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]

A message from Niall Kilmartin’s widow

My husband and I are currently staying with Niall’s widow. Though she describes herself as not one for comments, she has long been a Samizdata reader. She asked me to say how comforting it was to read the replies to the post announcing his death. She described it as “a real joy” to her to see how highly Samizdata readers and posters regarded Niall’s writing.

Niall’s actual cause of death was an aortic dissection which led to a stroke. Evidently he had had an aortic aneurysm without knowing about it. In these times it is perhaps worth saying that Niall had received the original two Covid vaccines, but chose not to have the autumn booster, so that cannot have been the cause of death.

I do not want to end this post by focussing on the medical details. Niall’s wife asked me to let you know about a little detail that is much more representative of his life: Niall’s computer was open at Samizdata when he died.

Niall Kilmartin has died

A couple of hours ago, Niall Kilmartin’s wife telephoned me with terrible news. Last night, Niall suffered a heart attack and a stroke. He was rushed to hospital but died during the night. Niall was my dear friend for more than forty years, a friend to my husband for even longer, and to my children for all their lives.

I know he valued Samizdata immensely. Read the comments that he made yesterday to my previous post. As ever they are full of wonderful scholarship and commitment to truth. I can hardly make myself believe that we will not continue the conversation in this life.

May he rest in peace.

The power of love versus the love of power

“Though God hath raised me high yet this I count the glory of my reign, that I have reigned with your loves … For though you have had and may have many mightier and wiser princes yet you never have had nor ever shall have any that will love you better.” (said by Elizabeth I, late in her life)

After four centuries, I think her namesake lets that “nor ever” be retired, or at least equalled. Echoing the thoughts of many, the Archbishop of Canterbury said

Rarely has such a promise been so well kept!

in his sermon at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, adding (for the benefit of the assembled world leaders?)

“People of loving service are rare in any walk of life. Leaders of loving service are rarer still.”

Indeed they are, as the founding fathers knew.

It may be a reflection on human nature that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. (Madison, The Federalist, No 51)

When someone reaches a place of power by being born to it instead of choosing to seek it, then it is a bit more likely that they will end up feeling, as Elizabeth I said,

To be a king and wear a crown is a thing more glorious to them that see it than it is pleasant to them that bear it.

But that is no more guaranteed than any of the other defences that have been tried against the rule of those who love power. Wisdom wants little government, not much. Wisdom wants constitutional rule, not arbitrary. And Wisdom knows these alone cannot protect us for ever. Every now and then, we will need the lucky chance of a ruler who loves us more than power.

____________

[The so-called “golden speech” of Queen Elizabeth I (given in parliament on the last day of November 1601) was written down by several hearers in several versions, all essentially the same but with minor differences of phrasing here and there, including in the passages I have quoted.]

Hot news

Honestly, I kind of like The Rings of Power. It’s slow, and the evident fact that there must have been an episode of ethnic cleansing in the Shire at some point between the era of TROP and that of The Hobbit is sad to contemplate. But whether the mind-wiped stranger will turn out to be Gandalf, Sauron, or someone new has caught my interest, and oooooh the fabrics. Trust the elves to develop the Jacquard loom early and then not bother with the rest of their industrial revolution.

Oh, and Liz Truss will be the next prime minister.

Samizdata quote of the day

The way Sam talks about institutions and expert opinion confirms my sense that the true split of the heterodox world was between those defending the institutions and those who defend the truth. When the institutions separated from the truth, we saw who was who.

Alexandros Marinos, making what I think is a profound broader point, referencing not just Sam Harris’ train wreck interview on Triggernometry.

Should we be obliged to register a death?

When I first saw this story, “Daughter who buried father in illegal woodland pagan funeral avoids jail”, my outrage-meter went off the scale at the apparent violation of religious freedom. Unnecessarily, it turned out. Eirys Brett was not in court for conducting a pagan funeral. She would still have been in court had the funeral service been the Order for The Burial of the Dead from the Book of Common Prayer. She was in court because she did not register her father’s death and because she buried him in a place not set aside for that purpose:

Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court heard that frail Mr Brett made last requests that he wanted to be buried in woods in a medieval non-Christian style near his farmhouse home, in Aberedw, near Builth Wells.

The judge was not without sympathy. He said,

“Everybody’s entitled to their beliefs and make no comment about yours. But you should have gone about it in a different way.

“You could have achieved the same objective by following the law and that is not simply where you think or where he thinks is appropriate but where you are permitted to bury him and to register the death – those were the two things you failed to do.”

It is not clear to me whether the woodland area where the late Mr Brett was buried was on his own land. If it was, I can see no reason why he should not be buried there. However, if the vaguely specified “woods” were not his woods, I do see a problem. If I found out that someone had buried their dead relative in my garden I would be disconcerted, however well they cleared up afterwards.

It is the second charge that interests me more. She failed to register his death. In the UK it is a criminal offence not to register a death.

Why?

As an inveterate reader of detective stories, I can think of some good reasons for this law. But as a libertarian, I feel obliged not to simply accept it because it is a law that goes back to the days when the State laid fewer burdens on us than it does now.

What do you think?

Samizdata quote of the day save draft publish

‘End Of Quote, Repeat The Line’: Biden Reads Teleprompter Instructions Out Loud During Speech

With Joe more voicemail than man and Boris only just clinging to the wreckage, at least the Anglosphere is demonstrating that it can get by without anyone in charge. Though we have much to learn before we can challenge the true masters of the art of doing without a government.

I post this to make an important political point

Please tell me what it is in the comments. Via Seth Dillon of the Babylon Bee, who offers one suggestion.

The Matrix Preloaded

I thought that after most of a lifetime reading science fiction and alternate history I knew all the ways Hitler could have won World War II if just one little thing had turned out differently, but I had never heard of this one:

Onthisday.com for May 12th included this entry:

1941 Konrad Zuse presents the Z3, the world’s first working programmable, fully automatic computer, in Berlin

W-w-what? Straight to Wikipedia I went. Here is the entry for the Z3:

The Z3 was completed in Berlin in 1941. It was not considered vital, so it was never put into everyday operation. Based on the work of the German aerodynamics engineer Hans Georg Küssner (known for the Küssner effect), a “Program to Compute a Complex Matrix”[b] was written and used to solve wing flutter problems. Zuse asked the German government for funding to replace the relays with fully electronic switches, but funding was denied during World War II since such development was deemed “not war-important”.

The original Z3 was destroyed on 21 December 1943 during an Allied bombardment of Berlin.

Well, good. While it is interesting to speculate on how the development of the computer might have been different, it sounds like the Lord guided the bomb-aimer’s hand on that occasion.

Anyone know, how close did they come?

A timely warning from Daniel Hannan

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

Some proposed amendments to the programme of public events when the revolution comes

So who is to be first against the wall? The traditional view is that it should be the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. While anyone who could call a robot “Your plastic pal who’s fun to be with” deserves their fate, bear in mind that Douglas Adams died before the triumph of the chatbot.

“For God’s sake, chatbots, let me talk to a human being”, cries Jessie Hewitson in the Times. She had a rotten time when both her bank cards stopped working.

Cross though the bus driver looked, he took pity on me and waved me to a seat. When I got off at the Tube station I tried again with the card readers at the gates. Same problem. My cards weren’t working, so there I stood, stranded, unable to get to work.

I called Barclays. After ten minutes of extreme faffery, an automated voice told me that I had to use the chat function because I had downloaded the phone app. So, thumbs frozen outside the tube, I typed my problem into the “chat”.

It was more like an endurance test, where the bank pushes you to the limit of your resolve. To see how long you will hang on to speak to a real person, if indeed you can figure out when you finally are.

In comparison to that “your plastic pal” doesn’t seem so bad. At least you can hit it. Let us spare the Sirius Cybernetics Corp. for a little while and execute the entire British banking establishment instead. But even they, citoyens, do not go first. So far, Ms Hewitson’s article is a pretty standard moan about the way the telephone number of your local bank now sits alongside the nuclear codes as a closely-guarded secret. Things are indeed grim. They, the chatbots, have taken to giving themselves names. Happy female names, mostly amusingly mis-spelled variants of human ones. We may also have to kill everyone who has ever used the term “customer engagement”. But bad as our current plight is, there are very few bad situations that government “help” cannot make worse:

Why are financial companies doing this? The obvious reason is money, but there’s another one: banks, broadband providers et al are keenly aware of the complaints figures that are given to the Financial Conduct Authority and other regulators.

If they manage to reduce these, customers view them as more trustworthy. The harder they make it for you to speak to a person, the fewer complaints that will be logged. And so you have a warped situation where the good banks that encourage people to raise problems look worse than the bad ones that don’t.

I present my revised schedule for the public entertainments on Day One:

3. The Sirius Cybernetics Corporation
2. BarcWestLloydHSBCrap
1. The Financial Conduct Authority

Time for a word cull

As we enter the final month of 2021 – the year of Sleepy Joe, Boris “Peppa Pig” Johnson and snarling M. Macron, there are a few words and expressions that I’d like to see the back of. Feel free to add your own to the shit-list:

Build back better;
Great Reset;
Sustainability;
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion;
Client-Centric;
It is what it is;
She’s a strong, independent woman;
Toxic masculinity;
Levelling up;
Hard-working families (what’s wrong with a bit of indolence, occasionally?);
Our NHS;
Taking a holistic view;
The view from the trenches;
Key worker (which begs the question of what everyone else has to do or be compelled to do);
Let’s hop into this (boing!);
Agile (everyone is a sodding gymnast now);
A solutions provider;
Reality-based.