I have asked the Netherlands Interior Ministry to censor the website of the United Kingdom Libertarian Party, www.lpuk.org, and the party's blog at lpuk.blogspot.com. The website is registered to the party's leader Patrick Vessey. The censorship is partial: I asked the ministry to add the sites to the national police blacklist. That means they would be blocked by several providers, including the largest in the Netherlands.
And on what grounds has "Paul" got for trying to block these sites?
The request is based on the central defects of libertarianism, which it got from its parent ideology liberalism. Primarily, the claim of absolute truth and universal validity for their own values, and the conviction that they are morally entitled to enforce these on others, against their will, and by force if necessary. Specifically, the request gives as grounds for prohibition of the website, that
- the United Kingdom Libertarian Party presents libertarian values, including an absolute ownership right, as if they were an absolute truth.
- the party seeks to subject others, against their will, to a libertarian society and to libertarian values.
- the party openly advocates a "libertarian government" that would rule over non-libertarians, and subject them against their will to libertarian policies, using the powers of the state.
- the party seeks to deliberately harm others, by depriving them (against their will) of the protection of the state, for instance by the abolition of minimum wages
- the party is reactionary, and its goal is a harsh Victorian society, where the poor are dependent on private charity
- it advocates a return to the gold standard
- the party advocates the maintenance of a national state, and of national sovereignty
- it advocates the detention of asylum seekers.
From this list of reasons—many of which apply to any political party, including those in the Netherlands—one can only conclude that Paul is, in fact, quite insane.
I particularly like the bit about LPUK's "goal" being "a harsh Victorian society, where the poor are dependent on private charity", although I cannot see why that is grounds for attempting to get a website blocked. It's also somewhat amusing to see LPUK—a party whose policies some write off as being too radical—described as "reactionary".
And since when was it wrong to "advocate the maintenance of a national state, and of national sovereignty"? I mean, national states actually exist: wouldn't it be weirder if we were advocating none?
Anyway, it's when Paul tries to justify his application for censorship with a free speech argument that he gets really silly.
There is no reason why I should not seek to block or close a website on the grounds of its content. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to advocate and seek censorship.
Um... Sure. But once that censorship is imposed, then freedom of speech no longer exists: and if we are going to try to pursue this silly argument, then the application to apply for censorship on the grounds of free speech also no longer exists.
The formal rights to free expression in constitutions and treaties - for example article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights - are directed at states, not at individuals. Laws, not constitutions, are directed at individuals, and there is no law that prohibits me from seeking censorship in any form.
Well, you see, Paul, you are applying for the government, i.e. a state, to use its power to enforce the censorship of a website that breaks no laws. As such, you are, in fact, inciting a state to use its power to break the ECHR conditions that it has signed up to. Do you see?
Whilst there may be no problem with you, as an individual, applying for censorship of certain websites, you, as an individual, would have no power to ensure that said censorship takes place, i.e. you require the state to ensure that certain carriers prevent other users from accessing the websites. And, as such, there is a problem: the state is using its monopoly legal power to block said websites when no crime has been committed.
Politically, there is also no reason why I should refrain from seeking state-enforced prohibition, when others do it all the time.
Lordy. If we are going for a tit-for-tat argument, how about this one: throughout history, many political regimes have murdered thousands upon thousands—even millions upon millions—of their own citizens; in fact, throughout the world, there are governments beating up, starving and killing their own citizens—governments do it all the time. So, Paul can have no objection—were I a ruler of a country—to me enslaving, murdering and torturing thousands of my citizens "when others do it all the time".
And given that this is the case, and to further illustrate what a moronic line of argument this is, one could thus say that Paul is openly advocating torture, slavery and murder on a grand scale. Perhaps I should apply to have his website blocked?
But it gets even sillier...
If the United Kingdom Libertarian Party hosted child porn on their website, and if I complained about that content, and if the UK police and providers blocked access, then how many people would object? Would it get any attention from third parties, or from anti-censorship campaigns? I doubt it. So what is the difference if I complain about its libertarian content, and try to get that blocked?
The difference, Paul, is that the creation and dissemination of child pornography is illegal—not just in this country, but pretty much universally. Libertarianism, or the advocacy of libertarianism, is not illegal (yet).
Luckily, the Dutch government is not stupid and rejected Paul's lunatic application in short order. I like to think of the official in question looking at the application, and giving a little sigh as he shakes his head in weary incredulity.
Unfortunately, nutjobs like Paul never give up—they just move onto another target...
I have asked the Netherlands Interior Ministry to censor the website of the Adam Smith Institute, www.adamsmith.org.
What the good citizens of the Netherlands think of Paul's solicitous actions on their behalf is not, alas, recorded. However, I do think it worth pointing out to said citizens that Paul has taken it upon himself to decide what you, the citizens of the Netherlands, are adult enough to handle: in short, he is accusing you all of being stupid and immature.
In other words, my Dutch friends, Paul, like any good dictator, has taken it upon himself to decide what is best for you because Paul believes that he is cleverer than you. Paul believes that he knows how you should run your life better than you do.
And that, my friends, is why I loathe socialists.