Privacy in the Modern Age

Rachel Griffith P1


Private property is private, isn’t it? Private property by definition is “land or belongings owned by a person or group and kept for their exclusive use”[1]. Capitalism depends on private property and it is everything Communism stands against. Americans are proud that they live in a land that supposedly stands for freedom, meanwhile the United States is providing money and power to organizations that abuse their power and invade the privacy of civilians. Warrants are not used but private information is obtained. Property is thought of as land and materials, but what about the technology through which messages are sent and ideas are communicated [2]. Those messages are thought to be secure and untouched except by the recipient, but what if they are not?

Capitalism is “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market”[2]. Ludwig von Mises knew that the idea of freedom is hard to apply to an ever-growing population, especially with a higher power watching over them[4]. Freedom and liberty was and is something that has applied to a slim group of people. Mises says “Capitalism is not simply mass production, but mass production to satisfy the need of the masses”[4].  If that was true would the citizens be happy that their privacy is dwindling and far and few between. The citizens may be okay with warrants and knowing when their information is being viewed, but the secrecy the government keeps is not meant with good intentions. Privacy is part of private property and the fact that the people who are supposed to be protecting it are invading it is repulsive.

In Capitalism, “the consumer is king” according to Ludwig von Mises[4]. The consumer provides the demand and the corporation supplies. The government is a democracy in which the voters put certain people in power. The government is a mock version of most large corporations. Both have a president, a vice-president, divisions or sectors, and bosses who manage like governors or congressmen. The government is a business and it is meant to serve the citizens, but instead it serves itself and the people who run it. These people have other interest and needs that are being met when the violation of privacy occurs. The citizens need to know what is going on just like consumers need to know what they are buying.

The United States government claims to be protecting civilians against another terrorist attack. The government then funds organizations such as the National Security Agency (NSA) who has a reputation for invading the privacy of many civilians[5]. The NSA monitors civilians communications daily all through tax payers’ dollars. The best part about all of this, the NSA doesn’t use warrants and doesn’t communicate with the citizens that they are being monitored like little mice in a lab[6]. The tax payers deserve to know what is going on if they are contributing to these funds. Many people have read or heard about their invasion of privacy, but they don’t through tantrums. People don’t know where to complain. Others are terrified they would be considered a terrorist.

The government classifies things, most of the time it is to protect the citizens and not cause mass chaos, but other times it is because they are hypocrites of their laws and promises to the people, these people who gave them power. Sometimes there is one person who stands for what he or she believes in and in the most recent case that man is Edward Snowden. Edward Snowden worked for the NSA and after three months decided to release documents pertaining the surveillance practices[7]. The NSA called him a whistle blower and the created this idea that he was a terrorist for sharing documents[7]. They charged him The Espionage Act of 1917[7]. The Espionage Act defined espionage and was amended in 1918[8]. This act was meant be used in a time of war, not in a time of desperation[8]. Snowden chose what is right over what was easy. Snowden was just trying to follow Aristotle’s The Nicomachean Ethics of “seems to aim at some good”[9].  He now seeks refuge in Russia, considered a terrorist by the United States, a country he tried to help see the truth[8].

The United States has a long standing history of surveillance. They have used the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act since 1979[10]. In 1979, there were 199 applications requested and in that same year 207 granted[10]. Some of the previous years’ applications for spying had been passed in 1979. The number inclined at a steady rate from 1979 to 1995, but in the year 1996 the applications hit a high of 839 request and 839 acceptance for spying request[10]. The number of applications and acceptances plateaued until 2002, after September 11, 2001. The number grew to 1005 applications and 1012 acceptances[10]. It grew to 1727 applications and 1724 acceptances in 2003[10]. In 2003, four applications were denied[10]. 2003 was the first time that any application had every been denied and it is four of 12 applications that have ever been denied[10]. The number of applications and acceptances hit its highest in 2007 at 2371 applications and 2370 requests, but has steadily been maintaining a balance since then[10]. The numbers are alarming, over 1000 request to spy on other countries and people. If the government doesn’t give these countries sovereignty and privacy, what makes the other countries think they can’t do the same to the United States.

The people of today are living in a world very similar to George Orwell’s 1984. The US government is Big Brother and the Party is always watching[11]. The government controls everything and watches over the civilians constantly waiting for them to make a single mistake. Edward Snowden thinks similarly to the main character, Winston Smith, in the fact that he feels as if the government is monitoring too closely and Snowden and Smith looked for a way out. Snowden leaked government files and Smith looked for the Brotherhood, a group looking to overthrow the Party. Both Snowden and Smith felt oppressed by a government that was supposed to be helping them.

The United States government has many divisions to govern the people and its self, but what if instead of helping they are hurting the government and its people. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels created the Manifesto of the Communist Party. They talk about the class struggles and the government involvement. The German police-spies monitored the people similarly to the NSA going through all of the documents online[12]. The government monitors the people to see if everyone is on the same page. They level people’s privacy to a single file they go through and monitor to see if anything is “suspicious”. The NSA looks at people all the same and violates their property to see if any of it should not be there. The government gave itself the right to go through people’s private property. This is similar to the government taking a package out of the mail and going through it. The government doesn’t have the right to do this and is violating the people’s property.

People put up with this violation of privacy because they don’t know any better. The NSA has been known to violate these people’s privacy, with a blessing from the government. The government is treating its citizen as if they are part of a communist government. There should be privacy for the people, but instead the civilians information is monitored and documented. Snowden stood up for what he believes in and now he is considered a terrorist under the Espionage Act of 1917. The violation of private property needs to stop, if there is no warrant there should be no trespassing. The technology used to go through individuals information is advanced beyond belief, yet no one knows the truth of how the government acquires information that is thought to be secure. The United States has fought for the freedom and liberty of many people, and now it goes and violates the freedom it fought so hard to preserve. Communism caused wars and scares, but now the government uses the same tactics that it fought against. Snowden might have been the first to stand up for what he believed in but he won’t be the last.


[1] “Private Property.” Collins English Dictionary. Accessed May 01, 2014.


[2] “Property Rights.” : The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. Accessed May 02, 2014.


[3]“Capitalism.” Merriam-Webster. Accessed May 01, 2014.


[4] Mises, Ludwig Von. Liberty and Property. Reprint.


[5] Watts, Tim J. “Government Secrecy: Overview.” In Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2006-. Accessed May 1, 2014.


[6] Watts, Tim J. “National Security Agency and government secrecy.” In Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2006-. Accessed May 4, 2014.

[7] “Edward Joseph Snowden,” The website, (accessed May 04 2014).

[8] Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society, s.v. “Espionage Act (1917),” accessed May 3, 2014.


[9] Aristotle. The Nicomachean Ethics. Reprint.


[10] Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society, s.v. “Applications under Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, 1979–2010,” accessed May 2, 2014.


[11] Orwell, George. 1984. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 1961.


[12] Marx, Karl. “Bourgeois and Proletarians.” In Manifesto of the Communist Party. 1883. Reprint.



Author: Rachel Griffith

Class: Economics Period 1

Teacher: Bernardo Aparicio



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