Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Ask Americans something like, “Should the government be allowed to read e-mails and listen to phone calls to fight terrorism?” and you’ll get a much different result than if you ask, “Should the government be allowed to read your e-mails and listen to your phone calls to fight terrorism.” . . . .
In 2002, The Pew Research Center for People and The Press asked just those questions -- and by simply dropping the word “your,” the number of people willing to support such government snooping jumped by 50 percent. Only 22 percent were willing to let the government peek when it was personal, but 33 percent were willing when it sounded like only someone’s else privacy was at risk, said Scott Keeter, director of survey research for Pew.
It should surprise no one that citizens will only agree to regulate things that won’t affect them.  They don’t mind the NSA eavesdropping on calls because they don’t call anyone internationally – but if NSA expanded that power to US only calls there will be a major outcry.

This feeling extends into almost everything.  New Yorkers don’t mind random searches on subways because they don’t feel they would be subjected to the search.  I mean, what police officer is going to randomly search someone that is clearly a businessman?  Punks in ragged jeans and a nose ring – sure.

Next time government wants to use its vast police powers to right some “wrong” ask yourself if you are truly affected by the law before you decide if you are for or against it.  I’d be willing to be that you won’t be for the law very often when you are the one that government wants to pinch.

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