This is not a new problem but it’s becoming a much larger one. Many years ago, PayPal notoriously banned “adult” fiction book sellers (not actual pornography, just books with pornographic descriptions using words) from their service and it caused quite a stir. With the #PatreonPurge, PayPal’s banning of SubscribeStar, and a wide variety of individual de-platforming by other payment processors such as Stripe, we’re seeing overt actions by financial platform providers reminiscent of the days of Hollywood’s anti-Communist blacklists, disrupting free exercise of speech and the ability of mutually consenting parties to engage in beneficial commerce in the age of the internet.
My solution is simple: FIPNA, the “Financial Provider Neutrality Act.” This would be a law (preferably an amendment to the United States Constitution) that forces the provider of ANY financial service platform (banks, card processors, online payment processors, investment firms, etc.) to accept and retain everyone on that platform unless they have actively used that platform to break the law or are otherwise legally barred from opening a bank account with that platform. This protection extends beyond banks to all “financial services platforms” because despite allowing you to have an account in which you may deposit and they retain funds, PayPal and others somehow are “not a bank” and are able to skirt a wide variety of consumer protection laws due to “not being a bank.”
Imagine if every bank in your town closed any bank account you opened shortly after you opened it because they didn’t like your political beliefs! That’s shockingly not far from where we’re heading with this behavior.
I am generally a pretty hard classical libertarian, but the immense control that near-monopoly corporations have over major aspects of the internet represent a colossal threat to our fundamental freedoms. What good is freedom of speech if you are banned from the public square? What good is freedom of speech if you can’t buy dinner because a required third party can block people from giving you the money that they WANT to give you? If you can’t exercise your fundamental freedoms in any effective way then you DO NOT actually have those freedoms.
Arguments about corporations having freedom of speech fall sorely flat here because this is an issue of corporate freedom of speech vs. individual freedom of speech, and the individual’s freedom of speech should always take priority. It’s debatable whether a financial platform is engaging in speech at all; they act as middlemen in transactions that skim money off the top, not as creators or publishers of speech, and if you are cut off from your income by an activist financial platform like Patreon and PayPal have been doing, your freedom of speech IS being curtailed because you can’t speak when you can’t pay for your survival.
I understand that we have hundreds of years of case law that says corporations have the same freedoms as individuals because corporations are groups of individuals exercising their freedoms and I don’t necessarily disagree with that concept. Where I draw the line is when corporate freedoms conflict with individual freedoms, and in such instances I believe that individual freedoms must take precedence and restrictions must be imposed on the corporation to preserve those individual liberties, lest society become like the worst-case example of a democracy: “three wolves and a rabbit decide what’s for dinner.”
UPDATE: George Carlin, as always, puts it best. Here’s his diatribe on political correctness; “political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners.”