The Phaserl


Does Privacy Matter?

by Mike Rozeff, Mises:

An item about surveillance of conversations in buses has again raised my concern about the vanishing of privacy in America. I view this disappearance and transformation of life into a Kafka-esque world as an extremely serious problem. Privacy is absolutely essential to a person, to normal functioning, to personal interactions with others, to social cooperation with others, and to a proper relation between each American and the governments ruling them. Government officials and bureaucrats, in the name of security or policing, are routinely undermining privacy. The tendency of State officials and bureaucrats to extend and expand the powers of State is fully evident in the case of destroying privacy.

One effect of undermining privacy is to suppress free speech. It makes the person afraid or reluctant to speak for fear that at some undetermined future time , his actions or statements will be used against him. They can be misconstrued. They can be taken out of context. He can be forced to defend himself, and that’s costly. He may be subject to a police inquiry or invasion whereby his belongings are seized and his whole life disrupted. The State’s powers turned against a person in this way are enormous.

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1 comment to Does Privacy Matter?

  • Ed_B

    Does privacy matter? Good question. Privacy is a cultural trait of Americans, no doubt, but it doesn’t seem to be codified in law other than by precedent. There is, for example, no mention of the word “privacy” in the US Constitution or Bill of Rights. It is inferred but it is not mentioned specifically.

    Perhaps a better question is, “What is the difference between privacy and secrecy?”. IMO, it is a matter of what a person is doing. If you are minding your own business and not bothering or harming anyone else, what you are doing should be private, which is to say not under the view of the government. If you are up to no good, such as planning to implement a crime against your fellow citizens, what you are doing involves secrecy… you are hiding your intention to do harm so that you can implement your crimes against others without interference. So, how do we tell the difference between privacy and secrecy before an act is committed? It’s very difficult. Perhaps this is the difference between intrusion into the private lives of others and being watchfully aware of what is going on around us and being prepared to handle any violence that is committed against the innocent nearby.

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