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]

Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, Liz

“Labour surges to 33-point lead over Tories”, reports the Times.

Labour has surged to a 33-point poll lead over the Conservatives after a week of market turmoil triggered by Liz Truss’s tax-cutting budget.

The YouGov poll for The Times finds Tory support has fallen by seven points in the past four days amid fears the government’s plans will lead to spiralling interest rate rises.

It is thought to be the largest poll lead enjoyed by any party with any pollster since the late 1990s.

Labour’s lead is fuelled by voters switching directly from the Conservatives, with 17 per cent of those who backed Boris Johnson in 2019 saying they would vote Labour.

Just 37 per cent of 2019 Conservative voters said they were planning to stick with the party, suggesting a Tory wipeout.

Liz Truss now faces a choice. She can pull back. This might regain her a percentage point or two. She would then be 31 points behind instead of 33. Her place in history would be secure: as an answer to a difficult pub quiz question about who was Prime Minister between Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer. Or she can push onwards. She might still fail, but more gloriously. And if she succeeds, she gets to sit alongside Margaret Thatcher in the Told You So Hall of Fame. Even if, as seems likely, she loses the next election but hands Sir Keir an economy in significantly better shape, she will be remembered as someone who put country before party.

Tax cut freak out

We have about the highest level of taxation we have had in the UK since the 1970s. In the 2021-2022 tax year tax receipts were 30.3% of GDP. In 2009-2010 they were 25% of GDP which was the lowest level in the last 20 years and occurred under a Labour government.

The recently proposed tax changes are: cancel an increase in corporation tax; reverse a recent (unpopular with the left) 1.25% increase in national insurance contributions; cut basic rate of income tax by 1%; change stamp duty nil band from 125,000 to 250,000 (the average house price is 281,000); remove the 45% additional rate of income tax (paid by 629,000 people earning more than £150,000, to the tune of about £1.5bn (thanks to KJP for the correction)).

Such changes are welcome to me, but do not appear to be particularly radical.

And yet everyone, from the IMF to forex traders to buyers of government bonds to Torygraph columnists, not to mention literally everyone on Twitter, is completely freaking out about it.

Most commentators seem to be aghast at the very concept of tax cuts. Few commentators are talking about spending. Are these tax cuts really so big and costly, or is it that nobody believes that a smaller state can lead to economic growth, instead believing that government tax and spending is a zero sum game, and that anything other than a steady increase in tax and spending is terrifying?

She isn’t f*****ing about

My Grandmother used to have a word. It began with “F” but it’s not that “F” word or even the slightly less bad Irish “F” word as popularised by Father Ted. It’s another “F” word but you will search your dictionary in vain to find it. It’s not in mine. In fact, I am far from sure it has ever been written down. If it were written down it would be something like “footer” with the “foo” pronounced like the “Foo” in Foo Fighters not the “foo” in foot. Well, I say that but that’s only about as close as an Englishmen can get. Monaghan pronunciation is not something that I would advise the typical Englishmen, Scotsman or, indeed, Irishman to attempt. Worse still for any cultural appropriators out there, “footer” almost never came without being preceded with another word. The word means “old” but it is pronounced like “aisle” but we can’t use “aisle” because people in Monaghan take their religion seriously. “Isle” also looks silly so I am going to go for “ail”. Anyway, it turned out that a lot of acquaintances of my grandmother turned out to be “ail footers”. In fact, at times it seemed – if my grandmother was anything to go by – that 90% of the population of Monaghan could be so categorized.

However, it turns out that “footer” is not just a noun but a verb. I say that but I’ve only heard that from the lips of one person – not my grandmother – a resident of Armagh who couldn’t pronounce the word but did at least understand it. So, it’s not in common use. But I can’t think of a better word in light of the mini-Budget announced on Friday. Whatever Liz Truss may be or may do she is not a “footer” and she is not “footering about”.

For Liz Truss to not be a “footer” is an achievement in itself. The last 12 years of Conservative or mainly Conservative rule has been government of Footers, by Footers, for Footers. Liz Truss herself has spent the last ten years as a Cabinet minister. That means 10 years defending policy most of which she must have thought was nonsense. How do you do that without the steady erosion of your sense of right and wrong? How do you do that without losing all sense of urgency? Anyway, she has and the speed at which non-footerish announcements on taxes, regulations, energy and Ukraine are coming out of government is astonishing. I have been burnt so many times by politicians that I have become reluctant to give them my whole-hearted support. I am not yet ready to do that in the case of Liz Truss but this is an extremely promising start.

There is little about Liz Truss’s appearance or demeanour to suggest (to me at least) a Thatcher-like determination. From Heaver News.

Don’t give up the day job. Try doing it instead.

Here is a confession: I wrote most of this post on January 17th, the day I read the Times article that I quote. Then something distracted me and I put it aside to finish later. It is now “later”, as in “250 days later”, and, having been reminded of the onrushing apocalypse by the reaction to Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget, I have finished it up and present it to you now.

*

How’s your science fiction novel getting along? Oh. Sorry. Same here, I must admit.

Maybe we would be doing better if the government were paying us to write the stuff?

“Met Office forecasts a Britain of militia war, bartering and child labour”, the Times reports:

It is 2070 and Britain as we once knew it has vanished. The government has collapsed, the police and justice system no longer exists. Militias control feudal microstates within the UK, with people accepting severe restrictions on freedom in exchange for work and protection.

This is not the beginning of a sci-fi film but a report commissioned by the Met Office into how the UK might evolve over the next century.

The “Met Office” is the Meteorological Office, the UK’s national weather forecasting service.

The weather service is behind a “ground-breaking project” to explore five different paths the nation could take up to 2100, and show how it will be easier to mitigate and adapt to climate change in some versions of the future than others.

In one scenario, researchers explore what would happen if international tensions caused the UK to increase border controls and increase military spending. Political and social tensions would initially be spearheaded by “nationalistic public attitudes” that would support populist leaders who drive a breakdown in international relations. A lack of foreign trade would push the government to lift environmental regulations to focus economic growth on domestic manufacturing and intensive farming. Food safety and animal welfare standards would also be lowered.

By 2040, in this scenario, the four UK nations have become independent of one another, with strict border controls leading to the countries making use of their own resources. By the 2050s, the railway system, the NHS and universities will have collapsed, while “child labour re-emerges in connection to a widespread return to subsistence farming and bartering systems”. By the 2070s, the government has collapsed and militias enforce laws in microstates, while controlling resources and an illegal arms trade.

The scenario is one of five different outlooks called Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, a UK-version of a framework used by international climate scientists and economists to examine how societies and economies might change over this century.

The Met Office report was carried out by Cambridge Econometrics, a consultancy firm, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and the universities of Edinburgh and Exeter. It was funded by the Met Office and UK Research and Innovation, a government-funded body.

There are a few more pessimistic scenarios, including one in which “a rich elite has privatised the NHS and introduced military conscription to deal with criminality and social unrest” (I could go with the first half of that) and then, shining softly in the darkness like your one permitted eco-friendly lightbulb, there’s the one where…

… the UK makes a “societal shift towards more environmentally sustainable systems”, researchers believe poverty will be “eliminated”. This would also involve rejoining a “progressive and expanded EU”.

They couldn’t resist.

In this outlook, the UK will have a “fully functional circular economy” as society quickly becomes more egalitarian, “leading to healthier lifestyles, improved well-being, sustainable use of natural resources, and more stable and fair international relations”.

Decades ago the U.S. Center for Disease Control got bored of doing its day job and decided to spend its time controlling guns instead. In vain did the Republicans add a rider to the 1996 omnibus spending bill telling ’em to stick to diseases; Obama repealed it. Turned out the CDC might indeed have been better employed doing what it said on the tin.

I hate to dash the dreams of fellow aspiring science fiction writers, but I think the same advice might apply to the Meteorological Office.

Lizardmen need tampons too

Pollsters talk about “the lizardman constant”. It was given that name in this “Slate Star Codex” post by Scott Alexander:

So first we get the people who think “Wait, was 1 the one for if I did believe in lizardmen, or if I didn’t? I’ll just press 1 and move on to the next question.”

Then we get the people who are like “I never heard it before, but if this nice pollster thinks it’s true, I might as well go along with them.”

Then we get the people who are all “F#&k you, polling company, I don’t want people calling me when I’m at dinner. You screw with me, I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to tell you I believe lizard people are running the planet.”

Alexander put the lizardman constant at about 4%. Keep that figure in your mind.

A month ago, the polling company YouGov did a survey on “period poverty” (Tabs here.) The survey found that:

Period poverty looks likely to increase as the cost of living crisis bites

6% who currently have periods have been unable to afford period products in the last 12 months

13% are likely to be unable to afford period products in the next 12 months

The final line really ought to refer to “13% think they are likely”. The percentage of British wom… of British people who currently have periods who claim they have actually experienced being unable to afford period products is 6%. That’s the Lizardmen plus two percent.

Why so small? Because, though it is a real problem in the Third World, in developed countries period poverty no longer exists except in the minds of earnest sixth formers, publicity-hungry politicians and progressives seeking a government sinecure. The problem was solved years ago. As I said in a post from 2017 called “The Bleeding Obvious”, capitalism solved it. At Boots, tampons cost 4p each. Aldi’s tampons cost 4p each. Tesco’s tampons have been hard hit by inflation; at the time of the previous post they used to cost 4p each but now it’s 5p. As you can see if you click the links, tampons are usually sold in boxes of 20 to 24. I no longer have periods, but when I did, I used a little under one box per period. I usually picked up tampons in Tescos at £1 a packet. At nights I sometimes used sanitary towels instead or as well. 70p for ten. Some women might require more; so double that, no, triple it – you are still only looking at just over £5 per month.

So, market competition has developed period products that are far more hygienic, comfortable and discreet than the bloody rags of yesteryear, has evolved a distribution network to put them in every village shop, and has carried the price down almost to nothing. But not quite all the way, the evil bastards: four pence per tampon is not zero. That last 4p is an opportunity for some. Like a mediocre footballer who pushes forward to nudge the ball last and hence get the glory for a goal that others set up, the State can still swoop in at the last moment and get applauded for making them FREE.

In theory, there ought to be no need for this. In the UK, Universal Credit or other welfare payments ought to be enough, but sometimes the welfare system fails, and even if a woman’s problems are partly self-caused by drink or drugs or poor budgeting, I think most people would say, for pity’s sake, just help her anyway.

How is that best done?

The Scottish government’s form of help was this: (1) Pass a law called the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act. The procedure for passing a bill in the Scottish Parliament is described here. I have no idea what it all costs, but no doubt it was less than most bills because no MSP was brave enough to oppose it. (2) Appoint a Period Dignity Regional Lead Officer (salary of £33,153 – £36,126 per annum) for each Scottish region, and a bunch of lesser Period Dignity Regional Officers to serve under the Lead ones. The salary and other employment costs of these new local government posts would depend on how many of these regions there are. I hope a region is more than just one Local Authority, because Scotland has 32 of those. (3) Just for fun, appoint a bloke as your first ever Period Dignity Regional Lead Officer, then scrap the role because of the controversy, and wait ’til he sues for sex discrimination. The costs of that argy-bargy remain to be seen, but the services of barristers, sorry, advocates since it’s Scotland, do not come cheap. (4) After the Members of the Scottish Parliament, assorted Parliamentary researchers and support staff, recruitment consultants, HR managers, Period Dignity Regional Lead Officers, Period Dignity Officers and the lawyers have all had their cut, use whatever is left over to buy some tampons to give away. Good thing tampons are cheap.

Free speech is indivisible

Let no one say that the police response to anti-monarchist protests is without precedent:

Nizhny Novgorod, 12 March 2022: Russian police arrest demonstrator for protesting with a BLANK SIGN

London, 13 September 2022: Man threatened with arrest if he wrote ‘not my King’ on blank sheet of paper

It is true that I am tempted to sarcasm when I see all the outrage about this from people who were silent about such things as the police telling someone to take down a tweet because it contained the term “illegal alien” a few days ago, or about five coppers being sent to arrest a man for posting an image of four “LGBTQ+ Progress Pride” flags arranged so the triangular bits formed a swastika.

Still, new recruits to the great cause of free speech are always welcome. Better late than never!

Daniel Hannan had a good response:

So we’re all agreed then? Hate speech laws are wrong? Provided you stop short of incitement to violence, you can insult King Charles, Jesus Christ, the Prophet Muhammad or George Floyd? Because that’s the thing about free speech: it’s an indivisible principle.

May he defend our laws

Have you sung it yet? Here’s the second least worst known verse:

Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her him be pleased to pour,
Long may she he reign!
May she he defend our laws,
And ever give us cause,
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen! King!

After Charles was proclaimed king at St James’s Palace, the same ceremony has been repeated up and down the country. They also told the royal bees.

However the Scotsman reports that a spot of bother broke out while the new king was being proclaimed in Edinburgh:

Moments before the ceremony on Sunday afternoon (September 11), a demonstrator appeared in the crowd opposite the Mercat Cross. She held a sign saying “f*** imperialism, abolish monarchy”.

Officers appeared behind her and took her away, prompting the crowd to applaud.

One man shouted: “Let her go, it’s free speech,” while others yelled: “Have some respect.”

A police spokesman said a 22-year-old woman was arrested “in connection with a breach of the peace”.

I would like to think there are still some people left who would say both “Let her go, it’s free speech” and “Have some respect.”

To be sure, such suppression of “Progressive” speech, routine a few decades ago, is now rare. These days the boot is more often on the Progressive foot. Courtesy of the Bad Law Project:

Listen to the @swpolice [South Wales Police] tell a citizen journalist to take down a post because he uses the term ‘illegal alien’. Being offensive is not an offence. Yet again, the police are grossly misrepresenting the law in order to intimidate the public.

As I have often said, once the principle of free speech is gone, what speech is censored is merely a matter of who happens to be momentarily on top at that time and place. Notice how far removed both the recent examples are from the true rule of law. In Scotland the woman was arrested under the vague catch-all charge of “breach of the peace”. In Wales the threats against the man by an officer of the law had no legal basis at all. (England is just as bad. Trust me.)

Many people have said that King Charles III will find it hard to win anything close to the level of public affection given to his late mother. But there is no denying that freedom of speech declined markedly in the final years of her reign. If the new king wants to do something useful, he could do worse than make real the role of the monarch as defender of our laws, like the song says. What better start than to direct one of his famous “black spider memos” to one of our actual rulers saying that the right to free speech of all his subjects is to be respected, including – oh, most certainly including – those who do not wish to be his subjects at all.

A good death

Our ancestors, wiser than we, were not shocked by the idea of praying for a good death for oneself or others. Queen Elizabeth II’s health is clearly failing. I pray that she will have a good death, whenever it comes.

Nobody, least of all a libertarian, would invent the idea of monarchy if designing the world from scratch. But we do not design the world, we inherit it. Constitutional monarchy is like one of those very old houses which started to fall down centuries ago but somehow settled into an unexpectedly beautiful state of wonky stability. Elizabeth has been a very good constitutional monarch.

Update: She has died. May she rest in peace.

Samizdata quote of the day

And yet, Truss is far from alone in lacking political audacity, in seeming to prefer the small bureaucratic task of managing public life rather than overhauling it. In this, she’s fairly typical of today’s managerial elites. Also, Truss’s political clarity seemed to improve during the leadership contest. She even became a little more daring in what she said – for instance, by bristling against Net Zero policies. No, this doesn’t prove she’s the leader we need, but it is a reminder that politicians often find themselves, and their cojones, in the heat of battle. Will the pressures of the crisis similarly bring out Truss’s slightly edgier side? We should hope so.

Brendan O’Neill

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

Now a partial reverse-ferret is underway. As we struggle to scrape together adequate supplies of gas for the coming winter, as the price of energy rockets to unaffordable heights, suddenly energy security is at the top of the agenda.

Today Boris Johnson is using his final speech as UK prime minister to assert the primary importance of energy security. He says the nation needs energy in the future to be ‘cheap, clean, reliable and plentiful’. And he denounces the ‘myopia’ and the ‘short-termism’ that has led the UK to not complete a single new nuclear reactor in 27 years. Johnson’s parting pledge is to build eight new nuclear reactors, at a pace of one per year.

Of course, Johnson does not name the obsession with the climate as the chief culprit – nor does he call for a rethink on unreliable renewable energy or Net Zero targets. But it is a striking change in emphasis from a PM who just nine months ago, at COP26 in Glasgow, was channelling his inner Greta, denouncing the evils of the Industrial Revolution as he tried to corral other world leaders into dismantling their energy supplies.

Fraser Myers

Samizdata quote of the day

Responding to his cancellation, Gilliam said it was “very sad that a great cultural institution like the Old Vic allowed itself to be intimidated into cancelling our production”. Likening the younger members of staff who lobbied Old Vic bosses to scrap his show to “Neo-Calvinists”, he added: “They are totally closed-minded. [To them] there is only one truth and one way of looking at the world. Well, ‘fuck you!’ is my answer to them.”

– as quoted by the Free Speech Union – “Three cheers for Terry Gilliam!” – rave reviews for a musical the Old Vic tried to cancel