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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6052/keep-your-distance/

Keep Your Distance

December 21, 2006 by

I’ve never been a privacy freak. A tax freak, yes. I take a realistic view of the world so I’m willing to contribute an annual sawbuck for smooth and unpotholed highways. And maybe another 20-30 dollars a year so the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, Coast Guard and Alabama National Guard can protect me from those who would kill me with glee.

But privacy – I guess I’ve been weak on it because my life is legally blameless. Besides a few transactions with friends dealing with our different assessments of NFL football teams, I have little to hide. My phone conversations, too, are totally innocent except for my constant deprecation of a cousin who I lent 25 bucks to thirty years ago – and who I still malign to our mutual relatives. When he pays me I’ll shut up.
So, my quarrel with government doesn’t focus on privacy. But I understand the sensitivity of those who detest the idea of Big Brother poking around in their banking transactions, phone records, and email. They decry the violation of privacy even if their internet searches involve homemade nuclear bomb instructions. I understand their concern and I’m quick to point that strangely some federal, state, and municipal solons are on their side of the privacy war. (And by the way, so is that bribe-besotted Defender of Freedom – Kofi Annan – who just lectured President Bush on “democratic ideals”.) There’s libraries of poorly written, word-wobbly legislation that keeps healers from seeing our medical records and even prevents spouses from acting for each other: “Hello, I’m Mr. Roberts acting on behalf of Mrs. Roberts: would you transfer her IRA assets from Fund A to Fund B?” Then proudly I pass the birthday, social security number, and maiden name test. It’s OK, success! Victory!. . . until a chilly voice says, “OK, what’s the serial number on the engine block of her 1985 Buick and if you know that, what’s the address of the Museum of Rock and Roll History i Belgrade, Yugoslavia?”

Privacy! There’s a price for everything. Even free range chickens need fences. But the government’s role in shielding our private lives was vividly demonstrated in my neighborhood pharmacy. Big sign:

“OUT OF RESPECT FOR
THE PRIVACY OF OUR
PATIENTS,

PLEASE STAND BACK A
REASONABLE
DISTANCE WHILE
PATIENT COUNSELING
IS IN PROGRESS.

THANK YOU”

See, it’s a law. Does that say it all or what? My pharmacist assures me that he doesn’t have time to think up such jokes.

What is this? A defense against infectious diseases or are the Feds protecting my reputation – pushing the neighbors back out of hearing range so they won’t know I contracted several disreputable social diseases? See, the government DOES value your privacy.

{ 6 comments }

Anonymous December 21, 2006 at 10:59 pm

Have you ever looked at the details of the HIPAA disclosures every doctor’s office gives you? They won’t disclose your medical information to your spouse without a signed form on record. But they will share it with your insurance company and absolutely any government agency with a plausible excuse for wanting it. Frankly, I’m not particular concerned about whether my wife finds out first from me or my doctor that I caught strep from a coworker. I don’t want that information in the hands of anyone who has demonstrated that their interests are at odds with my own.

Artisan December 22, 2006 at 5:41 am

the 23rd Chaos Communication Congress
takes place in Berlin Dec 27th.:
http://events.ccc.de/congress/2006/Home

They’re mostly concerned with privacy and I’d say it’s one of the most brilliant libertarian institution in Germany from what I’ve heard.

They say our last chance against the police State is cryptography.

Horatio December 22, 2006 at 7:33 am

FYI, small wagers between friends are perfectly legal

hz December 22, 2006 at 9:16 am

peripherally relevant:

when did pharmacists start referring to “customers” as “patients”? I am a “patient” of my doctor, not my pharmacist. I don’t seem to recall when pharmacists adopted this language, but I don’t think it was in use 10 years ago.

ted roberts December 22, 2006 at 9:42 am

Horation – maybe, but its totally dependent on the evil inclinations of the DA, the state you live in, the amount of the bet, and whether the DA is your cousin or brother in law.

ted roberts December 22, 2006 at 9:45 am

Hz, what an interesting name. Pharmacists call people by different titles, ranging from “hey you” to patient to customer. Maybe I’ve lucked into a great pharmacist. Thanks for your comment. ted

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