A Jordan Peterson evening

I have just finished hosting my latest last Friday meeting. It seemed to me to go very well, despite, and arguably because of, the low turnout. The fewer people show up at a meeting, the more subtle the conversation can be. Each question can get really answered.

Tamiris Loureiro was the speaker. Unusually, she actually spoke for a shorter time than she had in mind to. Usually what happens is that a speaker assembles twenty things they want to say, and gets through about three or four of them, and speaks for twenty minutes longer than they had in mind to. She raced through hers in about twenty minutes, which left lots of time for comments and questions from the rest of us.

Her subject was Jordan Peterson. She described to him as “The Good Libertarian”, which proved interestingly provocative. Peterson spans a lot of political territory between conservative and libertarian, including classical liberalism, classical liberal being what he calls himself. Paradoxically, said Tamiris, a lot of Paterson’s political impact comes from the fact that he approaches most of the problems he tackles in a non-political way. He urges us all to take personal responsibility for our lives, rather than palming our problems off on governments. Which of course is what libertarians recommend.

What did I learn from the evening? Some of what I learned came from finally getting stuck into 12 Rules for Life, by way of preparation. I had been put off from actually reading this book by the fear that I had heard it all, in the various videos and interviews of Peterson’s that I have already heard. I feared being bored. Oh me of little faith. I really enjoyed reading it.

One of the many things about Peterson that strikes me, as I found myself saying at this evening’s meeting, is that he has a very interesting “talent stack”, to use a phrase that Scott Adams likes to use to describe successful people. Peterson has a range of intellectual skills, from digging deep into ancient religious texts and coming up with non-trivial interpretations, to being an experienced councillor of troubled people, to being interviewed on television without losing his rag (think of the Cathy Newman interview), to jousting belligerently on Twitter with the worst of them. He is a self-publicist of considerable talent, and he has deeper stuff that will stand up to being publicised. It comes, I surmise, from his belief that a man’s got to take on the most responsibility he can carry. He needs to reach as many people as he can with his redemptive messages. He shouldn’t be too modest. He should put himself about as much as he can contrive.

Next up, hearing if the recording I made – or tried to make – of the talk, and of the subsequent Q&A, is any good, as a recording I mean. I don’t usually record my meetings, but I recorded this one in order to make the event mean something if the only people present had been Tamiris and me, which for a couple of days earlier in the week looked like it might happen.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The notes for my talk

The talk in question being this. I show this photo of my notes here more to remind me to keep thinking about this stuff, than to tell you what I was talking about. For that, maybe better wait for the video.

I spent most of my spare time today working on that, even though it may not look like it. In the end I had far too much I wanted to say, but I did manage to blurt out a decent proportion of it. The thing to remember in such circumstances is that they don’t know what you forgot to say. They only know what you did say. If that was okay, then it was okay.

There is one big misprint, towards the end. Where it says “Era 2 effects”, twice over, the second “Era 2” should be “Era 1”. This did not throw me. I only just noticed it.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

I need a link dump

Twitter is causing ever more interesting things to pile up on my computer screen, and slow everything down. (I know, “bookmarks”. Hate them.) So, here is a blog posting consisting of such links. Which I can come back to and follow through on but probably never will, but possibly just might.

Eyebrows – we all have them, but what are they actually for?

The Kremlin has a Reckless Self-Image Problem.

Via 6k, how to take bizarre photos by stuffing wire wool into a egg whisk, setting the wire wool on fire, and swinging all that around on a rope. Do not try this at home, unless you want to burn down your home.

Next, a Twitter posting about cactus patterns:

So frustrating! My cactus patterns are going viral on FB, but the person who posted the photo of them a) didn’t credit me and b) deletes any comments I write responding to people asking for the patterns.

But what if she made that up? As a ruse to get the world to pay attention to her cactus patterns? Or, what if she hired, in good faith, some sleazy “internet marketer” who deliberately posted her photos on some faked-up Facebook site, minus any credit, told her about it, and then blocked her complaints? The sleazy internet marketer then advised her to complain about this to all and sundry, knowing that all and sundry would sympathise. She seems like an honest person, doing honest business, which is why I pass this on. But a decade of internetting has made me cynical.

Next, a Spectator piece about someone called Scaramucci, who is writing a book about Trump. The piece says more about Scaramucci than it does about Trump, but his book sounds like it will be quite good. Scaramucci sounds like he has his head screwed on right, unlike a lot of the people who write Trump books.

Also in the Spectator, Toby Young realises that his wife is smarter than he is. And she chose to stay at home and raise their kids because that’s what she wanted to do. You can feel the tectonic plates of Western Civilisation shifting back towards stay-at-home mumhood, even as mere policy continues to discourage it. Jordan Peterson, take a bow. That man is already raising the birth rate in rich countries, by encouraging both fatherhood and motherhood. The only question is: By how much? Trivially, or significantly? My bet, with the passing of a bit of time: significantly.

George Bernard Shaw tells it like it was and is about Islam. I lost track of how I chanced upon that, but there it is. These days, GBS would probably get a talking-to from the Thought Police, a talking-to which might well include the words: “We’re not the Thought Police”. If the Thought Police were to have a go at her, they just might get an earful themselves.

Mike Fagan liked this photo of Mont Saint Michel with sheep in the foreground. I can’t any longer find when he liked it, but he did. Reminds me of this Millau Viaduct photo, also with sheep in the foreground.

Boaty McBoatface got turned into David bloody Attenborough, but Trainy McTrainface proudly rides the railway lines of Sweden. As usual, You Had One Job supplied no link (so no link to them), but here’s the story.

Thank you Paul Marks for telling me about someone telling me about Napoleon’s greatest foe. His name? Smith.

The sun is now spotless, or it was on April 11th.

David Baddiel has doubts about the bloke who said “gas the Jews” rather a lot, to a dog. As do I. It should be legal, but don’t expect me to laugh.

Tim Worstall:

All of which leads to the correct Brexit stance to be taking. No deal. We’ll go to unilateral free trade and the rest of you can go boil your heads. We’ll give it a couple of decades and we’ll see who is richer, OK?

Quillette: The China Model Is Failing.

The three temporarily separate Elizabeth lines.

Wisdom.

Anton Howes on Sustained Economic Growth.

John Arnold made a fortune at Enron. He is now spending some of it on criticising bad science.

Human genes reveal history. This book is number (about) twenty on my to-read list.

Philip Vander Elst on How Communism Survived Thanks to Capitalist Technology.

And finally, Bryan Caplan still thinks this is pretty good.

I now feel much better. And more to the point, my computer seems a lot sprightlier than it was. This has been the computerised equivalent of cleaning my room. The job is not done, but I have taken a big bite out of it.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A picture of a not missing cat and the link to the story

Twitter is getting seriously addictive for me these days. What will stop that is that it is getting a bit samey, as the same people keep on saying the same things.

Kristian Niemietz spends most of his Twitter time shouting at Corbynistas. So I was rather delighted to see this:

Miemietz supplies no link, which I hate. This hatred reminds me of the time when I used to rain curses down upon would be Libertarian Alliance authors who did not supply proper footnotes, in that now long gone era when there were no links. Just footnotes. I know, weird.

To quote myself (who else will?):

If you submit something to the LA for publication, your manuscript must be legible, and it must be complete. If we publish it exactly as you have submitted it, you should be content. On the other hand, if we are unable to publish it as it stands, either because we can’t read it, or because it lacks vital details, we will not be at all content.

We do not favour the “people generally, are, in a general way, inclined to think approximately such and such” style of writing. Who thinks it? Exactly what do they think? Where’s the proof that this is what they think? You should supply chapter and verse. If you are depending upon or taking issue with some written point of view or other, it is essential that you should enable your readers to acquaint themselves at first hand with what you are praising or criticising. They must be able to satisfy themselves that your criticisms are fair. They must, if encouraged by your praise of something, be able to explore further. The LA would be a waste of everyone’s time if all that happened was that a whole bunch of people read everything published by the LA, but read – or wrote – nothing else.

Accordingly, you must supply complete and accurate footnotes. …

Ah, those were the days. It’s a wondrous exercise in invective, though I say it myself.

Although, I note that I broke my own rule. Who actually said: “no one says that”?

But however much those days were the days, I still prefer these days, when you just shove in a link. Much easier.

Like this link, to the actual story about the missing cat that no longer was missing.

Later: Also this.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A talk by me to Libertarian Home

I gave a talk to Libertarian Home early in 2015, entitled What is the Libertarian Movement for?, and it is now up at the Libertarian Home website. A more accurate title for what I ended up saying would be more like: What the libertarian movement is and how to be part of it. It is more about how to do libertarianism than about why to do it, although that is implied.

What I said hasn’t dated in the time since then, and this was one of the better speaking performances I’ve done, I think. Certainly better than the most recent talk I gave, at Christian Michel’s on the subject of causation, about which, it turned out, I had very little more to say than this. Memo to self: now that the cold snap has ended, get a haircut. I have reached the age when I need to keep my hair short, the way it was in this video. The tramp look makes me look too much like a tramp.

My thanks to Jordan Lee for supplying a written summary of what I said.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A fixture clash

I’m watching the France v Italy rugby game, which happened earlier this evening. It kicked off at 8pm. But I had a meeting at my home, which also kicked off at 8pm, so I had to ignore the rugby until now, late in the evening. But I set my telly-recorder, and all was well with that, so now I am watching it. As of now: France 5 Italy 7. Two imperfect teams, both desperate to “play rugby”, which means run like mad and score tries, which makes for a great spectacle for the neutral. The game, so far, has been what is technically known as “frantic”.

I am now on Twitter, observing but so far not contributing, and normally, following my meeting, I’d be catching up with that. But one of the Twitter things I follow is rugby, and I don’t want anyone to tell me the score. The only way to be sure of that not happening is for me to ignore Twitter, until the game is over. As in: over for me.

As for my meeting, it was addressed by Jordan Lee. Superb.

One of the good things about these meetings is that because there is no camera running, and because the aim is basically only to make sure that we don’t have the same damn conversation month after month, I can take a chance with speakers. I knew Jordan Lee would be okay, by that standard. But I had no idea he’d be as good as he actually was.

He talked about his work as a teacher of troubled children, the kind that have got spat out by regular schools, at a place with the wonderfully made-up-sounding but actually real name of Wishmore Cross Academy. Cross is right, judging by some of the dramas that Jordan described.

The gist of what Jordan Lee said was: there’s no easy answer to what the rights of children ought to be. They can’t be completely free, like adults. Nor can their parents own them and be allowed to tyrannise over them.

France are now winning, after fluffing a lot of earlier chances. Commentator Jonathan Davies said that they needed to be more clinical, and finally, they are starting to do that. France 24 Italy 10. I was hoping for an upset, but it ain’t happening. Later: 34-17, which looks like being it. France have only three tries and need another for a bonus point. France pressing, but no, France couldn’t manage that fourth try. France 34 Italy 17.

Bed.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Adriana Lukas tells Libertarian Home about the experience of communism

Earlier this evening at the Two Chairmen, Westminster, Adriana Lukas, who grew up in the old Czechoslovakia as was, gave a most eloquent talk about this experience. She didn’t bang on at length about the usual horrors – prison camps, executions, purges, and so on – although of course these were mentioned. Rather did she focus on the minutiae of life for the rather less unlucky victims of communism, the ones who got to stay alive. People adjusted, basically. Or if, like Adriana’s family, they were dissidents, they learned to be extremely distrustful of almost everyone but their closest and most trusted loved ones. Being a dissident wasn’t about overthrowing the regime; it was merely about staying sane.

Here are four photos, that I picked out from the dozen or more that I took, and that I just sent to meetings organiser Simon Gibbs, who is to be seen in the first one, introducing Adriana. The photos I sent to Simon were rectangles, but I actually prefer these square cropped versions.

As you can see, this excellent talk was videoed. Videos are far harder to edit than merely to … video. So you may have to wait a bit before seeing this one. But, for those who did not attend this talk and for many who did, it will be worth the wait.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Tom Burroughes

Earlier this evening I went to the Two Chairmen to hear my friend Tom Burroughes speak, to Libertarian Home, about the idea of a Universal Basic Income.

I took this photo of Tom in action:

It troubles me how much Photoshop(clone)ping I had to do to make this photo look good, taken as it was with my new camera. But I think it now does look okay. I particularly like how I used a nearby beer glass to smudge out most of the head of the man in the foreground.

At Samizdata, Tom goes by the name of Johnathan Pearce. Here is a recent piece he did there, about the very subject he was speaking about this evening. And Tom will give this subject another airing at my home, on September 29th. It’s an important subject, I think.

Our Sea (and the trade we did in it)

Lincoln Paine, The Sea and Civilization (p. 130):

Octavian’s victory in Egypt brought the entire Mediterranean basin under the command of a single imperial rule. To guarantee the safety of the empire and its sea trade, Augustus (as Octavian styled himself) established Rome’s first standing navy, with bases at Misenum just south of Portus ]ulius, and at Ravenna in the northern Adriatic. These fleets comprised a variety of ships from liburnians to triremes, “fours,” and “fives.” As the empire expanded, provincial fleets were established in Egypt, Syria, and North Africa; on the Black Sea; on the Danube and Rhine Rivers, which more or less defined the northern border of the empire; and on the English Channel. Over the next two centuries there was nearly constant fighting on the empire’s northern and eastern borders, but the Mediterranean experienced a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity during which Greco-Roman culture circulated easily around what everyone was entitled to call Mare Nostrum – Our Sea. It was the only time that the Mediterranean has ever been under the aegis of a single power, with profound results for all the cultures that subsequently emerged on its shores.

There follows (p. 132) a description of the sort of commercial culture that resulted. Here is some of what Paine says about Ostia:

The remains of the city, which rival those of Pompeii, reveal a town of ordinary citizens rather than wealthy estate owners and their retinues. The essentially rectilinear streets were lined with three- and four-story apartment houses, many with street-level stores and offices. …

But then, concerning religion in Ostia, Paine addes this:

… In addition to houses, offices, workshops, and laundries, the city boasted an astonishing array of religious buildings that reflect the inhabitants’ strong ties to the Roman east. Side-by-side with temples to the gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon and the imperial cults stand Christian baptisteries, a Jewish synagogue, and a host of temples to Near Eastern deities, including a dozen dedicated to the Zoroastrian divinity Mithras, the god of contracts and thus revered by merchants. …

Mithras was the god of contracts? Revered by merchants? I knew about how the Roman Empire took off economically (and degenerated politically) by surrounding the Mediterranean, but I did not know that Mithras was the god of contracts and was revered by merchants. So, it would appear that proto-libertarianism in the ancient world missed a big chance when Christianity conquered the Roman Empire and prevailed over Zoroastrianism. Although, a little preliminary googling tells me that some reckon Christianity to have been “borrowed” from Zoroastrianism. Whatever. I like the sound of it, and will investigate it more. By which I mean I will do some investigating of it, instead of the zero investigating of it that I have done so far in my life.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Shopping Trolley Spiral beside the River Lea

Yesterday I told you about a photo I took on January 20th of this year. Earlier that day I had journeyed to Bromley-By-Bow tube station, then walked south along the River Lea, and ended my wanderings at Star Lane Station. It was a great day for photoing, and I especially enjoyed photoing this witty sculpture:

But who did it? This evening I realised that I seemed to recall Mick Hartley having something to say about this, and so it proved.

It’s by Abigail Fallis, and it is called DNA DL90. Well, I say that’s what it’s called. That’s what Abigail Fallis called it, but I bet nobody else calls it that. I bet what most people call it is more like: Shopping Trolley Spiral. I’m guessing further that Abigail Fallis regards her sculpture as some kind of critique of late capitalist consumerism. But such ArtGrumbling need not stop the rest of us thoroughly enjoying the thing, and also continuing to relish our trips to the supermarket, there to sample the delights of early capitalism. Because you see, Abigail, capitalism is just getting started.

Yes. I was right. Says Hartley:

It is, says Fallis, a symbol of modern society’s consumer culture, which has now become entwined in our genetic make-up. They can’t help themselves, can they, these artists?

The usual bitch about Artsists is that they are predictable, and indeed they are. But this was something else again. I literally predicted this, before I read it. How predictable is that? Very, very.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog