16 thoughts on “Vox Popoli: A tale of two social credit systems

  1. On one hand, he who controls the algorithms controls the people, inviting totalitarianism. But on the other, social credit ratings are an elegant (and ancient, or natural) solution to the problem of trust in voluntary transactions, one that promises greater efficiency in the operation of free markets.

    I’m unsure where I stand on this proposition. I think the eminent libertarian legal scholar, Richard Epstein, would note that we already have an elegant solution to the problem of trust in voluntary transactions. That would be our system of common law generally and our system of contract law specifically. But I think he would admit that these systems are cumbersome in ways that add to transaction costs, and they are far from perfect at preventing the occurrence of technical disputes. It is not hard to see how a social credit system — something like a Better Business Bureau rating on steroids — might lower those costs and risks on a collective basis.

    Also, the totalitarian risk exists in any case. In our system, for example, private banks literally control the economy. We rely on them to make “social credit” decisions on our behalf, which they do, largely in secret.

    China shows that social credit system technology is a cat out of the bag. The libertarian response will have to be fairly sophisticated to balance the benefits of greater transparency in transactions against the dangers of expanded government control over individual freedom.

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    1. No dilemma for Libertarians here. If government is running it as a monopoly, it is a bad idea.

      Competing reputation services like Yelp and Angie’s List which are subject to libel laws if they act fraudulently are a far better choice.

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      1. I tend to agree. I had the UL rating system in mind.

        China’s social credit system is bit more elaborate in that it captures detailed citizen surveillance in a manner similar to how Google and Facebook operate in the U.S. Our NSA does the same thing.

        One is tempted to simply outlaw citizen surveillance by either government or private concerns, but such a prohibition would need a rationale. I’m thinking something like a natural right to privacy might be a good place to start.

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      1. Good grief again. The whole premise of the posting is that a government run system of managing “social credit” is preferable to what happens in our country where – gee whiz – “here you can’t go to college or get a job in academia if someone suspects of insufficient enthusiasm for blacks, gays, women …” or you can’t raise funds if someone suspects you of insufficient enthusiasm for Jews.” The poster believes we would prefer a system that “benefits normal Americans and American traditions…”

        Who are these “normal Americans” suffering under our system of “social credit?” What are the “American traditions” that you suffer for if you uphold them?

        I have learned two things from this today. I did not know that the Chinese government has a formal system of ratings that goes way beyond our Better Business Bureau, Equifax, etc. Thanks for that.

        I also learned that some people are willfully unable to see and/or acknowledge hate speech when it is as plain as the nose on their face.

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        1. The irony of your observation is remarkable. Apparently, in your personal “social credit” calculus it is impossible for a “normal American” to be, say, black.

          The poster’s fundamental point is that technology-based reputation or social credit systems are inevitable, but since they can have restrictive economic effects, it is also inevitable that we must learn how to reason out the benefits from the risks.

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          1. The writer is very specific in listing blacks, gays, women, Jews, degenerates, foreigners and foreign countries as not normal and traditional Americans.

            Sounds right out of a white nationalist playbook to me.

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          2. RE: “The writer is very specific in listing blacks, gays, women, Jews, degenerates, foreigners and foreign countries as not normal and traditional Americans.”

            I don’t see where.

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      2. In response to “I don’t see where”:

        Contrast this with the US system, where you can’t go to college or get a job in academia if someone suspects of insufficient enthusiasm for blacks, gays, women, or [fill-in-the-blank], you can’t have a bank account if someone believes you have engaged in hate speech, you can’t raise funds if someone suspects you of insufficient enthusiasm for Jews, and you can’t win government contracts if you don’t agree to do business with Israel.

        At least the Chinese know the score and know that the social credit system is based on upholding things the Chinese people traditionally support. Wouldn’t most American people prefer a transparent system that actually benefits normal Americans and American traditions rather than an unpredictable one that benefits foreigners, degenerates, and foreign countries?

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        1. I still don’t see it. The writer is criticising the ad hoc and arbitrary “social credit sytem” in the U.S. There’s no inference of advocacy for white nationalism in that.

          Don’t let your imagination carry you away as Mr. Murphy’s did.

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          1. I gotta say you are seeing things. If it is obvious to you that the writer is promoting white nationalism, it should be easy to explain.

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          2. “I still don’t see it . . .”

            So you say.

            But in any case, you are just confirming my observation that “some people are willfully unable to see and/or acknowledge hate speech when it is as plain as the nose on their face.”

            But if you are really not seeing it then here is a clue to look for when parsing the speech of bigots . . . outrageous and ridiculous lies like this one . . . “Contrast this with the US system, where you can’t go to college or get a job in academia if someone suspects of insufficient enthusiasm for blacks, gays, women, . . .”

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