Editor’s note: This essay is adapted from the new, New York Times bestselling book, “You Will Own Nothing: Your War with a New Financial World Order and How to Fight Back” by Carol Roth.
A video making the rounds on social media showed the latest tactic in China’s formalized system to control its population — social credit. Raise the volume on the video and you hear a siren blaring.
The alert is what reportedly happens when someone with bad financial credit (a massive social credit violation in China) phones you. The accompanying message purportedly warns, I mean “kindly asks,” you to urge the person on the other line to pay their debts.
Do you think that could never happen in America, that only a communist party would use technology, coercion and social pressure to conform behaviors and even take away your wealth building opportunities? Well, think again. This Chinese-style social credit system has already landed in America.
It may not be as formalized with number and letter grades, but the essence of the evolution of social credit married with technology and social acceptance keeps Americans just a stone’s throw away from those outcomes.
There is an evolution to social credit, which starts with cancel culture, moves to an informal state-adjacent system and eventually becomes a full-blown state-run system like the Chinese are building out.
These social credit initiatives come for your freedoms, including your wealth. They attack your social standing and access, aka the opportunities for you to create wealth. They come after your livelihood, aka your path to wealth. And, most directly, they even come after your assets, which is your literal wealth, as well as your legacy and your family’s future.
During the COVID-19 era, these social-credit-enabled attacks were out in force. If you didn’t take the vaccine or you didn’t wear a mask, you may have found yourself ridiculed on social media.
Your family was told not to include you in Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. You weren’t allowed to enter a restaurant (once those were allowed to open by mandate) and participate in society. It may not have had a siren accompany it, but the objective was clear: labeling you as socially unacceptable.
The Biden administration issued an executive order that in some cases forced and in others coerced businesses to take jobs away from thousands of individuals who didn’t comply with their vaccine orders, many of whom had been branded heroes and essential workers just months earlier.
If you had thoughts that conflicted from the anointed narrative, and were in a field like science and medicine, the masses tried to cancel your credibility and your job.
If you were a podcaster who hosted opinions that diverted from the narrative, there was also a movement to cancel you; see Joe Rogan, who faced a fortunately unsuccessful cancelation attempt from hosting a variety of doctors and scientists who had “alternative” opinions, many of which have turned out to be provably true.
In addition to trying to cancel your job, the state tried to silence you as well. As recent details out of Twitter and Meta/Facebook have shown, the government worked with these platforms to remove information and people that conflicted with the narrative they were pushing.
If you didn’t comply, social credit was coming for you.
Let’s not forget that the government at the state and local level shuttered about a third of the economy, primarily small businesses that were not wealthy or well-connected, while their larger competitors, as well as weed and liquor stores, in many cases never closed for a day.
To the north, the truckers participating in the Freedom Convoy found their bank accounts frozen and the U.S.-based tech platform that was used to raise money for them complied with the Canadian government’s wishes and removed the fundraiser from its platform.
Another platform that took its place was hacked and if you donated to the truckers, your identity was made public — a clear effort to shame and harass you.
Outside of COVID-related issues, many individuals, whether based in the U.S. or elsewhere, have found themselves deplatformed from a wide variety of platforms, from social media to payment processors, for not having the appropriate social credit.
When a social moral code replaces a legal code and gains acceptance, it is only a matter of time before those in power want to leverage that dynamic to secure more power for themselves.
That begets the foundation for social compliance and social credit at the state/government level.
The formalization of this state social credit system requires two steps. The first is information-gathering on individuals. The second is those in power using the information without being challenged. When both of those become easy to do at scale, tyranny quickly follows.
Today, both of those components are here. Technology enables easy, scalable information collection, storage, and analytical capabilities. People voluntarily shun privacy for convenience, ego and other purposes, and so the information is available for such collection.
The social devolution where people are widely judged not in a court of law but rather a court of public approval sets up the second part — the creep of government and other powers being able to use information for compliance and to subjugate individual rights.
And so, today, we lie just a fraction of a millimeter away from a true state social credit system, the ultimate tyrannical control.
We are remarkably close to a place where by acting outside the preferred narrative, not agreeing with the mob, having a bad day, or engaging in wrongthink like not complying with government directives, criticizing the president, or being a gun owner, the government can penalize you.
Potential penalties could remove your freedoms, big and small, including your ability to earn a living, access your savings and provide for your family.
And if you don’t comply, you can’t earn a living. Becoming more like China isn’t a good outcome for Americans, So, we must stand up for and protect our God-given rights, from the government, from the digital sphere and from any social credit initiatives that may threaten them.
Because if this happens, you will own nothing — but you definitely won’t be happy.