RE: Privacy
Wed, 31 Mar 1999 09:23:21 -0800

Billy Brown, <>, writes:
> I would suggest that the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of contract
> are sufficient to accomplish everything that should properly be done to
> protect individual privacy. You can easily claim the right to conceal your
> doing via encryption, blind agents, assumed names (or refusal to provide
> identification), and so forth on these grounds. If these are the areas you
> are concerned about, I support you.

Yes, this seems a reasonable approach that most of us will agree with. There are a lot of cool crypto technologies that can allow people to remain anonymous while still being able to bind themselves to contracts, and have other forms of accountability.

> OTOH, you do not have a right to tell someone else what they can do with
> their own records, or what they can truthfully say about you to others. You
> can refuse to provide information you don't want others to have, and you can
> attempt to persuade them not to do things you don't like, but you do not
> have a right to use force to stop them. We can legitimately forbid
> government from doing this sort of thing, but not business.

One concern I have here is your word "truthfully". Earlier, in the discussion of miniarchy vs anarchy, you included "fraud" in your list of crimes, along with murder, theft, and so on. Fraud is basically lying in a commercial context.

Would we really want to make it illegal to tell a lie in some cases? This seems problematical. It may not be clear whether the case at hand is one of the ones where lying is illegal. Lying in love may be OK (or is it?), but how about breaking a promise in a marriage contract? Can you go to jail for adultery? Also, lying is fundamentally a matter of state of mind. Stating a falsehood is only a lie if you know it to be false. This makes it hard to objectively prove that someone lied and makes justice that much more difficult and uncertain.

Making lying illegal would also suggest making slander and libel illegal. This is a terrible gray area in the legal system, with all kinds of loopholes and tests for when you can lie, is it parody, did you know it would cause damage, is the person a public figure, etc. I wouldn't want to see all this baggage in a miniarchy or my chosen private law provider.

I would prefer a system in which people can say what they like. If they get a reputation as a liar they will suffer the consequences. The market will punish liars by giving their word no credibility. They will not be able to make contracts, they will not be listened to. Heinlein had a comment in one of his stories: if a man gets a reputation as a liar, he might as well be struck dumb, for no one will pay attention to what he says.