Epitaph for Freedom: "If it's for the security of the country, it's OK with me."

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From a Boston Globe story about reaction to continuing revelations about the extent and nature of the NSA wiretapping program:

Added William MacKenzie, a Verizon customer from Taunton: "I have nothing to hide, so I don't have a problem with it. If it's for the security of the country, it's OK with me."

Those interviewed yesterday overwhelmingly said the possibility of phone companies handing over records to the government didn't alarm them and wouldn't make them walk away from any of the companies. Telecommunications giants Verizon Communications, AT&T Corp., and BellSouth Corp., according to a story first published in USA Today, agreed to share customer information with the NSA. One company, Qwest Corp., however, refused to cooperate.

More here.

I'm reminded in such moments of the old Ben Franklin quote about trading liberty for "temporary safety" and more about how something Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano told Reason a couple of years back:

No one–no lawyer, judge, or historian–can point to a single incident in American history where national security was impaired because someone insisted on their right to free speech or their right to privacy or their right to due process.

Whole interview here.

Flashback time: Guarding the Home Front: Will civil liberties be a casualty in the War on Terrorism?, a symposium from the December 2001 ish of Reason.

What price Safety?: Security and freedom in an age of fear, a special section from the October 2002 ish of Reason.

NEXT: McPaper and Osama, Sittin' in a Tree

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  1. No one–no lawyer, judge, or historian–can point to a single incident in American history where national security was impaired because someone insisted on . . . their right to privacy or their right to due process.

    Moussaoui and 9/11?

  2. Perhaps if William MacKenzie, a Verizon customer from Taunton, removed the turd residing in his skull and replaced it with a working brain, he might find a reason or two for concern. One can only suppose he’d have no objection to being cavity-searched on a daily basis, since he has nothing to hide.

  3. Dave W.

    I can’t find a good definition of “national security”, so I’m going to go with Wikipedia’s

    National security refers to the public policy of maintaining the integrity and survival of the nation-state through the use of economic, military and political power and the exercise of diplomacy, in times of peace and war.

    So, using that definition, how was 9/11 an impairment of national security?

  4. Because if the plane they shot down had gone on to hit the White House Cheney would have been killed and we would have been without a President.

  5. “‘Those interviewed yesterday overwhelmingly said the possibility of phone companies handing over records to the government didn’t alarm them and wouldn’t make them walk away from any of the companies.[emphasis mine] Hhmmn? Could this be because, generally, in the US domestic phone service (land line) is a city by city monopoly. Yes, VOIP service companies are now offering some competition, but they require a high-speed internet connection, and those are also still (for the most part) offered by only the self-same telco or the local cable TV monopoly.

    On the bright side, I personally know more and more people who are choosing to forgo a land line at home, as their voice communication needs are met by every individual in a family (traditional or not) having a cell phone. Oh well, progress marches slowly onward.

  6. Anybody knows how safe VoIP is from governmental privacy informations? I’ve been considering switching entirely to Skype as my landline, and this NSA debacle has just added another argument in favor of that decision.

  7. The result of freedom is a trust in government.

    What the hell do some old dead guys know anyway? I mean, things are so different now. There’s no way they could have ever conceived of such a viscious enemy and I’m sure Ben and Tom would approve as there is nothing temporary about the threat facing us and our way of life. 😉

  8. Dave W. says:
    “…the plane they shot down…”

    Come again?

  9. a joke! a joke!

    Chances are that plane wasn’t shot down. I mean they played the tape in open court didn’t they?

  10. a. is there a “right to privacy” that I don’t know about?

    b. comparing daily cavity searches to having your incoming and outgoing phone records stored in a massive database is just slightly, ever so slighty – moronic. Not exactly the same degree of personal impact…

    c. doesn’t the government already get your phone records whenever they want, just by asking the phone companies? I mean, they do it on Law & Order and CSI every week.

  11. Dave, are you trying to say that if it weren’t for Moussaoui’s due process and other rights, 9-11 would not have happened?

  12. Probably what bugs me the most about this whole debacle is that the people who care about lost liberty, and those in the best position to try to change it, are more interested in carping and making snide remarks to one another than actually going out and trying to change these public perceptions. But then, it’s always been that way so who cares. It seems these days that libertarianism is more a lifestyle choice than a view on how society and politics should work.

  13. is there a “right to privacy” that I don’t know about?

    I used to think so, because I was always taught how important it was to have a secret ballot during elections. (If that’s not privacy, what is?)

    But at last week’s primary, all of the new-fangled electronic voting booths were standing out in the open, no curtains or anything. Plus, since they’re designed to be read by people with poor vision, everyone’s choices are blasted in 36pt font.

    “Are you sure you want to vote NO on ISSUE #2 SCHOOL LEVY?”

  14. rafuzo:

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation doesn’t fund itself, you know. Nor does the Institute for Justice, CATO, the LP (loveable wackos!), or the Reason Foundation.

  15. If you vote correctly you don’t have anything to be afraid of now do you?

  16. Could it be perhaps that people don’t believe that there wasn’t ever any real pivacy with regard to the phone numbers of the people they called? Or perhaps they think this is really a minor infringement of thier privacy in any case and feel the possible benefits outweigh the costs.

    If poeple have any real beef it’s with the phone companies they do buisness with. They were, after all, not compelled to cooperate. QWest didn’t.

    Though now I’m sure that the secerecy of this program has been compromised, it’s practically useless given that all one has to do at this point is switch thier provider to QWest where it’s avaiable.

    And by the way, I figured everyone knew at this point that Franklin is not responcible for that quote which poeple bandy about endlessly.
    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin

  17. Possibly, Jennifer.

    I can imagine a country that would have tortured Moussaoui as a matter of course, would have searched his laptop without needing to beg Washington for a warrant and would have searched the address of everybody mentioned in his laptop without a warrant.

    That country might have prevented 9-11.

    MY TAKE

    While that country might have prevented 9-11, that country would probably have an awful lot of innocent ppl die in police custody. The trade-off between powerful police and freedom is not a zero sum game, but it still exists as a real tradeoff.

    You might remember me bitching about 6 months ago because they occasionally do warrantless door to door “consensual” searches here in Canada. The catch is that if you don’t consent, then they use that non-consent to get a warrant. Now I don’t like this police practice at all, I even tried unsuccessfully to get Mr. Oliver to BrickBat it.

    However, I can’t deny that this practice may stop some crimes at the margin. In one of these searches they did find a child murderer that they probably would not otherwise have found. The thing about me is that I am so crazy that I am willing to let a few child murders stay free if millions of people can feel secure in their homes. That is the problem with being crazy — you begin to believe crazy things.

    One last wrinkle: I am not sure whether any government people, some air defense people in particular, had foreknowledge of 9/11. Y’aal think they didn’t. I think maybe they did. If they did, that raises another possibility which is that Moussaoui would not have been tortured and searched even if the police had instant and unquestionable power to do so. In that kind of a repressive and corrupt (LIHOP) regime, the government is much freer to pick and choose which atrocities to prevent and which to allow to go forward.

  18. Though it makes me uncomfortable, I’m going to agree with the gist of Dave W’s first comment. Not the part about shooting down the plane, but the part suggesting that libertarians make this case too easily.

    We may have greater risk tolerance and the cost to liberty may be too high, but it is too strong a statement to say that no risks can be mitigated by restricting liberty. I don’t want to pay the price in most cases, but this line of argument is just not credible to me.

  19. PS to previous:

    In the search that affected my neighborhood, the search did not lead to the capture, rather it was a more standard tip by a neighbor of the dead woman (who was not in the search zone).

    The police have been remarkably silent since they got the guy they were looking so hard for. You almost begin to think that they think this particular guy killed his commonlaw wife in selfdefense. Thanks for the search, guys!

  20. My Take: Bad things are going to happen sometimes, awful things sometimes. At the margin some of them might be preventable with enough restriction on liberty, but is it worth being protected to live in that kind of world? I say no.

  21. semm:

    From your link – “With the information thus far available the issue of authorship of the statement is not yet definitely resolved, but the evidence indicates it was very likely Franklin, who in the Poor Richard’s Almanack of 1738 is known to have written a similar proverb: “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.””

  22. Jozef,

    VoIP service is currently safe from government wiretapping. In fact, one of the things that the government has complained about is that they don’t have a way to monitor those services. However VoIP is hardly safe from interception. There are emerging technologies for encrypting VoIP calls. The beauty of that, of course, is that is something that is currently A)out of government control, B)perfectly legal, and C)cannot be done with landlines. If memory serves, and when it does it’s usually burnt to a crisp, but I believe that Skype claims some sort of encryption capability, but that they don’t share the code, so it’s hard to determine how secure it is.

  23. “You hear about constitutional rights, free speech, and the free press. Every time I hear these words I say to myself. ‘That man is a Red, that man is a Communist!’ You never hear a real American talk like that.”

    – Mayor Frank Hague, Jersey City, New Jersey, 1938

    Get used to it. Happy times are here again.

  24. Two more points:

    1. Overbearing police tactics at Waco lead directly to the Oklahoma City bombing. In that one, police misconduct helped bring about 168 (maybe 169 — there was an extra leg) deaths, including 19 children. When you acknowledge this dynamic, you might consider that an overpowerful police may merely create a new terrorist for every one it decommissions.

    2. Spending issues. when you spend money on powerful police and pervasive surveillance, then you end up not spending money on other things, like busses to get poor black people out of a disaster area before they drown, or a decent investigation on why diabetes has taken off. If saving lives is the utilitarian value, the torture/spy money would probably be better spent elsewhere, if at all.

  25. B.D.,

    VoIP packets are just ordinary UDP/IP packets, the same as used for, say, streaming video. There’s nothing to stop them from being encrypted using an ordinary public/private key algorithm.

  26. You are correct, Dave, but the kiss of death for a career politician is to be seen as doing nothing. Conversely, the rubes all vote for the dude who says he’ll Do Whatever It Takes to keep us safe from terrists and such.

  27. Of course it would be impossible, especially in such an politically bland city as Boston, for a news story to be tooled in such a way that it evokes the most shocked and impassioned reaction from readers…
    Within 24 hours the primary crux of this story (at least from my cursory Google searches) has shifted from the numbers list to the fact that “most” people are cool with it. The statements from the telecom lawyers have gone under-reported, as has the number of angry emails flooding their customer service centers. Even Wall Street’s reaction has been muted.
    Peoples reaction to news is now news.

  28. I can’t help but be disturbed by the idea that people are okay with handing over their personal records solely because they have “nothing to hide.” As my co-worker just stated “We live in a remarkably stupid time.”

  29. I’ve seen the light on this issue and now fully support the Administration gathering a database of everyone’s phone calls. I’m absolutely positive nobody in the Administration would sift through their political enemies’ records for things like:

    1. Calls to gay phone sex lines.
    2. Calls to abortion providers.
    3. Calls to prostitutes — “Hey Porter, what’s that number again?”
    4. Calls to ex-girlfriends that your wife doesn’t know about.

    I mean, only terrorists with something to hide need to be worried about all this data being in government hands.

  30. “If it’s for the security of the country, it’s OK with me.”

    Doing nothing but drinking 1990 Nikolaihof Vinothek and laying in my hammock in the sun all day while being waited on by various models…is “for the security of the country”.

    Hey, look, if the NSA doesn’t have to explain why, then neither do I…

  31. a. is there a “right to privacy” that I don’t know about?

    of course there is not. you only have the rights that the government, in all of its great benevolence, has deemed you fit to receive.

    give me a break. the whole, “it doesn’t say in the constitution that you have a right to X, so you obviously don’t have that right” argument is a tired one.

    screw the penumbras and emanations, i point to the 9th amendment.

  32. the other Mark, thank you for the clarification.

    Does this mean that political enemies of the administration can now pursue, via a Freedom of Information Act inquiry, the phone records of say, the White House to Jack Abramoff and vice versa? How about Karl Rove’s records to reporters or New Hampshire? Or Porter Goss’ records to the Watergate Hotel? Or the Watergate Hotel to hookers in Virginia?

  33. downstater – if you change the definition of words to suit your mood, the words stop meaning anything…

  34. I see poll results like these as another illumination of the rampaging success that is our public education system.

    Logical analysis? Critical, independent thought? Not in our schools, baby- those things lead to questions we don’t want to answer, and discipline problems that we just don’t want to face.

  35. My solution is pretty simple: I’m going to find a new cell phone company and then I’m going to dump Verizon. And I’ll default on the contract termination fee. Yes, yes, I know, contracts are sacrosanct in libertarian philosophy, but I just don’t give a fuck in this case. The people who collaborate with oppressive regimes are the first ones against the wall after the revolution. The way I see it, not paying a bill is letting the fuckers off easy.

    You don’t want to know what I was originally planning to do to Verizon’s executives. Suffice it to say that I had some clever ideas for redecorating the NSA headquarters.

  36. B.D.,

    Haven’t you learned anything? The only one who gets to decide which laws you can and cannot break is the President. The almighty, all-powerful, omnipotent Commander In Chief. If he wants to break 1 or 2 (or 750) laws, all he’s gotta do is sign a form declaring that he is allowed to break said laws. But if someone ELSE wants to break a law, well, you’d better be on Leader’s good side, boy! You need His permission if you wanna shit on the constitution!

    Meanwhile, us regular joe’s can’t say the words “plane” and “bomb” in the same telephone conversation without being placed on a terrorist watchlist.

    Ah, yes, it all makes perfect sense.

  37. Does anyone know what cell phone companies aren’t cooperating, besides Qwest? I just got a new plan with Sprint and I’m pretty pissed that they appear to be in on this.

  38. I put up a very angry post on my blog last night, we’ll see if it’s gotten me on the no-fly list overnight.

  39. I can imagine a country that would have tortured Moussaoui as a matter of course, would have searched his laptop without needing to beg Washington for a warrant and would have searched the address of everybody mentioned in his laptop without a warrant. That country might have prevented 9-11.

    Problem is, Dave W, that you can’t just do that to Moussaoui; you have to do that to every “dangerous” suspect. You’re talking about hundreds of suspects being tortured, thousands of warrantless searches, etc, all to prevent a tiny pin-prick assault on our “national security”. Not to minimize 9/11, but 3,000 people dying in terrorist attacks — even if it happened once a decade or so — would be a small price to pay for freedom’s security.

    In short, I would rather die than live in that country.

  40. downstater – if you change the definition of words to suit your mood, the words stop meaning anything…

    how flippant and cryptic. care to elaborate?

  41. I don’t think thoreau is thoreau today.

    The thoreau we all know seldom says fuck, let alone twice in one post.

    Nor does he implicitly suggest “past” plans of violence, that I know of.

    Having said that, I can’t say I really object to anything he said, whether or not he’s the real thoreau.

  42. Problem is, Dave W, that you can’t just do that to Moussaoui; you have to do that to every “dangerous” suspect.

    and then some…Once the apparatus for a surveillance society is put in place, how could it not be used continuously? I mean, today it’s al Qaeda, but when nothing happens there, won’t the tool just be re-focussed on some other public enemy?…

    The Commerce Clause comes to mind as a broad example.

  43. “but it is too strong a statement to say that no risks can be mitigated by restricting liberty”

    But that is EXACTLY the point. Since risk is entirely subjective and information dependent (you do know that “perfect information” is impossible even in retrospect, right?), what risks people are willing to mitigate and at what cost is entirely subjective.

    Here’s one: I’m willing to pay the price of eliminating the second amendment to mitigate the risk of gang violence in my neighborhood. Similarly, I’m willing to incarcerate any drug dealer because a. they’ve already shown a propensity to violate the law; b. when in the throes of addiction, they’ll do anything – they’re “maniacs” who don’t consider consequences; and c. according to secret government intelligence that we can’t know about, their revenues go to support terrorists.

    You up with that?

  44. thoreau,

    Yes, yes, I know, contracts are sacrosanct in libertarian philosophy, but I just don’t give a fuck in this case.

    Verizon already violated the contract by giving your personal information over to a third party.

  45. quasibill:

    We’ve had this discussion before. You feel that it is possible to draw a bright line that says The Government Shall Not Be Used for Risk Mitigation.

    My counter argument is that if you actually hold yourself to that standard, you can enforce no laws. You can’t enforce laws because you know for a fact that your jury system is imperfect. To have a justice system at all, you are accepting a non zero amount of error in the system. You are doing so because the risk mitigation of having the justice system outweighs the risk of imprisoning the wrong people.

    Further, whole categories of crimes can’t even be crimes if you eliminate risk analysis as justification. Endangerment, for instance. I can draw and shoot right next to your head if I want. If I don’t mess up, I didn’t do anything wrong.

    We can argue about what the limits of risk analysis are, but your principled stand against risk analysis seems like hot air unless you want to dismantle all enforcement of rules.

  46. Anyone heard from Cingular?

  47. Cingular is AT&T.

  48. Ahh. I forgot. I may be making a phone call, too.

  49. Jason,

    I understand your point, but as far as risk assessment goes, the opposite has been taking place for the last few decades. As long as there is a 0.000001% risk in doing something, it’s fair game to enact a law calling for the criminal sanction. The non-zero factor of error is more and more applying to the citizens rather than the justice system. I’ll gladly give the justice system room for error, but they’re taking away my room for error and don’t appear to be making any change for the better in their own error rate.

    Where’s the economic argument? The NSA spent all this time and money, pissed thousands of customers off, and produced absolutely nothing. The best they can do is a theoretical peace of mind: they’re “giving” it to people who don’t have it and “stealing” it from people who thought they already had it. Government can’t help itself but redistribute peace of mind, just like welfare.

  50. Russ:

    I agree 100%. I only object to the admonishment from pure principle that we can’t allow government to engage in risk mitigation.

    We can and do allow it. The question is, as you suggest, how much value we place on the various variables in the risk model.

  51. downstater – no, not really. You should be able to figure it out yourself. Here’s a hint – all my words mean what everyone understands them to mean, not some phony made-up definition…

  52. Jason,

    All I’m saying is in the tug-of-war between security and liberty, security’s got a huge advantage and kicking the puritans off the liberty side isn’t going to help.

  53. Qwest emailed me back and said that they don’t have service in my area.

    I have a hunch that there’s some fine print in my contract with Verizon, and they’ll use that to argue that I still owe them money. Screw that. Phone like a hole, black as their soul, I’d rather die, than pay them their toll.

    Anybody know if TMobile handed over data? All the reports that I’ve read so far only pertain to landlines. TMobile doesn’t do landlines. If they haven’t handed over any data then they have a new customer.

  54. “My counter argument is that if you actually hold yourself to that standard, you can enforce no laws.”

    As always, its a nice strawman for you to throw out there, but that doesn’t make it true. Of course you can enforce laws, and you can even make mistakes in doing it, as long as sufficient procedures are in place and there is true accountability. To get true accountability, you must allow for actual consent, not fictitious consent.

    As such, I can voluntarily choose to surrender some of my liberties in order to gain the benefits that flow therefrom (such as ability to engage in commercial transactions with others, and having my claims respected under that law). But I must be free to choose from competing systems in order for it to be my voluntary choice what liberties and rights and money I’m willing to pay to gain those benefits and avoid certain risks.

    In a free market, I’d probably have no problem with allowing my legal insurance company have access to my phone records. In a state, where there is no accountability, especially when there is such a concept as “national security secrecy”, I have big problems with the legal system having unfettered access to the details of my life.

    “Further, whole categories of crimes can’t even be crimes if you eliminate risk analysis as justification. Endangerment, for instance. I can draw and shoot right next to your head if I want.”

    Well, you can always argue over how much “endangerment” will be criminalized, but I think it would always be a crime to intentionally put someone in reasonable fear for their physical safety. Going much further than that, though, allows for arguments that can be used to outlaw guns and drugs. Risks that are imminent allow for self-defense. Risks beyond that are the responsibility of the individual to prepare for in the way that they determine best meets their own needs and desires.

  55. As to risk and liberty, at the margins there will always be tradeoffs. But even with tradeoffs it need not be zero sum.

    A society in which peaceful immigrants need not fear the cops is one in which terrorists will have a harder time hiding amidst people of the same ethnic and religious background.

    A society in which you have the right to defend yourself, and carry the means of self defense on your person, is one in which hijackers will have a harder time.

    A society that doesn’t encourage violent and lucrative black markets need not fear that Afghan opium cartels will have the cash to fund terrorists.

    A society in which the cops have to have a good reason to conduct a search is a society that will allocate scarce law enforcement resources more effectively.

    If we only look at a marginal case then it’s easy to conclude that liberty comes at the cost of safety. But if we look at the big picture, then it becomes clear that there are lots of ways to gain liberty and security at the same time. There will always be marginal costs, even with creative win-win solutions, but trading away liberty for temporary security may result in less security in the long term.

  56. Russ:

    “All I’m saying is in the tug-of-war between security and liberty, security’s got a huge advantage and kicking the puritans off the liberty side isn’t going to help.”

    Not looking to kick anyone off the liberty side, I’m looking to make our case more publicly credible. The argument that no risk analysis is to be permitted is not credible.

  57. “Of course you can enforce laws, and you can even make mistakes in doing it, as long as sufficient procedures are in place and there is true accountability. To get true accountability, you must allow for actual consent, not fictitious consent.

    Risks that are imminent allow for self-defense. Risks beyond that are the responsibility of the individual to prepare for in the way that they determine best meets their own needs and desires.”

    This is a better argument from my POV, but it hinges on what one means by ‘imminent’and what one understands real consent to consist of.

    The weakness of the argument, to me, is that individuals don’t get to consent or not to the application of the justice system. The assumption of consent comes through glorious democracy.

    What I’m saying is not that I disagree with you that this think stinks – I don’t. I’m saying that the focus of the argument has to be on consequences of these particular actions and how these particular actions violate the common understanding of what our rights are. I don’t think a principled argument about government not being able to engage in risk mitigation will hold water. The argument, even in qualified form, is countered in practice by 99% of existing laws. Contract enforcement is risk analysis, it is not mitigation of risk of imminent physical harm.

  58. quasibill:

    “But that is EXACTLY the point. Since risk is entirely subjective and information dependent (you do know that “perfect information” is impossible even in retrospect, right?), what risks people are willing to mitigate and at what cost is entirely subjective.”

    This is the argument against risk analysis. It applies to all risk analysis.

  59. downstater – no, not really. You should be able to figure it out yourself. Here’s a hint – all my words mean what everyone understands them to mean, not some phony made-up definition…

    no, i didn’t think you would.

    wow. what definition have i stated? what does my mood have to do with anything?

    for one who claims to value straight-talkin’ you really shouldn’t take the scope of someone’s point further than it was intended in an effort to obscure and discredit it.

    you must agree that just because a certain right is not mentioned verbatim in the constitution does not mean that people don’t have that right. it seems to me the ninth amendment is pretty straight forward about that. unless the constitution doesn’t really mean what it says either.

  60. “I’m saying that the focus of the argument has to be on consequences of these particular actions and how these particular actions violate the common understanding of what our rights are.”

    That’s where my problem is – there is no such thing as “the common understanding of what our rights are.” Ask a leftist, and he’ll tell you that you have no property rights. Ask a rightist, and he’ll tell you that you have no privacy rights at all. And in between, you have all kinds of people with inherently contradictory positions. There’s a reason the 9th amendment was included, and used vague language. The Constitution was a noble experiment, but it has shown that what was sought is not possible.

    “I don’t think a principled argument about government not being able to engage in risk mitigation will hold water.”

    Then you’ve already lost the battle. Once you say it is legitimate, every one will claim that their pet concern needs to be mitigated at the public’s expense. Which is what we have here, today. It’s what “we” want, and well, we got it.

    “Contract enforcement is risk analysis”

    No. Contract drafting is risk analysis. Enforcement is defense of property (you gave property under certain conditions, so it you have the right to enforce those conditions). But note the well-established concept of “efficient breach” which allows for willful breaches with no penalty beyond compensations, as well as the well-established bias against specific performance, especially in service contracts.

  61. “This is the argument against risk analysis. It applies to all risk analysis”

    Nope. It is an argument against socializing risk mitigation. It does not in any way argue that you cannot analyze risks. Nor does it say that you can’t perform such an analysis for someone else – say, in an effort to sell them a risk mitigation product. What it is an argument against is forcing someone else to pay for your vision of the “public good”.

  62. “Nope. It is an argument against socializing risk mitigation. It does not in any way argue that you cannot analyze risks.”

    Ugh. Around and around we go. The existence of government is socialized risk mitigation.

  63. quasi,

    As I keep saying, you DON’T reject socialization in all its forms, what you do is draw a line.

    How are police paid? How are judges paid? As soon as you spend one cent of public money on the enforcement of any law, you have engaged in the socialization of risks.

  64. One thing to think about is the extremely low probability that any good will ever come of this call record database. Just think about this pile of numbers, there is nothing smart to do with it. So someone is bound to find something stupid to do with it first. Just send those smart NSA folks out to find jobs at brokerages if we can’t find anything better to do with them than this.

  65. “As I keep saying, you DON’T reject socialization in all its forms, what you do is draw a line.”

    I DO, otherwise, all you are left with is “my priority for robbing you is more important than your priority for robbing me!” There is no place that a) you can philosophically consistently draw the line, and b) make sure that the line stays where you draw it, once you concede that the line is somewhere west of “never”.

    “How are police paid? How are judges paid?”

    Just because the state is involved in those areas now, doesn’t mean it has to be. You do know that we didn’t have police when the Constitution was written, right?

  66. “You do know that we didn’t have police when the Constitution was written, right?”

    And so, your argument has become “The NSA tapping our phone lines is bad for the same reason a publicly funded justice and law enforcement system is bad.”

    That is not a compelling argument to anyone who isn’t an anarchist already. The implication is that if you accept publicly funded police and judges, you don’t have a good reason to be upset. That is why I don’t like this line of argumentation.

  67. thoreau:

    Your last post is the greatest thing I ever remember teading on the comments of this board. Thank you.

  68. teading, of course, should be reading. Even though I hate people who immediately correct their own posts.

    I hate myself. Still, a wonderful post you made, thoreau.

  69. jf-

    Glad you liked it!

  70. Jason-

    In theory you are of course correct: There can always be trade-offs at the margin, and we have to accept that a privacy protection could always hamper a crucial investigation and cost lives. However, as I think more about it, that theoretical possibility is only realized if additional powers would be exercised intelligently. If, instead, additional powers result in less discriminate tactics and more noise to overwhelm the signal, then granting the government more power may actually cost lives.

    Now, let’s ask ourselves a question: Is our ruling junta competent enough to amplify signal with its new powers? Or will the thugs instead just pick up more noise?

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