Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The case for the legalization of wiretapping

Why just don’t we legalize wiretapping?

The calls for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) came out of that wiretapping incident that seems to show she might have cheated in the 2004 election. The problem is her opponents could not use that tape as evidence because wiretapping is illegal, unless granted by the court. So GMA is still there in Malacañang despite the popular belief that she probably did not win. Had wiretapping been legal all along, that cheating issue could have been solved on the same day that the tapes came out.

I believe legalizing wiretapping will be good for the Philippines. Politicians will neither lie nor speak about anything knowing that someone else might be taping him/her. Imagine a country where politicians rarely open their mouths! And if they do they will only speak the truth. That would be wonderful. If everyone knows that someone is listening, politicians will be deterred from cheating, would be afraid to steal from the country’s coffers, or would not make deals at the expense the public.

In just a few years, the country’s GDP will grow very fast and people will have more jobs. Business people will no longer be pestered by politicians seeking bribes. Nor would they seek out politicians to bribe since they know bureaucrats and pols are avoiding situations where they could be photographed or recorded making sleazy quid pro quos.

Corporate governance will improve because parties negotiating a business deal know that each one has complete information about each other, thus lowering the transactions cost. The economy will be competitive and efficient since all economic players have access to important information. Consumers will benefit since goods and services will be prized at points allowed only by the efficient and objective interaction of supply and demand.

Advocates of civil liberties fear that wiretapping would yield the Orwellian future where Big Brother is capable of suppressing and censoring even our inner thoughts. In reality, a ban on wiretapping is a form of social control, an instrument of the ruling class to oppress those below the food chain. Where wiretapping is illegal, the supply of such services is scarce, meaning that only the rich could afford access to vital societal information. Do you wonder why only the really rich ones like Martha Stewart do insider trading? It’s because only the rich have access to “privileged information” that are usually obtained through irregular methods like wiretaps, playing golf with polite society, and having sex with a business tycoon’s secretary or driver.

In this of information, only the rich get richer because they always have competitive advantage. The poor may have the grapevine but the quality of information going through these media are inferior and secondary, something that could never be parlayed as sure-fire investments in the stock markets and some offshore financial instruments. Knowledge is power and the poor don’t have access to that.

Karl Marx, Alexis de Tocqueville, Martin Luther King, Amartya Sen—we all seek guidance from their wisdom in our quest to achieve political and economic equality. Forget it. All we need to do is legalize wiretapping and equality in spirit and in truth will reign in the land.

When you legalize wiretapping, the supply of that kind of that service will rise, since a huge industry offering such services will bloom like flowers in May, resulting in reduced prices.

Besides legalizing wiretapping, we also need to provide zero tariffs for wiretapping equipment and accessories thus pushing the price for wiretapping services further down. The country has thousands of graduates in communications engineering and information technology such that consulting companies engaging in the wiretapping and similar business will not run out of human resources to employ.

We will be attracting foreign direct investments in said sector since former Israeli commandoes, secret service agents, and jobless former Stasi and KGB spies, ronins or masterless hired guns, and mercenaries from all over could be attracted to set up shop and do things that are perfectly legal. Right now, they do it in the sly, making them dangerous to society. If they are legal, society could monitor their activities since they are going to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission. They will have their own chambers of commerce ("Wiretappers Association of the Philippines") as well as their own code of ethics.

They say wiretapping will cause widespread intrusion into people’s privacy. True, but it’s so easy to deal with that. Just avoid any kind connectivity. Or go back to the Stone Age. But privacy, my foot! Society has given up on that long time long time ago since we started having credit cards, internet accounts, web logs, close circuit television cameras, electronic chat, and reality TVs. Actually, privacy hasn’t been there since homo sapiens discovered that life is better in cramped urban setting, in a context we call now “civilization.”

Try setting up a TV program where people’s houses will be wired and their intimate activities aired on TV and you will be swamped with thousands of volunteers. Oh my, people just love to have “exposure” and instant fame.

It’s not uncommon these days for decent citizens of this Republic to dwell in electronic chat rooms where they bare their souls as well as their private parts. Try surfing the blogosphere and one would see people of all ages, gender, persuasion, color, and creed hopelessly begging the world to see and read their innermost feelings and darkest thoughts. This is one big exhibitionist world craving—nay lusting—for attention.

Instead of an Orwellian future, we will have people empowerment. Imagine a collective bargaining agreement between labor and capital. Unionists will say: “We really appreciate if you upgrade our pay and benefits. We don’t want a situation where we have to send all those transcripts and Boracay photos to your wives as well as our headquarters…” The boss will say: “C’mon guys, there is no sense being confrontational about this. The company cares for its employees.”

Wiretapping will be a great leveler.


Deany Bocobo said...

Gosh and I thought you were being serious! But maybe it wouldn't work out too well either if perfect strangers actually could read each others thoughts.

Dave Llorito said...

Ha ha, im actually trying to be serious about it. If transparency is what the world needs why not?