtained by the regulated electricity supplier,
(e) the margin of profit obtained by such other electricity suppliers, generating and distributing a supply of electricity in similar circumstances in such other islands or territories, as the Commissioner thinks fit,
(f) the entitlement of the regulated electricity supplier to receive such reasonable return, as the Commissioner thinks fit, on the value of assets (including plant and equipment and working capital) operated or used by the supplier for the purpose of generating and distributing the supply, and
(g) any representations made in response to a request given under section 14, or otherwise.

Funnily enough, he is not expressly directed to consider the laws of economics, or supply and demand. You can see where this is going I am sure. So why can’t the fools on Sark? How many thousand of years and examples will it take? Here we have the closest thing to a laboratory for economics, 500 or so ‘lab mice’, and yet we already know how it ends. Here is his consultation paper.

So cutting to the chase, a price control has been issued, and the Island’s sole electricity provider intends to close on 30th November 2018, as they are losing £20,000 a month supplying power at the ‘fair and reasonable‘ (and that’s official) price. May I introduce here, the Managing Director of the Sark Electricity Company Ltd, Mr Atlas Shrugger (I jest), his name is… Mr Gordon-Brown (David being his first name), and his company wishes to challenge the commissioner’s decision.

SEL was to mount a legal battle against the commissioner move this December.

However, a review of the company’s financial affairs by its independent auditors found that although the company could withstand the temporary £20,000 loss per month caused by a new 52p price for electricity, SEL could not afford to mount the legal case at the same time.

Back in December, the tariff was set at 69p per unit.

‘We have already suffered through a 40% decline in consumption caused by Sark’s economic collapse and we cannot cut our costs any further,’ said SEL managing director David Gordon-Brown.

‘A 25% price cut for a company that has already lost £65,000 this year is obviously unmanageable.

‘Attempting to operate the company under these conditions would be a breach of my responsibilities as a company director.’

He said if Chief Pleas wanted the company to continue providing power, it would have to provide for the cost of fighting the commissioner order.

‘We cannot operate the company at a loss over £20,000 a month under the new pricing scheme nor can we find the money necessary to fund the legal fight.’

He added that if Chief Pleas did not come to the table as a financial backer in time, it would be required to shut down, leaving the island without water or electricity.

This, I understand, is because the cost of a legal challenge (in this tiny island) to the Regulator would be in the region of £250,000, and Mr Gordon-Brown has asked the Chief Pleas (the Parliament of Sark) to fund a legal challenge to the body established by the Parliament, as obviously, his company can’t afford that sort of money. Can anyone else see the obvious short-cut here, the one that doesn’t involve legal fees?

Mr Gordon-Brown was reported last December as saying:

David Gordon-Brown, the manager of Sark Electricity, says the recommendation by the island’s first electricity regular to reduce electricity prices tells “a story of betrayal”.
For the past eight years the people of Sark have been betrayed by a committee of incomers with so little understanding of Sark that they expect Electricity Prices here to be comparable to their experience in the UK.

Now the Company has been betrayed by a commissioner with so little understanding of Sark that he expects the costs of producing electricity here to be comparable to his experience in the UK.

The commissioner is doubtless a dedicated and decent chap, committed to fulfilling his statutory duty, he is only following the law and only giving orders, safe, as it happens, in his home in Long Buckby, Northamptonshire, England.

But has the Commissioner considered economies of scale, transportation costs, economic law and reality? Does he have to?

The situation now is that the Electricity Company is shutting down on 30th November 2018, and they supply water.

I have to say that all those who voted for those who voted in this law, and those who voted it in and implement it, are quite simply, fully deserving of their adumbrated trip back to the Stone Age. I would propose evacuating from Sark all those who opposed it, or were too young (or insane) to know better (i.e. under 16), and leaving the rest to enjoy their new, low prices. To keep us safe from contamination, we should establish an an air and sea blockade, and air-drop a copy of Bastiat’s writings so that they may learn the error of their ways. Socialism (or price fixing) is just slow-motion cannibalism. It looks like Sark is heading that way, by choice. But as the BBC reported, they did have this terrible problem:

In August 2018, Sark Electricity was forced to lower its price by 14p to 52p per kilowatt hour (kw/h) after the island’s electricity price commissioner found the cost “neither fair nor reasonable”.
Despite the reduction, Sark residents still pay significantly more than the 17p per kw/h in nearby Guernsey or the UK the average of 14p.

Meanwhile over in Jersey, the press speculate about the evacuation of the island.

Asked if there was a real possibility of people having to leave Sark, Mr Raymond -(deputy chairman of Sark’s Policy and Finance Committee)- replied: ‘Not if we can get our contingency plans in place.

‘They are in the development stage at the moment so I can’t give out too much detail, but it will involve consolidating around certain centres – making sure there are certain buildings that have power so people can congregate there. It really is a war-time mentality. Do you really expect people to be living like this in the 21st century?’

Yes, I do, because if they are socialist dickheads implementing their plans, they will eventually get what is coming to them, good and hard.

In the mindless leftism department

In today’s edition of the mindless, knee-jerk leftism department, Reuters reports that Oxfam is upset that Singapore has low tax rates, apparently because this somehow creates “inequality”. Note that Singapore also has a notably low poverty rate, and that poor people in Singapore are better off than in almost all of the other countries on earth, and (given Oxfam’s purported original mission) poor people in Singapore eat pretty damn well, but as Singapore doesn’t mindlessly tax people for no reason, we are apparently to think of it as a terrible place.