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]

Samizdata quote of the day – Albanian edition

Why leave Albania – parts of which are beautiful – for an unprepossessing bedsit in a dispiriting London borough? The experts I sounded out, friends and a friend of a friend, interestingly don’t focus primarily on the economy to explain the exodus – because it really is an exodus of the younger generation. Rather, it’s to do with Albania being a failed state: the absence of the rule of law, the sense that the place is being run by a corrupt coterie for its own benefit, the hopelessness about the prospects for change, the narco-economy. One recent paper put the number who’ve left the country since the advent of Edi Rama, the socialist prime minister, in 2013, at 700,000. If Rama wants to know what’s really behind the exodus of Albanians, he could do worse than look in the mirror.

Melanie McDonagh

Remember, remember

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

Interesting how the significance of those words changed over the years to be less about the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November 1605, and more about attitudes towards contemporary politics.

More about notions like “V” than the actual historical Guy Fawkes.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Don’t talk to me about Partygate. Don’t talk to me about Suella Braverman’s emails. Talk to me about the fact that a 28-year-old man with devastating injuries was left in unimaginable pain and terror as fire engines drove in the other direction and ambulances stayed away. Talk to me about the fact that our emergency services step back from horrific incidents because of ‘safety fears’. Talk to me about this institutionalised cowardice, where the emergency services now make bureaucratic safety assessments rather than behaving with courage and bravery to assist people in dire need. Avoiding risk is a completely surreal principle for the emergency services to adopt. These people should take risks. They should be rushing into danger to help the men, women and children facing that danger.”

Brendan O’Neill, writing about the descriptions of shocking slowness by emergency services around the time of the Manchester terrorist attack of 2017. (Here is a link to the second report into the brutal attacks, and how services did, or did not, respond.)

Samizdata quote of the day

A hundred years since its founding, the Beeb is now a preachy HR department with some TV channels attached.

Gareth Roberts

The Gods of the Copybook Headings – a continuing series

As Madeleine Grant in the Daily Telegraph (£) notes today, it is a bit rich for people who dislike the fiscal austerity measures of the UK government to focus on the “mini-budget” tax cuts (now mostly reversed) of the recent Liz Truss administration, or Russia’s attempted conquest of Ukraine. To ignore the costs of lockdowns and mass furlough schemes seems particularly convenient for those, like the Labour opposition as well as many in government, that seemed to be positively enthusiastic not just about lockdowns, but about the idea of shuttering society. (And of course the current Net Zero insanity sort of plays to this authortarian mindset that seems to have arisen lately.)

Thus:

During lockdown, the electorate was led to believe that we could borrow endlessly without consequence; that money-printing was nothing to worry about and someone else would foot the bill if necessary. The whole period didn’t just cross a Rubicon in what the state believed it would get away with, it irrevocably transformed how people viewed the state. There remains an odd amnesia about the the whole period; a reluctance to deal with the lockdown hangover. It’s as if nobody wants to hear that their lengthy furlough now has to be paid for, or that you can’t repeatedly switch a sophisticated 21st-century society on and off like a computer without disastrous, unpredictable consequences.”

And…”I can’t help noticing that many of those now railing against spending cuts are precisely the same people who shouted down anyone who warned of the economic consequences of lockdowns or questioned the severity of the measures at the time. Similarly, many MPs and pundits, having vociferously opposed “irresponsible” un-costed tax cuts, now condemn planned
spending cuts with equal vigour.”

It is absolutely vital that this point is hammered home. Classical liberals simply cannot let the narrative of “Ukraine/Truss caused our pain” BS to flourish, in the same way that “capitalism caused the 2008 financial crash” nonsense. Narratives matter. They must be countered, vigorously, and mocked at every opportunity. And it is also important to remind people that we have had 20 years of central bank money printing (remember, this stuff was going on way before the 2008 crash) to have created part of the condition for our plight today.

Update: Here is a link to Rudyard Kipling’s work of the title used on this posting.

Samizdata non-spooky quote of the day

“The globalisation of Hallowe’en, however, is a bit of a problem. Unanchored from any cultural connection, it has now become a gigantic exercise in mass scariness. I wonder if this contributed to the tragic crush in South Korea on Saturday night which killed more than 150 people. Those Christians who say that Hallowe’en is satanic are being too literal-minded. It is, in principle, harmless. But it would help if more people knew its context. Hallowe’en is short for All Hallows’ Eve, ie the eve of the day which commemorates all holiday people ie, the eve of today, All Saints’ Day. Tomorrow is All Souls’ Day. Take the three days together and you get the balance right.”

Charles Moore. Of course, expecting people to grasp these points is a bit of a stretch. How can one make All Souls’ Day work on TikTok?

On November 5 we have the Guy Fawkes’ Day.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Restoring the fracking moratorium would be an error. To rely on imported gas when we have 50-100 years’ supply under our feet is not a stance rooted in science or economics, but political weakness in the face of militant protest groups and anti-development campaigns. This decision will not help the planet; the UK will become more dependent on gas imports, with higher emissions than local production. It will not help the growth plan; we will be borrowing to pay Qatari and US taxes rather than building an industry.
It will not help the low carbon transition; there will be fewer fossil fuel taxes to fund it and the cost of all energy sources will rise. It will not help our allies in the EU or Ukraine; surrendering further dominance of regional gas markets to Russian tyranny. It seems the Government and Opposition are determined to risk blackouts and freezeouts before taking hard decisions rooted in reality.”

– Andy Mayer, of the Institute of Economic Affairs (one of those evil organisations now safely removed from influencing our “sensibles” in government), talking about the decision of the new Rishi Sunak government to ban fracking. The quotation explains the imbecility of that decision. (I received the comments in an email; there is no weblink that I could see.)

Who needs vulgar industry anyway, when we can import all this stuff from grubby foreigners, daaaahhling.

Update: Ambrose Evans Pritchard in the Daily Telegraphs compliments the frackers of the US for helping to save the West (he’s not exaggerating) but argues that UK fracking is far less sensible as an investment proposition, and he may be correct. However, he goes onto laud the benefits of the UK going all in on Green, renewable energy, and talks about hydrogen, etc. But throughout the entire article, written with AEP’s typical brio, is not one single reference to battery storage capacity. Weather-dependent energy requires storage to deal with the baseload power issue. There may well be solutions in the skunkworks, but an awful lot is riding on this. There might well be a sort of “Moore’s Law” effect on renewables and affordability, but batteries are the key. And making batteries needs lithium, cobalt, and other minerals that come from places that are often not exactly very agreeable to the West. And there are environmental side-effects, including damage to water supplies (often far more serious than anything that fracking might cause.)

Samizdata quote of the day

“Since the country [UK] seems to be heading back very rapidly to the 1970s it is worth asking: just what is keeping people in Britain, especially young people?”

Ross Clark. He’s clocked the fact that far from net immigration being an issue, the challenge over the next few years is persuading anyone with a pulse to stay in the UK, if the prospect is of high taxes, weak growth, and all the rest of it.

Who are you and what have you done with the real Boris Johnson?

“Boris Johnson pulls out of Conservative leadership race”, the BBC reported a few minutes ago. Yes, there has been time for several thousand people to make the joke about this being the first time Boris has pulled out of anything.

Turning to media news, “David Tennant returns to Doctor Who after 12 years as Jodie Whittaker regenerates”.

I watched a bit of the show. It was certainly full of dramatic twists and turns, but it was all so loud and fast-moving that I lost the will to try and keep up. Dr Who was also rather confusing.

I think Rishi Sunak will be the Master tomorrow.

Of course, he has experience in the job.

Could we do this as a job share?

UK Prime Minister Recruitment Advertisement
© Larry & Paul, Recruitment Consultants

Added later: I see that Paul Marks has made a very pertinent suggestion in the comments,

“As there is no minimum time requirement for the (very large) pension a former Prime Minister gets, I propose that each of us is Prime Minister for a few minutes – and then resigns.

“Creating all the money (from nothing) to fund the pensions would be inflationary – but given the already insane level of government spending…”

Added even later: in the comments, TomJ links to this Parliamentary Briefing Paper that says that the rules on Prime Ministerial pensions were reformed in a boring direction in 2013. Right, that’s me out. I won’t do it now even if they ask nicely.

The Tory Party: controlled flight into terrain

The Tory party has become ‘culturally inbred’ and starts to resemble the deranged Hillbillies of Hollywood myth, just with shirts from Jermyn Street and a better wine list. People like Crispin Blunt et al seem to believe they have a natural right to be in charge because… well, just because. Even marginally democratic input like the Conservative Party members choosing Liz Truss is intolerable as they wanted Rishi Sunak. This of course also explains why Brexit drove them into the florid stage of insanity, given the oiks simply refused to do what their betters had told them to do.

So, Liz Truss is now a sock-puppet for her political rival, a PM in office but not in power. Perhaps a stronger woman would have resisted the pressure and turned things around even at this late stage, but we now know Liz Truss is not such a woman. She seems to have naively assumed that having forced out Boris (who to be fair set the stage of this entire shitshow), the same people would then abide by the Party membership’s wishes and allow her to actual govern.

The absurdly named Conservative Party is in the midst of a CFIT (controlled flight into terrain) due to its internal ideological contradictions. Far from being a broad church, the Wets, better described as Blue Blairites, people with more in common with LibDems or pre-Corbyn Labour Party than the free-market low tax wing of the party, have decided only they are fit to be in power.

That’s it, one hundred years on from 1922 the Tories as currently understood are doomed. They need to crash and burn and indeed they will. The Labour government that will follow is going to be economically and culturally even worse (which given how crap the Tories have been will a remarkable achievement, but I believe Labour is absolutely up to the task). But the destruction of the Conservative Party we know has to happen. We have just arrived at the end point of where 30 years of “lesser evil” voting has led us.

Right then, what eventually comes next 5 to 10 years from now after Labour take their turn to trash the nation? Hard to say but at least we can’t blame the EU now. Perhaps something that calls itself the Conservative Party under Kemi Badanoch will arise from the ashes? A Conservative Party that is actually is a conservative party? Or maybe Reform UK? Perhaps something else entirely? I really don’t know.

Addendum: And Truss is gone. She had some of the right ideas but proved to be as useful as a chocolate teapot politically. Perhaps that is unkind, and given the now toxic internal contradictions in the Party have fully manifested. It was a poison chalice no matter who was the leader. The enforcers of Blue Blairite orthodoxy are determined to destroy the party and that is that, all we can do it watch the unedifying spectacle unfold.

Statecraft is a skill that needs to be learnt

Update: Liz Truss has just resigned as PM.

Lord (David) Frost is one of the sanest observers of the UK political scene. He’s in favour of the pro-growth, lower-tax agenda that Liz Truss has made much of. He writes more in sorrow than anger that the time has come for Ms Truss to stand aside.

His article includes the nugget of insight around how, in the very early 80s, Sir John Hoskyns, advisor to Margaret Thatcher in her Policy Unit, had set out in a memo a series of “stepping stones” for reform and change. To make changes on energy, tax, inflation, house planning, etc, requires a lot of patient preparatory work, to ensure that reforms don’t alienate the public on a large scale, or rattle the markets. This is akin to a pilot on a ship or plane having a passage plan before leaving port or taking off.

A serious government needs to have a worked-out idea of where it is going, and how it is going to do it, and have contingency plans. For example: when contemplating the need to take on Arthur Scargill’s National Union of Mineworkers, following the damaging strikes of the early 70s, Mrs T. put Nigel Lawson in charge of energy (before he became Chancellor in 1983) and he built up coal stocks so that the UK had a buffer of coal during the likely strike. This is like a general marshalling his forces intelligently before going into battle.

My impression is that Truss lacked people around her who knew how to guide her in such a way. And this speaks to what in my view is a deeper problem with much politics today in the West: the lack of strategic thinking and understanding of statecraft. Politicians sometimes study subjects such as “international affairs” or “politics” in liberal arts degrees and masters’ degrees in university. There is the Kennedy School of Government in the US , to give one case. But I wonder how much actual practical knowledge of how to get things done is learned. (If any readers have been to these places, let me know.) In fact, they may simply spend time wallowing in forms of ideology; they’d be better off reading Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, even if it appears to be a treatise on cynicism.

Perhaps the nature of those in public life has changed. Whatever else one might say of them, the old landed gentry and business class of people who tended to be Tories had an understanding of the processes of government and making change, although a lot of them were also capable of mass incompetence. On the Labour side, the experiences of unions and working in industry gave a certain realism and understanding of how tough life could be.

I worry that too few in public life have this sort of “ballast” in their lives. And we end up with people who don’t really know what they are doing.

Perhaps a more intractable problem is that so many people now assume that government, on the scale we now have it, is the “normal” state of affairs, and that anything taking us to a smaller State is terrifying. And it requires tremendous rhetorical skill, management capability and insight to show how a route to a saner state of affairs is possible, even exciting and enticing. This is doubly hard to do after a pandemic, and after when a large chunk of the professional middle classes had spent two years on furlough, watching TV and baking bread at home. And the sadder fact is that a lot of such people, although they will never admit it unless after several drinks, rather enjoyed the experience.