Friday, October 23, 2015

safety at what cost?

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

To those who view the government as a mostly benevolent, even lovable organization, establishing a national security apparatus to spy on Canadians is no big deal. The state, having access to our private communications through electronic eavesdropping, will lead to greater security. The menace of terrorism must be stamped out! And what better means of detecting and defeating evil doers than through the omniscient eye of a powerful intelligence agency? But to those of us who take a more critical view of the state and it's relationship with society and the individual the development of an Orwellian surveillance state seems like a very dangerous trend.

The state, in the Rothbardian view, is not simply an alternative and equally valid means or organizing society as the market but rather an institution of plunder and exploitation.  It is a means by which some may rule over others. It is an instrument of compulsion, coercion and control. One of the most terrifying things about the Soviet Union was the NKVD, secret police who would arrive in the dead of night and whisk you away to a gulag for a tenner for even the most innocuous of activities (like belonging to a socialist but non bolshevick political party or praying in your home). Under this totalitarian regime there was no privacy and individuals had no rights.  There existed only the right of the state, the right of the powerful to smash the weak. Of course Canada, with it's tradition of individual rights, is very far from a totalitarian society but the erosion of privacy which we have seen in the name of combating the scourge of drugs and now the menace of terrorism is moving us, however half heartedly, in this direction. Instead of waiting until it is too late, why not oppose this trend while it is still in it's infancy?

It's important to contrast both the danger of terrorism with the threat to the destruction of privacy. Exactly how much threat to jihadists really pose to Canadians?  And how does this compare to the potential abuses attendant with expanding the national security state and it's surveillance arm? The proper means of dealing with criminal actions is the legal system. Is not in this case the cure worse than the disease? Don't we have a right to privacy?  A right to live our lives without being constantly under the microscope of some government agent?

The threat of terrorism has been greatly exaggerated as a means of rationalizing an ever more intrusive role for the state in our lives.  The far greater concern is the rise of the national surveillance state and the death of our privacy.

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