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]

A couple of surprises in the Human Freedom Index for 2018

The Cato Institute has published its Human Freedom Index for 2018.

The jurisdictions that took the top 10 places, in order, were New Zealand, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and Denmark (tied in 6th place), Ireland and the United Kingdom (tied in 8th place), and Finland, Norway, and Taiwan (tied in 10th place). Selected countries rank as follows: Germany (13), the United States and Sweden (17), Republic of Korea (27), Japan (31), France and Chile (32), Italy (34), South Africa (63), Mexico (75), Kenya (82), Indonesia (85), Argentina and Turkey (tied in 107th place), India and Malaysia (tied in 110th place), United Arab Emirates (117), Russia (119), Nigeria (132), China (135), Pakistan (140), Zimbabwe (143), Saudi Arabia (146), Iran (153), Egypt (156), Iraq (159), Venezuela (161), and Syria (162).

The positions of Venezuela and Syria were about as surprising as a [insert your preferred metaphor of complete unsurprisingness here], but I did not expect to see Canada listed as more free than the United Kingdom and the United States as less free.

Alex Epstein on the 97% lie

Alex Epstein gives a well-deserved kicking to that 97% claim:

What you’ll find is that people don’t want to define what 97% agree on – because there is nothing remotely in the literature saying 97% agree we should ban most fossil fuel use.

It’s likely that 97% of people making the 97% claim have absolutely no idea where that number comes from.

If you look at the literature, the specific meaning of the 97% claim is: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that there is a global warming trend and that human beings are the main cause – that is, that we are over 50% responsible. …

But do the “97%” even say that? And are the actual percentage that do say that right? My opinion has long been: No; and: No.

I scroll down, and am pleased to discover that Epstein agrees with me:

But it gets even worse. Because it turns out that 97% didn’t even say that. …

Marxists used to believe that Marxist tyranny was needed to rescue the world’s economy from capitalists. But that excuse collapsed long ago. The biggest economic rescue acts that are now needed are to rescue the bits of the world’s economy that Marxist tyrants have been busy ruining. So, should Marxists abandon these methods? Yes. Are they abandoning these methods? Many presumably have, and have gone silent. But others, the ones we still hear shouting their nonsense, just fabricated a different set of excuses for those same old tyrannical methods.

Samizdata quote of the day

This is an amazing piece. To censor China’s internet, the censors have to be taught the real version of Chinese history so that they know what to block.

Mike Bird comments on this piece in the New York Times.

Things politicians should say more often

Similarly to the sentiment expressed by Cowperthwaite, the outgoing Governor of California Jerry Brown has said:

You know what a governor is on an engine? The governor prevents the engine from getting out of control. Well, that is what the governor has to do in state government.

He also said:

The Democratic constituencies want more money and more laws. I take a different view. We have too many damn laws. The coercive power of the state should be invoked sparingly.

I do not know very much about Governor Brown’s policies or actions. He improved California’s finances and turned a large deficit into a large surplus. He had a habit of vetoing bills, and complained in the NYT article that “almost all of the bills that I have vetoed have been reintroduced”, but I do not know if a veto rate of 16% is high enough. In any case these are the sorts of thing I want to hear more of.

In the USA the role of the state seems to be discussed more widely than it is here in the UK, where mostly the criticism of the government is that it should “do more”. In British politics the recent counter-example of Jacob Rees-Mogg springs to mind:

I don’t think it is the job of the government to tell me how much sugar to eat.

I would welcome more examples. From anywhere.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the Kitchener?

The British Army continues to morph into the Blairmacht, it seems. Its new recruitment posters had me thinking that I had fallen into a coma and woken up a few days after our glorious independence due on 29th March. Here is what I mean: ‘The Army targets ‘snowflake’ millennials‘ (as recruits, not legitimate uses for ammo).

The posters, taken as fair use:

and this:

Now there are two possibilities I see here, not mutually exclusive, the less likely that someone is trolling the MoD and being paid for it, and the other is that someone is being paid for it.

Still, as posters go, I would grant that it is better than this blatant mickey-take.

And in terms of assuring the civil population that the Army is no threat, it doesn’t really beat this, but I do wonder if the thinking behind the current Army it is more similar to what produced this.

And we should remember that for some British Army recruits, the heat is not the problem, but the cold may be:

A soldier from Africa is suing the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for £150,000, claiming they failed to protect him from cold weather conditions.

“Mr Asiamah told the High Court his superiors had neglected to warn him to bring warm kit such as gloves, socks, and boots ahead of the exercise, which he said took place one week after he was forced to spend five hours listening to lectures in cold weather while dressed in civilian clothing in Naseby, Northamptonshire.”

Naseby, the Civil War, what would Prince Rupert or Halifax say?

But, may I remind you, it is the law of England that the categories of negligence are never closed…

His legal team argues officers exposed Mr Asiamah to the uncomfortable conditions despite knowing Africans are more susceptible to cold-related conditions, according to court papers which quote a 2009 military study which found soldiers of African origin were 30 times more likely to suffer cold-related injuries than indigenous Europeans.

AFAIK, the case continues… What would Field Marshal the Earl (Horatio Herbert) Kitchener say were he spinning in his cold, watery grave? That Wing Cdr Ken Gatward DSO DFC* AE was named for him, and lived up to it, might give one pause for thought.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Doing nothing is a full-time job. Don’t imagine that laissez-faire means putting your feet up. All officials want to extend their powers; all bureaucracies will grow if they can. To stop it happening you need to be at your desk before the civil servants come in and still be there when they go home.”

Sir John Cowperthwaite, financial secretary, Hong Kong in the post-war period. (Quoted in this excellent CapX article about the terrible mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.)

Here is a profile of Cowperthwaite for those who want to know more about this admirable person, as different from the London mayor as can be imagined in terms of managerial approach and political philosophy. (Here is an interesting leftist’s blog comment on Khan, proof that he is not universally beloved on that side of the spectrum).

On human culture – and on how it got printed and then electrified

This coming Sunday, January 6th, I am to give a talk at my friend Christian Michel’s home in London, about the historical impact of the technology of information storage and communication. The somewhat cumbersome title I have supplied to Christian goes like this:

The difficulty and the ease of the making of and the distribution of cultural objects: A history of human civilisation in three layers

Yes, a bit of a mouthful, but it’s a complicated story.

The pre-talk blurb underneath that title, that I also sent to Christian, and some of which Christian has just emailed out to his list of potential attenders, went like this:

I love grand theories of history, and here’s another: history in terms of the storage and communication of what is dryly known as “information”. In more vivid English, in terms of all the cultural meanings we have created for ourselves and for each other (and also at each other, so to speak) over the centuries since humans first contrived to craft meaningful messages beyond what they merely said to one another.

There are three “layers” to the story I’ll be telling, divided into three by two history dates.

Layer One: Creating “cultural objects” is difficult and so is transmitting or communicating them.

Layer Two: Creating “cultural objects” suddenly becomes much easier, for those who command the means to do it, but transmitting them or communicating them remains difficult.

Layer Three: Both creating and communicating messages becomes easy.

Layer Two starts settling on top of Layer One with the printing of the Gutenberg Bible in the early 1450s. Layer Three starts to settle on top of Layers One and Two with the invention of the electric telegraph in the 1840s. (Morse code etc.)

Layers rather than “eras”, because the cultural habits and political institutions established during Layers One and Two – the civilisational divisions of Layer One and the nationalist passions (to say nothing of printing itself) characteristic of Layer Two – never went away and are still very much with us today.

Of course there’s much more to my story than that crude summary. I will elaborate on the above simplicities as much as time permits.

I’d be interested in what the Samizdata commentariat has to say about all or any of this.

For now, I will merely elaborate a little, as I will on the night, on the matter of those “civilisational divisions and nationalist passions”.

→ Continue reading: On human culture – and on how it got printed and then electrified

Samizdata quote of the day

Admittedly it’s a low bar, but Trump is without a doubt the most conservative and most libertarian present of my lifetime, notwithstanding that he’s not really a conservative or a libertarian by instinct.

Glenn Reynolds

Zimbabwean currency basket (case)

A visit to Africa a few months ago produced many, many pictures of wild scenery and wilder animals – and this picture of civilisation after socialism.

BasketOfTenBillionDollarNotes

In times of inflation, you carry your money to the shop in a basket and carry your purchase home in your wallet. In times of socialist inflation, each note in the basket is for tens of billions. There is a rumour that Zimbabwe will imitate Venezuela and remove some of the zeros. (There is another rumour that says that this had already happened.) The socialist Mugabe is gone but socialism lingers on. I fear Kipling’s poem is not quite right:

But though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said, “If you don’t work, you die.”

Socialism doesn’t work but it also doesn’t die. Socialism is the modern name of an ancient evil that in every generation resurrects and must be slain again.

Happy New Year!

Here’s wishing all who read and write here a Happy …:

I don’t know why this shop near where I live was proclaiming its enthusiasm for 2019 in the particular way that it was, but I made the necessary adjustments.

What are your rules for giving a good party?

It’s the party season, here in London and presumably all around Christendom. Speaking for myself, I attended a dinner party on Christmas Eve, had a quiet day on Christmas Day, but then held a party at my home on the 28th. I have just now got back from a party at the home of a fellow Samizdatista, and will be attending another get-together on New Year’s Eve, i.e. tomorrow evening.

All of which events, my own one in particular, make me wonder: How are such events best organised? Rather than elaborate on the imperfections of my own party (imperfections which – before, during and after – got me wondering yet again about this question), let me just ask the question, of anyone who is willing to oblige with an answer or answers. How do you go about laying on a good party? What particular and perhaps rather surprising or counter-intuitive rules or recipes do you find yourself needing to keep in mind? What things, in your preparations, matter the most? What other things that many would assume to be crucial do you consider not to matter nearly so much?

Also, and closely related: What makes a great party? What’s the greatest party that you personally have ever attended? What was so great about it?

I’m leaving all these question deliberately vague just because I am hoping to be delighted and surprised by the answers, as well as merely, as a future host, informed and improved.

There are few joys like the joy of choosing what you hope will be great company and then being delighted at how well your choice worked out. But how do you, or the hosts you most admire, contrive this particular kind of miracle? I hope that any parties you have recently attended or organised, or which you are about to attend or are in the process of organising, are a great success. And I’d be delighted to hear how you think that such joy is best contrived.

Being in somewhat of a rush to get this up this evening, before I stagger into bed, I am not including any links to www-places where questions like these are already persuasively discussed and answered, basically because I do not now know of any such places, that being because I have never until now even thought to look. But that need not stop commenters rectifying this omission.

Relentlessly mocking the SJWs

Blogger David Thompson suggests that his round-up of the year might be of interest to Samizdata’s readers.

His email to me quoted how this roundup begins:

The year began on a highbrow note as the University of Denver’s Professor Ryan Evely Gildersleeve informed the world that laziness is a “a political stance,” a way to “combat the neoliberal condition,” and a “tool for contributing to social justice.” Half-arsed incompetence is, we were assured, both radical and empowering. The professor also shared his belief that plastic is sentient. Inanimate objects also troubled Dr Jane Bone, a senior lecturer at Monash University, Melbourne, who specialises in “feminist post-structural perspectives” and the political implications of problematic furniture. Dr Bone’s research involves quite a lot of “embodied knowing,” i.e., visiting IKEA and sitting on chairs. Her work, she revealed, is “not necessarily logical.” Further feminist insights came via Phoebe Patey-Ferguson, whose feminist fight club is “a mode of resistance,” because the spectacle of unhappy ladies body-slamming each other and breaking each other’s ribs is an obvious way to “destroy the Conservative government” and “bring down the patriarchy.”

Thompson adds:

That’s January. There’s another eleven months to get through.

You can read all twelve months here.

This piece by Thompson has already been noticed by Instapundit, as have quite a few of his pieces in recent months.