Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Category archive: Libertarianism
Here is a series of photos I took, all in the space of a few seconds, of IEA Director Mark Littlewood speaking at lunchtime on the Sunday of last weekend’s LLFF14, while also being rather dramatically photographed by someone else besides me.
I wish I knew how to display photos the way Simon Gibbs has displayed his set of LLFF14 photos here, so that you can just click once and immediately get to the next one. All I can suggest is scroll down, and maybe get the effect that way.
I enjoyed LLFF14 a lot, and not only because the thing itself was good, well organised, etc.. I think this was also because I did some preparatory thought about what I wanted to accomplish by attending and I then duly accomplished quite a lot of this, and that made me happy. Signing up speakers for my Fridays, wangling invites to universities, that kind of thing.
Plus, I wanted in particular to learn more about this whole minimum income thing, concerning which I am deeply suspicious. Again I find myself linking to a Simon Gibbs posting, this time entitled Don’t surrender the next 300 years for the next 15, although what good this lunatic scheme is supposed to do in the short run I do not know. So anyway, I learned more about that, just as I hoped I would.
Just turning up at a event like this with no active idea of what then to do besides sit and listen, means you are liable to come away feeling (probably quite correctly) that you accomplished very little, and that can be depressing. I did not make that mistake this time.
So I made my way to the Opening Do of LLFF14 earlier this evening, at a bar near Kings Cross Station. On my way, the light was so good I just had to take some photos. Not many, but those I did take came out very nicely. These three were my favourites. The first is me looking back along Pentonville Road at St Pancras Station. To think they were once going to knock this down. The second is just a random piece of domestic architecture. And the third I took because it looked like it had some rather good cushion type things, such as I might want to buy if I ever get around to making myself a sofa:
The Do itself was great, until eventually the noise of everyone shouting at each other became more than I could take. As I said to someone, I couldn’t even hear myself talk. Not hearing others was bad enough, but when I couldn’t even hear the sound of my own voice, well, there went one of my deepest pleasures in life. So I left. That wasn’t a problem. The main business of LLFF takes place during the day, on Saturday and Sunday, and I will of course return.
On my way from the bar back to Kings Cross tube, I got very lost, despite having my Smartphone with me, with its invaluable map app. And that was when I noticed something very odd and different about this part of London, compared to where I live. No helpful signposts, telling you where the nearest tube is, or where Kings Cross or St Pancras Stations are. I’m guessing because this is a part of town where tourists tend not to go, and most people there just know all that sort of stuff already. Apart from me.
As already noted here, I did a piece last week for Samizdata entitled The Institute of Economic Affairs and its support for Liberty League Freedom Forum 2014. “Hayek1337” has just added this interesting and informative comment, which I want to remember before it disappears off the bottom of Samizdata:
It’s worth noting that Liberty League is ultimately run by Anton Howes, James Lawson, and Will Hamilton – who I’ve considered great friends since their first conference (and the 80s dance floor in some dingy Birmingham club).
Their contribution in the silent background is huge, even if largely ignored. They had the entrepreneurial drive, and they’re the ones who make sure the conference actually has worthwhile speakers,and young people filling the rooms. They do it on the side, Anton’s a full time PHD student for example, but often has a bigger impact than a lot of these full time think tankers. They don’t make a penny from their efforts, it all goes to the conference and supporting student societies. There’s also whole Liberty League team around them, promoting Liberty across all corners of the UK at student societies.
Obviously the IEA is a big backer, and it’s got a hell of a lot of financial muscle, but Liberty League is very close to others in the Free Market movement, and isn’t an IEA project. I’ve seen those three at every Adam Smith Institute Next Generation since time began, and I met two of them at Freedom Week, back when it was set up by JP Floru of the ASI. So, you’ve got to look at return on investment, and those in the background. People like Madsen Pirie of the ASI, and Donal Blaney in the more Conservative movement have played a key role here – identifying and developing entrepreneurs in the battle of ideas, or as Atlas calls them, “multipliers for liberty”.
I guess it’s a case of the more multipliers for liberty the merrier …
Indeed. Quality is good, but quantity of quality has a extra quality about it. It’s not just more of the same. Things become possible, even inevitable, that were impossible before quantity kicked in.
I’ve admired Anton Howes for quite a while, and I hope to get to meet and learn more about James Lawson and Will Hamilton at LLFF2014, which is happening next weekend. Here are some pictures of these three, at the top of this clutch.
What I’ve heard about James Lawson (him in particular) says he might be an excellent Brian’s Fridays speaker.
... but something from me here, about the IEA and LLFF2014.
Incoming from Simon Rose, entitled “End of the World not happening tomorrow”.
What this means is that the End of the World CLUB MEETING is not happening tomorrow, because of a double booking mix-up of some sort. But for a moment there, I was wondering what mad prophecy Simon was taking it upon himself to contradict.
The End of the World Club is an up-market version of my Last Friday meetings. Despite its rather grumpy old man title, these meetings are very good, with excellent speakers. For instance there was that fascinating talk by someone who had lived through the Zimbabwe inflation.
And, I first came across Dominic Frisby when he addressed the EotW Club, about this book. Ever since Frisby spoke at my home, about his next book I have been hearing his voice on television, what with me being fond of TV documentaries. Here (click on that only if you want to hear noise at once) is what he sounds like. More Frisby audio info here.
Email me if you want to know more about these EotW meetings, and I’ll put you in touch with Simon Rose.
If the world ever does end, I want Frisby doing the voice overing for it.
On Monday last I attended a BBC Radio 4 event, at which Evan Davis interviewed Deirdre McCloskey:
Yes that is the same screen, and it remained the same colour throughout. In “reality” I mean. If you were there, which I was.
But digital cameras, when set on “automatic” as mine always is, have minds of their own when it comes to colour. One picture happens to have a lot of a certain colour in it, and it changes the overall colour of everything to compensate. For instance, when you take indoor pictures but there is outdoor sky to be seen, then even if in reality the sky is deepest grey, the camera turns the sky deepest blue, and the indoor bits orange. Likewise, when the sky is blue, but if you are outdoors, the camera, for no reason, is liable to fill a clear blue sky with pollution and turn it a sort of slate colour. What was happening here is that these two pictures are both cropped. But the left one was only cropped a bit, while the left one was cropped a lot. And the stuff that got cropped out of the left one meant that the screen was no longer green. It was blue.
As to what Deidre McCloskey actually said, well the thing I was most intrigued by was that she was entirely cool about being asked about how she used to be Donald McCloskey. In which connection, don’t you just love how that circumstance is alluded to in this:
That’s an article reproduced at her website. So, is that her handwriting? Could well be.
I doubt the medical side of the switch was as easy to do as that.
The libertarian propaganda side of this is that McCloskey is a character, rather than just a boring bod in a suit. The usual evasive sneers against pro-capitalists just won’t work on her. And I even think it helps that (maybe because of those medical dramas - don’t know) her voice is a strange hybrid of male and female, often sounding a bit like electrical feedback. She also has a slight but definite stutter.
The reason I feel entitled to mention all this is that it clearly does not bother her, or if it does she has learned very well to stop it bothering her, and indeed to make a communicational virtue of it all. I guess she figures if you are saying interesting stuff, it really doesn’t matter if your voice sounds a bit funny and if people sometimes have to wait a second or two before hearing the next bit of it. In fact it probably even helps, because it gets everyone listening, proactively as it were, guessing what is coming instead of just hearing it.
See also: Hawking.
Because he is definitely some personal kind (is there any other kind?) of libertarian (he and this guy are mates from Eton), I have instructed Google to send me emails about popular entertainer Frank Turner whenever anything is said about or by him, which is quite often because he really is very popular.
Here’s an interview Turner recently did. They asked him how it feels to play in an “arena”, i.e. a very, very big place.
It’s a funny thing because I think whenever anyone starts out playing music you have a bucket list, or a ceiling of achievement that you might think of … and I’m really not trying to sound like Mr CoolHipsterPunkRock here, but the biggest bands I went to see when I was a kid played The Astoria, maybe Brixton Academy.
But then, straight after that, comes this:
I’d never been to an arena show before I played one.
How cool is that?
Which just goes to show that a precondition for being cool is not trying to be.
Shame about that Libertarian Party (see the “this guy” link above). That didn’t turn out quite so cool.
Incoming from Sam Bowman in the form of an email, dated March 6th, entitled “Bleeding Heart Libertarianism - an apologia”:
Thanks for mentioning my Libertarian Home talk on Samizdata. I look forward to seeing you tonight if you can make it.
“Tonight” was March 6th (Simon Gibbs introductory spiel about Sam and his talk here), when Sam gave his talk at the Rose and Crown. This is not yet available on video, but it presumably soon will be, because as always at these Libertarian Home Rose and Crown talks, a video camera was in action. On the right is a photo that Sam took of me and him with his mobile, after he had given his talk.
And thanks for coming on Monday!
That was an ASI event, about whether prison works. (Answer, with all kinds of reservations: yes.)
I typed out quite a long email to you but decided against it, because I figured none of it would be new to you.
Wrong. Now that my hair is mostly grey and I no longer say everything I am thinking, other libertarians seem to assume that I now know everything that there is to be known, and because I own lots of books that I have read everything that there is to be read, about libertarianism. None of this is true. I do not read and have not read nearly as much as I have time to read and have had time to read. I regret that Sam didn’t preserve this longer email.
Having said that, since it’s something we’re both interested in I thought I’d try to outline my position a bit more briefly:
Excellent. I asked Sam, quite a long time ago now, if he minded me recycling what follows in a posting, and maybe then sticking bits of it up at Samizdata. No, he said, post away. So here it is:
I still hate the term ‘social justice’ (Hayek did a real number on me), and philosophically I’m not on board with the Rawlsian view of ethics. My moral position is preference utilitarianism – that people getting what they want is what’s good. Having said that, practically I think that ethical consequentialists and believers in ‘social justice’ are in basically the same position: both think that improving the welfare of the poor is a high priority.
I think it makes sense to treat libertarianism as being about means, not ends. Most political positions claim that they’re good because they will make people’s lives easier, happier, etc. (There are some exceptions of course.) I think many people make the error of forgetting that the world is complex, so they assume that differences of opinion about politics must be down to differences of opinion about what sort of world we want.
People sometimes also try to waterproof their beliefs by attaching moral claims to empirical arguments – eg, a supporter of the minimum wage, presented with strong arguments that undermine their empirical claims, may fall back on the argument that it’s just indecent for people to earn below £x/hour, and a decent society should simply not allow that, consequences be damned. Of course we libertarians often do this too – presented with strong arguments in favour of the minimum wage we may fall back on the claim that it’s just wrong to interfere with private contracts between adults. I think there’s some merit to both these claims (much more so the latter, obviously) but they shouldn’t be treated as unbreakable absolutes. If they were, were the earlier, empirical arguments just rhetoric?
So you can boil my position down to this: if I was convinced that free markets and a high degree of individual liberty were not the best way of allowing people to get what they want, I wouldn’t support them. My libertarianism/liberalism is entirely contingent on empirical beliefs I have about the world.
I make explicit the fact that I’d be relaxed about redistribution of wealth from rich to poor if I thought it led to good outcomes, and indeed I think the libertarian empirical case is much stronger on regulation of people’s lives (in the broadest sense) and commerce than it is on wealth redistribution. I also think that it’s where we have the most original things to say.
How this makes me any different to people like Milton Friedman and FA Hayek I am not sure, given that both were also explicitly supportive of wealth/income redistribution. Of course, any consequentialist libertarian would have to concede that, at least in theory, they would be open to the idea of redistribution.
Some emails, rather like some comments, can have particular expressive merit. Because people are relaxed rather than mounted self-consciously on their official high horses, so to speak, they often communicate in this more informal circumstance with particular eloquence. So, my particular thanks to Sam for allowing me to publish this. More of his many thoughts here, although you may have to scroll your way past a huge photo of Sam in front of a brick wall. (Odd. Did anyone else have this problem?) I recommend doing this.
Last Wednesday, I snapper a whole lot of my fellow snappers, but I did not neglect inanimate objects. Here are some of the “I just like it” photos I also took that afternoon, as afternoon turned into evening and as the sun started hitting particular parts of those objects. Click at will for the bigger versions:
I make that: four Wheels (1.2 behind trees; 2.1 behind a little scaffolding; 4.1, bottom of, end on; and 5.2, in a piece of art in a shop window, behind a bird); two Big Bens (2.3, with all its spikes (most pictures of Big Ben include the clock, which then upstages all the spikes) and 4.2, serving as blurry backdrop for two street lights); two Millbank Towers (2.2 and 5.3, the one with the crew cut hairdo of roof clutter); one Shard (3.1, weird top of); one Spray Can (2.3, next to the Millbank Tower -will “Spray Can” ever catch on?) some cranes (1.1) and some tourist crap (4.3), which I love to photo even as I would never buy.
See also a vapour trail (3.3), part white, part dark, depending (presumably) on whether the sun is hitting it or not. (One of my best (I think) postings here concerned a dirty looking vapour trail.)
And see also that St Thomas’s Hospital car park under a park with a fountain (5.1), than I mentioned in the earlier posting with the photographers.
For someone else’s earnestly anxious ruminations about London’s incurably crowded and bustling state, try this. Not enough “affordable” housing, he says. This would suggest to me that building “affordable housing” is not affordable for the builders. Why not? What rules make affordable housing unaffordable to build? He says, of course, not enough rules and subsidies. I say too many rules and subsidies.
Maybe I’d start with the Green Belt, a huge doughnut of dreary fields through which commuter trains race and commuter cars crawl. In a free market, some of the green belt would stay fields or become parks, and some of it towns, that are affordable to live in. I wouldn’t just free up all of it, in one go. I’d carve out the prettiest bits of it and say: don’t build here. And I’d point at the boring bits (very numerous) and say, build here, whatever you like.
But that wouldn’t “solve” all London’s problems. These are caused by London being a great city that millions of people want to live and work in. “Solve” whatever is considered to be London’s biggest problem now, and you merely make all other London problems that bit worse. London will always be overcrowded, and lacking in this or that thing that Guardian opinion-mongers consider necessary and regard as an excuse for bitching about capitalism and for recommending more regulations and subsidies.
First you fuck with the free market and stop it doing its stuff. Then you blame the free market and fuck with it some more. See also: environment.
But I digress. Last Wednesday was a very nice day. As is today, by the look of it.
This time it’s another person whose name I am determined to stop getting wrong, who is called Christiana Hambro. For no intelligent reason that I can think of, I have been getting the Christiana bit of her name wrong. The good news is that I can’t now even remember what I used to say instead, because I have known for several hours, ever since I thought about doing it, what the rest of this posting is going to consist of, and because this posting is already doing the job of fixing Christiana’s correct Christian name, Christiana, in my head, even before I write the posting, never mind before I stick it up for others to read.
Christiana is the one on the left, of these two pictures:
And the one of the right is Christian. Christian Michel. I have never got Christian’s Christian name wrong. Putting these two people next to one another in my head has solved my Christiana Hambro problem.
Christian Michel will be speaking at my next Last Friday meeting, on March 28th. This is what he just emailed me about what he will be saying:
In August 1938, a rich and talented American journalist gathered 36 economists and philosophers in Paris, in what has become known after his name: the Lippmann Colloquium. The objective was nothing less than a refoundation of liberalism, under attack by Marxists and Fascists. Participants only agreed in their opposition to command economies. Mises remained attached to unfettered free markets. Röpke and Rüstow developed what became Ordoliberalism, still the official ideology in today’s Germany. Einaudi, future president of Italy, remained faithful to the social teachings of the Church. Hayek tried to federate all these currents in the Mont Pélerin Society, to the point of dilution. In America, neo-liberals merged into the neo-conservative movement, whilst in France, Michel Foucault, in his insightful Birth of Biopolitics, reclaimed it for libertarianism (which he espoused in his last works, to the horror of the Leftist establishment). Today, for the likes of Naomi Klein and George Monbiot, the term ‘neoliberalism’ is a word of abuse, whilst it was meant to characterize the very ‘third way’ they so eagerly embrace. In the talk, I will go over the debates within the liberal movement of the last 80 years, which all revolve around the definition of this neologism: neo-liberalism.
In my thankyou email back to him, I told Christian that this piece alone makes an illuminating read.
Which is a lot of the point of talks these days, now that we can all know about everything that is happening that we even might be attending. Yes, the small number of people who choose to squeeze themselves into my living room on the 28th will hear Christian’s talk, and very good and very detailed it will be, I am sure. They will learn lots that will not be learned by others. But meanwhile, many more will read the above spiel by Christian about his talk, and the ripples will spread out way beyond my living room. If just half the people on the Brian’s Fridays email list read the above piece, when I send it out in about a week’s time, many of them will learn quite a lot. I had no idea Michel Foucault ended up as a libertarian, until Christian started telling me about this.
I found the above picture of Christian Michel here. I probably could have dug up a picture of him taken by me, but image googling was easier, given the state of my photo-archives.
Christiana’s relevance to all this is that she is one of a number of free-market-stroke-libertarian activists who have been putting some organisational juice behind spreading these ideas to British students. She is based at the I(nstitute of) E(conomic) A(ffairs). I took that photo of Christiana at the Liberty League Freedom Forum 2013, which she helped to organise, and “helped” may well be a serious understatement.
I hope to organise a Brian’s Friday at which Christiana and/or one of her colleagues describe the outreach work they are doing at the IEA. In my opinion it is the biggest single piece of news about the spread of libertarian thinking in Britain. The British public continue to be indifferent to libertarian ideas, as is their habit with so many ideas. But the British student libertarian movement is now growing from insignificant to … significant, and it is to a great degree thanks to the work of people like Christiana.
Earlier this evening Detlev Schlichter spoke to the Libertarian Alliance (London Tendency), on the subject of Ludwig Von Mises and his claim that economics is a body of knowledge based upon “A Priori” knowledge.
I attended and took photos:
As you can see I was sitting just behind the video camera, and had fun lining this up with the object of its attentions.
The talk was good, as you will be able to hear when the video is up and viewable.
While sorting out the link to Libertarian Alliance (London Tendency) I discovered that Sean Gabb, leader of the Libertarian Alliance (South Coast Tendency), has recently given a couple of talks to the Libertarian Alliance (London Tendency). I did not know this. Interesting.
You were not slow. I am in the habit of arranging blog posts on a daily schedule, but fumbled the date and 19 became 9 so it appeared to be ancient when it was in fact early.
You must have seen it rather quickly, I’m flattered.
Actually what I saw quickly was the automatic email that I automatically got from Libertarian Home about the latest posting there. I clicked on it, read the Sermon, was impressed, shoved it up at Samizdata, then blogged about the process here. In among all that, I noticed that the posting was dated Feb 9th, and mentioned that I had been rather slow to notice it in the posting here, but not there. All this in the space of about an hour and a half.
The upshot of which is a posting that now declares itself to have arrived at Libertarian Home on Feb 19, but which has meanwhile already become the SQotD for Feb 18.
A while back, I wrote here, at the start of a posting about Manx Cats, this:
Inevitably, this blog, if it persists much longer, will become more and more concerned with the experience of getting old, ...
That posting was about the thing of “sort of” knowing stuff, as you get older. I “sort of” knew that Manx cats don’t have tales. You vaguely remember having once known something. That kind of thing.
This posting now is also about that aging process. Because, when the above email arrived, I should have realised that something bizarre was happening over at LH with regard to dates. I mean, if this Rob Waller Sermon had really been up for the last ten days, how come I had missed it all that time, even though I regularly visit LH? And how come I was only now receiving an automatic email about it?
I never consciously thought it through, but my “sort of” thought process was that either LH was confused or I was, and I just assumed without thinking about it that the confusion must be mine, on account of me having now entered the years of frequent and soon perpetual confusion, about everything. You are now reading prose written by a man who has started to forget, while in the bath, whether he has stood up and washed his private parts yet, or not yet, and who has hence started to do this either twice or not at all. Simon Gibbs, on the other hand, is a smart young guy. He has a smart young wife and a smart young home. He has a paid job and a life. That he might have got his blog posting dates in a muddle just did not occur to me.
I have my favourite bloggers. Mick Hartley, 6k and David Thompson being my most regular visitees. Two of these three (see those two links) often put up clips of their favourite bits of music, which I pretty much always ignore. Often, when confronted by other people’s favourite musical snippets, I already have music playing, on my separate music box which is nothing to do with my computer and which therefore works when I most need it, which is when my computer is not working.
I tend not to do stick up bits of my favourite sort of music, which is classical. Partly I’m lazy and am not very clever about putting up Youtube clips here. But I could put up lots of links (one follows below) to classical stuff. But, I tend not to. There are enough reasons for people to strike this blog off their weekly-read list or whatever, without me putting them off even more with bits of classical music.
Now, first off, I have no problem with bloggers posting whatever they like. Their gaff their rules. I put whatever I like (as in like to put) here, and they can put whatever they like to put at their places. But, am I the only one who almost always ignores music at other people’s blogs? Most of us like lots of random bits of pop music, old and new. In my case, there’s also a ton of classical classics I like a lot, and others also have their favourite genres that they know all about, adore some of and like a huge proportion of.
I mention this because, entirely for my own selfish reasons, I particularly want to be able to remind myself of this clip of someone called Yulianna Avdeeva playing Chopin, particularly well to my ear. And maybe that’s it. Bloggers use their blogs as personal filing cabinets, just as I do. They put up bits of music because they want always to be able to get hold of that bit quickly, and now they know they can. The readers can just wait for the next posting, and pick up where they left off. (That link, by the way, is to a bit of classical music at a blog that specialises in classical music. Quite often I do play the clips she features, because her kind of music is my kind of music. What I’m on about here is musical clips at blogs which are mostly about non-musical things.)
I think another point being made with these bits of music is the point I make with my occasional Friday cat blogging, which is that a lot of the appeal of blogging in particular and life in general is pure enjoyment. And music, perhaps more than any other art, and especially when no words are involved or in the case of the more upbeat and silly pop tracks, is all about pure enjoyment.
By the way, when I started writing this, I thought that David Thompson also featured occasional pop snippets. So I went looking for his latest pop snippet, but found that actually he does not do this, or not lately, hence no link to any music at his blog in the second sentence of this posting. But I did find this talk, by Greg Lukianoff, about the growing menace of the I-Am-Offended industry on American campuses. Quite long, but recommended.
SInce I started on this posting, Mick Hartley stuck up another pop clip. Again, I have not listened, and probably won’t ever.
Last Thursday evening I attended the Aiden Gregg talk to Libertarian Home at the Rose and Crown, about the psychological foundations of political beliefs, libertarian and otherwise. I wrote most of a piece for Samizdata about this, but have yet to finish it and stick it up. Anyway: incoming from Simon Gibbs, who organised the meeting, asking if I had any decent photos of the event to spread around.
I don’t know about decent. The lighting in the Rose and Crown is a bit tricky. Speakers tend to be lit most strongly from behind, and the picture frames behind the speaker can also be a problem.
Quite a few years ago now, I recorded an interview with my friend Bruce the Real Photographer, about how he does Real Photography. I just had another listen, and seven minutes or so into that, Bruce talked about how getting the right background was about half the battle. Next time I take photos in the Rose and Crown, maybe I will remember to try and find a spot where the background is less clashing than it was in snaps like these:
These next two, after I had moved to a slightly different spot, are somewhat better:
That meetings organiser Simon Gibbs on the left there, as we look.
Here is another from the same spot, but also featuring a bit of the audience:
And on the right there, more audience. But most of the throng was behind me and I neglected to photo in that direction. The meeting was an enjoyable and boisterous affair, but my pictures do not really capture this.
The good news is that, as ever, Simon Gibbs had his video camera running:
So, in due course, you’ll be able to watch and hear the talk, if you missed it last Thursday. Just as you can now watch Aiden’s previous Libertarian Home performance.
When I have posted my Samizdata piece, with a lot more concerning what was actually said, I’ll link to it from here, just as I’ll be linking from there to here.
LATER: My Samizdata report.
Is this book … :
… the same book as this book?:
It turns out that they are the same book. Hannan:
But, are they precisely the same? I mean: same intro? Same preface? Any other small tinkerings? If the Yanks (maybe the Brits?) changed the damn title, what the hell else did they change?
I find this kind of thing intensely annoying. The whole point of reading something like a book, or watching something like a movie, is that you read (or watch) precisely the same object as everybody else. (This being one reason why I so particularly resent censorship. It prevents me, again and again, from seeing what others elsewhere are seeing.)
The best you can say about this muddle is that at least this/these book/books seem to be coming out at approximately the same time.
How we invented Freedom is nevertheless in the post.