Why You Should Worry About The Government Spying On You, Even If You Have Nothing To Hide

1. Knowledge is Power: The more knowledge the government has about you, the more power it has over you. What does that mean? Probably: higher taxes, more annoying regulations, greater advantages for those who have the government in their pocket, and more things for you to worry about.

2. Snowden: Like it or not, our government sometimes hires people who do not keep its secrets secret. You may not mind the government knowing all your business, but do you want everybody knowing your private information?

3. The Arab Spring: We now have repeated evidence that seemingly stable governments can be destabilized and overthrown in a matter of weeks. There is even a handbook on how to do this. If you are complacent about the stability of the United States government, you are living in a fantasy world. So what happens to all that information about you if the government no longer exists to keep it safe?

4. Aristotle: Long ago, Aristotle observed that democracies tend to degenerate into tyrannies when the citizens succumb to excessive fear. Fear-mongering has been a specialty of the U.S government since at least September 11, 2001, and many businesses and media personalities ride the same bandwagon. Are we gearing up for a transition to tyranny? Do you want your information in the hands of a tryant?

5. Sharia Law: One of the fastest growing segments of our population is that of people adhering to an Islamic religion. Sharia law or elements of it have already been introduced into local legislatures in parts of the country. If a member of the Taliban gets elected in your neck of the woods, how much of your personal information would you like him to have access to?

6. Foreign Spies: Snowden may represent a case of a domestic spy--a citizen revealing secret government information to his fellow citizens. A foreign spy reveals secret government information to foreign powers. Since it has come to light that the United States has been eavesdropping even on its allies, it is now open season on spying. Since the government has your information, sooner or later some foreign power will be picking through it. If you don't think you are important enough to face any problems even if they do get hold of your information, tell that to the millions of 'ordinary' people who were marginalized, executed, imprisoned, tortured, or 'disappeared' in the past 100 years by governments all over the world. If they would do that to their own people, why should they hesitate to do it to you?

7. The Next President: Whether or not it was justified, it is a fact that many U.S. citizens were seriously alarmed at the election of Barack Obama. If the next election puts a greater threat into power, will you want that president to have access to your personal information?

8. The US Constitution: The protections of the US constitution were not put in place to protect us from those who are worthy of our trust, but to protect us from the wolves in sheep's clothing who gain our trust but do not deserve it. Even good shepherds provide their flocks with no benefit if the 'protective' measures they take leave the sheep more susceptible to the wolves.

9. The Founding Fathers: What would Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Franklin, and the remaining founding fathers think of our obsession with security? Patrick Henry exclaimed, "Give me liberty, or give me death!" Clearly, they regarded freedom, independence, and liberty to be of higher value than their personal safety (in signing the declaration of independence, they put their lives on the line). Are we successors that they can be proud of? Are we brave defenders of liberty, or craven cowards who surrender it without hesitation, or, worse, negligent numbskulls who let it be taken away and don't even notice the loss?

10. Realistic Risk Assessment: If the justification of invading our privacy is 'to protect us from terrorist attacks', then we should realistically assess the risk and then determine if such measures are appropriate. Terroristic threats are, by nature, designed to be more fearsome than lethal. This is because the terrorist actually lacks the power to subdue his enemy by force (if he had that capability, he would conduct an open war). The purpose, then, is to use fear to augment one's forces, and to convert the struggle into a matter of will. One consequence of this is that any act of terrorism is actually a declaration of impotence. The situation, therefore, becomes rather ridiculous and surreal as the weaker attempts to subdue the stronger by spooking them into submission. But it is not even a bluffing game, since it is obvious from the start that the terrorist holds a losing hand. In light of terroristic action, one should not only mourn for the victims, and celebrate them as heroes and martyrs, but also weight the number of lives lost against the numbers we regularly lose to car accidents, airplane crashes, sinking boats, disease, eating peanut butter, getting stung by bees, living in flood plains or on earthquake faults, and any number of other things. We take risks in our daily lives, and most of us survive these risks, though, sadly, a few of us don't. We know that we do not live in a perfect world, and that it is fruitless and impossible to render it perfect, and so we limit our efforts to protect ourselves to those which we can afford, those which do not significantly hinder our efforts, and those which do not place us at higher risks for more, other, or greater dangers. The government now claims that it can easily afford to collect this data, and we can expect the cost to continue to fall as technology improves (and this should open the gates to more and more detailed data collection as times goes on), but how comfortable are you with the government watching your every move, like a vulture perched above your head? Will there come a point when you hesitate to be yourself because you know that old Uncle Sam is right there, ready to tax you for it, or write you a ticket, or throw you in the slammer? And is it a good idea to have all that information, all gift wrapped and tied up in a bow at the NSA, just waiting for a tyrant, a spy, an exploitative business, an identity thief, or maybe your nebby neighbor to come along and make 'good' use of it? Is that a risk you are willing to run? Would you take the same precautions against commensurate threats? Since no one can give you and your family, friends, and neighbors a 100% guarantee of safety from terroristic attacks, what level of safety can you live with? The same level you accept when you ride an airplane or drive on a highway, or live in a tornado zone? What is the value of liberty to you--how much risk are you willing to accept in order to have it? When we know that, then we can measure it against the efficacy of the level protection which the government currently supplies (this can be obtained by simply calculating the percentage of the population who are killed or injured by terroristic attacks), and decide if the governments efforts should be increased or scaled back. If no such assessment is made, then the government will keep on expanding its efforts, and soon enough we will all end up in a condition which is far worse than what any terrorist might dream of imposing on us. At that point, the laugh, which had been on the terrorist and his impotence, would now be on us for voluntarily placing ourselves in bonds more grievous than the ones contemplated by our adversaries. We might, then, characterize the contest between governments and terrorists as a question of who is the bigger fool. In a democracy, conceived in liberty, the question becomes a personal one: how big of a fool are you willing to be?


When did Good Old Uncle Sam
become
Grouchy Old Uncle Scrutiny?

See a recent NPR Report on the Frontline Episode on NSA spying: The United States of Secrets