Demand for George Orwell's classic dystopian novel 1984 has been soaring in the US as a privacy row has erupted in the past week after former CIA worker Edward Snowden blew the lid on NSA surveillance practices. Sales of 1984 have risen by over 6000 per cent according to Amazon's Movers & Shakers list.
In the UK sales of the book haven't risen as markedly, with 1984 still not appearing in Amazon UK's Top 100 movers. Yesterday foreign secretary William Hague denied that spy agency GCHQ circumvents the law in order to snoop on citizens, insisting that the UK has one of the world’s strongest systems of checks and balances to prevent unnecessary intrusions.
“Any data obtained by us from [the US] involving UK nationals is subject to proper UK statutory controls,” Hague said.
As City A.M. editor Allister Heath writes today, the difficulties of state surveillance are largely ones of principal-agent problems. It is often difficult to get one party (agents) to act in the best interests of another (principals).
As a result abuses of power may occur, where government employees use the power of surveillance systems to further their own private ends.
State created monopolies have too much power and are able to exploit customers and staff; but private firms competing with one another while respecting contracts, private property and the rule of law are forced to serve their customers’ needs to the best of their ability, and to fight to attract staff.
Competitive markets are the best way of ensuring that those entrusted with vast economic resources are accountable and are forced to make the most efficient use possible of the assets at their disposal.