Why Isn’t Spying On Americans to Catch Terrorists Good?

Posted in Just A Thought at 7:41 pm

It sounds so reasonable.  Just let the government tap our phones or analyze what we read and they’ll stop the next terrorist attack. It seems like a very small price to pay to stop another 911 and it would be.

No one objects to stopping the next 911.  The problem occurs when those with the information stop the next level of activity. What happens when someone breaks the law to expose illegal coorporate behavior? Do we want to give up our civil liberties to stop this person?

Most people who seek power intend to use it to create good. Sometimes the good they dream of may be at the expense of some minority. For instance, a developer can convince a town to condemn a ghetto.  With the power of eminent domain he can make everyone move out, he can tear down their old, unattractive houses and put up beautiful homes or shops that will let the town raise much more in taxes than they otherwise would have.  He of course will make a lot of money but it’s not really relevent to the situation.  He has turned a nasty old area into a bright new wonderful place.

The residents don’t see it that way.  They like their homes, don’t really want to move and always think that the developer is underpaying just to make a bigger buck.  They want to protest and check out books and talk with their neighbors on the phone.  Do we want a town politician, who can see the glory of the developers vision, to be able to stop the neighbors in their tracks because they fall afoul of some law? (If your life is put under the microscope it is almost impossible not to break some law – especially if you are trying to work out some way to save yourself under extreme pressure.)

The danger of giving up civil liberties is not the prevention of horrible acts. It is the power you give to a select few to stop any act that they deem (decide is)  horrible.


If you didn’t quite understand this, talk about it at dinner with your parents or leave a comment.

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