More on Privacy

Don at Anger Management linked to my last post, as well as to a related post at Coyote Blog that I suggest you read for details on why the Roe v. Wade decision is a disaster that just hasn't exploded in our faces yet. I commented further in Don's comment section.

I would also like to address a question that a couple people have asked. Quoting Jason Kuznicki in Anger Management's comments: "[W]as it not Ayn Rand who wrote that civilization is the progress toward... privacy? How would you distinguish her claim from those "bad" privacy rights that infringe on property?"

For the short answer, let me draw an analogy. You do not have a right to a house; you have a right to buy a house with money you earn by your productive effort. You do not have the right to health care, you have the right to trade for health care with the money you earn by your productive effort. You do not have a right to privacy, you have the right to use your property and right to contract to prevent others from learning things which you would like them not to.

Now, lets consider what Ayn Rand wrote [this is in the courtroom speech of Howard Roark in The Fountainhead; I will refer to the paperback edition of For the New Intellectual, which has the speech reprinted in it]:
"Now observe the results of a society built on the principle of individualism. This, our country. The noblest country in the history of men. The country of greatest achievement, greatest prosperity, greatest freedom. This country was not based on selfless service, sacrifice, renunciation or any precept of altruism. It was based on man's right to the pursuit of happiness. His own happiness. Not anyone else's. A private, personal, selfish motive. Look at the results. Look into your own conscience.

"It is an ancient conflict. Men have come close to the truth, but it was destroyed each time and one civilization fell after another. Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men."[For the New Intellectual, pp. 83-84]
I take this as saying that privacy is a value, and I agree, but I don't take it as saying that it is a right.

As I said in my comments on NoodleFood:
Think of what such a "right" to say, "Don't look at me," or "Don't listen to me, even when I say, 'don't listen to me'," would mean. What kind of right could there be to have people not perceive you? Keep in mind that perceiving is not a volitional process. You couldn't prevent yourself from the possibility of violating another's "right" not to be seen, until you *did* see them and averted your gaze. To avoid violating that "right", you would have to avoid seeing anything at all.
What you do have the right to do is to use your property to keep something private; putting it behind walls, in locked containers, using your right to contract with those which you will let have private knowledge to make an agreement on whom they can pass the knowledge onto, etc.

[Update 08/04/2005 12:40 AM]: Don Watkins elaborates well on this tonight, which makes me very grateful, as I don't always have the time for all of the things that I would like to say.


At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Might it be that the left is concerned to get privacy for aggression, and that it suits their preferences, to equivocate privacy for aggression, with real privacy?


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