Think it’s impossible to escape Obamacare? Think again. Laissez Faire Today reader David F. shares how he did it and how you can do it too. Don’t see another doctor, take another pill, or shop around for better medical insurance until you read his story. Read on…
“While I heartily subscribe to your premise of pursuing one’s dream,” one reader, Donald J., wrote, “there are alternate perspectives worth considering.”[We’re listening… go on.]“Some wiseguy once said that life is what happens to you while you’re waiting for something better to come along. Milton put it a little more poetically in one of his […]
“Where were you when it happened?” How many times have we been asked -- and asked -- this question since 2001? Today, Chris Campbell asks us to pose a different question: What can I do today to making Sept. 11 another turning point in my life? And then, of course, taking that first step. Read on…
Want to get rich? Don’t listen to financial “gurus,” says Chris Campbell. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris shares a Zen proverb and shows how understanding it is the only real way to get rich (and live a rich life). Read on…
Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In today’s Laissez Faire Today, you’ll learn about one FREE website that has the potential to not only keep your family safe – but also open your eyes to what’s happening in your own neighborhood. Chris Campbell has all the details. Read on…
Hundreds of pictures of nude celebrities were leaked onto the Internet last week. The mainstream is blaming twenty-something hackers, but according to Chris Campbell, everyone must’ve already forgotten what we learned about the NSA only a year ago. Read on…
The fireflies along the tidal rivers of Malaysia show "feats of synchrony that occur spontaneously, almost as if nature has an eerie yearning for order." Chris Campbell tells you where else this might occur in the world. Also, new technology may revolutionize the agriculture industry and what we think of as a farm.
Jeff Davis is running for Governor in Hawaii and has an interesting campaign strategy. Also, what motivates hackers is revealed and the findings might surprise you. Finally, Ferguson is discussed in a new light. Chris Campbell has more...
The so-called recovery is only built on debt and printed cash declares our own Byron King. In the long term, the only option for the government to continue financing it's operations is to print too many dollars. Money printing has it's limits, however. It's Byron's opinion that at some point, perhaps very soon, the government will have to turn to more desperate measures. Namely, capital controls. In the following featured essay, Byron outlines 4 probably ways the government will take your cash and one play you can buy through your broker to prepare today. Read on...
Americans expatriate because they want to get out of the country. Corporations expatriate for similar reasons. Clem Chambers explains...
Say goodbye to your boring morning commute. New technologies are changing the way people drive their cars. It’s making them safer, more fuel efficient, and could reshape the way America builds its roads and cities. The only thing that could stand in the way...
In a 2009 article, the Huffington Post went into considerable detail about the number of people with PhD degrees in economics employed by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. This is the government’s branch of the Federal Reserve. It is not one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, all of which […]
The U.S. dollar is the dominant global reserve currency. All markets, including stocks, bonds, commodities, and foreign exchange are affected by the value of the dollar.The value of the dollar, in effect, its “price” is determined by interest rates. When the Federal Reserve manipulates interest rates, it is manipulating, and therefore distorting, every market in […]
When the NSA surveillance news broke last year it sent shockwaves through CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Switzerland. Andy Yen, a PhD student, took to the Young at CERN Facebook group with a simple message: “I am very concerned about the privacy issue, and I was wondering what I could do about it.”There was […]
The game of speculation is the most uniformly fascinating game in the world. But it is not a game for the stupid, the mentally lazy, the person of inferior emotional balance or the get-rich-quick adventurer. They will die poor.– Jesse Livermore, How to Trade in StocksThe trouble with capitalism’s guardians is that they have no […]
Let’s head back in time…In 2004, a mere decade ago, the US national debt rang the register at $7.4 trillion. That represents “debt per citizen” of over $25,000. You, me, your neighbor, your 4-yr old grandson, you name it and they’re portion of the U.S. debt is $25k.But flash forward to today and you’ll see […]
John Foust, a Democrat running for the 10th congressional seat in Northern Virginia, is — like Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other state Democrats — gung-ho to expand Medicaid. His wife’s position is, shall we say, a bit more nuanced.Foust has slammed his opponent, Republican Del. Barbara Comstock, for her opposition to expansion. He has spoken […]
The midterm election season is upon us, and it’s a tossup whether the Republicans will win the Senate, or if President Obama, seemingly oblivious as conflict flares up around the world, will, through his continuous campaigning, keep Harry Reid in his majority leader seat.The only thing we know for sure is that sociopaths will be […]
Alexander Hamilton was America’s first Secretary of Treasury under President George Washington. When he first entered office in 1789, America was an agricultural nation of just 4 million still broke from its financially costly victory over the British Empire in the Revolutionary War.The states had accumulated relatively massive debts to finance that war, which mostly […]
I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day, and he raised a very interesting question, one that deserves consideration by anyone worried about their digital privacy. He read an article that championed the idea that the more steps one took to protect their privacy by using anonymous Web-browsing tools like Tor, the […]
In the minds of many people around the world, including in the United States, the term “capitalism” carries the idea of unfairness, exploitation, undeserved privilege and power, and immoral profit making. What is often difficult to get people to understand is that this misplaced conception of “capitalism” has nothing to do with real free markets […]
When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]
Some people are saying it is just what the doctor ordered. Others are saying that the cure is worse than the disease.The Affordable Care Act? Reengagement in Iraq? Tea Party bullying in the GOP?Not this time. Just as protracted in the corridors of Congress and the White House is the debate over the proposed reform […]
In 2012, money mandarins running the European Union chose stagnation over restructuring. Here’s a consequence of that choice: expectations for a self-sustaining economic recovery keep getting crushed.Two years ago, European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi promised to do “whatever it takes” to hold the eurozone together. He bluffed nervous investors into believing in a […]
Picture the scene. It’s 2020. You’re at the checkout in a convenience store with a carton of milk. But you’ve got no cash and you’ve left your cards at home. No problem. You scan your right index finger; the green light flashes. Purchase approved and you leave. Easy.Is this a realistic vision of the future, […]
“In the beginning, all the world was America.” — John Locke“The Garden of Eden was a perfect place,” my friend Manuel explained. “Man had free will. He could live in harmony with nature and God — and everything would be fine. But if he defied God, the stain of original sin would be on his […]
After a week of reckoning about the American oil and gas boom… I’ve got to get something off my chest.I can’t stand it when a coworker takes credit for something I did.Whether it’s a special report I wrote or just a little investing trick I found on my own — if someone takes it and […]
Black’s Law Dictionary is considered definitive on the meaning of legal terms. The Dictionary defines “privilege” as “a special legal right, exemption, or immunity granted to a person or class of persons; an exception to a duty.” It usually refers to the legal right to withhold information from authorities or to refuse to participate in judicial proceedings.
Western courts recognize “privilege” in specific cases and to varying degrees. For example, such strong privilege attaches to attorney-client communication that it is considered a prerequisite of justice itself. In R v. Derby Magistrates’ Court (1996), the court found,
The client must be sure that what he tells his lawyer in confidence will never be revealed without his consent. Legal profession privilege is thus much more than an ordinary rule of evidence, limited in its application to the facts of a particular case. It is a fundamental condition on which the administration of justice as a whole rests.
Utterances made to the clergy, especially during confession or spiritual counseling, enjoy similarly strong protection as part of the separation of church and state. Doctor-patient privilege exists to a lesser degree because of recent requirements for doctors to report any suspicion of crimes such as domestic violence. A journalist’s First Amendment ‘right’ to protect the identity of sources has been under concerted attack for decades.
One of the most famous types of privilege is ‘spousal immunity’ that, in America, includes two separate legal rights: a communications privilege and a testimonial privilege. The specifics, including exclusions, vary from state to state and in the federal courts. In general, however, the communications privilege protects confidential communications made during a marriage. The testimonial privilege protects one spouse from being forced to testify against the other on the basis of observations; for example, if a spouse accused of embezzlement kept large sums of cash in a shoebox. The purpose of spousal immunity is to draw a line between the private and public sector across which the state cannot step and, so, interfere with marital harmony.
But the idea of legal privileges for any individual or class creates tension within American law. The phrase “equal justice under law” is engraved on the front of the U.S. Supreme Court building, and equal justice presupposes the equal application of law. In short, the American ideal of justice runs counter to legal privilege.
THE FOUNDING FATHERS AND LEGAL PRIVILEGE
Legal privilege has been part of the common law tradition for centuries; common law refers to the part of the English law that derives from custom and court precedent,not from statutes. Consider spousal privilege. Lord Edward Coke – the foremost jurist of the Elizabethan period – penned what is widely viewed as the first statement of spousal privilege in his book The First Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England (1628),
it hath beene resolved by the Justices that a wife cannot be produced either against or for her husband, quia sunt duae animae in carne una [for they are two souls in one flesh], and it might be a cause of implacable discord and dissention betweene the husband and the wife, and a meane of great inconvenience.
No one knows the precise genesis of this privilege but it probably had Biblical roots similar to that of many other marital laws. For example, the Bible quotes Jesus as stating, “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (King James Bible, Mark X:9.) This had been interpreted as an advisement for the law to avoid turning spouses against each other. By the late 17th century, the spousal privilege was well established.
Coke’s interpretation of common law was particularly important to the American colonies because it coincided with the drafting of their charters. The colonies in America adopted something of a patchwork approach to the law but, overall, they tended toward the common law tradition. In reviewing the book The Common Law in Colonial America: Volume I: The Chesapeake and New England, 1607-1660 by William E. Nelson, George W. Liebmann explained,
New England law  was founded on views resembling the Protestant approach to the Bible…while the Catholic minority in Maryland consciously adopted English common law to provide a fixed standard to shield a religious minority from future majority oppression. Virginia ultimately turned toward the English common law to provide assurance to providers of capital and because the colony could no longer be governed on a military command system.
Thus the Founding Fathers, most of whom were of English extraction, were familiar with English common law and tended to incorporate aspects of it that seemed to make society and the courts work well. Of Coke, Thomas Jefferson once wrote to James Madison, “a sounder whig never wrote, nor of profounder learning in the orthodox doctrines of the British constitution, or in what were called English liberties.”
Legal scholars Robert Catz and Jill Lange explained the tension caused by adopting English common law, however. They wrote,
“Framers of the American legal system quite naturally looked to England as a foundation for establishing legal doctrine.” Nevertheless, the idea of legal privilege was closely associated with royalty and a class structure. Thus, it was “met with some ambivalence….The Framers wanted an egalitarian system….Many viewed privilege as a type of title/class obstacle to the search for truth and as an impediment to the right to a fair and just trial.”
Other forms of legal privilege to silence share a similar history. For example, the attorney-client privilege harks back to ancient Rome and, in 1577, it became the first such privilege recognized within common law. The American colonies adopted the practice, with Delaware codifying it in its 1776 constitution.
The legal privilege of remaining silent is usually discussed in connection with special classes of people, like journalists or spouses, whom the law treats differently due to their profession or their personal relationship to an accused. When that privilege is questioned, it is generally done in the name of ‘the public good’ or ‘the public’s right to know’.
When phrased in this manner, the debate usually concludes by removing or eroding any right to silence. For example, a recent news headline in ACLA (Australian Corporate Lawyer Association) read, “The Demise of Spousal Privilege in Australian law.” The article chronicled the High Court case Australian Crime Commission v Stoddart (2011) in which the court was asked to determine if spousal privilege was, indeed, part of common law. The High Court “held that the common law did not provide a sufficient basis for the conclusion that spousal privilege exists in the modern context.” Increasingly, the debate veers in this direction.
It is a false debate, however. The right to remain silent and not divulge what you know is not a class privilege. It is an integral, inseparable aspect of everyone’s right to freedom of speech. Whether you base this right upon a Constitution, natural law or God’s will, it is inalienable. That is, the right can neither be stripped away nor augmented because of someone’s profession or his relationship to another person who is accused of a crime. Thus, the question of whether a journalist or priest should be able to remain silent misses the point. The issue is “why isn’t everyone able to exercise this inalienable aspect of free speech?”
In other words, there should be no privilege under the law or in its application. This does not mean abandoning the legal right of spouses, attorneys, clergies and other currently ‘privileged groups’ to remain silent. It means the ‘privilege’ of privacy and freedom of speech should be universalized; it should be extended to all individuals so that no one is compelled by government to disclose information or to testify in court.
In his book The Ethics of Liberty, libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard wrote,
The solution to the problem of the newsman’s sources [or any alleged 'privilege' to not divulge information]…rests in the right of the knower — any knower — to keep silent, to not disseminate knowledge if he so desires. Hence, not only newsmen and physicians, but everyone should have the right to protect their sources, or to be silent, in court or anywhere else. And this, indeed, is the other side of the coin of our previous strictures against the compulsory subpoena power. No one should be forced to testify at all, not only against himself (as in the Fifth Amendment) but against or for anyone else. Compulsory testimony itself is the central evil in this entire problem.
A solid case can be made for using social pressure and other peaceful inducements in order to persuade people to speak and to testify. But, if peaceful inducements fail, then it is not within the proper jurisdiction of government to force people to provide it with information. Courts must not violate rights in the name of protecting them.