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Walter Block says you have no right to privacy

There is no right to privacy; none at all. It is not a negative right, all of which are supported by libertarian theory; e.g., the right not to be molested, murdered, raped, etc. Rather, the so called right to privacy is a so called “positive right,” as in the “right” to food, clothing, shelter, welfare, etc. That is, it is no right at all; rather the “right” to privacy is an aspect of wealth. As Murray N. Rothbard (The Ethics of Liberty, chapter 16) made clear, there is only a right to private property, not privacy:

It might, however, be charged that Smith does not have the right to print such a statement, because Jones has a “right to privacy” (his “human” right) which Smith does not have the right to violate. But is there really such a right to privacy? How can there be? How can there be a right to prevent Smith by force from disseminating knowledge which he possesses? Surely there can be no such right. Smith owns his own body and therefore has the property right to own the knowledge he has inside his head, including his knowledge about Jones. And therefore he has the corollary right to print and disseminate that knowledge. In short, as in the case of the “human right” to free speech, there is no such thing as a right to privacy except the right to protect one’s property from invasion. The only right “to privacy” is the right to protect one’s property from being invaded by someone else. In brief, no one has the right to burgle someone else’s home, or to wiretap someone’s phone lines. Wiretapping is properly a crime not because of some vague and woolly “invasion of a ‘right to privacy’,” but because it is an invasion of the property right of the person being wiretapped.


I'm pretty sure Rothbard was just trying to illustrate that our aforementioned "right to privacy" is just a vein of property rights. That we have a "right to privacy" because we have property rights. Just as we have the right to distribute books with our opinions because it is a vein of the right to free speech. What do you think?

FYI: I disagree with Block a lot, especially on firearms.

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Not to be smug, but each

Not to be smug, but each person is free to judge the worthiness of his or her time as he or she sees fit. Would I have written an article about it? No.

fair enough

fair enough

"Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty."

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Privacy is an EFFECT of respected Private Property

That much is true

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There is a strain of modern

There is a strain of modern tort law regarding invasion of privacy. It is a relatively new right, less than 100 years old, but a right none the less.

Modern tort law includes four categories of invasion of privacy:[6]
1.Intrusion of solitude: physical or electronic intrusion into one's private quarters.
2.Public disclosure of private facts: the dissemination of truthful private information which a reasonable person would find objectionable
3.False light: the publication of facts which place a person in a false light, even though the facts themselves may not be defamatory.
4.Appropriation: the unauthorized use of a person's name or likeness to obtain some benefits.

Ventura 2012

My take on this is:

Our rights are inalienable; they're always with us. We have our rights with us whilst walking down the street, for instance. Can we walk down the street naked and demand that everyone close their eyes lest violate our right to privacy? Of course not.

Furthermore, we don't even have a right to privacy within our homes. If, for instance, we leave our curtains open-even just a little bit-people have every right to watch me having sex inside my home as long as they're not on my property while doing so.

We have a right to seek and attain privacy, not a right to privacy in general. I agree with Block here. It is like food. We have a right to seek and attain food for ourselves, not a right to food in general.

In my view privacy, food, health-care and education are covered by the "pursuit of happiness" clause. We don't have a right to happiness, we have a right to pursue it and achieve it. We have a right to secure privacy for ourselves but it's up to us to make sure we don't violate our own privacy by revealing private thoughts over non-secure channels of communication.

The ISPs and telecom companies we use own all the equipment that isn't located on our land. We can't possibly believe that's secure and private. It's up to us to add encryption to internet communications and refrain from revealing private things about ourselves over telephones. As long as the government (or anyone else) doesn't use force; that is, as long as I'm left alone to be as private as I wish, then I'll hold myself responsible for maintaining my privacy.

Work for pay, pay for freedom
Fuck 'em all, we don't need 'em

I think the argument breaks down though

when exposed to a real world situation.

Imagine for a moment you are 16 yr old french boy living in a house for a man you are working for in say the 1800's. You have your own journal and pens, and you've written about the man and your time there. Is it right for the owner of the house to look through this boy's journal? Does he not have a right to his own privacy in this instance? Block would argue that he doesn't as he has not taken enough measures to secure his privacy.

I find it tantamount to saying you only have a right to free speech if you're strong enough to prevent others from stopping you. It's the "might makes right" assertion used in a more expansive fashion. When in fact regardless of others you have these rights. The people around you are irrelevant.

At least that's how i see it.

"Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty."

Click Here To See The Candidates On The Record

sounds like a chat

right after a red bud doobwa was roached

Cyril's picture



"Cyril" pronounced "see real". I code stuff.


"To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." -- Confucius