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Analysis of the Munk Debates


The issue of state surveillance has been a hot topic in the past few years, and with the Munk Debate on “State Surveillance” more fuel has been added to the argument whether to support or ax the current surveillance regime. Since

Snowden, living in Russia with temporary asylum, last year leaked documents he collected while working for the NSA… The disclosures have sparked a debate over how much leeway to give the U.S. government in gathering information to protect Americans from terrorism, and have prompted numerous lawsuits. (Reuters, 2014)

Due to the debate there have been considerable differences in between individuals on whether what the government is doing is right or not. So therefore it is natural to focus on the Munk debates (munkdebates, 2014), where there are individuals arguing for pro-surveillance and con-surveillance.

Summary of Arguments

Professor Alan Dershowitz and General Michael Hayden argued for the continual support of the surveillance regime. Alan Dershowitz argues that in regards to surveillance if it was properly conducted, it would inherently protect our liberties from future infringements by the state as a reaction to another event such as 9/11 (munkdebates, 2014). Currently Professor Dershowitz claims that the surveillance technology is still a developing technology therefore to cancel it would be giving the enemy an advantage, because they do not face any constraints. However to proceed with the use of this developing technology, one must realize that it is a preventative measure, therefore there must always be an over-prediction, so the net that is cast does not miss any danger. While Dershowitz acknowledges that there are situations where civil liberties are violated, to proceed in the future with this new found method of preventative intelligence is with extreme caution and must be accountable and balanced on whether the bigger desire is to stop attacks or increase privacy.

While Professor Alan Dershowitz generally talked about the usefulness of surveillance and why there should continual support for state surveillance, General Michael Hayden took another approach. Rather than talking about surveillance generally, Hayden made reference actual programs that the NSA, claiming that some of the facts out there on NSA surveillance is blown way out of proportion and tried to anchor the crowd in reality (munkdebates, 2014). General Hayden claims that the NSA is not doing anything that it is not allowed to do, and that some of the claims presented by the other parties are on the possibilities of the NSA’s power but not on the actuality of what the NSA does. Hayden goes on to state that the arguments published against NSA on the Prison Program among many other programs, which allows them access to Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, are usually segmented and do not include the whole story. Furthermore in reality, NSA only collects .00004% of global internet traffic, which every other country does but they are the only ones singled out. In reaction to stopping 9/11 and the recent Boston Marathon Bombings, Hayden responded that it was due to the limitations of not being able to monitor Americans that they were unable to stop it with state surveillance, however NSA only uses that other major companies such as Google collects.

On the other side of the argument, is technology entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian, and journalist Glenn Greenwald. Entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian focuses on the costs to economic and technological aspects associated with the continuation of the surveillance state (munkdebates, 2014). With technological industries losing up to $180 billion due to hesitation from consumers signing up because of fear of being tracked has caused significant losses to the economy. However the main argument that Ohanian forwards is the fact that the ability for NSA to set up surveillance of internet usage is through the use of a loophole or flaw. This loophole or flaw which Ohanian identified pollutes the network and threatens security. Therefore instead of exploiting the flaw, Ohanian claims that the NSA should spend efforts on increasing the security of the internet therefore other malicious individuals or groups are unable to use the same flaw to exploit the public. Moreover Ohanian states that the internet is a medium for people live and explore and that monitoring the internet disproportionately affects innocent people with no due process, therefore the question should not be whether they can but on whether they should establish a surveillance state.

Glenn Greenwald argues that the NSA has been lying to the public for a very long time, and that the officials are skilled liars. The state surveillance mantra is “collect it all, snip it all, know it all, process it all, and exploit it all” and that state surveillance actually entails indiscriminate suspicion less surveillance contrary to what General Hayden was saying (munkdebates, 2014). Stating that terrorism has less fatalities than some diseases across the world, Greenwald claims that term terrorism has been used as a pretext for many of the inhumane acts that the United States have committed. However there have been no documented cases where meta-analysis or the collection of bulk data has actually stopped terrorism. Furthermore Greenwald argues that the collection of bulk data is more pervasive to individuals than focusing the surveillance on certain aspects of their life. Therefore Greenwald is rejected the surveillance state because of what it is now, and not what it could potentially be, as well as he argues that whichever methods protected us from the Soviets during the Cold war should be sufficient to protect us from terrorists hiding in caves.


Both sides portray a very compelling argument and there should be merits awarded to both sides. However from my personal perspective, based off of what they have said, it is not sufficient enough to formulate a solid opinion yet. Rather I would argue that from Michael Hayden’s and Glenn Greenwald’s argument, that the evidence they both have is contrast to each other. Therefore until the evidence from both sides are up for public display then is one able to fully formulate an opinion on the subject rather than base it off the words of another. However I would agree with both Alan Dershowitz and Alexis Ohanian because they both offer quite practical arguments. It seems that Alan Dershowitz believes surveillance is inevitable, therefore stuff can be done to make a bad situation better, which translates to oversight and accountability. Which I would agree is a plausible action to take if the surveillance state is inevitable in this day and age. Furthermore Alexis Ohanian claims that by allowing the flaw to exist in the network and using it as a tool for surveillance jeopardizes the security of everyone. I would have to agree with Alexis Ohanian that by allowing this flaw to exist not only are we susceptible to state surveillance but surveillance from all sorts of parties capable of exploiting the flaw. Therefore it would be vital for the government to fix the flaw, and if surveillance was absolutely necessary to pursue traditional methods such as recommended by Alan Dershowitz to go about accomplishing that task.

Works Cited

munkdebates. (2014, May 2). State Surveillance. Retrieved from MUNK Debates:

Reuters, T. (2014, Janurary 2). Edward Snowden NSA leak: NY Times, Guardian call for clemency. Retrieved from CBC News World:




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Temporary Foreign Workers – New Proletariat Class?

Having been in existence for many years, the Temporary Foreign Workers program is making headlines in newspapers across the country due to some companies’ blatant abuse of this program to exploit foreign workers. To fully understand why this is happening and explain it in a Marxist perspective we must explain what the Temporary Foreign Workers program entails. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program, or otherwise known as TFWP, is a government designed programs to assist employers employ qualified foreign workers to work in their company when they are unable to find any qualified Canadian workers (WorkSafeBC, 2014). The TFWP program allows and permits eligible foreign workers to come to Canada and work here for a limited period of time; however the companies requesting foreign workers must be able to demonstrate that they cannot find qualified Canadian workers to employ (WorkSafeBC, 2014).

However while it does sound good on paper, in practice the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been used as a means to exploit foreign workers coming here intent on making a decent living and in some cases becoming a Canadian citizen. One of the controversies that surround the TFWP is most accurately portrayed by the first paragraph of a CBC article:

A temporary foreign worker who sold massage devices and other products in mall kiosks has reported he and his colleagues worked hundreds of hours for no pay, while forced to live under constant threat of deportation. (CBC, 2014)

But it is not only the foreign workers that are exploited, but the Temporary Foreign Worker Program also has a consequential impact on Canadian workers as well. The TFWP has Canadians feeling uncertain about their future because they believe it is easier for foreigners to take their jobs (The Canadian Press, 2014). The controversy is aligning with all Canadians due to high levels of unemployment throughout the country, and a mass of people looking for jobs (The Canadian Press, 2014). While it is believed that the TFWP is to bring in workers to fill voids where no qualified Canadian workers can be found, it is not the case. Through a go public inquiry conducted by CBC news, they found that there have been a few McDonald’s located in British Columbia that have been opting to give more and more hours to foreign workers and reducing the hours of Canadian workers (Tomlinson, 2014).

There are many ways to explain why this program was proposed, and it is Karl Marx who offers the most compelling perspective which explains the inherent reasoning behind the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Marx, whom made suggestions similar to communism and socialism as we know it today, argued that society is shaped by economic relations (Pavlich, 2011). But more specifically the economic relations in regards to the mode of production: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The bourgeoisie are the people that own the means of production and employ workers to fill their workshop, while the proletariat are the workers, who trade their labor for wages. But this relationship is an exploitative one, therefore the bourgeoisie exploit the proletariat to generate a profit, and the greater the exploitation the greater the profit. However to keep the capitalistic system, there needs to be conditions in place to ensure sustainability, which is to make the proletariat utterly dependent on the bourgeoisies (Pavlich, 2011).

There were two different strains of theories stemming from Marx’s theory: Instrumental and Structuralist Marxism. The Instrumental Marxist argue that the state is the right hand man of the capitalist class, therefore act to every whim and command the bourgeoisie give (Comack, 2006). While Structuralist Marxist believes that the state through accumulation and legitimization processes strives to reproduce class relations and domination in line with capitalism (Comack, 2006).

According the Marx explaining the Temporary Foreign Worker Program would be a walk in the park. The TFWP is in existence to promote the bourgeoisies’ interests by increasing the ability to increase exploitation of foreign workers thus generating more profit. Furthermore with the ability to bring in more and more workers adding to the reserve workforce enables the owners or otherwise the capitalists to ensure that there is plenty of competition for the job therefore keep wages down. Along with the increase dependence of the temporary foreign workers onto the people whom employ them, there is also an increase in exploitation as shown in the CBC quote above. Where the refusal to work and request more humane working conditions usually ends with termination of the employment or threat to do that.

The ability to exploit workers that put up less resistance and unable to establish an union or band together to petition for higher wages, are exactly the workers that companies want and the ones that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program brings over. With the threat of replacement with another foreign worker, Marx would claim that the bourgeoisies’ will to maximize profits through exploitation is clearly expressed through the TFWP. Similarly the exploitation of these foreign workers impacts the Canadians just as much. Like the case of McDonald’s as noted previously, Marx would claim that it just adds to the supplementary workforce and increases exploitation, therefore increasing competition for jobs which results in lower wages and lower costs of operation for employers.
While the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is opposed by a majority of people across Canada, not just for the exploitative acts that it condemns over foreign workers; but also because it enables the ability for employers to opt for cheaper foreign workers rather than domestic and more expensive workers. It is not surprising according to Marx to see that Canada’s government insists that the TFWP is absolutely necessary in sustaining the economy. Marx would claim that the government’s inherent goal is to maintain the capitalistic interests, thus the ability to bring in foreign workers would maintain the status-quo of bourgeoisie and proletariat, even with the push of Canadians for higher wages and good working conditions.

Works Cited
CBC. (2014, May 5). Foreign Worker Reports Death Threats, Coercion. Retrieved from Huffington Pos: Business:

Comack, E. (2006). Locating law: race/class/gender/sexuality connections. In E. Comack, Theoretical Approaches in the Sociology of Law: Theoretical Excursions (pp. 18-67). Halifax, NS: Fernwood Publishing.
Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Ontario: Oxford University Press.

The Canadian Press. (2014, April 29). Jason Kenney on hot seat as controversy rages over temporary foreign workers. Retrieved from CBC News: Politics:

Tomlinson, K. (2014, April 14). McDonald’s accused of favouring foreign workers. Retrieved from CBC News:

WorkSafeBC. (2014). Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Retrieved from WorkBC:

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