Privacy, the State, and You

I wrote about the evil goons in the TSA last post where I claimed that the TSA’s real job was to humiliate you. The TSA’s airport procedures also invade every person’s privacy as they strip you naked using their porno machine or if you don’t go through that line they invade your body and its most private parts as the goons fondle you. There is also the emptying of pockets to view personal belongings. They even make you take off your shoes. Some people have had to remove personal items of apparel and having to explain personal matters such as implants or other “non-normal” medical devices. All of these procedures and assaults are designed to humiliate and subdue the average citizen; but they also are designed to strip you of your sense of having a right to privacy.

Now we find out that we have government dossiers on nearly every American and they are working to soon make that every single American. Many other government actions diminish privacy as the security state is working to make sure the individual has no private sphere in his life at all and, further, no expectation of one. The State is working to have cameras and facial recognition in place everyplace you go and track all your movements — as well as read every single word you write. We know that all of these actions by the state invert the proper relation between citizen and government. We should be monitoring and controlling the government not the other way around.

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The ALCU tells us that the government started a vast new spying program in secret this past year. We have yet to learn the full extent of the government’s many programs at various levels to spy on the population. Some say that if you have nothing to hide then why worry? They say this in spite of the fact that there are millions of laws and regulations that experts claim can ensnare anyone that the government takes aim at — plus the fact that millions have been mistakenly jailed or even executed. So the government having access to everything about you means that the citizen faces a bureaucratic nightmare of gigantic proportions. This is slavery not liberty. We have entered a world described by the literary giant Franz Kafka in The Castle or The Trial which provide a deep perspective on what’s wrong with government spying on everyone. Kafka shows us that each individual is small and relatively powerless as he faces a gigantic government and its bureaucratic minions.

… The program is striking in so many ways. Innocent people can be investigated and their data kept for years. It can be shared with foreign governments. All of this in service of not just terrorism investigations but also investigations of future crimes. In effect, the U.S. government is using information it gathers for its ordinary business to turn its own citizens into the subjects of terrorism investigations.

Meanwhile, all of this is supposed to be against the law. The Privacy Act of 1974 says that information collected by the federal government for one purpose is not supposed to be used for another. However, agencies are attempting to circumvent these rules by publishing boilerplate notices in the Federal Register. Sadly, that practice has become far too common. ~ALCU

What does the radical libertarian’s philosophy tell him about privacy? Do we have a basic right to privacy?

I am aware that privacy is a big subject and that it is hard to define exactly; and that invasions of privacy involve many different kinds of activities that invade the individual’s life and expectations of privacy. But now I read at the LRC blog that government can now monitor every phone call, cell-phone call, website visit, financial transaction, car trip, plane trip, bus trip, stroll outside, credit-card purchase, and eventually a model of every thought. These things are almost unbelievable — but they are true. As happened with nuclear weapons, our technology seems to have outstripped  our understanding of any proper philosophy about the need for privacy and our fundamental right to privacy.

So, once again, what does the radical libertarian’s philosophy tell him about privacy? Do we have a basic right to privacy? I respond that hell yes we have a fundamental human right to privacy. First I note that as a radical libertarian I reject the very idea that we should have a gang of criminals writ large called the state at all. The state should not even exist, much less have the power to record my every movement and thought.

Having said that the evil state is illegitimate in the first place, I note that I believe in self-ownership and the fundamental right to control of our own property and so it is obvious that we have a right not to be the subject of aggression. In fact the non-aggression principle is the fundamental axiom upon which we build our entire corpus of beliefs. Any individual or group that uses high technology, secretive methods, force, intimidation, fraud, or law to gather information about a person so as to control or harm him is in violation of the NAP and that, my friends, goes against our philosophy.

I have read some that say that you have no right to privacy if you are overheard by some other person as you loudly shoot off your mouth and reveal some personal information. I can agree with that, but that is vastly different from some government goon using expensive electronics to overhear my wife and I talk in our living room. In the latter case we have been the victim of an invasion: an invasion of our privacy.

The act of keeping dossiers on others to blackmail, intimidate, or coerce action that the person would not take voluntarily is aggression. This is true regardless if done by some group or by some individual. It is time to fight against this evil practice and we can do that on solid philosophical grounds as well as practical ones.

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