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.
— Michael Young, “We Will Delete You”
There is power in information, and progressives seek to use their political advantage in states such as New York and California to lean on technology firms to impose an Orwellian blackout on wrongthink — removing unpopular voices and views from social media, cutting off verboten institutions and communications from the digital infrastructure, and, if it comes to it, manipulating GPS services to simply erase unwelcome charities and businesses. If you ever were bewildered by the old Stalinist practice of airbrushing photos to remove figures who have fallen into disfavor, this is the same sensibility at work.
It is easy to see the kind of politics practiced by Letitia James et al. descending into any number of dystopian scenarios. If we are all using self-driving cars in 20 years, you can be sure that the Letitia Jameses of the future will try to control where those cars will go — and where they won’t. Progressives already have weaponized the financial system against their political enemies — here, again, Letitia James is a major offender — and you can be sure that in a cashless society they will simply try to exclude wrong-thinking businesses, if not entire wrong-thinking industries, from the system. (Sturm Ruger & Co. makes a legal — and excellent — product, but it has been unbanked three times because of left-wing political pressure.) And it is not as though weaponizing travel would be unprecedented: You already can have your passport taken away over a relatively small tax debt — even if the debt is the subject of an ongoing dispute.
The Internet was supposed to be a decentralizing power, but, in many cases, the rise of ubiquitous information technology has had a centralizing effect that must be guarded against and, where possible, counteracted — because it is liable to be exploited by those who believe that justice requires that their fellow citizens be something other than free.
— Kevin D. Williamson, “America on Parole“