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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

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:

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

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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.

Monday October 27 2014

Next Friday, October 31st, Christian Michel is giving a talk at my home entitled, somewhat provocatively: “Soviet and Nazi Art as Illustrations of Ayn Rand’s Aesthetics”.  He is certainly not the first to have pointed out the overlap, so to speak.

Here’s what Christian says about his talk (which I “LATER” (Tuesday) realised I need to insert into this posting, near the beginning):

Art does not feature high on the libertarian agenda. One exception is Ayn Rand, who declared that of all human products art is perhaps the most important. She went on to develop her own theory of aesthetics, and even attempted (as did Jean-Paul Sartre at the same time) to deliver her entire philosophy through the sole medium of literature (both failed).

In my talk this Friday I will sum up Rand’s aesthetics, her contribution to the field, and will show that it was nowhere better illustrated in the twentieth century than in the arts of National-Socialist Germany and Soviet Russia. The point is not to denigrate Rand’s philosophy by that association, but to say that genuine artists find a way to convey their deepest values and sense of life, to express the highest human aspirations and struggles, whatever their circumstances, and that’s exactly what Rand celebrated.

And here is something of what I think about these kinds of things.

Just after World War 2, many an artist said things along the lines of: after Auschwitz, we cannot any longer do purely representational art.  (Similar things were said by classical composers: after Auschwitz, we can’t any longer do pretty tunes.) But the artists had been abandoning pictorial representation (and tunefulness) long before Auschwitz happened, so “Auschwitz” has the air of being a rationalisation rather than the real reason for these artistic trends.

The crimes of Soviet Communism never had quite the same effect on most of the artists, even as an excuse for abstraction, although there were honourable exceptions (Mondrian for instance).  Too many artists admired the Soviet Union, especially during and just after World War 2, during its struggle and after victory over Nazi Germany.

Realistic art had also been seriously deranged by photography.  Photography destroyed the economic foundations of your average painter of realistic portraits and realistic paintings of such things as landscapes, and turned art painting into a sort of cultural bombsite, in which (to quote the words of an early twentieth century popular song) “anything goes”, anything, that is, except realistic pictures of people and of things.  Realism, for the average artist, just made him look like a bad photographer.  Even the claim that “art” now had to be an attack on the delusional bourgeois habit of trying to make visual and conceptual sense of the world has the feel, for me, of a rationalisation.

But there is much more to “realism” than mere realism.  What looks at first glance merely realistic is often aspirational, and to abandon the field of representational art to the mid twentieth century totalitarians was surely a propaganda error, to put it no more strongly.  For the likes of Ayn Rand, this was a surrender by the civilised world that should never have happened.

To point out that Rand favoured images that resembled Nazi and Soviet art is not to accuse her of being a Nazi or a Communist.  It is to realise that she did not want the still immensely potent artistic weapon that is representational painting and sculpture to be monopolised by the totalitarians.

All of which is something of how I see (and hear) the kinds of things that Christian Michel will be talking about on Friday.  As to what Christian himself will say, well, we shall see, and hear.

Meanwhile, here is an abundance of visual clues as to the sort of aesthetic territory that Christian will be traversing in his talk.  It will be an illustrated talk.  Here, without identification or further comment, from me or from him, are the illustrations he has sent me, in the order (I assume) in which he will be referring to them.

A few of these images are small enough to fit within the 500 pixel horizontal limit that prevails at this blog, a couple being very small indeed.  But most can be enlarged (a little or quite a lot) with a click:

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Thursday October 23 2014

Earlier this evening, I attended this gathering.  I took a ton of photos, of which I choose this one to show you:

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I choose that photo not because it is any great shakes as a photo, but because it focuses (insofar as it does focus) on what was in many ways the most impressive thing about this event, namely the number and quality of those who attended.  In this respect, the evening reminded me of those big Liberty League gatherings that happen earlier in the year. Simon Gibbs and his helpers put in a huge effort to make this occasion work well, and to get a decent turnout of intelligent, paying customers.

Don’t get me wrong, the speakers were numerous and articulate, and all admirably concise, which was necessary given how many of them there were.  A lot of ground was covered.  A lot of food for thought was served up.  If there was a big winner issue, so to speak, that best explains how much harder it has recently got to make ends meet, it was probably the cost of housing.  There was general agreement that planning regulations need to be relaxed, although also general pessimism about the politics of accomplishing that.  Also making a strong showing were energy costs, and the heavy and rising taxes on petrol and drink and tobacco.

But you can have all the speakers up front that you like.  If enough aren’t there to listen, then your event falls very flat.  This one was the opposite of that.

Thursday October 02 2014

Earlier this evening I attended a talk given by Michael Jennings at the Rose and Crown in Southwark.  Read Michael’s background briefing about the things he talked about further this evening, either here, or here.

I have friends who seem to revel in having their photos taken, but Michael is not one of them.  He entirely lacks vanity, and tends, when being photoed, to have the look of a man worrying about how bad he fears he will look in the photo.  So it was that, having earlier been asked for a photo of Michael by Simon Gibbs, the organiser of the meeting, I was only able quickly to find one that was remotely good enough.  (You can see it at the other end of the second of the above links.) This evening I made a particular effort to correct this, and here is one of the better shots that I took of Michael this evening:

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The most dramatic moment in the evening came when the Putin-echoing stooge Russian lady in the audience (there always seem to be one such stooge at any public event mentioning Russia and its current policies) tangled with Michael on the subject of Poland.  Why were the Poles so paranoid about Russia and so keen to join NATO?

Michael replied with a short history lesson that was brief, and crushing.  Nazi-Soviet Pact.  (The stooge later denied that this had even happened, so Michael later told me.) Katyn Massacre.  Warsaw Uprising.  (Stalin parked the Red Army outside Warsaw and let the Nazis crush it.) An imposed Communist government, that the Poles would never have chosen for themselves, for the next half century.  Final sentence, something like: “If fearing Russia after all that means you are paranoid, then yes, I guess the Poles are paranoid.” Applause.  With any luck, this little interchange will be viewable on video, along with the talk itself of course.

Earlier, the lady stooge had waxed eloquent to me, in the socialising period before the talk, about the superiority of Russian education over English education.  She had a point.  Russian children are indeed made to work far harder at their lessons than English children are these days.  But what if the lessons they learn are a pack of lies?

See also this, recently at Samizdata.

On a happier note, I harvested several names and emails of various young, clever libertarians to add to my Brian’s Last Fridays list.  A couple of them being, so it seemed to me, of exceptional promise.  (I hope that doesn’t sound patronising.) I was particularly impressed by this guy.

Friday September 26 2014

Just about to go to bed following a very satisfactory Last Friday meeting, addressed by Priya Dutta, on the subject of education and libertarianism.  Priya, many thanks for an excellent talk, and for attracting such a large and intelligent throng to listen to it.  Although I don’t want to definitely promise anything, I will try to say something more about what you said than that, Real Soon Now.  But right now, I am too tired to attempt anything.

Something I often forget to do at these things is take photos, probably because the photos I take are usually not very good.  Tonight, Rob Fisher took photos, and I of course photoed him doing this ...:

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... and then I took other photos.  But the really good news is that Rob’s camera is much better than mine, especially in bad light.  He has promised to send me his best, and I look forward to seeing what he got.

For something rather more substantial from me, about libertarianism if not about education, try this recent Samizdata posting.

Thursday September 11 2014

Last night, at that birthday party I attended, I was asked all the usual questions about what I was doing.  Which is not a lot just now, what with my waiting for Godot problem.

Inevitably, in some of these cross-examinations, this blog came up, with me saying that I write here about whatever I feel like writing about, with very little thought for the interests of my readers.  Cats on Fridays, general trivia, etc.  I do Big Issues at Samizdata and trivia here.  Blah blah.

However, an American lady friend, whom I had not met in quite a while and whom I was very pleased to meet again, told me that she quite liked my trivia stuff, and that she even read my postings about cricket (this being the most recent one).  I thought that only I and Michael Jennings and Darren the Surrey Member were at all interested in those.  It seems not.

I’m guessing that this interest on her part is partly actual interest, but also partly that a principle is at stake here.  Which is: that the trivia that other people are interested in, but not you, is not actually an entirely trivial matter.  Life is not only Big Issues.  It is the small pleasures that give colour and texture and individuality to life.  Watever matters, to someone, matters.  Your opinion about what the Big Issues are should not be allowed to drive a tank or a government bureaucracy over my trivial pleasures.

So, her reading about the trivial pleasures of others is her asserting this Big Issue to herself, as well as maybe learning something about other little parts of the world, like the world of cricket (actually quite big of course, as I daresay are the worlds of embroidery and gardening and croquet and rap music and all the other little things in life that I don’t personally care about, other than to believe that tanks or government bureaucracies should not be driven over them).

Me being me, my way of asserting the importance of trivia, in general, to people, in general, is me writing about the trivia that interests me.

Her way of asserting the importance of trivia to people generally is her reading about the trivia that others write about.  But we are both making the same point.

I don’t want to say that I have entirely described why my American lady friend likes to read what I write about cricket.  I merely speculate that the above speculations might be a quite small part of why she does this.

(She, like me, probably also thinks that thinking about trivia can often lead to interesting angles on Big Issues, of the sort that merely looking straight at the Big Issues might cause you to miss.  Pointless fun and truly original insight are often delightfully close neighbours, I think.  But that’s a tangent for another time, hence this paragraph being in brackets.)

Friday August 29 2014

Spent the whole day fretting about not enough people coming to my Last Friday of the Month meeting this evening.  Richard Carey would, I knew, be fine, but would the number of listeners be insultingly small?  Happily, two people showed up who hadn’t emailed that they were coming, and the room was, if not full, at least not embarrassingly empty.

Better yet, I also fixed my speaker for next month, which I had also been fretting about.  Priya Dutta, who attended this evening, will be speaking about Education, libertarianism and similar things.  The Gove reforms, the various attempts to set up cheap new free enterprise schools of various sorts, that kind of thing.  She is a teacher, so this is bound to be good.  I’ll say more as I learn more.

Too tired to expand on what Richard said (about English Republicanism and its influence in the American colonies and later the USA), other than that in the brackets is what it was about and that it was very interesting.  But since this is Friday, here is news of Cats on Kickstarters, and of Catstarter , which I think is a book, or maybe a blog.  Also cat related: Ceiling Netanyahu is watching you tunnel.

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)