Heavy Lifting - thoughts and web finds by an economist
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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Wake up sheeple!!

Evidently being a citizen in the USA and Russia is fraught with lack of privacy. Former colleague Mike Ward was, at one time, bouncing around ideas dealing with privacy and I have a paper dealing with censorship on the Internet which I suggest everyone, at some level, agrees with. Trust me - there are plenty of aspects of my life that you don't want published on the Internet!!

Privacy international has released it's 2007 report on privacy (map here and full report here).

It is interesting that three of the six worst countries are so-called Superpowers (U.S., China and Russia) with Britain (superpower light?) is also in the group. However, two of the worst, U.S. and China have the largest economies and three, U.S., Britain, and Sweden have some of the highest per-capita incomes.

This brings up an interesting question. Is privacy an inferior good? Is privacy traded for security (the traditional argument) of wealth and person, that is, as a society becomes more wealthy the citizens are more comfortable sacrificing privacy for security. Or, is privacy a function of government size - and often a lack of property rights and other government infrastructure is correlated with lower per-capita incomes and national wealth.

I don't have the data to test this hypothesis. I suppose one would need information on government size, personal income, and privacy rankings over time with which to test whether privacy is seized by an ever increasingly intrusive government or if privacy is ceded in order to "help" the government protect wealth and person.

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