Apple recently wrote a public letter explaining its refusal to comply with a government request to create a special version of the iPhone’s operating system designed to circumvent phone security. The government wants this tool in order to get around the security of a phone seized from one of the San Bernardino terrorists.
Robert Spencer, who is very knowledgeable about Islamic terrorist issues, comments, quotes a bit of Apple’s letter and comments:
Point taken. So create the technology, get the contents of this criminal murderer’s phone, give it to the FBI, and destroy the technology.
I think this is mistaken.
Is Apple going to have to recreate the software tool the next time the government asks? Or refuse that time?
How do we judge what’s good enough to warrant such a one-time special exception, imposing the obligation to create potentially dangerous tools on private companies, and why does this qualify?
Claiming this will be a one-off thing isn’t realistic when we are dealing with a big public company and government requests. Whatever they might claim in their legal briefs or PR statements, the government isn’t really asking for a one time special favor. “Okay but just this once” is not the actual impact here if Apple backs down in this case. If you believe that, I’d like you to consider the purchase of a lovely bridge I’ve recently acquired.
What this situation illustrates is the desperate need for an immigration policy that doesn’t create situations where we try and dragoon companies into doing stuff that is harmful to their customers.
Pundits often ask about how a President will be a “President for all Americans.” They mean something like: “Given that you have strong views on things, how will you be President for everyone when people have strong views that disagree with yours?” And a politician’s typical response to this might be something about how all Americans want more opportunity, better jobs, a strong military, etc., and just disagree some on means.
Both the question and the typical response to it are bad.
People have different ideas about what policies the government should enact. Democracy is about providing a peaceful means for people to get their competing ideas enacted. Since people disagree, one political side winning and the other side losing means that some people won’t have their preferences enacted (at least not right away). This is because the differing sides have different worldviews and different explanations of the right policy regarding some particular issue, and so their policy solutions clash in ways that cannot be resolved.
What’s a “President for all Americans” look like on immigration, given that some Americans want open borders and some want a wall?
What’s a “President for all Americans” look like on economic issues, given that some Americans want socialism and some are Objectivists?
What’s a “President for all Americans’ look like on self-defense rights, given that some people think you should be able to carry guns openly in public places, and others want to ban guns?
You get the idea.
Americans don’t all want the same things while disagreeing about means. Some might claim we all want to find ways to increase government revenue while lowering taxes. Who could be opposed? But Obama was famously unmoved by “raising taxes will lower revenue” arguments regarding raising the capital gains tax because of his moral views on what’s fair.
A “President for all Americans” doesn’t make much sense as a concept, nor is it laudable as a goal. Trying to be a President to all Americans would mean trying to reconcile that which can’t be reconciled. A President should try to strongly enact the ideas that he told voters he believes in (which is, presumably, what they voted him into office to do). And if some voters decide his ideas are wrong, there’s always the next election.
Paul Krugman is a big prestigious NYTimes columnist with a Nobel Prize. He also has some fascinating quotes:
- Sharing his enthusiasm for the threat of intergalactic war as an economy booster: “If we discovered that, you know, space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months. … There was a Twilight Zone episode like this in which scientists fake an alien threat in order to achieve world peace. Well, this time, we don’t need it, we need it in order to get some fiscal stimulus.”
- Advocating the broken window fallacy in one of the most morally heinous contexts imaginable (September 11th): “Ghastly as it may seem to say this, the terror attack — like the original day of infamy, which brought an end to the Great Depression — could even do some economic good. But there are already ominous indications that some will see this tragedy not as an occasion for true national unity, but as an opportunity for political profiteering.”
- Commenting on the future impact of the Internet in 1998: “By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.”
This is what can pass for a serious public intellectual these days. At least if you have the right politics.