Re: law enforcement for profit

From: Ruthanna R Gordon (
Date: Tue May 09 2000 - 19:09:53 MDT

On Mon, 8 May 2000, Zero Powers wrote:

> >From: Ruthanna R Gordon <>
> >On Thu, 4 May 2000, Zero Powers wrote:
> > > Surveillance has *nothing* to do with freedom. You are free now to do
> > > anything that is legal. You would have that exact same freedom in a
> > > completely transparent society. Your only loss of freedom would be the
> > > freedom to commit a crime and get away with it. If you have a problem
> >with
> > > giving that up, I think that says more about you than it says about
> >society.
> >
> >Yes. It says that my ideas of morality are not identical to those of our
> >current lawmakers.
> Morality is not the issue. Legality is. They are not synonyms.

That appears (to me) to be exactly what I said. The lack of synonymity
*is* the issue.

> > My current life partner is of the same gender as I am. Sometimes
> >we hold hands when we are walking down the street. Sometimes, when no one
> >else is around, I even kiss her. In many places, this is still listed as
> >a crime.
> I'm not saying every law on the books is a good law. What I am saying is,
> if the law is bad, don't break it, work to get it changed (unless like
> Martin Luther King you are breaking the law with an agenda).

I do work to change laws of which I disapprove.

I presume, from your statements below, that you are not actually
suggesting I avoid my partner until such time as a few ridiculous laws are
taken off the books. I didn't actually mean to make this particular
aspect of my life into an issue--I was simply giving one example out of
many ways in which perfectly moral actions can get one into trouble in a
country where the government is permitted to watch and record public

> But then for every rule there *is* an exception. Although I am married and
> heterosexual, I am vehemently opposed to laws that proscribe the sexual
> behavior of consenting adults. The laws against consensual homosexual acts
> are downright wrong (IMO) and do not carry the moral authority to compel
> obedience to them. The *only* good thing about such laws is the infrequency
> of their enforcement.
> I see such laws as being analogous to the 19th Century Supreme Court
> decision that "no black man has any rights which any white man is obliged to
> respect." I know that *some people* on this list will now take this as an
> opportunity to show what a hypocrite I am. "You say, don't break the law,
> but its OK to violate laws against sodomy?" All I can say is, for every
> rule there is an exception. For me, sodomy is one of the few exceptions.
> (Again, even though it is *not* a law that *I* have any personal desire to
> violate. But for those who do, they can have at it with my blessing.)

There is nothing to cause the government to differentiate the exceptions
(and they are different for everybody) from the 'norm.' There is no place
on the books where laws are marked as either having or lacking 'moral
authority.' Last year a guy in Michigan got prosecuted for violating a
law forbidding use of profanity in front of women and children (he fell
out of a boat into cold water and reacted verbally. Unfortunately another
boat nearby happened to contain a woman with children who remembered and
approved of the statute). Since the government does not make this same
distinction that you do, our only protection is that they cannot keep a
constant eye on us. When we have succeeded in repealing all the laws
which I consider immoral, ask me again about surveilance cameras.

> > When I'm walking around with my friends, we often discuss
> >possiblilities for the future--any and all, including futures in which the
> >United States government no longer exists (we are none of us liable to act
> >to further such a future, but it's awkward to insert disclaimers such as
> >this one into all of our statements). This is definitely illegal.
> That is absolutely *not* illegal. We can discuss here in writing such
> possibilities with no fear of prosecution. It's called the 1st Amendment.
> Unless when you *said* you "discuss futures in which the
> United States government no longer exists" what you *meant* was "we
> affirmatively advocate in our discussions the violent overthrow of the
> government." In that case, yes, you would be breaking the law, and you
> would do well to keep such discussions secret, transparent society or no.
> (In other words, if that *is* what you meant, it would *not* be a good idea
> to reply to this post by saying "yeah, that's exactly what I meant", if you
> know what I mean.)

No, that's not what I meant. However, looking above, I see that I was
semantically inaccurate. I didn't mean these conversations were actually
illegal, I meant that they could be, in the government's view, 'probable
cause for suspicion.' This can be awfully inconvenient even for a
law-abiding citizen--take as an example Steve Jackson Games, who got
raided by the FBI on suspicion of computer crime for putting out a
cyberpunk game. Just because an action is legal doesn't mean a recording
of it, especially out of context, can't get one into trouble.

> >It says that I don't like being watched under the assumption that I'm
> >going to do something nasty. I don't like being stared at by policemen
> >either. I particularly don't like being watched by people I can't
> >see. This is a matter of aesthetic preference.
> Well yes, that is a matter of personal preference. I personally don't mind
> being stared at by cops. And I am not one to "straighten my posture" when I
> know I'm being watched by authorities. But this confidence no doubt comes
> from a keen awareness of the law and my rights under it. I know what I can
> and cannot legally do, and I know what the cops can and cannot legally do to
> me. However, such confidence comes from a level of diligence and vigilence
> that, I admit, not everyone wishes to invest.

I know what the law is. I know my rights under it. I also know of many
cases in which the government has bent the definitions of this law and
ignored these rights.

I know what the cops can and cannot legally do to me. But I live in the
New York City area. I do have a certain security in not being a young
black male, but my awareness of actual police behavior makes my trust in
them less than absolute.

> >While constraint of behavior is by no
> >means equivalent to constraint of thought, the two do tend to go together
> >psychologically. Certainly dialogue, or communicative behavior, is
> >constrained. Furthermore, if people know the government is watching them
> >at particular street-corners, they are likely to come into the habit of
> >assuming surveilance elsewhere and modifying their behavior
> >accordingly. Therefore surveilance is likely to, long-run, decrease the
> >flow of new ideas in public, and the diversity of public
> >appearance/behavior. This is not extropic.
> I don't agree. I think it will lead to a lot more people paying closer
> attention to what the laws provide so that they can govern themselves in
> public with the kind of confidence I discussed above. Voluntarily modifying
> your own behavior because you aren't sure of the law is the lazy person's
> way of avoiding trouble with the law. *That* IMO is not extropic. Liberty
> comes with a price, that price is responsibility. One responsibility of a
> free citizen is to understand the law and (1) abide by it or (2) work to
> change it.

We on this list are looking to and working towards a future in which
enhanced cognitive abilities will make it genuinely possible for everyone
to keep up with all the information relevant to their lives and still have
time to come up with new ideas and creations of their own. In the
meanwhile, most people have to pick and choose where they focus their
information-gathering efforts. As a highly educated person in an academic
environment, I have access to some of the more efficient
information-gathering processes currently available on the planet. I try
to take in information in several areas that interest me, including
current and prospective law (regional and national), actual injustices
(perpetrated by governments, corporations and individuals), cognitive
science, neuropsychology, current cultural trends, and proto-extropian
tech developments. At a rough estimate, I either miss or receive late
between 70 and 90 percent of information relevant to my life. Given
current technological capacity, no one can be called lazy merely for
having missed some bandwidth. You, for example, seem to have placed a
great deal of emphasis on keeping up with legal policy. This is to be
commended. However, one of the trade-offs seems to have been your missing
information concerning times when law-abiding people have managed to get
in trouble with the law, in spite of not actually having broken it.

Furthermore, most people, no matter how much effort they put into it, are
not as confident as you are that they have *all* the relevant
information. This may not be ideal, and it may even say something about
their perfection relative to your own. However, most of these people are
still capable of contributing to the novelty and diversity of the public
sphere, and may be inhibited in doing so if they know they are being

> Living in ignorance of the law, and then cowering in fear that you might
> accidentally run afoul of it is not excuse enough for me to favor
> constraining the right of the public or the government to detect criminal
> behavior, even by the admittedly drastic means of surveillance. But I do
> recognize that, as in most things, your mileage may vary.

I am not ignorant, but I do acknowledge that my information may not be
complete. I am not cowering, but I do base my caution levels on the
information that I have. The information that I have suggests that
neither the government nor Lockheed-Martin can be trusted with the
responsibility implicit in surveilance.

Ruthanna Gordon

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