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]

Eric Raymond needs you

Eric Raymond is the reason I’m here. He’s the guy I found while learning about Linux who gave a name to my vague sense of injustice at having to pay tax and taught me that a libertarian is a thing. Googling “libertarian UK” after reading his web site is how I found Samizdata, and found out that there were libertarians on my doorstep. He taught me that anarcho-capitalism is a thing. And that it’s okay to like guns. And that it does not make me some sort of lefty for enjoying messing about with Free Software. He explained the economics of it and gave it a better name: Open Source. And he’s out there propagandising, and making some of the software that keeps civilization ticking and not being hacked. And his code is all over the place and you probably use quite a lot of it every day.

But he has a problem.

First, Obamacare killed my wife’s full-time job and the health insurance that came with it. Then Obamacare drove personal health insurance costs into the stratosphere, so I now pay more per month on it than I do for my mortgage. $973 a month is what it costs us to go to a doctor, which is ridiculous and every politician who voted for this disaster should be hung from a lamppost. Until it’s repealed or collapses, though, the money has to come from somewhere.

You get more of the things you encourage. I think ESR needs to be encouraged. And luckily, you can, via his Patreon page.

Also, on his blog post about Patreon, there is some interesting discussion about Obamacare:

Petro says:

People are shocked when I tell them what the “bronze” plan costs a family of 4 for insurance that has insane deductibles (it looks like they went up to 5k/person 10k/family) they are shocked.

PapayaSF adds:

It’s darkly ironic that one of the original arguments for Obamacare’s outlawing of inexpensive “junk insurance policies” was that many had deductibles that were “too high.” So now we’ve got expensive policies with high deductibles that are too high…

ESR explains his wife’s job loss:

The short version is that Obamacare mandates have added so much to an employer’s overhead for anyone full-time that the full-time job is being effectively abolished. Even professionals like lawyers are being fired to be replaced with contractors who have to buy their health insurance a la carte.

It’s a double whammy – first Obamacare destroys secure employment, then it saddles people living hand-to-mouth with ruinously high costs. Our health-insurance premiums are higher than our mortgage.

The handbook for dissident bloggers

Reporters without Borders has produced a useful handbook for blogging in an unfree environment. We will be adding a sidebar link to this useful resource which has some technical tips that may be of interest to people in places where Big Brother tries to controls everything you read.

It can be purchased or downloaded for free from here.


The guide to dissident blogging

Pretty pledge

Jack Whitham of the University of York offers the code for rather a snazzy self updating banner. (Be warned, you may have to edit out some carriage returns if you cut and paste. I did.) It looks like this:

Click here to sign the no2id pledge

An urgent call to action!


The No2ID campaign has established an e-petition aimed at 10 Downing Street demanding the end to plans for imposing mandatory ID cards and pervasive state databases recording a vast range of what you do in your life.

The No2ID campaigners have taken the line of principled objection, given that the government seem to have decided that there is no longer any room for public debate and refuses to engage with serious – and growing – civil liberty and privacy concerns with the scheme. The Home Office have not met once with civil liberties organisations yet say their concerns have been addressed whilst at the same time avoiding public meetings but at the same time having private briefing with technology partners for introducing the schemes.

Take a stand and make your voice heard while you still can at www.no2id-petition.net. Time is fast running out.

The state is not your friend.

It’s the Database, Stupid!

The No2ID launch was held in the basement bar of The Corner Store in Covent Garden, a spacious restaurant/pub catering for the tourist trade. The attendance was good, with more and more interested parties walking in as the clock crept past midday until the small room was overflowing.

The two speakers were Neil Gerrard, Labour MP for Wolverhampton, and Debbie Chay, the Chair of Charter88, representing the civil liberties movement, now repackaged as civil libertarianism, to distinguish itself from the Real Thing. Both provided telling anecdotes on the idiocies and dangers that an ID system would represent. Nevertheless, there was a telling gap in their analysis. Both were unable to provide a convincing story as to why the government was introducing this measure. Without understanding the motives behind the development of the ID scheme, it will prove far more difficult to halt or reverse.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Guy Herbert, a name not so unfamiliar here. His own fear was that the ID scheme will depend upon the establishment of databases that will require a far greater intrusion into the private lives of citizens if the state is to monitor them effectively.

My conclusions on the meeting were hopeful and fearful. As with any new campaigning organisation, there is a lot of work to be done in order to achieve the aim of defending civil liberties in the UK. Mark Littlewood, their National Coordinator, quipped that there were few organisations which could boast the Libertarian Alliance and Globalise Resistance as supporting organisations. Yet, as I talked with a couple of campaigners from the Left, they proved unresponsive to my thesis that they had to attract the middle classes: people who read the Daily Mail or supported the Countryside Alliance, if they wished to succeed. Since most of the activists were Left rather than Right in orientation, this may skew the activities and demands of No2ID.

Secondly, the lack of analysis may prove a boon for libertarians. Neil Gerrard asked “why anyone would wish to introduce ID cards?”. The answer is complex: strategies to control the individual by the state, which has an increasing need to obtain information (once deemed private) in order to further this end. Boondoggles such as the evil machinations of private capitalists who could make vast profits from any contracts awarded by government should remain a sideshow. They will not convince people fearful of a terrorist bomb. Libertarianism provides the strongest resource for crafting a message that can appeal to all of those affected: from men with the wrong colour of skin who will be stopped even more often and asked for some form of ID to the yound, single professional who never encounters the state, until this drops through their letterbox.

However, if there is a bomb in the United Kingdom on the scale of Madrid or the WTC, all bets are off. The government will argue that a terrorist atrocity requires the development of the surveillance state, backed up by authoritarian laws.

Crossposted to Samizdata

Big Brother Awards

For pictures and reporting from the Big Brother Awards check out Samizdata.net.

We went, we booed, we blogged.

Mr Smith goes to Whitehall

Paul Smith is a man with a profound interest in driving and road safety. As a driver myself I, too, have a vested interest in these matters. Whenever I depart from point A I much prefer it to be overwhelmingly probable that I will reach point B with all my favourite limbs and organs in situ and functioning as nature intended.

The British government and its various agencies claim that they share this interest as well. Moreover, they assure us that the solution to the problem lies with forcing everyone to drive more slowly and punish those drivers who fail to comply. Hence the virus-like proliferation of the ‘GATSO’ or ‘Speed Camera’ which (just by complete coincidence I am sure) has also raised tens of millions of pounds for the public coffers from already over-taxed motorists who infringe blanket and arbitrary speed limits.

In response to the wave of discontent this has caused, the government, the police and the various lobbyists that support them, have doggedly stood their ground and explained that, yes, it is all very regrettable but the point of the GATSO’s is most assuredly not to raise revenue (no, perish the thought!) but merely to save lives. In other words, they are relying on the canard that freedom must be sacrificed in order to achieve safety.

Well, they are wrong and Paul Smith has made it his business to prove, publicly and beyond argument, that they are wrong. His website, Safe Speed, cuts a swathe through the cant and the piety:

We have never seen any credible figures that put road accidents caused by exceeding a speed limit at even 5% of road accidents. We object to speed cameras mainly because they fail to address the causes of at least 95% of road accidents. The Government claims of 1/3rd of accidents being caused by excessive speed are no more than lies according to the Government’s own figures.

I am shocked, SHOCKED I tell you!

Mr Smith has amassed a treasure trove of documentary, audio and video evidence that entirely discredits the myth that Tax Speed Cameras are anything whatsoever to do with either road safety or saving lives. In fact, so confident is Mr Smith in his own research that he throws down this gauntlet:

So here’s the challenge. We promise to publish here (in this box, on the first page of the web site) web links to any serious credible research that implies a strong link between excessive speeds and accidents on UK roads.

So if you are one of those people who thinks that the GATSO is a life-saver, you know exactly what to do.

In the meantime, more power to Paul Smith and his campaign for common sense and reason. When we eventually win this battle, the victory will be due in no small part to the dedication and integrity of people like him.

Cross-posted from Samizdata.net.

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.