Unfortunately, the world of private institutions acting as if they authorize our lives doesn't stop with the finance industry. It's everywhere. If you don't believe me, just ask The New York Times.
Several weeks ago, the Bush administration pleaded a case to several newspapers, The Times included, asking them not to disclose a secret financial tracking program designed to keep tabs on the spending habits of suspected terrorists and their supporters around the globe.
I've made it clear in this column that the public isn't wild about these programs. Even so, I'm not sure that most Americans appointed The New York Times to be the final judge as to what national security programs should or shouldn't be made public.
Last week, The Times again insisted that it had acted in the public interest by publishing news of the tracking system and elaborating that there must be oversight of such secret initiatives.
As I've pointed out so often, most journalists continue to believe that the First Amendment provides them, as the "arbiters of the truth," with a "right to know."
It does not. It provides them with freedom of speech.
When we as individuals are forced to cry on bended knee to credit bureaus, or when the presidential administration must plead its case to editors of a private publication, then something is out of whack.
Mr. Credit-Rater, please don't punish me!
Mr. New York Times Editor, please don't print national secrets that you first justify as publishable because there's a "right to know," and then later claim, "Everyone knew, so it's all right!"
After all, we are a nation of laws -- some created by elected lawmakers, but many others virtually written by the same for-profit companies that will most benefit by them.
Comforting, isn't it?