What happens when a government is no longer required to do the very difficult, friction-filled work of finding people, writing tickets, arresting them, charging them, granting them due process, obtaining convictions, and jailing the guilty? When the government can bring a person’s practical participation in society to a standstill with the push of a button, it becomes silly to even talk about individual rights or due process. In the face of this new kind of push-button power, exercised at the whim of the governing party with zero legal oversight, individuals can simply be deleted from the system—even if, technically speaking, they are never charged with or convicted of a crime.
In the case of government action, this is bad enough—but at least in the case of elected officials, the people will still have their say, and the government will be held accountable for abuses of power in the next round of elections, as Trudeau may have feared when he revoked the government’s emergency powers at the end of February.
A deeper concern is what happens when private institutions like corporations, universities, and media exercise the same power without even the pretense of accountability. If the large financial institutions want to, they can act as gatekeepers to society and would be held accountable only by the market, to which they also hold the keys. Given that institutions are heavily dependent on each other, if the institutions that hold important positions in the global financial web decide to freeze someone out, they can do so with the push of a button. Worse yet, we can imagine a scenario in which a system of freeze-outs could be automated based on people’s credit scores, purchasing histories, political donation patterns, key words in social media postings, carbon footprints, or political activism. It’s not hard to imagine a situation in which a citizen of a democracy wakes up one day to find themselves unable to participate in the digital economy, where almost all financial transactions take place, due to an automated system which flags them as being undesirable in some way.
Corporations and government have always exercised tremendous power, of course. Government has a monopoly on the use of force, using the policing powers to enforce laws. Corporations have always exercised enormous power via market share, advertising, lobbying, and other financial instruments. But never before have they been able to lock ordinary citizens out of social participation with the flip of a switch.
This push-button tyranny is real, and it represents a greater abuse of power than any that has been exercised before within the boundaries of liberal democratic government. It is new, it is breathtaking, and it is very dangerous.
It’s also nothing less than terrifying—the kind of paralyzing, free-floating terror that keeps one up into the wee small hours of the night, all a-tremble. The whole thing makes decoupling from society look a lot less like a somewhat-drastic lifestyle choice, and more like an absolute imperative.
The clamorous eagerness of transnational corporations—as demonstrated during the Scamdemic, Big Tech especially—to assist FederalGovCo in the enslavement and oppression of We the People en masse was a harbinger most grim, looking back on it. This ugly collaboration is a well-established hallmark of economic fascism, which can’t come as any surprise to anybody here. It never should have been allowed to happen, although I can’t see how it might have been prevented right offhand. We’re stuck with it now, and nothing good will come of that.