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- Wedding photography (4): Preparations
- Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
- Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
- Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
- Rothko Toast
- Wedding photography (3): Technology as sculpture
- And another posting from my smartphone
- Posted from my new smartphone
- Google Nexus 4 photos
- Wedding photography (2): Signs
- Wedding photography (1): The superbness of the weather
- A Fleet Street lunch
- So painters also used to “take” pictures
- Funniest run out ever?
- Shadow photography
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Category archive: Libertarianism
That mobile phones have cameras means that even regular people now always have a camera with them. Already, mobile phone cameras are quite good. Soon, they will be as good as all but the best cameras, to the point where ever more people will be satisfied with their mobile phone cameras, and accordingly won’t want to be bothering with dedicated cameras at all. This transition is already under way, a fact which I regularly track whenever I roam about London snapping (among other delights) my fellow snappers and their snapping machines.
This photographer, for instance, looks like he’s using a “phone”, the inverted commas there being because these things are so much more than phones, to the point where the phoning is almost an afterthought. As Michael Jennings said last night, it really is something of an accident that we just happen to call these things “phones”.
Here is a photo I took with my Google Nexus 4, very soon after I got it, of Randy Barnett (already featured here in this earlier posting - bottom right of the first lot of pictures there), speaking at Freedom Forum 2013:
As you can see, the quality is okay, but only okay. Compare with the zoomed photo (at the link above) of Barnett, and you can easily see the difference that a better camera makes. If the Google Nexus 4 camera has a zoom feature, I have yet to discover it.
As the picture above shows, I (of course) had my regular camera with me at FF2013. But last night I was out and about for a short while, without that camera, only the Google Nexus 4. I was dining at Chateau Samizdata, and collecting Amazon stuff that I have delivered there rather than at my own front door, because at my own front door there have been robberies. So anyway, a recent arrive at CS was a keyboard, for use with the GN4, but although pre-warned that this keyboard would require two AAA batteries to make it go, I had forgotten to bring these with me. So, I nipped out to buy some. Without my regular camera.
Sod’s Law decrees that whenever you are out and about without your camera, interesting things will immediately present themselves to you. And one such interesting thing did, in the form of a sign making use of the double meaning of the word Pole. But, Sod’s Law was held at bay by my GN4, which I did have with me, in my jacket pocket, because keeping the GN4 in my jacket pocket at all times except when I am using it is The Rule. Snap snap, which fortunately I had more or less learned how to do:
The GN4 may not be much good for distance Big Things, and the like, but it is fine for a sign.
And since the sign was the point, even though I do like scaffolding, here is the bit of the picture with the sign:
No computerised trickery there, apart from the cropping. More than somewhat blurry, but entirely legible, the whole point of letters being that they hack their way through exactly such communicational barriers.
The speakers at the Liberty League Freedom Forum were an impressive lot. I intend, Real Soon Now, to be writing at greater length (at Samizdata) about what some of the speakers said. In this posting here, I will concentrate on shoving up photos.
Here are some snaps of just a few of the speakers in action:
Top left: Douglas Carswell; top middle: Terence Kealey; top right: Mark Littlewood.
Bottom left: Sam Bowman; bottom middle: J. P. Floru; bottom right: Randy Barnett.
I did not attend anything like all the sessions, not least because many of them were simultaneous. But we all crowded into the big hall to have lunch on Saturday and Sunday, and there were a couple of speeches there also, from Mark Littlewood on the Saturday, and from J. P. Floru on the Sunday, both of whom are shown above, doing their lunchtime talks.
Impressive though the line-up of speakers was, and hard as it often was to choose which speaker to listen to, the real star of the occasion, for me, was the audience that the Liberty League people had managed to assemble for this event. It would have been quite something for me to have listened to a succession of very good talks. It was something else again to be part of a 200-strong audience listening attentively to those same talks, most of them of less than half my age.
So, here are some crowd shots:
The more I study the world and its ways, the more importance I attach to the influence of gatherings like this one. Getting a couple of hundred of Britain’s most committed libertarians and free marketeers together over a weekend, and permanently connecting them with each other, will have network effects beyond calculation, especially when you consider how much easier it now is to do networking electronically.
So who put this event together? Well, I did some asking around, and three people kept getting mentioned:
Left: Anton Howes; centre: Christiana Hambro; right: Stephen Davies.
The latter two are both briefly biographised at the IEA website, and Anton Howes is likewise described on this list of Liberty Leaguers. Hannah Besford, Will Hamilton and James Lawson, also on that Liberty Leaguers list, also got several mentions, not least in the conference progamme (i.e. on page 2 of this), as having contributed importantly. Notoriously, when credit is to be shared among humans for their cooperative achievements, there are frequent mismatches between who gets given the credit and who did the actual work, so my best guess could be seriously off. Nevertheless, my best guess is that the three people pictured above were the prime movers (certainly among the prime movers), all three of them having decided independently that what the British free market/libertarian movement needs is a succession of gatherings like this one, wherever in the UK it makes sense to stage them. So, that is what they have been doing, this latest London event being merely the biggest of such events so far. There have been several others during the last few years, and it looks like there will be many more. I certainly hope so.
One benefit of meeting up with fellow libertarians is that together we sort out the world. But there is also the matter of sorting out the ongoing activities of the libertarian movement itself.
When I finally got to the Rose and Crown did some exploratory chit-chatting with Simon Gibbs, about such things as future writings for Libertarian Home by me (I promise nothing but hope to do something) and about how he does his videos. I would like to get good at doing videos, but don’t know where to start. Except now I do. Simon has agreed to teach me what he does. He uses Adobe Premier Elements. So, that’s what I have in mind to be using. I also showed him my camera, the reviews of which when I first bought it said it would be good at video. Will that do? Yes, he said.
In exchange I was able to offer Simon some tips about how to do radio in general and the BBC’s Moral Maze in particular, which he was nearly on last week, and will surely be on Real Soon Now.
I daresay similar conversations were going on elsewhere in the room, where other libertarian doings were likewise being furthered.
I also got to talk with Richard Carey, who is to be my next Last Friday speaker but one. Which means that I now have my next three Last Fridays sorted. February 22: Michael Jennings. (We now – at last - have Samizdata author archives!) March 29: Richard Carey. April 26: Rob Fisher. Michael will be telling us some of the things he has learned about the globe and its ways of organising itself from his various globe trottings. Rob will be talking about open source software. And now it is pretty much settled that Richard will talk about the relationship between libertarianism and Austrian Economics. Excellent. Email me (see “contact” top left here) if you want to know more about any of these events.
Oddly enough, the one thing I didn’t think to do at this gathering was take any photos. I was similarly forgetful on the Last Friday of January.
Neither omission was at all clever. Photos create an aura of significance, a penumbra of meaningfulness, a force field of where-it’s-at-ness. Not much. A bit. We can all do out bit, and bits like that are easily done by me, except that on these two nights, they weren’t.
And after all that I went home, watched some TV, and then went to bed.
The reason for all my meandering about in the London Bridge stroke Southwark stroke Waterloo area last Thursday was that I needed to be at London Bridge to photo the bottom of the Shard before it got too dark, in other words around 4pm, but then had to wait around until after 7pm, before going to the Rose and Crown for the Libertarian Home social. Had I gone home, I’d only have had to turn around and come back again, more or less immediately. Hence all the meandering.
The LH social was a lot of fun. There was no one big conversation, just lots of little ones, and one of mine was about architecture and city planning. The problem of how to switch from a statist world to a libertarian one without destroying lots of sacred buildings was touched on, which I think is a very good question. Libertarians aren’t the Taleban, but the early effect might be the same if we aren’t careful. And if we don’t have answers to such questions, we won’t get very far.
Also on an architectural theme, I was reminded of these photos, by the man, “Ian F4”, who took them. He still had them on his mobile, and reminded me that he had put them in a comment here, on this posting. They deserve greater prominence, and at the very least, another showing:
I love how, in the left hand photo, a bright light (or in this case a bright reflection of the sun) makes everything else go dark.
The one on the right is the shot of the Shard from near the bottom of the Monument,
It was Ian F4 who got me doing this mad series of Thursday Odyssey postings, by telling me about how he reads my blog. This cheered me up no end, and I decided to have a bit of a go here, more than I have been doing lately. So, all these recent postings are his fault.
And the first thing I photoed yesterday was newspaper headlines, about Britain’s Envy-of-the-World NHS. Those first three were literally the first three snaps I took yesterday, and the last one was photoed later, at London Bridge Station, more about which later, I hope.
Read, and be amazed:
I honestly cannot remember a day when Britain’s NHS has ever, ever had a worst press than it had yesterday. (The same stories had been all over the telly on Wednesday evening also.)
I hope to write at greater length at Samizdata about these dramas, connecting it to my Alpha Graphs stuff, but promise nothing
The basic idea being that a nationalised industry collapses not when it merely starts deteriorating, but only when it is deteriorating so fast that a switch to the free market, although horrible, would be no worse even in the short run. And of course massively better in the long run. But it’s the short run that matters because it is during that short run that you or your elderly loved one dies, through being left out in a corridor or some such horror.
Libertarians are prone to assume that things like the NHS are untouchable, merely because people continue to swear by them when they are getting only somewhat worse. Brainwashed fools! They will never see sense! But they are seeing sense. And then suddenly, to the amazement of libertarians, they do suddenly see sense. Actually, just a bit more sense, along with the sense they had already been seeing.
See also: collapse of the USSR.
The NHS has a bit of a way to go before it folds, because people are still at the stage, as you can tell from these headlines, of thinking that sacking the Boss and installing a New Boss would turn things around. But, any year now ...
When you want to write a big old piece about Something Important, it’s not a bad idea for a blogger to rip out a little piece about it in the meantime, in a single figure number of minutes. That at least gets the meme out there and gives it a chance to propagate, even if a bigger piece at Samizdata would do that better.
Yes, my Last Friday of the Month meetings are starting up again, with the first new one being on the 25th of this month. Speaker: Sam Bowman. Subject: libertarianism and “unknown unknowns”.
More about why the meetings, again, and about what Bowman will be saying in this Samizdata posting.
If interested, please get in touch, with an email, or with a comment here, or there.
I participated in an interesting exchange today at Samizdata, on the subject of this posting, about why I support the Tea Party. But the exchange came towards the end of a longish, and nearly dead now, comment thread, so few will read it, and I at least want to remember what was said.
I disagree with this article for one main reason: the Tea Party has been nearly entirely co-opted by the social conservatives. The small-government folks seem to accept this as a necessary compromise, without realizing that they have lost control of the movement.
If you took a poll of people identifying themselves with the Tea Party, you would find that religious issues (abortion, gay marriage, etc.)) are more important than government spending. From an article from 2011: “Tea Party supporters … are much more likely than registered voters as a whole to say that their religion is the most important factor in determining their opinions on these social issues.” (Emphasis mine)
Farther down in the same article: 42% of Tea Party supporters agree with the conservative Christian movement, while 11% disagree. The remainder are somewhere in the middle, but the dominance is clear.
The Tea Party was a great idea, until the religious zealots got ahold of it ...
Some of what you say is obvious and not bad news at all. None of what you say is definitely bad news.
Much depends, in surveys, on what questions are asked.
It’s obvious that Tea Party Christians get their social issue opinions from their Christianity. Who has ever doubted it? This does not prove that they will use the Tea Party primarily to spread or to enforce these Christian views to or upon others.
Even the claim that they take social issues more seriously than government spending, though suggestive of what you are arguing, does not prove it.
If any question had asked: What do you think the Tea Party is for? Cutting government spending? Or: propagating (or even enforcing) Christian values? Then, the answers would be interesting, and very troubling if the Christians mostly said: For propagating and enforcing Christian values. The government spending stuff is just something we say, in order to spread Christianity.
But a quick read of the piece you link to tells me that no such question was asked, or if it was, the answers was not reported. What this survey seems to be about is what else Tea Partiers tend to believe, besides believing in the Tea Party. Nothing in it surprised me, or lowered, or even altered, my opinion of the Tea Party.
By the way, not only am I a libertarian, I am also a strong atheist. I think Christianity is not just untrue. I think that Christian beliefs about such things as the virgin birth and the meaning of the crucifixion of Christ are downright daft. If I thought that the Tea Party was either founded to create a Christian theocracy or if I ever think in the future that it has degenerated into such an enterprise (as it certainly might), I would not merely stop supporting it, I would, for whatever difference it would make, oppose it. Meanwhile, what seems to unite Tea Partiers now is, see my posting, the belief that the US government does too much, spends too much and borrows too much, and making that idea stick is what the Tea Party is for. Nothing in this survey says otherwise.
I agree that Christians loom very large in the Tea Party, but Christianity is not the Tea Party’s publicly agreed purpose. As of now, I remain optimistic that whereas most Tea Partiers seem to be Christians, and as such profoundly influenced in what they think by their Christianity, these Christians do not think that the purpose of the Tea Party is to spread Christianity, and that the government spending stuff is just a front.
If your response to that is: well, of course they wouldn’t say that. My response to that would be that nothing is this survey settles that particularly argument about what these Christians are trying to accomplish one way or the other. Are you aware of any other evidence that Christian Tea Partiers are actually engaged in a huge deception of this sort? I am not, but that proves very little. What I do know is that your link does not supply such evidence.
An analogy. The libertarian movement seems to consist largely of men. (It’s certainly that way in London.) But this absolutely does not mean that the libertarian movement’s purpose is to spread the idea of male domination of the world generally. To say that “libertarianism has been taken over by men” is sort of true, in the sense that it is indeed mostly men. But as an attempt to describe what the men in the libertarian movement are really trying to accomplish, such an observation would be seriously misleading.
As yet there has been no reply, and probably there won’t be. That’s not itself any sort of argument. Just because you had the last word, if you did, that doesn’t mean you won. Merely that communication ceased.
More to the point, if there is any news or evidence that Tea Party Christians are indeed trying the old Popular Front routine rather than supporting the public agenda of the Tea Party in good faith, I would very much like to learn about it.
... I have just posted a piece on how to attach Austrianist answers to un-Austrianist questions.
I just did a posting here about Doctor Theatre, which is about how performing stops you being ill for the duration of the performance. But as soon as I stuck it up here, I realised it would also do for Samizdata, so I put it there instead. Perhaps commenters will tell me about the physiological processes involved. Hope so.
I seem to be almost the only person writing for Samizdata just now. This troubles me.
On the evening of August 3rd, i.e. in just over a week’s time, there will be a talk at my home, on the subject of Bitcoin, given by Frank Braun. Arrive any time after 7pm. Talk begins 8pm. Informal socialising from 9.30pm until late.
Frank Braun has provided the following biographical notes:
Frank Braun is a libertarian computer scientist who got interested in Bitcoin about two years ago due to its potential to increase personal liberty. He works as an IT security consultant and is sometimes getting paid in Bitcoin. He is a strong privacy proponent and cannot be found on Facebook.
Which might have something to do with why he preferred me not to include a picture of him in this posting.
Concerning his Bitcoin talk, Frank Braun writes this:
In this talk an introduction to Bitcoin will be given: how it works, its key innovations and limitations, and how it can enhance personal liberty right now and in the near future.
Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer (decentralized) digital currency which became public in 2009. It uses digital signatures and cryptographic proof so as to enable users to conduct irreversible, pseudonymous transactions without relying on trust.
It is mostly unregulated, not controlled by state agencies, and is heavily influenced by ideas from counter-economics and cryptoanarchy.
Currently there are 9.5 million Bitcoin in circulation (a Bitcoin is worth around 6 British Pounds) and an ecosystem of legitimate (exchangers, eBay like marketplaces, and many small merchants) and illegitimate (for example, the underground drug market place Silk Road) businesses has developed around it. It will be discussed what Bitcoin means practically for Libertarians and how it relates theoretically to the Austrian theory of money.
My home is not a big place, and it is possible that more people will want to attend than I can accommodate, so please email me (at Brian At BrianMicklethwait Dot Com) if you want to attend, good an early. My guess is that all who wish to attend will fit in, but that’s only a guess. I will then email back with my address, and further details of the evening.
Indeed. By no less a personage than Guido Fawkes:
That’s only a picture, so it’s no use trying to follow the link in the picture. It’s just a picture. But the link refers to this posting. Follow that link and you will learn what got the Great Man’s attention.
This is such an important issue. Regular punters owning guns in America controls crime in America, except where idiot politicians forbid this.
But irregular punters, libertarians, not just having weapons but being downright enthusiastic about them. This will defend Libertaria, once someone finally gets it going, somewhere in the world.
Lots of libertarians think “defence” is a difficult issue. No. Just allow anyone who wants to do it to do it. The enemy are a bunch of wankers who don’t think they should be allowed to wield weapons. No contest. As for the armies these people think they command, our job will be to get our spies in among them, and stop them doing anything.
Building railways in built-up areas, organising drains, controlling infectious diseases; Things like that will be far harder to sort out.
By the way, I like the word “Libertaria”, to describe the place when Libertarianism first kicks off in a big way. I have been in the habit of calling this mythical land the “libertarian utopia”. But “utopia” is a word with baggage attached, a lot of it very bad. “Libertaria” dodges all such stuff.
Last night I went along to that meeting that Simon Gibbs and Andy Janes flagged up in comments on the previous posting here, and am very glad to have done so. I will try to do a write-up of it for Samizdata (although I promise nothing). Meanwhile here are a couple of pictures I took:
On the left, the guest speaker at the meeting, Tom Burroughes. On the right, a snap of somewhat over half of those present, including Tom.
The picture on the left shows how good speaker photos can be, even in poor light. The picture on the right shows the usefulness of having a wider angle lens that I have hitherto had. However, only a rather small proportion of the rather few snaps I took came out well, which was a slight disappointment. The new camera is better for this kind of thing than the old one, but not as much of an improvement as I had been hoping.
Or maybe I am just getting used to it, and my standards have gone up.
Here’s another picture that works better with the new wider and more panoramic lens. It’s the venue of the meeting, the Rose & Crown, taken when I first got there:
Another for the Pubs Dwarfed by Modernity collection. Pubs in London are like Churches, in that they have a habit of surviving when all around them is replaced by higher rise modernity. (Of course, you no longer see the pubs that perish.)
I had been wandering around in Southwark beforehand, mostly snapping the Shard through random architectural and other junk in the foreground. As a result I found myself approaching the Rose & Crown from an unfamiliar and more interesting direction than usual.
A comment on this at Samizdata, from “Fred”. Harsh, but containing much truth:
This used to be a great blog, but it’s dying. Not that the contributors still on it aren’t doing a decent job, but there’s not enough of them, with not enough time and energy. You need some new blood. The country needs Samizdata to come back revitalized. (I’d offer my services, but I’m also a burnt-out case).
I doubt that’ll be discussed very much on Samizdata itself.
For me, the key figure is Perry de Havilland. Samizdata is indeed now a shadow of what it once was. But when Perry writes for it, the shadow seems to go away and the thing itself returns. But he is now, it would seem, blogged out, and Samizdata is hugely the worse for it. Groups in general and group blogs in particular don’t function properly if not properly lead, and Samizdata used to be lead by example. Perry did a superb job setting Samizdata up, and the momentum has been extraordinary. But “Fred” is right. That momentum is no longer there.
I am entirely aware that I myself am a part of this problem. I too find that I can only say and do so much. I look back on the last decade of my life with a feeling that I could have done a whole lot better. All I did for Samizdata was join in, and contribute well and often, for a while. Perry de Havilland did massively better than that.
Personally I’m not sure that Samizdata itself “needs” to revive. The country may “need Samizdata”, but the country may just have to make other arrangements. But the attitude Samizdata embodied when it was started, and still tries to embody, needs to stick around, if not at Samizdata itself then somewhere.
The sight of a bunch of old guys casting about for “new blood” can be rather undignified, and the process usually fails anyway. Can ageing firebrands find younger replacements, to do the same old jobs? This is just about the hardest thing there is when it comes to institution making. Personally, I have always concentrated on putting the ideas out there, and relying on the next generation to stay with them and express them in their own way, with their own enterprises and communicational techniques, not as junior members of Old Guy Institutions. I tend to doubt the excellence of younger people who attach themselves to ancient institutions, rather than creating their own. I mean, what’s stopping them doing their own thing? It’s not like it takes a revolution to set up a new libertarian drumbeating machine. And there are a couple out there that I can think of. But maybe the fact that those operations are even on my radar means that they are not where the real libertarian action is right now, and the Real Thing is happening entirely elsewhere.
I often find that simply stating a problem out loud can make it go away. The answer, that had seemed impossible, becomes obvious. Maybe this posting will do that for me now.
I mentioned the difficulties I had last Saturday, at the Liberty League Conference, with indoor photography. The least unsuccessful indoor photos I took were of some of the speakers.
Part of movement building is telling each other what we all look like, so here are these snaps. Click to get bigger pictures, exactly as they emerged from my camera. If anyone uses any of these snaps elsewhere (as they are most welcome to do) they are also welcome to do whatever editing they consider might improve them.
The good gentlemen pictured below are, in the order in which they spoke at the Conference, James Stanfield (top left), Mark Pennington (top centre), Brendon O’Neill (top right), Kristian Niemietz (bottom left), Andrew Lilico (bottom centre), Mustafa Akyol (bottom left):
James Stanfield. Stanfield is a colleague of James Tooley, and was a late replacement for Tooley, who had been struck down by a travel-related bug. It seems that school spotting in far away places has its dangers. Having heard Tooley speak a number of times over the years, most recently last Wednesday, and not ever having heard James Stanfield before, I personally was not that distressed by this swap, although I’m guessing others present may have been.
Everyone, definitely including me, regretted the no-show by Toby Young, who got stuck in traffic and then failed to find anywhere to park and went back home. Bizarre. But at least Young phoned in to explain all this. The titles of two of his books, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and The Sound of No Hands Clapping, provoked laughter when mentioned by conference supremo Anton Howes as he passed on these travel updates.
Stanfield’s talk was distinguished by his assertion of the value of liberty, as a principle. Stanfield didn’t justify a total free market in education merely because it would, in the opinion of onlookers, have better educational results. People should, he said, be allowed to choose whatever education they want for their children, because that is an inherently good idea, along with such ideas as it being good for people to be allowed to say what they want and go where they want.
The other of the above speakers who particularly impressed me was Mustafa Akyol. I am no admirer of Islam. Akyol is the first person (Muslim or otherwise) I have ever heard to have got me thinking that I might be mistaken about just how inherently evil Islam is. He is the author of a book entitled Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case For Liberty, a copy of which I purchased after he gave his talk. I probably still won’t be convinced, mind, but I am looking forward to reading this.
That a particular speaker may not have impressed me as much as the above two says little about him and quite a lot about me. I have reached the nodding off stage in life. If I nod off while you are speaking at an event I am attending, you shouldn’t take it personally. Could this be why so many people - people other than me - prefer not to sit at the front of the audience at events like this?