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
I spent today (a) fretting that my meeting this evening at my home might not be a very good meeting (on account of me not managing to persuade enough people to attend it), (b) having the meeting, and then (c) being pleased that it was a very good meeting. Thank you Nico Metten, the speaker.
I forgot, as usual, to take any photos of the meeting, so here is something (chosen because Friday is my day here for cats (and other creatures)) I photoed earlier:
I was in horse country earlier in the week, but only saw an electric horse. That real horse (with cart) was photoed in the vicinity of South Bermondsey railway station, just over a month ago.
Indeed. Photoed by me this afternoon:
I remember enjoying the original Ghostbusters, because of its pro-free-market political angle. This piece explains this political angle well.
Mostly what I think about all the feminism in this latest iteration, and of all those complaining about the feminism, is that you don’t own works of popular entertainment just because you liked them when you were young. If you like the original but not the new one, then ignore then new one and watch the old one again. It is very childish to get all steamed up about your childhood memories being mucked about with, if they have not actually been mucked about with. I mean, the original Ghostbusters survives, and has not in fact been in any way tampered with.
I am currently spending all my blogging time, apart from the late night hour or so that it took to bash out this, working on a summary of a talk given to Libertarian Home by Mark Littlewood, about Brexit. Lilttlewood used to be for Britain staying in the EU, but has since changed his mind. I hope to be sending that summary in to LH some time tomorrow.
Meanwhile, my understanding of the referendum is that the Jo Cox murder has made a bit of a difference, in favour of Remain, but that a stronger swing towards Leave has also been happening.
The whole immigration argument, now being pressed hard by the Leavers, is obviously making a big difference. But I reckon some other forces are also in play.
I was struck by the news that Leave was appealing to Labour voters by saying that voting Leave would wipe the smile off the faces of Cameron and Osborne. I think that’s probably proving to be very persuasive. In a General Election, you can hate Cameron and Osborne all you like, and vote against them. But, against you are all those people who think that a Labour Government would be a catastrophe. They all vote for Cameron and Osborne despite not liking them. But in this referendum, all those Labour voters whose overriding emotion is loathing of Cameron and Osborne can actually cause Cameron and Osborne to lose. I’m guessing that’s a very appealing idea.
I also think that Eddie Izzard’s bizarre appearance – literally his appearance – on shows like Question Time destroyed with one viral image the claim that all Remainers are normal people and only the more unhinged of the Leavers are a bunch of nutters from some other planet. Izzard reminded me of that bonkers woman in a beret that the late Victoria Wood once did, to such comic effect.
To be clear. I’m not saying that everyone now thinks that those arguing for Leave are all normal. Leavers have long been reckoned by normal people people to be, many of them, about as sane as a sackful of drunken badgers. What Izzard did was say to the nation: Lots of us Remainers are barking mad too.
Izzard, in other words, completely changed a widespread and very influential idea. If everyone had been supposing that all Leave freaks are actually not freaks at all, any of them, than the Jo Cox murder would also have changed things, a lot. As it is, this horror story merely confirms what most people already know about Leave freaks. They’re freaks. Meanwhile, the mainstream politicians arguing for Leave are not nearly such freaks. They are fairly normal looking. They look normal in the way that Farage looked normal, when he was sitting next to Izzard on Question Time. The Jo Cox murder doesn’t change that.
Izzard, on the other hand, actually changed things. The murder of an MP is a much bigger deal than Izzard. But that murder, horrible though it was, does not change what most people think about Leavers. Many Leavers are freaks. But what Izzard did was use his small national presence to suggest a really rather big change, and not in a way that helped the cause he was arguing for. He said that many Remainers are freaks too.
That’s the problem with showbiz people. They confuse showbiz popularity with being popular with the entire nation. If you find a comedian to be annoying or just not very funny, you can simply ignore him, happily leaving those who adore him to carry right on adoring him. The comedian makes a good living. You are not bothered. Problem solved. Everyone happy. Personally, I think Eddie Izzard has one joke - “Hey, I’m completely random in what I say!” - and I’ve heard it enough not to want to hear it again. So, I now ignore Izzard.
But politics is, by definition, the stuff that comes for you whether you want it or not. Politics is like having to sit and listen to a performer whom you don’t like. When Izzard steps forward, dressed like that, spouting political opinions, he then provokes, from those who do not like what they are seeing, not a mere shrug of indifference, but active opposition. Izzard made people want to vote against what he was saying.
In this recent piece in the Independent, it was claimed that how Izzard had been arguing was the problem. I wonder if even the anonymous editors who signed off on this editorial really think this. They carefully avoided saying that Izzard looked like a freak. Which is fine for late night telly fun. But it is not fine when the subject being argued about is the manner in which our country should be governed. There is a reason that ambitious politicians do not, any of them, present themselves as Izzard just did.
If the Brexit referendum result is as close as it could well be, Izzard’s contribution to the Leave cause could prove to have been decisive.
This has been a been a rather muddled and repetitious piece of writing. This is because I was working out what I thought, as I wrote. The point about how the Jo Cox murder doesn’t change how anyone feels about Leave Freaks, but that Izzard’s pratting about does change what lots of people feel about Remainers, and that lots of people now reckon that a lot of Remainders are Freaks too, only emerged as I wrote. But, me thinking aloud is one of the things this place is for.
I have been neglecting Libertarian Home of late. Let me assure LH’s Dear Leader Simon Gibbs that this is not permanent, just a combination of the declining energy that accompanies advancing years, and being, first, knackered by my French expedition, ant then preoccupied with the meeting I hosted on Friday addressed by Dominic Frisby. (Because this was a dry run for a theatrical performance at the Edinburgh Festival in August, some rearranging was required in my tiny front room, to make it less completely unlike a theatre.)
Simon has made it easy for me to respond positively to his constant nudgings, by serving up a nudge that is very easy for me to respond to, and in fact which I am glad to respond to, because it takes care of my something-every-day self-imposed rule here, for today.
At the Libertarian Home secret coven site where Simon nudges most of his nudgings to his various LH helpers and comrades, he posted this picture, which he recently snapped in Trafalgar Square:
Click on that to get the original, bigger and with more verbiage.
It is typical of Simon that he nudged this in my direction (picking me out individually thereby ensuring that an email about the nudge would reach me immediately) by emphasising the horizontality of this photo. (He had other ways of recommending it to others.) What this illustrates is that Simon is good at tuning in to how others think, which is the bedrock of the art of persuasion.
Photographic horizontality interests me because it suits the blogging format by helping to make blog postings vertically shorter and hence less unwieldy than they would otherwise be, and because horizontality also suits other circumstances that happen to be of interest to me.
So, he used it. Thus are ideological movements built and strengthened.
That Brexit thing is getting less and less horizontal by the minute, apparently. Although I promise nothing, I have in mind (more Gibbs nudging) to go to Trafalgar Square this afternoon and try to photo the whole thing.
Nothing much here today, but I just did three Samizdata postings today and yesterday:
I have always felt that the fascination with cat photos that has engulfed the internet was somehow more important than just being a matter of cat photos, engulfing the internet. Now it seems that cat photos are a threat to Islam, and must be forbidden. For me, cats means pure fun. No purpose is served. Other than the purpose (purr-puss) of having fun. And it seems that there is this crazy Sheikh who also thinks that photoing cats is pure fun also, and that this is why photoing cats should be forbidden. For him, I guess, fun is never pure. Quite the opposite.
One of my regular automatic google-searches is “face recognition”, and just now this has been alerting me to all the various tricks that are coming on stream for making face recognition not work, by putting on make-up, or spectacles, and such like.
Here is my contribution to this discussion:
I know what you’re thinking. Who might that be?
Exactly. Although, if you’re are supercomputer, you have probably worked it out. You have a special programme which tells you to take particular interest in any faces that are trying to not be recognised.
Most of my libertarian friends think that such tech solutions are the front line of this battle. I have long assumed that the world is moving rapidly towards a state where the question of what is X doing at the moment is technologically answerable, and impossible to prevent being answered. For me, among other desirable things, libertarianism is the claim that although we can see X saying or doing something we don’t approve of, we shouldn’t legally prevent him or her from doing that, unless it is really, really bad.
In a world of Total Surveillance by the Big Machine, the proliferation of stupid rules and regulations with no huge moral content becomes a problem like it never used to be. I means rules about things like what you should eat or smoke or, now, say in conversation. Rules like that mean that we can all now be seen and heard breaking such rules. (Okay, maybe not now, maybe not yet, but that’s where things are headed.) And that means that anyone who wants to fuck up your life or my life (for an actual real reason that has bugger all to do with the stupid rule actually being broken) can then do it. Worse, some legislative maniac might demand that anyone that the Big Machine sees breaking this or that rule that he personally is obsessed about, should be automatically fucked over, by the Big Machine, with no human intervention involved. With a big long list of exceptions, like legislators. The Big Machine can’t touch them. Libertarianism has arisen, partly, because it has become ever more necessary to insist on certain principles, principles which were imposed upon the world in former times by sheer ignorance of what other people were getting up to.
The other thing people have to do is develop thicker skins, psychologically speaking I mean, because although legislative pressure is not now a problem for most people, social pressure can become a big problem, for example if you find yourself being mobbed on the internet for some innocuous thing you said or ate. Just because a million idiots on the internet are screeching that you are an idiot, that doesn’t mean you are, or that if you are, it matters. When it does matter, bosses should chill, and not fire people just because the mob is screeching. I applaud, tentatively, the recent tendency to give social media mobsters a going-over, using the same methods on them that they have been using. Who is this mad bitch? What has she (it does often seem to be she) been up to lately? What is her job? Who is her boss? Etc. (In the age of cyber-bullying, I feel that I now understand witchcraft crazes better.)
Another problem is that as something easily mistaken for a state of everyone knowing everything increasingly pertains, that old illusion that everything will accordingly be centrally plannable is likely to keep rearing its very ugly head, and keep on having to be experienced as a disastrous illusion. (More libertarianism.) The point is, everyone doesn’t know everything. Nothing like. We can’t. Our heads aren’t big enough, and even if they were, knowledge is not like that. Everyone can known anything in particular that is easy to know (like where X is just now) that they want to know and ask the Big Machine about. That’s entirely different from actual omniscience.
I keep wanting to write about music, but (a) it isn’t easy, unless both you and your readers know all the technical terms of your preferred sort of music. And (b) whereas words go fine with music, words about music, especially if they are attempting to be descriptive of a particular piece of music, can be devilishly hard to contrive in a way that is comprehensible without being banal and superficial and generalised.
A specialist blog or website devoted to a particular sort of music, with musical illustrations supplied to click on rather than only descriptive verbiage, whose writer(s) and readers are united by their taste in that particular sort of music, that makes perfect sense to me. I don’t read any such blogs, but it makes sense. I do read old school paper magazines (I see that there is a new one of those out that I’ve not yet seen) exactly like this. But a blog about other things which from time to time goes musical, not so much. I have no problem at all with my favourite bloggers (6k and Mick Hartley spring to mind) doing postings every so often about music that they happen particularly to like. Their gaffs, their rules. But I mostly skip such postings. I possess a lifetime and more of music in the form of a vast CD collection that I already want to listen to.
So, I do not wish myself merely to do postings about bits of music that I happen to like, hoping - implicitly or explicitly - that others will be infected with my tastes. I love Western classical music more than life itself, often a lot more. But most people don’t these days, and that’s fine with me. If I thought that western classical music was about to be completely expunged from the earth any time soon, I might feel differently about trying to infect others with the love of it, but it isn’t. Meanwhile, this music is, for me, mostly a personal thing. It is not an evangelical religion. If I meet a fellow devotee, we exchange enthusiastic exclamations of love for this or that piece or performance, but I mostly refrain from inflicting such True Believer talk on non-believers.
I am evangelical and anti-evangelical about some things. If you are not a libertarian, I want that to change. You should become a libertarian forthwith. If you are a Muslim, I want you to know, now, that I think you should stop being a Muslim, now. But if you hate Beethoven and adore hip-hop, that’s fine with me, so long as you have no plans forcibly to stop me listening to Beethoven or to force me to listen to hip-hop. If you merely want me to adore hip-hop, or even to stop adoring Beethoven, again, fine. Just so long as you don’t recommend the use of sticks or stones to make those points. Insofar as you do, then shame on you. But exactly the same point applies to people who force Beethoven upon those who resist Beethoven’s charms. I am evangelical about that sort of behaviour also. Are you threatening others with Beethoven? Stop doing that, now. Do you favour such behaviour by others. Don’t even think that.
However, more general postings about music (this one being an example) about the different ways we listen to it and enjoy it, how love of music spreads or should spread (that is what this posting has partly been about), about how those who contrive it contrive it, and so on, of the sort that all music lovers can read and tune into, even as they are hearing in their own heads quite distinct musical illustrations concerning whatever is being said, that makes more sense to me, and - memo to self - I want to do more of such postings here.
Today I attended Deirdre McCloskey’s talk for the Adam Smith Institute. I know what you’re thinking. Okay, okay, photos, as per usual. But: What did she say? Fine. Go here, and you can find out. What I can find no link to is any information about the event – when, where, and so on. It’s all now gone. Maybe it was never there in the first place.
But the Man from the Adam Smith Institute told me to send in some of my snaps, and these are the ones I sent them:
McCloskey’s basic point was what is rapidly becoming the libertarian orthodoxy, to the effect that (a) the world started getting humungously rich in or around 1780 (Yaron Brook‘s preferred date for this is 1776 (to coincide with America starting and Smith’s Wealth of Nation’s getting published)), and (b) we did this. Our enemies tried to stop us and they failed. We know how to make poor people rich, and we’ve been doing it ever since. Our enemies only know how to make rich people less rich and poor people more poor. Bastards.
My recent favourite example of enrichment is a very tiny one offered at today’s talk by McCloskey, which is that you can now use your smartphone as a mirror. Better yet, McCloskey said, before the talk she was giving, she spotted Steve Baker MP doing this exact thing with his smartphone, while perfecting his appearance prior to doing his MP socialising bit.
The reason I particularly like this is that I just recently learned about this trick myself, when I saw someone doing it, and took a photo of it:
If you photo someone looking in a mirror, they can see their face, but you can’t. (Unless it’s a crap movie, in which case the audience sees the face and the person with the face doesn’t. I know. Ridiculous. But this is truly what often happens.) But, if you photo someone using their smartphone as a mirror, both you and they can see their face.
McCloskey’s point was that enrichment doesn’t only come in the form of more money, but also in the form of the ever more amazing things that you can buy with your money. Like a phone that is also a NASA circa 1968 supercomputer. And a face mirror.
Finally, here are a couple more photography-related photos. On the left is the official photographer for the McCloskey talk:
And on the right there is a photo which I also took at the venue for the McCloskey talk, which I will not name, because the people in charge of this place might then learn of this blog posting and see this picture and then who the hell knows what might happen? Are you wondering what I am talking about? Click on the picture and work it out. I only realised what I had photoed after I had got home.
Today I attended the Libertarian Home Benevolent Laissez-Faire Conference. Here is the text of the opening speech by conference organiser Simon Gibbs. And here is a selection of the photos I took, of the event and of the speakers:
Conference programme here.
1.1: An attender. 1.2: The venue, very good, with a big side window looking out to a small basement level garden. 1.3: Syed Kamall. 1.4 and 2.1: Janina Lowisz and one of her slides. 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4: Julio Alejandro. 3.1: Simon Gibbs and Yaron Brook. 3.2: Brook. 3.3: Kyril and Rob helping with the books. 3.4: LH info, lit up by the afternoon sun through the window. 4.1: Anton Howes. 4.2: Howes and Brook. 4.3 and 4.4: Gibbs, Alejandro, Howes, Brook.
This is a first:
I am at Brian Micklethwait’s place for his latest Friday. This argument against leaving the EU was made (I am literally live blogging, this is breaking news!): The good thing about Brussels is that it is impossible to be emotionally attached to it. This weakens the state.
Interesting discussion is now ensuing. And we have not even got to the speaker yet.
The liveblogger in question being Rob Fisher, to whom thanks.
The speaker and subject matter were described in this earlier posting here.
I do hope to write something soonish about what was actually said by Patrick Crozier, but meanwhile, the other interesting thing about this evening’s event, for me, was how well attended it was. By this I mean that the room was, as it usually seems to be, comfortably but not uncomfortably full.
What was so unusual about this outcome was that when I sent that first email out last Sunday evening, flagging up the meeting, I got no responses. Usually, one or two or three people reply by return of email that they intend to attend, and more acceptances come in as the week before the meeting (which is on the Friday) progresses. But this time: nothing. Not even one email. Not a sausage. In my reminder email, which went out yesterday, I pretty much begged people to come, and to tell me beforehand that they were coming. And a healthy trickle of positive responses duly trickled in, and I relaxed. And then, come the evening itself, as already revealed, pretty much the exact same number of people showed up as usually shows up.
How do people, collectively, know to do this? There has to be some kind of mathematical law in operation here, which says that the right number of people always shows up, no matter what.
It cannot be coincidence that the only time when far, far too many people showed up for comfort was the very first of these meetings, when I restarted them at the beginning of (I think it was) 2013. Never again. This strongly suggests to me that The Crowd, subsequently so wise, started out ignorant, of how much comfortable space there was, but that The Crowd has subsequently learned. And now, The Crowd knows how to turn up chez moi in the exact right numbers, every time. No matter what I do to assemble it, and no matter what it says beforehand, or doesn’t say.
I just sent out the email plugging a talk to be given at my home this coming Friday (the 29th) by Patrick Crozier, on “The Political Consequences of World War One” (as already flagged up here in this posting).
The email included this:
Many libertarians of my acquaintance talk about World War One as the great libertarian historical What-If? As in: Surely, surely, the world would have remained far more libertarian-inclined if only ... World War One not been blundered into by its deluded protagonists. Everything bad about the modern world, for many libertarians, has its origins in that fateful and fatal moment of mass mobilisation, for massed war, in August 1914. War is the Health of the State! And with war, modern statism just grew and grew.
But has this growth in statism happened because of war, and because of that war in particular? Or did war merely accompany the growth? Was this causation, or merely correlation?
Patrick Crozier writes regularly for Samizdata, specialising in World War One, and in events of WW1 that happened exactly one hundred years before the time of his postings. Just recently, Patrick has been, as it were, extricating himself from the trenches and from purely military issues, to look also at wider political developments, on the home front and beyond. So he seemed to me to be the ideal person to be asked, as I did ask him earlier in the month, this question:
Was the rise of statism in Britain and the West seriously accelerated by WW1, or would such stuff have happened anyway, with or without war?
Were there big moves being made towards statism before the outbreak of war, and not even in anticipation of war? Did neutrals also do lots of statist stuff at the same time as the war’s protagonists?
Sounds good to me. But then, these talks always do, because if at talk doesn’t sound good to me, I keep on looking until I find another that does.
If you didn’t get the email but would like to attend, or would like to get this and future emails, leave a comment or send me an email. To do the latter click where it says “Contact”, top left.
The weekend before last, just before getting ill, I attended a christening, at St James’s Piccadilly. Outside St James’s, I encountered two ducks, who seemed very much at home, and I’m assuming that this is their home. There was a small pond, which I’m guessing was theirs:
And on the right, the day’s other happy couple, showing off their newly christened daughter. Her name is not “Liberty”, but Mum and Dad are libertarians. Congratulations to Ayumi and to Richard, and to their daughter. A very good way to make more libertarians is to give birth to them and then raise them as libertarians. But a very happy day, whatever she decides to make of herself.
Today I began to feel properly recovered, and I spent most of my blogging time doing this posting, about this forthcoming Libertarian Home event, which is happening on May 14th. Interesting speakers, including Anton Howes, whom I particularly enjoy listening to.
Before getting ill, I managed (and thank goodness I did) finally to get properly ahead of myself with regard to my own speakers, for my own monthly meetings. After cutting it far too fine in Feb and March, but being rescued by two excellent speakers, I did some serious hustling, and am now able to announce that the following speakers-and-dates have now also been fixed, subject to all the usual qualifiers about how things might change but I hope they won’t, blah blah.
It proved a bit hard to remember everybody, and every date. All the more reason to do a memo-to-self posting here, gathering it all together, for me to refer to, and to refer other people to:
April 29th – Patrick Crozier on the political consequences of World War One. Did WW1 cause lots of bad statist crap, or might a lot of that bad stuff have happened anyway?
May 27th – Dominic Frisby on taxation.
June 24th – Anthony J. Evans on to what extent economic freedom leads to political freedom.
July 29th – Michael Jennings on the Middle East.
August 26th – Nico Metten on localism as a libertarian strategy.
Assuming that plan unfolds approximately as planned, that’s not a bad little handful of events.
As soon as I did that first posting this morning, about blogging early, I was freed from any obligation – self-imposed, but still an obligation – to blog any more today. At which point the idea of putting more up here, today, became fun, rather than any sort of chore. Hence the next posting, the one immediately below this one.
This one is here mostly so I can have postings called “Blog early” and “Blog often” up here on the same day.
Earlier this evening I attended a Libertarian Home meeting, addressed by Tim Evans.
One definite improvement over previous LH meetings in the same venue is that on the blackboard behind the speaker, it said his name, rather than the names of lots of things you can eat.
So, behind Tim Evans, underneath where it says “Specials” it also, this evening, said “Tim Evans”:
Better. In particular, better than this:
The speaker in that picture was Allum Bokhari, last August, and that picture of him is most unflattering. Alas, this is the picture I took that night that best shows all that food. Go here to see Allum Bokhari looking better, even if he is wearing headphones. To hear him also, talking about the “censorship” (if that’s what it is) of the social media, by the social media.
So, the video of Tim Evans talking will look better, in this particular respect, than did earlier videos, of LH speakers in front of that blackboard. You build an ideological movement one step at a time. This was a small step, but a definite step. Nice one.
Sadly, I am not so confident about the likely sound quality of any video that transpires. Tim has a way of talking rather quietly when in a smallish room such as this one is, but the hinges of the door to the room had no such inhibitions and were squeaking something terrible, every time anyone came in or out, as happened quite often. We shall see, and we shall hear. Hope I’m wrong about that.
Last Friday evening, at that meeting, I talked with Perry de Havilland about writing for Samizdata. I told him that I have recently been taking longer to finish my postings, to get them nearer to completely right. He compared blogging to rock ‘n’ roll. The clear implication being that blogging, like rock ‘n’ roll, is most truly itself when done, so to speak, live.
Each to his own. I now find that one of the symptoms of advancing years is that I am no longer as confident as I once was about the first thing that comes out of my mouth, or about what emerges from my tapping fingers. I prefer to have several reads-through of it, with gaps of time between them to think more.
Such polishing is not new, for me. I used to do it to stuff I wrote for the Libertarian Alliance. Stuff like this piece, which Patrick Crozier kindly linked back to, in one of the comments on the first of those two recent Samizdata pieces. As Patrick said, what that earlier piece said was very similar to what the Samizdata piece said. Appropriately enough, both pieces (separated by a quarter of century) were about how reluctant people are to change the basic way that they think about things.
Then as now, such polishing did not make my writing perfect. But it did make it quite a lot better.
Well, now, I seem to be reverting to writing more considered and revised essays, short or not so short, rather than “blog postings”. Rock ‘n’ roll is a young man’s game, and I do not feel comfortable writing in that manner. I used to. If Perry de Havilland still does (and he does), I am very happy for him. But it seems now not to suit me so much.
However, I do actually think that rock ‘n’ roll is now less appropriate. The novelty of just anyone being able to shovel stuff onto the internet has now passed. The mainstream media have now thoroughly internetted themselves, and the “any old stuff” approach (such as prevails here) does not get a blog like Samizdata the traffic that it used to get. I think that some of us at least should be polishing. More and more, my role model is becoming the late Findlay Dunachie. Not in the sense that I intend only to review books from now on. I mean that I find myself wanting to write more in the way he wrote, more thoughtfully, in a way that is more considered.
I am not now deciding to write differently. (I promise nothing.) I am merely noting that this is what seems now to be happening. An earlier stage in the change of attitude I am describing was earlier described in this posting here.
By which I mean, what seems to be happening at Samizdata. Here will continue to be the impulsive, sloppy, last minute, thinking aloud, what you get is what you get operation that it has always been. I did a little polishing of this piece, but not a lot.