When citizens complain about the NSA snooping like a peeping Tom, what is the basis for that complaint?
Why is it wrong for the government to snoop into citizen’s lives? We all have an inner spidey-sense or moral imperative that says, “That is wrong,” but can we explain why it’s wrong?
If the highest ethic is safety and the government can best “keep us safe” through excessive snooping, than clearly safety would trump privacy? How should governments, lawyers, and judges address these issues? And is “because the constitution says so” a real answer to the question, “Why is our right to privacy an actual right?”
Notice that the Declaration of Independence sought of to explain “WHY” they thought their actions were right, and where those rights came from when they said,
Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed
Notice that the founders said we get our rights from the “Laws of Nature” and “Nature’s God.” And these truthes are “self-evident” and are “endowed by our Creator.” (That’s the Jeffersonian version of my “inner Spidey-sense.” Another way to say this is, ‘Any fool knows this is common sense!”) Further, they explain that the role of government is to “secure these rights.”
Our Creator gives us our right to privacy, life, liberty, property, presummed innocence, due process, and the pursuit of happiness. This is so key because if we get out rights from our Creator, the government can’t take them. If we are given our rights from the government or popular opinion, they could be taken or voted away. The founders knew that the best system for both the religous and irreligious among us was to secure rights directly from our Creator. This “deist” worldview was common sense and common thinking for most of humanity’s history (regardless of religious differences). The first major philosophical movement away from thinking our Creator was the source of rights came about the time of Fredrick Neitszche. Fredrick noted in his poem, “The Madman” that when you disconnect rights and morality from God, you eventually lose sight of which way is up, down, left or right. Here’s how he said it
The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him—What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.
Even Fredrick realized the major problem with the movement he advocated was the loss of the ability to answer the question “Why.” We unanchor ourselves from the sun when we can’t articulate that our rights come from the “sun” (Our Creator). Fredrick eventually lost his sanity as he came to grips with the reality of a world without meaning, purpose, rights, or objective reality. His Christian mother cared for him as he sank into deep depression and darkness. His predictions were true. When you unchain the earth from the sun, you end up in an infinite nothing. Not able to explain the “why” for anything beyond, “I think it should be.”
We have a right to privacy because we get it from our Creator. Individuals loan their powers to the government to protect these rights. The government is to secure, not violate these rights -because that is the Creator inspired right thing to do. The government can only violate your right to privacy, property, or presummed innocence if they have enough evidence that you are not innocent. This is why government’s need a search warrant to come into our homes, tap our phones, or come onto our property. When government’s snoop on the innocence in the name of security, they have violated the moral law (The Law of Nature) and the rights given to those individuals by their Creator. That’s where our right to privacy comes from.
I address much of this and more in my new book “Godonomics” in the chapter, “What Would God Say to America’s Founders?” and ”What Would God Say to Karl Marx?”