Bigsley the Oaf

Surveillance and Simplified Law

Posted in Uncategorized by bigsleytheoaf on June 9, 2011

I was thinking, recently, that I wouldn’t mind massive surveillance in public places given the following two conditions:

1. Massive simplification of law and distribution of materials giving explicit conditions for breaking a law

I simply don’t know what’s illegal. One reason that the expansion of the US’s surveillance powers is so frightening is that I don’t know if/when I am breaking a law. If I have a very good idea when I am breaking a law then I will be afraid regardless of the existence of surveillance powers.

An example is trespassing. E.g. I don’t know when it’s illegal to be on government property. Jen and I were walking around an old naval base at night the other day and I was a little afraid we’d get picked up by the cops.

2. Legalization of victimless “crimes”

This includes drug use, nudity, public drunkenness, “loitering,” prostitution etc. There are many arguments for these, but I think the surveillance one is pretty powerful.

This actually goes hand in hand with #1 above – if damage to another person is the primary standard for whether or not something is a crime then it’s pretty easy for me to check whether I’m breaking a law.

The upswing of surveillance is that it makes the resolution of interpersonal disputes easier. E.g. surveillance footage of a car accident is useful in figuring out if someone is to blame. If you get mugged or robbed then there will be more information available to assist cops in finding the perp and/or your stuff.

The downswing of surveillance is that it’s damned scary. No one likes the feeling that someone is watching them – especially if that someone has the power to throw them in jail or kill them.

The fact of the matter is that people are becoming increasingly alienated from and terrified of government and the law. I think that they would be less scared if there were some reform in the way law is constituted and communicated.

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