03 May 2009

Pragmatic Contradiction (or, None Dare Call it Hypocrisy!)

These are the sorts of situations that arise when one defends a particular theoretical position that one then belies in one's actual life. My favorite example is how, in the mid-1980s, libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick went to court to protect his rent-controlled Cambridge apartment - after voluntarily signing a lease agreeing to pay rent above the rent-controlled rate. (See "Anarchy, State, and Rent Control," The New Republic Dec. 22 1986 pages 20-21.)

Currently we are witnessing a similar sort of contradiction. This time the perpetrator is Supreme Court Justice Anontin Scalia. It turns out that Scalia, who has expressed rather cavalier views about the privacy of personal information that might be gathered from the Internet, is perturbed that students in a course on Information Privacy Law at Fordham Law School have completed a class assignment that produced a 15 page "dossier" on Scalia gathered from information freely available on the Internet. The dossier (which has not been made public) allegedly contains information ranging from the Justice's home address and phone number to pictures of his grandchildren to details of his food preferences. A report from the ABA Journal is here; you can find various other blog discussions here and here and here and here. Scalia is complaining that the course instructor - who came up with the assignment in response to public comments the Justice has made about the privacy of personal information - has been irresponsible and shown "abominably poor judgement."

I simply do not see that Scalia has any complaint. Some of Scaliia's admirers, however, apparently think that he has shown great consistency and character because he has not taken legal action against the professor. But if it is, as Scalia publicly stated, "silly" to worry about others gathering any information about oneself from the Internet - unless the information somehow is embarrassing - he really ought to have shrugged this off completely. Silly is as silly does.

Although Nozick remained something of a libertarian, he eventually came to admit that the arguments he presented in Anarchy State & Utopia are "seriously inadequate." Unfortunately, Nozick reconsidered too late for all those whose lives have been impacted by free-market policies gleefully implemented by ideologues influenced by his "inadequate" arguments. Perhaps Scalia will reflect just a tiny bit and see that his views on privacy are problematic for others not just for himself.

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1 Comments:

Blogger magnetic*soul said...

That is HYSTERICAL!! Thank you for sharing. Scalia is so arrogant and righteous; I'm thrilled to see that the *practice* of his philosophies is making him nervous! Bwahahaha!!!

08 May, 2009 13:13  

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