Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Meaning of Privacy - Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3
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The Meaning of Privacy - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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The Meaning of Privacy
“Privacy: Its Origin, Function, and Future.” Paper delivered at the conference, The Economics and the Law of Privacy, University of Chicago, November 30–December 1, 1979(Working Paper #166).
Privacy, more than mere secrecy (an information preserve maintained about oneself) is conceptualized in terms of autonomy within society. Secrecy is only a component of privacy in the more fundamental sense articulated by Hirshleifer. Privacy goes more to the overarching social structure and ethos or supporting social ethic.
Hirshleifer's purpose is to examine the sources of the social consequences of the origin of the “taste” for privacy. Recognizing that culture, although important does not totally displace biological disposition, he contends that the three social principles of dominance, sharing, and private rights have evolved in Nature as adaptations of social niche. The taste for “private rights” is assumed to be an ingrained attitude laid down on eons of primate heritage.
It is, the author contends, a serious over-simplification to distinguish between “selfish” and “unselfish” behavior, between private goals and public goals, etc. While man does have egoistic, purely selfish drives, his social instincts are more complex, involving at the least the three distinguishable principles of dominance, sharing, and private rights. These ethics have evolved and have become ingrained in the human makeup in association with various forms of social organization over the history of mankind, with each structure being adaptive to the ecological parameters in which human association has taken place. While the taste for privacy in a given incident may represent nothing more than a selfish claim, insistence of one's own rights is also part of a two-sided ethic involving willingness to concede corresponding rights to others, and even willingness to participate as a disinterested third-party enforcer against violators.
Hirschleifer's paper is in an anthropological mode and follows an evolutionary model of analysis. He concludes that doubts should be raised as to the wisdom of maximizing aggregate wealth as the criterion of social policy, and that while it is conventional to deplore merely “commercial” ethics, societies organized on the privacy ethic “have given a good account of themselves historically...in terms of values we consider civilized.” Refusing to forecast the future prospects of privacy, as a social structure balancing individual autonomy with communal responsibility, he concludes that “they don't look very good!”