OPINION – Imagine you’ve just caught your child in the act of smoking pot. If your child were to explain that he had been doing it behind your back for months and that all of his friends had been doing it as well, how would you react?
Would you be inclined to say, “Fair enough” and let the issue drop? Or would you insist upon a return to acceptable standards and behavior regardless of who else had done it or how long the deception had been taking place? Now let’s apply this logic to the state’s increasing efforts to erase privacy through the gathering of our personal information.
This type of information gathering takes a number of different forms. Under the Affordable Care Act, we see our health information becoming a sought-after government commodity. The PATRIOT Act has turned our banks into unpaid agents of the state when it comes to our financial information. The giant National Security Administration facility being constructed near Bluffdale, Utah, is there to scrutinize our electronic communications – as it has since 2001. Government, through automated license plate tracking devices, now knows our whereabouts when we are traveling.
To hear the rhetoric of apologists for the surveillance state, one has to wonder what exactly they may have been smoking.
Politicians and pundits have predictably invoked the necessity of unchecked and unaccountable uses of government power as being necessary to fighting the unending war on terror. But the most alarming trend is the number of U.S. citizens who have been brainwashed into accepting such activities with the justification that other governments have done it. Worse still are those who say, “There’s so much information out there about all of us that no one has any expectation of privacy.”
Yet privacy still matters, even in a post 9/11 world.
The most common retort of defenders of domestic spying is: “If you’re not a terrorist, then you have nothing to fear.” But this naîve mantra shows a remarkable lack of comprehension of the Constitutional system of limited government created by the Founders. If we can trust the president, whomever he may be, to always act in our best interests, then why do we need the Constitution in the first place? Why should he deign to swear an oath of loyalty to the Constitution if he can rightfully operate above it?
This has never been a case of left vs. right or Republican vs. Democrat; it is a matter of the state vs. the people.
The need to invade the privacy of its own citizens has always been the hallmark of the police state. Such governments are easily recognizable by how they regard their citizenry either as a resource to be managed or as potential criminals who pose a threat to the state.
Information equals power to the state and if that information comes at the expense of personal privacy or liberty, it is an improper use of government power.
In the Soviet police state, informers were used to gather personal information about people’s lives and business activities. Today we have supercomputers and sophisticated electronic means to do so on a much larger scale. The main difference between the Soviets and modern America is that they were a full-blown totalitarian state, while we are currently a blossoming authoritarian state.
Anytime we allow or excuse the exercise of unconstitutional powers on the part of any government official, we do so at the risk of our liberties. To let government off its leash, even for the purpose of fighting all those nebulous terrorists out there who supposedly “hate our freedom,” is to put that very freedom in jeopardy.
The Bill of Rights was not intended for government to obey only when times were good. It was amended into our Constitution to reinforce the limits on government power during times of crises when leaders would be tempted to exercise unrestricted power.
The principle that too many Americans have forgotten is that government is to remain subordinate to the people. The promised safety of domestic spying is never equal to the corresponding loss of freedom it brings. Free people needn’t apologize for keeping their leaders in line.
It’s time that our leaders and our laws at all levels are held to the acceptable governmental behavior of a free nation. This can only be done when we demand that they abide by their constitutional limits, and vote them out when they don’t.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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