I don't believe it is constitutional for the US government to be engaging in massive surveillance of its citizens. But most people seem to agree that the government is going to do this no matter what, and many people argue it's necessary for American safety. If it must be done, then, let's apply it equally. As I imply elsewhere, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If all 300 million of us Americans' private communications need to be monitored in order to protect our personal safety against a threat that is about as common as shark attacks, then it seems only fair and appropriate that our financial apparatchiks' communications should all be monitored too. In order to prevent a clear and present crime that is not only picking people's pockets directly, as well as depleting the budgets of our States and Cities and major retirement funds, but also sapping tens of billions of dollars from the world economy in a time of incredibly severe economic downturn.
I suspect our politicians and our financial elite share a common belief: that surveillance is for the "little people", that they themselves are above the law and above reproach. I don't believe the financial elites will want this high-tech scrutiny turned upon them, and I believe the financial elites have the power to make sure it doesn't happen.
So if we manage to insert this concept into the public political discussion -- and if we are successful to the point where perhaps some Senators start drafting legislation that would bring this about... it's going to be fun to watch...
-- then I predict that in very short order, the PRISM program will be announced to undergo a re-thinking. It will be re-vamped. Constitutional questions will be addressed, and it will be announced that the program of indiscriminate copying of all communications will be discontinued. The PRISM program will be scaled-back, made lower-key, not so broad, there will be more safeguards in place against the collection of inappropriate data.
That is how we will know that the politicians and the financiers are not taking our concerns seriously.
Because, as we learned after the fall of the Soviet Bloc, surveillance of ordinary people's lives serves the same function as pornography, to those in positions of power. And just like somebody who is caught viewing pornography, they will promise to give it up, but without real punishments and consequences, they won't stop. They'll just try to hide it from us better. Ergo, if the PRISM program is scaled back as a result of our discussion here on the blog, the only scaling-back on the table will be scaling back from examining financial fraud and collusion.
The big finance players are always calling on the government to do something to increase "Consumer Confidence". Average consumers are staying away from the financial markets in droves these days, because they (we) believe the games are rigged against us. If it really is just a few "bad apples" who are rigging the markets, and the rest of the market is fundamentally sound, then let's see some numbers. Let's find out how often per day these fraudulent practices occur. Let's find out how many of the big financial institutions avoid these practices, and which ones engage in them. Let's settle once and for all with numbers and data, whether the government rigs financial markets more than private financial institutions.
Maybe I'm too cynical and jaded, but I don't really expect this one idea to change the entire course of Western society from where it's apparently headed: into a corporate and government Police State where everybody is monitored all the way down to their brainwaves, as soon as technology permits. As my friend J., says, we are hellbent on this course and most of us citizens can do little but wait and see how it looks when we get there.
But while we're waiting, I think we can have some fun.
It'll be fun to watch the politicians and the investment bankers explain why this is a bad idea: why what's good for the goose is not good for the gander.
It'll be fun to watch bankers and politicians explain why terrorism that kills maybe several dozen people per year is a much more existential threat to civilization than naked manipulation of commerce, markets, exchange rates, and interest rates by private self-interested parties.
It'll be fun to watch them explain why obeying laws passed against the crime of terrorism trump all other concerns, but laws that are already on the books against financial fraud are just unenforceable technicalities, even with sophisticated computers.
It'll be fun to watch them explain why it's necessary and important to eavesdrop on your personal family communications, but inter-bank financial transactions deserve more privacy, secrecy and protection than you do. It'll be fun to watch them explain why citizens no longer have the right to privacy, but financial corporations have not only equal but more rights than citizens.
Amid all the fun, hopefully a few more people will get woken up to the way the power structures of this world really function.
What if I'm wrong? What if I'm wrong about the corruption of politicians and the might and influence wielded by the financial sector? Why then, assuming Washington can actually, sincerely and effectively act on the surveillance of financial fraud and collusion -- in that case tens of billions of dollars per year which were formally sucked out of the world economy in the middle of a severe worldwide recession, will stop going towards propping up zombie banks and fraudulent paper assets. That money will return to the average citizens in the form of lower interest rates, more efficient markets and more money available for social services.
Looks like a win-win to me.