Of Banks, Guns, and Social Engineering

U.S. banks have begun curtailing legal gun transactions by denying credit to business customers involved in the manufacture or retail sale of firearms. Apart from the question of whether these new policies violate existing contractual agreements between banks and their customers, I do not see how advocates of the free market can object to private banks denying credit for disfavored activities — in theory.

The problem, however — and this problem is not merely significant but decisive — is that this denial of credit for legal activities, undertaken as social engineering, is not taking place in the context of a free market, but rather in a heavily controlled and regulated market, and one that is increasingly aimed at denying not merely credit, but purchasing power of any kind, to every human being who does not follow the progressive rules of appropriate behavior.

For a straightforward explanation of the nub of the issue, I can do no better than quote the words of one wise correspondent and regular reader here in Limbo, who, in a recent e-mail, ran this scenario by me:

Wondered what you thought about Citibank and BofA saying that they will likely curtail the extension of credit for the purchase of weapons or firearm accessories. It would be only a matter of time, before Visa and MasterCard would do the same, which would then mean that most banks in America would have to follow suit. Really? You’re not going to extend credit for a constitutionally legal transaction? It will start with the guns only. But, then it will extend to the full store, if they carry guns. Then, it will extend to the shippers, who won’t be able to take payments for their services, if they ship the guns. Then, it will extend to cash purchases.

Hmmm, just how long then, before they say, “Well, we won’t approve transactions, debit or credit, at Chick-Fil-A. Or, how long before you find out that of the items in your cart at the Walmart checkout, half of them cannot be paid for with a debit or credit card? Yeah, you’re welcome to purchase them, but only with cash. Oh, no cash? No problem. You can pick them up later. Store personnel will gladly put them back on the shelves for you.

Want to use cash instead, and bypass the whole mess? How long before you have to sign a form, under penalty of perjury, naturally, that you will not be using the proceeds of the withdrawal to purchase any nasty products — like…oh, I don’t know….bacon? Sugary drinks? High sodium or high fat products? Candy? Plastic straws? Oh, and no cash withdrawal can be used to buy sandwiches at that evil Chick-Fil-A place, naturally.

This is just an amazingly slippery slope that does a complete end run around Congress. The Lefty corporations have decided that if Congress won’t act, then they will.

In reply to my friendly correspondent, I noted that as I read his speculative extensions of the current bank credit scenario, I kept waiting for him to reach the point of implausibility — but he never did. In fact, there is not a single suggestion in the above prognostication with which I would take issue at all.

In fact, in one important respect, I think he is being too conservative in his speculations. Specifically, I believe that by the time we, as a civilization, reach the later steps in the process — and we will reach them — the cash option will likely have been removed from the picture entirely. “As a civilization”? Yes; the major banks and their machinations are global, no matter whether some institutions continue to hide behind quaint old regionalizing names like “Bank of America.” The phrase “cashless society” is being bandied about with increasing matter-of-factness these days, and with good reason. The digitizing of modern society has altered the economic realm perhaps more fundamentally than any other; or at least its economic effects cut closer to the political heart of things, as here we are in the arena of private property and the ability of human beings to engage in the free exchange of goods and services.

“A cashless society” is a euphemistic, almost Orwellian, expression for a society in which all legal financial transactions must take place directly through banks, since the money being exchanged will exist only in digital form, with all transactions being registered in databases to which governments must have access as a condition for the banks’ being licensed as financial institutions. In a cashless society, you literally cannot physically take your money out of the bank — money exists only through the security of a bank. That means any exchange you wish to make other than through a government-accredited financial institution — i.e., with a digitized credit or debit card, or equivalent — would in effect be black market activity. That is to say, in a cashless society, all legal financial transactions will take place through the government.

Here in thriving, “capitalist” Korea, when I complete my taxes, I receive tax credits for digital purchases — that’s one of the incentives used to push along the progress toward a cashless society. The best part of this process, from the point of view of sunny, progressive morbidity, is the statement I receive from my happy, friendly department of taxation, listing all my debit and credit card transactions for the tax year. Yes, I make the purchases through my privately-owned bank; but the government gets all the records instantaneously, and compiles them for my convenience, saving me so much trouble, and even a little money, at income tax time. It’s just wonderful!

Of course, it is very easy to see how these records — in theory, a complete rundown of everything I paid for throughout the year, and exactly to whom I made the payments — could be used to manipulate my behavior, even beyond the obvious passive effect on private behavior of knowing the government is registering everything you do. And then, of course, there is the social engineering power of the banks themselves, denying home ownership, car ownership, or health care priority, to people known (from their financial transactions) to have engaged in “unacceptable” behavior of one sort or another.

China is already planning to institute a financial system of this sort over the next few years, in which paternalistic controls will be used along with internet usage algorithms to enforce the Communist Party’s notions of moral, upright behavior, and to prevent aberrations, by means of a “social credit rating.”

Far from having a runaway or paranoid imagination, my friend, outlining the nightmare scenario above, is merely describing ideas already well beyond the science fiction or think tank stage, and well on their way to becoming common facts of socio-economic existence, from Communist China to Mainstreet U.S.A.

“It can’t happen here,” you say? Sure.

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