Sam Harris’ Blind Spot on the Apple Encryption Debate: Tyranny

UPDATE:  2/23/2016

It’s intentional:

This whole business about “statism” I find profoundly uninteresting. This is a separate conversation about the problems of U.S. foreign policy, the problems of bureaucracy, the problems of the tyranny of the majority, or the tyranny of empowered minorities (oligarchy)—these are all topics worth thinking about. But to compare a powerful state per se with the problem of religion is to make a hash of everything that’s important to talk about here. And the idea that we could do without a powerful state at this point is just preposterous.
If you’re an anarchist, you’re either fifty or a hundred years before your time (not withstanding what I just said about artificial intelligence), or you’re an imbecile. We need the police, we need the fire department, we need people to pave our roads, we can’t privatize all that stuff, and privatizing it would beget its own problems.
So, whenever I hear someone say, “You worship the religion of the State,” I know I’m in the presence of someone who isn’t ready for a conversation about religion, and isn’t ready to talk about the degree to which we rely, and are wise to rely, on the powers of a well-functioning government. In so far as our government doesn’t function well, then we have to change it. We have to resist its overreach into our lives. But behind this concern about statism is always some confusion about the problem of religion.”



Anyone else noticing the “blind spot” that Sam Harris failed to address in his discussion with Apple for his latest podcast? Namely Government abuse of power (AKA Tyranny)?

It’s starting to become so blatant and so obvious, and I have such high respect for his intellect, that I’m starting to believe this “blind spot” is intentional.

I know he said these are his first thoughts on the subject, however, I notice a common “logic” that he exercises on a frequent basis. It seems in his discussions on various issues, he fails to properly address the reality that there are individuals with a Government title that wield a monopoly on violence. Some of these individuals may not be as “evil” as Jihadists, but are ultimately self-serving and willing to crush independent liberties if politically feasible. These individuals, should they commit these very same actions as non-Government officials, would be considered unethical, yet somehow, Sam Harris provides an “exception” clause. Sam Harris repeatedly fails to explain how a Government title exempts an individual from the standard laws of ethics that apply to the rest of us.

He pointed out some examples to support his case for the FBI which are of such fringe concerns, yet sets them up as the foundation of his argument:

1) It’s inconceivable that there would be anywhere on Earth, a room, or a physical space, where no one can gain access to forever.

2) There are people who have filmed murders on their phone, and if only the police could gain access to it, it would reveal the murderer.

3) Terrorists and criminals use the encryption to their advantage.

4) You can trust the Government to not abuse the power of decryption since you have a “court order.”



1) To equate a digital space to have the same ethics as physical space is fallacious. Primarily, no one is deprived of anything when you deprive them of your digital “space.” You can have infinite “digital” space, but you are limited to “physical” space.

2) How frequently does this actually happen per year? We may “suspect” there is some useful footage, but how many murder victims had enough time to setup their smart phones to record their own murder? This is a false premise to “authority,” made especially obvious when he said his source is a “district attorney” whom he won’t mention.

3) And so do innocent individuals who want to protect their privacy from Government bureaucrats and law enforcement who frequently demonstrate their penchant to abuse their monopoly on violence. Once this unlock tool gets released to the FBI, does Sam Harris seriously believe it won’t eventually be released to the State, County, and City level?

4) What world does he live in where the judicial system can be trusted, in the long run, to rule against Government officials that pay their salaries and give them their power?


SAM HARRIS’ LOGIC: When it comes to trusting individuals with a Government title versus individuals without a Government title, Sam Harris errs on the side of Government tyranny, because without Government tyranny, terrorists and murderers will rule the world.

Sacrifice your individual liberties under the guise of safety by your benevolent protectors: Government bureaucrats.