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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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The Patriotic Bust of Spitzer


American conservatives should be really proud of how the feds caught New York Governor Eliot Spitzer patronizing a prostitute. It all has to do with patriotism, conservative-style. After all, it was the USA Patriot Act itself that put the feds on Spitzer’s trail.

The Patriot Act requires American bankers to be federal snitches. Whenever bankers notice an unusual financial transaction, they’re now required by law to snitch on their customer to the feds. The purpose, of course, is to protect us from the terrorists.

Well, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to know that the terrorists quickly adjust to the new snitch rules. But apparently the same doesn’t hold true for people who are trying to keep payments to prostitutes secret from their family. Because Spitzer was apparently structuring his payments to the prostitution company in some sort of secret way, his transactions caught the attention of his bankers, who then snitched to IRS officials, who then shared the information with the FBI.

When I visited Cuba several years ago, a resident of Havana told me that every neighborhood has an official snitch whose job is to report unusual occurrences to the authorities. The Cuban authorities consider these snitches to be highly patriotic citizens, just as conservatives view American bank snitches as highly patriotic citizens.

In fact, when you think about it, what’s the difference between the American conservative perspective on patriotism and the Cuban communist perspective on patriotism? Don’t they both exalt snitches and consider them heroes? Don’t they also both believe that the government and the country are the same thing? Don’t they both believe in unswerving allegiance to the government, especially during times of “war”? Don’t they both condemn the concept of personal privacy, especially financial privacy? Don’t they both consider criticism of the national (i.e., federal) government to be unpatriotic, especially during “wartime”?

In the olden days, our American ancestors placed a very high value on privacy, including financial privacy. What they did with their money was their business, not the business of government officials. Like the Swiss today, they considered financial privacy to be an essential part of freedom.

Who would have ever thought that their descendants, in desperate fear of the drug dealers and the terrorists, would abandon these notions of privacy, freedom, and patriotism in favor of the protective umbrella of the omnipotent, all-knowing state, just as the Cuban people have?

I can’t help but wonder whether the bank snitch in the Spitzer case is feeling patriotic or shameful. No doubt the IRS agents and the FBI agents who received the Spitzer information will receive some sort of special Patriot Act medal for ferreting out Spitzer’s dangerous activity.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.