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

“When hedge-fund managers and the Communist Party see eye-to-eye on any question, it’s time to be concerned.”

Peter Oborne, writing in OpenDemocracy.

The balance of forces

Guido presents evidence that we have God on our side, along with the Queen, 63% of voters, a large part of an infuriated Tory party, and the army (or at least, the parachute regiment – I’ve lived next door to a para, and suspect they would be enough). 🙂

By a possible majority of one vote (at this moment I write), parliament is not on our side but on the side of endless procrastination – nor it would seem is the PM on our side. (I’m not quite sure what happened to “I’ll stay for as long as you want me”, but I assume it’s the same thing as happened to all the other promises.)

Having God on your side is good, but if I understand the theology correctly, He protects free will by using His power to warn, not compel – and helps those who help themselves. A coincidentally-timed lightening strike is welcome – and hilarious – but while I invite all who so wish to pray hard, we should not expect lightning to strike May and Corbyn as they shake hands. 🙂

Having the Queen on your side is good (noting that all is report and she would act sooner than she would formally say in public). Normally, like the almighty, her majesty warns but does not compel. In my opinion, the more letters that arrive at Buck Palace (acknowledging her wise convention of staying out of it normally but expressing calm loyal support for her right to act when Parliament behaves irregularly), the better, and they can certainly do no harm (most of us will have already written to our MP, some with far less reason to think it could have any effect). IMHO, be brief, be polite, be properly-phrased and don’t lecture her on what action to take, just say how loyally you’d support her taking action.

Having the voters on your side is good (if it is so – opinion polls are unreliable, of course, and a bit all over the place, but less so in both respects than parliament at the moment). However the voters cannot easily compel before an election.

We also, I hope, have ourselves – the brexitters – on our side. Guido is one of those brexitters who wanted May’s deal accepted for fear of worse. I respect such people despite disagreeing with them. Now is time for both sides of that debate to leave recriminations since that ship would appear to be sailing, for better or worse. Let’s look at those options.

1) For worse: Ramsay MacDonald was the last PM to betray their party and form an alliance with the opposition and a few like-minded turncoats. Being the nominal head of an overwhelmingly other-party coalition made him largely powerless domestically, so he concentrated on foreign policy: Ramsay MacDonald was the pacifist PM of the UK during Hitler’s first three years in power. This was very useful to Hitler as he moved from its being a military parade to remove him in 1933 to having 36 infantry divisions and 6 armoured ones with which to object in 1936. That precedent is not encouraging.

2) For better: precisely because May is putting up such a sneaky fight, Brexit has proved a stronger lever than I ever hoped for exposing those who are Tory in name only, and enraging the party against them. I doubt anyone is joining the Tory party at this moment but urge all who are there to stay, pro tem. Tearing up your party card in public is a great way to warn, but remember you must not actually resign if you are to use your (imminent, I hope) chance to compel.

Oh, beware my Country

Build on the flanks of Etna where the sullen smoke-puffs float —
Or bathe in tropic waters where the lean fin dogs the boat —
Cock the gun that is not loaded, cook the frozen dynamite —
But oh, beware my Country, when my Country grows polite!

Thus ends Kipling’s poem on our national habit of becoming very polite when we are about to lose our temper.

Yesterday’s ‘March of Enraged Brexitters’ was polite. ‘Cheerfully furious’, was how someone described the chairman of one Tory constituency association who was there. Reports agree the rage was very real – and self-controlled.

Over in the US a few years ago, Tea Party marches made a similar contrast to left-wing protests (‘left areas tidier than when they arrived’ versus ‘vandalism and arson’) – which did not in the least stop politicians and the media inventing lies against the Tea Party and shrugging it off when caught. When it was clear the PC would report polite dissenters as if they were were rioting racist thugs, they did not (fortunately) get rioting racist thugs (because their understanding of their opponents was zero) but they did get something a little less restrained: Trump and his supporters were not so polite to them.

On our side of the pond, Parliament (Labour and Tory alike) promised us something very specific, as formally and solemnly as possible, in speech, proclamation and manifesto, before the referendum (if we voted for it) and before the election (unconditionally). Promising something and then taking it away is a great way to get people angry.

So, I admire the restraint of “cheerful fury”, but, between the lessons of our national character and the lessons of the Tea Party evolving into the Trump coalition, I think Parliament unwise to go on provoking it. But I also think that if Parliament were wise, we were not be where we are now.

Agreeing to disagree

Inevitably, a parliament that can agree on nothing can agree on a two-week delay. Hilariously, it’s the EU that protects us from longer delay – they disliked the last time Brits voted on them too much to want a repetition in the EUro-elections two months hence. Admirably, the DUP refuse to panic (I thought they were a luck from the start.)

Labour was whipped to vote for a second referendum (kudos to their shadow minister who resigned) whereas the Tories were not whipped, but it still failed. The idea will be debated again on April Fool’s day but the omens (not least that one 🙂 ) seem good.

May’s offers to resign get steadily more precise and shorter term. Each one brings the series nearer its end. Each one reduces her authority while she remains.

As for me, I still like deadlock. If ever there was a time for a monarch to say that, as parliament is unable to act, “we” will be its regent and just do it, now is that time, but perhaps the decision of making no decision at all would be most convincing of all. We on this blog want less government; here’s a chance to experience it

Comment away – you know you want to. 🙂

The Art of (No) Deal

Via Instapundit I came across this fine editorial from the New York Sun:

“Sometimes You Have To Walk”

The collapse of President Trump’s summit with the North Korean party boss, Kim Jong Un, certainly takes us back — to October 12, 1986. That’s when President Reagan stood up and walked out of the Reykjavik summit with another party boss, Mikhail Gorbachev, of the Soviet Union. We can remember it like it was yesterday. The long faces, the dire predictions, the Left’s instinct to blame the Americans.

“What appears to have happened in Iceland is this,” the New York Times editorialized. “Mr. Reagan had the chance to eliminate Soviet and U.S. medium-range nuclear weapons in Europe, to work toward a test ban on his terms, to halve nuclear arsenals in five years and to agree on huge reductions later. He said no.” The Times just didn’t see that the Hollywood actor turned president had just won the Cold War.

It’s too early in the morning — this editorial is being written at 3 a.m. at New York — to know whether that’s the kind of thing that just happened at Hanoi, whence news reports are just coming in. Messrs. Trump and Kim were supposed to have a working lunch, to be followed by the signing of some sort of agreement. The next thing you know, Mr. Trump is heading home.

It’s not too early, though, to caution against over-reacting to this development. What appears to have happened is that the Korean Reds wouldn’t agree to the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization that we seek. Absent that, we wouldn’t agree to the dismantling of all the sanctions the North Koreans seek. “Sometimes you have to walk,” Mr. Trump told the press.

Good for him, we say. It would be a fitting epitaph for any statesman.

The tags I chose for this post will serve as my only further comment.

You say that like it’s a bad thing, Mr Soros

The EU could collapse in the same way the Soviet Union did, George Soros warns

Back in 1991/92, when the Soviet Union had just collapsed and the UKIP party had just formed to fight the “ever-closer-union” Maastricht Treaty, one of their posters was two pictures of the map of Europe, one captioned ‘Before’ and the other ‘After’. ‘Before’ showed Western Europe divided into many separate countries while the east was the single monolith of communism. ‘After’ showed Eastern Europe divided into many separate countries while the west was the single monolith of the EU.

In Britain, this comparison was used as an argument against the EU but Mr Soros evidently sees it differently. He

has issued a call for Europe to “please wake up” and recognize “the magnitude of the threat” it faces.

Otherwise

“the European Union will go the way of the Soviet Union in 1991.”

Mr Soros blames

“the lack of legal tools for disciplining member states”

Also attracting his ire is “the outdated party system that prevails in most European countries” (I do not recall this being a problem in the old Soviet bloc), and the fact that changing the treaties that define the EU is too difficult. He also thinks the EU should not have required migrants to register in the first EU country they reached, instead of moving them on over the continent, because that made local electorates more aware of their numbers.

However Mr Soros believes all will yet be well if the Eurocrats

“awaken the sleeping pro-European majority”

Good luck with that.

Remoaner MPs

They dislike the treaty but fear a clean Brexit,
They hope that – in more ways than one – they can fix it.
Too statist to say, even at their most livid,
“Take back control? Look at us, to whom you’ll give it!”,
Instead, as the fast-nearing date makes them manic,
Their failed Project Fear has become Project Panic.
Campaigning, they pledged they would honour the hour.
Elected, and climbing the greased pole of power,
They cling in death-grip to their fear-calming view,
We’re the wise – VoteLeave’s win showed the folly of you.”
In parliament’s past, you at many times find,
It avoids doing wrong by not being of one mind.
So if “House fulfils pledge” seems a doubtful prediction,
Let’s hope for “House deadlocked in fierce contradiction”.

“Have you considered masterly inactivity?”, replied Sir Humphrey Appleby when newly-appointed Prime Minister Jim Hacker asked what he should now do. Alas, so polarised is politics today that even – indeed, especially – Sir Humphrey would likely oppose inactivity in this case. We hope parliament will in fact do nothing supremely stupid during the next two months, but my most confident prediction is that whatever they do or don’t do will not appear masterly.

“A resumption of normal service”

The Telegraph has a scoop. This might not go down too well in the working class areas:

Exclusive: Philip Hammond tells business chiefs MPs will stop no-deal Brexit

Philip Hammond told business leaders that the “threat” of a no-deal Brexit could be taken “off the table” within days and potentially lead to Article 50 “rescinded”, a leaked recording of a conference call reveals.

The Chancellor set out how a backbench Bill could effectively be used to stop any prospect of no deal. He suggested that ministers may even back the plan when asked for an “assurance” by the head of Tesco that the Government would not oppose the motion.

He claimed next week’s Bill, which could force the Government to extend Article 50, was likely to win support and act as the “ultimate backstop” against a no-deal Brexit, as a “large majority in the Commons is opposed to no deal under any circumstances”.

A recording of the call, passed to The Daily Telegraph, recounts how the Chancellor, Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, and Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, spent nearly an hour talking to the leaders of 330 leading firms.

They included the heads of Siemens, Amazon, Scottish Power, Tesco and BP, all of whom warned against no deal.

The disclosure reveals the close nature of the relationship between the Treasury and some of Britain’s biggest businesses, and how they appear to be working in tandem to block a hard Brexit. It will also add to suspicions that Mr Hammond has been orchestrating attempts to soften Brexit.

Mr Hammond assured the business leaders that the Government would stop spending money on no-deal preparations “as soon as we know we are not going there” and give businesses “a resumption of normal service”.

So the Chancellor of the Exchequer sees himself as serving the heads of Siemens, Amazon, Scottish Power, BP and Tesco, among others. Perhaps I am reading too much into one ill-chosen word, but that is not a good look. If he had not used that word it would still not be a good look. The whole conversation, the whole meeting, reeks of the sort of black-tie cronyism that gives capitalism a bad name.

Was I gullible to believe in Tory cynicism?

Ever since Gove messed up the election of a leave leader, my confidence that the Tories would nevertheless deliver Brexit rested less on the belief that the parliamentary party contained more leavers than full-blown remoaners than on the conviction that it contained many who just wanted to win the next election. Cameron’s referendum to deal with the internal and external (UKIP) threat to Tory electoral prospects ended not as he intended, but it offered such MPs a very obvious path forward. Likewise, when May demonstrated her ability to reduce a poll-lead healthily exceeding 20% to a result just exceeding 2% (over Corbyn, of all people), my belief that the Tories would not risk another election under her leadership rested solidly on my faith in how many Tory MPs wanted first and foremost to win.

For now, it is all still to play for. Firstly, if there are as many letters written as rumoured, yet such as David Davis are still thinking about it, then Mogg’s “this week or next” remains on the table – and I quite see that the rule ensuring May a challenge-free year if she survives a vote is a very good reason for caution in the run-up to launching one. Secondly, when May’s incompetence made her dependent on the DUP for her majority, I thought it good for one reason; I now also think it good for another. Thirdly, if all else fails, reality could still prove wiser than parliament and deliver us a no-deal Brexit through their sheer inability to agree anything decisive in a timely fashion.

All that said, I am beginning to question my faith in the “focus on winning” cynicism of a sufficient majority of Tory MPs. It is one thing to think that enough Tory MPs to keep May as leader could betray their voters, their party, their principles and the most emphatic statements of their 2017 manifesto (and her leadership campaign), but it shakes me to the core to find myself wondering if they could choose the electoral death ride of May campaigning on this deal rather than follow a leaver. I’m glad that a majority of back-bench MPs seem to be interested in retaining the votes of the ‘swivel-eyed loons’ so derided by Cameron, Osborne, and now May, but just how many others would rather lose than be unfriended in SWI ?

Natalie once stated she would endure a Corbyn government rather than stay in the EU. I have always felt much sympathy for the wretched situation of Slavs who found themselves fighting for Stalin against Hitler as the only alternative to Hitler’s winning, and it is with similar feelings that I do see her point (if, that is, we could even rely on their being alternatives). However we should be able to do better than that.

The EU really doesn’t like tech – can we leave yet?

“In an almost direct clash of intentions, the GDPR has effectively banned the use of blockchain technology in Europe because of its immutable nature. The GDPR offers the power back to the individual to edit and delete data which falls into the hands of centralized authorities, but when there is no centralized authority, there is no need for data to be moved around. This is the crux of the GDPR’s clash with blockchain. So, what happens to Europe and the next technological wave?”

Darryn Pollock, columnist for Forbes.

The “blockchain” technology is a distributed ledger that allows information to be securely transferred without the need for third-party authentication, which could mean that many of the settlement and custody functions provided by banks – the sort of “plumbing” of finance we take for granted – could be done far faster, and at less cost. Although the crypto currencies that sit atop of this technology have their fair share of sceptics, the blockchain tech. is seen by banks as a potentially revolutionary one. While people complain that some London-based jobs could leave London if the UK has a clean Brexit and leaves the Customs Union (not to be confused with access to the European market as such), I would wager that blockchain will be far more important in affecting financial employment overall.

And yet the EU, with its usual plodding, bovine way, has enacted data protection rules (GDPR) that could blight this new technology, as well – as we have already seen – add layers of costs to organisations of all kinds. Coupled with the recent vote by MEPs to impose intrusive and costly controls on the internet, I’d hope that all those Millennials whom we are told are full of so much love for Brussels might wake up. This doesn’t of course mean that British politicians aren’t capable of enacting plenty of daft laws, but it’s usually a sight easier to lobby for change at a national level than try to persuade hundreds of millions of voters in 28 countries to change.

So as Tim Worstall likes to argue: can we leave yet?

The IEA’s prescription for Brexit

Some critics of Leavers from the EU like to claim that Leavers don’t spell out the details of what Leave would mean, although that always struck me as disingenuous. Even so, it is good that the Institute of Economic Affairs has issued a paper on what a pro-liberty, pro-free market Brexit will look like:

“We have looked at Brexit in the wrong way, and in so doing we have hampered our ability to get a good deal with the EU. We must execute an independent trade and regulatory policy in order to capture gains from this process, and also to ensure that we have a better framework for negotiations with the EU. This plan offers comprehensive approach which shouldn’t be considered a ‘Plan B’, but rather a ‘Plan A+’ for Brexit.”

So says Shanker Singham, the Director of the IEA’s International Trade and Competition Unit, and co-author of the new IEA paper.

There is a lot of detail to chew over, but this is pretty manageable and sensible from where I can see it. The proposals ought, surely, to be studied closely by government ministers and it would be indeed scandalous if they have not been before. And that, of course, is the worry: Theresa May has, perhaps only now, come to a realisation that a “Brexit in name only” fudge is electoral suicide and a no-go diplomatically.

As an aside, three separate people, all Remainers, told me over the weekend that they were so disgusted by the blank refusal of EU heads of state to even bother considering May’s Chequers plan that it has made them feel that, if a referendum were held again, they’d vote Leave. These views are those of Londoners who work closely with the City, and have been the sort giving the EU the benefit of the doubt in the past. They no longer do so. That’s important.

Moderation is often not the best policy

“It’s a crowded space, this search for the so called moderate centre ground. It is defined as going back to Brussels, saying we are sorry for ever thinking of leaving, and accepting the full swathe of laws, taxes, budgets and common policies that characterise the modern EU. What ever is either moderate or democratic about such an agenda? How is it democratic for more and more laws to be made behind closed doors, drafted by officials we cannot sack or make accountable, and approved by Ministers from 27 countries under pressure not to rock the boat? What is liberal about the austerity policies of the EU’s budget controls, requiring higher taxes, lower spending and lower deficits from countries mired in unemployment in the south and west of the EU? How is the EU’s policy of helping pay for Turkey’s heavily defended borders with the Middle East moderate? What is green about the fishing discard policy or the dash for diesel and the reliance on coal for power by Germany? Why does everything proposed by the EU get through without a whisper of criticism? When will they apologise for the huge damage the Exchange Rate Mechanism did to the livelihoods and businesses of many in the UK, or for the revenge the Euro crisis visited on Cyprus, Greece, Ireland and Spain?”

John Redwood.

A very good article, even if you might not agree with all of Mr Redwood’s politics. His observation that “moderate” Labour MPs (they still want to seize private property, tax us up to the neck and so on) are caught between understandable loathing of Mr Corbyn, and their own foolish Europhilia, is very well made.

As Mr Redwood said, there’s nothing “moderate” about defending a creaking customs union, unaccountable bureaucracy, etc. But then what really does this sort of “moderation” really mean? I’m reminded of Ayn Rand’s excellent essay, The Wreckage of the Consensus, where she pointed to the foolishness of imagining that wisdom is to be found in some sort of “middle” between some sort of polar opposites.

Take another case: We are sometimes told to take “a moderate amount of exercise” when, in fact, what we might want to do for better health is high intensity interval training, for instance, or heavy lifting with barbells, rather than messing around by jogging a short distance (and buggering up one’s knees and back, by the way). Sometimes the “moderate” course isn’t really a course at all, but a sort of cop-out.

Back to the subject of Mr Redwood’s post, it reminds me that the voice of genuine political liberalism, to use that fine old word, has been quiet for a very long time in the UK. There appears zero chance of it being encouraged by the current Liberal Democrat Party, which even before its demise, was scarcely connected to the great traditions of Cobden, Gladstone or, even in a more recent example, the late Jo Grimmond.