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Focus on Freedom

Are Principles Unaffordable?


I look around in total amazement at the paucity of liberty promoting websites - whether coming from a classical or modern liberal stance - that have severed financial arrangements with PayPal, Visa and MasterCard for services to readers or for donations (return of value) from readers. A few have removed Amazon as a source for obtaining recommended books/tapes/etc. but most have not done even that.

I really thought at the beginning of December when I learned of Amazon canceling their webhosting services to WikiLeaks and PayPal refusing to transfer its customers' own money to that organization followed soon by Visa, MasterCard and financial giant Bank of America doing the same on December 18th , that liberty oriented groups would abandon these corporations in droves.... especially when it became clear that "suggestions" from US government officials were taking place. It quickly became evident that these corporations were not responding to any actual court actions or published threats of such but were instead kowtowing to government legislators/executives' spoken, hinted or possibly just anticipated wants and desires. Where was the legitimate and honorable demand for a legal requirement for such interference with the private contracts concluded between consenting parties? Where was "the rule of law", instead of "the rule of men"?

A Wee Bit of WikiLeaks History

WikiLeaks made big headlines in early April of 2010 by releasing a video, entitled "Collateral Murder", that it had created from raw footage from a US Apache helicopter gun camera (with audio from the cockpit) taken in Iraq in 2007 showing an attack on a group of people on the ground, found to include 2 Reuters news employees with camera equipment. The US government is accusing Bradley Manning, in solitary confinement since July 2010, of supplying WikiLeaks with that raw video/audio footage. (I only recently actually watched this 17 minute video and do not know which is worse and more sickening, the sight of seeing at least 10 people - who were not engaged in any physically threatening actions - repeatedly shot from the air or the audio of the helicopter crew taking obvious pleasure in the acts they committed.)
In late July 2010, 90,000 military records from the war in Afghanistan were released by WikiLeaks with several major newspapers having early access and publishing portions of the contents. In the latter part of October, nearly 400,000 documents containing military field reports from the Iraq war between 2004 and early 2010 were released by WikiLeaks.
On November 28, "Cablegate" hit the news - release of information by WikiLeaks that it possessed over 250,000 messages/"cables" from various US diplomatic sources around the world. It has released less than 2700 itself and is sharing the review process with several prominent news sources, several of which have since then have released many others separately.
The major news history of WikiLeaks is available on many sites, including The Guardian in the UK - - with numerous links to detailed articles, reports and videos in 876 (total to date) archived items dating back to Sept 17 2007. From that very first article at the Guardian, "Wikileaks - whistleblowing made easy": "Got a secret you're burning to tell the world? Don't want anyone to know it comes from you? Go to, an online mouthpiece for anonymous whistleblowers, designed to bring down corrupt governments and greedy corporations through mass collaboration." And that is exactly the kind of information WikiLeaks has been making available.

All the above has definitely enabled an individual with a computer (or just a smartphone) to become far more knowledgeable about what duplicitous and harmful actions have been (and most likely still are) are being done by government officials and their enforcers - whether of the US or other countries - than any of those in such governments want to be known. All of this duplicity and harm is taking place of course in the name of the citizens of the countries ruled by those respective governments - "war on terrorism", "national security", "safety of citizens" - and with money stolen (taxed away) from them.

Actions of Liberty-promoting Groups and Alternative News/Discussion

So what have liberty-promoting groups - and nonmainstream news/discussion sites that describe themselves as seeking "to create a home for thoughtful, provocative ideas from talented contributors and editors" or "alternative news nexus..draw[ing] upon a panoply of news sources and select those stories we think most intriguing to an audience seeking news underplayed by the mainstream media" - been doing to support the efforts of WikiLeaks to bring such duplicitous and harmful actions into the light of examination? I've sampled a few - ones that I have read and/or written at (or commented at) over the past few years, not in any particular order: Rational Review News Digest Center for a Stateless Society (

My review is in no way meant to be exhaustive of even all the websites I visit and they are but a very small number of all the liberty-oriented and/or society improvement websites in the English language on the Internet. But I have kept an eye open for some notice that a website has ceased using PayPal and/or the major credit cards because of the harmful actions toward WikiLeaks of those financial organizations. So far I have not found any - other than my and Paul's own websites, and I would very much like to be informed of any websites - liberty-oriented or not - that have ceased financial arrangements with PayPal, Visa and MasterCard because of those organizations harmful actions towards WikiLeaks of refusing to transmit their customers' own money to WikiLeaks.

Online Encouragement for More than Words

Since the early part of December I have written in articles or comments to them at several locations online encouraging individuals to support WikiLeaks with more than just words or even street demonstrations. The most recent one was at a RawStory article about the loosely organized online group "Anonymous" and its urging that Saturday 1/15/2011 be a day of protest to defend free speech.

The online response of individual article commenters to WikiLeaks itself has been varied. Many commenters appear not to have done any wide view long range (reasoned) thinking - that which would provide conclusions for actions that have highest likelihood of promoting the maximization for each of them of his/her (hir) individual lifetime happiness. One of shortest: "IMHO the good folks at wiki should be hunted down and terminated."

Another, reading the same article as the commenter above, has a sense that something is not right: "Speak out against the American government and this is what happens. People should be afraid."

But then there are some who agreed with me at RawStory:

"... I am proud of everybody who supports Wikileaks, and Anonymous, which is ourselves, I too, cancelled my Paypal and Amazon accounts. Mastercard I am getting rid of this week. I would love to go out on the street but not alone and I see no groups on my area. As far as being known as a supporter of Wikileaks, it is what it is, if a person like me, harmless in the extreme, is taken to jail, this country has come to a sorry state of affairs. "
""If you haven't already canceled accounts with PayPal, strongly consider doing so" I did so immediately and I no longer buy from Amazon. I support Wikileaks with every fiber of my being until it is proven to me that there is a valid reason that I should no longer do so, and I have a rather high standard for what I regard as "proof". ... "

The discussion at PayPal's own forum was and has been considerable since that corporation initiated its actions against WikiLeaks by refusing to transmit its customers own money as they want.

There may be data somewhere of how many people have canceled their PayPal, Visa and MasterCard account and have ceased buying through Amazon as support measures for WikiLeaks - Social Preferencing positively towards WikiLeaks and negatively towards the corporations that terminated their association with WikiLeaks. But I know of no way of determining what those numbers are. However it is clear from the large and growing numbers of vocal, often even strident, online commenters of all political stripes, that many more people than 6 months ago are frustrated with governments whose previously secret actions have been laid bare by WikiLeaks for all to see.

I have concluded that if significant numbers of websites went beyond verbal praise/support for WikiLeaks' actions - public positive Social Preferencing - to Socially Preference against the financial corporations that ceased association with WikiLeaks by terminating association with them and publicize the reasons for such actions, that large numbers (likely the majority) of their readers would be in agreement. Many of those readers have likely already canceled accounts or at least greatly diminished their usage of these corporations. I suspect that many of them are like me, wondering why the management of various websites have become so dependent on - locked in "golden handcuffs" to - these major money transfer corporations and on Amazon as an online merchandiser of a multitude of products.

Refrains of Despair and Defeat

In my searches while preparing this, I came across a blog author who recommended on December 4 2010 closing PayPal accounts, and then 6 days later retracted that recommendation with clear despair:

"I can no longer recommend people cancel their PayPal accounts.... [A]lthough I did cancel my PayPal account, I simply cannot afford to not use VISA (my one and only credit card) nor cancel Amazon, that provides excellent service and is an integral part of my use of the cloud in my professional life.

"In other words, I'm stuck.

"We're all stuck.
"In the old days, a court order would have been required, I believe.

"Those days are a thing of the past, as are some of our liberties."

This is the sound of defeatism as is the email reply I received from the publisher of an alternative news website to my recommendation that he work towards eliminating PayPal, Visa and MasterCard, noting my stated public announcement of having done so:

"Your principled position is laudable. But we can't afford to do that."

Affordability of Principles in Practice

The answer I have gotten directly from or have seen or inferred at that these websites - and likely this is the case with the vast majority of those on the Web that support WikiLeaks in words - is akin to "Principles are good but we can't afford them." In other words, they are operating under the assumption that principles are good in theory but not in practice. I could but will not repeat what Paul already wrote so well in "Libertarians Need less Strategy -- and more Principle!" which applies also to writers and websites that are self-labeled "progressive" or "social activist" (or similar) and promote "transparency" for all government and/or corporate actions - including wars.

I am taking the practical approach of providing some methods that already exist and others that are likely to be available soon. (BTW the email reply quoted directly above continued with the following 2 sentences: "It would be very helpful to have an article on ways to get around paypal and credit cards. And we'd like to identify alternate ways to enable members to both pay us and make donations.")

Don't Self-Limit Yourself or Your Organization

There are likely other existing money transfer options within the US that I have not come across in my limited searching and even more for usage outside the US. Additionally I am confident that numerous individuals, singly or in groups, are eager to introduce services that can match, and maybe even exceed, the safety and flexibility of PayPal, which so very many people have come to use almost daily for online money transfers to friends/associates and businesses since its beginning in 1999. The limitations of government-minded and government-fearful people are major stumbling blocks and always have been for progress in the areas of human interaction if not all areas affecting humans. However if people want more real freedom, then they must promote the availability of more choices rather than always going with only the most well-known suppliers of any particular product or service.

Individuals, whether for their own personal financial usage or for transactions associated with their own or group website, do have money transfer options beyond those of the major corporations - PayPal, Visa and MasterCard. It is quite possible to stand on one's principles and still enact financial transactions with others in the same town, across the country or around the world. Yes, there will at least initially be some inconvenience - just canceling and opening accounts takes time - and maybe even at times thereafter. However, as I wrote online, for me and Paul personally "that is greatly outweighed by the importance to us of not doing business with that organization [Amazon] and others that purposely remove services directly to WikiLeaks or refuse to transmit their customers own money to that organization - all because the US government wants WikiLeaks stopped from releasing embarrassing information."

The type of message that liberty-promoting, society-improvement and/or anti-war websites ought to provide their readers if they want to truly act and be seen as consistent with their own stated objectives is something like the following:

"I/we have severed our previous connections with PayPal and credit cards Visa and MasterCard because of the actions by those corporations of not transmitting their customers' own money to WikiLeaks. I/we think this withdrawal of voluntary association from those corporations is a necessary action in order to be consistent with our stated objectives (or mission or goal) of _________. To continue using PayPal, Visa and MasterCard for receiving payments/donations (value return) would contradict what I/we stand for - would necessitate abandoning the principles that I/we hold as valuable. Therefore I/we have taken this action and am confident that you, our readers/listeners will support us in doing so because I am sure that you too want to be consistent with these same principles.

"If you have not already done so for yourselves, please investigate and choose one or more of our replacement money transfer services. If you find other such services that you would prefer to use, then please inform us about them, since we are eager to add other money transfer services to our list".

It should be clear to all that the more ways there are for people to donate money or purchase products, the more likely it is that donations and purchases will take place.

While I do not agree with some of the reasonings by those who take part in what has come to be termed "ethical investing", there is a definite message to be learned from such individuals and groups who purposely do not invest in nor purchase from companies (and even whole business sectors) that they think are not being socially responsible in the products and/or services they offer. As the numbers of such people grew - by way of verbal and written persuasion from a very few in the beginning who also demonstrated with their actions - actual investment companies were formed by those who realized that a market had come into being of individuals who were willing to do more than just write about the principles they were espousing.

Individuals who have reasoned that it violates their principles to associate with those money transfer corporations that refuse to transmit their customers' own money to WikiLeaks and and to associate with those that have ceased providing services to WikiLeaks - all without those corporations having been prohibited from doing so by any definite legal requirement, can follow in the footsteps of "socially responsible investors". Choose methods of transferring money and obtaining/selling products for yourself and your organization that do not reward those corporations that terminated their association with WikiLeaks.

Don't simply write words of support for WikiLeaks and what it is doing! Add real substance to those words!

Go into action by denying financial support for corporations that are aiding and abetting, without legally being required to do so, US government efforts to destroy WikiLeaks. Demonstrate that your principles are truly affordable!

Follow-up Note 2/3/11: A public reply was made by libertarian blogger, Claire Wolfe at her blogsite. The entire online exchange that resulted between Kitty and Claire, and Kitty's summary conclusions are available.

Follow-up Note 7/22/11: Please see Updates for more recent quality of service by XIPWIRE.