Re: poly: Pondering Privacy

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Mon May 18 1998 - 14:38:41 PDT

Greg Burch writes:
>I'm sure David makes the point in the later parts of the book, but it seems to
>me that there are some (perhaps very few) processes that are made LESS
>efficient by transparency, or where transparency is inconsistent with the
>value of liberty, which he seems to posit as more fundamental than the vale of
>privacy in its various forms.
>One such that has come to my mind is a matter of privacy with which I deal
>every day, that being the attorney-client privilege. ...
>A sketch of the policy behind this principle runs thus: The system
>works best when people have access to the highest quality legal advice; that
>advice can only be given effectively when a lawyer is supplied with all of the
>facts and a candid rendition of the client's values and goals; such complete
>communication is only possible where a person believes that her communication
>with her lawyer will be and remain confidential.

I agree that there are likely places where secrecy is clearly good, but this
argument is far too sketchy to convince me that attorney-client priviledge is
one of them. Yes it has some good features, but removing it also may give
some good features. We have to weigh the two to say what is better on net.
In fact, it's not even clear to me that the anglo adversarial legal system
is better than the involved-judge approach popular in the rest of the world.

>It has been my experience that the attorney-client privilege in fact
>ultimately encourages honesty and morality in public actions because,
>sheltered by a "cone of silence" people will work through scenarios with their
>lawyers that they do not feel secure in discussing with anyone else.

Have you had experience with a legal system where there was not an attorney-
client priviledge? If not, I don't see you can have much empirical support
for one situation over the other.

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614
Received on Mon May 18 21:44:43 1998

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Mar 07 2006 - 14:45:30 PST