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]

Gods of the Copybook Headings: Silicon Valley Bank version

But we shouldn’t be surprised by these occasional eruptions. First, banking is a confidence game. We’ve decided as a species that it’s safer to keep our money in a bank rather than say, at home, in our mattresses. Maybe it’s the confidence inspired by the marble bank façade, or the huge, 10-foot-thick steel door to the vault over in the corner. But here’s the fallacy in that logic: in our fractional banking system, one in which banks are only required to hold a fraction of their deposits as reserves, the money—our money—that we think is safe and secure is not even at the bank. And whether it is safe and secure is a matter of a myriad of factors that a depositor has nothing to do with, and no control over.

“In other words, in our fractional banking system, the mirage of safety and security is a clever and extremely persuasive narrative created to get us all to put our money in a bank thinking that a bank is the safest place to put our money. Even the banks that we perceived to be the most august—Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns—turned out to be elaborate and highly sophisticated houses of cards.

William D Cohan, a writer at the “Puck” collection of columnists on various financial matters. (It is behind a registration wall, and free for seven days.)

Samizdata quote of the day – well he would say that, wouldn’t he

“If we do revert to a lack of evidence, a lack of information — if we’re going back to the era where we’re just making policies up with no evidence behind them, the world is in a worse place. And we’re moving away from an era of sort of 20th, 21st-first century enlightenment to something darker,’ [Sir Jeremy Farrar] concluded with a flourish. ‘We can’t let that happen.”

Who could argue with the need for evidence-based science and the unfettered flow of information to help make the world a better place? It was no surprise, however, Farrar chose The Guardian for his valedictory interview as he heads to Geneva for a new post as chief scientist of the World Health Organization. For this ensured there would be no challenging questions over his central — and profoundly anti-science — role in stifling debate on the pandemic origins and effectively pushing his own conspiracy, cooked up with a handful of influential colleagues, including Anthony Fauci in the US, which suggested any idea that Covid might have emerged from some kind of laboratory incident in Wuhan was crackers.

Ian Birrell

More thoughts on bias, TV presenters and contracts

I was going to put this into a comment on Patrick Crozier’s excellent item about Gary Lineker, the UK former footballer, and now TV show presenter (and enthusiastic Tweeter). But as the comment was chunky I am taking the liberty of putting it here.

On social media I come across the argument that Lineker hosts a sports programme, not a current affairs show about politics, so he’s not causing a problem by taking heated positions on a private twitter account. There are several problems with this line of reasoning.

Football these days is, alas, political. Maybe it always has been – even George Orwell disliked international games because he thought it stoked rather than reduced national ill feeling. Today, footballers have “taken the knee” over the Black Lives Matter eruptions, for example, or spoken about the Qatar World Cup and the row about maltreatment of stadium construction workers. There is a new UK government regulator of football (dealing with issues such as the finances of the game), and that is bound to be a political issue that a pundit like Lineker will want to talk about. Four years after Russia annexed Crimea, Lineker and the rest were in Russia to commentate on the World Cup of 2018. The footballing body, FIFA, was the centre of a massive corruption scandal. Brexit affected European football, such as because of the UK’s exit from the Single Market and the consequent impact on free movement and labour market contracts. And so on.

Why mention all this? Because it will not do for Lineker to say his role has nothing to do with politics so it’s okay to slag off the UK government or whatever on A or B, particularly in harsh language. That is why his principal, if not sole employer – the BBC – is entitled to ask him to tone it down on social media, or at least issue some small disclaimer along the lines “my views aren’t necessarily shared by the BBC” sort. The BBC is paid for by a tax known as the licence fee. In its charter, it has to uphold impartiality as part of the bargain, although in reality this is very hard to achieve consistently (which is why I think the fee needs to go).

For those who aren’t in such a role, or who have an independent income, they are freer to upset, provoke and delight anyone with equal measure. (This is also a reason why protecting savings from inflation is good precisely because it makes independent sources of income easier.)

But where a certain stance comes with the day job, then a contract of employment/service is entitled to contain some form of words about certain pronouncements. For Lineker, unfortunately, the “beautiful game” is no longer just about men (now women) kicking a bag of air around.

Final point: It is not as if Lineker, in condemning UK policy on illegal migrants, was adopting a particularly brave or original stance. His views are standard “liberal” boilerplate. I cannot imagine Lineker saying “Net Zero is BS”, or “All Lives Matter” or “Brussels is out of control” or “gender is not a social construct”.

Go on Gary, prove me wrong.

Thoughts on the Lineker Affair

There is a bit of a kerfuffle here in England. National hero, sports presenter and self-appointed moral authority Gary Lineker reacted to government plans to reduce illegal immigration by posting a tweet which could be construed to suggest that he thought they – that’s the government not the illegal immigrants – were a bunch of Nazis. His employers – the sinister British Broadcasting Corporation – have suspended him. His colleagues have walked out in solidarity which means that today’s edition of Match of the Day – a football highlights show which Lineker presents – will be very odd indeed.

Some thoughts:

  • As libertarians we believe in freedom of speech. As libertarians we also believe in the enforcibility of contracts. But what if those two principles are in conflict? I don’t think any company or organisation can be entirely indifferent if their employees or associates make controversial remarks in public.
  • The BBC is funded by money extorted from people who own televisions. As such it should not exist. If it must exist then it ought to be impartial. Except that there is no such thing as impartiality. Even if there was would it last? The late Brian Micklethwait was of the opinion that bias in media organisations was inevitable. If so the BBC have embraced the idea with gusto. For the most part its output is little more than communist propaganda interspersed with cookery shows. BBC sports coverage itself is a cesspit of virtue signalling and wokery. Except, of course, when it comes to covering a major international tournament in a blood-soaked petro-tyranny.
  • It is interesting that his co-presenters have rushed to his side. Why? Maybe they believe this stuff.
  • I don’t think this – should it end in his sacking – counts as cancel culture. But I am not quite sure. Cancellation seems to me to involve ending a person’s career something that has happened to any number of academics, doctors and YouTubers. Certainly, it isn’t – at least, it shouldn’t be – disastrous for Lineker.
  • I haven’t noticed anyone rushing to defend his actual words. If an historical analogy is appropriate then it would be the US from the 1920s not Germany from the 1930s.
  • Matt Le Tissier was an ex-footballer and was also a pundit. He also made controversial remarks. He got fired. No one rushed to support him. But he wasn’t expressing Establishment opinions so that’s OK.
  • Maybe Lineker should post anonymously. Problem solved. Except no one would listen to him then. Problem doubly solved. This, of course, is an approach taken by a number of my fellow Samizdata writers. Oh you thought Perry de Havilland was his real name? Ha!
  • I have this awful feeling that if you truly wish to exercise your right to free speech you have to be independently wealthy.
  • Lineker is a great presenter.

Samizdata quote of the day – our right are extremely alienable

We are forever changed. The British people, along with the populations of many American states such as New York and California, have henceforth to live with the fact that civil liberties we Yanks call ‘inalienable’ can be cancelled at a moment’s notice for years on end. Our ‘rights’ are alienable as can be. We’re often warned that democracy is fragile. Lo, that turns out to be horribly true.

Lionel Shriver

Broken how, exactly?

Sweden has made its choice and must live with the consequences. Two years ago almost to the day, after a vote that attracted unprecedented public interest, Sweden introduced a new national flower. It is Campanula rotundifolia, a.k.a. the Harebell or Small Bluebell. No one ever says what happens to the old national flower on these occasions. Does it sit in its bed glowering at its successor, like Ted Heath, or does it try its hand at hosting a TV show like Harold Wilson? Those were the days, when nubile young couples sat up in bed as soon as an ex prime minister came on the telly. But if poor Mr Wilson was confused by that opening sequence, think how a flower would feel.

The only reason I got onto the subjects of harebells and Harold Wilson and pollination being flower-nookie was so that I could make a joke about how Brett Christophers, professor in the Institute for Housing and Urban Research at Sweden’s Uppsala University, spends most of his Guardian article tiptoeing around the Campanula rotundifolia. Er, that was the joke. Here’s the article.

“From poster child to worst performing EU economy: how bad housing policy broke Sweden”

Bad housing policy. The policy is bad. Very bad. The article says that the housing policy is bad.

This, ultimately, is the nub of the matter. What Sweden is facing up to today is massive, long-term political failure to sort out its housing market.

On the one hand, Sweden has continued to substantially subsidise home ownership, pouring unnecessary fuel on the fire of the housing bubble. Most notable here is tax relief on mortgage interest. Decades after such relief was jettisoned elsewhere – even the famously homeowner-friendly UK got rid of it in 2000, Gordon Brown rightly describing it as a middle-class perk – it remains in place, absurdly, in Sweden.

On the other hand, Sweden has a fundamentally broken rental system,


which for a variety of reasons


comprehensively fails to make affordable accommodation widely and readily available in the largest cities, especially for those with greatest need and least resources. The effect of this lack of viable rental accommodation has been to further inflate demand for home-ownership, putting additional upwards pressure on house prices and debt burdens.

Back in 2015, the Guardian was more honest: “Pitfalls of rent restraints: why Stockholm’s model has failed many”

Half a million are on the waiting list for rent-controlled flats in Stockholm, meaning a two-tier system, bribes and a thriving parallel market

Samizdata quote of the day – they made a desolation and called it Net Zero

I predict in 5-10 years corporations will scrub any reference to Net Zero from their corporate website and LinkedIn archives following widespread recognition of the damage this aim has wrought on the poorest in society. Everyone of them promoting it now will deny they ever did.

Tim Newman

Should cycling be banned?

I have been a keen cyclist for most of my adult life. I know what you’re thinking, “Grow up get a car.” Ah, but I am ahead of you on that one; I have both.

Anyway, the cycling did originally come about because – confession time – once upon a time I was an environmentalist. But as I grew out of such nonsense it has continued. I enjoy it. Well. Sometimes. Not when it is cold or wet and definitely not when it is cold and wet.

But whatever the weather may be cycling is dangerous. I am a cautious cylist. I choose my routes carefully, I am careful at junctions, I give parked cars a wide berth, I use lights at night and wear reflective clothing. I am very careful turning right. I am appalled at the risk some of my “fellow” cyclists take. But despite all this I am painfully aware that there could be a juggernaut/white van man/Nissan Micra with my name on it. The BBC employee, Jeremy Vine, likes to put a camera on his bike and upload the footage. Now putting aside the fact that Vine is a BBC employee and therefore [insert insult here] the footage he posts is alarming. Again and again we see drivers breaking the rules of the road and putting him in danger. And there are plenty of other less-well-known cyclists doing the same.

There is another factor here. British roads are amongst the safest in the world. British drivers are amongst the safest in the world. I have even heard a Dutchman compliment us on our consideration. Which implies to me that this is as good as it gets.

So, I am in favour of cycling lanes and punishing motorists? Not really. Although I do like cycle lanes I am aware that society should not and will not be organised on the basis of what suits Patrick Crozier. Frankly, the safety argument could just as well be used to ban people from such a reckless activity as cycling in a built-up area.

Mind you I am acutely aware that the cycling fanatics employ the best arguments. They continually point out the danger that motorized vehicles represent and the pollution they cause. Which is true. Well I say that but I recently learnt that there is an argument that exhaust fumes are not polluting at all. I am not ready to accept that just yet but it is interesting. On the other side of the argument motorists tend to complain about cylists jumping red lights – true but it’s their funeral – and cyclists making no contribution to road upkeep – true, but the contribution would be miniscule. What they ought to be doing is reading their Basiat and pointing out the unseen benefits of motorised transport – the comfort, protection from the elements, load-carrying capacity and the unseen costs of cycling – namely congestion and smelly office workers.

So how should roads be organised? How should the competing claims be reconciled and how should road managers account for the unseen as well as the seen? Well, I am a libertarian aren’t I? I believe in free markets. So, we privatise the roads and, hey presto! job done. Except it is not that easy. Glossing over the difficulties in privatising roads, there is no track record of private roads. Yes, there are some private motorways – and there would be many more if I had anything to do with it. Yes, there are little private roads here and they are usually badly pot-holed and serve a tiny number of residents. But nothing – to the best of my knowledge – on a town let alone a city-wide basis. Why is this? My guess is it is because if you own a road – in all the ways you can own a road – you are the state. If you own a road you can put the people who live on that road under house arrest. You can completely control them. The state tends to jealously guard such a power.

So roads – especially those in urban areas – will continue to be state-owned. But that doesn’t mean we libertarians have nothing to say on the subject. A useful thought exercise – one can be applied to all sorts of areas, not just roads – is to imagine what would happen if there were private ownership and a free market. In this case it is to imagine what would happen if roads were privately owned and use that as a guide.

So, what would happen in this hypothetical world? Well, you can never be sure but there are a few things I am pretty sure would happen. There would be road pricing; certainly on arterial roads. Would that lead to rat runs? Maybe but those would be priced too. There would be a pollution charge to compensate the victims – should any be found. Road pricing would also apply to cyclists. Although there would be a reduction due to the reduced level of wear and tear they cause there would be an increase to take into account the congestion they cause. All this means that bicycles would have to be registered. It is perfectly possible that such a charge would price cyclists off the road. Or maybe, it would price the vast majority of motorised vehicles off the road. Who knows? although I suspect it would be more the former than the latter.

Samizdata quote of the day – MSM’s involvement in lockdown hysteria edition

“What was most alarming was the alacrity with which the broadcast news media fell into line – with boundless enthusiasm – as they were given a key role in the day-to-day dissemination of government authority.”

Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph (£). She was writing about the BBC’s conduct during the and after the lockdowns.

One of the many reasons why I regard the past few years of “Conservative” government is wasted is its failure to remove the BBC licence fee, and convert the Corporation into a privately financed operation, with some of its operations broken up. The Tories just aren’t strategically minded in removing embedded Establishment sources of opposition and building the groundwork for this. (Even Margaret Thatcher never quite pulled the trigger.)

“End ‘colonial’ approach to space exploration, scientists urge”

Genuine Guardian headline.

Humans boldly going into space should echo the guiding principle of Captain Kirk’s Star Trek crew by resisting the urge to interfere, researchers have said, stressing a need to end a colonial approach to exploration.

As a Trekkie (watched The Tholian Web again last night), a libertarian, and a convinced anti-speciesist, I would gladly join with these brave scientists to demand an end to the colonial oppression of our fellow sapient beings… but before we end it, is there not a small logical barrier that we need to cross first?

Nasa has made no secret of its desire to mine the moon for metals, with China also keen to extract lunar resources – a situation that has been called a new space race.

But Dr Pamela Conrad of the Carnegie Institution of Science said the focus should shift away from seeking to exploit discoveries.

Indeed it should. What about the intelligent aliens bleeping piteously for release from the human yoke?


OK, then, alien animals. Tell me how they are oppressed so I can send them thoughts of solidarity across the light years…

“Regardless of who or what is out there, that attitude of exploration being almost synonymous with exploitation gives one a different perspective as you approach to the task,” she said.

Regardless? FFS, lady, give me something to work with here. This is the Guardian, it doesn’t have to be much. I’d have been satisfied with some oppressed alien fungi, but “regardless”, as in “regardless of whether there is any victim whatsoever”, does not hack it.

→ Continue reading: “End ‘colonial’ approach to space exploration, scientists urge”

Samizdata quote of the day – the death of history

Race becomes the supremely important phenomenon, masking every other aspect of a complex culture. Racial politics provide the framework of values by which every institution concerned with the past is to be judged. There are many important factors in the way that human societies develop. Race is only one of them and not necessarily the most important. Any serious commentator on the current state of historical studies ought to welcome attempts to present aspects of history which have previously been ignored or marginalised. That includes the story of ethnic minorities and non-European societies. But it does not mean that the whole of Britain’s modern history should be viewed through their eyes. It does not mean that the role of slavery or empire in Britain’s economic, cultural and social history should be exaggerated beyond recognition. And it does not mean that current political priorities should determine how we understand the past.

Jonathan Sumption

Samizdata quote of the day – Hard copy edition

[T]his also proves that relying on a Kindle or other tech is a folly. I have quite a library in my flat, and sometimes friends of mine poke fun at it and ask why I don’t put all this on a digital device. The naivete is clear.

Buy the actual books; learn to look after them, keep copies of really valuable ones. And give them to those whom you respect and love in your will. Beware anyone whose bookshelf is smaller than their plasma TV.

Johnathan Pearce