Please reply in the comments. A reader writes with the following question:
I talked to my father about the NSA spying and asked him what he thought. He gave me a rational answer (and I consider libertarianism itself nothing if not rational). He said “who would want to listen to me? They’ll get bored if they do. This could save lives”. I went on an ideological spiel about slippery slopes and current socialist presidents. I also told him about how small of a chance it is that he will get blown up. Then I realized, he’s probably right in a way. What are the chances that we’ll see a REAL totalitarian president, or dictator in our lives? I mean we all love to hate Obama, but he’s not a dictator. I think for the vast majority of citizens to be listened to that’s what needs to happen. Then you have to think about the chances of a relative few listening in to 300 million people’s conversation. Seriously what are the chances of that? It also probably has to be every minute of every conversation. I can’t imagine going on anti-government spiels very often, so the government has to listen in at the exactly right time. I’m tempted to say that the chances of all of this happening are smaller (if not far smaller) than getting blown up in a bus in NY (where I live). Where I live also shouldn’t matter, because libertarianism should prevail in NY as much as Kansas for it to be an honest ideology.
However, say the odds of getting blown up and thrown into prison for speaking ill of the government are the same. Assume you don’t get the death penalty for saying the standard “Obama is an idiot” remark that one may make. Is liberty really more important than life? We all love Patrick Henry’s speech of “give me liberty or give me death”. Something tells me however, normal human instinct of self preservation will take over and the majority of us will take life. I know libertarians like to pretend they’d take liberty because of cognitive dissonance. Or maybe libertarians are outliers. Consider this though, from 2000-2002 the amount of death by suicide in prison (don’t know if this includes short term though) was less than a third. So the MOST restrictive lack of freedom resulted in less of a 3rd suicides. I don’t know how many were lifers and how many attempts failed. Even if you bump it up to 50%, this is prison. My family comes from a totalitarian state (Soviet Union). Most people made due. No one lived in a cell. No one had a limit for how long they can stay out. No one was forced to eat one type of food. No one was forced to go to the bathroom in front of someone else. No one had a good chance of getting killed or raped. Let’s face if, 50% of the people attempting suicide in prison probably translates to far less people in a totalitarian state choosing death over tyranny. That’s not even taking into account the fact that we probably won’t have a totalitarian state that will monitor every minute of every phone call. Is it possible that NSA spying is the only rational way?