In “CitizenFour,” Edward Snowden leaked multiple files from the government to emphasize the lack of privacy citizens all over the country obtain. Snowden believed everyone should know the information that the government has on them and was notably disturbed by the lack of privacy in the United States. As I watched the documentary, I continually thought “why?” Why did Snowden feel the need to leak this information. Why does it matter? Why is everyone freaking out?
As a government employee and future Army officer, I like the idea of the government erring on the side of national security rather than privacy rights. Every day there are people across the country that put their lives on the line for the safety of others. As a child, I watched my dad leave for work everyday to a job saving the lives of other, but who’s looking out for him. It is nice to know that the government is aiding in the safety of these people. Maybe the security appeals to me because I feel safer or maybe because I have nothing to hide, but ultimately, I’d rather the government invade my privacy for my own security.
According to CBS news, only 40% of people in the United States would agree with my stance on the government erring on the national security side. After Snowden leaked governmental data, 6 out of 10 people disapproved of the government collecting phone records of citizens of the United States. Although many believed it was wrong to collect phone records of “ordinary people,” how do we know people are ordinary? I know the saying that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but sometimes “ordinary people” are not so ordinary. In order to provide national security, the government must monitor every single citizen in the United States, not just the ones suspected of terrorism. Everyone wants to feel safe, but there will be a cost and they must evaluate what is more important to them: security or privacy. I choose security.
As I was outlining my response for this blog post, I realized I make little to no economic decisions. I do not spend money because I do not have to and spending money gives me major anxiety. I save nearly every penny I earn and do not have to pay for food or tuition because of ROTC. I am very fortunate in that manner. I even had enough money to pay off my loan from freshman year. That has been the most significant economic decision I have made recently, but as I looked at the works of Nate Silver and Daniel Kahneman, I did not see myself falling under any of the biases. Maybe I am just turning a blind eye to my poor economic decisions, but I am not seeing it.
Looking at the works of Nate Silver and Daniel Kahneman, significant biases exist when making economic decisions. Silver emphasized the over confidence bias. This bias exist when people are more confident about a situation than the parameters of the situation would permit. Silver gave the example of economic forecasters who only predicted 2 out of the last 60 recessions, yet continue to believe their predictions on the economy are correct. Considering that they were only correct 3.3% of the time, they should not be confident about their economic forecasts, but they are. That is overconfidence.
Kahneman delved into a similar bias with the optimistic bias. The optimistic bias occurs when people take on significant risk even when they have evidence to prove that they will likely fail. Kahneman gave the example of restaurants. Restaurants open all over the country every single day, but 60% of these restaurants are out of business in three years. Looking at the data, most people would think “wow statistically, I will fail,” but people that open these restaurants do not believe that data pertains to them. Many of them believe they have a 70% chance of being successful. That is the exact opposite of what the data tells them. They are victims of the optimistic bias.
When looking at my economic decisions so far in my life, I do not believe I have fallen under any of these biases. Statistically, I will fall under one of these biases, but at the moment I do not make enough economic decisions to do so. In regards to paying off my loan, I decided to pay off my loan because it was rapidly accruing interest and I felt like it would be best to pay it off now with $200+ in interest after 6 months rather than wait as the amount of interest continued to increase. Ultimately, the little amount of economic decisions I have made has limited my biases, which to me is a good thing.
Nearly everyday, a new article pops up on the news about police brutality. Some cop shot and killed an unarmed man. Cops kill again. Everyday people die at the hands of cops, but is it always the cops fault and do cops go out to kill specific races of people? I do not think so, but as seen in new campaigns such as #blacklivesmatter, many people believe otherwise. Not all cops are bad, but there are a few that aid in drawing a bad reputation towards law enforcement. Although there are some instances in which cops use excessive force, not all cases involve excessive force or cop killings based on race. That is just what is seen in the news. Unlawful acts draw a larger crowd to news sources, ultimately bring more money and higher ratings to that source.
As I looked for data on police involved killings, it was difficult to find a source that was not over the top biased. Many of the first options that pop up when you google “police brutality” send you straight to #blacklivesmatter websites. I am not saying that black lives do not matter, but their data obviously stated that police kill more black people than white people. According to Mint Press News, that is technically incorrect. Up until September 2015, police had killed 385 white people which is nearly half of the 776 people killed by police. Although there were technically more white people killed, black people are about two times more likely to be killed than white people or Hispanics based on the percentage of each race in the entire population of the United States.
In the news, the police deaths that are continually top headlines all over the country continually emphasize police killing black people. If I can think back to every story I heard in the last year about police killings that blasted through Facebook or top news outlets, I would say most, if not all, were about police killings of black people. Based on how many times I read these stories compared to similar stories with a different race, I would think that police kill black people much more than two times as much as people of other races. According to Daniel Kahneman, I have fallen to an availability bias. Availability bias is judging frequency by the ease with which instances come to mind. I can think of at least 5 police related killings of black people to maybe one police shooting involving a white person. That makes black people five times more likely to be killed by police, but in reality it only about two times more likely.
Although it is obviously an issue that black people are two times more likely to be killed by police than other races, everything heard on the news must be cross checked with available data so we do not fall under the availability bias. The news puts out stories that will people will listen to, that they can get more viewers off of, and stories they can get more money off of. They do not necessarily put out news stories that show the whole story. All lives matter. Excessive police brutality should be diminished for everyone.