Ron Paul’s run for nomination in retrospect

A twitter exchange among several fellows that went on for days made me decide to interrupt my schedule a bit and do a retrospective on Ron Paul’s run for the presidential nomination in the GOP. This is just answering a few of the complaints that were raised, as a real and in-depth look at Ron Paul awaits a historian someday.

ron-paul-revolutionI can recall that many people said that Ron Paul could not be any good for the liberty movement since he was running for the Republican nomination. What? Did these people think the Democrat Party is any better for liberty? Besides, there was a sitting president on the Democratic side while the Republican side was wide open. Oh, he could have run third party you say? He did that once. You can not be heard in the USA at all running as a third party candidate except in ultra rare circumstances and no third party candidate is invited to the presidential debates.

Some say that as a politician that Ron Paul is not an anarchist. Really? We can only support anarchists like ourselves? Give me a break! Very few in this country will listen to a politician who says he is an anarchist. Even worse, it would be hypocritical of a fellow who is an anarchist to run for any office. But is he a libertarian? Certainly, if one believes what I wrote here. Consider what Jeffery Tucker once wrote:

“I’m interested in only one thing: progressive reductions of the role of all government power in people’s lives all the way to zero if possible. Whatever brings that about, in whatever sector it happens, and whether it happens slowly by steps or all in one fell swoop, I’m for it. I really don’t care who or what makes a contribution to this end or how it comes about, so long as it is ethical and it actually achieves the aim of human liberation, the mother of all progress, order, and higher civilization.” ~ Jeffery Tucker

Jeffery Tucker’s statement leaves a lot of room for Ron Paul’s brand of “follow the constitution first in all matters” style of rhetoric. But is he a radical libertarian? I don’t know, but he has hung out with anarcho-capitalists of the Rothbardian persuasion for decades. Who a man hangs out with usually says a lot about him.

The question was raised, “did he do any good for libertarianism or did he do harm?” I believe that million of young folks became aware of the liberty movement and the ideas of libertarianism due to Ron Paul’s campaign. Surely we don’t want to hide our lamp under a basket do we? We have done entirely enough “fussy little seminars about municipal waste” and we have to move on to radicalizing the population.

Now some don’t like a few of Ron Paul’s stances on various issues and somehow think that only their own beliefs are “the libertarian belief”. Hogwash. Nonsense on stilts. Balderdash!

The “immigration issue” was raised and it was claimed that one issue meant Ron Paul was no libertarian and was “hurting the libertarian cause”. As Murray Rothbard pointed out on numerous occasions, private property rights answers any immigration question in a libertarian society. But we don’t live in anything resembling a libertarian society: we live under a domineering, brutal, interventionist government. Ron Paul’s immigration stance is what he thinks should be done under present circumstances. I am opposed to any national boundary lines, but I am also opposed to inviting others here just so the tax money looted from us can go to pay for their welfare and other “entitlements”. How many Democratic Party voters do you want to pay to come here anyway? Why not stop all welfare entitlements and then see how many want to come to this police state?

Can his position on immigration mean that he is not libertarian? Oh good grief. Heifer Dust! What about his wanting a non-interventionist foreign policy where we leave other countries alone and bring all our troops home to our own country? I think that is the most libertarian policy position of any politician during my lifetime. But his “end the FED” is also a real libertarian issue since the FED helps to fund the military/industrial complex as well as loot the population via planned inflation.

Ron Paul made the case for smaller government, people keeping more of their own money by lower taxation, less government intervention in health care, and all the rest. Ron Paul also was lauded by many “on the left” for his stanch defense of civil liberties in this country. Ron Paul was also against the “drug war” and his policy would reduce the prison population by a great amount. How can these messages not help our cause?

The third rail of libertarianism was mentioned on twitter. What about abortion? Did Ron Paul not come out against abortion? Why yes, the baby doctor did say that he opposed abortion and he believed that abortion should be decided at the state level or lower. But there should be no single “libertarian line” on the issue anyway. I once wrote that I disagreed with Murray Rothbard on the abortion issue. Murray was wrong on that one. It happens to us all at times.

Ron Paul’s message was one of smaller government and laissez-fair free markets. He exposed the classical liberal line that was the philosophy of the founders of the country. He did not preach anarchy; but then again, how many of you think that the average government propagandized man in the street is ready to hear radical anarchy right now? First we must get him to understand the classical liberal view and then nudge him even further.

The road from state worshiping minion to principled voluntaryist is a long one, and Ron Paul’s message put many people to walking in the right direction. How could that do anything but help?

The U.S. is a police state

In a recent post called The State answers Winston Smith there was one person (wophugus) who insisted, in the comments section, that calling the US a police state was way out of bounds. For example he claimed:

I also think you either know next to nothing about what life is like in a police state or are enormously callous to those who suffered through police states, appropriating their pain for rhetorical value.

There was a long back and forth, but no meeting of the minds since I think calling the present USA a police state is quite appropriate and so I decided to take a look at the issue. But first, there was a response to “wophugus” from another fellow that is worth looking at.

From praetorSF in comments:

wophugus’ statements are reflect very common sentiments amongst people I talk to, and they are sentiments that I find rather fascinating and mysterious (when they aren’t the result of pure ignorance of current events that is).  My theory is that it is the result of denial and cognitive dissonance.  We were all raised being taught about the founding fathers and how great our country was because we were a free country without Kings or Dictators or repressive police organizations.  We have a visceral reaction to the word police state, we don’t like to imagine that WE are the people that we always used to feel a bit sorry for, living in an unfree country.  I think many people just find it hard to admit that to themselves.

My challenge to those people, and to wophugus, is this:  give me YOUR definition of a police state.  At what point does a country cross that magic line?  What specific things does a country have to do to make it meet that definition?  If you sit down, think about it, and come up with a coherent definition, America pretty much has to fit the bill.  Secret law?  Check. Incarceration of a vast number of our citizens (more than any other country in the world)?  Check.  Execution of our citizens without trial?  Check.  Torture?  Check.  An oligarchichal ruling class that is above the law the rest of the citizens are subject to?  Check.

One of my favorite quotes is “Those who do not move do not feel their chains” (and I really need to look up who said it one of these days 🙂 ).  Really that’s what your argument comes down to wophugus:  “most people don’t make a big enough nuisance of themselves to draw the state’s ire, thus we are not a police state.”

I have read that a police state is generally defined as a government that exerts extreme and pervasive political, economic, and social control over its subjects. It is the situation where the State can do as it pleases while the citizen needs permission to act. Some people cannot see what’s happening in the US. To them it seems ridiculous to say that the US is a police state. “Where are the jack-boot Nazi Gestapo thugs breaking down doors and hauling people off to death camps?” they cry out. They seem to think that only the very worst police states from the past can be called by the name “police state”.

Normally a police state maintains control through a vast number of laws and pervasive surveillance like in the old East Germany with its Stasi secret police force. The population’s right to travel about is converted into state issued privilege and the minions of the government operate with little transparency. The police state typically concentrates on non-violent crime and uses the astronomical number of laws to enforce their will upon the people.

s-POLICE-BRUTALITY-large

As we have been reading lately, whistle-blowers like Edward Snowden have documented the vast surveillance operations of the NSA, while others have alerted us to the operations of the CIA and FBI. The local police have become militarized and the no-knock home invasion by SWAT teams has become standard operation procedure. Even shooting the family pets has become a normal police procedure.

There is no aspect of life that is not controlled by government in a police state. In most places in America you must get a “permit” to even work on your own house. It costs $140 in Orlando, Florida for the “permit” to install a new outside door on your house. I know because I need one after the latest break in attempt; the sort of crime that the police refuse to protect the population from because they are too busy issuing tickets and fines to raise money for their own benefit. Does this fact make the USA a police state? Of course not. But it is a data point in the case that the US seeks the power to control every single aspect of your life. In many places it is a felony to sell fresh whole milk to the public. I bet the boys in 1776 never thought that would happen. And enforcement has become draconian, with police departments pursuing militarization. Even police in the grammar schools will taser and handcuff young children. A special federal police force called the Department of Homeland Security has spearheaded this militarazation while the DHS functions without transparency or accountability. The NSA is spying on everyone with far greater abilities than the east German Stassi did.

To travel freely about the country without any “papers”, formerly a right, is now a privilege granted by government agents at their whim. Without proper “ID” you may well end up in jail. The people who lived in the USSR would be very familiar with that concept, and god forbid you carry any real amount of cash as you travel about as that marks you as a criminal unless you can prove that you have a good reason to carry the money — and good luck with that as you will need it.

How many peaceful activities are now felonies in the USA? Harvey Silverglaten wrote a book called Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent  in which the civil rights attorney argues that, “The average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague.” And if the state decides to make an example of you, then the prosecution in this country is so powerful and out of control that 99 percent of the accused don’t even try to fight the charges in court. They take whatever plea bargain the state offers.

How many nonviolent activities can get a man caged in one of the US rape prisons? Can you go to prison for writing on a sidewalk? On the “people’s sidewalk”? In this article Writing with Sidewalk Chalk Can Earn You Hard Time? we find that 20 years hard time can be handed down for writing a slogan on the sidewalk in chalk that will wash away with the rains in short order. 20 years? In a free country? A women in Florida got 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot in the air to keep her abusive husband from attacking her yet again. She could have shot him, but instead gave him a warning shot to prevent violence. She even had a restraining order against him which the police obviously did not help her with. Apparently Florida thinks women should just take their beatings and not disturb the peace.

How freely can you relocate your assets and person outside the jurisdiction of the US government? You had best check into that because currency control laws have become draconian; all in the name of fighting the war on drugs and the “war on terror”.

The site Dissident Voice posted an article called What the NSA Revelations Tell Us about America’s Police State a few days ago. The USA has become a police state. Like East Germany in the days of the Stassi, most people do not get into any trouble. Most people will obey their masters just as the Germans in East Germany did or just as the African in the U.S. did in the deep south once upon a time even though they outnumbered their white masters by a considerable margin.

In the U.S. a person can be accused of numerous crimes without knowing exactly what he has supposedly done. He might be arrested in the middle of the night by a SWAT team no-knock military style raid. A citizen might find himself on a no-fly list and be unable to travel for reasons that remain secret to him. Everyone’s electronic communications or actions are spied upon and recorded.  Secret orders are handed down by a secret court to target individuals who then have no recourse to discover why they were targeted.

The U.S. has a government that wields the legal authority to round up people, including U.S. citizens and take them to concentration camps, detention centers, or military jails where the government can torture them, incarcerate indefinitely, or execute them. Just claim they are “suspected terrorists” and there is no limit to the power the government has over them. Due process? “We don’t need no stinking due process”.

We hear from lawyers and other government loving types that claim that these things don’t happen to everyone in the U.S. but only to “a few”. Excluding the TSA groping and the NSA electronic snooping they may have a small point. Their point is that the majority of the people obey their masters and stay out of trouble for the most part. They claim that with tons of money anyone can get due process. They claim, in effect, that we have as system as caring and free as in Nazi Germany (as long as you were a “good German”)

My friends, we have a full blown police state. It is not an exact duplicate of any that came before it, after all, the technology has changed tremendously, and the U.S. police state is uniquely American, but we have a police state.

Any state, be it a dominate Empire or not, can exist only when the vast majority of the people are satisfied with their lot in life or are resigned to it. The U.S. central state needs the cooperation of the more than 300 million people — be it enthusiastic or sullen cooperation. The people of the USSR brought down the communist police state without bloodshed by simply withdrawing their consent to be ruled by the system. It was an unbelievable sight at the time. We can do likewise. Withdraw your consent to be owned by the state.

The State answers Winston Smith

I first read the classic George Orwell dystopian novel 1984 in 1968 when the date he used as the tittle of his book still seemed far in the future to a late teen that tended to concentrate on the slow moving present. The date must have seemed even further in the future to the people who read the book in 1949 when it was first published. I read Orwell’s book one slow summer in the heat of central Florida when no one we knew could afford air conditioning, especially us, and so I read the book outdoors sitting under the shade of an oak tree that was well over a century old which offered me the small comfort of some shade in the sweltering heat. I had time. I had plenty of time to read the book slowly and reflectively — and the book effected me profoundly. I was never to be the same again.

1984

As the Wikipedia article on 1984 points out, many of the terms Orwell coined in his masterpiece such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Room 101, and memory hole, all became part of our language over time. My favorite Orwellian phrase has always been down the memory hole. The job of the protagonist, Winston Smith, was to re-write past newspaper articles so that the historical record always was consistent with the ever changing Party line. The Party, of course, was the State. There was just one Party and it had an inner core of elites who were in the Inner Party and they controlled the masses via surveillance, mind control, constant propaganda, and brutal police state violence which is all justified due to the ever present war. The nation-state ruled by the tyrannical Party was always at war, had always been at war, and would forever be at war.

Winston Smith was a party member but he was not one of the Inner Party. Rather he was a member of the Outer Party just as most of our federal bureaucrats today are not part of the ruling elite of our own Empire. At one point he says to an Inner Party member, “I understand how, but I don’t understand why.”  He wanted to know why the Party did all those immoral and rotted things.

One of its leaders explains:

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others were cowards and hypocrites. They never had the courage to recognize their motives. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. How does one man assert his power over another? By making him suffer. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. In our world, there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement – a world of fear and treachery and torment. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.” ~1984

Orwell captured the essential nature of the State perfectly in this speech by the party member to Winston Smith. Far too many people in the modern age have watched the American Empire start endless wars and grow ever more tyrannical without allowing themselves to ask the question: “why“?

In the book we find that the destruction of language makes it impossible to think independent thoughts because the meaning of words has become too confused while logic has been destroyed via doublethink. Orwell once observed in an essay on the English language that political language “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Our modern world has its own version of the thought police and our state has a propaganda machine that would have astounded George Orwell. While the present US Empire does not match the Orwellian dystopia exactly, there are many parallels between our reality and Orwell’s dystopian novel.

The latest NSA revelations due to the whistle blowing of Edward Snowden as published in the Guardian have told us that the US Empire fully expects to be able to read the minds of the masses just as The Party did in 1984. It is claimed that by computerized analysis of “meta-data” collected by the NSA that one can practically read the mind of the target individual. It is almost a cliché to say that the revelations of Edwards Snowden and others point to an Orwellian state being built.

But the massive spying by the NSA on the entire public is not the only bad news to come out over the last few years. We have the TSA terrorizing the flying public and making sounds like they want to be involved in searching people outside of airports. We have SWAT teams making routine no-knock raids on houses. And as various police state tactics escalate nationwide we learn, according to a report by KTTV, the Department of Homeland Security partnered with the Los Angeles County California Sheriff’s department and TSA agents to conduct an exercise that was described as a “full scale terrorism drill”. The drill was reported to have been taking place nationwide with various agencies even using agents “working undercover, looking like any other passenger, they scour faces, briefcases and backpacks, looking for anything out of the ordinary.” US Officials claimed that these drills were designed to make the public feel “safe” in light of the 4th of July holiday and rumors that the Boston Bombers had planed a July 4th terror attack. According to Nicole Nishida of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the people will celebrate their independence from tyranny by submitting to random bag searches.

Winston Smith observed that your worst enemy was your nervous system because at any moment the tension inside you was liable to translate itself into some visible symptom. Today our own police state is working towards the capability to use real-time computer analysis to read thoughts, emotions, and intentions that they claim will keep us safe from “terrorists” but could very well ensnare any of us in a false charge . The state is keeping an ever tighter grip on the public and far from making them safer, the state is putting everyone at risk of being identified as an “enemy” of the state. 

A few years ago, Wendy McElroy asked the question: does the US have police state powers now? Her answer:

Clearly it does. The American government exerts extreme control over society, down to dictating which foods you may eat. Its economic control borders on the absolute. It politicizes and presides over even the traditional bastion of privacy — the family. Camera and other surveillance of daily life has soared, with the Supreme Court recently expanding the “right” of police to perform warrantless searches. Enforcement is so draconian that the United States has more prisoners per capita than any other nation; and over the last few years, the police have been self-consciously militarizing their procedures and attitudes. Travel, formerly a right, is now a privilege granted by government agents at their whim. Several huge and tyrannical law-enforcement agencies monitor peaceful behavior rather than respond to crime. These agencies operate largely outside the restrictions of the Constitution; for example, the TSA conducts arbitrary searches in violation of Fourth Amendment guarantees.

The methods that the ruling elite use to control the mases have been documented in many, many places. I ran a Google search today on “US police state” (without the quotes) and Google yielded just shy of one Billion hits. The question is not “is the USA becoming a police state” but rather the question is “why”. Why does the state continue to grab power and why do we allow it to do so? Just as Winston Smith pointed out, we can easily see how the total control by the state is coming to be, but we need to know why. It is not, my friends, to keep you safe. Your safety is the last thing on the minds of the rulers.

George Orwell answered the “why” in ’49 and the answer has not changed. It is about power. Solely about power. It is the nature of humans to want power over others, and we have known for thousands of years that power corrupts and with ever more power comes ever more corruption. There is no reason to expect that we can hand power over to those running the State without them seeking ever more power until the dystopian nightmare comes to us.

If you do not see the state as our enemy as did Albert Jay Nock, then you have not been paying attention.

Note: an edited version of this essay first appeared a week ago here.

Update: In the editing process the number one billion got changed to one trillion somehow and has now been fixed due to the kind response on this matter in other media.

It can happen here and it already has

The American Revolution brought about very little change. The governments of the new states and their central union were based on the traditions of the British people and were an affirmation of the principles that had evolved over centuries; principles like due process, habeas corpus, government by consent, limited legislative power, private property rights, personal privacy and individual rights. It is true that the Americans designed a Republic to take the place of the Monarchy, but from the perspective of the common man, precious little had changed after the revolutionary war. The Americans gained a written Constitution while the British had an unwritten one and a few other minor things, but little had changed after the war when you compare the American revolution to the French revolution that came a short time later. The French Revolution ushered in a reign of terror and a dictatorship as did the Russian Revolution after that.

The American state held to the principles of the revolution to a great degree for about a century. I know that many could argue that the overthrow of the Articles of Confederation in favor of the American Constitution was a major coup, but the principles outlined in the Bill of Rights were essentially the rights that revolution was about preserving for the new nation.

Like the Western World in general, the United States has been riding a wave of progressivism since the end of the 1800s. Progressivism is the ideology of the large, powerful Nanny State which has fueled ever larger and more controlling governments all over the West in general and in the US Empire in particular. There has been a movement away from a limited-government tradition and towards government taking over more and more areas that were once seen as the province and responsibility of the individual or of the local communities. Leftists in the European Union have created a Nanny State that proudly boasts of “cradle to grave” protection of the citizen and the US is not very far behind the EU even if the US still pays some small lip-service to “individualism” at times. (mostly at election time)

But all the state intervention into the lives of the citizen is not enough it is claimed. Every policy failure brings about calls for more power. But no matter how much power the state obtains, it is not enough. It never is enough. It will never be enough until the state’s power is absolute over the lives of the people and they tremble in fear of their masters. Those who crave power over others always want more power, and when their attempts to remake society fall short of the intended mark, the blame is always laid on some alleged “lack” of power and legislation.

There was poverty in the land and so it was claimed that the poverty “justified” the welfare state. We declared a “war on poverty” and in due course, when the economy subsequently floundered, more welfare was said to be needed. The progressive mind is a wonder to behold — it is like a train wreck. Once the welfare state had undermined individual dignity and responsibility we saw ever rising rates of crime and other pathologies. We have seen ever more police powers, SWAT teams, electronic surveillance of all kinds, and a general breakdown of due process all in the name of making the citizen “safer”. We have given the central government more power to wage endless wars, take over and control entire industries, jail people without a trial or sometimes even a charge, use the military against the people, micro-manage the health care system, and endless other power grabs.

You think you’ve private lives
Think nothing of the kind
There is no true escape
I’m watching all the time

I’m made of metal
My circuits gleam
I am perpetual
I keep the country clean…

~ Judas Priest, “Electric Eye”

electronic snooping in divorce

Of course the latest news of electronic spying by the NSA simply slaps the average citizen in the face with the news that he should have guessed years ago. The central government is building a police state and the average citizen is asleep to that fact or is afraid to speak up about the building tyranny. The US Empire is so far beyond being constrained in any way by the Constitution that it is laughable to think that there will be any end to the NSA snooping on the citizens. The best that can be hoped for is for the programs to be slowed a bit while they are re-branded under some other name or moved to some other agency.

One commenter said that the facts show that the present state of American Tyranny is a unified project with all three branches of government colluding to produce a bureaucratic machine that is beyond the capability of any one branch of government to control. Even though there may be occasional differences of opinion about small tactical matters, the main project of  power accumulation continues apace. The President, being the chief of the executive branch, has the job of putting all agreed measures into effect and so naturally receives the most attention as if the whole project were his alone, but it is a State project lead by the ruling elite.

The obvious question that comes to mind is, “now what?”. One must work as hard as one can to inform his fellow citizens of the reality of the situation and seek to undermine the legitimacy of the state in any way he can. First and foremost you must reject the legitimacy of the state yourself. One way to do so is to stop voting. If that seems to drastic for you just now, try to not vote in national elections, but whatever you decide you must try to lead by example as you teach your fellow citizens. Thomas Paine was a radical even as he sowed the seeds of radical action. We must seek to emulate him.

The NSA, Privacy, and Principle

Note: This essay was originally posted at The Libertarian on June 26th, 2013. I will be posting an essay there, hopefully, each week on Wednesday. Then later many of these essays will be posted here at my own blog usually the next week or so. I hope you will take a look at all the fine writers at The Libertarian and read my post over there.

The Libertarian is a new site formed to spread the word on libertarian ideas to the UK and then to the Americans also. (almost biblical ain’t it?) There are minarchists, anarchists, left-anarchists, and other associated libertarian types in the group. So far, I think this mostly youngish group of writers have produced some fine work. While I tend to blog in short and simple posts, several there have posted some really good “long form essays” like those that one often sees at Mises.org.

Back when I started writing about economics and political theory, I never thought I would be blogging at a site that was seeking to unify liberty loving folks across the spectrum. Yes they even have minarchists! But interactions on twitter (hello friends) has tended to mellow me a bit and I have enjoyed talking to the folks on the road to market anarchy but not yet able to let go of the myth that government is needed or even tolerable.

Anyway, the following is my take on the “right to privacy” from a Rothbardian prospective. I am of the opinion that many will find this one controversial to some degree. But then, what is not controversial in these latter days of the Empire?

electronic snooping in divorce

The NSA, Privacy, and Principle

Almost everyone has seen that reporter Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian Newspaper, and other journalists have been publishing astonishing materials supplied by the whistle blower Edward Snowden which shows how the NSA has been spying on the American people to a degree unheard of in history. Some are comparing the NSA’s actions to those of the East German Stasi; but the Stasi did not have the modern technology and internet to work with in its day.

It seems that the NSA has been capturing and recording nearly all electronic communications of the American public and possibly those of almost everyone in other countries as well. Only a short time ago the official story was that the NSA never did such things except on a case by case basis overseen by the FISA courts. Oh my, lied to again by my government. The Obama administration is, of course, claiming that all of this is necessary to keep us safe in a world full of terrorists looking to blow up our loved ones; but then they always tell me that it is for my own good.

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. ~H. L. Mencken

The NSA and other “intelligence” agencies are looking to see which of us might be doing anything unusual. They are looking at “metadata” and looking for links that would tell them that a citizen might be unusual in some way or connected to some out of favor group. But it is even more than that, the NSA is spying on and blackmailing top government and military members according to another NSA whistle blower. This is one large and evil web that the NSA has spun.

Now that almost everyone is upset about this invasion of their privacy by the various intelligence agencies of various governments around the world the thought crossed my mind that we ought to take a look at just what is our “right to privacy”. Even as a market anarchist who thinks that the state should not exist, I believe that any government should at least follow its own rules and laws which in the case of the USA is its written constitution. The NSA has violated the 4th amendment and the citizens right to privacy under that document. The NSA may also be violating the 5th amendment and the right not to incriminate yourself. Under no circumstances am I about to argue that the citizens of the USA don’t have certain rights guaranteed by that document. I am, however, going to look at privacy in a libertarian society.

Libertarians normally come in two varieties; they believe there should be no state at all or they believe in a small non-intrusive state as envisioned by the Classical Liberals who founded the US. If you are a libertarian who believes in a small state then often you are identified as a minarchist. As a believer in government, any small government libertarian has to be greatly offended by the actions of the NSA and the executive branch as they are breaking the law of the land as set forth in the constitution. Ron Paul ran two campaigns for the GOP nomination for president pretty much calling for the USA to start following the constitution of a host of issues.

When man finally sheds the milestone of the state and voluntary cooperation among free people prevails, we will still need to answer questions like “what are man’s rights?” Does man have a right to privacy? In other words, under libertarian law and theory, would we have a right to privacy?  I certainly agree that privacy is something that all moral people should respect. I would never look at some poor unfortunate person in an embarrassing situation if I could help it. I would avert my eyes if a lady had a “wardrobe malfunction” in my presence, but we are talking about a principle and “rights” here, not what is the right thing to do as a gentleman. After all, what should be legal and what is moral are not the same thing.

I have read some libertarians claim that privacy is a personal and social good and so should be a “right”. Heifer dust. Just saying it is a “good thing” is no argument that it is a “right” for surely there are many good things, like a high income job for example, that we don’t have a right to. Why should there be a right to privacy?

I am going to side with Murray Rothbard’s take on the issue when he simply said we don’t have any “right to privacy” but we do have the right to protect ourself and our property from invasion or aggression. So it all depends on how the private police in a libertarian society would monitor conversations, read e-mails, tweets, facebook pages, and so forth. Did they trespass on someone’s property? Hack into someone’s system illicitly? Violate the terms of use agreement? In the free or libertarian society the providers of electronic communications would compete to offer their customers privacy and since they would not be subject to the draconian orders of the state they could refuse all requests for information from private security companies if they so chose to do so.

I was asked once if a conversation was someone’s “property”. Suppose that someone overheard me talking loudly to my wife in a restaurant. Surely anything that some other party hears is not in anyway privileged information no matter how embarrassed I might be if what I say became public. If I am in public and there are people around who might be listening then I can take measures to combat their attempts to record me. I am reminded of the “cone of silence” in an old TV show called “Get Smart” that was a spoof of the spy movies of the day.

It seems to me that according to any libertarian legal code we have total freedom of action as long as we do not violate anyone’s property rights. That would mean the other person’s body and anything that they owned. I can not legally sneak into a lady’s bedroom to watch her undress. Nor may I trespass on her property to peek into her window. But if some lady decides to strip bare naked in the street outside my house I can legally take her picture. (and get hit upside the head by the wife, but that is another issue)

As a hypothetical, suppose that Mr. Jones saw Mr. Smith doing something that would embarrass the hell out of Smith. It might even get Smith fired from his job if this act were to become known. If Jones was not violating anyone’s property rights when he saw the act then he could legally divulge what he saw even if that would harm Smith. If Jones is a gossip he may well do that. Could he blackmail Mr. Smith? It is very possible that Smith might want to pay Jones to keep the secret and not get Smith into trouble. That would be a voluntary agreement between two free individuals and no business of the law.

In the end, I have always valued privacy a lot. As long as the present system lasts in the US I will fight to try to make the US government follow its own rules and stop taking my tax money and spying on me with it. The government is using massive intimidation and force against the telecommunications giants to force them into being part of this massive spying operations and that is wrong in libertarian law and theory as well as current law in the US. Even so, I felt that we should remember that there is no “right to privacy” but rather our core principle that we have a right to be free from aggression against our body or things we own.