Previous post: The Eye in the Sky
One of the benefits we receive from living in a nation-state is security. Indeed, from the empires of the past to the democracies of today, we pay tax in part to defend the nation, thereby ensuring our security from external threats. A problem arises, however, when the government uses and often exaggerates external threats as an excuse to monitor its citizens, to the point that many citizens see this as normal and actively monitor themselves and others. Surveillance and the collection of private information are ultimately about control. And control is power. By monitoring our movements, behavior and communication, governments increase their power to control us. By eliminating our privacy, the U.S. government is in fact taking away our liberty and freedom.
Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves why the U.S. government is spending so much time, effort and money (our taxes) monitoring us, instead of investing in and improving the economy, for example through Keynesian public works projects that would put people to work and improve our failing infrastructure; and by creating policies that facilitate the construction of more housing, particularly in and around major cities where rents are unsustainably high and unaffordable for most working people, and where it is most needed?
It is no coincidence that surveillance societies, whether democracies or dictatorships, are highly unequal, where access and benefits flow to the few and many live in poverty or at subsistence levels. The problem we experience in the United States today, in addition to a government that is cutting basic services and failing to provide a policy and legislative environment that ensures citizens can make a decent living (preferring instead to spy on us), is that we have an IT industry that (like our government) is collecting our personal information in order to control us, in this case to eliminate our humanity and turn us into consuming robots.