Epstein on National Surveillance, the NSA, and Dodd-Frank

National Surveillance, the NSA, and Dodd-Frank
Richard Epstein
Ricochet.com
July 12, 2013

My good friend and fellow libertarian Professor Randy Barnett published a provocative column in the Wall Street Journal yesterday taking the position that the federal government's creation of massive databases should be regarded as unconstitutional. Much of his argument pertains to the operation of the NSA program, but he also notes the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's efforts to create massive databases of vital credit information from consumers in the name of protecting them from financial institutions.

I strongly agree with Barnett that the activities of the CFPB should be viewed with great suspicion. This intrusive operation is inconsistent with any coherent libertarian view of the relationship between individuals and goverment. I think that I speak not only for myself but for millions of other individuals who do not want the CFPB messing around with my financial information under some wishy-washy, paternalist rationale. As best I can tell, most of the bureau's interventions are foolish or worse. There is no legitimate social interest that is served by this activity. 

Also note that the collected data is not kept in a lockbox, but is directly available for inspection and use by government agents, without any safeguards for how it is used. I do not care whether the Congress approves of these actions -- I think that they count as unreasonable searches and seizures and should be stopped forthwith. That judgment does not, of course, carry over to the broad class of “required records” that are needed to run, for example, a system of revenue collection. But the view that "We are doing this for your benefit, oh citizen" leaves me completely and totally cold.

Faculty: 
Richard A. Epstein