Switching from here to Samizdata

Inspired by this Daniel Hannan tweet, I just did a piece for Samizdata entitled It was the New Deal which put the Great in the Great Depression.

I began it as a piece for here, but I then reckoned it should go to there. Making that switch was helped a lot by the fact that Samizdata is a blog powered by WordPress, and so, now, is mine.

3D printing isn’t the only game in town

Incoming from Rob:

Hi Brian,

I saw this and thought of you:

3D printing isn’t the only game in town. This web site seems to make it easier to get access to milling machines. Upload your CAD file and get an instant quote. I’m not sure how expensive it is for one-off jobs but I can imagine it getting cheaper and easier over time.

“This” being a network of enterprises which, between them, can offer: CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, plastic 3D printing, metal 3D printing, urethane casting, and injection molding.

The point being that additive manufacturing, aka 3D printing, is not the only way to make something. There’s also all these other ways, such as CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining, that being subtractive manufacturing.

3D printing is not “disruptive”. It is an addition to the repertoire of traditional manufacturers. It offers manufacturers another way to do some of the things they already do, and a few other things they don’t now do.

Anyone can 3D print just about anything, just about anywhere. But just because you can, that doesn’t mean it makes a blind bit of sense for you to actually do this. What if someone else can do it, far better, far cheaper, in some other place, some other way, maybe in a much more trad, tried-and-tested way?

This website puts you in touch with who all those other people might be. As Rob says, It makes manufacturing that little bit easier and quicker to arrange, and over time, ever more so.

Lockdown chat with Patrick

On June 2nd, Patrick Crozier and I had another of our recorded conversations, this time about Lockdown.

In the course of this, I refer to a photo that I did take, and a photo that I didn’t take. The photo that I did take was this:

That being me, and another bloke, recording the fact of empty shelves in Sainsburys. The photo that I didn’t take, but talk about with Patrick, is the one I should also have taken of how the shelves laden with less healthy food – crisps, chocky bickies etc. – were crammed with yet-to-be-sold stuff, a lot of it offered at discount prices.

Patrick, in his posting about this chat, mentions something he thought of afterwards but didn’t say during, which is that what may have been going on with the crisps and bickies was not that people were shunning unhealthy food, but rather that they were shunning party food, on account of there suddenly being no parties being had. Good point. In my photo above, you can see in the distance, the drinks section. Plenty of drink still to be had also.

I remember, when I used to do chat radio, I used to regret not having said things I should have said, either because I had them in mind but forgot, or because I only thought of them afterwards. But, in due course, I realised that what mattered was what I did say. If that was reasonably intelligent and reasonably well put, then I did okay. People wouldn’t say: Ooh, but he forgot to mention blah blah. They would merely decide whether they liked, or not, what I did say.

Well, this time around, I think there was a huge elephant in the virtual room that we didn’t discuss, which I am sure some listeners would expect us to have at least mentioned. Sport. As in: There hasn’t been any! Patrick and I are both sports obsessives. He is a Watford fan. But he has had no Premier League relegation battle to warm his heart during the last few months. I love cricket, not just England but also Surrey. Likewise for me: nothing, despite some truly wonderful weather at a time when it’s often very grim. But, not a single sporting thing, other than ancient sportsmen reminiscing about sports contests of yesteryear on the telly. Yet we never mentioned any of that. Since a lot of the point of our chat wasn’t to yell at politicians and scientists, hut rather just to remember the oddities of our own lives now, this was a major omission. We talked, as we always do whether that’s the actual topic or not, about war, this time in connection with the question of which economic policy attitudes will prevail during whatever attempts at an economic recovery start being made in the months to come. Yet sport, the thing that has replaced war in so many people’s lives, got no mention by us.

Cover his face

The previous posting being about photoing facial features in a way that’s clear, this posting is about how sometimes, what with the Plague we’re having, that can’t be done:

Those photos were photoed on March 31st, with MI6 and related edifices to be seen on the opposite side of the River there, across Vauxhall Bridge. A lot of their jobs just got harder.

So, this Lockdown thing has actually been going on for quite a while now, around two months. And it’s been time to unlock it for quite a while now. Trouble is, most people are so thoroughly scared now, if not of the Plague itself then of being thought indifferent to it. And, keeping Lockdown actually seems to feel good to many. It’s a chance to show one cares by just doing nothing. It won’t feel so good when, for those not already fretting about such things, all the bills come due.

Get back to work, world. And please world, keep the public spending splurges to the minimum. It was the New Deal which put the Great in the Great Depression.

Another Twitter dump

I had a Twitter dump earlier. It feels so good to be getting this stuff out of my system, so here’s another. Again, in no particular order, and not chosen for bang-up-to-dateness, just funness and interestingness.

It maybe makes things a bit clearer if I indent the tweet references, and then unindent at the end, at which point I’ll be having a bit more to say:

What concrete blocks are made of in China.


The Battle of France in 44 seconds.

This family built a hug guard.

Baihe reservoir (白河水庫) in Tainan county is at once both shockingly ugly and stunningly beautiful.

BBC’s Jeremy Bowen says there haven’t been all that many terrorist attacks in Israel.

Everyone who was worrying he was a fascist now worrying he’s not fascist enough.

150-foot iceberg passes through Iceberg Alley.

My boyfriend cheated on me, but, I love him. What should I do? A Georgist: Implement a land value tax.

James Burke had only one chance to film this scene, and the result is possibly the best timed shot in television history.

Jeremy Corbin won the argument.

The lockdown is ending because the American people say it’s ending.

I miss those carefree pre-coronavirus days when nobody died at all.

In each of the above cases, you get most of the tweet, and sometimes all of it. So, if all you want to know is what the tweet said, no need to click. But if you want to know who else besides me thought the tweets in question to be funny or interesting, click away.

And that has actually done the trick. To my great surprise I have actually cleared out all this tweetery from my hard disc and from now on my computer will surely be functioning better, until such time as I need another similar dump. There remain only a few animal-related tweets which are already scheduled to appear this coming Friday.

Will AI become intelligent enough to figure out how to perfectly organise our economies?

Alex Tabarrok:

No …

The main reason is that AIs will themselves be part of the economy. …

One of the things I’m doing today is getting rid of lots of interesting links that have hung about on my computer since I don’t know when, without actually getting rid of them, in other words by putting them here. The idea was I’d have clever things to say, somewhere, about each of them, but all I really have to say about all of them is: Hmmm interesting.

Prague should build this shipwreck!

What do you reckon on this?:

It’s a big Shipwreck Thing that some people are trying to build in Prague. My first reaction, when I first set eyes on the above fake photo last night, was horror. But now that I have had time to live with this notion, I find myself quite liking it, in fact liking it a lot. It’s supposedly something to do with the havoc that climate change will unleash upon the world, in the form of vertical ships getting wrecked up against big city Things. But despite all that hysterical nonsense, I now very much like the idea of this particular, as yet only fantasised, Thing.

I’ve actually been to Prague a couple of times, and Prague, architecturally, has a problem, which is that its centre is not so much a city centre, more like an outdoor museum. It’s wall-to-wall Architectural History. Try to add so much as a tiny office extension and you are violating History itself.

World War 2 bombing and Communism have in common that, in addition to killing lots of innocent people, they often either totally flattened great swathes of historic architecture, or they left great swathes of historic architecture totally unscathed. Maybe a bit the worse for wear, drab, falling apart, seriously in need of a torrent of paint. But basically, some ancient European architectural wonderlands have managed to survive these twin scourges of mid-twentieth century Europe utterly unscathed. World War 2 bombing flattened the cities of Germany, and scattered destruction upon London, especially in the vicinity of the London docks. But it never laid a finger on Paris. Or, Prague. And although Communism did terrible things to all the poor bastards trying to live in Prague, Communism left the mere buildings of Prague untouched, as if in a time warp. Just because Communism wrecks the economy, it can sometimes then unleash zero in the way of economic development, which translated into architecture means: Nothing. Nothing built. Nothing destroyed to make way for anything built, because nothing is built. Weird but true. Hence: The centre of the City of Prague.

Or some cretin like Ceausescu would send in the bulldozers and destroy the place completely. But, with Communism, those are the chances you take.

But, as I say, the buildings in the middle of Prague survived the twentieth century totally. but meanwhile, the architectural outskirts of Prague got done over by Communism at its crassest. Concrete block after concrete block. You could be anywhere, and wherever you were, although it may have been your home and therefore nice for other reasons, but looked at in an unbiased way it was bloody horrible. I’m guessing it is still pretty dreary.

So, what’s to be done, in a place like Prague, short of someone hiring a gang of terrorists to scatter quite a few bombs around the place but not too many? Well, a logical answer is to leave the centre of Prague untouched, obviously, but also to do some very extreme architectural Things in the boring Communist hinterland, outside the centre. (Like La Défense in Paris, only more so.) And that would appear to be the idea of this scheme. Will many people consider it extremely ugly? Undoubtedly. But all must now agree that what would have happened instead would merely have been extremely boring.

“The project under preparation will be outside the protected zone of the urban conservation area and outside the area prohibiting high-rise buildings,” explained Trigema.

“At the same time, it is located far enough away from the Prague, so that it will not be visible from the vast majority of places in the centre of the metropolis and will not disturb the historical city skyline.”

There you go. I am totally for it. The fact that it is so totally bonkers is all part of why I am so totally for it. If anything, it sounds like it may be disappointingly far from the centre of the City, but it’s a good start.

At first, I thought they were going to erect a real shipwreck. But actually, if they do build it, the actual shipwreck bit will be a cunningly post-modernistical sculpture that merely looks like a shipwreck and which will actually be tremendous fun for tourists to wander about in and photo. Call it the Bilbao effect. Remember, when Frank Gehry first proposed that amazing Bilbao Thing, nobody had ever done anything like this before. The horror of typical first reactions was all part of why it became such a huge success.

So I say to Prague: Build this shipwreck!

I especially like how they want greenery to grow up from the top of the boring bit below, in and among the shipwreck. Nice touch.

A decade of photos – one from each year

I originally got together these photos, one for each year of the decade now ending, with Samizdata in mind. But then I did a posting looking back at Christmas Day for there, with lots of photos, and another posting there with lots of photos felt a bit superfluous. So, here they are here.

Left below: February 2010 – Piccadilly Circus.
Right below:January 2011 – Beyond the Thames Barrier.

Left below: July 2012 – A South African gets ready to bowl against England at the Oval.
Right below: September 2013 – London Gateway takes shape.

Left below: March 2014 – Detlev Schlichter speaks about Austrian Economics.
Right below: July 2015 – Sunshine bounces off the Broadgate Tower and lands outside Tate Modern.

Left below: August 2016 – The Oval Pavilion (see above) as seen from the top of the Tate Modern Extension.
Right below: Also at the top of Tate Modern, a photoer photos the Shard through a ball.

Left below: April 2018 – The statue of Sir Keith Park outside the Athaeneum.
Right below: September 2019 – A model of Old London Bridge.

I didn’t spend a huge amount of time picking these photos out from the archives. Aside from trying to pick out photos that I hadn’t blogged before, I just had a rootle around until I found a nice one for each year. But a different day doing the rootling, and there’d have been ten entirely different photos. But I like these ones, and I hope you do too.

Another podcast I just listened to that was good


It’s Bryan Caplan (the guy who gave this lecture that I recently attended), talking to Darren Grimes of the IEA. Caplan disagrees with most voters, but in an ingratiating way. As he himself says towards the end of the conversation, if you have disagreeable things to say, say them agreeably and people will be more likely to listen.

LATER: Now, I’m listening to another interview. Scott Adams autobiographising. Terrific.