There are two reasons for wanting privacy:

  1. The legitimate desire to be secluded from public view of others when conducting legal activities;
  2. The illegitimate desire to be unaccountable for illegal actions.

Once this distinction is made, it can be seen that in most cases the legitimate desire can be protected while the illegitimate desire can be thwarted. For example:

  • Vehicle license plates should display a number not a name;
  • A company register should display a company’s registered office (so it can be served with legal proceedings), but should not display the residential addresses of the directors;
  • A register can provide for guaranteed service on a defendant in legal proceedings without the need to disclose his residential address;
  • Access to footage from security cameras can be restricted and used only for the investigation and prosecution of crimes.

Bogus claims of the right to privacy have until now prevented the implementation of Individuals Registers. Instead the government and private sector have made do using social security numbers, electoral roles, tax file numbers, birth certificates, passports, and driver’s licenses. However, these are poor substitutes, and as a result voter fraud, welfare fraud, illegal immigration, credit fraud, and every other form of scam continues unabated when they could easily be prevented. Wrongdoers are able to escape accountability for their actions because the vast size of modern populations allows them to remain anonymous. Every day, honest, hardworking people are burdened directly (through murder, rape, assault, theft, arson) or indirectly (through increased insurance premiums, higher prices, and taxes) by the actions of deceitful, immoral and murderous people.

The 1984 concern

Some suggest that government registers and surveillance technology could enable a monstrous tyranny to develop similar to that depicted in George Orwell’s novel 1984. However, technology is neutral, and its potential threat depends on the person who wields it. The seeds of an Orwellian future are not contained in technology, but rather in socialism. The habit of allowing the state to infringe on individual rights in pursuit of the greater good prepares the way for the state to infringe on individual rights in pursuit of terrible evil. This was the lesson of the nineteenth-century socialism in Germany, which prepared the ground for Hitler.

When Sir Robert Peel established the first modern police force in 1829, he was strenuously resisted on the grounds that police were a danger to civil liberties. In response he wrote, “Liberty does not consist in having your home robbed by organised gangs of thieves.” (Letter to the Duke of Wellington, November 29, 1829.) History has proved Peel right, and the British policeman has since earned a reputation for professionalism, courtesy, and honesty second to none. The only liberty threatened by British policemen is that of the criminal.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove