December 02, 2011
Why I think the euro is going to last for a good while yet
December 04, 2011
The most expensive crash ever?
January 01, 2012
Why “influence” over the European Union probably isn’t worth having
January 02, 2012
What’s wrong with “managed decline”...
January 08, 2012
Who needs trade agreements?
February 04, 2012
The world in 1912 (according to the Times)
February 12, 2012
Why fear deflation?
March 06, 2012
Making predictions about war is a tricky business
March 11, 2012
The War of 1812: two questions
March 17, 2012
Why the Germans confuse me
April 01, 2012
Why the Germans confuse me - a follow up
May 11, 2012
Samizdata quote of the day
July 21, 2012
Well done Bradley Wiggins, ruthless professional
August 02, 2012
What would change your mind?
August 09, 2012
Britain third in Olympic medal table. What a disaster!
October 18, 2012
Governments are stupid Part 3792: Railway franchising
November 02, 2012
Was Britain right to fight the First World War?
November 23, 2012
Democracy: mother of tyranny or innocent bystander? I record a podcast
November 24, 2012
Gun re-legalisation may mean less crime but it does not mean no crime
December 08, 2012
Samizdata quote of the day
December 09, 2012
Fact checking the President
December 12, 2012
Libel then and now
…(assuming there are such creatures) that’s where I am these days. While I don’t rule out posting the odd piece here from time to time from now on Samizdata will be the best place to find me.
“It serves no useful purpose to fight mystical dogmas with reason. There is no teaching fanatics.”
Ludwig von Mises, Socialism (Liberty Fund Edition), p255.
Just remember that every country in the Western world already has the disease.
In the days when I was more involved with euro-scepticism than I am today (we’re talking about the time of Maastricht, here) I was always rather puzzled by the arguments being put forward by my comrades about the Euro. They would complain that Europe was not an “optimal currency area” and that it would lead to a “one-size-fits-all” monetary policy.
And now I realise why I was so puzzled. They were wrong.
My argument against the Euro (should you be interested) was that freedom had a better chance outside a European federation than inside and so anything coming from the EU was likely to be a bad thing.
Anyway, the crisis that the Euro currently faces has nothing to do with “optimal currrency areas” (which I do not believe exist) and nothing to do with interest rates (at least not the sort set by central banks).
No, this crisis has one very simple cause: Greece (and others) borrowed too much. Actually, even that isn’t the crisis. The crisis is that other countries in Europe are worried that if Greece were to go bust their too-big-to-fail banks would indeed fail and disaster would ensue. Others of us, of course, think that trying to prevent this from happening will lead to an even greater disaster but that is by the by.
Now, getting back to the crisis, you’ll notice that none of this has anything to do with the Euro.
Well, kinda. There is the little matter of the Maastricht criteria. These were the levels of debt, deficit and inflation that all members of the Eurozone were supposed to meet. And after a state had received the EU’s imprimatur, it was not unreasonable for banks to think that they (the states) were a good credit risk.
So, there’s sort of an implicit guarantee here although frankly I would be inclined to remind the banks that they are ultimately responsible for assessing the credit worthiness of the people they are lending to and if they lend too much to such sub-prime borrowers then it’s their funeral.
“Their shouting could be heard down the corridor in the concert hall where an orchestra was about to play the EU’s anthem, Ode to Joy,” said an incredulous EU official.
All is not well between Merkel and Sarkozy.
If you were ten times richer would you be ten times better off? Because I think the answer is “no”. Which kind of undermines the argument about inequality which seems to be getting quite an airing these days.
From the (London) Times, Tuesday 10 October 1911:
Many respectable citizens are giving up their weapons rather than pay the heavy licence fee, but few of the really dangerous classes are doing so. Shooting affrays continue to be frequent, burglars and highwaymen carrying pistols as before.
Went to see the new Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy movie the other day. It is difficult to watch this having previously read the book and watched the TV series. The TV series seared itself into the memory. So, I am not sure if I understood things through watching the film or because I had previously seen the TV series. So, I won’t talk about how easy to follow it may or may not be.
Things that definitely differ from the book:
- The Americans don’t have Karla tortured
- Peter Guillam is not gay
- Peter Guillam drives a sports car not a saloon
- Jim Prideaux is shot in Czechoslovakia not Hungary
- Ricky Tarr goes out to Hong Kong, not Istanbul
- Ricky Tarr’s secret is not accepting money from the Russians but trying to get his family to safety
- Ricky Tarr starts the fight not Guillam.
- Irina is not shot in front of Prideaux
Things that probably differ from the book (I don’t have time to check):
- There was no Christmas Party
- Smiley does not make any promises to Tarr
- I don’t think anyone thought Prideaux had been killed.
- Tufty Thesinger is not killed
- Haydon is not shot.
Not all of these changes are important but they combine to significantly change the meaning of the book. Where, in the book, there was a clear distinction made between East and West, the movie manages to muddy that distinction. This is unforgivable. Communism was appalling. It killed and impoverished millions. Sure, the West wasn’t perfect. The book acknowledges this in spades but always makes it clear that the West is much, much better.
- Boy, it drags. It even manages to feel slower than the 1970s TV series which in terms of running time was much longer. Way too much effort goes into creating a world of brown, orange and grey and then taking long, lingering shots of it.
- Ciaran Hands (playing Roy Bland) doesn’t, if I recall correctly, say a word. Not a word. What a waste.
Things that I am pretty sure they did have in the 1970s but don’t appear in the movie:
Things they got right:
- Gary Oldman
- Colin Firth
Just in case you aren’t a Facebook friend of Andy Wood this is what he has to say about those non-conforming neutrinos:
Anyone want to take me up on this bet:
I’ll offer £200 at even odds that before 23rd September 2012, some error will be found in the CERN experiment nullifying the alleged observation of superluminal neutrinos.
I’ll offer £1000 at odds of 1 to 5 (ie I risk £1000, you risk £200) that some such error will be found in the above experiment before 2016.
I’m only offering each bet once.
The wars waged by England during the era of Liberalism to extend her colonial empire and to open up territories which refused to admit foreign trade, laid the foundations of the modern world economy. To measure the true significance of these wars one has only to imagine what would have happened if India and China and their hinterland had remained closed to world commerce. Not only each Chinese and each Hindu, but each European and each American, would be considerably worse off.
von Mises, “Socialism” p208 (translation of 2nd Edition, 1932, Liberty Fund)
Don’t anyone tell the Rothbots.
For some reason I seem to be making fewer typos than usual. Surely, a keyboard can't be responsible for that?
Liverpool, 100 years ago:
Rioting has begun again to-night in the “danger zone.” A crowd was smashing the windows of tramcars in Burlington-Street, and troops were sent to disperse them. The crowd was not disturbed by the mere display of force, but when the Infantry were ordered to kneel in the attitude for firing they hurriedly scattered.
Some thoughts and observations:
- Amazing how quickly food supplies dried up. In much the same way plasma TVs did last week.
- Heartening what Lloyd George has to say about the elementary duties of the state: “to protect life and property”. Has Cameron said that? Does Cameron even know that?
- The parallels are interesting ie a big riot, calls for the troops to be deployed etc but is that as far as it goes? You can’t blame police incompetence, light sentencing and the welfare state for these riots.
- A hundred years ago they were bâtons not truncheons. Also employés rather than employees.
Oh my God, there’s going to be a war in 3 years’ time! Are these two things related? War as a way of uniting a divided nation, perhaps?
This book, which even some normal people I know have heard of, was originally published in the 1970s and is about the Weimar hyperinflation of 1923.
It’s a bit fact after fact. Sure the thousands become millions and millions become billions (or milliards as they said at the time) and the our billions become the their billions. And it’s good at describing how some do badly then most do badly while a small minority who have borrowed at nominal rates do very well for themselves indeed. But there’s not enough space given over to consider the debates of the time or the principal actors. Thus we never get to find out anything about key figures like Hugo Stinnes, the industrialist or Rudolf Havenstein, the Ben Bernanke of the day.
What is odd is what the Germans do not do. They do not refuse Reichsmarks. They do not seriously examine how they got into this mess. They do not question the existence of a united Germany [Incidentally, why is it that the appeal of German unity has never been dimmed by its rather less than stellar reality?]
Actually, that’s not quite true. Towards the end there are nascent secessionist movements in Bavaria, the Rhineland, Hamburg and Saxony. It is at this moment the government gets its act together.
The other feature of the final stages was the food situation. Farmers stopped supplying the towns which led to the towns coming to the farms. And not in a nice way.
At root of it all was a government deficit. Fergusson never really explains how this comes about. One can speculate that it’s the consequence of the Germans having to pay not only for their own war but for everyone else’s (through reparations) as well as propping up inefficient state industries like the state railway and post office. But Fergusson never does the sums so we don’t know.
[Afterthought. Actually, he does point out that towards the end even the government had given up trying to do the sums. Another impact of hyperinflation.]
One of the odd things about that time was the virtual absence of unemployment. But then it struck me - in a hyperinflation you have to keep working. If you are unemployed your savings won’t last 5 minutes. Unemployment can be a “good” which hyperinflation denies.
The end is also rather odd. Normality - or what passed for it in Weimar Germany - came with the introduction of the Rentenmark backed not by gold - they’d run out of it - but by mortgages and rye contracts. And, bizarrely enough, it worked.
1. Why would a failure to raise the debt ceiling lead to default?
2. Why would default be a bad thing?
“So, libertarians don’t believe in government. Why don’t you go and live in Somalia then?”
How often have we heard that one? [OK, perhaps not that often but it does hover there at the back of your mind.] And how often have we been able to come up with a decent response beyond some coughing and spluttering?
So, it was good to see Robert Murphy giving it a go. He starts by making a good point:
The Rothbardian doesn’t claim that the absence of a state is a sufficient condition for bliss. Rather, the Rothbardian says that however prosperous and law-abiding a society is, adding an institution of organized violence and theft will only make things worse.
He then quotes the stats which apparently show rises in life expectancy and adult literacy. Which alarms me. How sure can you be that these statistics bear any relation to reality? Hey, I’m not convinced by our own government’s stats. But in a war-torn country with a multi-sided civil war? At very least they have to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Me? I would give them on credence whatsoever. My test is have any (of the surprisingly many) Somalis I know or have known in recent years expressed any desire to go back? Answer: no. Not on your Nelly.
Murphy then says this:
Farah and other advocates of a central state might retort that right now security costs are particularly high for Somali businesses because of the fighting between rival factions ("warlords") in their attempt to control the government.
So, there are rival factions/armies/gangs are there? And what, precisely, is the difference between a gang and a state? I suppose it’s to do with predictability but my guess is that after a few years any gang - so long as it is unmolested by the state - will start to establish rules and thus predictability.
Or, to put it another way: Somalia does not want for government.
This all feeds into my worries for this country. It is not difficult to see the central government collapsing but while libertarians may hope for a golden age of liberty my suspicion is that they will get gangs roaming the streets. So long as people believe in the state they will continue to create them.
At least, that’s how it starts. But soon enough we’re talking about the Battle of Jena and all points between, which include the Franco-Prussian War, the siege(s) of Paris and the Dreyfus Affair.
This is the cartoon I mention:
“Above all, let us not discuss the Dreyfus Affair!”
Up to now, libertarians have been very good at telling the world what the state shouldn’t be doing and shouldn’t have done but not so good (as Brian Micklethwait is constantly reminding me) at telling the world what the state should be doing.
So, at risk of preserving constitutional government in the UK, here’s my go:
1. Abolish all employment, planning and health and safety legislation.
2. Cut all departmental budgets by 25%. No exceptions. If contracts get in the way change them retrospectively. OK, there will be exceptions. But anything more for Department A means even less for Department B.
3. Re-introduce the 1997 tax code. If nothing else it will be a lot shorter than the current one. But the chances are that it will be a lot simpler.
4. Abolish the Bank of England and allow private note/coin issue.
5. Abolish all bank regulation.
6. When banks go bust (as they will) honour deposit guarantees but do not bail them out.
7. Abolish deposit guarantees (when things start to stabilise).
8. Seeing as democracy - or that version that allows representation without taxation - got us into this mess; abolish it. All voters must be net contributors to the budget.
But won’t there be strikes and riots?
Maybe, but it still has to be done. The government has made a whole load of promises it can’t keep. If the population would rather live in a fantasy land and express this preference through rioting then we’re doomed anyway.
Really good and free to me. And nearly free to you if you can find it remaindered.
Slightly misnamed. It really should be called “A History of Everything” covering - as it does - history, agriculture, technology and even language.
Central claim: markets bring forth technology; technology brings forth science.
Fun quote: “..the benefits from doing research do in fact accrue to the researchers because they - and only they - understand other people’s research.”
It’s not do or die time. The loser gets a place in the second semi-final. How cool is that? Actually, for Chennai it’s even better. The second semi-final (and final) are being played at Chennai. On the ground where we’ve never lost. But even so, we want to win.
1536 Ravi Shastri’s wearing one of those long Indian shirts. Normally the commentators wear a branded Western shirt. What is going on? Is an element of traditional Indian culture creeping into the IPL? I think we should be told.
1542 And already all the talk is about Chris Gayle. Without him Bangalore were bottom of the table. With him they were top. He has played 9 games and won 8. No other player has had that sort of impact on the tournament. Just as well. On the other hand, with Chennai every performance is a team effort. It’s a fascinating clash: the one-man team versus the all-man team.
1555 Simon Hughes is talking about trends in where batsmen are holding the bat. What an analyst.
1557 Oh hang about, Mark Butcher has out-analysed him. Low down is more manoeuvrable. Watch out Mark - he’ll be out for revenge now.
1601 Hughes is backing Chennai to win.
1627 Gayle out, lbw b Ashwin 8. Game on. And Hawkeye agrees. Now what do we do?
1643 Interview with the bowling coach. While the over is going on. Not sure how I feel about this. Team members are guardians of team secrets. So either they spill the beans - disaster - or they’re so bland there’s no point.
1648 OMG, they’re interviewing the umpire! Hasn’t he got better things to do?
1743 Six. Pommersbach. Amazingly flat. (121-3, 14.50). So, not such a one-man team then.
1751 Out! Pommersbach. Bowled.
1757 Ashwin’s just got hit on the head. I’m amazed he’s concious let alone walking. He’s left the pitch. Albie Morkel got hit the other day from Chris Gayle. When I was growing up it was the batsmen who were the vulnerable ones. Now, it’s the bowlers.
1940 What a game! Chennai win with two balls to go with the most amazing slogging over the last 4 overs. Everyone’s exhausted. Raina’s gone down with cramp. The worm is amazing: level pegging ball by ball. Even the wickets fell at similar times. Gayle should win man of the match for his bowling. Even so, it goes to show that Bangalore are far from a one-man team. They’ve clearly got a lot better as the tournament has gone on, Gayle or no Gayle. And we’ve still got a final to play. I’m not sure I can stand it.
I think the Queen visiting Ireland is an overwhelmingly good thing. It suggests that a majority of the Irish and and a large majority of its ruling class no longer hate the British. Good.
But there was one thing that disturbed me: the Queen laying a wreath at the memorial to the dead of the Irish War of Independence.
Quick analysis time.
What was on offer before the war:
Devolution excluding Ulster
What was accepted after the war:
Dominion status excluding Ulster
Was it worth it?
Even if I were properly, Gaelic Irish and a passionate believer in Irish independence I’d have to say no.
Lincoln. Didn’t make a whole heap of difference that I am aware of.
McKinley. I believe that did change things quite a lot - his replacement, Roosevelt being quite the interventionist.
I ask because I’ve been watching an excellent documentary on Yesterday about Hitler’s bodyguard. It seems there were an extraordinary number of attempts on his life over the years. But would it have made any difference? Well, one way to find out is to see if any other assassinations made a difference.
Sadat. Not really.
Rabin. I have no idea.
Alexander III. Again, I really don’t know. Although didn’t the Tsarist pogroms against the Jews start soon afterwards? And wasn’t the faked “Protocols of the Wise men of Zion” part of it? And wasn’t that one of the main influences on Germany’s Anti-Semites? So, maybe.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Well, you’d have to say the assassins got what they wanted. At a hell of price but they got it.
Getting back to Hitler, intuitively you feel it would have made a huge difference. Who but Hitler had the charisma to dominate the Nazi movement? Who but Hitler would have gambled the way he did?
Further thought. Hitler and the Nazis are a complete outlier in history. And therefore we can learn nothing useful by studying them and in fact the lessons we do learn are likely to be the wrong ones.
It’s the Super Kings (that’s Chennai (that’s Madras (that’s my team to the uninitiated) to the uninitiated) to the uninitiated) versus the Rajasthan Royals. Or, to put it another way MS Dhoni versus Shane Warne. Or, to put it another way, two of the best teams in the league are going head to head.
In 44C degree heat.
With 98% humidity.
Albie Morkel looks like he’s spent the night in a bath of spermicide.
Sound quality of the commentary (but oddly enough nothing else) is dreadful. It’s like watching football via satellite in the 1970s. India is a long way away.
1226. Ways to tell you may be watching too much IPL #1: you start thinking in an Indian accent.
1228. Oh boy we’re having a nightmare in the field today. (56-0, 7.1)
1229. If you’re going to have the bit after the decimal point in base 6 (or is it 7?) shouldn’t the bit before be too? 32/32 cricket. Catchy, don’t you think?
1232. I should perhaps explain why I am such a Chennai fan. They have more or less the same kit as Watford. Nothing but the best of reasons for me.
1232. Can you really be considered a poor country if you have one of the biggest sporting leagues in the world? Could it be THE biggest?
1235. Another appeal turned down. This is turning into a disaster (64-0, 8)
1237. This is the great thing about the IPL: I can love Shane Warne. Even when he’s on the other side. Making the Mumbai Indians look like a bunch of amateurs the other night was class. And the guy can bowl a bit. Who knew?
1237. Isa Guha. Drool.
1237. Not quite sure what the story is with her. She started off as a talking head when they had an Indian Indian bird as co-presenter. And then, all of a certain the poacher had turned game-keeper and she was presenter. Indian Indian bird nowhere to be seen.
1237. Looks like they’ve lost all commentary. Sorry, my mistake, it’s just got even worse.
1237. 1237 again. I’m taking my times from the Vista tray. And it seems to have frozen. What a piece of garbage. My phone says 1248.
1250. Karbon Kamal Katch! At last! Not that it’s going to save us (87-1, 10.3)
1252. Hey, they’ve sorted out the sound!
1253. Maybe, this is what Obama and Co were watching. Obama looks miserable. Reckon he’s a Pune Warrior.
1255. Switched Vista on and off again. Time now works. For now.
1256. Catch. (92-2, 12.3)
1257. Johann Botha in. Warne didn’t want him apparently. Why not?
1258. It must be really tough being a woman sports presenter. You spend a lifetime proving you know what you’re talking about. You get to the pinnacle of your career and all of a sudden (if you’re any good) you have to pretend you know no more than the average couch potato.
1309. At the beginning of the game one of the commentators was saying that he reckoned Dravid was going to score loads. Sounded like a curse. Sadly, it wasn’t. Dravid’s on 61.
1311. Botha out! There is hope if not very much. (113-3, 15)
1317. Dravid out! Let’s sing the Banana Splits tune. Tra-la-la la-la-la-la..
1320. Beautiful stroke from Taylor. Four.
1322. First wide of the innings. No sixes yet.
1327. Well left! He he he.
1332. Mixed cheerleading. You saw it here first.
1333. Two wickets in two balls. More importantly, the Royals’ run rate has been slashed. Greatest comeback since… er… the last game.
1339. What IS a Citibank Moment of Success?
1342. 147-6, 20. No DLF Maximums (did I really say “six” earlier? I should wash my mouth out with soap.) Mind you one of the Royals’ coaches did say 148 would be a good score.
1346. Interview with Jakarti. In English. EVERYONE speaks (or at least appears to speak) English. When did that happen? HOW did it happen?
1348. Jakarti has all the platitudes. Can you really be considered a poor country when your sports stars are masters of platitudes?
1357. Here we go. Start of the Chennai innings.
1359. Boy, it’s quiet. More Arsenal than Watford.
1401. If Warne had been Australian captain: There wouldn’t be a pitch in the country that hadn’t been turned into a car park. The Wisdens would have been taken from the shelves and burnt. The word “cricket” excised from the dictionary. And anyone caught in possession of either leather or willow thrown into a prison hulk and sent to the colonies.
1407. Raina to the crease. Go Raina!
1412. Run out? No. Hits and then runs on to the boundary. And I thought we were having a bad day in the field. Last over, a misfield turned one into four.
1414. They’ve done it again! “Every time the ball goes to Binny they’re going to run.”
1418. Another wide. At this rate we’ll win through Rajasthan mistakes alone.
1420. Dropped catch! Warne’s going to explode.
1423. They’re interviewing Raj Kundra, owner of the Royals, in mid-over. Perfect middling Lunnun accent. As in, I believe he was brought up in London and not to particularly well-off parents. This is a weird old world.
1426. Ah, a Maxx Mobile Strategic Timeout. How did we live without them?
1439. Raina and Hussey are playing some wonderful shots. 50 partnership. (73-1, 10)
1446. DLF Maximum! At last. Hussey, who else? Er, Raina I suppose.
1447. And another one! Raina, who else? Er, I’ll shut up.
1455. 100 partnership. Both have 50s. Beautiful shot making. Brilliant. (109-1, 13)
1459. So, they’ve got sponsors for the kits, the stumps, the boundary ropes, the grass, the catches, the sixes, the ad breaks, the “moments of success”, the man of the match, the umpires as well as the tournament itself. And people accuse the Americans of being commercial. Coming next: the air that we breathe and the thoughts that we think.
1513. Well, it’s 136-1 and 19 balls to go. Chennai are going to win. With serenity. Never a doubt in my mind.
1520. Raina skies one and is out. What a shame. To be replaced by… Morkel???!!!
1522. Four and it’s all over with 8 balls to go.
1523. Stadium announcement ie nothing to do with the telly, seems to be in English. Hmm.
1537. Has Warne had a facelift? He has that look of someone who’s been beamed down from the planet Zarg.
1541. “Track” as a synonym for “pitch”. When did that come about?
1541. Dhoni talking. I hear him, he says words and I drift off. He stops talking and I have absolutely no idea what he has said. Clearly, genius at work.
As a colleague put it: “They could be watching a porn movie for all we know.”