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 – Missouri vs. Biden

So far I’ve only really discussed the procedural happenings—however what limited expedited discovery in this case has exposed (separate and apart from the Twitter files) is both unprecedented and abhorrent. The most widespread and troubling discovery? CISA has designated YOUR THOUGHTS part of the governments infrastructure. They call it “cognitive infrastructure”.

They argue they can regulate what you think as they consider it under their purview. In this article I describe “The 6 Most Shocking Recent Revelations of Government Censorship,” if you want the details. One character of particular importance was White House director of digital communications and strategy Rob Flaherty. Flaherty was ABUSIVE to social media companies—like they were his battered wife. Many of them resisted the calls for censorship until threats forced them into action. I was actually stunned to see how averse they were to censoring—until forced to by the government.

Tracy Beanz. Read the whole thing, it is astonishing.

Now do Biden

This first-person account by Jim Newell of Slate is being widely quoted: “A Brief, Concerning Conversation With Dianne Feinstein”

It was about a minute later that I encountered Feinstein coming off an elevator, sitting in a wheelchair and flanked by staff. It’s been hard to find the senator since her return; she’s kept her movements mostly to the least-populated passageways and skipped luncheons and non-urgent committee hearings.

I asked her how she was feeling.

“Oh, I’m feeling fine. I have a problem with the leg.” A fellow reporter staking out the elevator asked what was wrong with the leg.

“Well, nothing that’s anyone concern but mine,” she said.

When the fellow reporter asked her what the response from her colleagues had been like since her return, though, the conversation took an odd turn.

“No, I haven’t been gone,” she said.


“You should follow the—I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working.”

When asked whether she meant that she’d been working from home, she turned feisty.

“No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting,” she said. “Please. You either know or don’t know.”

After deflecting one final question about those, like Rep. Ro Khanna, who’ve called on her to resign, she was wheeled away.

Senator Feinstein, who is 89, appears to have forgotten that she was in hospital with shingles for two and a half months.

The left wing journalist Mehdi Hasan tweets,

If you’re a Democratic senator and you’re not at least privately urging Feinstein to resign, and urging Schumer and Durbin to take action, you have failed the people who sent you to Congress. You’re lying to yourselves that this 👇🏽 is *okay*

He is right, but Feinstein’s is not the only photograph that could be placed below that downward-pointing finger.

From Boss to Blob: what the State brings to the Party

In the old days, many U.S. cities were ruled by political machines. They were corrupt. But, by and large, they swept the streets and kept crime down. Because “Raise Dead” is a difficult spell to cast and there are limits to what “vote early, vote often” can do, the Machine often served as a vehicle to protect and advance minority groups in exchange for their mostly-genuine votes. Most famously this applied to the Irish but it was often also the case for African Americans – long before that term came into use, their potential votes meant that the Boss had an incentive to keep them on side too. For instance, this article about the Prendergast Machine in Kansas City says,

One of the defining aspects of “Boss” Thomas J. Pendergast’s “machine” politics was its approach to African American voters. During the early 20th century, at a time when black people were routinely excluded from the vote by Democratic regimes in most of the former slave South, Pendergast’s Democratic organization in Kansas City succeeded in part by attracting considerable black support. While such support was not unique to Kansas City—black Missourians never lost the vote in the same way or degree as their counterparts farther South—historians often point to the city as an example of early black political realignment toward a Northern Democratic Party based in urban, industrial centers and at increasing odds with its Southern wing over the issue of civil rights.

Far from beginning with “Boss Tom,” however, this approach to black voters had a long history – longer than some historians have recognized.

Boss Tom, Boss Tweed and their equivalents for other American cities of the Gilded Age were probably worse individuals than those who rule those cities now. They were more likely to have people beaten up or murdered – but less likely to allow conditions to arise in which people are regularly beaten up or murdered by crazy people in public spaces. As this New York Post article notes, killings in the New York City subway system since 2020 have skyrocketed to the highest level in 25 years, even amid plummeting ridership numbers. For the ordinary citizen, that is a change for the worse. You could stay out of the way of the Boss but the poor have no choice about using the streets or the subway.

What changed? The other day I posted about the way that the the rising number of drug addicts and mentally ill people living semi-permanently in public spaces challenges many libertarian beliefs about mental illness. I think a comment by Roué le Jour to that post nails it:

The state’s attitude to the homeless can be easily understood if you assume the state’s priority is to be a big as possible. The poor, the unemployed, the homeless and the criminal are a valuable resource for generating ever more government jobs. The last thing the state wants is for these client groups to become productive citizens.

Since the era of Machine politics, the State has expanded greatly, both in terms of the number of people employed by it and in terms of the welfare payments it gives out. I doubt that even now the numbers of vagrants street-dwellers are enough to make them a bloc worth being courted in their own right, particularly as they do not usually vote, but the number of state employees tending to them and everyone else is so large that it has burst the bonds of patronage. The days when it mattered that the Boss could give or withhold a specific post, when government jobs could be seen as an inert mass of sustenance to be carved up and distributed, are long past. The Blob has its own life now. It is no longer food. It hungers.

Ideology and Insanity on the New York subway

The first few dozen grownup books I read were an odd selection. As I sampled them almost at random from my parents’ bookshelves, I became dimly aware that my parents were different people from each other, were different from what they had once been, and read books by people with whom they disagreed. Alongside the works by G K Chesterton and C S Lewis one would expect on the shelves of liberal British Catholics of the 1970s, I found such things as a book of essays by the Stalinist physicist J D Bernal – and a copy of Ideology and Insanity by Thomas Szasz. Attracted by the strangeness to my young eyes of the name “Szasz” and the wonderful cover art of the Penguin edition that depicted two men playing chess across a Escher-like dimensional warp, I gave it a go.

Almost a decade before I heard the term “Libertarian”, I thus had my first introduction to an important strand of libertarian thought. Until the copy of that same 1970 Penguin edition I just ordered on eBay arrives, I shall have to go by memory and Szasz’s Wikipedia biography as to exactly what the book said, but I do remember being thrilled to feel my perspective suddenly widen, in a manner akin to what I had felt when I realised that the Earth was but one of an infinite number of possible vantage points in the universe.

Szasz cited drapetomania as an example of a behavior that many in society did not approve of, being labeled and widely cited as a disease. Likewise, women who did not bend to a man’s will were said to have hysteria.

He thought that psychiatry actively obscures the difference between behavior and disease in its quest to help or harm parties in conflicts. He maintained that, by calling people diseased, psychiatry attempts to deny them responsibility as moral agents in order to better control them.


Szasz believed that if we accept that “mental illness” is a euphemism for behaviors that are disapproved of, then the state has no right to force psychiatric “treatment” on these individuals

Great stuff. I think Szasz still has much to teach us… but I suppose by now you have all heard of the killing of Jordan Neely on a New York subway train?

→ Continue reading: Ideology and Insanity on the New York subway

Samizdata quote of the day – San Francisco edition

“The major retailers fleeing the city’s downtown have been so numerous that last weekend the San Francisco Chronicle felt compelled to publish a map so readers could keep track of the exodus.”

Wall Street Journal. ($)

A deadly epidemic

The United States Surgeon-General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, has issued an advisory on America’s epidemic of loneliness and isolation.

The report says that loneliness poses health risks as deadly as smoking.

I do not make this post only to say the obvious “Gotcha”. In fact Dr Murthy’s document is more honest than I expected in acknowledging that the Coronavirus lockdown increased social isolation among all age groups. By saying that isolation is more deadly than smoking (the big medical bête noire before and after that slot was taken by Covid-19), the document implicitly admits that the Covid “cure” may have been worse than the disease. I would cut the medical establishment a lot more slack about lockdowns if they had been this honest about the inevitable tradeoffs at the time.

Loneliness lies like a black cloud over modern Western societies. Of course this is, literally, a First World problem: people struggling to survive do not have time or energy to feel lonely. But the fact that others suffer from more desperate evils does not make this one minor. We do need to think about it. Unfortunately the Surgeon General’s document is written entirely within a statist paradigm.

Chapter 4 has the title “A National Strategy to Advance Social Connection”. It recommends “Six Pillars to Advance Social Connection.”

The six pillars are

1. Strengthen Social Infrastructure in Local Communities
2. Enact Pro-Connection Public Policies
3. Mobilize the Health Sector
4. Reform Digital Environments
5. Deepen Our Knowledge
6. Build a Culture of Connection

If you want to see what Dr Murthy thinks these goals should involve, look at the graphic on page 47. All of them are driven by the state, including the innocent-sounding “Deepen Our Knowledge”. He hopes to build a culture of voluntary connection between individuals by decree.

Discussion point: Jack Teixeira

I don’t know where to start. How much will the leaked information help the Russians and harm the Ukrainians? How much of it was not already common knowledge? How did Teixeira come to have access to information that neither his relatively low rank nor his role as an IT person justified him seeing? What about the role of the media? The New York Times tracked the leaker down then told the US government. Very 1950s.

If this were happening in the UK, I would not dare to ask the following for fear of prosecution, but since it is happening in the US and my tiny rivulet of speculation cannot possibly make any difference to the tsunami already crossing the world: which was he, or which was he more, a leaker, a whistleblower, a patsy for someone higher up, a braggart wanting to impress people online, a hero exposing US government lies, a traitor sending Ukrainians and fellow US servicemen to their deaths?

If Twitter let me give half-likes, I’d have been willing to make it 165½

The tweet with the “165 Likes” to “1.1M Views” ratio is this one from Sarah Jones, senior writer for Intelligencer:

It links to this article:

Children Are Not Property

The idea that underlies the right-wing campaign for “parents’ rights.

The confusingly written subheading suggests that the idea that children are not property underlies the right-wing campaign for <scarequotes> “parents’ rights” </scarequotes>. In fact, Ms Jones’s article argues that parents are wrong to consider their children to be their property. It is true that some parents do think they own their children in the manner of property, and those parents are wrong to do so. For that I bestow my 0.5 of a “Like”, or would if Twitter let me. On second thoughts, make that a quarter-Like, because although words about the separate individuality and personhood of children flow out of Ms Jones in a flood, she concludes by saying the parents are not responsible for their children because the state is:

Children aren’t private property, then, but a public responsibility. To expand our democratic project to children is to grant them the security the right seeks to deny them: education, health care, shelter, food. A better America begins with the child.

Along the way to giving votes to children and children to the demos, she throws in the first few headlines she got by googling the word “children” as proofiness that Republicans think they own their kids:

→ Continue reading: If Twitter let me give half-likes, I’d have been willing to make it 165½

The police have put up a crime scene tent in Nicola Sturgeon’s garden

I thought they only did that when they were literally digging for dead bodies. Come now, Police Scotland, just because you have arrested the husband of the recently resigned First Minister of Scotland, no need for all the drama. It’s only a few hundred thousand quid.

That link goes to the Wings Over Scotland blog. Stuart Campbell owns this story and has every right to say, “I told you so” to every professional journalist in Scotland, whether Nationalist or Unionist.

By the way, when commenting on this story, remember that “arrested” does not mean “charged” and “charged” does not mean “guilty”. The presumption of innocence is never more important than when a public figure you do not like has his collar felt. A lot of people in the States could do with that reminder following the arrest of Donald Trump.

He who pays the piper says when the tune stops

“Canada wrestles with euthanasia for the mentally ill”, reports the BBC. Actually, the headline starts with the question “Who can die?” to which I would have thought the answer was obvious. But while death undoubtedly comes to us all eventually, when the state pays for healthcare it pays the state to make death come sooner:

… last autumn, authorities launched an investigation after at least four veterans were prompted to consider Maid [the acronym for Canada’s medical assistance in dying programme] by a Veterans Affairs case worker, who now no longer works for the department. In one instance, veteran and paralympian Christine Gauthier said she was offered the option by the employee after she asked for a wheelchair ramp to be installed in her home.

US education apocalypse comment

“Skeptical American employers, to remain globally competitive, will likely soon administer their own hiring tests. They already suspect that prestigious university degrees are hollow and certify very little. Traditional colleges will seize the moment and expand by sticking to meritocratic criteria as proof of the competency of their prized graduates.”

“Private and online venues will also fill a national need to teach Western civilization and humanities courses—by non-woke faculty who do not institutionalize bias. More students will continue to seek vocational training alternatives. Some will get their degrees online for a fraction of the cost. Alumni will either curb giving, put further restrictions on their gifting, or disconnect. Eventually, even elite schools will lose their current veneer of prestige. Their costly cattle brands will be synonymous with equality-of-result, overpriced indoctrination echo chambers, where therapy replaced singular rigor and their tarnished degrees become irrelevant.”

Victor Davis Hanson, military historian, classicist and Californian farmer, writing in the American Greatness website, December 2022.

There are, I am pleased to say, signs of pushback. UK-born historian Niall Ferguson and others are building a new university in Austin, Texas, while the evolutionary psychologist and writer Jonathan Haidt – co-author of The Coddling of the American Mind – is the moving force in the Heterodox Academy. That’s what I love about the US. In contrast to a rather tired Britain, the US retains this sort of can-do mindset in the face of imbecility.

A young Frenchwoman says “I don’t like America that much”

Allowing for the fact that she is speaking a language foreign to her, I think she has a point.