Surveillance program initially mentioned here at America’s Right is about more than just surveillance
Okay, I’ll quit gloating about how on Wednesday, June 17–four days before a similar story appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on the Drudge Report–our own Ronald Glenn wrote about the sleepy city of Lancaster, PA being a surveillance testing ground for Bosch Security Systems. His take on the program, specifically the reaction to it, was quite different than that of the Times.
Ron talked to folks on both the political left and right. Those on the left, he said, were concerned that the program would be abused by local officials, as Lancaster is a longtime Republican stronghold. Those on the right were similarly concerned about privacy issues, but from what he said seemed a little more at ease with the practicality involved.
If it were me, I’d like to know why the system was in place. I’m no more familiar with Lancaster than any Philadelphian who ends up there on a fall weekend in search of the Amish and birch beer, but I cannot imagine that the crime as reported by the Times warrants the installation of a surveillance system which rivals or surpasses those in the largest American cities.
It is understandable that the mere presence of a camera deters crime. It’s why they’re prominently displayed in stores and bank branches. It’s why fake cameras–complete with blinking red light–are sold to people and business owners alike who cannot afford real ones. But I have a problem with the idea that blanket surveillance is the cure to society’s ills, and it’s probably not the problem you might think I’d have with it.
No, it’s not the constitutional privacy issue. In fact, contrary to belief of many on the left and right in America, there is no express right to privacy in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Yes, there are phrases and provisions here and there throughout, much like an improvisational device constructed by MacGyver from a drinking straw, Rosary beads and a jar of diaper creme. The Third Amendment protects us from mandatory quartering of soldiers in private homes, but is silent on privacy. The Ninth Amendment has been read to protect aganist the denial or disparagement of “other rights retained by the people” but, for the most part, the blanket privacy argument has been a stretch. Even the Fourth, considered by most to contain the elusive right to privacy, was designed to enjoin British soldiers from searching colonists’ homes for tax stamps, and has more to say about unreasonable search and seizure than the relatively nebulous concept of privacy.
So, if not the constitutional argument, then what’s my problem with it? Well, it’s the idea that we trade freedom for security. It’s the idea that the people simply cannot take care of themselves. It’s the idea that so-called “big brother”–though, in the case of Lancaster, it’s a private company–is necessary because we’re otherwise helpless.
The truth is, we’re not. In fact, our founders saw fit to provide us with all the protection we need. The right to keep and bear arms, as provided in the Second Amendment, allows for protection both active (read: dead burglar) and passive (nobody wants to rob the home of a gun owner).
There is no better example of this than the formerly sleepy town of Kennesaw, GA. Twenty-seven years ago, in March 1982, the local government responded to a new gun ban in a similarly-sized Illinois town by passing an ordinance requiring that each and every homeowner in the town own a gun, maintain a gun, and know how to use it. Before the law was passed, Kennesaw had a crime rate of 4,332 per 100,000, higher than the national average; as of 2005, Kennesaw had a crime rate of 2,027 per 100,000 — even though the population jumped from 5,242 to 28,189 in the 23-year period, and the location of the town just north of an expanding Atlanta.
The people can handle themselves. At the end of the day, the problem with programs like that in Lancaster is that it takes the power away from the people and puts it in the hands of a single, centralized entity. It’s a microcosm of everything being done, over and beyond matters of surveillance and crime and guns, on the federal level. More and more, the people are distrusted. We no longer are deemed competent enough to manage our banks, to build and sell our cars, to hold bad teachers and substandard schools accountable for an inadequate education, and to take care of our own through private, personal generosity.
Yes, the Bosch project adds jobs, but those eyes glued to a camera to protect against crime is akin to a the watchdog providing oversight for a federal spending program that America would be better off without in the first place. If you truly want to protect the American people, from crime and meltdown alike, get to the root of the problem — make crime unattractive, through a responsibly armed populace and a private sector allowed to grow and create paying jobs; make watchdog-required government programs rare, through faith in a free market and free society.
In the meantime, if you’re in Lancaster, asking what the heck is wrong with an internal combustion engine–or a button, for that matter–be sure to smile for the camera. Because they’re watching. And not why you think.