10A097 Privacy Rights by Jim Davies, 12/10/2010    

Someone suffered a raised eyebrow after reading the ZGBlog In Praise of Spies. Is not everyone entitled to privacy, he asked, even including governments?

Certainly, "everyone" is! - that is, every one. Every person. Let's check why.

Information about a human being is his property, exclusively. That's because everything pertaining to that person belongs only to him; he is his own self-owner, and that is the bedrock, undeniable premise or axiom underlying rational philosophy. It can be tested quite easily: if John does not by right own John, then someone else owns him, fully or in part - Bob, let's say. But in that case, how did Bob come to acquire those ownership rights? - for by the same alternate premise, Bob doesn't even own himself! Further: if Bob were to announce that he didn't own himself, he'd have no business making that announcement! - for he would not then be in rightful possession of his mind or mouth.

The axiom holds; for to try to refute it explicitly, one would have to accept it implicitly or else land in a hopeless, fatal contradiction. Therefore, everyone owns information about himself; privacy is his right. He may choose to give away (or sell!) some of it, but that's by his choice alone.

However, a government is not a person. It is not even a group of persons, associating by contract. It's quite hard to tell just what is is, in fact; it's an idea, a concept, "the forced absence of a market" is a good definition. There are people, often armed and uniformed, who say they represent "the government" but if we ask one to take us to the government they represent, he can only take us to other people also claiming to represent it. "It", itself, is a vacuum, and concepts and vacuums don't have self-ownership rights.

Therefore no, governments do not have a right to privacy - or to anything else. Those who currently try to defend the recently uncovered diplomatic deceptions on privacy grounds do not have a rational leg on which to stand; if government cannot conduct international diplomacy without assurance of confidentiality, if they cannot do business without trying to create secrets, we have an extra confirmation that governments ought not to exist at all.

No wonder they are so desperate to stop the current leaks. They are not just an embarrassment; this kind of thing gets people asking questions for which they have no answer. Just the kind we love to ask on the Zero Government Blog.

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