Sunday, December 13, 2009

Privacy: Is it only for people doing bad things?

When businesses get big they often suck up to the authorities. Consider the ass kissing Google CEO Eric Schmidt referring to how Google keeps track of people's searches and will happily turn them over to the government. His response is: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." Really? So Mr. Schmidt how many times per month do you masturbate? Clearly that is not a privacy issue any more since, if you don't want people to know about it, you shouldn't be doing it.

This contempt for privacy is bad news for Google in that is is very off-putting. At one point they fought the State for the privacy of their clients now they roll over and take it up... well, you get my point. But if they didn't want people to know that's what they are doing they shouldn't be doing it in the first place.

The problem with bigness in corporations is not that they are big but that the tend to become institutions which have no common sense. They take on an ethos of their own which pushes them into the Statist camp. When people lose individual responsibility they act badly and when people act as a "group," as they do in corporations, they tend to act badly. It is the same phenomenon that we witness in mob behavior. People act badly in large groups in ways that would never do individually.

The same thing happens with the moral senses of government. Bureaucrats have no conscience because they don't act as individuals in their minds, but as cogs in the machine called government. Felix Morley wrote that "the State has no conscience, and is primarily a mechanism of material power..." It has no conscience precisely because it a collective body acting where no individual within the body feels totally responsibility. When people can pass responsibility for their actions to others they tend to act irresponsibly. The State does that and large institutions, such as corporations, can do the same thing (I recognize that corporations have a countervailing force that makes them less susceptible to the eradication of conscience—they can't compel customers without the State and they have to make a profit.)

In 2008 Schmidt argued that the reason Google rolls over is "the government has guns and we don't." But, of course, there are many ways of fighting state intrusion that doesn't require guns, such as in the courts. And that can be done in many different ways.