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]

Our god requires sacrifices

Tim Worstall says that Hayek’s much-derided argument that government health care would make us serfs of the state is supported by an astonishing piece by Nick Cohen which appears to argue that so it would, and so it must. Part of me hopes that Cohen, who has often been one of the more principled voices on the British Left, is writing tongue in cheek or trying to provoke a reaction. But the commenters nearly all seem to take it quite seriously and only berate him for not going far enough.

Here’s the piece from Cohen: “Saving the NHS means forcing us to change the way we lead our lives”.

If you imagine a healthy future for Britain, or any other country that has put the hunger of millennia behind it, you see a kind of dictatorship. Not a tyranny, but a society that ruthlessly restricts free choice. It is a future that views the mass of people as base creatures jerked around by desires they cannot control. Expert authority must engineer their lives from above for their own good and the common good.

Speaking as a base creature myself, I do not believe it would be a healthy future at all to be ruled by people with such contempt for me.

Here’s my partial sketch of how Britain would have to change to limit the costs to the NHS that stunted lives and avoidable pain will bring. Pedestrians and cyclists would have priority on the roads. If the roads are too narrow to take cars, cycle lanes and a pavement wide enough to allow pedestrians to walk or run in comfort, then cars will have to go. School runs will become history as heads refuse to admit any able-bodied child who arrives at school in a car.

It will not necessarily be illegal to drive in towns and cities, just pointless. Motorists would inch along because cycle and bus lanes would take up road space and pelican crossings would be reset so pedestrians never had to wait more than a minute to cross a road. Even when they reached their destinations, drivers would search forever for a space because car parks would have been demolished and replaced with public parks.

No fast-food outlet would be allowed within a one-mile radius of a school. Agricultural subsidies for fat and sugar would be abolished. Rapeseed oil and sugar beet cultivation would stop as new subsidies for public transport began. Meanwhile, the manufacturers of processed food high in sugar, salt and fat would face advertising bans and punitive taxes. (If food manufacturers want to dump prematurely sick patients on the NHS, we will say, they can damn well pay for the privilege.)

A commenter called “erikus” put their finger on what all this was reminding me of:

Stardate 21327.5. Captain Picard & the crew of the Enterprise arrive at a world where the local inhabitants are suffering the apocalyptic consequences that fell upon them after they tried to re-engineer themselves in order to meet the expectations they believe are placed upon them by the institutions that were created by their ancestors and which they’ve come to regard as sacred & inviolate.

Picard’s final speech: ‘They killed themselves for this. They died because they believed that they had to sacrifice themselves in order to preserve in perfect form the institutions left to them by their ancestors: Institutions that were themselves originally created with one simple purpose: To preserve their lives:

We must remember that the institutions that we create exist for our well-being & that once we begin to worship them & think their well-being transcends that of our own, they lose their reason for existence.’

The government of Romania versus the Adamescu family

Last Wednesday, I attended a meeting at the Frontline Club, which is near Paddington Station in west London. The meeting was devoted to the memory of the great Romanian businessman and freedom-championing newspaper owner Dan Adamescu, and the danger now facing Dan’s son Alexander Adamescu. Some friends of mine are also Friends of Alexander Adamescu, and this is me trying to help them.

Encouraged by the organisers, I took photos at that meeting, photos of very variable quality, because of my woeful inexperience in what for me were very imperfect lighting conditions. But, I hope that the best of them may be of some use to the cause, and assist Alexander Adamescu’s friends in stirring up more media attention.

The cause being that Dan Adamescu was, just over one year ago, imprisoned to death, so to speak, by the government of Romania, and that the government of Romania has for some time now been trying to do something similar to Dan’s son Alexander, after he complained what was being done to his father.

Here is a picture of the big picture of the late Dan Adamescu that presided over the meeting, beneath which sat Alexander Adamescu, who spoke at the meeting:

As you can see, I did a bit of photomanipulation there, to make it clearer what Alexander Adamescu looks like.

Alexander Adamescu now lives in London with his wife (who also spoke most eloquently about Dan Adamescu) and young family. But the government of Romania wants the British government to hand Alexander over to them, so that they can inflict upon him the same sort of parody of justice that they inflicted upon his father. Their instrument of choice to accomplish this is the European Arrest Warrant.

→ Continue reading: The government of Romania versus the Adamescu family

Samizdata quote of the day

In recent weeks, Labour could not make a simple statement in support of those protesting for freedom in Iran. It couldn’t give a straightforward condemnation of a regime that stones people to death for adultery, publicly hangs gay people, and forces women by threat of criminal punishment to wear headscarves in public. The hard left’s virulent anti-Americanism renders it ‘just not that simple’. No, with the influence and influx of ‘Stop The War’ ideologies, Labour has been dragged so deeply down the rabbit hole of anti-imperialist theories that they cannot condemn dictatorial, theocratic, repressive Iran in case it somehow strengthens, or implies support for, democratic, secular and free America. My Labour would see America is a necessary bulwark against Iran, yet the Labour we have sees Iran as a necessary bulwark against America. I cannot in all good conscience tell a single person to vote for that.

– Nora Mulready, writing an article titled “Today I resigned from the Labour Party

As I am some manner of wild-eyed libertarian/classical liberal, I suspect Ms. Mulready and I might not see eye to eye on certain issues, yet I have to respect someone who has the emotional maturity and intellectual integrity to transcend the tribal impulses we are all prone to, to detach themselves from an institution they were once deeply invested in.

The trouble with Theresa May

There’s a problem Theresa May has, which may be fatal (politically fatal, that is.) The problem is this.

She comes across as a Thatcherite to people who don’t like Thatcher. So they will never vote for her, even though she’s much closer to them politically than they realise.

But she doesn’t come across as a Thatcherite to people who do like Thatcher. She comes across as a pathetic Euro-elite wet. So they’re reluctant to support her. A lot of them voted for her grudgingly in the last election, but only because the Conservatives were supporting Brexit. They’re even less keen on her now.

Hector Drummond

Samizdata quote of the day

One of the great tragedies of the NHS is that it has unnecessarily turned health into a Zero Sum Game. Because it has a limited budget, money spent on one treatment means that it cannot be spent on others. It therefore has to make life and death decisions based on what those running it perceive to be its priorities.

Madsen Pirie

Darkest Hour – film review

Last night I went with the Sage of Kettering to see Darkest Hour, based on the events around Churchill becoming Prime Minister as Germany destroys Western Europe. Overall, I would say that it is an excellent film, but with a certain flaw, perhaps a sacrifice to dramatic licence. The actor playing Churchill has done a good job of conveying the man and his quirks.

The film starts with an obviously ill Chamberlain yielding power, in the face of challenges from Attlee, the Labour Leader of the Opposition. The film seems to try to cast Lord Halifax, till then Chamberlain’s ‘sidekick’ as a villain scheming for power. Whilst any politician may well in his heart lust for power, and obviously deny any overt ambitions, Halifax does come across as a bit of a ‘villain’, who is manoeuvring for Churchill’s fall. It may be that he was simply terrified of another war (having been through the Great War and seen action) and lacked the stomach for another, i.e. he had the UK’s best interests at heart in his wrongful head. However, Churchill kisses hands with George VI, a frosty relationship going back to issues over Gallipoli and the Abdication crisis, with Halifax a personal friend of the King. The Conservative Party loath Churchill, Labour and the Liberals support him (perhaps looking forward to taking over the government in a National Coalition, and getting if not always their people, their policies in place for what turns out to be at least the next 80 years).

The situation in Europe deteriorates, and Churchill tries to make rally the French, as he grapples with the demands of office and others try to get used to his chaotic working style. Churchill is alarmed to find that the French have no ‘plan B’ should they fail to contain the Wehrmacht to their North West regions, and the situation worsens. Along with the disasters in France, Churchill’s situation weakens as those seeking a negotiated peace urge their case, with Halifax and Chamberlain (now revealed to have terminal cancer) planning to resign. Overtures are made by Halifax to Italy for Mussolini to help with some form of negotiated peace, but this comes to naught. The King goes to see Churchill, after considering leaving for Canada, and the two become mutually-supportive.

The film gives Churchill a chance to point out that Gallipoli might have worked but for delay in its implementation (he blames the Admirals only, not the Generals as well), and Roosevelt and Churchill have a chat, Churchill in an artfully concealed phone box. The gist of it is that the UK is on its own (at this point) the Neutrality Act ties Roosevelt’s hands, but by a ruse some fighters that Britain has paid for can be got to Canada.

The film takes a bit of a liberty with Churchill suddenly taking the Underground train in a surprisingly long one-stop journey and meeting ordinary people (with a bit of inclusive casting, which shows the common heritage amongst the English-speaking peoples). He finds the ordinary people are willing to fight, and this fortifies him to carry on and abandon defeatist thoughts. This almost breaks the Fourth Wall and I found it spoils the film a bit, it could have been done better. Also, there is no indication of the Communist sabotage of the Allied war effort either in France or in the UK.

Churchill goes to the full Cabinet and rallies support for resistance, the gist of his speech being that a noble end is better than surrender, and the consensus is that any peace would be under Mosleyites.

Matters come to a head with the encirclement of British and French forces around Dunkirk, with a smaller force in Calais sacrificed to buy time for Operation Dynamo, the evacuation. Brigadier Nicholson and his unit in Calais are shown, been told by telegram that they are to stand to the last, a heroic footnote that the film rightly notes. With Dynamo underway, Churchill rallies the House of Commons with another speech, and Chamberlain signals his support (as Leader of the Conservative Party), cementing Churchill’s position, Halifax looks on from the gallery in despair.

The film is not without humour. It rehashes a few of Churchill’s old jokes, and his constant drinking is a running theme, with booze at breakfast. Asked by the King how he manages to drink throughout the day, Churchill replies ‘Practice!‘. The end notes also apologise for depicting smoking, necessary for accuracy, but it grossly under-depicits the extent of smoking.

Having seen the film Dunkirk last year, I would say that this is a far better film, it tells the story of the wider context, it does not have a jarring switch in narrative and has hardly any CGI, which is only used to show the streams of refugees and the odd aerial attack.

It was noteworthy that a couple of Lefties were in our viewing, and at the end they moaned loudly about the film being patriotic (can there be higher praise with faint damnation?), and made parallels about Brexit. It is hard not to see the parallels with the Mrs May’s lamentable efforts at ‘negotiation’, but remember that Halifax today would not be a Remoaner, but a cautious Leaver. The Remoaners would be the Mosleyites, whose only changes have been in label and a different emphasis on race in politics eager for the UK to be subordinate to a foreign power hostile to our laws and customs, with some form of economic dirigisme in place.

And it still strikes me as remarkable that the Queen’s first Britannic Prime Minister was Churchill, and look at her last 5.

UPDATE:

I have found the Sage’s commentary on Lord Halifax in this very parish, from 2003. Halifax, the Holy Fool.

Samizdata quote of the day

Rather than having a “Minister for Loneliness“, how about not having one? How about the state just maintains basic order, fills in a few street potholes & then minds its own frigging business? The state is not your friend

– Perry de Havilland

Samizdata quote of the day

In the NHS, unforeseen demand simply results in more queuing and rationing. Given that budgets are largely fixed by the political process, and resources are allocated to different parts of the service based on highly speculative demand estimates, deviations in demand can lead to acute shortages.

Of course, on the margin, having more resources can help. An NHS awash with cash would no doubt be under less pressure than it is today. But no reasonable amount of funding would solve these structural economic realities entirely.

There is a reason the NHS has these winter crises regularly, and other countries do not

Ryan Bourne

Samizdata quote of the day

“It is conceivable that Mrs May could, with Labour support, push such a half-baked Brexit though Parliament. But her party would be finished. For most of its advocates on the Government benches, Brexit is about global free trade or it is nothing. Leaving the single market is not enough; Britain must also regain the power to trade freely with the rest of the world. Anything less would not just be a monumental betrayal but would tear the Conservatives apart. The party split in 1846 after the Corn Laws were repealed; it would surely do so again if Mrs May sells out her Brexiteers.”

Allister Heath

Thank goodness so many people have university degrees

In 1820, the vast majority of people lived in extreme poverty and only a tiny elite enjoyed higher standards of living. Economic growth over the last 200 years completely transformed our world, with poverty falling continuously over the last two centuries. This is even more remarkable when we consider that the population increased 7-fold over the same time. In a world without economic growth, an increase in the population would result in less and less income for everyone. A 7-fold increase in the world population would be potentially enough to drive everyone into extreme poverty. Yet, the exact opposite happened. In a time of unprecedented population growth, we managed to lift more and more people out of poverty.

[…]

Despite the clear evidence, many people are not aware of the fact that extreme poverty is declining across the world. The chart below shows the perceptions that survey-respondents in the UK have regarding global achievements in poverty reductions. While the share of extremely poor people has fallen faster than ever before in history over the last 30 years, the majority of people in the UK thinks that the opposite has happened, and that poverty has increased!

The chart below presents evidence from a survey in the UK, but ignorance of global development is even greater in other countries that were also surveyed. The extent of ignorance in the UK is particularly bad if we take into account that the shown result corresponds to a population with a university degree.

Max Roser & Esteban Ortiz-Ospina

The pitchforks are out for Count Dankula

“M8 Yer Dugs A Nazi.” That link takes you to a video in which a man who wished to annoy his girlfriend trained her cute pug to lift its paw in a “Nazi salute” in response to Nazi slogans. Well, it used to. At present for me it takes me to a video of a black screen saying “This video is not available in your country”. Mark Meechan, the man who made the video, is from Scotland and I am in England, but I do not think that explains it.

From the Telegraph‘s account and even more from a swing round Mr Meechan’s “Count Dankula” YouTube channel, it does sound as if his humour tends towards the crass and tasteless. But do these words from the beginning of the video sound to you like the voice of a man committed to the triumph of Nazism?

The court heard that at the start of the clip, he said: “My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute and adorable her wee dog is so I thought I would turn him into the least cute thing I could think of, which is a Nazi.”

In the video, the dog is seen perking up when it hears the statements and appears to lift its paw to the “Sieg Heil” command in the video, which has now been viewed more than million times.

Mr Meechan is currently on trial at Airdrie Sheriff Court for committing a hate crime. If convicted he faces up to a year in prison. The verdict was due two days ago but has been delayed for reasons unknown.

One of the more detailed reports on the case came from the Washington Post:

The dog is also seen watching a Hitler rally during the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. The dog appears to raise its paw when Hitler proclaims “Sieg Heil.”

“Who’s a good wee Nazi?” Meechan praised the dog.

The video ricocheted around the Internet and has now been viewed more than 3 million times. Some found it amusing; others feel it was crude and anti-Semitic, including a woman who Meechan says confronted him, then spread dog feces on his front door.

Prosecutors say it’s a hate crime.

That April, soon after the video was posted, police knocked on Meechan’s door in Coatbridge, a town in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, he told Alex Jones. The officers told him that he was being charged with a hate crime and that the video could be seen as promoting violence against Jews. They told him to change his clothes, took pictures of his apartment and hauled him off to jail.

He spent a night there and is now on trial for violating the Communications Act of 2003, which prohibits using public telecommunications to send discriminatory religious messages.

Who Dares Wins (Arts Council Edition)

When it came out a couple of weeks ago, I managed to miss this gem from the Guardian’s “Associate Editor, Culture”, Claire Armitstead.

Literary fiction is in crisis. A new chapter of funding authors must begin

Unlike the performing arts, publishing has always been a largely commercial sector that has had to square its own circles. This is reflected in the fact that it gets only 7% of the funding cake handed out by the Arts Council, compared with 23% to theatre and 11% to dance.

Most of that money has gone to support publishers who produce poetry and literature in translation, which have never been able to pay their way. So there will be blood on the carpet if existing resources are shifted to support literary novelists.

There will be those who argue that this just shows that literary fiction is a hangover from the past, and the poor dears should knuckle down and resign themselves to writing what people actually want to read. But few would dare to make the same argument about experimental theatre or dance.

A number of the comments may have helped Ms Armitstead revise upwards her estimate of the audacity of readers outside the literary elite. A sentence or two later she makes one of the most pathetic cases for subsidy I have ever seen:

Moreover, research from the New School for Social Research in New York last year suggested that literary fiction has a measurable social value, increasing empathy levels in readers where more popular forms of genre fiction do not.

It seems unkind to the readers of literary fiction to say that they in particular are in such dire need of an injection of empathy as to justify a targeted intervention. But her profession has obliged Ms Armitstead to live at close quarters with this reclusive and marginal tribe for many years and no doubt she knows their character better than I do.

More recently, the author and occasional Guardian columnist Tim Lott shot back, which is how I came to see the earlier piece. He writes,

Why should we subsidise writers who have lost the plot?

This would not be uncommon. Worrying about plot and story has long been unfashionable on the literary scene. Style and voice are what gathers plaudits. Martin Amis wrote: “If the prose isn’t there, then you’re reduced to what are merely secondary interests, like story [and] plot.” Edna O’Brien suggested plot was for “silly boys”, which might explain why men in particular are reluctant to buy literary novels.

It might also explain why, when I went to teach postgraduate students at the University of East Anglia – the foremost writing course in the country – about the fundamentals of plot, I was astonished to discover that these superbly talented young writers knew nothing whatsoever about it after years of studying the form.

Mr Lott is within the subsidy-bubble himself, hence his surprise that those studying creative writing at university were unaware of such vulgar skills as making a plot. But at least he’s in the bubble looking out.