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He whose payments system pays the piper calls the tune

Paypal stops handling payments for Tommy Robinson, reports the BBC.

As usual, I will defend the right of Paypal to exclude whomsoever it wishes. But I find something ominous about the fact that the company refuses to say exactly what Mr Robinson has done to violate its terms of use, and also about the fact that it seems likely that it has taken this step because a lot of people signed a petition telling it to:

Paypal has told former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson it will no longer process payments on his behalf, the BBC understands.

The payments network is believed to have told Mr Robinson he had violated its terms and conditions.

It said Paypal could not be used to promote hate, violence or discrimination.

Online petitions calling on finance firms to sever links with him have gained thousands of signatures.

In a statement, Paypal said it could not comment on individual customers but added that it regularly reviewed accounts to ensure their use aligned with its acceptable use policy.

“PayPal connects buyers and sellers.” When it so chooses.

Which is as it should be. But if it makes enough choices like this one I can see the day coming when I might choose another payments provider.

42 comments to He whose payments system pays the piper calls the tune

  • One hopes PayPal paid him all remaining money before ending his account. One does not feel quite sure, but one hopes.

    One hopes details of the accounts of any who assisted him with his legal fees have not now been passed to some lefty activists. Again, one does not feel quite sure, but one hopes.

    PayPal may be hoping that the story only prompts such thoughts in one or a few. Or they may not themselves be thinking anything outside the bubble about this story. Or they may be thinking such thoughts are all to the good – let the common people learn caution.

  • Justin

    One hopes PayPal paid him all remaining money before ending his account

    Unlikely. Paypal have got form for withholding funds, and have been on the receiving end of a number of lawsuits, including at least one class action, settled in 2015(?).

  • will

    And if visa, mc or american express decide to prohibit cc’s for all those who voted for trump would you defend that? Corporations like paypal are not the small privately held enterprises that, individually., have little impact on everyday events. We hav, as a society. decided that one should nit be discriminated against for numerous reasons and I have no problem banning discrimination for political beleifs, other than sedition. by publicly held corporations> as had been sadi, the Constitution is not a suicide pact.

  • bobby b

    “But if it makes enough choices like this one I can see the day coming when I might choose another payments provider.”

    I sincerely hope this is some form of British understatement that went over my head, and that you didn’t type this as a serious statement.

    I’m trying to avoid the “if Hitler keeps killing Jews like he’s been doing I can see the day coming when I might choose to stop doing business with him” sort of statement because of the clear overkill, but the analogy, at heart, holds true. PapPal has been doing this to conservatives regularly, just like Twitter’s and Facebook’s treatment of conservatives.

    There’s no longer any question about their intentions and philosophies. They’re not fighting evil – they’re fighting us. Continuing any relationship with either three is simply selling them your hanging rope. Every use we give them is one less use that could have gone to better people.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I personally boycott Target because I don’t like their bathroom policy, which I think invites mischief. I would gladly sign a petition asking them to revert to custom or else to install one-at-a-time rooms with lockable doors, such as Starbuck’s and most gas stations have.

    A given retailer can see acting as a petition requests as being good for business or bad, and complying with the request or not.

    A restaurant can ought to be able to refuse to serve, or a bakery to design and make a cake for, a given person or clientele “for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all,” as Richard E. so often says.

    And the business’s customers have every right to take their custom elsewhere if they don’t like the retailer’s policy.

    I speak only of businesses that enjoy no special legal protections, of course. But PayPal is not a “common carrier,” so far as I know, and I certainly don’t think it should be. But then I’m not a fan of the whole “common carrier” theory.

    (And I’m not defending any possible shady dealings on the part of PP or anyone else. Only the question of whether they are somehow at fault ethically for revoking T.R.’s account — provided they’re not acting in breach of contract.)

    .

    If any of us feel that we’re being mistreated at the hands of various of the IT-enabled giants because they judge us to be “conservative,” then we oughta tell them where to stick it. Pick up our marbles, go home, create our own work-arounds or rival services.

    …You know, I might well refuse to serve Communists, on the grounds that I don’t want to add to any support of human beings who believe in the righteousness of theft and the usurpation of an individual’s autonomy. Of course, in this lax modern age that includes most people’s idea of what a system of governance “should” do, and it’s pretty hard to boycott everybody! But when an ideology is as extreme in that direction as is Communism, I wouldn’t find it appropriate to deal with its proponents in any way.

    On that, I’m with bobby just above:

    “Every use we give them is one less use that could have gone to better people.”

    . . .

    So here I go, having brought up C-for-Commie (which might be thought of as analogous to a C-for-Cancer on society), wildly off-topic.

    Very interesting two-part interview of historian Prof. Stephen Kotkin of Princeton, on the topic of Stalin. Conducted by Peter Robinson for “Uncommon Knowledge.”

    Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MzPzfEVjNE — Stalin’s Rise to Power

    Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZ9KCG0KO4U — Stalin’s Consolidation of Power

    NOTE. The Description of Part 2 ends with this (my boldface):

    “Stalin continues, through hard work and cunning, to gather power but also because people believed that he stood for the principles of the revolution.

  • bobby b

    “And I’m not defending any possible shady dealings on the part of PP or anyone else. Only the question of whether they are somehow at fault ethically for revoking T.R.’s account — provided they’re not acting in breach of contract.”

    I don’t know if I’d even go that far. Is it unethical to be a committed progressive and work to sabotage the dealings of conservatives? I don’t know that “ethics” is the correct word. “Slimy commie bastards”, maybe . . .

    But PayPal, in particular, have been wholehearted and enthusiastic supporters and enablers of Obama’s Operation Chokepoint, and so we hates them, we hates them forever.

  • Julie near Chicago

    gollu bobby: Yes we does. 😈

  • Julie near Chicago

    “In the wee small hours of the morning,” I take advantage of the topic to rant, as follows:

    ‘Course if I really put my money where my mouth is, I’d take my banking out of the Bank of Montreal and put it — where? I dunno. Some little no-‘count bank that will let you do transfers over the phone (not online!) and never gets closer to Shari’ah finance than Pluto gets to the Crab Nebula.

    A bank that never changes its rules overnight w/o notice, and when you ask, the girl doesn’t say “I’ve been here for 10^^200 years, and we’ve always done it this way.”

    A bank that never tells you it certainly does not have the paperwork that you gave it 4 x over the last 5 years, and concludes therefore that “you never told us.” [Or a reasonable facsimile thereof.]

    Gee, BB&T under the reign of John Allison sounds pretty good. I wonder how many of the above sins it didn’t commit?

    I keep thinking about using my little ol’ home-town bank. But even they keep trying to sell “go paperless!” and “bank online!,” both completely idiotic to anyone with an ounce of a sense of self-preservation.

    *sniff*

    :>))

  • Julie near Chicago

    I know most Samizdatistas don’t agree with me about the wonders of Paperless, etc. Y’all are going to be sorry when the EMP fries all the valves, or whatever [homage to Thurber, that]. *wry grin*

    I really didn’t mean to be gratuitously insulting. Pls forgive.

  • The Fyrdman

    PayPal have not paid Tommy, according to Tommy himself in a YouTube livestream this morning. He has stated that he will need to wait 180 days to obtain his funds.

    Frankly it seems like theft to me, but if that’s the terms we all agree to using PayPal I will cease using PayPal.

  • EdMJ

    The best alternative to PayPal is to host your own payment processor. Thankfully, with the wonders of Bitcoin, you can do exactly that.

    Check out the wonderful open-source project, BTCPay Server for example:

    https://bitcoinist.com/btcpay-core-developer-better-bitpay/

    “BTCPay can be hosted by yourself. This means that you are in control of the full node. Nobody can force you about what version of Bitcoin to accept.” And also no one can prevent you from accepting payments.

    A slight flaw at present is there is no support for fiat conversion (e.g. you can only pay in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, not via a Credit or Debit Card), but there are plans for ways to work around that.

    I realise not everyone is tech savvy enough to set something like this up for themselves, so there are third-party hosted versions you can use. While it means relying on someone not to take down your ability to take payments (which would only be temporary – you could easily and quickly switch to a different provider), you’d still have the advantage over PayPal that funds received are always sent directly to your Bitcoin wallet, there is no way for a third-party hosted version to freeze or hold your funds.

    If it can happen to Tommy Robinson, and Defense Distributed, and Alex Jones, it can happen to any of us. The only way to beat the likes of PayPal is to change the nature of the game.

    This is the meaning behind the saying “Cypherpunks write code”:

    “The ethos that drives these builders is a very no-bullshit, stop talking + theorizing, and start building mindset deadset on giving individuals tools that preserve their sovereignty in a world that is becoming increasingly authoritarian and collectivist.”

    There’s a great twitter thread on this and associated commentary from yesterday’s issue of one of my favorite newsletters, Marty’s Bent:

    https://us16.campaign-archive.com/?u=67eb93253df610fc7b047c270&id=4ac62ad8c1

  • bobby b

    Quite a few business in the US were screwed by PayPal when it decided that weapons and ammunition were no longer acceptable products.

    People were given no warning. PayPal facilitated the companies’ sales, allowed the companies to ship off product to customers, and then simply decided to return the customers’ payments to the customers because they disapproved of the product.

    So these companies, which had shipped product to customers on Paypal’s representation that payment had been received, were suddenly informed that they had no payments coming, and that if they wished to be paid, they needed to convince the customers, who already had their merchandise, to pay. Quite a few small companies couldn’t survive the blow.

    So now I go out of my way to tell businesses that their use of Paypal renders them unfit for attracting my business. Not that I wield huge power in my massive purchasing decisions, but every little bit helps, I figure.

    To quote the old prohibitionists, lips that touch Paypal shall never tough mine.

  • Mr Ed

    If Mr Robinson has not breached Paypal’s terms of service, and there seems to be no way that he could as he seems to be simply receiving money, not mis-selling anything, then it seems to me that Paypal may be avoiding liability by deception, or committing an offence under the Fraud Act 2006, such as fraud by abuse of position or deception (deceptively claiming that there is a breach of terms).

    So I would ask that the City of London Police Fraud Squad raid Paypal’s UK offices, arrest the senior management team where there is a case for it, and take away everything they need for an investigation.

    And Mr Robinson could always sue for specific performance of his contract with Paypal.

  • Gary Taylor

    So I’m noticing the crowd who are good with this ‘Paypal shouldn’t fund hate’ idea. And I’m noticing the net neutrality gang. And I’m noticing they are largely the same people.
    Doh!

  • pete

    Perhaps we need new laws which make it a criminal offence for a company to refuse custom to people because it disagrees with their political views.

    We already have discrimination laws which criminalise people refusing custom on grounds of race or sex, so this new law would not break new ground.

  • bob sykes

    NO, this is NOT the way it should be. Paypal, Facebook, Twitter, Google, et al., are and should be treated as public utilities. They should be prohibited, with severe punishments for corporate officers and the corporation, for any censorship, blacklisting, etc of their users. As public corporations they DO NOT have the right to determine what is published on their sites.

    The claim that they do is typical libertarian idiocy, along with blank slate mentality, open borders, off-shoring… and other lunacies.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “If Mr Robinson has not breached Paypal’s terms of service, and there seems to be no way that he could as he seems to be simply receiving money, not mis-selling anything, then it seems to me…”

    See the bits underlined in item 2.

    https://www.paypal.com/uk/webapps/mpp/ua/acceptableuse-full?locale.x=en_GB

    Of course, it’s not specific as to what’s being discriminated on, so in fact would seem paradoxically to be rather self-referential. If your business promotes hatred of racists, or is intolerant or discrimates against them, it would appear to be banned too. (‘Religion or belief’ is a ‘protected characteristic’ in the Equality Act 2010, and racism is obviously a ‘belief’.) Not that I’d expect a complaint on those grounds to work – they’d just say “You know what we mean.”

    I suspect it’s not entirely PayPal’s fault. They’re trying to cover themselves legally against the anti-discrimination legislation in various countries, which forbids businesses discriminating on protected categories. As part of your operation, they may be considered partially morally accountable for your activities. It’s the laws that are the problem. And while individual activists with nothing to lose might choose to take the risk of defying them, a big business with shareholder investment to protect (and many shareholders whose politics is not at all libertarian!) is not going to risk it making a stand for liberty.

    Any rival set up in competition to serve that excluded market is going to face the same problem, and is going to be a primary target for legal action since to start with most of its custom is going to be in the ‘controversial’ sector. Drugs, guns, porn, racism, payday loans, etc. They’re going to have to have a big legal team, and that’s going to be expensive. I doubt it will work.

    But pointing out the inconsistency in the public debate might be useful. I think part of the trouble is that people don’t exactly know what the rules are, and so play it safe. So long as all the attacks come from the left, that’s how they’re going to lean. If Tommy made a complaint that they were illegally discriminating against him on the basis of his beliefs, it might evoke some lively discussion!

  • Juliet46

    I closed my paypal account yesterday.

  • I think most of us libertarian types have made a grave error in failing to agitate for reforms that make it easier to start a payment company, bank, etc. so that, when the existing organizations screw up, we’ll be able to go elsewhere.

    I certainly didn’t do any better, and I can’t say I’m surprised how little goes on about it; learning about existing regulations, fiscal theory, etc. is difficult and boring. In addition, in the cases where libertarian types have spoken on the subject, they’ve mostly been either focused on facets that seem tangential to the issue, or else come to conclusions so wildly different from eachother that it would be impossible to put one into practice without violating the others.

  • … Tommy … has stated that he will need to wait 180 days to obtain his funds.

    Frankly it seems like theft to me (The Fyrdman, November 9, 2018 at 8:28 am)

    To me, too: the fine print must be vicious if PayPal can do that – but of course PayPal’s fine print may be vicious, either from way back or since one of those “Our terms & conditions have changed” updates that so many users never read.

    Years ago, I had a year of using PayPal to receive many payments, I had it set up so PayPal moved the money to my own business account right away. I hope Mr Robinson had equal wisdom, so will be waiting 180 days only for the last two-or-three days-worth of payments.

    IIUC, Mr Robison needs the money for legal fees to reduce his risk of being sent for 13 months to a 30%+-muslim-populated jail in which (as a judge has recognised) he faces the risk of being murdered. IIAR, this makes PayPal’s action more sinister than might at first appear.

    Mr Ed (November 9, 2018 at 11:18 am) may have a valid legal point – but Mr Robinson may not find it easy to sue PayPal from inside jail, nor to get the additional legal funding to do so when PayPal are withholding those he needed to avoid being put there. It could develop into a bit of an “opening instructions outside” situation for him, alas.

  • bobby b (November 9, 2018 at 11:11 am), do you by any chance know the follow up to the PayPal-cheating you describe? Did those vendors (or the NRA, on their behalf) investigate whether legal penalty could be visited on PayPal? Was what they found of potential use or was it merely depressing (but still useful for us in the UK to know even in the latter case)?

    “But if it makes enough choices like this one I can see the day coming when I might choose another payments provider.”

    I sincerely hope this is some form of British understatement (bobby b, November 9, 2018 at 12:33 am)

    Unlike me, where a change in how I earned my daily bread naturally made my PayPal account unimportant over 5 years ago, it may be a non-trivial piece of work for Natalie to disentangle PayPal from her apolitical business activities. In many areas, the best alternative is not at all “to host your own payment processor using … [only] Bitcoin” (EdMJ, November 9, 2018 at 10:40 am). You need a payment mechanism independent of your own websites, ideally with a name that is trusted (increasingly undeservedly so, we all agree, but you take my point).

    I foresee we need to do some research. Commenters, please anticipate me in suggesting alternative web-payment companies with more robust owners and/or situated in less PC environments. (I recall the Solent daughter once worked at NetChex for a while, but a company whose largest client base is the US HR market might be anything but resistant to PC pressure in today’s climate, quite apart from its hardly being like-for-like with PayPal.)

  • Johnathan Pearce

    All the more reason for more competition, including from the evolving field of Blockchain-driven e-payments and digital cash.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    @Bob Sykes: Paypal, Facebook, Twitter, Google, et al., are and should be treated as public utilities.

    They were founded as private businesses, and did not get funding from the taxpayer, and unlike the UK highways, NHS or the schooling system, aren’t funded by taxes levied by force. They dominate their share of the market, but the State does not require us to use their services at gunpoint, any more than Bill Gates’ Microsoft did, or John D Rockefeller’s Standard Oil did.

    There’s currently a misguided campaign by some on the political Right, even those who usually get the free market argument, that anti-trust powers should be used to hit these “big techs” for no other reason that I can see that they don’t like how these firms operate politically. This is exceptionally foolish, because what goes one way will return. Future, Leftist governments can and will go after firms on the same grounds, using the same arguments. The solution is to reduce barriers to entry, and reduce the size and power of the State in the first place so that the desire for political favours isn’t there. To the extent that Big Tech figures try and get special favours, or government contracts, or send their folk to lobby for cushy deals in Washington, Brussels or wherever, that is when they need to be called out.

    There seems to be a sort of trend that, whenever the decibel count of moaning rises about this or that big, bad firm doing things that people dislike, there are usually forces building to dethrone such firms as a result of entrepreneurship. It is going to happen to Facebook, Paypal, and others, as surely as it did to earlier forms of firms considered too big for their boots.

    And while I am in full JPearce flow, let me recommend this George Gilder book on why he thinks Google and some others are headed for the dust heap.

  • bobby b

    “Did those vendors (or the NRA, on their behalf) investigate whether legal penalty could be visited on PayPal?”

    PayPal’s Terms of Service are and were onerous and one-sided and self-serving, and so the contract that was formed – voluntarily by all, I hasten to add – left them free to have their way roughly with all of the various un-PC businesses that their execs disfavored.

    Their quasi-thefts were legal and within their rights and left many of us searching for some equally-legal manner with which to crush their business into the ground – which is our absolute right, thank goodness. They chose to follow their political goals, which will eventually cost them half of their potential market and lead to their demise, if only those people who might disagree with their political choices would wake the f___ up and stop doing business with them because it’s convenient.

    Again, predictably, we’re selling them our own nooses. They are powerful because they are ubiquitous, and they are ubiquitous because people who ought to know better continue to send them money.

  • Matra

    The claim that they do is typical libertarian idiocy, along with blank slate mentality, open borders, off-shoring… and other lunacies.

    Libertarians have always been useful idiots of the left. Their arguments are disseminated to divide the right thus giving the left very little opposition. Alas, libertarians are so spergy they never notice.

  • Mr Ed

    NiV,

    And what is the evidence that Mr Robinson has breached 2 (f)? He is engaged in citizen journalism these days, nothing more.

    bobby b:

    Surely Paypal retaining money by false pretences can be wire fraud? 30 years per count. Bring it on.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Libertarians have always been useful idiots of the left. Their arguments are disseminated to divide the right thus giving the left very little opposition.”

    Sort of. Many libertarians consider the authoritarian left more of a problem because of its authoritarian policies than its left wing ones. The authoritarian right disagree, see no problem with authoritarian policies so long as they’re used to suppress and exclude the people *they* think should be suppressed/excluded. The result is a kind of endless blood feud of atrocity and counter-atrocity. As Orwell put it: “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” The authoritarian left and authoritarian right just take turns wearing the boot.

    The libertarian right are well aware that it splits the right – we do notice. But it’s entirely deliberate. We’d much rather split the right than work to perpetuate any form of authoritarian protectionism.

    (However, if you all want to hop over to the libertarian right yourselves, then we’ll no longer be split, right? 🙂 )

    “And what is the evidence that Mr Robinson has breached 2 (f)? He is engaged in citizen journalism these days, nothing more.”

    Heh!

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    We’d much rather split the right than work to perpetuate any form of authoritarian protectionism.

    Agreed. And the idea that classical liberals are “useful idiots” for today’s identitarians of the Left and Right is hilarious. Truth is, on issue after issue, the real distinction is between those who believe in a world of ordered liberty and genuine rights, and those who want the State to be their Mum and Dad. I know which side I am on. Do you, Matra?

  • […] as Paypal has shown that it can stop providing services to customers for what appear to be political reasons, the […]

  • Nemesis

    Could always go back to using cheques! Have noticed that old tech is making a small comeback in many fields.

  • bobby b

    “Surely Paypal retaining money by false pretences can be wire fraud? 30 years per count. Bring it on.”

    But they didn’t retain that money themselves.

    Part of PayPal’s value is their escrowing function. Say Buyer John orders product. He sends in his payment to PayPal. PayPal tells Seller Bill that Buyer John has paid, and that Seller Bill should ship product to him. Seller Bill ships that product, and then, some time after its receipt by Buyer John, the money is released to Seller Bill.

    The money is held by PayPal for varying lengths of time, depending on factors such as the seller’s length of experience with PayPal, its returns and complaints and credit-issue rates, and a few other arcane factors. So, a seller could be facing several weeks or more of outstanding accounts receivable monies sitting in PayPal’s hands after product has been shipped to buyers.

    What PayPal did was to inform the sellers, without any advance notice, that it was taking all of the monies sitting in that escrow account and simply refunding them to the buyers, in spite of the fact that PayPal had shipped their products already. In a perfect world, the sellers could contact those buyers and bill them, and expect payment. In the real world, once product is shipped, good luck with that.

    So, the sellers – mostly small retailer who could not cushion the loss – lost several weeks worth of billings for product they had already shipped, many buyers got free product, and PayPal just said “not my problem.” And the TOS had enough wiggle room to give PP a colorable legal argument defending their action.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Uh-huh. Just like the Bank of Montreal. X sent me a check for money they had already sent me in another check. X realized their error, issued a Stop Payment on the extra check. BMO charged my account for the Stop. !!! I complained. “Since when do you charge the payee for a Stop ordered by the payor? Never before!”

    “Well, we’ve always done that.” No, bozos, you haven’t. But that’s the minor point. The major point is, why the H*!! are you charging me a fee for somebody else’s mistake! 😡

    I know they charge me when I order a Stop. So I assume they also charged X, through its bank, in this case? Whether or no, what kind of a way to do business is that!

  • Julie near Chicago

    To Nemesis: The reason to avoid paying online purchases directly with my credit card is an attempt to lower the risk of exposing the cc numbers online. (Hackers, ID theft.) But I could do that, of course.

    Checks are also vulnerable to that — you do have to trust everybody in chain of delivery of the check to the bank of it recipient; besides the waits involved while the check is in transit to the seller — and then he has to wait till it clears before he’ll ship the item. [I hope he doesn’t use BMO; if I ordered a Stop Payment for some reason I suppose he’d get charged for it.]

  • Mr Ed

    bobby b

    But they didn’t retain that money themselves.

    Perhaps, but under English law (statute) retaining something, particularly money, without an entitlement to it is unlawful. There is no escrow when there’s a donation, and it’s for the donor to raise the issue, not PP. Here, AIUI, Mr Robinson is deprived of his donation and the donor is deprived of the benefit of the service he uses, and PP appears to benefit if they withold donations, or if they return them they deprive the donor of the benefit of the service.

  • Bod

    Facebook, a creation of the free-market? What a coincidence that DARPA PROJECT LIFELOG was cancelled then, straight away, Facebook came into being. Nothing to see here, move along.

  • Paul Marks

    Paypal are despicable – but they are the only the tip of the iceberg.

    The business world is now either leftist, or pretending to be leftist – out of fear of the left.

    And it amounts to the same thing.

    If the executives of Paypal (and most of the other Corporations) really are followers of the Frankfurt of School of Marxism “Social Justice” agenda, or whether they are just PRETENDING to believe in this stuff (to try and appease the left) the result is the same – the left win.

    “Oh it is just Tommy Robinson and I do not like that vulgar man” – it will be you tomorrow.

  • There are three principles at work here. I am writing this from an American perspective, and I apologize to the extent that this is inappropriate in Tommy Robinson’s case.

    One principle is freedom of association. If Johnny thinks that Billy is an asshole, there is a strong presumption that Johnny should not be obliged to do business with him.

    A second principle is that it is a legitimate function of government to regulate monopolies and cartels. This is one of Adam Smith’s four functions of government, described by Milton and Rose Friedman in _Free to Choose_. If companies like Facebook and Microsoft screw up badly enough, they could be replaced, and they are not total monopolies, but they are monopolistic to a very considerable extent, largely due to network effects. If they are succeeded by new companies, the new companies will be monopolistic as well, for the same reasons. Libertarians tend to be skeptical of government trust-busting efforts because we distrust the government, not because monopolies are harmless.

    A third principle is equality under the law. The same rules should apply to everyone. Sauce for the goose, etc. In the US, for example, we have the “equal protection” clause in the 14th Amendment.

    In my opinion, the second principle supercedes the first, and the third supercedes the second. But what I see happening instead is that the Progressives have been exploiting Libertarian sentiment in support of freedom of association in order to violate equal protection of the law.

    If a Christian baker doesn’t want to participate in a gay wedding, the government will come down on him like a ton of bricks, overriding freedom of association in what appears to me to be a blatant case of trying to humiliate the dominate ideology’s political enemies and stroke the egos of members of one of its votebanks. There is no monopoly argument for why a particular mom and pop bakery is the only one in a large city that can bake and serve a wedding cake. There is no plausible argument for why the sky will fall or even that anyone will be overly burdened if a gay couple has to go down the street to a different bakery.

    On the other hand, large companies (Facebook, Paypal) or cartels (the social media that coordinated the elimination of Alex Jones from public access) that enjoy quasi-monopoly positions, are refusing to serve the dominant ideology’s critics, placing an enormous burden on those critics. How much government arm-twisting or other coersion is behind this is subject to debate. There is no serious argument that Tommy Robinson is threatening anyone, and leftists who say or do far worse things on the same fora suffer no such consequences. These vague accusations of “hate” mean exactly the same thing as calling someone a “poopyhead”. There is no plausible argument that the sky will fall if Tommy Robinson is allowed to use the internet. If anything, it should be argued that in a democracy, there is a compelling state interest to ensure that people with unfashionable opinions do have access to public communications.

    In short, in my opinion it is utter folly to allow our sympathy for freedom of association to be used in order violate the more fundamental principle of equality under the law. Whether we like the particular law in question is less important than that the law applies equally to the government’s enemies and friends.

  • Confused Old Misfit

    Paypal no longer a pal as of 2 weeks ago.

  • Here is an interesting article on the effects of shenanigans by companies such as Google and Facebook.

    https://aeon.co/essays/how-the-internet-flips-elections-and-alters-our-thoughts

  • Nullius in Verba

    “If a Christian baker doesn’t want to participate in a gay wedding, the government will come down on him like a ton of bricks, overriding freedom of association in what appears to me to be a blatant case of trying to humiliate the dominate ideology’s political enemies and stroke the egos of members of one of its votebanks. There is no monopoly argument for why a particular mom and pop bakery is the only one in a large city that can bake and serve a wedding cake.”

    I don’t think this is about the government. They introduced the law in the past, during a time when gays really would have had difficulty finding a shop to serve them, and it has hung on long after losing relevance. That war was won decades ago.

    It’s a case of a particular authoritarian tactic. Public sympathies change over time, and certain oppressed minority groups move from being ‘out’ to being ‘in’. Authoritarians watch for cases where there’s new public sympathy for some group that their ideological enemies can be relied upon to kick up a fuss about, and they throw their backing behind the group, demanding ‘society’ (i.e. themselves) be given new norm-enforcing powers to protect the downtrodden. When their opponents react (predictably) by attacking the sympathised-with group, that’s used both as a justification for giving them the powers (there’s a visible threat) and also to paint their opponents as horrible bigots.

    The authoritarian left started off with the poor, of course. Then they moved on to women, to blacks, to foreigners, to the disabled, to gays, even (in their guise as environmentalists) to cute baby polar bears and wildlife generally. Their opponents were portrayed as selfish and greedy, as sexist, as racist, as callous, as homophobic, and as uncaring polluters bent on poisoning the natural world. The right fell into the trap every time.

    The cake-baker case was a set-up. They probably had to search round for ages to find the right baker, and personally I think it backfired badly on them. The baker didn’t take an authoritarian prescriptive attitude about it (e.g. by denouncing homosexuality as a sin against God for which they will burn in eternal hellfire) but a more libertarian view (quietly respected differing views, even suggested an alternative baker who would do the job) and evoked sympathy themselves. And it was too obviously a deliberate set-up – it was not about getting a cake baked, but about causing trouble. The authoritarian activist wanted to use their norm-enforcing power on their last remaining opponents, and punish them for resisting. The mask slipped, and that’s why it’s the right that keep on bringing the case up and talking about it rather than the left. It’s one of the very few recent victories the right can claim in that war.

    “These vague accusations of “hate” mean exactly the same thing as calling someone a “poopyhead”. There is no plausible argument that the sky will fall if Tommy Robinson is allowed to use the internet.”

    The authoritarian right are trying to do the same thing. They’re drawing attention to public sympathy cases to justify society giving them norm-enforcing powers against Muslims and immigrants. They’re arguing for cultural protectionism – keeping out the cultural competition by raising barriers to immigration. They’re poking a sensitive and volatile situation with a stick, hoping the Muslims will blow up about it and so justify their case. It’s kinda ironic because the Muslims are arguably even more conservative / traditionalist than they are. (And a lot more authoritarian, too!)

    But yes, they’re providing a perfect target for the left-authoritarians to call them “racist” and justify further crack-downs on the right, which they’re pursuing energetically. The left are in the process of seizing the power to throw right-wingers off the internet. It appears to be working, too.

    I don’t think Tommy Robinson is a particular threat to the social order, and I happen to agree with a lot of the things he says. But I think he’s such a prominent public figure primarily because he’s so useful to the left-authoritarian cause. He’s a useful ‘Emmanuel Goldstein’ figure for them.

    “In short, in my opinion it is utter folly to allow our sympathy for freedom of association to be used in order violate the more fundamental principle of equality under the law.”

    I don’t think there’s any conflict between the two principles. I oppose anti-discrimination legislation both on the grounds of freedom of association, and also equality before the law. People should be free to do or not do business with whoever they choose, for any reason no matter how irrational, and people of ‘protected’ groups should have the same level of protection under the law as everyone else. The proper response to discrimination is providing non-discriminating competition, not enforcement.

    But being opposed to anti-discrimination legislation logically implies that the same has to apply to discrimination by liberals against conservatives, too. If you want the freedom to discriminate against groups you don’t like, you have to give them the freedom to discriminate against you.

    It’s the big hole in all authoritarian thinking – they always assume that they’re the ones in control of society, of setting and enforcing their own norms. When considering the merits of any instrument of social control, always, always, always think about what would happen when your ideological enemies use it against you. Because one day they will.

  • They introduced the law in the past, during a time when gays really would have had difficulty finding a shop to serve them, and it has hung on long after losing relevance. (Nullius in Verba, November 11, 2018 at 12:14 pm)

    Just as a minor point of fact, no, the government introduced the law well after it had lost relevance, when finding someone with the nerve to risk the PR effect of refusing would have been harder than finding one who’d be glad of the custom. That is usually the way with government: their power to impose such laws routinely arrives as a consequence of such laws no longer being necessary even in their own terms. Thus a period of liberty is sadly often just the gap between the death of an old attitude’s ability to make one freedom hard to find and the arrival of a new attitude’s ability to make the converse freedom hard to find.

  • @Nullius:

    1. We’re talking about the government’s laws being enforced in government courts. I don’t see you’re going to get the government off the hook for this.

    2. Libertarianism is an attempt to influence the social norms of voters in order to elect governments that steer closer to the Anglo-Dutch natural law tradition. Mass immigration is an attempt to obtain a voting population whose social norms make them more congenial to people like Hugo Chavez and Keith Ellison. These things are on a collision course with one another, and you cannot avoid the collision by pretending that social norms are on a different metaphysical plane than social norms.

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