Background: Stossel has stated his view many times, including in these two Reason articles (here, here). I think this summarizes his argument best:
“So it's invasive, probably illegal and maybe useless. I ought to be very angry. But I'm not. Why?
I need to keep thinking about this issue, but for now, two reasons:
- Terrorists do want to murder us. If the NSA is halfway competent, Big Data should help detect plots.
- My electronic privacy has already been utterly shredded by Google, Amazon, YouTube and so on.
They know with whom I talk, what interests me and how much time I spend doing this or that. They creep me out with targeted ads. How did they know I want that?! Oh, right ... I spent an hour searching ...
Then I go outside in New York City, where 16 cameras record me on my way to work.
Greedy lawyers can subpoena my private records. My employer has a right to read my emails.
My privacy is already blown.
I'm angrier about other things Big Government does in the name of keeping me safe: forcing me to wear safety gear, limiting where I may go, stripping me at airports, forcing me to pay $2,300 for more military than we need.”For a libertarian, Stossel’s take on the NSA spying is mind-boggling at first glance, but he does have a point. There’s a hundred other things to be angry about, and more. Some which have been around a long time, unlike the news of NSA spying. Naturally we are focused on that topic while it’s hot, and for good reason, strategically: now is the time to nip it in the bud, before it becomes entrenched policy like the 100 other things in John Stossel’s list.
Stossel is not wrong to prefer certain freedoms over others. We all have our own preferences. For a famous media figure, privacy is largely "blown", in exchange for the other rewards that come with your work. That’s fine… but what about the rest of us? Not all of us make that choice. And it is our right to do so, as much as any other right.
Stossel argues that private companies have a lot of our data. But surely the difference is glaring. We gave these private companies our information. The NSA, on the other hand, takes it by force.
What about the terrorists? I say, what about the 4th amendment? We are not going to give that up, are we, John?
Stossel is a spokesman for the cause of liberty. We’re disappointed because he doesn't seem interested in defending a right he personally doesn't find important. We don't ask that he change his own preferences, but merely that he defend all of our freedoms. Likewise, there are freedoms I would not find personally important- such as the freedom to smoke marijuana- but I will vigorously oppose the drug war because it is right to do so and because it has negative consequences on me (e.g. higher tax and crime rates). There's also negative consequences from NSA spying: higher taxes, people refraining from exercising their rights because the government is watching their data, etc.
I hope you're on the way to being convinced, Mr. Stossel. If not, what is wrong with our rebuttal? Now is the perfect time to defend privacy, while momentum is on our side. Please join us!