Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.


Recent Comments

Monthly Archives

Most recent entries


Advanced Search

Other Blogs I write for

Brian Micklethwait's Education Blog

CNE Competition
CNE Intellectual Property
Transport Blog


2 Blowhards
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alan Little
Albion's Seedling
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Alex Singleton
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Biased BBC
Bishop Hill
Bloggers Blog
Blognor Regis
Blowing Smoke
Boatang & Demetriou
Boing Boing
Boris Johnson
Brazen Careerist
Bryan Appleyard
Burning Our Money
Cafe Hayek
Charlie's Diary
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
Chicago Boyz
China Law Blog
Cicero's Songs
City Comforts
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Clay Shirky
Climate Resistance
Climate Skeptic
Coffee & Complexity
Coffee House
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Contra Niche
Contrary Brin
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Скрипучая беседка
Dave Barry
Davids Medienkritik
David Thompson
Deleted by tomorrow
diamond geezer
Dizzy Thinks
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
Dr Robert Lefever
Dr. Weevil
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
English Cut
English Russia
EU Referendum
Ezra Levant
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Flickr blog
Freeborn John
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
Fugitive Ink
Future Perfect
Gaping Void
Gates of Vienna
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Idiot Toys
India Uncut
Jackie Danicki
James Delingpole
James Fallows
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Jihad Watch
Joanne Jacobs
Johan Norberg
John Redwood
Jonathan's Photoblog
Kristine Lowe
Laissez Faire Books
Last of the Few
Lessig Blog
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Alone
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
listen missy
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Mad Housewife
Mangan's Miscellany
Marginal Revolution
Mark Wadsworth
Media Influencer
Melanie Phillips
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael Jennings
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
Mick Hartley
More Than Mind Games
mr eugenides
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Natalie Solent
Nation of Shopkeepers
Never Trust a Hippy
NO2ID NewsBlog
Non Diet Weight Loss
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
Oddity Central
Oliver Kamm
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
Picking Losers
Pigeon Blog
Police Inspector Blog
Power Line
Private Sector Development blog
Publius Pundit
Rachel Lucas
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Rob's Blog
Setting The World To Rights
Shane Greer
Shanghaiist The Violin Blog
Sinclair's Musings
Slipped Disc
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stephen Fry
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Style Bubble
Sunset Gun
Survival Arts
Susan Hill
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Agitator
The AntRant
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Croydonian
The Daily Ablution
The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Kitchen
The Dissident Frogman
The Distributed Republic
The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Filter^
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
The Futurist
The Happiness Project
The Jarndyce Blog
The London Fog
The Long Tail
The Lumber Room
The Online Photographer
The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Sharpener
The Speculist
The Surfer
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
things magazine
Tim Blair
Tim Harford
Tim Worstall
Transterrestrial Musings
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Unqualified Offerings
Violins and Starships
Virginia Postrel
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
White Sun of the Desert
Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours


Mainstream Media

The Sun
This is London


RSS 1.0
RSS 2.0


Billion Monkeys
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Career counselling
Cats and kittens
Civil liberties
Classical music
Computer graphics
Current events
Digital photographers
Emmanuel Todd
Expression Engine
Food and drink
Getting old
How the mind works
Intellectual property
Kevin Dowd
Latin America
Media and journalism
Middle East and Islam
My blog ruins
My photographs
Open Source
Pop music
Quote unquote
Roof clutter
Science fiction
Signs and notices
Social Media
South America
The internet
The Micklethwait Clock
This and that
This blog

Category archive: Libertarianism

Thursday November 26 2015

I say new.  New for me.  Old and superfluous to requirements for the people who were getting rid of them.

Audiences for regularly repeating events tend exactly to fill whatever comfortable spaces and places are offered to them.  Given that my speakers tend to be pretty good, the single best way for me to persuade more people to attend my Last Fridays of the Month meetings (there will be another such meeting tomorrow evening) is to improve the seating arrangements.  More and more comfortable chairs are the best way to make these events better.

When these meetings resumed, in January 2013, there was a rather ungainly sofa, which seats two in comfort and three in discomfort unless all three are very thin, and one other comfy single chair.  The rest was all stools and upright chairs and old loudspeakers and suchlike.

Worst of all there was this:


That picture having already been shown here, here.

But, to replace the above abomination, there is now this:


Despite appearances, these two beauties work very well as a three seat sofa.  Better yet, they cost me: nothing.  I went out shopping a few months back, and Goddaughter 2 happened to be with me.  We saw these two semi-sofas being inserted into a skip.  So we skipped the shopping and grabbed them, all this being only a couple of dozen yards from the front door of my block of flats.  Moments later, and they’d have been covered in subsequent rubbish.  No Goddaughter 2, and I don’t know how I would have managed.  Almost certainly, not.  Amazing.

And then, about a week ago in a charity shop I encountered these two little numbers, also very comfortable:


I had to pay a few bob for them, and some more bob for a taxi to get them home, but it all added up to far less than I was thinking of paying for something similar, singular, new, to see if another similar, singular, new, would be worth a further quite large outlay.

The above improvements may not seem like much, but they increase the number of truly comfortable seats at my evenings from three-and-a-half to eight-and-a-half.  So the chance of a comfy seat have now more than doubled.

All I need now is to replace that goofy original sofa, with its goofy great arm rests that take up about one and half people’s worth of space, and things would be looking even better.

Wednesday November 25 2015

Last night I did a posting at Samizdata about Milo Yiannopoulos.

Until today, when I dug him up on YouTube, I didn’t even know what nationality this guy is.  American would have been my guess, but basically I didn’t know, although I did learn yesterday what he looks like.  But for me he was basically a name, that I couldn’t spell.

Turns out he’s British.  Very British.  Who knew?  Everybody except me, presumably.  Blog and learn. 

I asked for the opinions of Samizdata commentariat, and got some.  I don’t know why, but I expected more variety in these responses, more doubts, more reservations.  Actually, the Samizdata commentariat has, so far, been uniformly approving of this guy.

Now I’m listening to him babble away, and it turns out that, being a libertarian and an atheist, I’m “touchy” - meaning oversensitive about being criticised - times two.  As a libertarian I’m obsessed with marijuana and with computer hacking.  (Actually: No, times two.) As an atheist, well, it turns out I dress stupidly.  (Yes.  True.) He does love to wind people up, which he does by saying slightly untrue and quite funny things.  He’s like that classic old Fleet Street type, the Opinionated Female Columnist, whose job is to overgeneralise in ways that are quite popular and pile up the readers, and to make the Outraged Classes really really outraged, and who eventually gets … old.

I’m starting to think he may soon be a bit of a has been.  But, at least he now is.

I think the article that I linked to from Samizdata may have been a peak.  It is truly brilliant.

What I do like is his interest in the tactics of how to spread ideas, how to win arguments, how to be able to make arguments despite the efforts of people who want nothing except to shut him up, by saying things that shut them up.

Friday November 20 2015

On Friday November 27th (i.e. exactly one week from now), my friend from way back, Antoine Clarke, will be giving a talk at my place entitled “Herding cats, or lessons from drunks about organising anarchy”.

These talks happen every last Friday of the month, and before they give one of them, I ask each speaker to supply a paragraph or two about what they’ll be saying, so I can email my list of potential attenders.  Antoine has just supplied me with ten paragraphs on his talk:

It would be hard to imagine any more dysfunctional organisation than a leaderless group of drunks promising among themselves to quit drinking and to help other drunks to quit.

And then I realized that there is a similar organisation for narcotics addicts, one for cocaine addicts, crystal meth addicts and even “sex and love addicts” - whatever that may mean.

Alcoholics Anonymous has been described as a “benign anarchy” by one of its founders and manages to organize over 100,000 groups worldwide with between 1.5 million and 2 million members. Its power structure has been described as an “inverted pyramid”.

AA operates by having almost completely autonomous branches, no publicity, no professional class of “charity workers” and no set fees.  It has a “12-step program” and “12 traditions” which have been described respectively as “rules for not killing yourself” and “rules for not killing other people”.

The effectiveness of AA at curing or controlling alcohol addiction is not clear cut. Because of anonymity, self-selection and the difficulty of known if someone who stops attending meetings has relapsed or simply found he can lead a functional lifestyle. The fact that over a dozen other organisations have copied AA’s 12-step and 12 tradition system suggests at least some level of success, unlike, say the UK’s National Health Service which has fewer imitators.

One particular problem for AA is that any 12-step program will only really work if it is voluntary, but in the USA especially, courts mandate that convicted criminals attend AA meetings as a parole condition.  I think this reduces recidivism among the criminals (compared with them NOT following a program), but it surely dilutes the effectiveness of AA groups (more disruptive attendees, people going through the motions, possible discouragement of others).

I shall be looking at the elements of AA’s structure and organisational culture to see what lessons can be learned about the possibility of anarchic institutions especially at handling social problems.

What interests me is the “anarchy with table manners” aspect of AA and the contrast with truly dysfunctional libertarian organisations, like the Libertarian Alliance.

I’m also interested in the issue of government interference and the ways in which well-meaning interventions make matters worse. I shall also take a look at the spiritual element of AA’s 12-step program, noting that it claims to work for atheists and agnostics as well as for theists.

Hopefully, this is an attractive alternative to binge drinking on a Friday night in central London.

Indeed.  There will be no binge drinking at the meeting.

Friday July 03 2015

This posting is not so much me passing on advice as me seeking to solidify some ludicrously overdue advice from me to myself, about how to photograph speakers.

Don’t try to do it when they’re speaking.

Last night I took about two dozen photos of Dominic Frisby, who was address the Libertarian Home crowd at the Two Chairmen pub in Westminster.  Almost all these photos were useless.  This was because Frisby was talking, and when people talk, they move.  The indoor light was very scarce, so the slightest motion meant a blur, and a succession of blurs was accordingly all that I got.  My only photographic successes during the Frisby talk were when I switched my attention to the people listening to him.  They were keeping still.

People like Richard Carey:


And Rob Waller, who was the “organising fascist”, as he put it, of the meeting, i.e. he set it up and did the introducing:


I think Rob clocked me, don’t you?

The only half-decent Frisby photos I got were during the Q&A, when, just like the two persons featured above, he too was listening rather than talking:


Doesn’t he look adorkable.

As to what Frisby said (on the subject of Bitcoin), well, it was all videoed, although the video camera was being hand-held, as this further snap of Richard Carey, helping out with that, illustrates:


I include that snap also because of the John Lilburne reference, Lilburne being a man whom we libertarians should be bigging up every chance we get.

Finally, a book photo.  On account of Frisby’s talk beginning a few minutes earlier than I had been expecting it to, I arrived a few minutes late, and the only seat I could find was the one with Frisby’s books on it, which he had presumably earlier been sitting at.  That explains the odd angle of this photo:


Both books highly recommended.  More about Frisby by me (+ further links) in this Samizdata posting.  In this I mentioned that Frisby was working on a Bitcoin book.  As you can see, that book has now materialised.

It helps that books, like people who are listening, or for that matter doing photography, and unlike people who are talking, do not move.

Monday June 01 2015

It’s actually the final sentence of the Samizdata quote of the day:

Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.

It’s Edward Snowden, in one of those unwieldy comment thready things that I never read.

Guy Herbert doesn’t add what comes next, which is also good:

A free press benefits more than just those who read the paper.

Very true.

Here is a picture of Edward Snowden, that I took in June of last year ...:


... in Battersea, right across the road from where the big new US Embassy is being constructed. (Pictures of that, as recently was and as soon will be, here.)

Sunday March 29 2015

A Last Friday last Friday, then a performance at a fringe meeting at LLFF15.  But, the problem was I wasn’t completely clear of the lurgy.  A performance always holds illness at arms length for the duration, but only for the duration.  So today the lurgy was back with a vengeance.

Tomorrow may be similarly laconic.

Thursday March 12 2015

I have been reading Peter Thiel‘s book Zero to One.  It abounds with pithily and strongly expressed wisdoms.

Here (pp. 143-5) is how Thiel explains the difference between humans and computers, and how they complement one another in doing business together:

To understand the scale of this variance, consider another of Google’s computer-for-human substitution projects.  In 2012, one of their supercomputers made headlines when, after scanning 10 million thumbnails of YouTube videos, it learned to identify a cat with 75% accuracy.  That seems impressive-until you remember that an average four-year-old can do it flawlessly.  When a cheap laptop beats the smartest mathematicians at some tasks but even a supercomputer with 16,000 CPUs can’t beat a child at others, you can tell that humans and computers are not just more or less powerful than each other - they’re categorically different.

The stark differences between man and machine mean that gains from working with computers are much higher than gains from trade with other people. We don’t trade with computers any more than we trade with livestock or lamps.  And that’s the point: computers are tools, not rivals.

Thiel then writes about how he learned about the above truths when he and his pals at Paypal solved one of their biggest problems:

In mid-2000 we had survived the dot-com crash and we were growing fast, but we faced one huge problem: we were losing upwards of $10 million to credit card fraud every month.  Since we were processing hundreds or even thousands of transactions per minute, we couldn’t possibly review each one - no human quality control team could work that fast.

So we did what any group of engineers would do: we tried to automate a solution.  First, Max Levchin assembled an elite team of mathematicians to study the fraudulent transfers in detail.  Then we took what we learned and wrote software to automatically identify and cancel bogus transactions in real time. But it quickly became clear that this approach wouldn’t work either: after an hour or two, the thieves would catch on and change their tactics. We were dealing with an adaptive enemy, and our software couldn’t adapt in response.

The fraudsters’ adaptive evasions fooled our automatic detection algorithms, but we found that they didn’t fool our human analysts as easily.  So Max and his engineers rewrote the software to take a hybrid approach: the computer would flag the most suspicious transactions on a well-designed user interface, and human operators would make the final judgment as to their legitimacy.  Thanks to this hybrid system - we named it “Igor,” after the Russian fraudster who bragged that we’d never be able to stop him - we turned our first quarterly profit in the first quarter of 2002 (as opposed to a quarterly loss of $29.3 million one year before).

There then follow these sentences.

The FBI asked us if we’d let them use Igor to help detect financial crime. And Max was able to boast, grandiosely but truthfully, that he was “the Sherlock Holmes of the Internet Underground.”

The answer was yes.

Thus did the self-declared libertarian Peter Thiel, who had founded Paypal in order to replace the dollar with a free market currency, switch to another career, as a servant of the state, using government-collected data to chase criminals.  But that’s another story.

Friday March 06 2015

Libertarian Home have been having their meetings in several different venues of late.  Last night’s event was in the Prince of Wales, Covent Garden, which is on the corner of Long Acre and Drury Lane.  I got there a bit early, and filled the time by strolling along Long Acre towards where the old Alternative Bookshop once was, hoping for photoable diversion, and I was not disappointed.  Through a window, just across the road from Covent Garden tube, I spied, and photoed, this:

image image imageimage image image

I’m pretty sure I don’t like it, but it’s definitely a Thing worth photoing.  This time I remembered to photo enough information about the place to be able later to identify it.  The outside didn’t actually say what the place is, merely the address.  But that was enough for googling purposes.  It turns out this is a Fred Perry place, where Fred Perry and Co ... does things.  And this wooden Thing is a combination of reception desk, seating and window logo.  The Fred Perry enterprise makes, I assume sporty stuff and in particular sporty clothing, although that’s only a guess.  That Fred Perry website is all design but bizarrely little information.

It would be a lot more logical to have a reception desk, some seating, and a company logo in the window, each separate, each doing their own job, each replaceable as and when, or if decreed to be imperfect in some way.  Why do all these things need to be connected?  They don’t.  They need not to be connected.  And the reception desk bit must be very inconvenient actually to do receptioning on.

Thinking about this some more, this Thing makes me think that the Fred Perry enterprise is all about “design”, way beyond the bounds of intelligence or sanity or usefulness.  The website exudes the same atmosphere.  It tells you almost nothing, very prettily.  The whole company seems like one of those arrogantly stylish twats whose attitude is: I don’t have to explain myself.  I have your attention.  I am not going to deign to use it by actually talking to you.  I am wonderful and wonderfully stylish me.  That is enough for mere you.  Consider yourself lucky to be even seeing me.

But then, I guess that I am not their target demographic.  I am neither sporty (as in actually doing sport), nor stylish (as in myself wanting to look stylish).

While trying to find some kind of link to this enterprise, I learned that Fred Perry, the man himself, Wimbledon tennis champion in the year whenever it was, was also the 1929 world champion at ping pong.  Blog and learn.

Monday February 23 2015

This coming Friday I have another of my Last Friday of the Month meetings at my home in London SW1.  This coming Friday is, after all, the last Friday of the month, so the logic is inexorable.  Every Friday (even if the last Friday of, say, December 2014, happened to be Boxing Day, as it was) there is a Last Friday of the Month meeting at my home.

I have been having email problems, in the form of people using gmail suddenly not receiving my emails, so even if you thought you were on my list but hear nothing via email, be assured that this meeting will happen.  Try emailing me (which should work) and then telling your spam filter not to reject my reply, which you will have to do despite it being a particular individual reply.  I know, crazy.  I hope to write more about this problem in a posting at Samizdata, Real Soon Now.

Or, if you intend coming to this particular meeting, you could leave a comment below, and I will respond saying message received and look forward to greeting you.

Anyway, this coming Friday (Feb 27), Pete Comley will be talking about inflation.  He has recently published a book on the subject, which you can learn about in this posting at Comley’s website.  And you can hear what Comley sounds like and a little of how he thinks by listening to this short interview with Simon Rose of Share Radio.


The thing about Comley is that he takes a long-term - very long-term - view of inflation.  He began a recent talk I attended by discussing inflation at the time of the Roman Empire.

And in the long-term, there are not one but two major influences on inflation.  There is, of course, the supply of money, by the powers that be who have always insisted upon supplying money.  And when they make too many coins, too many bank notes or create too much bank credit, the price of regular stuff in shops goes creeping, or rocketing, up.  But there is also the demand for that regular stuff.  In particular, human population fluctuates.  At some moments in history, population shoots up.  At other times it falls, or at the very least the rate at which it increases falls.  Just now, in country after country, the birthrate is falling, and that has consequences for inflation.

Before you say it, I’ll say if for you.  Many simply define inflation as the first of these two processes but not the second.  Inflation is what money issuers do to the money supply.  A price rise caused by rising demand is simply not inflation.  It is a mere price rise.  Fair enough.  It certainly makes sense to distinguish these two processes from each other, however hard it may be for consumers to do this when both are happening to them.  And if you do that by restricting the definition of inflation in this way, then be aware that Pete Comley’s talk will be about inflation thus defined and about price rises sparked by rising demand, and for that matter about price stability caused by static demand.  (He says, by the way, that we might be about to enjoy just such a period of price stability.  And although you can never be sure about such things, better handling of the recent financial crisis, and we might have got there already.)

There is also the question of what causes money issuers to inflate, in the second and more restricted sense of inflation.  They seem to do this more at certain historical junctures than at others.  Inflation, restrictively defined, does not just cause bad economic experiences; it is itself caused, more at some times than at others.

All very interesting, or so I think.  Libertarians like me tend to be quite well informed about recent monetary history and about the evils of fiat currencies, the Fed, the Bank of England, and so on and so forth.  We tend to know a lot less about similar episodes in the more distant past to what he have recently experienced.  In general, we are more interested in the fluctuating supply of money than in the way that population fluctuations influence prices.

Pete Comley has a small but particular soft spot for me, on account of me having been the one who drew his attention to this book about the long-term history of prices (The Great Wave by David Hackett Fischer), which seems to have had quite a big influence on his latest book, which is called Inflation Matters.  It certainly does.

Tuesday February 17 2015

I just posted a Samizdata piece about Peter Thiel, a most admirable man, if the video performance that got me interested in him is anything to go by, and of course it is.

I kept the Samizdata posting short, and there follow a couple of paragraphs I decided not to include, because … well, I just decided not to.  The posting, which was basically just saying how about this for a clever guy go and watch him was becoming too unwieldy and too full of ponderousness.  So, the rest of this is me recycling my cuts here.  I can’t really put what follows as a quote, but it sort of feels like maybe I should.  Anyway, here we go.

There are around a dozen or more fascinating notions expounded in Thiel’s talk.  One thing in particular interested me, because it is an argument that has always interested me.  Extreme pessimism, says Thiel, often causes people to think that there is nothing to be done, because whatever they do is bound to fail.  Very true.  But extreme optimism (optimism being my preferred stance when trying to do anything) is also dangerous, because it is liable to tell you that you don’t need to do anything.  Good things will happen automatically.  Says Thiel: avoid both extremes.  Steer a middle path.  Do of a bit of both.  All of which may seem very obvious to you, but I have never heard it put quite like that, and certainly not so succinctly.

Another nice and counter-consensual thing Thiel says is that failure is over-rated, because you generally only learn one of the reasons why you failed, when in fact there were probably about half a dozen.

See the early comments at Samizdata by Rob Fisher, for other bits of cleverness from this extremely clever man.

More Thiel spiel here.

Thursday February 05 2015

Yes, the talk this evening went well, I think.  Lots of people said they enjoyed it, and they didn’t have to do that.  They could have said, as my mother said about things I did that she didn’t like, that it was “interesting”.  But they didn’t say it was interesting.  They said they enjoyed it.  I’m guessing they really did.  I did.

However, in the course of the talk, I alluded to a clever question asked by Ayumi Meegan, after a talk given by Richard Carey at my home a while back, and instead of calling here “Ayumi”, I called her “Mayumi”.  Twice.  She being present this evening, and me identifying her, by name, wrongly.  Not good.  I hope that a correction can be added, as and when any video of the talk appears at Libertarian Home.  I am grateful to meetings organiser and Libertarian Home Supremo (and video man) Simon Gibbs for telling me that I had made this mistake, twice, so that I was able to apologise to Ayumi immediately.  Ayumi Ayumi Ayumi.

Also, I hope Simon will add the name of David Mitchell, the comedian to whom I alluded in my talk while failing to remember his name, at all.  I didn’t even get that wrong.  I mentioned a clever short video lecture by Mitchell that was mentioned by Rob Fisher in a comment on this posting here.

No doubt if I ever do get to watch this performance on video, I will learn of even more serious blunders in what I said, but those will do to be getting on with.

Meanwhile, for the benefit of anyone who heard the talk and is now checking out this blog, hello, and here is something I quite like to do here, quite often, which is to post quota photos.  These being photos put up here simply to ensure that something gets posted here, each day, as it almost always does.  I mentioned this rule of mine in the course of the talk.  Although, I suppose these particular photos aren’t really quota photos, because without them there would still be the ramblings above here today.

Whatever,these particular photos are of three of London’s Big Things, namely the BT Tower, the Gherkin and (when it was still under construction) the Cheesegrater:

image image

The twist here is that all these Big Things are in a state of photographic blurriness.  The focus is instead on mere things, in the foreground.  Yet, the Big Things are still entirely recognisable, which is one of the key qualifications for being a Big Thing in the first place.  For the same reason, Big Things are instantly recognisable from a great distance.

Click on these little pictures to get them a lot bigger, and also a lot blurrier, even though all they are is the same thing only bigger.

Wednesday February 04 2015

I’m giving a talk tomorrow evening to (for?) Libertarian Home, and am, as usual when I give a talk, fretting that I am now weeks behind with preparing it.

Today I had a haircut.  The talk will probably be videoed and I am too old to do the tramp look.  It makes me look like a real tramp.  The effect of the haircut was much as it usually is, only instead of the Cary Grant look in the second After picture there, back in 2006, now it’s grey Cary Grant.  With a big bulge under the chin.  And ugly.  And unable to sit cross-legged like that.  More classic BMdotcom fashion analysis here.

Basically, what I am saying is: I’m busy and wish me luck.

Sunday December 07 2014

Like half of London, it would seem, I’ve been suffering with a cough and a cold and a headache, finding it hard to sleep.  For some reason it all gets worse at night, especially the headache.  Why?

So a couple of incoming emails from Simon Gibbs, concerning some of the pictures I took at that Cost of Living Debate which he organised last October, really cheered me up.

The first email said that one of the pictures I had taken, of one of the speakers, had enabled Simon to flag up, on YouTube, that speaker’s videoed performance, more attractively than might otherwise have been possible.  A photo was attached…:


... which Simon described thus:

One of your digital photos on my TV, via the Virgin Media YouTube app.

Then, very soon after that email, another one, longer:

I managed to make some more appear.

The video quality is okay, but the camera was pointing statically at the whole panel. You zoomed in on individual speakers while in action (or at rest), then I was able to crop and add titles and the resulting thumbnail is better than any individual frame of the video.

Here “better” means “better able to encourage someone to click from a list of videos through to the video itself”, meaning they will stand out from the crowd.

And another picture was attached:


I am delighted that my photoing obsession has assisted Simon in his much more strenuous activities.  And I got in for free.

Which reminds me that I should long ago have done my own selection of snaps from that evening, and stuck them up here.  I may yet do this, and maybe quite soon.

Wednesday November 19 2014

From time to time I like to stick bits from books up here, usually quite short, but sometimes quite long.

With the short bits, there is no legal or moral problem.  Fair use, etc.  But with the longer bits, there might be a problem.  Here’s how I operate.  I put up whatever bit it is that I think deserves to be made much of, on the clear understanding that it might disappear at any moment.  Because, if anyone associated with the book I have got my chosen bit from complains and says please remove it, I will do so, immediately.

Many might think that such persons would be being rather silly.  I mean, what better way could there be to reach potential readers of the entire book in question than for readers of a blog, and a blog written by someone who already likes the book, to get to read a relatively small chunk of it?  Win-win, surely.  Because of course, I only put up big chunks of writing if I approve of what the chunks say.

But what if a publisher is trying to insist on the principle, that copyright damn well means what it says?  Such a publisher might want to proclaim, and to be seen to proclaim, a no-tolerance attitude to the copying of bigger than small bits of any its books.  Even if that particular book might be assisted by this particular recycled chunk being here, the larger principle might feel far more significant to the publisher.  That principle being: If we allow this, where will it then stop?

And I get that.  As I say, if any publisher or author did complain, for these kinds of reasons or for any other, then I would get it, and the bit from the book in question would at once vanish from this blog.  So far, I’ve had no such complaints.  Which could just be because they reckon this blog to be too insignificant to be worth risking a fight with.  They wouldn’t have a fight, but they might have a rule about letting sleeping puppies, like this one, lie.

Whatever.  All I am saying here is that if I put up a big bit of a book, and anyone connected to that big bit cries foul, then the big bit will immediately vanish from here, with no grumbling, or worse, self-righteous campaigning, attempts to mobilise other bloggers, etc. etc.

Think of all this as an example of Rule Utilitarianism.  And I am myself a Rule Utilitarian.  My libertarian beliefs are not the absurd claim that libertarianism is inscribed into the very physical fabric of the universe, an inherent fact of life itself, which we humans either recognise or fail to recognise, but which are there anyway.  Tell that to the spider I just squashed into the pavement on my way home to write this.  No, I like libertarianism because it works.  Libertarianism is a set of basically fairly simply rules which all we humans either choose to live by or choose not to live by.  If we choose to live by these rules, life is good, happy, comfortable and it gets better and better.  If we don’t live by such rules, life goes to shit and stays there.

And here comes the Rule Utilitarian bit.  Even if this particular bit of thieving, by the government or just by some bod like you or me, is very insignificant, and even if what the government or the bod like you or me wants to spend its or his or her ill-gotten gains on is wonderful, absolutely wonderful, my rule says: No.  Not allowed.  Don’t get into complicated discussions about just how little thieving is too little to be bothering about, or just how noble a noble project has to be for it to be noble enough to be financed by a spot of thieving, because that way lies the slippery slope we are now on, where the government gobbles up at least half of everything, to very little benefit for anyone other than itself.  Stick to the rule.  No thieving, no matter how petty its scale or how noble its supposed object.

So, I get Rule Utilitarianism.  And if any publisher decides to inflict his Rule Utilitarianism, in the manner described above, upon me, I would get that, and act accordingly.

What got me wanting to spell all this out is that I have recently been reading Dominic Frisby’s excellent Bitcoin book, and I find myself wanting to put bits of it up here, quite longish bits.  And in general, having just followed the link at the top of this and read some of them, I feel that postings of this sort are among the better things that I do here, and I want to do more of them.  But, to all of the bits from books that will follow, I want to attach the above mentioned caveat about how the verbiage that follows may vanish without warning, and a link to this posting is the way to summarise what is going on in my head without me banging on for however many paragraphs there are here.

Saturday November 01 2014

Last Wednesday and Thursday, I attended two talks, both at lunchtime, at and arranged by the Adam Smith Institute.  No event links because information about the first talk has already vanished from the ASI website, and information about the second hasn’t yet but presumably soon will.

On Wednesday, Russ Roberts talked about how to do libertarianism.  I agreed with pretty much everything he said, having long ago written very similar things, in particular in this.  Guy Herbert talked, on Thursday, about the Human Rights Act 1998.  He is, with qualifications and hesitations, for it.  He told me afterwards that the text of his talk will be available on line very soon, so I’ll try to add a link later to this posting, at the bottom.  If I fail, perhaps a commenter could remind me.  (LATER: Actually, I’ll add the link to the text (as Samizdata) here.)

At the talk given by Russ Roberts I forgot to take any pictures.  But at the talk given by Guy Herbert yesterday, I remembered.  This was the right way round to remember and forget.  There are many fine pictures of Russ Roberts on line, far fewer of Guy Herbert.

Here is one of the better ones I took of Guy:


And here, on the left, is another one that I liked:

image image

On the right there is the explanation of the picture on the left.  I took it through the gap at the top of the empty chair in front of me.  No, I do not know who David Penfold is.  I’m guessing he is the David Penfold mentioned as something to do with this.

The audience for the Russ Roberts talk was packed into the small room it was given in.  The Guy Herbert talk, in the same room, was less well attended, hence that empty chair in front of me.  But that’s because its subject matter was less of an ASI core concern.  It was about things outside the free market comfort zone.  Which is good.  That sends out a signal.  We don’t only operate inside our comfort zone.  There is a bigger, wider world out there.  We think about that also.