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

Are they really such idiots to poison you in a place where suspicions point only at them? It’s a good question. For now I can say one thing with certainty: the people in power in Russia are really quite stupid guys. It seems to you that in their actions you need to look for secret meaning or a rational purpose. But in fact they are just stupid, malicious and obsessed with money.

Alexei Navalny

Ooh, can I be poor too?

The gullible Metro freesheet claims that 14,300,000 people in Britain are living in poverty, quoting something called the Social Metrics Commission.

The current population of the UK is 66.87 million. According to the Office for National Statistics Labour market overview for July 2019, 32.75 million people aged 16 years and over are in employment, 354,000 more than for a year earlier. The unemployment rate is lower than at any time since 1974. I have no doubt that poverty still exists but this claim is not credible.

Boastful Boris’s big bad boondoggle

So, Boris wants to build a new railway line. Between Leeds and Manchester. He says he wants it to do “…what we did with Crossrail in London”. An interesting argument given that the only thing the still-unopened Crossrail has done so far is saddle the people of the South with some very big bills.

But that aside, there really is an awful lot of woolly-headed thinking going on here.

First of all there is the idea that the North should be as rich as the South; that “our” economy needs “rebalancing”, as the saying goes.

But should it? Maybe there are reasons the North is poorer than the South. There was a time – during the Industrial Revolution – when the opposite was the case. Probably due to presence of coal mines and ports. But historically, that was the exception. Historically, London has always been the richest part of the British Isles – doubtless due to its proximity to the Continent.

For how long have I heard politicians going on about doing something for the North? As long as I can remember. Surely, you get to a point when you realise that nothing can be done? Maybe the best option is rather than moving the jobs to the people to move the people to the jobs. Except you can’t because no one can afford to live down South because the government won’t allow anyone to build a house.

Western civilisation will end if anything is built on this land. Oh, it already has. OK, OK, some housing is getting built but very little.

Secondly, we have the idea that the government can do infrastructure. This is not completely stupid. A new rail line can make a profit. But typically it is the owners of land near the stations that gain and not the rail company. This is how Japan’s bullet trains got going with the first line being built between Japan’s biggest city, Tokyo, and its second biggest, Osaka. It was probably – I don’t think anyone was counting – a success. But the problem was that after that everywhere – from Nowhereyama to Nowhereshima – wanted a bullet train. And through the wonder that is that state, they got them. That’s a lot of debt.

Thirdly, we have the idea that railways are the answer to… well… anything really. Actually, I am being unfair. Nowadays, what railways are good at is moving large quantities of people or goods from one point to another. They are great for commuting in large cities. They are great for intercity travel [so long as the total journey time is less than three hours at which point aircraft are better]. They are great at moving huge quantities of grain from Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the St Lawrence. But for everything else they’re useless. There was a time when railways were the national transport. But those days are long gone. Nowadays they are niche players. Roads are better.

It occurs to me that it’s just possible – and I cleave to this hope – that Johnson’s announcement is part of the plan to cancel HS2. “HS2 is a marvellous idea but, zoinks! it’s expensive. Look at Leeds – Manchester. A much better bet. This shows this government’s commitment to rail, blah, blah, blah…”

Samizdata quote of the day

Perhaps the first blow to the technocratic mentality came with personal computers, pioneered not by bureaucratic think tanks, but by college kids and hobbyists. Then in 2000, the private firm Celera beat the government-run Human Genome Project in mapping the human genome, despite the government’s almost decade-long head start.

Today, the leaders in space technology are not at NASA but at private firms such as Virgin Galactic and SpaceX. True, these companies benefit from government subsidies — some of them shockingly wasteful — but nonetheless, they are demonstrating once again economic advantages of private industry over government management of technology. According to Ed Hudgins, an expert on space privatization, “as a government bureaucracy, NASA simply can’t be efficient. Every decision must be vetted and procedures followed that have more to do with protecting butts than protecting safety and keeping costs reasonable.” Private companies, by contrast, are not only faster at changing plans when necessary, but they have the incentive to do so, because they—unlike government entities—must bear the costs of their mistakes.

Timothy Sandefur

Samizdata quote of the day

Also back on the front page is world-famous self-improvement guru Tony Robbins himself, whose signature line may be: “There’s no such thing as failure. There is only feedback.” Well, Robbins just got some feedback from his publisher, which cancelled his book deal after BuzzFeed reported that he berated victims of rape and domestic violence, used racial slurs, and exposed himself to female staffers and fans. (The trifecta of professional suicide in today’s era of #MeToo and #BLM.)

The Robbins affair is the latest embarrassment for a movement that has seen its share of them since Tony became the Pope of Empowerment. But America’s obsession with incubating positivity and happiness has always amounted to less than meets the eye. For at least a half-century we’ve been putting the cart before the horse when it comes to aspirational thinking, and evidence suggests that individuals and society are both suffering for it.

Steve Salerno

It is wrong to force a person into sexual activity

I had thought that all decent people, whatever their politics or religion, accepted that each human being has the inalienable right to refuse to engage in sexual activity, and that for each person the decision as to what level of physical intimacy with any other person was acceptable to them was theirs and theirs alone.

I would never have guessed that was a case that still had to be argued. That would be like… having to go to court to argue all over again that prostitutes should have the right to refuse clients, or that marital rape should not be allowed. Or that forced concubinage should not be allowed, or any of the other forms of sexual slavery that stain the record of humanity.

Of course I knew that there were even now places in the world where people, usually women, still do not have the legal right to refuse sexual activity. Now that Daesh has been defeated, the first such place that comes to mind is the territory controlled by Boko Haram.

In British Columbia, the second most progressive province of Canada, they’re thinking about it.

Samizdata quote of the day

I spent two summers speaking about the Modern Slavery Act to female factory workers in Sri Lanka’s free trade zones, which are industrial areas with a number of garment factories that supply many foreign companies. I found there is intense pressure on local managers to clean up their assembly lines in such a way that the western companies which hire them could not be accused of modern slavery. The pressure to appear “clean” results in an unhealthy working environment.

It also limits women’s freedom in a number of ways. For instance, a number of women I spoke to engaged in part-time sex work to make extra money outside of their factory jobs. This work was of their own choosing – and very different to the sexual trafficking or exploitation that the Modern Slavery Act is also designed to stop. But local managers feared it would be seen by Western auditors as exploitation and threaten their contracts. As one factory manager told me: “If we do not fire part-time sex workers, our factories can get blacklisted, and our orders will be cancelled.”

Sandya Hewamanne

How to hand in your resignation

I thought about putting this in The Great Realignment, but the link to politics is slight. This is more about fantasy fulfilment. Have you ever dreamed of telling a bad boss what you think of him? Have you ever dreamed of telling the world what you think of your bad boss, shortly before making him your ex-boss? Meet Gareth Arnold, who until today seems to have handled the Twitter account for Jared O’Mara MP, regarded by all sides as the most useless MP in Parliament today. Actually as of now (20:36 BST) Mr Arnold still is handling Mr O’Mara’s account but Mr O’Mara may not be entirely happy with that.

The first indication that something was up came at 8:03. A tweet allegedly from Mr O’Mara said,

Jared O’Mara
@jaredomaramp

Comms Team signing off… forever: Jared, you are the most disgustingly morally bankrupt person I have ever had the displeasure of working with. You do not care about your constituents. You do not care about anyone but yourself.

Thick and fast they followed:

I cannot and will not defend you and your vile, inexcusable contempt for the people who voted you in. You selfish, degenerate prick.

*

My fear is that now (as I quit) the rest of the staff will leave and once again you will close your office and stop helping anyone but still take your wages until you have the decency to call a byelection.

*

Leaving constituents desperate for representation again. No matter if they are having their homes taken away, their liberaties disgraced or being deported because of your inaction.

*

Sheffield Hallam deserves so much better than you. You have wasted opportunities which people dare not to even dream of.

*

Consider this my resignation.

Thanks

Gareth Arnold
– @garetharnolduk

“GnasherJew” has archived the thread to keep it for posterity.

P.S. In other news, Boris Johnson will be made PM tomorrow.

Samizdata quote of the day

There’s sufficient evidence that Stanley Kubrick directed the fake moon landing film, but being a perfectionist he did it on location.

Runcie Balspune

50 years ago…

…America faked the first moon landing.

And I say: well done them. That can’t have been easy. What other country has faked a moon landing, eh? Take that Russia! And what about the Chinese? They can fake anything but not putting a man on the moon. Only America can do that. And not once either but, er, several times. Including one moonshot that “didn’t get there”. Now that’s attention to verisimilitude.

But seriously, consider what an impossibly complicated and expensive exercise faking the moon landing was. You need a big fucking rocket. And it’s got to go up. Quite a long way in fact. And in a straight line. And not blow up.

And then you’ve got to get people to talk about all the little details: command module, lunar module, re-entry, space suits.

Oh, and spare a thought for Hollywood’s contribution. People in space. People bouncing around on the “moon”. All done in an age before CGI. And making the Earth round just to keep the Spherical Earth lobby happy. And note how they got all the radio delays right. And they even mangled Armstrong’s “one small step” speech just so that 30 years later they could claim that transmissions were subject to “interference”.

But what’s really impressive is how they kept everybody quiet. 1969 America was a place where you couldn’t even drive off a bridge and kill your secretary without it being front page news. Home of the brave? Home of the blabbermouth more like. But they kept the faked moon landing hushed up. Neil Armstrong kept the secret to his grave. And the other astronauts, and the people at Mission Control, and the gazillions of engineers who “worked” on the rocket, the life-support systems, the navigation, the computers, the software. The material scientists. To buy all these people’s silence? Now, that must have cost a fortune.

Sometimes I think it would have been cheaper to have done it for real.

On a sound stage no one can hear you taking a dump

Ulster for Beginners – Part V

Self-determination

Ulster is British because that is what the majority of her citizens want. This has been shown time and time again in elections, referendums and opinion polls. [Although last time I looked it was getting pretty close in elections.]

In the most recent general election, in 1992, unionists of various descriptions won 13 of Ulster’s 17 seats and 64.7% of the vote. In 1973 the government held a referendum on Ulster’s future. 98.9% of those who voted voted for the continuance of the union. Much was made of the boycott of the poll by nationalists and the consequent low turnout of only 58.7%. As Morrison points out, the highest ever turnout in a Northern Ireland general election was 72%, so even if all those between 58.7% and 72% had voted for a united Ireland it would still have only represented about 14% of the total vote.

[That would be John Morrison who wrote “The Ulster Cover-up”.

I am not sure about the maths here.

There are all sorts of reasons to think that the turnout would be higher in a referendum where every vote counts. After all, there is less point in voting Conservative in a safe Labour seat than a marginal. Fortunately, we have the example of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement Referendum where the turnout was 81%.

So let us assume that without a boycott the Border poll would also have had an 81% turnout. Let us also assume that all the “extra” voters would have voted leave. Those who voted remain represent .989 x .587 or 58.1% of the electorate. 58.1% of 81% is 71.7%. So the maximum leave vote would have been 28.3%. I think.]

Commentators often look at the [changing] ratio of Catholics to Protestants and draw the conclusion that Catholics will eventually outnumber Protestants and that therefore they will vote Northern Ireland into a united Ireland. This ignores two essential points. Firstly, projecting the past into the future is a dangerous business. Secondly, an individual’s choice between being a unionist or a nationalist is not determined solely by his religion. The nationalist vote is soft. In 1964, for instance, after 40 years of peace, prosperity and progress, the Northern Ireland Labour Party, which supported the Union, succeeded in pushing nationalists into third place in the general election of that year.

[So the NILP got all its support from Nationalists, eh? Not true. By the way, that is the Northern Ireland Labour Party and not the Labour Party which refused and continues to refuse to organise in the province.]

Opinion polls also show little evidence of a desire for a united Ireland. In January 1996, in a survey carried out for the Belfast Telegraph only 17% of those interviewed chose a united Ireland as their preferred outcome.

[Very similar to recent polls I have seen although it does beg the question why nationalists get 40-45% of the vote in elections.]

A Unionist politician once had an illuminating discussion with a Catholic Unionist voter. The voter explained that most of his Catholic colleagues agreed that they did not want a united Ireland but that despite this they continued to vote for nationalist candidates. It seemed that they voted the way they did for reasons of communal solidarity.

[Question answered.]

→ Continue reading: Ulster for Beginners – Part V

Samizdata quote of the day

In many cases rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city – except for bombing.

– Economist Assar Lindbeck, which seems a timely reminder in view of this absurdity. Some actually take the view it is worse than bombing.