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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Privacy Book

[Somewhat related to below, along with another bite at the right of ABC to show Andy's butt on NYPD Blue, the most interesting oral argument turned out to be one on the Family and Medical Leave Act.]
Question: If people don’t want privacy or don’t care about it, why should we care? 

We should care because privacy is important.  I urge that we think of it as a “foundational” good like freedom and equality.  Privacy is not a purely optional good like cookies and sports cars.  Since the 1960s, when scholars first began to analyze privacy in earnest, philosophers and other theorists have rightly linked the experience of privacy with dignity, autonomy, civility, and intimacy. They have linked it to repose, self-expression, creativity, and reflection. They have tied it to the preservation of unique preferences and distinct traditions.  I agree with moral, legal and political theorists who have argued that privacy is a right.
Anita Allen (wearing some strange red thing around her neck) talked about her new book on privacy. I enjoyed her essay in the What Roe Should Have Said book and plan eventually to read this one. Her balanced approach from the left might be suggested from a previously book, "Why Privacy Isn't Everything: Feminist Reflections on Personal Accountability."

Some don't like to frame things as "right of privacy" (constitutional or otherwise) since "privacy" arguably only takes you so far (let's say funding). My post here responding to a left leaning critic has just received another hit, for instance. But, I think the word, as well as the whole Griswold-type approach (as understood in Lawrence) there is useful. The use of something so open-ended like "liberty" is rather unhelpful without more. Privacy is particular is important for a variety of reasons and (as shown in the ministerial exemption case, as a "penumbra" of another right in particular), some with a constitutional dimension.

Looking "inside" over at Amazon and given her past writing, this book looks like an interesting account using different situations to address the issue both in theory (I don't recall seeing the word "aretaic" before now) and in real world cases. The Q&A gives a flavor of what to expect.