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]

No, slavery did not make America, or the West, richer

US economic historian Deidre McCloskey debunks the claims – which I see have been given fresh impetus by the New York Times recently – that since the very earliest days of the colonies, slavery has been one of the main things that made America rich. This claim draws on a zero-sum mentality: the only way to raise living standards is squeezing surplus value out of workers against their will (to put it in Marxian terms). In other words, the claim goes against the classical liberal argument that slavery is ultimately not just wicked – which it is – but also economically stupid, because free labour is more productive than unfree labour. The more options people have about where and on what they work, the bigger the pie is. And even those small number of folk who get rich on slavery (but where did they get the guns and the whips and the land to use to jail said slaves?) could and did get even richer had they not been slavers. (There is also the ever-present fear that slavers must have that sooner or later there will be a revolt, in which said slavers get killed.)

The whole article is first class and I strongly recommend it. She takes issue with the “King Cotton” school of history that has gained some recent traction. Bookmark this article for when some apologist for coercion trots out the old line that no “great civilisation” ever existed without slavery. Quite simply, it is bullshit.

Here is another report about the NYT project (the NYT is behind a paywall, and I cannot be arsed to subscribe to a publication likely to damage my blood pressure).

Samizdata quote of the day

“By stifling his criticisms of human rights-abusing regimes, what Donald Trump may see as the projection of strength is surely viewed by America’s adversaries as weakness. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blames the United States for an attempted coup against his regime, and Trump calls to congratulate him on his suspicious election victory. North Korea murders and purges its nuclear negotiators and Trump gives Kim Jong-un a photo op on North Korean soil. Vladimir Putin counters American geopolitical and economic interests at nearly every turn, and the president can’t bring himself to say a bad word about the autocrat in the Kremlin. What American interest is being advanced by this servility?”

Noah Rothman, Commentary Magazine.

It is wrong to force a person into sexual activity

I had thought that all decent people, whatever their politics or religion, accepted that each human being has the inalienable right to refuse to engage in sexual activity, and that for each person the decision as to what level of physical intimacy with any other person was acceptable to them was theirs and theirs alone.

I would never have guessed that was a case that still had to be argued. That would be like… having to go to court to argue all over again that prostitutes should have the right to refuse clients, or that marital rape should not be allowed. Or that forced concubinage should not be allowed, or any of the other forms of sexual slavery that stain the record of humanity.

Of course I knew that there were even now places in the world where people, usually women, still do not have the legal right to refuse sexual activity. Now that Daesh has been defeated, the first such place that comes to mind is the territory controlled by Boko Haram.

In British Columbia, the second most progressive province of Canada, they’re thinking about it.

There is nothing new under the sun

“What has been will be again,” as it says in Ecclesiastes, “what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Yesterday – to my shame I did not spot it until today – the Times reprinted a letter to the editor that was a century old to the day. I wish I could say that it was merely of historical interest.

From The Times July 15, 1919

To the Editor of The Times

Sir, Will you permit an elderly man, who is not a politician nor a public character, but merely an individual among millions of honest, sober persons whose liberty is attacked by a moral tyranny, to state an opinion with regard to the crusade against moderate drinkers? It is not needed even in the cause of morality. When I was a child excess in drinking was patent in every class of society. Now, in my wide circle, I do not know of one man or woman who is ever seen “under the influence of liquor”. Why not leave the process of moderation, so marked within 60 years, to pursue its normal course? It is untrue to say that a reasonable use of alcohol is injurious to mind, body or morality. My father, whose life was one of intense intellectual application, and who died from an accident in his 79th year, was the most rigidly conscientious evangelical I have ever known. He would have been astonished to learn that his claret and water at his midday meal, and his glass of Constantia at bedtime, were either sinful in themselves or provocative to sin in others.

There is no blessing upon those who invent offences for the pleasure of giving pain and who lay burdens on the liberty of others. We have seen attempts by the fantastically righteous to condemn those who eat meat, who go to see plays, who take walks on Sundays. The campaign against the sober use of wine and beer is on a footing with these efforts, and should be treated as they have been. Already tobacco is being forbidden to the clergy! The fact that Americans are leading the campaign should be regarded with alarm. We do not express an opinion, much less organize propaganda, against “dryness” in the United States. It is not for us to interfere in their domestic business. If Englishmen went round America urging Americans to defy their own laws and revolt against their customs, we should be very properly indignant. Let crusading Americans be taught the same reticence.

The propagandist teetotaler is active and unscrupulous. He fights with all weapons, whether they are clean or no. We must resist, without fear of consequences, the cruel and ignorant fanaticism of these apostles.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

EDMUND GOSSE

An intersection

When I watched the by now viral video of a mob jeering at and throwing a milkshake over an elderly British Trump supporter, led by a screaming feminist called Siobhan Prigent, a number of lines of thoughts got like Ms Prigent, intersectional.

– Watching the video made me angry. A year or so ago my son asked me an interesting question, “Are you still a feminist?” He knew that I had previously described myself as one. Eventually I answered that yes, I was, but that my understanding of what being a feminist entails seems to have been abandoned by most of those who describe themselves as feminists. Is Siobhan Prigent what a feminist looks like now? I’m still holding on to the idea that “what a feminist looks like” can include what I see in the mirror. But it is getting harder.

– Talk of feminism leads me to the next thought. What did that frail-looking female police officer do that was any more use than a chocolate teapot? Would a more physically imposing male officer have been more useful, or was the lack of police action when the old man was assaulted a matter of policy and nothing to do with whether the presiding teapot was male or female?

The man also claimed he was kicked in the legs, and attacked with a banner with a stick on the end. The demonstrators also attempted to remove his Make America Great Again hat – which he eventually got back.

The Londoner told how police officers removed him from the protest on Parliament Square for his own safety.

He told police that he didn’t want to officially report what had happened as he knew ‘nothing would come of it’.

“Removed for his own safety”. “He knew ‘nothing would come of it'”. Modern policing in a nutshell.

– Intersectional feminist Ms Prigent has now intersected with the consequences of her actions. She has been forced to quit her job. She says that her friends and family have been threatened and abused alongside her. If the part about her family is true that is very bad. As for Ms Prigent herself, while she certainly deserves to suffer some public scorn for her bad behaviour, doxxing someone is like breaching a dam: once the wall breaks the situation is out of anyone’s control.

There was another feminist in the news today. The Scotsman reports that “Feminist speaker Julie Bindel ‘attacked by transgender person’ at Edinburgh University after talk”

“We had had a very positive meeting – I was speaking about male violence against women and never even mentioned transgender people – and when I came out this person was waiting.

“There had been a protest outside earlier, but that had gone so he was obviously waiting for me.

“He was shouting and ranting and raving, ‘you’re a f***** c***, you’re a f****** bitch, a f****** Terf” and the rest of it. We were trying to walk to the cab to take us to the airport, and then he just lunged at me and almost punched me in the face, but a security guard pulled him away.

“I got my phone out to film him to get evidence and he went for me again. It took three security guys at the stage to deal with him.

And

After the attack, it was revealed on social media platform Twitter that her attacker was a transwoman called Cathy Brennan, who it has been reported has previously advocated violence against women.

At this point I tried to research a little more about Cathy Brennan, but I’ve deleted what I said on the grounds of complete confusion. It seems that there are two people with the same name prominent on opposite sides of the debate. At least two. It doesn’t help in determining who’s who that half of the relevant Twitter accounts have now been deleted.

The Scotsman article continues,

“Brennan has previously tweeted in support of violence against women who believe that changing the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to self-identify as any gender, rather than needing a medical diagnosis, would endanger women’s rights to safety, privacy and dignity by doing away with single-sex spaces. One tweet read: “Any trans allies at #PrideLondon right now need to step the f**kup and take out the terf trash. Get in their faces. Make them afraid. Debate never works so f**k them up”

I have borne a grudge against Julie Bindel since she called me a rape defender about ten years ago. In the comments to an article she wrote for the Guardian I had brought up the possibility that not every claimed rape had actually occurred. Since then Ms Bindel’s version of radical feminism has been overtaken by another strand and she now finds herself on the receiving end of the denunciations she once handed out so freely. Still, I never heard she attacked anyone with anything other than words.

Some things need to be remembered

I was walking down a London street today and came upon a reminder that the reason Donald Trump is visiting the UK is not entirely about current affairs. And whatever you think of him personally, it is worth remembering why he is here.

Discussion point: should you negotiate with crazies?

The Times reports,

North Korea’s senior negotiator with the United States has been executed by firing squad because of the failure of Kim Jong-un’s last summit with President Trump, according to a South Korean newspaper.

Some of these grisly stories about executions in North Korea have turned out turned out not to be true – although with a ruler who shares the penchant of so many tyrants for suddenly turning against those closest to them, any statement offered by the North Korean government that Mr Kim Hyok-chol has not been executed should probably be followed by the word “yet”.

How should we deal with the likes of Kim Jong Un? I noticed that President Trump was denounced for being incapable of diplomacy before the ill-fated summit, lambasted for cosying up to dictators when it seemed to be going well, and excoriated for having caused relations to break down now. Some commenters seem to blame Trump for the deaths of Kim Hyok-chol and his team.

On the other hand perhaps the denouncers, lambasters and excoriators have made a good point despite themselves: whatever Trump did vis-à-vis Kim was likely to go horribly wrong. Maybe it would be better not to talk to unstable nuclear-armed tyrants at all?

Edit (3rd June): Another Kim among those reported to have been purged, Kim Yong-chol, has reappeared. This is a different man from Kim Hyok-chol (Korea has a very small range of both family and personal names) but the presence of Kim Yong-chol at a concert in the company of the dictator, combined with the absence of any official report of executions among the other members of the team sent to America, suggests that the earlier report that Kim Hyok-chol was executed may have been a false alarm.

Samizdata quote of the day

And yet here’s the thing about that freedom. Why does, why should they, anyone need a licence from the government to export LNG? Note what this isn’t. It’s not a licence saying “and sure, your plant now meets standards.” With something as explosive as natural gas that’s fair enough perhaps, to require one of those. No, this licence is the government taking upon itself the power to regulate who you may sell your own produce to. Which isn’t actually freedom, is it?

Tim Worstall

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

It is not without significance that the socialist Labour Day is celebrated in the Spring, at the time of planting and promise. It is full of hope of what might be achieved. By contrast, the capitalist Labor Day celebrated in America takes place on the first Monday of September, when the harvest is in and its actual achievements can be hailed.

Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute contrasts Britain’s Labour Day (today) with Labour Day in the USA.

Can you imagine what would happen if Trump did this…

This is pretty damn funny, in a painful and excruciating way.

But just for fun, now just imagine it was Trump, not Trudeau. It would be all you read about on the front page of every major newspaper and all you heard for a week on every single TV channel (remember them?) and radio station.

Corbynization

THE CORBYNIZATION OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY CONTINUES APACE: New York Times international edition prints anti-Semitic cartoon of Trump, Netanyahu.

I found the term used in this Instapundit article as interesting as the short article itself. Corbynization: now in use outside the UK to describe the mainstreaming of institutional anti-Semitism.