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]

Singapore’s example

“In the Singaporean case, economic growth has proved to be an upshot of cultural values; it requires a critical mass of the population to hold a certain moral and political psychology, and a particular set of dispositions about enterprise and industry, risk, and change. Cultural values are sticky, and to change them, some moment of acute crisis, when it appears that the costs of continuing down a certain path are greater than shifting course, is required. Yet while crises are necessary for cultural change, they are not sufficient: they represent moments of maximal opportunity, though they must be exploited. And for this, skilled politicians with judgement and a strategy are required.”

James Vitali

Don’t you know it’s an EMERGENCY?

“Scottish government to declare national housing emergency”, reports the BBC.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, sorry Humza Yousaf, sorry John Swinney wanted a turn at the podium.

Declaring an emergency is a signal to government that the current situation is not working and there needs to be intervention.

The councils cited issues ranging from pressure on homelessness services, rising property prices and high levels of temporary accommodation.

By declaring an emergency, the Scottish government is formally recognising the housing problem and calling for cuts to its capital budget to be reversed.

However, there are no practical effects that automatically happen due to a declaration being made.

The one declaration they will not make is the one that would have an effect; the one reversing the stupid thing they did that brought about this “emergency” in the first place.

As Kevin Davidson-Hall says in this article, “The Past and Present of Scottish Rent Controls”,

I have some news for the Scottish Government. “Bah! Humbug!” Rent controls simply do not work.

UK data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released on 17 April 2024 reveals the largest increase in average rents since 2015, was in Scotland. Rents which have had a cap since September 2022, have increased more than in any other country in the United Kingdom.

ONS figures show that during the year to March 2024, average monthly rents in Scotland went up by more than in England, which went up by 9.1%, while Scottish rents rose by 10.5% to £947pcm. This is proof enough for me that rent control in Scotland has had the opposite effect from what the Scottish Government said was intended.

If you must deal with them, they must deal with you

“Labour council to let staff ignore people they find annoying”, reports the Telegraph. To be fair to Oxford city council, the Telegraph headline and the first line are clickbait designed to (pleasurably) annoy its readers:

A council that drew a backlash for banning meat and dairy products

Misleadingly phrased and irrelevant. The “ban” only applies to meat and dairy products being served at council events.

will allow its staff to refuse contact with people they find irritating.

Relevant, but still misleadingly phrased. Most of the behaviours that the council says might cause its staff to refuse contact with a citizen are worse than “irritating”:

Oxford city council has introduced a policy to manage citizens it describes as “abusive, persistent and/or vexatious”.

The “vexatious behaviour policy” outlines how staff and councillors should deal with people who make complaints or inquiries in a way that is “manifestly unjustified”, “inappropriate” or “intimidating”.

Guidelines include limiting how often they can contact the council or meeting them face to face with a witness.

The council has more of a point than I first thought. It does have the responsibility to protect its staff from an intolerable working environment or actual violence. No organisation can give infinite time to complainers, even when the complaints are reasonable and the complainers polite. The courts have the concept of the “vexatious litigant” for this reason. I note from the mention of witnesses that the council does not seem to intend to cut people off entirely. It could also hold meetings with citizens it deems threatening by video. Perhaps it does say it will do that and the Telegraph did not report it because it sounded too reasonable.

That said, the quip that instantly came to my mind and yours is no mere joke: Oxford city council does not permit the citizens of Oxford to ignore it. It takes their money by force and frequently fails to properly provide those services that are meant be its side of the coerced bargain. It vexes them with its little obsessions about food and rainbows. Until they allowed to say, “Your demands annoy me, Oxford city council, and I will henceforth ignore you”, Oxford city council is obliged to continue to respond in some way to the complaints of everyone over whom it claims authority.

Consequences does not have to mean coercion

AJ Edelman, OLY, MBA
I received an email asking me to contribute to Yale for my class reunion.
My response:
“Last year I faced suspension and a trespassing charge if I returned to campus without proof of a 5th COVID shot.
Perhaps you can ask one of the fine Yalies bravely harassing their Jewish peers instead. They’re easy to find; they’re hosting a Jew hatred festival in the middle of campus and calling for violent intifada.”
12:30 AM · Apr 30, 2024

Now that’s what I call an effective non-violent protest.

The Occupy Paradox is back, this time at Northwestern U

“Which is it? Do you want to occupy the public space to express your dissent and invoke your absolute right to speak? Or do you want to beat on anyone who then exists in that same space and invokes their absolute right to document it?”

– a tweet from David Simon referring to a video posted by Logan Schiciano with the accompanying text “Unfortunately some protesters at Northwestern’s newly-formed encampment weren’t too thrilled with us reporting” in which a masked protester assaults the person filming them.

Remember the “Occupy” movement? The Occupy Paradox is this: “Upon what basis can an Occupy protest ask someone to leave?”

… because “This is private property” or any other version of “You have no right to be here” are open to some fairly obvious ripostes.
“We were here first” – “Er, not quite first. The actual owners of the space were there before you.”
“We are the 99%” – “We’re poorer than you, you middle class ****-ers”
“We represent the 99%” – “Who voted for you, then?”
“We are the official accredited Occupiers” – “We refuse to be defined by your oppressive structures, and hereby declare ourselves to be Occupying this Occupation!”

“You know what, forget it.” Another small business closes in San Francisco.

“Beloved San Francisco burger joint will close after 40 years after wheelchair user sued over obstacles that stopped him entering, with owners saying they’re too poor to build a ramp”, the Daily Mail reports.

A beloved San Francisco burger joint has closed its doors after a wheelchair user sued the restaurant over a ‘high threshold’ that prevented him from entering.

After 38 years of operation, the Great American Hamburger & Pie Co.’s Post in Richmond, California, bid farewell to its longtime customers on Thursday, with the lawsuit being the final blow.

‘Two harsh years of COVID, high food inflation, and a recent ADA compliance lawsuit have taken a toll on our small family business,’ owners George and Helen Koliavas announced the closure.

COVID, high food inflation and a ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliance lawsuit: the last five years in America illustrated in three snapshots. Change the name of the disability “rights” law, and the same story could be told a thousand times for small businesses in the UK and the EU. The article continues,

A paraplegic man filed suit against the Koliavas and their landlord in January after encountering a ‘high threshold’ on two visits to the burger joint last year.

On both occasions, the threshold blocked his wheelchair from entering the restaurant, prompting him to hire an ‘accessibility expert’ to conduct an informal investigation.

According to the lawsuit, the expert found a lack of wheelchair access throughout the space.

‘It’s frustrating, and you get to a point where you say, ‘You know what, forget it,” said George.

When I read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged many years ago, I could see why people admired the book, but the portrait of Mr Thompson’s America never quite gelled with me. Perhaps I needed to see America led by a man such as Joe Biden.

How to get a PlayStation 5 under socialism, explained by a socialist

“Final question to you, Professor Wolff. Under your system of worker cooperatives, would I still get my PlayStation 5?”

“Absolutely. You’d have to struggle a little bit for it, you’d have to talk to your fellow workers, you’d have to talk about the distribution of income. You’d have to compare your desire for a Playstation against all the other interests of all the other people. It wouldn’t be something you worked out on your own with your particular boss, ah, in any way. It would have to be a democratic decision. You’d have to come to terms with that, the way you do with democratic decisions now in our society, to the extent that we have them.”

The professor shown speaking in the clip is Professor Richard D. Wolff, but I do not know the name of the interviewer, nor when the interview took place. I know it was more than eleven months ago from this Reddit post, but for some reason several tweets about it popped up in my feed over the last few days, including this one from Dylan Allman. The transcription is by me. I often transcribe what was said on videos into writing in order to make it easier for people to search for and cite the relevant words later.

Samizdata quote of the day – Why being rich is great edition

“Liberalism depends on institutions, including those for free speech and inquiry. Liberalism is also a project for freeing man from the physical constraints of nature. The personal autonomy of those with resources often advances the infrastructure and culture of liberalism that protects the personal autonomy of others who are not as well off. The dynamism of liberalism is its best defense.”

John O Mcginnis

The author gives a sharp critique of a book by Ingrid Robeyns that claims we should eliminate rich people – not by killing them, but seizing their money. At the moment, we appear to live in a time when hostility to great wealth is respectable, and yet in my gut I sense the same kind of horrible, “tall poppy syndrome” mindset that has led to confiscatory taxes, and countless other abominations that are based on a zero-sum view of the world that at its heart is wrong and in my view, malevolent.

Landlord MPs are about to destroy the Renters Reform Bill. Good for them.

Almost a third of Tory MPs trying to weaken tenant protection bill are landlords, the Guardian complained almost a month ago. Landlord MPs leave Gove’s rental reform bill ‘close to collapse’, the Telegraph reported yesterday.

Good for them for killing Gove’s Bill, and I care not a whit that they are doing it because killing the Bill would be good for them. Adam Smith explained all that in The Theory of Moral Sentiments:

“The rich only select from the heap what is most precious and agreeable. They consume little more than the poor; and in spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity, though they mean only their own conveniency,….they divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements. They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life which would have been made had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants; and thus, without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society, and afford means to the multiplication of the species.”

Gove’s so-called reform would have been very bad for tenants. The Telegraph article explains a few of the many reasons why:

Critics argue that it is not only landlords who stand to lose out. The black mark on a tenant’s record following a court judgment would prevent many from finding somewhere else to live, according to another landlord Tory MP backing the amendments.

He said: “An inadvertent consequence of abolishing section 21 [no-fault evictions] is the risk of tenants who fall into arrears getting a court judgment against their name and ending up on the streets.

“Local authorities won’t help them and this will only add to the homelessness problem.

“The advantage to tenants of section 21 is that it’s no-fault, so even if they haven’t paid that won’t get written down.”

Jessica Parry, a partner at law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, said that as well as increasing the risk of homelessness, forcing evictions through the courts would end up costing tenants more.

She added: “Currently, landlords just write off arrears if they evict a tenant. Now landlords will claim arrears as they’re going to court anyway.

“[Going to court] will be slow. If a tenant stops paying it could take a year to get the property back. It’s a massive risk for landlords.

“From a tenant’s point of view, there are already supply and demand issues – not enough housing – and if you put landlords off it’s only going to make that worse.”

Take a chainsaw to rent control, watch rents fall

I cannot add to this article by Fran Ivens in the Telegraph: “How Argentina’s ‘chainsaw man’ Javier Milei slashed rents by 20pc”

Rents in Argentina have fallen 20pc since President Javier Milei scrapped a “destructive” cap for landlords in December.

Under four-year rent controls, landlords fled the market in their thousands and rents increased 286pc, fuelling an even deeper housing crisis.

Since the legislation was scrapped, rents have fallen and the number of properties that are available for rent has increased significantly, according to industry body the Argentine Real Estate Chamber.

The drastic change in outlook for the country’s rental market adds further weight to arguments that even with the aim of reducing the burden on renters, rent caps often have the opposite effect.

The rules, introduced in 2020 by then-president Alberto Fernández, included a mandatory lease term of three years and a limit on rent to an average growth rate of the consumer price index and the wage index. This cap was set by the central bank.

Even before the new legislation came into force, the effect was significant. Unsure of how much and when they would be able to increase rents, landlords hiked their pieces to try and avoid being caught out.

Worsening the situation, 45pc of landlords decided to sell their properties in the wake of the announcement significantly reducing the amount of accommodation on offer and further pushing up prices.

In the 12 months to February 2024, rents increased 286.7pc in Buenos Aires, according to rental platform Zonaprop. There was also a currency aggravation. While many use dollars in Argentina as a hedge against the peso that has been losing value, the law mandated that rental payment must be in the local currency.

Over the past five years, the Argentinian peso’s value against the dollar has decreased by around 95pc.

The condition of New York’s subway system is not the price of freedom, it is the price of voting for left wing Democrats

“I hate this framing because the “freedom” vs “order” tradeoff is not real. Russia has a higher homicide rate than the US. life there is shorter and more violent. if you’re choosing between freedom and order autocracy will get you neither”

Seva Gunitsky is referring to Jon Stewart telling Tucker Carlson that the reason why the US ‘can’t have clean functioning subways or cheap grocery prices like they do in Moscow is “the literal price of freedom”‘.

I am sure Jon Stewart would decline with horror an offer to work as one of Putin’s worldwide army of propagandists. But Putin does not need to make the offer when Stewart and many others are spreading his message for free.

Many working people who currently have no choice but to endure the aggressive begging, foul smells, and frequent violence in the subway systems in New York and other U.S. cities run by progressive democrats would count freedom (a political abstraction that they are constantly being told is an outdated white patriarchal construct) as an acceptable price to exchange for getting to go to work in something more like the gleaming Moscow Metro.

Sure, they would eventually realise that they made a poor bargain. A Professor Gunitsky says, the cleanliness and order of the Moscow subway is like one room of a generally filthy house that is obsessively kept clean in order to impress visitors. → Continue reading: The condition of New York’s subway system is not the price of freedom, it is the price of voting for left wing Democrats

Samizdata quote of the day – do empires make economic sense?

One can see why this idea has taken off again: it sits at the intersection of two of the most voguish ideologies of our time, namely, woke progressivism and anti-capitalism. It is a story about white people – white men, mostly – oppressing non-white people, which also doubles up as an “original sin” story of capitalism.

But is it actually true that imperialism makes countries richer? Does imperialism make economic sense?

This question was already hotly debated at the heyday of imperialism. Adam Smith believed that the British Empire would not pass a cost-benefit test.

Kristian Niemietz