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The Horrors of the Social Credit System; Which is one its way to the UK


Boris Johnson is set to introduce a social credit system in the United Kingdom to combat obesity and improve bodily health among the British public.

According to the Telegraph newspaper, “the scheme will monitor family supermarket spending, rewarding those who reduce their calorie intake and buy more fruit and vegetables. People increasing their exercise by participating in organized events or walking to school will also accumulate extra ‘points’ in a new app.” These “loyalty points” can then be cashed in for discounts and other incentives.
The prime minister believes that his obesity was to blame for the near-death experience while infected with COVID-19 during the pandemic. Now, Mr. Johnson appears intent on bringing the entire nation along with him on his quest for rude health. The preferences of the one will be visited upon the grocery receipts of the many as part of a softer, more Huxleyan imitation of Kim Jong-un’s rules for North Korean haircuts.

British government sources are speaking about this program as if the apparatus of the state is an appendage of the prime minister’s lifestyle. One Whitehall source told the Telegraph that Johnson “has been on a very rigorous diet and exercise program, and it is likely he will play a leading role in fronting this whole campaign.” The connection being drawn here between the prime minister’s diet and activities on the one hand and the merits of a government policy are somewhat cultlike. The anonymous government source who gave this quote speaks of the prime minister as a pagan acolyte might talk about a priest-king who recapitulates in his person the trials and triumphs of the whole tribe.

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If a viable argument existed for this policy (and no such statement does), it would result from the United Kingdom’s single-payer healthcare system. Britain’s National Health Service is almost entirely owned and operated by the state. Consequently, there’s a real sense in which high rates of obesity and the diseases that accompany them are expensive to the taxpayer. A healthier society would alleviate pressure on the NHS, opening up more beds, doctors, and funding for other patients and their needs.

This argument fails because the condition of one’s body and one’s health care, in a moral sense, is just about the most private concerns imaginable. Conceding the premise that the state has a right to manipulate and persuade matters as invasive as one’s blood pressure or body-fat percentages amounts to recognizing that the state has a right to do just about anything to whomever it pleases. (And before pro-choicers leap on those last two sentences, I would remind them that unborn children have bodies.) What appears to be an argument for nationalizing fitness is an even better argument for abolishing single-payer health care altogether since only decades of habituation to a technocratic and impersonal system such as the NHS could ever produce enough bureaucratic oxygen for such a nakedly abhorrent moral intuition to kindle and catch flame among an entire people in the first place.

This humiliating scheme of Chinese-style social credit is a product of the pandemic in more than one sense. There is no need to say more about its genesis in the prime minister’s confrontation with his mortality in the form of the virus. Still, broader historical forces are also in operation. One of the many reasons wars, pandemics, and other cataclysms have such dire consequences long after they end is that governments feel encouraged by the powers they assume in crises to stake out their new prerogatives as a new front from which they will not retreat. Rarely does the state ever relinquish powers that it accrues to itself? Income tax was first introduced in Great Britain by William Pitt the Younger in January of 1799 as a temporary emergency measure to cover the cost of Britain’s war with France. Now, 222 years later, it is still with us.
Similarly, the disorganized and scattershot confectionary of federal programs that we call “the New Deal” was enabled by the Great Depression. The NHS itself was born in the wake of the Second World War. Britain had exhausted its military, economic, social, and spiritual reserves in the fight against Hitler.

Now, the pandemic has given the governments of the free world another generational carte blanche to swell the state into even greedier and more imperiling proportions. There’s a reason that Her Majesty’s government can now afford, politically speaking, to experiment with policies that are native to stratified east Asian states. It’s the same reason the Democratic Party here in the States can attempt to spend multiple trillions of dollars during just six months of unified government without any apparent public dismay. Catastrophes are accelerants of government expansion. The pandemic will go down in history as one in a series of quantum leaps into a more statist world — a world in which governments feel increasingly encouraged to attempt the previously unthinkable.

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