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

Tax havens are a good thing. Without them, the cartels can continue without any competition. So, if not attending Davos really is a start to a low tax economy that forces tax competition on the globalists whether they like it or not and brings inward investment to this country, then there is cause for cautious optimism.

Longrider

Samizdata quote of the day

“By stifling his criticisms of human rights-abusing regimes, what Donald Trump may see as the projection of strength is surely viewed by America’s adversaries as weakness. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blames the United States for an attempted coup against his regime, and Trump calls to congratulate him on his suspicious election victory. North Korea murders and purges its nuclear negotiators and Trump gives Kim Jong-un a photo op on North Korean soil. Vladimir Putin counters American geopolitical and economic interests at nearly every turn, and the president can’t bring himself to say a bad word about the autocrat in the Kremlin. What American interest is being advanced by this servility?”

Noah Rothman, Commentary Magazine.

Samizdata quote of the day

“A termite has about 100,000 neurons and we probably get through that number over a big weekend.”

John Searle, American philosopher.

Samizdata quote of the day

“As for those “bad ideas” the Kochs have, they’re the reason for whatever governing success Mr. Trump has had so far. Pro-growth cuts in tax rates, deregulation and originalist judges have been the most successful parts of the Trump agenda. And they were Koch beliefs when Mr. Trump was still donating to Bill and Hillary Clinton. The President gets credit for winning the election and making the policies happen, but the Kochs also gave his agenda major support over the last two years. Contrast that success to Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda, which has gone nowhere in Congress; his ill-thought border enforcement that ended up in the debacle of family separation; and the tariff assault that has so far raised costs for U.S. consumers and producers without any compensating trade opening. Whose ideas are the “bad” ones?”

Wall Street Journal.

Samizdata quote of the day

Surely it was sad when the Renaissance in Florence ended. Sure it is sad that the Renaissance in San Jose and Palo Alto ends. But things move on and bright productive brains meet somewhere else, most likely online now.

– A commenter writing on Eric Raymond’s “Armed and Dangerous” blog about the firing of an employee at Google for challenging certain notions around diversity in the workplace.

I think it may be too early to judge if this sort of issue is going to dent Google and hit its share price in the next few months but if this culture of SJW bullying does grip more firmly on that business, and others in Silicon Valley, then the prediction made above here may prove to be accurate.

Samizdata quote of the day

Pickup basketball is a beautiful example of the spontaneous, emergent order that arises from voluntary interaction predicated on classical liberal principles of dignity, respect for the individual, and voluntary cooperation. Every individual who has ever played pickup basketball can enumerate the rules for forming a team, playing, and interacting regardless of location, age or ethnicity- African Americans in the poorest sections of Harlem play by the same pickup rules as do those on the playgrounds of the whitest, richest suburbs in America.

Trey Goff

Putin and Trump

President Donald Trump, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton before him, hoped to “reset” Washington’s dismal relationship with Moscow, but that was always the longest of long shots. Vladimir Putin’s ideology and perceived national interests require the West as an enemy, and no matter how many times Trump tweets that he respects Putin’s “strength” and says it would be “a good thing” if we could get along with Russia and unite against ISIS, neither the Kremlin nor permanent Washington will allow it.

Michael Totten.

The whole article makes a lot of sense. I particularly liked the point about how Putin might be annoyed that with Trump in office, he (Putin) no longer has a perceived monopoly on being That Unpredictable Guy. I think that is a very astute observation. Putin liked being the man who was constantly messing with our heads over Syria, or Ukraine, or wherever. But if he is up against a US president who makes unpredictability part of his central appeal, that changes. Then maybe Vlad. has to change, to be more predictable in certain ways. And this whole saga also somewhat undermines the “Russian spies put The Donald into the White House” narrative, although given the self-deception and insanity I see on part of the Democrat Party and its media allies, this is likely to continue for some time.

Another couple of paragraphs:

Before long, anti-Russian sentiment in the United States could eclipse anti-Americanism is Russia. The only reason that hasn’t happened already is because so many Americans hoped for so long against hope that Russia shorn of totalitarian communism would eventually return “home” to the West like the prodigal son.

Russia, though, hasn’t been fully European since the Mongol invasion of Rus in the year 1240. Its forcible incorporation into the Golden Horde Empire endured for more than 200 years. Sure, Russia’s capital is on the European continent, but Russians see themselves as Eurasian. (North Korea and China, don’t forget, border Russia.)

Putin crafted the Eurasian Economic Union—which includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia—as an authoritarian crony state-capitalist competitor to the liberal democratic West that he detests. There isn’t a damn thing anybody in Washington can say or do to convince him to dump that project and align himself as a junior partner with the European Union and NATO, not when he’s the undisputed one-man boss of an entire continent-spanning alternative.

Totten is right, I think, that Putin had not expected Trump’s winning last autumn. He might, naively, have hoped for such a win, but I am not sure he actually expected the result. Totten is also right to point out that Putin is not some sort of chess-playing genius from From Russia With Love. He makes mistakes.

 

Samizdata quote of the day

“So much of our popular culture depends on the loudly proclaimed pose of being “rebels,” of being outside the mainstream, of being “transgressive”—while repeating clichés that have become deadly boring through decades of repetition. It reminds me of a brilliant little bit in The Onion: “Purchase of Jeans Ushers Man into Exclusive, Ultra-Cool Subculture of Jeans-Wearing Americans.” They all want to be nonconformists just like everyone else.”

Robert Tracinski

On political ignorance

A commenter over at the Guido Fawkes blog, with the joyful name of “Rasta Pickles”, comments on the notion that the UK electorate is too thick to figure out the complexities of Brexit, and that such complex matters should be left to a political class that has done such a tremendous job down the years. He or she notes a flaw in this “argument”:

“99.9% of the UK electorate have no idea what they’re voting for every time they vote in a council election; they regard local elections as a popularity poll on what’s happening in Westminster. Your local Labour/Tory council might well be planning on a compulsory purchase order on your house and those around you in order to build a new mega-PoundLand store and you’d still have people voting for them out of sheer ignorance.”

Even so, there are libertarians/classical liberals who point out that democracy, unless hedged with checks and balances, isn’t compatible with liberty and can be harmful to it. Bryan Caplan’s The Myth of The Rational Voter is a good read, as is this recent effort by Jason Brennan. But my problem with the arguments they make is that what, realistically, can they propose other than the sort of return to oligarchy of “smart people” that, as history tends to show, descends into corruption pretty damn quick?

Obama in Unsong

Obama is described in the web novel Unsong:

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton originally looked set to sweep the national vote based on her connections and name recognition. Then things got interesting. People all around the country started talking about “hope” and “change” and “yes we can”. New political phenomenon Barack Obama inspired huge crowds wherever he went. The older, stodgier candidates were swept aside in the wave of enthusiasm at the revolution he promised.

Me, I figured he was probably a demon.

I mean, I’ve read enough folktales to recognize the basic arc. A mysterious tall dark stranger arrives in the capital and quickly gains the ears of the court. There’s no particular reason why anyone should like him, but everyone who listens to him can’t shake the feeling that he’s a trustworthy, intelligent figure. When he’s out of earshot, the nobles of the land plot against him, wondering how such a relative lightweight could dream of usurping their power – but as soon as he speaks to them in his smooth, calming voice, they immediately forget what they were going to do and join in the universal chorus of praise.

And in every one of those folktales, the stranger turns out to be a demon.

This post was necessitated by a conversation at Brian’s Friday.

Samizdata quote of the day

Why I’m an engineer: I decided long long ago that I wanted to avoid any field where the measure of success was a subjective judgement by some authority.

– Samizdata commenter ams, explaining why I am happy I became an engineer (of sorts) even if I was not consciously doing it for that reason at the time.

Don’t blame us, we were only in charge at the time

“Yes, you hear constant denunciations of institutions, parties, leaders, donors, lobbyists, influence peddlers. But the starting point of the bipartisan critique is the social, economic and geopolitical wreckage all around us. Bernie Sanders is careful never to blame Obama directly, but his description of the America Obama leaves behind is devastating — a wasteland of stagnant wages, rising inequality, a sinking middle class, young people crushed by debt, the American Dream dying. Take away the Brooklyn accent and the Larry David mannerisms and you would have thought you were listening to a Republican candidate. After all, who’s been in charge for the last seven years?”

Charles Krauthammer.

Of course, for a certain type, criticising Barack Obama for presiding over the messes of the past few years is unthinkable. He was going to make the sea-level drop, remember.  And anyway, what happened was all the fault of Dubya, or “bankers”, or the Chinese.

All this leads me to link to an excellent essay by Gene Healy of the CATO Institute, penned a few years’ ago, called The Cult of the Presidency. The office of President matters far too much than it should for the sanity of Americans, or indeed other parts of the world. It could and should matter a lot less. The very term “in charge” ought to be questioned: we should not treat a country as big and complex as the US, full of people with different aims and ends, as a single corporation under a CEO who is, allegedly, “in charge”.