The NSA’s Rent Is Too Damn High

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/

For months, the American public has received a steady stream of new information detailing the massive scale and scope of the United States’s spying activities. Of course, maintaining a surveillance state powerful enough to reach into the inboxes of world leaders, friend and foe, is not cheap. Indeed, as the Washington Post revealed when it released portions of the so-called Black Budget, this year’s price tag on America’s spook infrastructure comes out to a whopping $52.6 billion.

This is, of course, a tremendous sum — more than double the size of the Department of Agriculture, more than triple the size of NASA; the list goes on. But what really puts this number into perspective is its average cost to each American taxpayer, or what I would call the NSA and associated agencies’ “rent.”

Yes, the NSA’s rent, charged to every taxpayer living under its web of surveillance, comes out to an exorbitant $574 per year. If this is the price the federal government is charging American taxpayers to have their own privacy invaded, then I say the NSA’s rent is too damn high.

Normally, at the end of one of these blogs, I would ask a rhetorical question like, “Washington, are you listening?” But in this case, we know Washington is listening, and now we know how much we’re being charged for it.

Steve H. Hanke is a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. You can follow Prof. Hanke on Twitter @Steve_Hanke or his website at Cato.

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