We live in an era of neoliberalism. Corporate power has merged with political power. Don't go babbling about your democratic rights and freedoms when, in fact, you're pretty much down to the right to shut up and do as you're told - if you know what's good for you.
It's not hard to catch glimpses into the neoliberal playbook. They're never pretty. Here's one - selling cars with kill switches installed. It's a backup for those in the highly lucrative business of high-interest, subprime car loans.
You know those TV ads about "no money down, no credit rating, no problem" car loans? Now, if you're good enough to be given the keys but not good enough to be trusted with them, the finance company can have a remote-control kill switch installed in the car before you drive it off the lot.
Car dealers and automotive lenders are targeting those with poor credit by installing GPS-based kill switches, or starter-interrupt devices, on the cars that they sell.
The New York Times recently reported that about 2 million cars are now outfitted with such kill switches in the U.S., which is about one-quarter of subprime car loans, and creditors are not shy when it comes to remotely disabling cars whose owners are behind on their payments:
"Some borrowers say their cars were disabled when they were only a few days behind on their payments, leaving them stranded in dangerous neighborhoods. Others said their cars were shut down while idling at stoplights. Some described how they could not take their children to school or to doctor’s appointments. One woman in Nevada said her car was shut down while she was driving on the freeway."Beyond the ability to disable a vehicle, the devices have tracking capabilities that allow lenders and others to know the movements of borrowers, a major concern for privacy advocates. And the warnings the devices emit — beeps that become more persistent as the due date for the loan payment approaches — are seen by some borrowers as more degrading than helpful."
There was a day when courts protected lenders and debtors alike and a certain process was required to interfere with rights to property in possession. Now they've cut out that middle man. Who knows what other wonderful uses they can find for their newfound ability to track your every move, rattle you with onboard beepers and, of course, kill your car wherever and whenever they choose? The possibilities must be limited only by the human imagination.
This is a very, very slippery slope and that's quite deliberate. Maybe some day they'll write books about the descent and degradation of the Precariat under the heel of the plutocracy. If we're lucky, the final chapter might chronicle revolt.