As I was saying on the phone last night…
The right to privacy rests largely on a presumption of innocence [says Wendy McElroy]. It assumes that — in the absence of evidence of wrongdoing — an individual has a right to shut his front door and tell other people (including government) to mind their own business.
Today, this assumption has been twisted inside out so that a desire for privacy means you have something to hide. You are expected to prove your innocence by revealing every financial transaction, by filling in pages of government paperwork, by allowing state agents to frisk your person and property when you board a plane or enter a public building. These invasions rest upon the presumption of guilt…
Historically, privacy has stood on the side of liberty as a bulwark between the individual and government, between freedom and social control….
“If you have nothing to hide…” the remark begins; it always ends with a demand for compliance. Invoking privacy has gone from being the exercise of a right to an indication of guilt.
This is a sleight of hand by which privacy is redefined as “concealment” or “secrecy”; of course, it is neither. It is merely a request for the personal to remain personal…
Everyone has areas of utter privacy to protect. Some people wear lockets containing photos of deceased relatives; others daydream about a forbidden love; still other people lock the door while luxuriating in a hot bubble bath; or perhaps, they write a love letter that is meant for one other set of eyes only. These acts are a line drawn between the private and public sphere; they constitute a boundary over which no other human being can rightfully cross without invitation.
If a neighbour took it upon himself to read letters in your mailbox or copy down the details of deposits in a bankbook he “encountered” in your desk drawer, you would feel violated and enraged by the invasion. What is wrong for your neighbour to do is also wrong for a government agent to do, because there is only one standard of morality. Theft is theft; invasion is invasion. You have the right to slam the door on the face of anyone who says differently. A peaceful human being owes no debt to any other person.
Hold the state up to the same standard as your neighbours… because there are no double standards of right and wrong. Privacy is a right, not an admission of guilt. Your identity properly belongs to you… not to the state.
Did you hear that, fellers?