As you may recall, last week Rand Paul filibustered the renewal of the Patriot Act. We support his action and have outlined our logic on the matter, with the three lessons learned. We have spoken about “Information is power” and “Spying is an extraordinary thing.”
In this final part of our series I want to talk about a principle ingrained in my psyche, something I feel deep in my soul.
It should not be the role of a government to spy on its citizens.
Let’s talk philosophy for a second. Even if we can prevent corruption by strict checks on how information is used, should the government know everything about every citizen and thus have absolute control? Our founding fathers didn’t think so. They were afraid America would end up with a king and wanted to place strict limits on the government. Some say they wanted the government to be afraid of the people, that the people should be able to throw out the government through the elective process.
If the government has such power that it is able to suppress political action, then it is too strong. If whistleblowers are systematically caught and destroyed, and dissenters can be threatened and/or marginalized at will, then that government is despotic and power cannot be wrested from the abusers. Whether spying is having a man following you, tapping your phone or doing it remotely, it’s still spying. The purpose of a government is to serve its people. Yes security is important, but let’s not have the tail wagging the dog.
Are we at that point? No perhaps not. But one of my least favorite expressions applies here, the “slippery slope.” I’ve been in the old Soviet Union, and other places where the government watches your every move. I don’t want that for America.