Continuing the point about the good and the right in discussions of the CIA torture program, my attention has been drawn to a domain in which arguments from the right seem more easily to yield to arguments from the good, almost to the point of reducing the discussion entirely to terms of benefits and costs.
I am about to delete my Facebook profile.
I posted some status updates to that effect, along with some links to sources intended to provoke thought about privacy, social life, and the uses and abuses of Big Data.
The responses have ranged from “You’re right, but . . .” to simply “But . . .”, and what follows is generally a set of claims about how useful Facebook is for this or that purpose.
Arguments about the right to privacy, about how offensive it is to be treated as a mere means to the various ends of a private, for-profit corporation, and more general worries about the pervasiveness and possible abuses of Big Data, all fade to the background.
In this domain, at least, arguments about usefulness seem to carry the day with many people who, I suspect, would very much resist such a reduction-to-utility in other domains of public life, including the use of torture by agents of the United States.
I do not intend this as an accusation of hypocrisy, or any such thing. People are too complex, the world too complicated, for us reasonably to expect perfect consistency.
It might be interesting, though, to map out those domains in public life where the good tends to supplant the right, and vice versa.