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IN FOCUS – Social Credit System

Surveillance Camera

When Americans watch the FBI arrest pro-life demonstrators and conduct pre-dawn, heavily armed raids on the homes of those with different political views, many conclude our nation has devolved into some form of a “police state” — at least a “soft police state.” When courts defer to action of bureaucrats in abusive federal agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, writing and enforcing regulations, and then impose penalties for violating those regulations, many believe government is exercising “dictatorial” powers.  It seems that all governments have a tendency to drift toward acting in a “tyrannical” manner.  The Framers of our Constitution tried to guard against the exercise of what they called “arbitrary” power.

We are fortunate that America has not yet entered the stage where the federal government’s power could be described as “totalitarian.” That term is usually reserved for governments which exercise absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life — i.e., “total control” over the “totality” of our lives.  We are not there yet, but that does not mean that many of our ruling class are not lusting to acquire such unchecked power over the rest of us.  And, at the moment, some of our elites are watching with admiration a new technique being perfected in the People’s Republic of China (which many freedom-loving persons still call Red China) — a Social Credit System.

What is a Social Credit System?

Americans naturally would think that a “credit” system would describe something relating to finances.  Whenever a person applies for a new credit card or a bank loan, it is expected that he is required to demonstrate his financial creditworthiness, represented by his credit score.  The bank orders a credit report to evaluate how reliable the applicant is financially.  To this, our rulers would like to add an evaluation of each person’s “social” credit — to see how reliable the applicant is socially (i.e., politically).

A social credit score evaluates the obedience of a person to the dictates of the state.  If the person has a high social credit score, he can be trusted to be an obedient citizen and to behave properly — including avoiding any criticism of government.  Those persons who follow the rules and are loyal to the regime are deemed trustworthy and can enjoy various privileges.  Additionally, there is a corresponding list of restrictions and sanctions imposed not just on actual “enemies of the state,” but on anyone the government dislikes.

Red China

In 2012, the Chinese Communist regime launched its “social credit” scheme, with two eventual, truly Orwellian objectives (i) continuous monitoring of, and (ii) effectively controlling, every person in the country.  The social credit scheme is capable of evaluating minute details of how individuals live their lives, judging the degree to which they are acting as the government wants, and then granting or withholding the ability for those persons to pursue their lives based on their loyalty to the regime.  This truly could get us to a time where:  “everything which is not compulsory is forbidden.”

China is clear how it will treat persons who do not live up to government standards, subjecting them to a wide assortment of penalties.

There are 14 penalty measures for untrustworthiness, broken into 3 types….  The first is measures by which public management bodies implement reductions of a credit subject’s rights and interests or increase their obligations in accordance with laws and regulations, such as restricting entry in a marketplace or industry, restrictions on holding positions, restrictions on spending, restrictions on exiting the country, restrictions on promotion to a higher level of schooling, and so forth….  [Emphasis added.]  

Thus, the Chinese social credit system uses both the carrot and the stick to keep citizens in line.  You are no longer judged based on being financially and professionally reliable and competent.  Now, the question becomes:

Are you a person that the government can trust?

Human Rights Watch notes that “[b]y rating citizens on a range of behaviors from shopping habits to online speech, the government intends to manufacture a problem-free society.  Those with low scores will face obstacles in everything from getting government jobs to placing their children in desired schools.”  Even CBS News seems concerned:

If your score gets too low, you can be banned from buying plane tickets, renting a house or getting a loan….  The fear is that the government will use the social credit scoring system to punish people who are not sufficiently loyal to the communist party….

China uses facial recognition to monitor human behavior, since when facial recognition is everywhere, anything you do is fair game for public shaming and punishment:

China’s facial recognition system logs nearly every single citizen in the country, with a vast network of cameras across the country.  A database leak in 2019 gave a glimpse of how pervasive China’s surveillance tools are — with more than 6.8 million records from a single day, taken from cameras positioned around hotels, parks, tourism spots and mosques, logging details on people as young as 9 days old….

Canada

While it may not be surprising that China would implement such a system, the so-called “free world” is moving rapidly in China’s direction.  During the Freedom Convoy protests by Canadian truckers against COVID lockdowns, the truckers received massive financial support from freedom-loving Canadians and Americas.  Then, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau froze the bank accounts of the protesting truckers, making it impossible for them to access their own funds and donated funds.  Well after Trudeau had crushed the opposition, the Federal Court in Canada ruled in January 2024 that the Liberal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act in response to the 2022 Freedom Convoy protests was unreasonable, unjustified, and illegal.

However, Trudeau has not backed down.  By one 2022 report:  “Canada, a country once known as a bastion of freedom and human rights on the international stage, is set to roll out a federally mandated framework for a Chinese Communist Party-style digital ID social credit system.”  Canada’s Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, in an article titled “Canada’s Road to Beijing,” explained

In September of 2021, Canada’s provinces implemented QR code vaccine passports, with the federal government joining them to pressure citizens into receiving the new Covid vaccine as a condition of participating in society.  Canadians were radically divided by their governments into first-class and second-class citizens, based on a personal decision to be injected with a substance for which there is no long-term safety data….  In order to visit a restaurant, gym, library, theatre, or other public facility, Canadians had to scan their digital QR code containing their private medical information….  [A]ny right to medical privacy or autonomy suddenly became a thing of the past.

The United States of America

American writers have also begun to sound the warning.  Writing in The Hill, Kristin Tate warned in 2021:

The new domestic “War on Terror,” kicked off by the riot on Jan. 6, has prompted several web giants to unveil predecessors to what effectively could become a soft social credit system by the end of this decade.  Relying on an indirect hand from D.C., our social betters in corporate America will attempt to force the most profound changes our society has seen during the internet era.  [Emphasis added.]

So far, in this country, an “indirect” social credit system is being imposed directly more by large corporations, with government assistance, than directly by government decree.  As Tracey Follows writes for Forbes, “[t]he problem is it’s difficult for western governments to suddenly exert too much oversight, too explicitly.  So it is more likely that private companies, particularly technology companies, will increasingly be expected to carry out this work.”

PayPal announced a partnership with the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center to “investigate” the role of “white supremacists” and propagators of “anti-government” rhetoric, subjective labels that potentially could impact a large number of groups or people using their service.  PayPal says the collected information will be shared with other financial firms and politicians.  Facebook is taking similar measures, recently introducing messages that ask users to snitch on their potentially “extremist” friends….

Tate notes that “[s]ome banking platforms already have announced a ban on certain legal purchases, such as firearms….  [I]ndividuals who do not hold certain political views could be blocked from polite society and left unable to make a living.

Should Americans follow the lead of other nations and allow such a Social Credit System to be implemented here, either directly by government or indirectly with government operating through big business, it will be, quite simply, the end of liberty.  Most people would rather be able to buy groceries than criticize the government — and that just may be the choice with which we all would face. 

Editor’s Note: To read the articles in this series, please click here.

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