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Sunday, September 27, 2015

How the State is Breaking the Social Contract

This is a brief epistemology arguing the U.S. government is in violation of the Lockean "social contract" and is likely to remain in a state of violation. I am not arguing for the overthrow of the government, but for individuals to seek tools to protect their own privacy. If this argument holds, it would also mean that it is immoral for governments to interfere with the self-defense of privacy online (via encryption, etc.)

Claim: The U.S Government no longer respects the right to privacy and is thus in violation of the social contract.

1. Privacy is a Natural Right.
  • State control of information much easier and less invasive today. Contextual right based on expectation of privacy (see Katz v. United States, 1967) is unenforceable, since the “expectation of privacy” has been eroded away by nearly limitless spying capabilities (see Xkeyscore).
  • If privacy is to be considered a right at all, it must be defended as a natural right, since it is impossible to defend oneself against arbitrary power if the state can intercept your most sensitive communications at will. 

2. The U.S. Government is strongly incentivized to abuse individual privacy.
  • Voters don't care about privacy, and generally don't understand complex issues involved.
  • Congress faces little pressure from an ignorant public so poor oversight of executive power will likely remain routine.
  • Courts have little choice but to rule “no standing” on secret authority, so justice is unlikely through normal channels.

3. The U.S. Government is centralizing authority within the executive.
  • Bush and the Unitary Executive: The pressures of the War on Terror force the centralization of power in a "strong man" executive.
  • Abuse of PATRIOT Act powers were rampant within the NSA, but unknown publicly until Snowden's whistleblowing. 
  • The centralizing of executive power means that legislative authority is playing a diminishing role in governance, and is less to reign in threats to privacy rights.

4. The diminution of technical barriers to absolute power is detrimental to privacy.
  • Xkeyscore: NSA can query massive database and look at content of messages without warrants.
  • The Five Eyes Alliance proves that states get around legal and technical barriers to domestic spying by sharing information among each other. 
  • Since these capabilities grew in secret until a very risky lawbreaking occurred (the Snowden leaks), and such monumental leaks are very rare, it is reasonable to assume the legal barriers to government spying are likely to remain behind technical capabilities.

5. Since its abuses of privacy are rampant and likely to remain unchecked by other branches, the Executive is in violation of the social contract.
  •  This means that individuals must seek alternatives to enforce their own privacy rights, since government interests are opposed.


  1. This being my first trip to this blogsite, I'll say only that there's much to contemplate here. Whether it's all worth the time it consumes remains to be known. Thanks.

  2. I aim to spark contemplation. Thanks for commenting Dean.