When we elect the President of the United States of America, he stands for the values that our founding fathers bestowed. One of the jobs of the President is to maintain peace by any measures necessary. The use of surveillance in order to keep the peace is one element under the Hobbes view of authorization in order to maintain peace. Modern technology is definitely used to as an advantage by Americans. It has encouraged the globalization of our society. Technology has become an evolution, some might call it “The era of technology.” However, with just as much good that technology has brought, it has also been a threat to safety, whether it be domestic or national safety. Therefore, the government is aware of the potential threats to the nations safety and must take appropriate precautions in order to keep its people safe. Pitkin discusses formal representation and through different theories, she discusses what she considers political representation and the roles of the sovereign. One way that the sovereign can keep its people safe is through the use of surveillance. Although some may argue that the government’s unsolicited use of mass surveillance is a violation of the 4th amendment and is an infringement on people’s right to privacy, the sovereign has the duty of maintaining peace and safety to its people, and surveillance is under the umbrella of that right. The controversy is the limits and maintaining the balance between what is essential to maintain peace and what is an infringement of peace, and keeping the sovereign accountable if they do cross the boundaries. Formal idea of representation as accountable is a representative who leaves when terminated.
According to Pitkin, the accountability theory implies that “a representative is someone who is to be held to account, who will have to answer to another for what he does. The man or men to whom he must eventually account are those whom he represents.” (Pitkin 55.) Having a representative who is accountable for his or her actions implies that the representative has obligations that they are bound to. The representative was given their job by the people, and the people have the right to strip them of their title if the representative does not perform their duties accordingly. According to Pitkin, “The accountability theorists…equates elections with a holding- to- account. In every kind of government power… must be trusted…” (Pitkin 56.)
An example of accountability of the sovereign’s actions is the Watergate scandal that involved President Nixon in 1974. According to reports, prowlers connected to Nixon’s reelection campaign had been caught wiretapping phones and stealing documents. The House of Representatives voted to impeach Nixon for “obstruction of justice, abuse of power, criminal cover-up and several violations of the Constitution” (history.com) In Nixon’s case, he was unlawfully obtaining documents and wiretapping phones without the users’ consent. This gave action to vast controversy among citizens since the government assures the people that surveillance is crucial for the sole reason of inhibiting terrorism in America.
Advocates of mass surveillance will argue that it is a method to maintain social control in modern society. Unfortunately, due to several events the past year, let alone the past 30 years. Within the past year, the world encountered horrifying tragedies such as the recent Las Vegas Shooting of 2017, the Paris attack of 2017, the Manchester attack of 2017. During times of fear and terror, the question of security is raised: could we have avoided this? how can we prevent future attacks and save lives? Since 9/11, The US has hindered at least 30 terrorist attacks, as a
result of effective intelligence, law enforcement, wiretapping and, surveillance. The question arises: does the government have the right to do this? The people of the nation elected a commander in chief who has bestowed the duty of protecting the people of the nation. What are the limits to these rights? It is true that the US people are granted the right to unwarranted invasion of privacy, however in order to maintain peace, we must be willing to give up a few our rights, as long as the surveillance is not having any negative impacts on a person’s livelihood, the benefits outweigh the cons.
An example of unreasonable use of surveillance would be North Korea. North Korea is sometimes referred to as the “surveillance state” due to the absolute control of information of all forms of communication conducted by the government. The government has systemic control regarding all communication. The government spies on its citizens to ensure that they have no communication with the outside world. The government censors the online media and filters the websites that contradict their regime. This is their form of brainwashing the North Koreans into thinking that Kim Jong-un is a good leader, when in reality, the rest of the world views him as a dictator. If the people were aware of the regime that they live under, there could be a potential uprising against the government that, potentially, leads to the demise of Kim Jong-un. Therefore, in order to avoid an uprising, the government installs strict rules with severe repercussions. Such punishments for communicating with the outside world include prison camps or even punishing the whole country for the ‘misconduct’ of a few people by putting the entire country on lockdown. This example is clearly an infringement on the rights of people. It is unjust, manipulative, and indecent. However, Hobbes would say that this type of government, authoritative, is better than no government at all. Hobbes would probably argue that Kim Jong-un has the countries best interest and is maintaining peace. Hobbes would argue that the fate of North Korea is better than having absolute turmoil and war in a country with no government. Pitkin explains that “To the extent that he has been authorized, within the limits of his authority, anything that a man does, is representing.” She continues to state that “One can speak of limits or restraints on the conduct of a representative… Representation is a kind of a “black box” … within which the representative can do whatever he pleases. If he exceeds the limit, he no longer represents.” (Pitkin 39.) Under Pitkin’s theory, a sovereign would have the right to tap phone lines and surveillance people, because we gave them the right to do so when we elected them as representative. The President is also the commander in chief, whom the nation elected. Under the umbrella of rights, the President has the right to do what he deems necessary for the good of the nation. We trusted him and his judgement, and his team, the day we put him into office. As long as he is within his limits, the use of surveillance is fine. It is not necessarily harming the people, or asking the people to abstain from what they can’t live without, and he continues to be accountable through the process of checks and balances, he is only doing his job as our political representative. Under Pitkin, “Accountability to the governed is what defines representation… accountability theorists are usually are usually engaged in trying to distinguish “true” or “genuine” or “real” representation from something…that looks like representation in a formal way but is not.” (Pitkin 57.) The accountability view attempts to distinguish a representative regime from other successful forms of government. The accountability point of view contends that accountability to the represented can only stand true if there are controls, but only as a means to their purpose. According to Pitkin, “The point of holding him to account…is to make him act a certain way…so that he will be responsive…to the obligations… in his position” (Pitkin 57.) This explicit point is what is intentionally void in the authoritarian perspective. From the accountability standpoint, Hobbes did not understand the meaning of representation. Hobbes defines representation in terms of possessing authority that has been given to a person; the authorization view. That view states that “a representative is someone who has been authorized to act…while the represented has become responsible for the consequences.” (Pitkin 39.) In this “formalistic” view, the represented agree to give up their power to the representative in order to have an ideal society. A representative under the accountability stance is someone who is formally given rules to act. If the people are not pleased with the representative, they will not reelect him.
Under accountability, the representative is bound by new and special obligations. For example, in terms of elections, the representative can be removed at the end of their term. This can help to increase the chances that the result will be someone who is responsive.
Pitkin critiques Hobbes when he calls his sovereign a representative because he implies something beyond what his definition contains. Anything that the sovereign does is considered representing. He has been accused of being deliberately tricky. Pitkin thinks that Hobbes has a limit and he is just partial, while his definition hasn’t quite taken him all the way there. He has developed too narrow of a perspective by approaching from just one angle. On the other hand, the accountability stance has a system of checks and balances, where the representative must act a certain way, or his position might be stripped away. The use of surveillance is a way that the representative of the US attempts to keep safety and peace in the country.
Pitkin concludes that each form of representation plays a role in representation. In other words, separately none of these completely underline the meaning of representation, but together they paint an adequate picture. All stances agree that “representation is necessary in any complex society.” (Pitkin 40.) For Hobbes, any type of government, good or bad, is representation. For the accountability stance, the only type of representation that is desirable is one that follows through with what they were elected to do, and if they fail to do so, they will be subject to appropriate repercussions.