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What Zelda Teaches Us About Privacy

The adventures of Link involve much trespassing, ransacking, and thievery.

by
Walter Hudson

Bio

August 1, 2013 - 7:00 am
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The first game I played in the Elder Scrolls series was Oblivion for the Xbox 360. Its in-game legal system, among many other features, blew me away. In most video games, you can loot any area you can access. In Elder Scrolls, trespassing where you do not belong or stealing something or killing an innocent attracts the long arm of the law. Villagers report your crime to town guards, who pursue you until you pay a bounty, spend time in jail, or fall under their sword.

That element of realism puts into perspective how much bad behavior goes tolerated in other games. Playing any game in The Legend of Zelda series provides ample opportunity to trespass, ransack, and thieve to your heart’s content. Some games have even made a joke of the trend by scripting a non-player character who objects to an intrusion. Then there’s the parody above with close to six million views on YouTube, leveraging for laughs the wanton destruction and looting committed by a “hero.”

The best humor rests upon truth. A live recreation of Link smashing pots in a random house makes us laugh because we recognize its absurdity. You can’t just barge into someone’s home and start trashing and looting.

… unless you’re the government.

There is  a strange tendency in our political culture to wring hands over imagined violations of perceived privacy while tolerating routine violations of actual privacy. We see this while juxtaposing reaction to recent state laws toughening restrictions on abortion and the lack of sustained concern over the IRS and NSA scandals. Tell a women she can’t kill her unborn child, and you supposedly violate her privacy. But feel free to tax her political speech and search her phone records.

When you want to be sure.

When you want to be sure.

The confusion arises from a fundamental mischaracterization of privacy fostered by the Supreme Court of the United States in its decision resolving Griswold v. Connecticut. In that case, the court took on a statute banning contraception. The court ruled that the state law was unconstitutional due to an alleged “right to privacy” found in the “penumbras” and “emanations” of our founding document. That’s a fancy way of saying they invented the “right” out of whole cloth.

Certainly, the Connecticut statute against contraception violated the citizen’s right to apply their own judgment to conduct which does not violate the rights of others. However, acknowledging that proves significantly different than proclaiming a sweeping and subjective right to privacy.

Surely, privacy exists, but as a derivative of rights, not a right in and of itself. The property you own and the contracts you enter define your privacy. If someone makes a recording of you walking down the street, you experience no violation. If they trespass on your property, you have standing to complain. Likewise, if an action is taken in violation of a contract, like a disclosure made private through agreement, a tort has been committed.

An objective view of privacy, defined by the true rights from which it is derived, fosters clear thinking regarding the many intrusions committed by government. The income tax set a horrific precedent for violating citizens’ privacy. If we concede that the government may tax income, we invite them to scrutinize our finances. Otherwise, would it ever be anyone’s business how much money you make?

Topping the intrusion of the income tax, Obamacare makes every aspect of your life the purview of government. Everything you do (and, as the court ruled last year, everything you don’t do) has some effect upon the state’s effort to manage your health. So your whole life becomes their business.

By recognizing and affirming the same principle which makes us laugh at Link ransacking a random home, we inch closer to reclaiming our privacy from a government which has relentlessly taken it away.

Walter Hudson advocates for individual rights, serving on the boards of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota, Minnesota Majority and the Minority Liberty Alliance. He maintains a blog and daily podcast entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of conservative Minnesotan commentary, and regularly appears on the Twin Cities News Talk Weekend Roundtable on KTCN AM 1130. Follow his work via Twitter and Facebook.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Whether there is, or there isn't, a right to privacy as such, the whole point of the constitution is that it does NOT give people rights. It merely enumerates SOME of the rights people already have. That is its great moral strength - it doesn't list a set of rights the government happens to be willing to grant you from the goodness of their heart, but reminds the government that the people have rights, including those stated in the bill of rights, but explicitly NOT limited to them, as the 9th amendment says, and it cannot take those rights away even if the founders happened to not mention one of them explicitly.

This is what the 9th amendment is for - to remind the government that just because the constitution did not specifically name some right doesn't mean it does not exist, and it's the role of the court to interpret the constitution to say what those rights re. If I there is any right which, despite not being enumerated explicitly, exists, it's the right to privacy.

Sure, this can be abused. Tomorrow the Supreme Court may go nuts and decide that everybody has a right to a big red balloon every Tuesday. There is always some moron suing claiming that he has the unnamed constitutional right to unlimited free money or whatever. But what do you prefer - the risk of that, or the risk of the government having the power to become a tyranny as long as it has clever enough lawyers to make them fit with the letter of the law in the bill of rights while making them in practice meaningless?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
The closest to a "right to privacy" that actually exists in the Constitution is forbidding people to do seizures of a house or confiscate property without a warrant. And BTW, the "right to privacy" was actually an invention of the Warren Court during Griswold v. Connecticut, which frequently made up rights in the Constitution to push Judicial activism. That non-existent right in the Constitution was also responsible for Roe v. Wade.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Read the Constitution, Walt. Privacy exists as a right, just as much as speech and property. The Founders never spelled it out because it's bloody obvious, though the phrase "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated" gets the point across. Of course, the Founders were also smart enough to know people like you existed, which is why they wrote the Ninth Amendment.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (18)
All Comments   (18)
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Hey, Walter Hudson, since you seem to be a bit of a gamer, can you delve into some details about the Metal Gear series and American life, whether pro-American or anti-American? I'm personally a bit disturbed with Metal Gear Solid 2's Patriot speech, especially when the way the Patriots were depicted were similar to God, only a lot more malevolent.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
my classmate's mom makes $76 hourly on the laptop. She has been out of a job for 7 months but last month her payment was $16528 just working on the laptop for a few hours. see post.......

w­w­w.J­o­b­s­5­3.c­o­m
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Having read numerous comments on the above article, it is stunning to my little tiny brain that NO ONE commented on what the penultimate paragraph mentioned, almost as if in passing.

The Affordable(lol) Health Care Act, known more as Obumercare, will be able to take EVERY right of yours away, starting with what you can and cannot eat, what activities in which you participate and what items you are allowed to purchase. Please think about it, what you eat affects your health, ergo, the gov. will need to define your diet. What you do daily and particularly on your own time, from riding a bike to skiing to any activity that may entail a risk of injury, the gov. will have to police. You may not purchase anything that may cause harm if inadvertently or purposefully used or misused. Forget about privacy, you won't have any.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
my friend's mother-in-law makes $79 an hour on the computer. She has been laid off for ten months but last month her pay was $13668 just working on the computer for a few hours. visit this website .......


w­w­w.J­o­b­s­5­3.c­o­m
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
The author cites as an example "If someone makes a recording of you walking down the street, you experience no violation." He misses the point.

By saying my privacy is not violated and, therefore, I have to "right" to have it protected is well enough. But who gave the person a right to record me?

And therefore as a citizen haven't I the responsibility to make sure others enjoy only their rights and to oppose what they have no right to do?

So the issue in the example isn't what are my rights? The issue is where do they get their rights?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is intriguing. Does privacy mean freedom from intrusion, freedom to do anything on your property, or both ?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Whether there is, or there isn't, a right to privacy as such, the whole point of the constitution is that it does NOT give people rights. It merely enumerates SOME of the rights people already have. That is its great moral strength - it doesn't list a set of rights the government happens to be willing to grant you from the goodness of their heart, but reminds the government that the people have rights, including those stated in the bill of rights, but explicitly NOT limited to them, as the 9th amendment says, and it cannot take those rights away even if the founders happened to not mention one of them explicitly.

This is what the 9th amendment is for - to remind the government that just because the constitution did not specifically name some right doesn't mean it does not exist, and it's the role of the court to interpret the constitution to say what those rights re. If I there is any right which, despite not being enumerated explicitly, exists, it's the right to privacy.

Sure, this can be abused. Tomorrow the Supreme Court may go nuts and decide that everybody has a right to a big red balloon every Tuesday. There is always some moron suing claiming that he has the unnamed constitutional right to unlimited free money or whatever. But what do you prefer - the risk of that, or the risk of the government having the power to become a tyranny as long as it has clever enough lawyers to make them fit with the letter of the law in the bill of rights while making them in practice meaningless?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The income tax set a horrific precedent for violating citizens’ privacy"

Yes, we lost it all right there. We need desperately to go to a perfectly flat tax i.e. a set amount per adult to pay for common services. No exceptions and if you can't pay or can't get anyone to pay for you, then you can't vote.

There are roughly 220 million adults between the ages of 18 and 65 in the USA. Last year the government collected $2 trillion in income taxes. That amounts to about $750 per adult per month. And if there was a direct connection between everyone's vote and how much they had to pay each month, you know government would be smaller and more efficient and the taxes needed to pay for it would be much smaller. Instead we have all this politicking and demagoguery around "fairness" and a whole bunch of people who want someone else to pay for their share of government services while demanding more and more of them. What could go wrong there? - oops, it already has.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Read the Constitution, Walt. Privacy exists as a right, just as much as speech and property. The Founders never spelled it out because it's bloody obvious, though the phrase "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated" gets the point across. Of course, the Founders were also smart enough to know people like you existed, which is why they wrote the Ninth Amendment.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Private property certainly exists as a right but so does the ability to gossip incessantly.

50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
If an explicit right to privacy is "bloody obvious," then you should have no trouble defining it. If it is not a derivative of property rights, what is it?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's not a derivative of property rights, it's a corollary to property and expression rights. My right to say or publish my thoughts includes the right to say or publish nothing, which means that nobody has the right to extract or publish my thoughts without my consent. Likewise with property, if I have the right to use or share my property I also have the right to deny others access to it.

The Founders pretty much nailed it: To be secure in one's person and effects.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You're affirming my point. Without property to define your privacy, you have none.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If we want to say there is no real notion of "privacy" without property then what is the significance of someone walking down the street whose walk is recorded?

Yes, their privacy is not invaded, but what has that to do with it? Don't you have to independently establish the right of the person taking the recording to do so?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
The closest to a "right to privacy" that actually exists in the Constitution is forbidding people to do seizures of a house or confiscate property without a warrant. And BTW, the "right to privacy" was actually an invention of the Warren Court during Griswold v. Connecticut, which frequently made up rights in the Constitution to push Judicial activism. That non-existent right in the Constitution was also responsible for Roe v. Wade.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As a conservative Samuel L Jackson would say

"The Ninth Amendment mother%^(&&^, did you READ it?"

Since you obviously need a primer on conservatism, let's go back to grade school. Neither the Constitution nor the Supreme Court grant us rights. They are fundamental and inherent properties we have as sovereign individuals. The question is not "Do we have a right to X?" It is "Do we grant the government the power to infringe on X?"
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Actually, I DID read the Constitution. Heck, I'll even get out my copy and read the Bill of Rights amendments "relating to" Privacy explicitly to you, certainly regarding abortions or anything like that since that was what the Warren Court and Roe V. Wade did.

"Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech; or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Absolutely nothing in there that deals with privacy. Actually, the phrase "peaceably to assemble" would in fact infer public meetings (ie, more than just one person).

"Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

This is the amendment that I was referring to earlier, BTW.

"Amendment V: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence [sic] to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Okay, correction on my part, that's two references to privacy in the Bill of Rights, but neither are even applicable for stuff like condoms/birth control pills/abortions. Heck, I'm doubtful the Founding Fathers when giving those amendments even dreamed of the amendments being used in that manner, especially when they themselves had bans on abortion back then.

Finally:
"Amendment IX: The enumeration in the constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

It said "certain rights." Going by how there actually were bans on abortion during the time of the Founding Fathers, many of them implemented by the Founding Fathers themselves, its obvious the Founding Fathers were not referring to abortion when mentioning certain rights. Heck, if they were, that made them big hypocrites, seeing how they actually DID implement bans on abortions. And the birth control pill wasn't even created until the 1920s-1930s, more than a century after the creation of the Bill of Rights, so they couldn't have even known about the concept during this time, and thus couldn't have meant that, either. I've read the Constitution when I was in elementary school from my textbooks. Heck, my textbooks included the constitution up to at least Seventh grade, and I took an American Democracy class as one of the courses for College and read that, and I recently got out of Constitutional law. And the constitution I'm reading from was a copy included in a pamphlet for the Heritage Foundation handed out during the 4th of July Parade this year, which also included a copy of the Declaration of Independence. And I'm doubtful that the Constitution or the Supreme Court didn't grant us rights, either. The Declaration of the Rights of Man effectively declared people to have those inherent rights (it certainly didn't come from the government, as France basically demolished their own government completely via the French Revolution, and implemented "direct democracy" otherwise known as near-total anarchy), and if you've studied history, that resulted in a massive bloodbath.

And for the record, I AM a genuine Conservative, and I know conservatism quite well.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Surely, privacy exists, but as a derivative of rights, not a right in and of itself."

I've been arguing this for years and the people I tell it to just look at me weird.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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