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]

The Listerner’s Law

A reader alerted us to an interesting vote happening on the Radio 4 today programme: vote for a law to be submitted to the House of Commons. So far there are five ‘Law Ideas’ and at No.5 is a bill to allow homeowners to defend their property with any force, by deleting “reasonable” from the phrase “reasonable force”.

You can vote by phone or online, if you are registered with BBCi.

Reaffirming the Freedom to think

Freedom is a basic value but its champions and its expression will appear in many different forms. White Rose, understandably, has recently concentrated on the technological developments that may undermine our civil liberties, in conjunction with the connivance of the authorities.

Other freedoms include the capability of fulfilling one’s desire to pursue research in the sciences, whether natural or social, without suffering repression from the state. Abdolkarim Soroush, a noted Iranian intellectual, can claim to be the founder of studies on the history and philosphy of science in Iran. However, as the biography on this website delicately notes,

Soroush’s lectures in this mosque continued smoothly for six years. Then owing to certain sensitivities, the weekly programme was suspended and attempts to resume them have so far proved unsuccessful.

Soroush was one of the moderate supporters of the 1979 revolution who attempted to find an Islamic structure that would support his religious beliefs and the values of academic research that he had learned in the West – a project similar to that professed by President Mohammed Khatami. However, his historical writings stressed the contingent nature of Islamic knowledge and invited attention… → Continue reading: Reaffirming the Freedom to think

New Liberty Director warns supermarkets: ‘We are watching you’

Shami Chakrabarti, the new director of Liberty, is planning a monitoring operation on Britain’s giant retailers. Chakrabarti, formerly a high-flying legal advisor to two home secretaries, takes up her new post today.

Liberty is to set up a unit to monitor the experiments being carried out by various retailers with radio frequency identification technology. M&S and Tesco are pioneering the use of tiny microchips, the size of a grain of sand, which are inserted into the packaging of goods or sown into the labels of clothes.

Chakrabarti believes Britain, already the world leader in the use of CCTV cameras, is set to become the ‘surveillance capital of Europe.’

As from today Liberty will be monitoring the supermarkets and big chain stores. If we think a legal challenge can be mounted to stop their experimentation then we will make it. We will certainly be in touch with the company executives and we will do all in our power to let customers know what is happening. It is up to consumers to decide whether or not they want to boycott a particular store or chain but the companies must be made aware that this is the risk.

Little Brother Is Watching You!

In a welcome turnabout for US citizens, MIT has launched the Government Information Awareness website.

The website developer Ryan McKinley explains

“Our goal is develop a technology which empowers citizens to form their own intelligence agency; to gather, sort and act on information they gather about the government,” said MIT graduate student Ryan McKinley, who developed GIA under the direction of Christopher Csikszentmihályi, an assistant professor at the MIT Media Lab’s Computing Culture group.

“Only by employing such technologies can we hope to have a government by the people and for the people,” McKinley said.

The method that McKinley uses is pilfered straight from the government itself.

GIA site users can submit information about public figures and government programs anonymously. In an attempt to ensure the accuracy of submitted data, the system automatically contacts the appropriate government officials and offers them an opportunity to confirm or deny submitted data.

But like an FBI file, information is not purged if the subject denies its veracity; the denial is simply added to the file. McKinley wryly added that those government officials who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear from GIA.

A nice touch!

The site itself is a bit limited; also, when I tried it out it was very slow. It might have underestimated the demand for it. This is a work in progress, but it’s a great start. This gives Big Brother a taste of his own medicine, and we need something like this in Australia.

Cross posted at The Eye of the Beholder

Freedom’s diverse fellow travellers

As Gabriel Syme wrote earlier today, the objective on this blog is to argue for a ‘broad front’ push to regain some ground lost to successive governments in the struggle for individual civil liberties. But as a hard core free market individualist who opposes collectivism in all its left and right flavours, it would fair to say that when I write for Samizdata.net, I tend not to make many friends amongst socialists, social democrats or statist conservatives.

And yet… on White Rose I try to leave some of my narrow political views at the door as the aim here is about forming a much broader front in the resistance to the diminution of individual liberty. Gabriel was right to point out the excellent article by Stephen Robinson in the Telegraph in praising left winger John Wadham for his stewardship of the human rights group Liberty.

I have recently been taken to task by libertarians and conservatives for praising George Orwell, because he was a socialist. Yet it would be hard to overestimate the importance of 1984 and Animal Farm in estabishing a popularised meta-context in which the true nature of tyranny could be understood by millions of people across the world. It is my desire that people reach the conclusion that the state is over-mighty and that its actions pose a clear and present danger to individual liberty… I am far less concerned how they reach that conclusion. If Orwell felt his socialist collectivism could be squared with an abhorance for tyranny, well fine. I may not see it that way but Orwell made many of the right arguments nevertheless. We must take our friends where we find them.

The need to resist the tide of the regulatory state’s smothering of individual rights has appeal far beyond the narrow confines of libertarianism or any particular -ism, and if we are to ever roll back the trend towards a panoptic micro-regulated ‘society’, to quote Benjamin Franklin, we must hang together, or surely we will hang separately.