Why Government Surveillance is Wrong – Freedom Philosophy

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I became a libertarian in 2004. Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson overwhelmed my increasingly-diminishing pro government statist thinking.

I identified as a libertarian at that time, with the issues de jours dominating my political passions. I took a reprieve from politics to work on my career, study philosophy, and my religious beliefs. A decade later I returned but there was an issue that was momentous and it eluded me: no one wanted to be monitored by the state.

To say I didn’t understand is an understatement. Why wouldn’t someone want to catch terrorists? Why would anyone in their right mind object to having their emails read, if it means catching someone trying to kill you and everyone you care about? How could it be that someone else reading an email be more egregious than death itself, from people who hate us?

I spoke with libertarians about the issue and their justifications didn’t strike me as convincing. They would say things like, “this is my personal information” or, “my privacy matters”, or, “my government shouldn’t treat me like a criminal.”

These were remarkably unpersuasive. I would much rather someone read my emails than kill me. My life mattered more than my privacy. That anyone would even begin to disagree with this struck me as the extreme end of lunacy.

Fast-forward to today and I avoid letting the government read my private emails. I use Linux, surfing on Tor with Duck Duck Go, using Orbit, making calls using Silent Circle. Keeping the government out of my life has become a focus.

In the interim period was the apprehension of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Occasionally the government would peer into people’s private lives in order to ensure they would do their morning yoga routine, which is good, people should workout in the mornings. But the fact that the government is doing this is problematic, and the book perfectly illustrates the danger of where this can lead.

It’s wholly irrelevant as to whether or not the current government wishes to invade our privacy for good ends or for evil ends. The question is never whether or not an action is good or evil, it’s whether or not the action is paving the road to serfdom – giving a lost man directions is a good thing, but if he’s a spy looking for your country’s nuclear facilities, offering directions might not be the moral thing to do – it’s not on the level of saving the whales.

Imagine your favorite politician has come to power. Imagine you are a leftist and Barack Obama has given some impressionable speeches and you’re elated about his electoral victory. Perhaps it’s easy to overlook his increasing power, overlooking his use of various government agencies such as the IRS for political purposes.

The question is never whether or not your favorite political figure is pious; it’s whether or not they increase their capacity to harm you – because they will have a successor!

Obama’s supporters are now faced with the increased power of the presidency in the hands of his successor.

Even Christ had a shady disciple – a disciple of His own choosing. That which follows even a great leader can be problematic.

The question is never whether or not the power is used for good or evil, it’s the direction of the road the action is paving. Anything that leads to 1984 is to be utterly repudiated; anything that leads to the level of insanity involving such state-control is to be viewed with suspicion.

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Brandon Kirby

Brandon Kirby has a philosophy degree with the University of New Brunswick. He works for a Cayman Island hedge fund service firm, owns a real estate company, and has been in the financial industry since 2004. He is the director of Being Libertarian - Canada. He is a member of the People’s Party of Canada and the Libertarian Party of Canada.

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