Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Individual Rights and Terrorism

I posted the following comments at Reason, in response to an article on the Randian Congressman John Campbell of California. Although he's a strong proponent of limited government and lower taxes, Campbell has no problem supporting the government's request for easier surveillance.

Reason quotes him as saying, “I’m very much a privacy guy...It’s something I feel strongly about. But there’s something I feel even more strongly about: I don’t want to be blown up. I am willing to give them some limited access to my phone records because of this war on terror.”

Of course, voicing support for easier surveillance attracts the just wrath of civil libertarians. They are concerned that rights, once sacrificed, will not be restored. All too often, that has been the pattern in history.

On the other hand, which is worse, a permanent loss of privacy or the permanent loss of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent lives? And one thing is absolutely certain: fewer civil liberties will be lost preventing terror than will be lost after a terrorist event.

My comments:

The only justification for war, taxation, and loss of privacy is the prevention of even greater war, taxation, and loss of privacy.

Unfortunately, events don't often present themselves in the form of a simple calculation of cost and benefit. To a large extent, we make many of our most important decisions on the basis of hope more than on the basis of sure knowledge.

Only time will tell whether the war in Iraq was a mistake or a success. It certainly will be one or the other. The final measure will not be the process. It will be the result.

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