Reply To: Libertarian Anarchy: Against the State


Dr casey, I recently finished reading Henry Hazlitts , Foundations of Morality. I am a 45 year old male physician in Northern NJ and one of my good friends is a philosophy professor. He and I have gone back and forth about various topics over the years. Recently I had an exchange with him concerning this issue about mr Snowden and the NSA. I was arguing that privacy is just an extension of our rights to person and property.

I asked him this:

Have U been following this snowden thing at all
> >>>The thing that bothers me is that so many people who work in
> the intelligence community have been brainwashed to thing that a
> massive surveillance state will somehow protect us. It’s a
> complete fallacy
> >>>All it does is waste resources that could be used making life
> better for everyone

and he replied:
Yes, I’ve been following this stuff, to an extent. Maybe your
> claim is correct; however, I’m of the mind to reserve judgment
> simply because I don’t believe that any of the facts are clear.
> I’m not comfortable jumping to such a conclusion as yours based
> simply on an ideological perspective

Then I answered:

Lookup some of the stuf snowden actually said about what he and
> the NSA actually doing and able to do
> >I think it’s very clear that We increasingly find our selves in
> a fascist police surveillance state
> >
> >
> >How is human liberty considered an ideology

—-and he continues:

> The stuff that Snowden claimed, and the actual facts and
> capabilities of what can be done, may not correspond to each
> other. Hence, I’ll reserve my skepticism for a while longer
> before passing any judgment.
> Let me ask you this: is privacy a sufficient and/or necessary
> necessary condition for democracy? Does the lack of privacy
> necessarily entail fascism (or any political -ism per se, other
> than exhibitionism)? This is a different kind of argument, one
> that I’ve not heard articulated before. If you wish to say that
> lack of privacy serves as a type of coercion, you’ll need to
> explain how that works (and you’ll probably end up sounding like
> Foucault on this!), and you’ll certainly tread on some of the
> capitalist principles you’ve been espousing, for the
> consequences of such a claim will directly apply to how
> businesses function in our technological 21st century.
> As to how liberty can be an ideology, that’s plainly obvious:
> every ideology has components. These interrelated ideas are not
> identical with each other. In holding a political position, one
> is necessarily adhering to some form of ideology (theoretical,
> principled or metaphysical framework). In this sense, any
> appeal to liberty and/or freedom is an appeal to a component of
> an ideological position, therefore every claim to liberty is
> ideological upon pain of unintelligibility

Then I try to defend myself:

The concept of privacy is just another aspect of individual human rights. If we are to agree that individuals have a right to be secure in their bodies and possessions then those who would commit acts of aggression against person and property are violating the privacy of the individual.

In no way am I treading on capitalist principles. In fact capitalism holds the individuals right to private ownership of his own resources in the highest regard. Thats the whole point of capitalism. To the extent that you look around you and think that somehow modern 21st century “capitalism” is violating the privacy of individuals is the extent to which capitalism has been corrupted and hobbled by state power. For instance who is it that coerced google and verizon and the others to surrender their customers records? the state!

Who is it that forces banks under threat of penalty to spy on their customers in the name of anti-terrorism measures? the state

What organisation basically forces people to divulge every private personal aspect of their financial existence under threat of jail? the IRS…the state.

Modern capitalism would under normal moral circumstances strive to ensure the privacy and anonymity of its customers and clients and in fact the profitability and ultimate success of companies would hinge on their reputation to protect this privacy. Individuals would only consent VOLUNTARILY to having personal info divulged in explicit contractual ways that were understood and agreed upon. And anyone would have the right to refuse to let a company divulge information. Failure to protect a customers privacy would be a breach of contract and therefore a crime.

So the only group that claims the absolute authority to essentially violate the privacy of an individual at any time without their consent is the state.

So a properly functioning moral capitalist society would honor individuals right to economic and personal privacy above all else

A modern democracy on the other hand is essentially a MOB in which the dominant political party gets to force and coerce and expropriate the minority into surrendering all their rights. This is why democracy is something to be feared and guarded against. Two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner: thats a modern democracy.

For a modern democracy to work there CANNOT be any privacy: (your framing the question wrong—your assumption is incorrect about the nature of a modern democracy) The politically dominant MOB has to be able to expropriate the “wealthy” or whatever group is their political target at the moment. Their weapon is state coercion and threat of violence. A modern “democracy” is really not even a democracy b/c there really is no choice by the population or the majority. In fact what this entity is that we have is really like a fascist corporatist state. ANd the utter lack of privacy we have and that is getting worse every day is a necessity for this type of political system to work. The citizens in order to be cowed and threatened into submission have to feel naked and threatened before the state. Hence the utter fear of IRS audits, the naked body scanners at airports, , mandatory tax “assessments” ,

Caesar wants you naked and cowering before the state.

Lack of privacy is not a “type” of coercion. It is naked violence.

You are once again misunderstanding the very idea and purpose of capitalism and confusing state power with a private voluntary market system.

In the book I just fininshed by Hazlit about morality he discussing the honoring of privacy as a principle that tends to be most conducive to mutual peaceful cooperation among individual in society. He describes it as a means to achieve justice.


and then the last and most recent reply by my friend:

By Jove, you missed the point completely. Let me ask again: is privacy needed or sufficient for democracy? If so, as you seem to believe in your appeal to the sanctity of property rights–as if people can be property at all!?–then all the information that these big IT businesses have gathered is essentially undemocratic. But according to your line of thinking, that would be ok, because it is a business who is acquiring info. about their customers and creating marketing profiles in order for efficiency and profits. Yet somehow, that is not an invasion of privacy or coercive in any manner…? Explicitly, these businesses aim to make money, but implicitly who really knows what they’re doing. And then you apply this double standard to the gov’t alone, claiming that they are only explicitly trying to protect lives–and businesses, by the way–yet secretly they’re really trying to get us and coerce us into compliance with their nefarious schemes. There is just a fundamental inconsistency in thinking along these lines, and that’s why I constantly accuse you of resorting to ideology in your explanatory attempts.

Consider the following scenario: if we were to eliminate gov’t, in fact, let’s eliminate all gov’ts everywhere at every level (the true anarchist wet dream), then we would be left with many businesses going about their business of making money. Business is a cut-throat world. Profits are all important. Without any external institutions to keep businesses in line (no coercive institutions with no gov’ts), then businesses will do what they want and need to in order to protect their business. In that environment, do you seriously believe that business will NOT revert to using coercive tactics to ensure their profitability? Corporate wars will be the most likely outcome…and we’ll do it to ourselves all over again, just under different “ideological” banners. Maybe we’ll be lucky and end up with the world of first “Rollerball” film…with Jonathan E (James Caan) for president! I’d vote for him.

…But if not (to my first question above), then we could have a democracy without privacy. This doesn’t necessarily entail the denial of private property. It might actually guarantee it: if everyone would know what you lay claim to, and any violation of your property could be immediately recognized by members of society, and the appropriate measures and protections could be enacted to protect your stuff. In other words, eliminate privacy and guarantee property ownership. Go figure.

I haven’t read Hazlitt’s book, but I’ve taught utilitarianism and ethics often enough, and written about them as well, to know that there are some fundamental problems with relying solely not just on a utilitarian framework, but any particular ethical framework. Phenomenological speaking, people tend to use multiple frameworks in their ethical (and political) decision making and/or post-hoc evaluation of their or others actions. So utility is just one piece of the puzzle, not THE (final) solution. (As a side note: you can use any ethical theory to justify the same action as ethical; likewise, there ways to justify completely unethical actions with any given ethical theory. The principle of utility is notorious for this, e.g., the life boat example.)

Mike B.

So you see Dr casey the comment about “profits” and corporate wars. Its amazing to me the extent to which intelligent supposedly education people have been inculcated with these essentially Marxist ideas that profits are violent and “cut-throat” and that there would be private wars …. I’ve tried to explained that this would almost certainly not happen b/c wars are not profitable.

I would be very interested to hear your and others in the Liberty Classroom’s take on this discussion

Thank you

Michael Fleischer