The New Orleans rebuilding commission is out with a plan for a "bigger, better New Orleans" -- but shouldn't they really be focused instead on a better evacuation plan? Or bigger, better levees? Government leaders need to know when to reach for the stars and when to just take care of the basics.
And on the subject of overreaching, Google is to be applauded for resisting the government's demands for search-engine data. Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL turned over the subpoenaed data. Why does it matter?
It matters because the government has no real justification for capturing private data from search engines or any other business. The argument goes that they're "protecting children" by trying to figure out how often Internet users search for porn. But that's hardly the way to "protect children" -- the Internet is global, so the only way to really "protect children" from content their parents don't want them to see is for the parents to monitor their children's computer habits. Better to install porn-blocking software or use a "family-friendly" Internet service provider than to imagine the government could actually control online content.
And what of the argument, "I'm not worried, because I have nothing to hide"? Suppose that's true today; it assumes you trust the political leadership in place today. But just because you trust them now doesn't mean you'll trust the next set of politicians and bureaucrats to take their place. Whether you have "something to hide" doesn't depend upon who's in charge today; it depends upon who might be in charge under a worst-case scenario.
Too apocalyptic? How long did it take J. Edgar Hoover to overstep his authority as head of the FBI? How long did it take Senator Joseph McCarthy to go too far when searching for Communists?
Even more significantly, suppose the Civil Rights era were happening today, instead of decades ago. Would Martin Luther King, Jr. have had "nothing to hide"? It's possible to be doing the right thing and still have something to hide...especially if the government is in the wrong. Government powers have to be based on the worst-case scenario, not whether we're comfortable today.