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Arnold Kling on Government Snooping

Arnold Kling writes with his usual seriousness, wisdom, and insight on government snooping.  I disagree, though, with Arnold’s claim that

The issue is an uncomfortable one for libertarians, because I think that most people believe that the government is snooping in their interest.

My disagreement isn’t with Arnold’s suggestion that most people believe that government snooping is in their interest.  I suspect that that claim – about what most people believe – is indeed correct.  But there’s nothing at all about government snooping, on this front, that distinguishes it from many other government practices and intrusions that libertarians regularly (and I believe rightly) oppose.  Most Americans believe, for example, that government power to obstruct foreign trade is in Americans’ best interest – yet libertarians oppose such obstruction on both economic and ethical grounds.  Ditto for the ‘war on drugs’ (at least the ‘war’ on drugs more potent than pot).  Ditto for the FDA.  Ditto for minimum-wage legislation.  Ditto for antitrust actions.  The list of government policies that libertarians oppose but that are favored by most (or at least by very many) people is long.

We libertarians might be correct or incorrect – we might be right or wrong – but being uncomfortable with our policy positions because most people disagree with us is not a sensation that we suffer.


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