Dissent, Crime, and Access to Banking, 2/26
What if banks—perhaps under social or regulatory pressure—backed up social media platforms' decisions to cancel or demonetize certain users by prohibiting payments services to those users, even through alternative platforms such as Substack or Rumble? Paypal, major credit card networks and banks have has already stopped processing payments for organizations they deem "hate groups," yet activists demand they do more. It is naïve to expect these bans will not expand beyond the most egregious groups to many others.
(I got to this piece via Don Boudreaux.)
Banks need government. Banking is an activity that requires trust, and governments impart trust to banks. (Governments that lack trust are unable to establish robust financial systems.)
Governments draw the line between criminal activity and legal commerce. Increasingly, governments require banks to deny services to criminal organizations. In the international realm, “economic sanctions” in practice means freezing bank accounts.
But the line between criminal activity and legitimate dissent is not clear. The Canadian Freedom Convoy of truckers was treated as criminal activity by the Trudeau government, as was the act of donating in support of the protest. Protest organizations were denied access to funds.
It remains to be seen whether Canada will be a bellwether for the U.S. But anyone who cares about the future of America as a place where citizens are free to protest their government needs to understand what has just occurred and work to stop it from taking root here.
Read his whole essay, as well as Zywicki’s.
These days, it is the left that seems to have the highest propensity to suppress dissent. “Cancel culture” until recently has consisted of getting faculty fired from universities or getting social media platforms to censor or ban views that a mob deems unacceptable. Now, it appears that the next step will be to get banks to join what Eric Weinstein calls the Distributed Information Suppression Complex. As Zywicki writes,
Those banned from YouTube or Twitter can find other places to speak. Those banned from banking services, by contrast, have nowhere to turn. The threat to free speech is manifest. What, if anything, can be done?
As Zywicki points out, we made need some sort of legal protection for the right to obtain financial services. That is, banks would not be allowed to discriminate against individuals for their political associations.
I think that the problem is cultural at least as much as legal. People, especially progressives, have become intolerant of alternative points of view. This intolerance has become the norm at universities and on Twitter. As this culture of intolerance insinuates itself into society at large, dissent becomes a crime. And in a society where it is a crime to dissent, it becomes acceptable to freeze dissenters out of the financial system. That is the shape of the new suppression of freedom.
A compare-and-contrast piece I'd like to see would be to examine the current woke brand of cultural ostracism to past ones. For example, Jim Crow was part legal, but even beyond Jim Crow, there were a lot of social and cultural taboos against dealing with blacks as equals. Likewise, and to a lesser extent, you could look at the social segregation of Catholics or Jews or several other historical groups and draw some parallels. From a historical perspective, there's no shortage of movements like this, and drawing on history can sometimes give a playbook to fighting the latest incarnation.
WePay, owned by Chase Bank, denied financial services to a Conservative Group, forcing them to terminate an event featuring Donald Trump Jr.
This isn't the only time this has happend in the US. Banks are increasingly punishing Republican affiliated groups.
Banks, are highly regulated entities, that blur the line between privately owned and public company.