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]

If you want to be welcome, do not demand entry

The ceremonial of the State Opening of Parliament includes a moment when Black Rod, the Queen’s representative, approaches the door of the Commons to summon MPs for the Queen’s Speech. Tradition demands that he – or in 2019, she – has the door slammed in her face to symbolise the independence of the Commons from the Crown. Only after knocking three times is Black Rod allowed to enter.

The door closed to a demand but open to a request is a powerful symbol.

In the election we have just had, one of the most contentious issues was immigration and nationality. As stated in its manifesto Labour’s policy was to give the vote to “all UK residents”, and not just the vote, automatic citizenship, according to the Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey. Labour did not exactly shout about the fact that “UK residents” includes foreign citizens, but several people including the Prime Minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings did notice. He then informed the nation in his own inimitable style: “BATSIGNAL!! DON’T LET CORBYN-STURGEON CHEAT A SECOND REFERENDUM WITH MILLIONS OF FOREIGN VOTES”.

But underneath the all-caps headline he made a fair point:

Before the 23 June 2016, many such as the Economist and FT predicted a Leave win would boost extremists and make immigration the central issue in politics. VL said the opposite would happen: that once people know there’ll be democratic control, it will quickly fade as an issue and attitudes towards immigrants will improve. VL was right, the FT was wrong — as all academic research shows. If you want immigration to fade from politics, then democratic control is the answer. If you go with Corbyn and free movement for the whole world, then immigration will be all over the news and extremism will grow. A system like Australia’s will be fairer, good for the economy and take the heat out of the issue.

Imagine that Corbyn had won, formed a coalition government, enacted Labour’s manifesto promise to give the vote to EU citizens and others, and held a second referendum in which their 2.4 million votes for Remain swept away the majority for Leave among British citizens. Imagine if the ignored and scorned people of Leave-voting towns in what were once Labour heartlands saw that Labour had imported a new foreign electorate to replace them. Some may not like that wording but it would have been accurate. Imagine the bitterness towards foreign residents in the UK if that had happened.

It didn’t, thanks in no small measure to Mr Cummings himself. In a month or two the Guardian will report that public hostility to immigration has gone down and attribute it to a burgeoning movement to rejoin the EU. But the real reason will be that people will feel that at some level the wishes of the existing citizens of the UK control who else comes in the country. When you know you can close the door you become more willing to open it in welcome.

Having written the above, I remembered that this is not the first post of mine with a title that uses the metaphor of knocking on a door. Rather than be embarrassed at repeating myself, I will assert that it is a metaphor with several applications. Here is the old post: “To knock on the door is better than booting it in”. It is about relations between transgender and cisgender women.

Sigh…

With the greatest regret, I felt I had no reasonable option but to vote Tory today. I live in a Labour super-marginal (Kensington) & as BXP has zero chance here, I had to vote against the anti-Semitic Marxist party.

I am going to drown my sorrows.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Whole tranches of the state have been privatised over the past 40 years, and yet still we have a state broadcasting service that is funded via a hypothecated tax – a system that dates from the days when the technology did not exist to charge for watching an individual TV channel and devised at a time when broadcasting was, in any case, a state monopoly. It ought to be pretty obvious that such an arrangement is bad for competition. It is as if we were all forced to pay an annual fee to Tesco, in return for which we could help ourselves to all the groceries we liked at no further cost, and we still had to pay Tesco even if we wanted to do our shopping at Sainsbury’s or Asda. What would that do for the market in food? It would quite clearly kill all competition, as well as damage the quality of the food on sale at Tesco.”

Ross Clark.

“Big uni”

“Climate alarmists and Corbynistas (the former increasingly a front organisation for the latter) often put the word ‘Big’ in front of industries which they dislike — Big Pharma, Big Oil. Those of us who do not share their views should copyright a comparable concept — Big Uni.”

Charles Moore, Spectator, (behind paywall).

I like the term, and intend to use it. Here are some more paragraphs from the item for those who cannot get through the pw:

As universities grow larger, and their average intake therefore dimmer, they become more intellectually uniform. Almost no one in British academia, except for emeritus professors whose careers cannot be damaged by their frankness, speaks in favour of Brexit or dares challenge any assertion made about the dangers of climate change (green research projects, after all, attract stupendous sums of public money).

Those universities — Britain has many — which have long and proud traditions increasingly scorn them, removing portraits of their dead benefactors and thinkers, deciding that a Latin grace is offensive, a student debating society with a paying membership (such as the Oxford Union) elitist. Throughout the election campaign, BBC Radio 4’s Today is travelling the country, presenting the programme from university premises. This means that the audience and subject matter are automatically skewed against the Conservatives and (much more important) against any plurality of view on anything. Big Uni is probably the largest cartel in modern Britain.

Another idea, riffing off the late Pres. Eisenhower, is to refer to this phenomenon as the “university-politics complex”.

Meanwhile, here are worthy books from the US by Glenn Reynolds and Bryan Caplan on the growth of state-driven Western higher education and the downsides of that.

We owe the relatives of murder victims our compassion but not our belief

Saturday’s Daily Mail carries this headline: ‘He’s a fraud’: Father of London Bridge terror victim Jack Merritt blasts Boris Johnson for making ‘political capital’ out of son’s death – and backs Jeremy Corbyn after TV debate

The article continues,

The father of a man killed in the London Bridge terror has slammed Boris Johnson for trying to ‘make political capital’ over his death.

David Merritt said the Prime Minister was a ‘fraud’ for using the attack as justification for a series of tougher criminal policies in a post on social media.

His son Jack Merritt, 25, was one of two people killed by convicted terrorist Usman Khan at a prisoner reform meeting in Fishmongers’ Hall last Friday.

What bitter irony that the two young people Usman Khan murdered believed strongly that criminals like him could change for the better. Because Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones were attending a conference on rehabilitation of offenders alongside Khan they were the nearest available targets for his knives. No doubt Khan planned it that way. One of the consistent aims of Islamists is to sow distrust for Muslims among non-Muslims.

David Merritt has suffered the cruellest blow imaginable. Nothing is more natural than that he should strive to counter the narrative that the ideals for which his son strove are disproved by the manner of his murder.

It is, of course, right to say that the ideal of rehabilitation is not disproved by one failure. No policy is proved or disproved by individual cases. Let us not forget that James Ford, one of the men who bravely fought to subdue Khan, was a convicted murderer on day-release.

However while Khan’s example of terrorist rehabilitation gone wrong does not prove that it can never go right, it is a data point. Thankfully we do not have many data points for the graph of jihadists playing a long game. But that means the ones we do have weigh comparatively heavily. What Khan did others can copy. The prime minister and those who make policy on parole and rehabilitation of prisoners must assess that possibility. They cannot allow what Jack Merritt would have wanted or what would ease David Merritt’s pain to factor in their decision.

In 2001 I wrote a pamphlet for the Libertarian Alliance called Rachel weeping for her children: understanding the reaction to the massacre at Dunblane (PDF, text). When discussing massacres carried out by Muslims with a Libertarian audience it is worth bringing up the subject of massacres carried out by gun owners, because our prejudices are likely to run in a different direction. We are better protected from the temptation to make group judgements. There are other common factors in how we should strive to think rationally about these two sorts of mass killing as well. In 2001 I wrote how the agony of the bereaved parents of those children preyed on my mind. I would have done anything to comfort them – except believe what I knew to be untrue.

When the parents of the Dunblane children spoke there was every reason for the world to hear about their terrible experience. There was never any particular reason to suppose that their opinions were right. In fact their opinions should carry less weight than almost anyone else’s should. This point is well understood when it comes to juries. It goes without saying, or, at least, it once did, that guilt or innocence must be decided by impartial people. Decisions of policy require the same cast of mind as decisions of guilt and innocence. The relatives of murder victims cannot be impartial. In a murder trial it is no use saying that it is as important to the family of the victim as to the judge that no innocent person be punished. In pure logic it ought to be, but in fact it almost never is. The bereaved want to believe that the evildoer has been punished. If the real evildoer has escaped (either escaped in the literal meaning of the word or escaped by suicide, as Hamilton did) someone must be found to suffer. Even in cases of pure accident we don’t have Acts of God any more: always some arm of government or business is pursued and sued so that the weight of blame may fall on somebody.

Samizdata quote of the day

What is the intellectual origin of the foreign policy views of Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle? It is Lenin’s theory of imperialism.

In the early 20th century, building on the work of liberals such as John Hobson, Lenin argued that capitalism was being sustained only by the profits from colonial exploitation. These excess profits allowed domestic workers to be paid enough to prevent them from rising up against their capitalist employers. Imperialism was made possible by the power of capitalists to make the state provide military and political protection for their foreign investments.

From this two things follow. All foreign policy by capitalist countries is about creating empires, conquering property and exploiting resources. Kosovo as much as Iraq, Sierra Leone as much as Afghanistan, troops in West Germany as much as in Vietnam. Hence Mr Corbyn’s jaundiced view of Nato and any institutions connected with it, such as the European Union.

So Mr Corbyn argues, as he did in 2011, that “since World War Two, the big imperial force has been the United States on behalf of global capitalism and the biggest, mostly US-based corporations. The propaganda for this has presented itself as a voice for ‘freedom’ and carefully and consciously conflated it with market economics.”

The second thing that follows is that the troops on the front line of the movement to overthrow capitalism are national resistance movements. These are the heroes of socialist advance, even if sometimes they aren’t purely socialist.

So Mr Corbyn has given encouragement and support to the Iranian government, the Irish republicans, Hamas and Hezbollah, and Fidel Castro. He saw Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela as lights to the world, developing a new economic model worth emulating….

The Labour leader ignores or dismisses the idea that any of these groups or countries, such as Iran, might be imperialist powers because all that matters is that they resist western capitalist imperialism. So their imperialism, like that of the Soviet Union, is, he put it, “different”. Where resistance movements have turned to violence or fundamentalism Mr Corbyn says he disapproves but that the root cause is not their behaviour but ours….

There will be some who read this and will think I’m being unfair because I mentioned Lenin and Hezbollah and there is an election coming. But this article is unfair only if it’s an inaccurate description of Mr Corbyn’s views, and given that it is based on things he and his close advisers have written and said, it can’t be. If Mr Corbyn becomes prime minister he and his advisers will control foreign policy. Given that he departs so far from the postwar consensus and the traditional Labour position, it’s as well to understand what he thinks.

– Daniel Finkelstein, in a piece behind the Times paywall, but quoted (all of the above and more) by Mick Hartley.

Guards, guards!

“Passengers locked on train with violent thugs”, reports the Times:

Two “psychotic” thugs spent 30 minutes assaulting and abusing commuters after rail staff locked them in a carriage and refused to open the doors.

Witnesses said that the two suspects had been clashing with other passengers on the Southern rail service from Hastings to Brighton on Tuesday last week when a train guard intervened. The men attacked the guard, onlookers said, before he locked himself in the driver’s cabin.

When the train arrived at Lewes station in East Sussex, the doors were locked.

Megan Townshend, 22, who was travelling with her two-year-old daughter, said the decision to trap the men inside the train fuelled their anger.

“The men then began walking up and down the train between carriages threatening people and punching the seats,” she said.

“Anyone who tried to confront them got punched. They tried smashing the windows and said they were going to burn the carriage. I was terrified they’d come near the buggy my daughter was sleeping in.”

This gives a whole new spin on that ancient question, “Who shall guard the guards themselves?”

Democratic workers’ control of football!

Labour promise football fans a say over their club’s choice of manager

“Labour will put fans at the heart of football by giving them a far greater say over the way their clubs are run,” she said. “We will provide them a say over who their manager is, allow safe standing, and make sure all stadiums are fully ­accessible.”

This enhanced fan ­influence, which is likely to be ­resisted by most clubs and leagues, relates to legislation should Labour win next week’s general election that would allow accredited football supporters’ trusts to purchase shares and change at least two directors if the club changes owner.​

*

The organs of Workers’ Control have the right to supervise production, fix the minimum of output, and determine the cost of production.

Tactical voting websites and my microwave oven

“Tactical voting sites have spread confusion and animosity. In fact, we don’t need them”, writes Dan Davies in the Guardian. “We” here means Remainers who seek to know whether voting Labour or Liberal Democrat is the best way to stop Boris Johnson’s Conservatives winning the election and enacting Brexit.

But never mind all that. If you want to dally with those old flirts, the opinion polls, I have a post up at the Great Realignment. Back in the world of Things, Mr Davies indirectly described why modern microwave ovens are so much more annoying than the ones from twenty or thirty years ago.

Consider my microwave. It is a Samsung MS28J5215, you will be thrilled to learn.

It has a Healthy Cooking Button (never use), a My Plate Button (not my cup of tea), a Power Defrost Button (like in Power Rangers), a Soften/Melt Button (my feelings towards it haven’t), a Plate Warming Button (I can never find the plastic thingy that you put the plates on), a Deodorisation Button (I do sometimes clean the microwave, actually), a Child Lock Button (useless, the microwave is too small to hold a child), a Turntable On/Off Button (it does? Gosh, I wish I’d known), a Stop/Eco button (I do sometimes stop the machine but I do not Eco it), a Start/+30s button (great, love this button, nukes stuff for 30 seconds) and finally
a Microwave Button. The inclusion of the latter is odd in the same way as the inclusion of Death among the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is odd. As either Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett said somewhere, when you’ve got Death on the roster, the exact career roles of Famine, Pestilence and War are worryingly hard to define.

About a quarter of a century ago we sought to buy a microwave for my father. He was a widower and had lost touch with modern technology. If he was going to use it at all it had to be very, very simple. Stephen Hawking used to say that his publishers warned him that every extra equation he put in A Brief History of Time would halve the sales of the book. It was like that with every extra button or program on a microwave and my dad’s likelihood of ever using the thing. Eventually, the proprietor of a little independent electrical goods store in Swansea found a dusty little box in the back room that, wonder of wonders, contained a microwave he had probably given up on ever selling. It had two dials, How Hot and How Long. It was a good microwave. My father did use it.

As Dan Davies writes,

The underlying problem seems to be that in the online political era, clever and enthusiastic people seem to choose projects based on what might go viral rather than what really needs to be done. Because nobody really needs one of these websites, let alone three or four competing ones. Anyone who can understand the concept of tactical voting and why they might want to do it is equal to the very easy task of doing their own research (the tactical.vote website even tells you how, in 200 words). People who don’t want to vote tactically usually have their own, often strongly felt, reasons for not switching to Labour or the Lib Dems.

The idea that there is someone out there who would vote tactically if they could just get a convenient packaged recommendation is basically a myth; such people are really rare. In online conversations with people who volunteer for these projects, the only case I’ve really heard for them is that they might be helpful if your grandparents ask you how to vote, which is clearly a hopeful daydream.

It’s the dumb thing that smart people always do – assuming that the only reason other people haven’t done what you want is that you haven’t explained it to them yet. Unfortunately, politics doesn’t really work like that.

It’s a circle of life thing

Activists campaign to have a law passed to protect the environment: “Plastic bag backlash gains momentum” – 14 September 2013

Victory! The law is passed: Plastic bag law comes into force on 5th October 2015 – 2 October 2015

Reports tell of the good it has done: Plastic bag charge: Why was it introduced and what impact has it had? – 25 August 2018

But wait, there seems to be problem: ‘Bags for life’ making plastic problem worse, say campaigners – 28 November 2019

What a privilege it is for lovers of nature to be present at the birth of a baby environmental campaign. Be with us as our cameras watch the young pressure group grow, until the day comes when it is strong enough to overturn the law that caused it to exist. The circle is complete.

Samizdata quote of the day

Another reason is that Conservative Remain voters tend to believe Brexit will be a walk in the park compared to the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street. If this election amounts to a decision on whether to stop Brexit or stop Corbyn, most of them think it’s more important to stop Corbyn. More than 7 in 10 of them think leaving the EU would be less bad for Britain than a Labour government with Corbyn as PM – as do a clear plurality of the electorate as a whole.

Lord Ashcroft

The importance of keeping good company

Jeremy Corbyn is in trouble over the Labour party’s anti-semitism problem. This clip from his interview earlier this evening with Andrew Neil is painful to watch. The UK’s Orthodox Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, has done a thing without precedent: publicly denounced the leader of one of the major parties during an election campaign. He wrote,

How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be to be considered unfit for office? Would associations with those who have incited hatred against Jews be enough? Would describing as ‘friends’ those who endorse the murder of Jews be enough? It seems not.

How did it come to this? When I was growing up the Labour party was full of Jewish intellectuals. Maureen Lipman’s line “If you’re Jewish, they gave you your Labour Party badge the day after your circumcision” might be a slight exaggeration, but it seemed that way.

I first saw that now famous video clip to which Rabbi Mirvis refers, in which Corbyn repeatedly called Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends”, in this post from the “Harry’s Place” blog dated 7 April 2009. In those days Jeremy Corbyn was merely the deservedly obscure MP for Islington.

That clip shows us the vector by which the poison entered Labour’s body. I can believe Corbyn is genuinely bewildered as to why people call him an anti-semite. He looks into his own heart and sees no hatred there. Of course he doesn’t hate Jews. He doesn’t hate anybody. He extends the hand of friendship to the whole world. Including those who hate Jews? No, of course not; he has fought Nazis and fascists and white supremacists his whole life. But what about brown skinned, oppressed people who h-

And there it ends. That thought cannot be completed.