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

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Category archive: Libertarianism

Monday February 01 2016

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.

My two most recent Samizdata postings are results of this more considered manner of writing.  They may not seem so to readers.  But they are much better than they would have been without any polishing.

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.

Saturday January 30 2016

Yes, I have struggled over the years to get good photos of what my meetings are like.  The problem typically is that I can never get everyone into the same picture, and the pictures look like about half as many people attended as actually did.  Since the number wasn’t that huge to start with, that’s not what you want.

Here is a different approach:

image

That was the scene today following last night’s meeting, me having done almost zero tidying up to that point, bar hoovering up a few crisps.  Now, Imagine that space with as many people sitting in it as you can fit in.  That was what it was like last night.

If you reckon that the “table” in the middle looks like it could be improved upon, you are not wrong.  There was a disaster when it collapsed last night, luckily not during the Tim Evans talk, and some fruit juice hit the carpet, along with lots of potato crisps.  And it was then only imperfectly reassembled.  More work is needed on that front.  But it was a great evening, partly because of the table collapsing, because that sort of thing adds to the anecdotage factor.  But mostly because it was an excellent talk, and because a very classy group of people who came to hear it.  Including a baby, who was very welcome.

Talking of unsatisfactory tables, I wasn’t feeling so good myself today.  My sleep last night was full of weird dreams, which I can still remember bits of, which is not normal.  Plus, I have a new blender, and this morning’s concoction was terrible.  The trouble with most vegetables is that they don’t taste of anything.  Or, they taste rather nasty.  Thank goodness for cherry tomatoes.  But, all my current stash of cherry tomatoes got consumed last night by all the people that you can’t see in the picture.

Thursday January 28 2016

This is weird.  When I did a posting at Samizdata called My 2015 in pictures, I intended to include a picture I took of one of my meetings last year, the one at which Aiden Gregg spoke.  But, although I talked about it, I didn’t actually include the picture.  Rather humiliatingly, nobody noticed, or if they did notice, they didn’t care, or if they did care, not enough to complain.

So here is that picture:

image

I have also added it to that Samizdata posting, which absolutely nobody at all will notice.  But, get it right, eh?

I think I got this picture by standing on a chair.

I mention all this now because I have another of these meetings, the first of this year, tomorrow evening.  Speaker: Professor Tim Evans (also mentioned in that Samizdata posting), talking about Jeremy Corbyn and all that.  Turnout looks like being just right, with the room comfortably as opposed to uncomfortably full.  Luckily the seating arrangements have been improving.

Here, for good measure, is the photo I took of Tim when he gave his Inaugural Professional Lecture at Middlesex University, last summer, and which was also included in that Samizdata posting:

image

Not being accustomed to the ways of Academe, that get-up makes Tim look, to me, like he is in a very trad production of Wagner’s Mastersingers.

Tuesday December 15 2015

Today I spent my blogging/libertarian time transcribing a talk given by Syed Kamall MEP to Libertarian Home, back on June 4th of this year.  The following very early bit from this talk, which was no more, on the night, than the self-deprecating self-introduction, convinced me that transcribing the whole thing, even though it will also be available to view on video, might be worthwhile.

Having joined the Conservative Party in 1987, I actually stood for my first election in 1994, in the London Borough of Lambeth.  As you can imagine, I lost.  A year later, I had my first post-doctoral job at Bath, and they asked me to stand, and I lost, in some local elections.  In 2000, the Greater London Council was formed, and I stood in the GLA elections for the first time.  And I lost.  This is going somewhere, I promise you. [laughter]

In 2001, I stood in that well-known Conservative stronghold of West Ham, and thought I could defy history.  And I nearly did.  I think I lost by about fifteen thousand votes. [laughter] And then – a year later, no, when was it? - in 2004, I stood in the European elections, and I was fourth on the list, and we got three Members of the European Parliament in London.  So therefore I lost, but a year later another MEP became a MP, … she became a Member of Parliament and, thanks to the list system, I moved up.

So, you can summarise my political career up to that date as: stood five times, lost five times, and ended up as an MEP.  I know my Party is supposed to be against Proportional Representation, but I’ve done all right out of it, thank you very much.

There is an old cliché that goes: it matters not who won or lost, but how you played the game.  I only know this because it was mocked in Beyond The Fringe, but in times gone by people took this sort of thing very seriously.  Well, the case of Syed Kamall illustrates that there are circumstances when this cliché can literally be true.  Because you see, the secret of Syed Kamall’s success, is that he lost all these contest so very gracefully and sportingly.  That way, everyone in his Party liked him, and he levitated.

There is also the fact that, in politics, it is probably unwise to win any of your early elections, because then you have to hang around and actually do a rather insignificant job, instead of moving on to a bigger and better contest, and winning that.

Saturday December 05 2015

Blatant quota photo, in the form of an interestingly informative vehicle snapped by me earlier this evening:

image

Shame about the superfluous piece of punctuation.

Earlier, my host and his guests were chuckling at a big flag host had in his living room, which said: DONT TREAD ON ME.  For DONT read DON’T.

Shame the apostrophe cannot somehow be transferred from the car to the flag, thereby bringING (see comment) the grammar universe into alignment.

Back to the car: COMERCIAL is missing an M.

None of which should be brought up if he is rescuing you and your vehicle from a predicament.

And, I bet this posting contains a grammar or spelling mistake, because this is one of the subsections of Sod’s Law.  Whenever you sneer at someone else’s grammar or spelling, yours goes wrong.

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:

image

That picture having already been shown here, here.

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

image

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:

image

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.

Antoine Clarke on herding drunk cats
Moving speaker – unmoving listeners, video holder and books
BMdotcom quotes of the day from Edward Snowden (and a picture of him)
Back to being ill
Peter Thiel on how humans and computers complement each other
Bizarre designer furniture in a Covent Garden window
Pete Comley talking about inflation on Friday February 27th
Peter Thiel on striking a balance between optimism and pessimism and on how failure is overrated
Talk went well - two (not really) quota photos
Talk tomorrow – haircut today
My digital photos on his TV
On the rights and wrongs of me posting bits from books (plus a bit about Rule Utilarianism)
Pictures of Guy Herbert
The illustrations for Christian Michel’s talk this Friday (plus some thoughts from me)
At the Libertarian Home cost of living debate
Michael Jennings at the Rose and Crown
Rob took photos
On meeting an American lady friend who likes to read my stuff about cricket
Happy Friday (eventually)
Something at Samizdata
ASI Boat Trip 4: Groups of posing people
ASI Boat Trip 3: Drink!
ASI Boat Trip 2: My photos were indeed better than they looked last night
What to call the sneerquote Salesforce /sneerquote tower? (plus a quite profound tangent)
Last night at my place
The Lib Dem cat is out of the box
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom quota quote of the day
Lilburne on a T-shirt and Lilburne on a mug
Michael Jennings talking about Russia this Friday
Mark Littlewood photoed by me and by this other guy
A slightly foreign part of London
Anton Howes – James Lawson – Will Hamilton
Nothing from me here today
Well that’s a relief
Green screen blue screen
Frank Turner on playing in an arena
Sam Bowman on Bleeding Heart Libertarianism
Other things last Wednesday
Remembering another Christian name (and flagging up another talk)
Detlev Schlichter talking about Von Mises (and being videoed)
When you are old you tend to assume that confusion is your fault even if actually it is not
Bits of music at non-musical blogs
Aiden Gregg meeting photos
Daniel Hannan’s latest book(s?)
The next five Brian’s Last Fridays
Simon Gibbs last night at the Rose and Crown
Jamie Whyte on deferring gratification less as he gets older
Guido in the Spectator (and in Free Life)
Anton Howes at the Rose and Crown
The next four Brian’s Last Fridays (including December 27)
Why I admire short term weather forecasts but why cricket people don’t
Antoine Clarke on life and libertarianism in Britain in 1913
Perry Metzger on taking seriously the declared objectives of opponents
Steve Davies talk last night
Google Nexus 4 photos
Pictures of LLFF2013
Doing libertarian business at the Libertarian Home social
Talking architecture at the Libertarian Home social
Bad times for the NHS
Brian’s Fridays will resume on the 25th of this month
Are Christian social conservatives using the Tea Party to impose social conservatism?
And on my other personal blog …
Doctor Theatre - here very briefly but now there
Talk by Frank Braun about Bitcoin at my home on Aug 3rd
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom has been seen elsewhere!
How gun control works and how it will defend Libertaria
Pictures of the Libertarian Home meeting in Southwark last night
Is Samizdata dying?
Liberty League Conference speakers
NFL fans and their name-and-number shirts in Trafalgar Square on Saturday
More pictures from the James Tooley lecture yesterday
David Friedman on the similarity between fractional reserve banking and insurance
Three videos from the USA that I recently watched
A potential challenger for Gary Not-Obama
Go Not Obama!
Sean Gabb’s recent statement about the Libertarian Alliance
Underestimating Paul Marks
I can now copy and paste from .pdf files
The free market encourages curiosity
Me and Patrick Crozier talk about the banking crisis and its possible consequences
St Valentine’s Day talk by me on architecture
David Botsford a decade ago
More LA Conference speaker photos
I see no purpose in separating questions from talks
Tatchell
Malcolm Hutty on protecting the internet
Another link enema
Google rolls out computer controlled cars
10/10/10 launch for Norlonto Review
Guerrilla webfare
Exploitation?
Tim Evans looking happy
Making those Big Statements one slice at a time
Steve Davies lecture - photoing and videoing the lecture - post-lecture chat
Why my libertarianism has the look and feel of socialism
I flipping told him
Voice and exit
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom modified cliche insult of the day
Quick video work by the Oxford libertarians
Antoine Clarke on the Massachusetts election and the online effect
Talking about The Hockey Stick Illusion with Bishop Hill
The right to photograph
Trying to become an adequate interviewer of promising libertarians
Samizdata and Zimbabwe both on the up and up?
Pictures of Anthony Evans
Antoine Clarke talks about Facebook and Twitter – Guido and … Ian Geldard?
I’ve just sold Jesus!!!
Was it Sweeney?  And what else were they trying to suppress?
Why I vote against AGW
Why I object to Madam Scotland and why I don’t
At least libertarianism is understood over there
Great speech by Kevin Dowd in Paris which should be available to listen to soon
Vince Miller with cat
UK libertarian bloggers 2.0
Tea hea
Who are all the UK libertarian bloggers?
Two Samizdata comments on the sinking of Brown and on the sinking of the Daily Telegraph
Patri Friedman versus Chris Tame
At Samizdata: cricket - crime - Kevin Dowd quote
James Tyler’s speech at Policy Exchange
Lawrence H. White on the Scottish experience of free banking
My confusion about free banking
Embedded video
The Rand revival - and some thoughts about Rand’s failure to understand architectural tradition
Brian Micklethwait’s Education Blog is now on indefinite hold
Truth is true
Photoing the Police
Do nothing?
Nothing from me here today but something on Samizdata about cannabis
Meme for the New Depression
Commenting about the Dowd lecture at Samizdata
Link to Samizdata piece about arguments from incredulity
Kevin Dowd
More random links
A little drunk blogging
Random links
Michael Jennings on shoring up the bad old economy versus building a good new one
Linkin Park - one leg short of libertarian
Thoughts concerning FDR’s warmongering nature
My Oxford talk on Google video – or summarised by a friendly blogger
New addition to blogroll
Preparing for Oxford
Blogging elsewhere and talks elsewhere
Knackered
At Liberty 2008 all day
Guido Fawkes conflates the Monetarists and the Austrians – needs to chat with Antoine Clarke
Reasons to be a bit more cheerful
Antoine Clarke on the financial turmoil and the US election
Tom Burroughes on the banking crisis
Notes on libertarian tactics August 2008
Will Wilkinson
Not in the top twenty
On the nature of the evolution argument
Cricket misery
Armed is less dangerous
The British Public continues to dislike too-high-and-rising taxes
This is why I put stuff up here every day
Signs of civilisation
LAHTML
Antoine Clarke talking about the US Primaries
Another don’t-get-it-right-get-it-written Samizdata posting
The drive to see smiles (and they have to be real)
Michael Jennings on private law in Hollywood
Nothing untoward happening!
Links to me elsewhere – and a photo of Marc-Henri Glendening
Aid rewards low growth
Talking with Antoine Clarke about Sean Gabb
Lib Dems edge towards school choice
Links and guns
Who decides?
Ideas and opportunities
A talk and a photo
On the appeal or lack of it to Young Europeans of “capitalism”
End the medical monopoly!
The double thank-you moment
Is Jeremy Paxman a closet libertarian?
How compulsion deranges the spreading of ideas
The Conservatives prepare for power
Screw you Dove – good on you Ruth Kelly – the right to avoid gay adoption
More on the Lib Dems
Antoine and me on democracy and libertarianism - and me on how to podcast
Perry de Havilland on the thinking behind Samizdata
What are conferences for?  What should they consist of?
Leon Louw talks about the habits of highly effective countries
Load - fire - howl in agony clutching foot
Do the Lib Dems just tell everyone what they each of them want to hear?
They are only games
Talking with Tim Evans about the Libertarian Alliance
When everything is copyable
Remembering the Alternative Bookshop experience
Latest Brian and Antoine mp3 - Middle East, Mexico, USA
Misprints
Patrick and Brian mp3 about libertarianism and spreading libertarianism
Bashing on for Samizdata
Unsweet birds of freedom
That’s it
‘Libertarian’ now beats ‘Marxist’
Those cartoons
Capitalism sermons and Bentley wings
Old days not perfect shock
It’s murder down there
Last night’s talk
I am not too clever
A brief posting on causation and responsibility
What The Tyranny of The Facts said
A little education blogging
Daniel Cuthbert - wrongly convicted “hacker” - and photographer
More on Katrina
Katrina as art – and Katrina as proof of What I’ve Always Said
On free trade and on being persuasive (and unpersuasive)