30th May 17th June 2002


Barry Steinhardt of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) is highly critical of plans to install facial recognition technology at various sites (e.g. Statue of Liberty) in the US that are thought to be security risks.

I am not certain of the distinction between a "libertarian" and a "civil libertarian", but to me a "civil libertarian" is concerned that the individual's civil rights, as defined by legislation, are not infringed.  A "libertarian" is concerned that legislation that infringes "individual liberty" should not be enacted.  "Individual liberty" is the right to do whatever you want, so long as it does not infringe the right of others to do whatever they want.

As a Libertarian site, SPIN disassociates itself from any criticism of plans to use facial recognition technology.  There are two lines of reasoning supporting this view.

  1. Whenever a person goes into a public area he offers himself to public scrutiny.  To prohibit interpersonal scrutiny would be to inhibit the liberty of an individual to freely inspect their environment, and is probably unenforceable anyhow.   If a person desires concealment from public scrutiny, they can wear a mask or utilize a private conveyance to move about in public.
  2. Any technology that simulates or enhances a human skill or thought process should be useable by any person at any time in a public place.  Spectacles are permissible, because they enhance the human ability of scrutiny.   A camera may be used in a public place - it enhances a person's ability to reproduce a scene that he can scrutinize.  (We can't all paint like Picasso.)  Pencil & paper, calculator or laptop computer or tape recorder can be used to take notes (we don't all have a perfect memory of events and facts).  Facial recognition technology combines a camera with a memory system.  Some people have the ability to memorize thousands of photographs, and unerringly find those people in a crowd.  Not everybody has that good a memory, but we should not be prohibited from the advantages conferred by such an ability by a prohibition on the technology that permits simulation of the ability.
Of course the ACLU is probably concerned that security organizations will misuse the power (to e.g. trace every citizen, including errant wives etc).  That concern is best addressed by permitting online access to publicly funded cameras.

You can't put the genii back in the bottle.   It is best to defuse the social effect of the technology by granting access to everybody.


If there is any nation to challenge the USA for preeminence in the 21st Century, that nation is India.

SPIN suspects that the "grey men" in the USA also believe that, which is why India is denigrated so strongly, and politically so isolated.

When Indian hegemony arrives it will be from commercial might.  Unlike China, there are no legislative barriers to foreign commerce entry to India.  All of the barriers are competitive.  Murdoch tried, Packer tried, and both lost a few fingers.  India has all of the prerequisites for success - a weak central government, a huge & competitive labour force, a huge consumer base (matched to productivity), and the English legal system.  The abundance of natural resources does help.

Like the USA in the eighteenth & nineteenth centuries, India is expansionist.  The Tamils in Ceylon & the Kashmir issue are exploratory forays by Indian politicians seeking an "Issue".

India has threatened to "cleanse" any base in Pakistan from which a terrorist attack is launched.  Pakistan has threatened to use Atomics if India attacks.  In that event the Indians should not retaliate with atomics.  Instead they could incorporate not just Kashmir, but the entire Indus valley from the Himalayas to the Arabian sea.  The world could not raise any realistic challenge to such action, because by using atomics Pakistan would have lost all moral credibility as a nation.  India, by it's restraint, would have shown it's worthiness to administer Pakistan.  (India would also still have atomic weapons to threaten anyone who would intervene.)

Within a decade of incorporation, Muslims might well not be a local majority in any state in greater India.


The hot issue in Australia this month is Insurance.  Public liability insurance premiums for business, local government, charity, negligence premiums for medical practitioners.  NSW premier Carr condemns "Santa Claus" judges for the problem.

As a solution the government proposes to legislate limits to claims.  (Like "mandatory sentencing" applied to Insurance payouts).

As a tongue in cheek suggestion to our Premier, SPIN suggests the following table as a guide for mandatory valuation of personal injury, not including cost of prosthetic devices.
Politician or Judge loses reputation for honesty
Most excruciating pain & rendered quadriplegic
Paraplegic, or rendered a moron.
Lose a limb.
Death of a partner.
Lose an eye, hearing or similar.
lose hand, foot or other appendage.
psychological shock

However SPIN believes that the problem is more deep seated than "Santa Clause Judges" or "Ambulance Chasing Lawyers".  It is the result of the new economy.  Back in March 2001, SPIN offered financial advice:

4.Corporate financial services, insurance and investment corporations are pure poison.
SPIN believes that a solution can be found in the new technology.  The law prevents insurance corporations from making individual risk assessments on people or corporations.  The trouble is, some persons are Klutz.

A Klutz corporation is a hollow shell, waiting for a large claim to make it bankrupt, at which point the real owner vanishes with the profits.  If any shell company engages in high risk production, then it's premiums should be very high.

If a klutz person is a doctor, there will be a LOT of claims against that doctor.  If the klutz wished to continue practicing, the premiums for the klutz should be very much higher than premiums for non-klutz doctors.

Insurance corporations should be encouraged to employ risk assessors who would track the history of individuals, and inspect the procedures of people or organizations requesting public liability insurance.  High risk procedures or products should attract high premiums.

Obviously, risk assessment on individuals & corporations will not happen until the government repeals that facet of it's anti-discrimination legislation.   The alternative is creeping socialism.