You want to be left alone? Fight for it.
Limited government is based on the idea that there are areas in our lives which do not concern the state, which are our own personal and private business and which only we can reveal at our discretion. If you sign up for Gmail, or Facebook, or any other free online service, and that service requires you to give up some of your private data as a condition of use, then it is up to you to do so. You are free to use paid alternatives, or learn how to use free tools in order to communicate without having all your data stored and sold to third parties or used to create targeted advertising. But what happens when the government demands that same information in order to carry out one of its functions?
Unlike transactions with a private entity, you cannot simply opt out of government intrusions because by default you are a member of the body politic of the state. As long as you are a citizen of the country, you will be subject to the governing powers of the state. This is why it is a bigger problem for the government to be spying on its citizens than big tech companies keeping massive data on their users, although the latter is also a problem in many ways because it facilitates the former.
Many have and will continue to argue that the state must protect its citizens, and in this world of asymmetrical terrorist threats that can come out of nowhere, this means massive surveillance in order to catch would be perpetrators before they strike. Others argue that we have no real right to privacy anyway when it comes to so called “metadata” like phone records or login information. Some might even go as far as saying that even our private communications should be monitored on the assumption that it will make catching the bad guys easier and that “if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear”.
But what of the right to be left alone, the right to simply live your life without being scrutinized? It may well be that having every citizen under a microscope will help us stop future attacks, but it also may be that we will be giving up something incredibly important in exchange for that sort of security. Liberty is not just a question of being able to choose this or that career path, or being able to vote for this or that candidate, or even getting to choose between a Chevy and a Ford. Liberty is about having the state recognize that there are fundamental limits to what it can do, even when it comes to protecting us. It does not get to delve into every detail of our lives, because unless we are suspected of a crime and that suspicion is verified before a judge who issues a warrant for further information or arrest, we retain our relative sovereignty as citizens. That word, sovereignty, is very important because it denotes a condition of being above reproach.
A sovereign citizen cannot be made to answer anything or be questioned in anyway except in accordance with the law. The law of which I write though is not the laws passed by legislatures, but the supreme law, the constitution which itself reflects timeless and universal laws which emanate from the very condition of our humanity. In that constitution, the 4th amendment clearly states that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” This is the LAW and it cannot be overridden by any statute enacted by the legislature, and it certainly cannot be overridden by an executive order. Therefore, even if you support the idea of massive government surveillance on its citizens in an effort to catch terrorists, it would still be blatantly illegal unless we amend the constitution accordingly.
This is why government officials work so hard to hide the details of so many government surveillance programs, if we knew the full scope of such programs; we might see that they are not constitutional and could challenge them in court. Judges themselves have no duty to enforce the constitutionality of laws on their own, they must decide on such things only in response to a suit filed by a citizen who feels his or her constitutional rights have been violated. Thus if government spy programs are shielded from the citizenry behind walls of classification, then officials get to break the law at will. Furthermore, congress and the president get to create laws which violate the fundamental law so long as the execution of those laws gets shielded behind classification. Such is the case with the Authorization for the Use of Military force and the Patriot Act. These laws contain language which is not plainly in violation of the constitution, yet they have been interpreted by the executive in order to implement a wide variety of controversial surveillance programs which we have only gotten wind of through the efforts and sacrifices of whistle-blowers.
We face a situation where our leaders have decided to side-step the constitution rather than actually being honest with the American people. If they feel that this current world of terrorism and hidden threats really necessitates that we all give up our privacy to the state, then they should say so and we should begin the amendment process to reform the constitution for this new world order. Of course they would have to show proof of how big the threat really is and how these programs have already protected us from further harm. Yet despite vague assertions that programs such as the NSA collection of phone data has already stopped a major attack, we have never been provided with any evidence that even one terrorist has been caught using these methods. I suspect therefore that there is no such evidence and that they simply want to hedge against the possibility of being blamed for “not doing enough” should the next attack come.
Considering the above, we only have ourselves to blame. In order for you to claim the right to be a sovereign citizen who can rebuke unwarranted intrusions into your life, you also need to take on the burden of self-government and accept the risk inherent in living in a society where every citizen is free and sovereign as well. But is seems we don’t want that, it seems we want to be coddled and protected from harm, especially from those “others”, those liberals or conservatives who scare us with their crazy notions. We want to make sure those brown skinned foreigners don’t infect us with their weird customs, that those corporate thugs don’t exploit us.
We want all of this but we don’t want to get our hands dirty so we empower politicians to do it in our name. We hire people to run the company that is the United States of America an instead of checking on them as good employers do, we give them the company checkbook and let them have free reign. Until we are willing to be responsible for what we want to have in our society and use politicians as aids rather than crutches, we will have more and more violations of our fundamental rights. The current NSA and IRS scandals are only the beginning of where things are heading.