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

“The `robber barons’ gave us railroads and public libraries. Zuck gave us Farmville and censorship.”

Glenn Reynolds, apropos criticisms of how Big Tech bosses such as Mark Zuckerberg carry on. For what it is worth, the censorship operated by the Facebook and other Big Tech folk is still, in my view, less serious than of the traditional government kind. If you don’t like Facebook then don’t use it. By contrast, with government, we are forced to pay taxes to the bastards, regardless of what we use or how we vote.

And by the way, most of the “robber barons” weren’t robbing anyone, but adding value and doing such evil things as producing cheaper steel, oil and transportation. Much of the anti-trust furore was built around a total failure to see competition as an active process across time, not a static sport. The “perfect competition” model of neoclassical economics has done a lot of damage.

What our canine friends are owed, and what they’re not

“Your dog is alert, plucky and a fearsome guardian of your property. For all we know, without his services, you would have been burgled over and over again. Your belongings would be depleted and the utility you derived from your home would be much reduced. The difference between the actual value of your home and its unguarded value is the contribution of your dog, and so is the difference between the respective utilities or satisfactions you derive from it. We do not know the exact figure, but the main thing is that there is one.”

Anthony de Jasay, the late French political philosopher.

His essay addresses a form of argument one sometimes hears from communitarians of the Left and Right, as in the case of former President Barack Obama, who infamously told US entrepreneurs and other such movers and shakers that “you didn’t build that”. (Some people claim that Obama was quoted out of context, so in fairness here is a link to a discussion on that.) It is an argument – if we can dignify it with that word – used to undermine defences against tax and other State predations of private property.

On a related note, one of my least-favourite expressions is “giving back to society”. The term carries the implication that one took something, or rented it, from some sort of collective entity, and must return it to the rightful pool. Of course there can be genuine gratitude of living in a free, prosperous place and wanting to leave something even nicer for others. That’s totally fine. But the “giving back” expression, unless qualified and understood in context, carries a sort of embedded reproach. It’s a way of saying “nice piece of property you have there but don’t get too comfy and it would be a shame if anyone wanted to take it”. (Here is a related discussion about such attitudes.)

The point about people benefiting from what others have done is rarely considered the other way around when the costs are involved. We also inherit, or deal with, lots of bad things that others intentionally or unintentionally impose upon us, such as hostile attitudes towards those who are successful and so on. There are liabilities and costs imposed on us that we have no control over, and which are a burden to handle. So the “you didn’t build that” works in the other direction too.

Back to De Jasay’s point, he’s noting how the protection we are afforded by a guard (“woof!”) can and has been used to command political fidelity and support for all manner of State institutions. He brilliantly dissects this way of thinking. It is one of those essays that ought to be better known.

This might be the most polite ‘fuck you’ I have ever watched

Masterful.

Samizdata quote of the day

And frankly, a lot of what DARPA did was crap, like SDI. They had successes, but if you spend decades doing research projects some are going to work. The question is whether this works better than leaving money in the pockets of the likes of Dyson and Bezos, or whether the government should take a shot.

The UK version doesn’t have a government customer. It’s being led by the department of business, energy and industrial strategy who are some of the most worthless of all bureaucrats in government. People like Amanda Solloway are going to pick the person to lead this. Do you want someone who thinks HS2 is a super great idea selecting the person who is going to pick where to direct blue sky research?

Tim Worstall

Samizdata quote of the day

I’ve heard from doctors who’ve been reported to their departments for criticizing residents for being late. (It was seen by their trainees as an act of racism.) I’ve heard from doctors who’ve stopped giving trainees honest feedback for fear of retaliation. I’ve spoken to those who have seen clinicians and residents refuse to treat patients based on their race or their perceived conservative politics.

Some of these doctors say that there is a “purge” underway in the world of American medicine: question the current orthodoxy and you will be pushed out. They are so worried about the dangers of speaking out about their concerns that they will not let me identify them except by the region of the country where they work.

“People are afraid to speak honestly,” said a doctor who immigrated to the U.S. from the Soviet Union. “It’s like back to the USSR, where you could only speak to the ones you trust.” If the authorities found out, you could lose your job, your status, you could go to jail or worse. The fear here is not dissimilar.

When doctors do speak out, shared another, “the reaction is savage. And you better be tenured and you better have very thick skin.”

Katie Herzog, writing What happens when doctors can’t tell the truth?

A dastardly personal attack

I thought it was a photoshop prank when I first read Matt Walsh’s tweet, but this does appear to be a genuine Independent headline: “Rightwing blogger launches gofundme for AOC’s Puerto Rico grandmother in latest personal attack”

In an attempt to shame Ms Ocasio-Cortez, Mr Walsh then started a gofundme to raise money for the congresswoman’s grandmother’s home repairs, paying just under $500 into the fundraiser himself.

Ben Shaprio, another conservative commenter who regularly attacks the congresswoman, also donated $499 and called on other conservative media personalities to do the same.

The fundraiser’s goal of just under $50,000 was met and exceeded by Friday afternoon, currently sitting at just under $60,000.

“Hi @AOC, we are raising money to help your abuela. It’s been inspiring to see the response so far. Can you send me a DM so that I can get the necessary information to ensure that this money makes it to your grandmother? Thank you!” he wrote on Twitter.

So long as the money is transferred as promised, and is transferred without strings attached so that Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s grandmother can turn right round and give it to her granddaughter’s re-election campaign if she wants to, I felt that the Independent‘s description of this as an “attack” was… incomplete.

Just as a discussion point for the libertarian argufiers out there: in what circumstances would giving someone money, or giving their relatives money, actually violate the non-aggression principle?

Ribbons tied in a bow

Eight days ago I posted about Marion Millar of Airdrie, Scotland, who was summoned to a police station for a compulsory interview over allegations that she had posted homophobic and transphobic tweets.

She has now been charged.

“Activist Marion Millar charged with sending homophobic and transphobic tweets”, reports the Times.

Marion Millar, 50, from Airdrie, was charged under the Malicious Communications Act for tweets published in 2019 and 2020. If convicted she faces up to two years in prison.

The messages investigated by officers are understood to include a retweeted photograph of a bow of ribbons in the green, white and purple colours of the Suffragettes, tied around a tree outside the Glasgow studio where a BBC soap opera is shot.

It is one at least six tweets reported to Police Scotland. The nature of the others is unclear. Millar, who owns an accountancy business, was bailed to appear at Glasgow sheriff court on July 20.

Her supporters said that the prosecution was an attack on the rights of women to express themselves.

Added later: The Times has turned off the comments to its account of the Marion Millar case, presumably for fear of committing contempt of court, so the readers have taken to making veiled allusions to it when commenting on other stories in the paper’s Scotland section.

A couple of the Scottish papers have also reported on the case:

Feminist campaigner charged with ‘hate crime’ – Tom Gordon in the Herald.

Woman charged with malicious communication over ‘transphobic’ tweet – Gina Davidson in the Scotsman.

The European Digital Identity is born

The Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age loves the idea:

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age said: “The European digital identity will enable us to do in any Member State as we do at home without any extra cost and fewer hurdles. Be that renting a flat or opening a bank account outside of our home country. And do this in a way that is secure and transparent. So that we will decide how much information we wish to share about ourselves, with whom and for what purpose. This is a unique opportunity to take us all further into experiencing what it means to live in Europe, and to be European.”

However Laurie Clarke of TechMonitor is not so keen:

“The EU digital ID scheme could be a boon for SMEs but a security nightmare”,

Today, the EU announced plans for a bloc-wide digital identity scheme that will allow citizens to use public and private services online. The digital wallet would store payment details, passwords and digital ID cards, and be interoperable across the 27 EU member countries. But the scheme is yet to settle on technical standards, and could be besieged by privacy and security concerns before it gets off the ground.

The EU will reportedly force a structural separation preventing companies that use the system from repurposing customer data for other commercial activities, such as marketing. It also stressed that users of the digital identity solution will be in control of their data. But the melding of public and private services could pose privacy concerns in future. Privacy advocates have repeatedly warned about the potential for digital ID cards to erode civil liberties – particularly when data collected by the scheme ends up being used for immigration control or policing purposes.

On the security side, “This puts an awful lot of sensitive data in one place,” says Marcus. Cybersecurity threats have been growing over the years both from commercial and government-sponsored hackers, which could threaten the digital ID scheme. “This is a high-value target, both for criminal gangs and for governments. If this data gets out in the wild, it would be bad.”

Some of the responses to Ursula Von der Leyen’s tweet are less enthusiastic still. Someone called “Tom” says,

This would sound like an impending Orwellian nightmare if not for the inevitable certainty that the Commission will find a way to f*** it up.

Samizdata quote of the day

The United States under Biden and Harris and the UK under Boris Johnson are set to travel in very different directions. While America is accelerating down the segregationist cul-de-sac; Britain is seeking a way out.

Alex Story

Samizdata quote of the day

I visited the Soviet Union forty years ago and was heartened to find that the Russians I met all assumed the government was lying about everything. I do find it very depressing how many people today seem to believe the western governments.

– Commenter Roué le Jour

Samizdata quote of the day

The management and communication during the epidemic has been plagued by misleading statistics, the cherry-picking of the worst data, alarmist language, horror-film-style advertising, one-sided media coverage and coercive language and tactics, all of which I wrote about in my new book, A State of Fear.

Bludgeoning people with ‘nudge’ (behavioural psychology), weaponising fear, and tightly controlling the narrative risk undermining the public’s trust in government, public-health messaging and the media. This is the third time I have reported on anti-lockdown protests for spiked, and the third time I have been slack-jawed by the lack of honesty in how the media misrepresents the scale and purpose of these protests. This mistrust can be read clearly in the placards.

Laura Dodsworth

Anti-lockdown protest in London

My prediction: BBC will highlight the vastly smaller anti-Israel protest elsewhere in London rather than this anti-lockdown protest (assuming they even report it at all).


→ Continue reading: Anti-lockdown protest in London