1984-Style Surveillance, Today
Mr. Orwell had pinpointed an essential cause of the Party's survival: its capacity to monitor every aspect of its subjects' lives. The previous despotisms had crumbled due to their inability to detect and suffocate divergent thoughts; while they received compliance in deed, dissent brewed in secrecy, eventually expanding to bring about the overthrow of the dominant elite and the institution of a less oppressive regime. However, with concealed cameras at every corner, disguised agents of the Thought Police prowling every street for suspicious figures, and the industrial capacities of the nation aimed at perfecting such predatory mechanisms, trends toward rebellion in Oceania are spotted and suppressed in their early stages. A parallel can be produced to the theoretical suggestions of Mr. Dewey, who proposed that schools remain continually vigilant in regard to the private lives of their students and even (as was also the purpose of the Spies in Oceania) recruit the youths themselves to watch their relatives with suspicion, all with the motive of broadening the influence of the socialist State. Such a system is already being employed to note "mental illness trends" in students, yet its imposition spreads to other fields. This essay aims to spot the menace and discover connections between its various branches and the ultimate source.
A national identification system is opposed to the fundamental principles of this country, which are founded on the right to life and the Fourth Amendment right to privacy stemming from it. Because an individual is most competent to rationally determine his means to happiness, he should remain capable of undertaking such endeavors without the intervention of agencies that believe in their "superior" capacity of designing the man's life. Only when the particular person had committed a crime or is under such suspicion, is a court authorized to furnish a search warrant regarding the individual's property. A national ID system will, however, retain track of numerous aspects of the property and background of persons whom there exists no reason to suspect of faulty activity. Its implementation would be an act of imposing substantial punishment, through restriction and surveillance, on men who have not been proven guilty, nor whose innocence had ever been put to question! It is unconstitutional at its core, yet initiatives for its imposition have gained ground during past years. Mr. Roger F. Gay examines the means by which this abomination is taking hold of our lives.
"Changes in technology have left a nation confused about how the modern national ID system is implemented. Visions of passports with stamped pages need to be replaced with the modern reality of the computer age. Centrally located file cabinets filled with hand written cards have been replaced by interconnected databases in a huge distributed system. It has long since been understood that safeguarding our freedom requires limiting the government's access to personal information. Where a legitimate purpose is served, government agencies have been allowed to accumulate limited information for specific purposes. Over the past decade a dramatic shift has taken place. The government has developed the ability to accumulate the maximum amount of information and provided central access to an army of low level bureaucrats. All signs indicate that this is just a beginning. During the eight years of the Clinton administration, the federal government spent approximately four billion dollars developing a national database system for keeping track of intimate details of the lives of all Americans. Funding, and in fact the project itself was never held up for close public scrutiny. Most of the people reading this article have never heard of the project. Of those who have, many probably believe it was either shut down for lack of public support, or limited in purpose. In order to understand the potential of such a system it is worthwhile to consider its cost. Four billion dollars is a huge amount of money to spend on development of a computer system. It could buy more than sixty million hours (thirty thousand years) of engineering consulting time. It is enough to pay 130,000 people an average income for one year. It is more than enough to buy a million modern desktop computers; each one powerful enough to manage a database containing information about every man, woman, and child in the United States, and then some." (Roger F. Gay, professional analyst and director of the Project for Improvement of Child Support Litigation Technology. "Too Late to Stop National ID", Enter Stage Right Internet Magazine, December 3, 2001.)
The enormous funds as well as the superb technologies expended on such an initiative are intended to increase the level of intervention statist regulators possess in matters which are constitutionally off-limits to them. In dictatorships of the past, the possession and stamping of a passport posed an annoyance to an individual forced to interact with members of the Soviet Militia or the Gestapo, but even under such regimes men were relatively free when not located near checkpoints without their documents in proper order, in comparison to the destructive capacity of constant monitoring which a computerized database would enable. A man's political preferences, the quality of his grocery store purchases, the literature recently obtained by him, as well as his recent social tendencies could well be recorded in such a colossal system without substantial consumption of time. Government officials could with ease obtain the schedules of trains and airplanes, as well as the identities of the men to whom tickets had been sold in order to detect one's location wherever one may be. What is horrifying to a greater extent, however, is that the information would become accessible not merely to top ranks in the government, but to lower-level personnel capable of launching investigations against law-abiding individuals for "abnormal" financial activities (such as too great a withdrawal from their own bank accounts), or "unusual appearance", or an expression of an unpopular opinion. The secretary of an associate professor of sociology for a government university in another state would possess the authority to access private data and possibly employ it to restrain harmless deeds because they were determined "socially unacceptable" by a recent poll of twelve leaders of the most left-wing activist groups on campus. Intimate personal details would be rendered available to bureaucrats just in case.
But will they remain for usage just in case or will they transcend such an arbitrary designation to the realm of immediate restriction and regulation? Despite the fervent denials on the part of identification system planners, historical trends and present applications have demonstrated the latter scenario.
"Those in Congress who promoted the system promised repeatedly that it would only be used to track child support payments and people who are supposed to pay. But as soon as the system could function, that cover was blown. The database became known as the 'National Directory of New Hires.' The name reflected the first strategy for registering people. Rather than registering child support debtors, everyone taking a new job would be registered. This strategy eventually shifted to registration of everyone with a job, a social security number, a driver's license, a bank account, a [telefone;] anyone for which there is a source of information. You can be located whatever you do, and the government will know what you do." (Roger F. Gay, professional analyst and director of the Project for Improvement of Child Support Litigation Technology. "Too Late to Stop National ID", "Enter Stage Right" Internet Magazine, December 3, 2001.)
This is not merely a present fenomenon. The first surveillance initiative undertaken by the United States government had occurred, not so coincidentally, in the 1930s under the Franklin Roosevelt administration. Its original purpose (itself an immoral one, when conducted via the government) was to provide retirement funds for American workers. Eloquent promises had been issued that its utility would remain confined to the issuing of pensions, but its name suggested the truth. The program's number is today the leading means of identifying an individual, from whom it is demanded on nearly all official documents. Its name? Social security. It is not a mere humanitarian effort, as FDR-style demagogues had packaged it to seem, but one of "securing the stability of the dominant societal elite." Under compassionate guise, one assumed by numerous Witch Doctor initiatives, it came, both in its pyramid-scheme expropriation and its function as a national ID system, to serve as a shackle for all Americans instead of a lifeline for the retired. The very socialists who advocated Deweyite doctrine and constant surveillance of the populace had designed a crafty precedent to modern schemes of similar underhandedness.
The monitoring and arrest of persons for suspicious financial transactions is not a merely hypothetical situation. It has experienced an outburst in recent years through government-advocated programs within banks known as "Know Your Customer" policies. Ms. Lisa S. Dean of the Free Congress Foundation provides alarming facts concerning these initiatives.
"A year ago last month, federal banking agencies withdrew their proposal that would force banks across the country to monitor the account activity of their customers. The proposal was called, innocently, 'Know Your Customer.' While the proposal itself was withdrawn, the American Banking Association reported last year that 86 per cent of banks in the U.S. have installed a 'Know Your Customer' type of surveillance system to record and monitor their customers' banking activity and to report any deviation from that customer's normal pattern of activity to the federal government, who would then contact the customer and launch an investigation in to the nature of the deviation and determine whether the customer was guilty of a crime, such as money laundering or drug trafficking. The federal government has encouraged such actions on the part of banks by telling them 'when in doubt, file', and granting banks legal immunity from any mistakes they might make, such as reporting an innocent customer. This has resulted in innocent citizens being caught up in a web of bureaucracy. Banks are reportedly filing suspicious activity reports on customers. When the federal government launches an investigation into that person's activities and source of funds, it has to freeze the assets of the person under investigation. The result is that until federal agents come to the conclusion, as they are in many cases, that the person being investigated was reported by his bank in error, that person's life is turned upside down while the feds snoop into his affairs to make sure that the money he claims to be from a year-end bonus or willed to him from his grandmother's estate is actually true." (Lisa S. Dean, Vice President for Technology Policy at the Free Congress Foundation. "The effects of the Clinton Administration now a harsh reality", "Enter Stage Right" Internet Magazine, May 8, 2000.)
Why are legal disposals of one's property targeted by the government? Why, specifically, had banks been informed that the condemnation of innocent people is none of their fault? The reason arrives following some deliberation. What does an individual who withdraws large sums of money wish? Considering that the number of such men exceeds by far the quantity of drug traffickers and launderers, the purpose is purely personal, for a large endeavor in the improvement of one's own living conditions. Whether it be a new business, a vehicle, a home, or a gilded top hat, these are means for the uplifting if not of the material state of existence, at least the self-esteem and friendliness of atmosfere essential to the competent function of the mind. Those individuals are targeted precisely because they seek to ameliorate their conditions, for the goal of a regulating oligarchy is to inflict suffering and to prevent their ascent to happiness. Financial independence is merely one aspect of self-sufficiency that the statists target. It is of no import to the Witch Doctors that no conceivable breach of legislation had been undertaken by the extremely moral citizens who had withdrawn their funds; in Oceania what mattered was not the law (of which there was naught), but the whims of the ruling elite.
A crucial aim of constant surveillance, as revealed by Mr. Orwell and confessed by Mr. Dewey, is to ensure government control over children as optimal carriers of irrational dogma. This practice is gradually expanding to areas outside the official educational establishment. Again, compassionate disguises are required to set fuel to the fire. The unlikely menace emerges from the notion of child abuse, of the infliction of the most malignant harms upon youths under the pretext of preventing their suffering.
"The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 is explicit about the rewards. Under a section called 'Adoption Incentive Payment,' the act says a state can receive as much as $4,000 for adopting-out a child. There is even a provision offering technical assistance 'through grants or contracts ... to assist States and local communities to reach their targets for increased numbers of adoptions and, to the extent that adoption is not possible, alternative permanent placements, for children in foster care.' The money from incentives, grants, and contracts goes directly into the coffers of child protection agencies when they adopt-out children. Who benefits? 'Social workers, diagnosticians, attorneys, foster homes and group homes, to name a few,' says Susan Jackson of CPS Watch, a watchdog organization that monitors Child Protective Services. 'These folks are fed by a child abuse industry to the tune of well over $12 billion.' Collectively, they form the Child Abuse Industry. CPS Watch has been carefully monitoring child abuse investigations since 1998, the year after passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act. Alaska, it found, reported 15,703 child maltreatment referrals from a child population of 192,261 - or one report for every twelve children - that year. In 1998, according to a federal Department of Health and Human Services report, Kansas removed 1,872 children from their homes. But only 1,104 of the investigations substantiated the charges of abuse. The report states that 272 children were removed from families for reasons 'unknown' in Ohio the same year." (Wendy McElroy, Editor of ifeminists.com, a non-collectivism-based women’s rights organization. "Your Child is Worth Money to the State", July 31, 2001.)
Innocent children, who would have remained perfectly content and prosperous in the homesteads of their legitimate parents, are transferred to more "preferable" locations. This practice serves the purpose mentioned by Ms. McElroy of supplying the academic establishment, precisely that wing of it most committed to social regulation (for their very existence in professions of their field and their general ideological commitments depend on it), with funds to expand their vigilance. Yet there exists another motive detectable through the vague criteria of "abuse" and the allowance of loopholes to justify the kidnapping of children. Reasons "unknown" are not reasons of the law; they have been approved by no elected officials, by no popular vote, by no absolute manifestation of rights. They are wretched and immoral to the ultimate extent, for they are not even broadcast! Their revelation in a country founded upon freedom would result in the rightful incrimination of bureaucrats undertaking the child trade. In essence, parents can be deprived of their offspring without legitimate cause. What may the clandestine explanation be? It is certainly a shameful and illegal one (otherwise it would have been stated). It may be that the ideologies of the parents are too thoroughly capitalist or individualist or rationalist, and the values they convey to their heirs oppose the "mainstream" current of academia. Perhaps the parents are overly intelligent, and their mentoring of their descendants would result in an unfair "monopolizing" of public school resources by the spectacularly successful performance of several students. Or the parents have refused to comply with a school request to dose their children with psychiatric drugs proven to result in violence, drug consumption, depression and suicide... In any of the above scenarios, the schools and the government would possess awareness, frequently through the children themselves (taught to be little snitches by Big Brother Dewey's disciples), or through "professionals" of the "most modern educational training" with the most updated personal resources accessible to them from newly established computerized databases. With such knowledge, official justifications are not required to transport a promising youth into a more "socially acceptable" setting in order to stifle his radiance.
The expansion of bureaucratic intrusions into private lives and the accumulation of petty personal details is in reality the gathering of a most potent arsenal against individualism. The oligarchs’ aim is not mere subservience of the flesh, but of the mind, and for such a realization there must occur stringent imposition of the minutest aspects of one's life, from the food one eats, to the clothing one wears, to the entertainment one listens to, to the literature one reads, to the political convictions one holds. Monitoring itself is key to that purpose and possesses other side effects, the suffocation of merit and the indoctrination of youth among them. It is fysically coercive as well as mind-warping. But this can be expected of a practice which is the backbone of enduring orthodoxy. Its efficiency can be manifested through the present attitudinal reliance upon it.
"Imagine a state in which you must register your name and address with the authorities, just so they can find you in case you break the law. In an age when bills vaunting protections for privacy abound, and when surveys of consumers rank privacy as a top concern, could that happen here? It is already happening. When we rely on the federal government to solve our problems, we invite it to intrude upon our privacy. We are asking Big Brother to come in and make himself at home." ("How Big Brother Began", Solveig Singleton, Cato Institute)
The above passage reveals the core of the result the regulators seek to achieve, the formation of trust between them and the public, a voluntary submission to oppression and tyranny. Their masquerading under seemingly decent initiatives such as providing retirement funds for the elderly and protecting children from violation are perceived on faith to be the extent of their designs. Yet practical results demonstrate to the contrary. The naïveté of the citizenry (itself imposed by the Deweyites and other subordination- worshipping cliques) morally sanctions that citizenry's own destruction.
G. Stolyarov II is an actuary, science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre, Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, former weekly columnist for GrasstopsUSA.com, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. Mr. Stolyarov’s blog, The Progress of Liberty, offers a combination of commentary, multimedia presentations, educational materials, and suggestions for effective activism in favor of individual freedom. Mr. Stolyarov also publishes his articles on Helium.com and Associated Content to assist the spread of rational ideas. He holds the highest Clout Level (10) possible on Associated Content. Mr. Stolyarov has also written a science fiction novel, Eden against the Colossus, a non-fiction treatise, A Rational Cosmology, and a play, Implied Consent. You can watch his YouTube Videos. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Statement of Policy.
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