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).

Perils of alternate history wargaming

A father and son duo run a YouTube channel about historical tabletop wargaming called “Imperator Vespasian”. They run through demo games, talk about making and painting models and so on. Recently they were offline for about six months. They explain why in the following ten minute video:

“Unexpected side affects of Gaming! Channel update”

The two of them were creating a game called “A very British Civil War” set in an alternate-history 1938 in which Prime Minister Oswald Moseley was fighting to put down an anti-fascist rebellion. The British Union of Fascists was a playable faction. Here is a video they made about this game from six months ago.

Then the son’s school reported him to the police as a potential terrorist. Note that the father and son both say that the police were quite quick to realise that this case was not the best use of their time, and reserve their criticism for the school.

I am a little more sympathetic than are the “Imperator Vespasian” duo with the dilemma faced by schools over whether or not to bring the police in when they suspect a pupil is involved in crime as victim or perpetrator or both. The pair of them did make one unwise decision. Apparently their standard practice in their YouTube shows is to make announcements of what is happening in their games while “in character” for the various factions, with appropriate props as the backdrop. Fine when your prop is a medieval helmet, not so fine when it’s the lightning flash emblem of the BUF.

But was there really no one among the school staff who had ever wargamed? Or whose kids had wargamed, or whose kids’ friends had wargamed, or who was simply enough in touch with the lives of their male pupils to know that playing the Tyranids in Warhammer 40K does not mean you seek to literally devour all life? Given the nerdiness of historical tabletop gaming, I would have guessed that gamers were just as likely to end up as teachers as in the police force. So why did the police quickly get that this was fictional while the teachers did not?

Samizdata quote of the day

“We didn’t always know it at the time, but Hong Kong has been a kind of bellwether for the state of freedom in the wider world.”

Tyler Cowen.

He’s right, which is why, despite the mockers, I am writing about this topic quite a bit and intend to keep doing so.

If you want Pride you must allow the cry of “Shame!”

The Daily Mail shows a video in which

Muslim woman wearing a niqab shouts ‘shame on all of you despicable people’ in shocking homophobic rant at Pride march in London

This is the shocking moment a Muslim woman spits homophobic abuse at a reveller on a Pride march in east London.

The niqab-wearing woman was filmed screaming ‘shame on you’ to a woman draped in the LGBT rainbow flag during the rally on Hoe Street, Walthamstow, yesterday.

She screeches ‘God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’ while a marshal in a high-vis jacket moves in to shield the clearly shaken Pride marcher.

The video was shared on Twitter by Yusuf Patel who wrote: ‘Disgusting homophobic abuse at those on Waltham Forest Pride today.

The report continues,

The Walthamstow arm of the Metropolitan Police said officers are investigating and branded the abuse a hate crime.

The force tweeted: ‘We are aware of footage circulating on social media of abuse directed at those taking part in the Waltham Forest Pride event and enquiries are underway.

‘Abusing someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is a hate crime.

Put aside the question of the direction in which your first impulse of sympathy might fall, and consider whether there is any objective reason to say that the Muslim woman is aggressing against the Pride marcher rather than vice versa – or neither. The Mail writer says that the Muslim woman “spits homophobic abuse” at the Pride marcher, but she does not literally spit. It cannot have been pleasant to have been on the receiving end of that tirade, but all she ultimately did was vehemently tell the marcher that she thought they ought to be ashamed of their sexuality. The very purpose of the Pride parades, as the name indicates, is for the participants to declare that they are not ashamed of their sexuality. To that end the Pride marchers went – proudly wrapped in their rainbow flags – down Hoe Street, Walthamstow, where they knew full well that many of the inhabitants would deeply disapprove of them. (I used to live in Walthamstow, just off Hoe Street. It is not a “Muslim area” as such, but there are many Muslims there.) The law allows Pride parades to do this, just as the law allows Orange Order parades in Northern Ireland to carry their flags through Catholic areas.

The current Establishment would like to ban the Orange Order march and arrest the Muslim woman for protesting against the LGBT Pride march. In my childhood it would have been the other way round. I would not be surprised to see the cycle return to something like its starting point (although perhaps with the roles of the protected national causes and religions played by different actors) before I die. Or, just a thought, we could let everyone speak.

The equal oppression of the laws

“… nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (14th amendment to the U.S. constitution)

Americans, especially right-wing ones, object if laws that protect them are applied unequally – if, for example, it is a crime for government emails to be held on private servers, but not when Hillary does it. But of course, right-wingers, especially American ones, believe that many laws don’t protect; they oppress. (And it is a point of honour in those who call themselves libertarians to believe that even more of the laws are like that.)

In the US, they seem to understand that these two beliefs support each other. The right dislike Obamacare – and were angry when Obama gave some Democrat constituencies waivers and deferrals when introducing it. No-one called them hypocrites for complaining about the unequal enforcement of a law they never wanted passed in the first place. Similarly, no-one seems to have missed the Logan Act during the centuries when it went unenforced, but did even the most fanatic NeverTrumper write “We should be above that” when Trump supporters pointed out that if the act was back in use then John Kerry should be prosecuted under it? Washington’s lobbyist class honours the Foreign Agents Registration Act far more in the breach than the observance, but the MSM seem keener to understate that fact than to denounce as hypocrites those right-wingers who say that now unregistered Republicans have been charged, prosecute some unregistered Democrats.

This attitude, I believe, extends to the first amendment. Legal exceptions to the first amendment (‘fighting words’, ‘clear and present danger’) are few, and the right wants it kept that way. But so long as those exceptions apply to them, the right also want them applied to any left-wing violator. They see that as defending free speech – not betraying it.

Here in Britain, by contrast, confusion reigns. Right-wing blogger Sargon of Akkad jokes about not offering violence to a left-wing politico – and the police visit him. Left-wing BBC comedian Jo Brand jokes about thowing acid rather than mikshake over Farage – and the police do not visit her. Whereupon Brendan O’Neill (who has written freedom-supporting articles in the past) writes in the Spectator (of which the same can be said) rebuking Mr Farage for suggesting that they should have.

(A PC gang once visited a pub where Nigel Farage, his wife and their children were dining, eager to cause harm. And he knows the drycleaning cost of getting mikshake off your suit. So I have a bit more sympathy for Nigel than for any other party leader, even Boris, when he yields to the temptation to wonder whether, despite Brand’s claims, it was not quite only a joke. But let us take it that it was just a joke.)

Brendan appears to be saying the true lover of free speech should not demand “the equal oppression of the laws”. Brendan wants an equal liberation from hate speech laws – Jo Brand must have the right to joke about throwing acid at Farage and Count Dankula must be free to film his dog doing a Nazi salute. I would like that too, but meanwhile,

“It is a settled rule with me to make the most of my actual situation, and not to refuse to do a proper thing because there is something else, more proper, which I am not able to do.” (Edmund Burke)

By criticising Nigel for resisting the double-standard (that Brendan also hates), Brendan implies that Farage’s demand for legal equality, not just Brand’s exploitation of left-wing privilege, is what stands in the way of that equal liberation. I think he is making a mistake – and confusing his mistake with the meaning of ‘free speech’.

I would much rather live in a Britain where neither Sargon nor Jo had a visit from the police – but I don’t. I’d criticise Farage if I thought Jo Brand dissapproved the police visiting Sargon – but I don’t (this pertinent hint merely confirms things I’ve heard her say). Unequal enforcement of the hate speech laws has been an essential part of maintaining them from the start. You don’t fight them by protecting that inequality. Free speech means the state shall not control what we may say. The state has yet more control when it does not just ban speech but bans it arbitrarily. So when people try to end that arbitrariness, they may not be failing to “disagree with what you say but defend your right to say it”, as Brendan claims; they may be defending free speech.

For clarity, let me illustrate with an example programme. Imagine (but don’t hold your breath for it) that PM Boris (radicalised by how he’s been treated, and heading a party purified by defections, internal deselections and/or external Brexit Party rivals) announces a bill to roll back the attack on free speech (e.g. repeal every such law since 9/11). However, he also announces that, while this bill slowly works its way towards the royal assent, his government, to protect equality before the law, will prosecute a backlog of unlawfully-suppressed cases from those years – remarks that were ever so woke, but were also hate speech as defined by the equitably-phrased laws, uttered by people who had also demanded the laws punish far less hateful remarks of their opponents.

– To Brendan (I would guess if I had only the Spectator article as my guide), these prosecutions would be no better than evil revenge, discrediting the cause and making the return of laws against ‘hate’ speech more likely.

– To me, they would be a good way of educating the public about what was wrong with those laws, and also a way to make the left think twice about reimposing them the moment they got back in power. But, beyond these tactical points, they would also uphold the principle of equality before the law.

We will not lack for mind-broadening frenemies to defend even after tolerating ‘equality before the law’ arguments against the loudest “I can say it but you can’t” enforcers of the double-standard. The woker-than-thou of today love purging the woke of yesterday – they will supply.

Equality before the law is good in itself. Demanding equality of oppression before the law is a way to expose a dishonest process. Think carefully before judging it a betrayal of our war against the hate speech laws’ evil goal, rather than a way – that can be both honest in itself and effective – of waging it.

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

Samizdata quote of the day

If socialists really wanted to help people they’d be capitalists.

Andy Puzder.

Spotted by Stephen Green of Instapundit, to whom thanks.

True but not the point

“Police waste too much time over silly spats”, writes Clare Foges in the Times. (Paywalled, but I will quote all the bits that matter.)

But perhaps the most time-sucking of new developments has been the resources spent on hate incidents and online crime. Last year it was reported that in 2015-16, 30 police forces dealt with 11,236 hate incidents which were too trivial to be classed as crimes; one every half hour. Among those lodging complaints were a man who claimed a tennis umpire had made racist line-calls against his daughter, a woman who was told that she looked like Peter Griffin from the cartoon Family Guy, and a person who felt a man had stood “intimidatingly” close because she was “a non-conforming gender-specific lesbian in a wheelchair”.

Instead of realising the folly of all this, the National Police Chiefs’ Council responded by restating that “those feeling vulnerable should report any incident of hate crime to the police”. The trouble is that hate crime is astonishingly subjective. The official definition is “any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice”.

The College of Policing states that “for recording purposes, the perception of the victim, or any other person, is the defining factor in determining whether an incident is a hate incident . . . Evidence of the hostility is not required.” In other words, any crackpot or attention seeker who feels victimised, regardless of the “offence”, may go to the police.

Sucking up police time on “hate” incidents in the offline world is bad enough, but in the past couple of years the police have been expected to protect us online too. In 2017 the Crown Prosecution Service announced that online hate crimes should be treated as seriously as those committed face to face. This has led us to ludicrous cases like that of Kate Scottow, who last December was arrested in front of her children by three police officers and detained for seven hours. Her crime? Calling a transgender woman on Twitter a man.

In 2017 this paper reported that police were arresting nine people a day in the fight against web trolls, a rise of nearly 50 per cent in just three years. The arrests were made under the Communications Act 2003, which makes it illegal to intentionally “cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another” with online posts. Annoyance? Inconvenience? Given the cesspit of spite that social media has become, we can only imagine how many are being arrested today.

Commissioner Dick was criticised when she said that focusing on violent crime must be the over-riding priority for police, over misogynistic abuse, over fraud, even over catching those who view indecent material online. “We can’t go on increasing the scale of the mission, unless we are given more resources, or the public is prepared for us to do some things not very well.” No one wants to give a free ride to certain offenders. But in a world of finite resources there cannot be a bobby on every corner as well as bobbies to guard the good name of the Duchess of Sussex and bobbies to police every spat on social media. There aren’t enough resources for this and never will be.

I do not disagree with any of the arguments Ms Foges makes. But I think she is missing something rather important…

Update: I have decided to stop being coy and just say what I think the problem with Clare Foges’ piece is. She talks as if the main thing wrong with the police “increasing the scale of the mission” (as Commissioner Cressida Dick puts it) to encompass the policing of spats on social media is that it wastes police time. So it does, but the scandal of the arrest of Kate Scottow for calling a transgender woman a man on Twitter did not lie in the time wasted by the three officers who bravely took on that mission. It lay in the violation of Kate Scottow’s liberty.

Turning Point?

Turning Point UK is getting quite a lot of attention, and I think it deserves a little more, from any Samizdata readers who are hearing about it for the first time, now.

Here is a recent Tweet of theirs:

Young people are waking up to the biased political narrative we receive during our education and we won’t be passive to this anymore.

I want to believe that. I also want to believe that Turning Point UK will stick around long enough and loud enough to do something substantial about it. I don’t assume anything, but I wish them well.

These young people seem to be libertarian-inclined but basically partisan supporters of the Conservative Party. Fair enough. The Conservative Party has suffered dreadfully from the shutting down of the Federation of Conservative Students in 1986, by Norman Tebbit of all people. The resulting ideological vacuum lead directly to the Labour Lite Nannyism of the Theresa May generation of Conservative leaders. If Turning Point UK can merely help to correct that sad circumstance, they will be doing the UK a great service.

Vera Kichanova on micro-homes

Last night I attended a meeting, and although I did not have any arguments with anyone about fake news, I did meet with Vera Kichanova, and learned from her that her Adam Smith Institute “report” (aka: argument in favour of) micro-housing was to be published today. Good. I’m for it.

ASI announcement by Matthew Lesh here. The entire thing can be read here.

I don’t agree with Vera’s title, “Size Doesn’t Matter”. I think that when it comes to where you live, size matters a lot. You don’t want somewhere too big for you, or too small for you. Perhaps the ASI is hoping that, by having a silly title, they will sucker many of those who hate the idea, and who would otherwise ignore it, into instead denouncing it because of its title, thus spreading the word about it. The Trump technique, in other words.

For many, “micro” would indeed be way too small. But, for quite a few others, micro-living would be much preferable to a long commute. I am in favour of people having choices along such lines rather than at the far end of a line. And I am in favour of entrepreneurs having the freedom to bet their time and money contriving such choices.

I’ve not yet read Vera’s piece yet (this being one of those something now rather than something better but later postings), so I don’t know if she makes this point, but one very good reason why many might now be okay with a much smaller living space is that home entertainment and home education can now occupy a tiny fraction of the space that they used to, about one or maybe two generations ago. You can literally now carry your entire entertainment system, and your entire library – words, music, movies, TV shows, the lot – in a small bag. In other words, you can now not merely eke out your existence in a tiny dwelling space, you can actually have a life while living in such a micro-home.

One final point, before I hurry back to the rest of my life. Vera Kichanova works for Zaha Hadid Architects, which is all part of why I believe it to be important that Zaha Hadid Architects thrives.

Scott Adams catches a video being used to lie by being edited lyingly

I just watched the first twenty minutes of this speech to camera by Scott Adams, about a piece of CNN fake news. Kudos to Adams who, having dug himself into a bit of a hole by believing some fake news, stopped digging and climbed out, and then filled in the hole by deleting his earlier and wrong interpretation of the story.

This is part of a much bigger story, I think, about how the media are now fragmenting into … well, fragments. Time was when (a) CNN might have valued their reputation for impartiality enough not to be this brazen and this fake in their “news” presentation, and when (b) if they had been this brazen and this fake, nobody else would have been able to do anything much about it. As it is, each part of the shattered ex-body politic now has their own version of these events. Mine is what you’ll see if you watch that second Scott Adams wideo, the one I just watched. If I encounter someone this evening who thinks CNN got this story right, and the event I will be attended means that I very well might, the polite version of how I might respond is: That’s not how I see this. The ruder version might also happen and here’s how that will go: You’re wrong.

Don’t call … them the “mainstream media” because they are not this any more. They’re (we’re) all just media – CNN, Scott Adams, Uncle Tom Cobley on YouTube, me and my pals posting and maybe you commenting on Samizdata – churning out stuff for the kind of people who see things the way they (we) do, and want the kind of news – true, false, dazzling, daft – that they (we) want to offer.

It used to be that you only discovered what liars and nincompoops journalists were capable of being when you were in the middle of one of their stories and actually knew what lies they were telling, if they were. Now, we can all see this whenever we want to, by whistling up a contrary opinion more to our own tastes.

This is a very important change, which has already given the world Trump and Brexit and much else besides, such as, most recently, here in Britain, that already famous Question Time Roar, and all the sort of people who regret Trump and Brexit and The Roar are intensely aware of this. They are fighting back vigorously.

But here is a big opinion about that fight-back, very hastily expressed because I must soon be out. No amount of censorship or bias – by Google, by credit card companies, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and the rest of them – can even seriously reverse these liberalising (in the true sense) developments, let alone put any sort of complete stop to them.

There should many more links in the above paragraphs, and another page of explanation of that big opinion, but I am out of time. Also, maybe I could be persuaded that free expression, in countries like mine, really is seriously threatened, if anyone can convince me that the fight-back is going to be savage enough. But, gotta go.

Discuss.

Samizdata quote of the day

Admittedly it’s a low bar, but Trump is without a doubt the most conservative and most libertarian present of my lifetime, notwithstanding that he’s not really a conservative or a libertarian by instinct.

Glenn Reynolds