The Politicization of Banking and the End of Freedom

By David Thunder

A major leader of the Brexit movement, Nigel Farage, has just had his decades-old bank accounts closed, allegedly for “commercial” reasons, while seven additional banks have apparently refused to have him as a customer.

Until we have independent evidence of what is really going on with Farage’s accounts, we cannot definitively rule out the possibility that the bank has closed his accounts for legitimate commercial reasons. But even if this particular account closure had nothing to do with political prejudice, there is no denying that the past couple of years have produced more than one isolated incident of banking services penalising customers for political or ideological reasons.


For instance, in Canada, we saw banks instructed by the Trudeau administration to freeze the accounts of protesters against vax mandates. In the United States, we saw PayPal briefly introduce a policy authorising it to close the accounts of customers it found guilty of “misinformation.” Among the victims of their new policy was Toby Young, founder of the Free Speech Union, who saw three of his PayPal accounts abruptly suspended in 2022. A church minister recently reported on GB News that his bank account had been suspended for objecting to the transgender ideology being propagated by his bank.

These worrying precedents suggest that some providers of commercial services like credit cards and loans seem to think it is their job to make sure their customers have the “right” opinions on transgender ideology, the politics of vax mandates, and God knows what else.

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Their role as mere providers of commercial services does not appear to be sufficient for them: they feel the need to withhold their services from individuals who espouse political or scientific opinions they happen to disapprove of. Perhaps they think they need to purge society of such opinions, or perhaps they think people with such opinions are simply not worthy of their services.

Of course, you might say, “If you don’t like your bank, go find another one.” And if it were just one idiosyncratic bank that decided to target customers on political or ideological grounds, you would be right: in that case, it might not be such a big deal, because you could just go to another bank, and put the whole sorry episode behind you.

But when the talibanisation of banking starts to become a society-wide tendency, or the banks involved are so enormous that they exercise a major hold over global payment systems (e.g. PayPal) upon which customers’ livelihoods may depend, then a customer with the “wrong” political opinion may well end up having to either face a major business setback (say, the overnight loss of all of their PayPal customers), or be effectively driven into exile in another country where life is more tolerable.

Imagine a society in which outspoken conservatives, or Brexiteers, or libertarians, or socialists, were systematically locked out of banking services. Those dissenting openly from the political views of the banking establishment would be condemned to live as economic pariahs: no mortgage, no credit cards, and no way to conduct a normal business. Citizens would effectively forfeit their right to buy and sell, or participate in a market economy in a normal way, just because they expressed opinions disapproved of by the banking establishment.

Banks would then become instruments of political persecution and totalitarian groupthink instead of institutions devoted to the provision of banking services to the citizenry at large. The price of political dissent would become far too high for many citizens. The public square would quickly degenerate into an echo chamber of opinions approved by the banking establishment.

Since bankers are not infallible gods, the opinions they approve may be right, wrong, or plain crazy. Either way, under a talibanised banking system, such opinions would face little opposition. After all, most citizens, if forced to choose between expressing dissenting opinions, and surviving economically, would choose economic survival. And many who cannot bear losing their political voice would probably emigrate to a country where banks still provide their services to citizens without regard to their political opinions, leaving behind them a citizenry that is like putty in the hands of its banking masters.

Source: Brownstone Institute

David Thunder is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Navarra’s Institute for Culture and Society in Pamplona, Spain, and a recipient of the prestigious Ramón y Cajal research grant (2017-2021, extended through 2023), awarded by the Spanish government to support outstanding research activities. Prior to his appointment to the University of Navarra, he held several research and teaching positions in the United States, including visiting assistant professor at Bucknell and Villanova, and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Princeton University’s James Madison Program. Dr Thunder earned his BA and MA in philosophy at University College Dublin, and his Ph.D. in political science at the University of Notre Dame.

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