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Iraq Election: Left World, Our World Americans and Literacy

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Liberal Privacy vs. Conservative Transparency

by Christopher Chantrill
December 25, 2005 at 6:45 am


WE ALL KNOW what the NSA surveillance case is about. It is about liberals living in a bubble, as Thomas Lifson has explained. Liberals think that the issue is government spying and the Bush administration’s overall hostility towards civil liberties, but they are wrong.

Anyway, everyone does it. Thanks to the conservative blogosphere we know that it isn’t just the Bush administration that commits electronics eavesdropping without a search warrant. Every president reserves the right to do it. Even sainted Democratic ones.

Why are liberals so sensitive about the government’s national security spying? Doesn’t everyone agree that the first duty of government to protect its citizens from enemies foreign and domestic? Not quite. Sometimes liberals in their idealistic youth say things and do things that were better kept private.

Were liberals dabbling in communism in the 1930s? Did some of them actually pass sensitive documents to the Soviets during the very time that millions were dying in the Great Terror? Did the occasional liberal pop over to Paris in the early 1970s to coordinate anti-war activities with the North Vietnamese? Are liberal journalists in the Noughties leaking sensitive national security information that may cost American lives? Never mind. It’s none of your business. There is a right to privacy in the constitution, remember, and the United States is a nation of laws and not of men.

Liberals have elevated the idea of the right to privacy into a grand constitutional doctrine. It applies to liberal bedrooms, liberal faculty lounges, liberal union halls, and liberal political meetings. Liberals demand the privacy to abort their babies without a whisper of social control, and they demand the privacy to form and operate without interference political groups, some of which, like International ANSWER, appear to be funded by nations in the Axis of Evil.

But don’t imagine that you have a right to privacy. You think you have the right to build a house on your property? Only if the county planning and urban design department agrees. You think that your financial transactions deserve a veil of privacy? Not at all. Your employer and your financial institution have already blabbed everything to Uncle Sam. You think that your business should be free of inspection by fire, health, safety, or environmental enforcement officers except upon probable cause? Dream on, pal.

There is an eternal principle at work here. Governments should keep out of everything that is private to liberals, but should not be restrained from investigating anything that is private to conservatives.

But hey, who needs privacy? In opposition to the liberal privacy tradition there is another notion of how Americans should live. It is the tradition represented by John Hancock, who signed his name on the Declaration of Independence good and large so that King George could read it. Hancock was a public man who wanted his acts to be public. He acted according to a tradition that says that a public man should live his life in public, and refrain from any word or act that could not be repeated honorably in public. It is the ethos of the merchant whose word is his bond, and whose currency is the trust others repose in him, and it has entered into modern discourse as the idea of “transparency.” The more transparent your life and your affairs, the more that other people can trust you.

There is a universal grandeur about the principle of transparency. It commits the conservative to the great trajectory of life, from birth to productive adulthood, to marriage, parenthood, and then in the fullness of time to decay to death. But the purpose of liberal privacy is to license liberals to veer off the trajectory of life, choosing not to serve their fellow humans but to service their personal creativity, choosing not children but childlessness, choosing not to honor the land of their birth but to “challenge” it. In this liberals demand the right to become irrelevant.

Let us not deny liberals their rights. That would be insensitive. Let us rather admit that the present living law of the United States affords liberals an unlimited right to privacy. Let us formalize the present living law of the land into written, beneficial legislation. It would guarantee liberals an absolute right to privacy, and it would confirm conservatives in the truth of transparency.

That’s as it should be. Let’s keep liberals in their holy bubble with their sacrament of privacy. The rest of us will just have to put our shoulders to the wheel in the real world, as we have to do anyway.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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presented by Christopher Chantrill

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