More often than not, current events offer an opportunity for meditation. This is the case today: The friends of a politician turned international financier, now to be tried for rape, have rallied round him, claiming his privacy has been invaded. Though in this case the claim is downright preposterous, by appealing to the right to privacy, these farcical lawyers have actually raised an important issue: Is it true that a democratic society implies a particular concern for individual privacy, whether the individual be particularly attached to it or the legislators particularly keen on protecting it?
The answer appears to be yes and no—yes in theory, but no in practice.
What constitutes the realm of privacy is the sphere of which the individual may be considered the sole legitimate master, whether it be a material, an intellectual, or a spiritual one, as opposed to whatever may be considered as the legitimate concern of the whole body politic. But the reason why such a sphere may exist, why the individual may have such a dignity, is the real question.
Democracy may be defined as a political device through which individuals, each wanting to obey no one except himself, but able to conceive of the benefits of an association with others, ensure a maximum profit from a minimum infringement on their freedom. A society is democratic in direct proportion to the feeling its citizens have that, while living in it,...