This is evil, and this is brilliant. China has introduced a system allowing people to manage their credit rating. But there’s a catch — lots of them:

In the West, our credit score is simple. It’s our ability to pay. It’s measured from our assets, our income, and if we have bought on credit in the past and managed it well. That’s it. In China, the situation is… more nuanced. It’s not just that you have bought things, it’s also what you buy that contribute to your credit score, in either direction. If you’re buying things that the regime appreciates, like dishwashers and baby supplies, your credit score increases. If you’re buying videogames, your score takes a negative hit.

In theory, Sesame Credit (and its benefits) is optional. So far. For the time being. But China has already announced that it, or something very like it, will become mandatory from 2020. It has also announced that while there are benefits today for obedient people, it intends to add various sanctions for people who don’t behave, like limited Internet connectivity. Such people will also be barred from serving in certain high-status and influential positions, like government official, reporter, CEO, statistician, and similar.

Things that will make your score deteriorate include posting political opinions without prior permission, talking about or describing a different history than the official one, or even publishing accurate up-to-date news from the Shanghai stock market collapse (which was and is embarrassing to the Chinese regime).

But the kicker is that if any of your friends do this — publish opinions without prior permission, or report accurate but embarrassing news — your score will also deteriorate. And this will have a direct impact on your quality of life.

This is pretty close to a perfect totalitarian system. If you don’t conform to the state’s ideology, people will have to shun you or they will be economically ruined. The state doesn’t have to do anything; every member of the community becomes a secret policeman by default.

Could you imagine such a system coming to the US? If so, how?