But Now You Know

The search for truth in human action

Secrecy is Tyranny


(caption: Keeping secrets from voters is exactly as coercive as holding a gun to their head in the voting booth)

(caption: Keeping secrets from voters is exactly as coercive as holding a gun to their head in the voting booth)

Secrecy, even in and of itself, is a form of tyranny.

No, this doesn’t mean when you don’t tell your friend about his surprise party, nor concealing the recipe for Coke Classic, not even the hidden initiation rites for that fraternity…

But when you cause someone to do something they would have otherwise not chosen, because you conceal information from them, then you are coercing them, the same as if you pointed a gun at their head. 

And, in the case of government, when the People are supposed to control policy through elections and popular support, any government-concealed information that changes how they would vote is tyranny, same as if they sent stormtroopers to help fill out ballots on election day.

Any pundit you see complaining that a government official told the American public too much is, in effect, advocating tyranny.

It’s one thing to hide when troops are making an attack for a few days, or to openly refuse to tell exactly how a nuclear bomb is made…but it’s another, entirely, to conceal information that will change how people vote, no matter what “national security” excuse they invent.

This is most painfully transparent when the actual “national security” excuse is “this will embarrass [some government official or office]”. Embarrassment, shame, and general changing of how someone sees something are obviously not legitimate excuses. What’s more, it would not matter either way, because that is the price of liberty.

America is supposed to be a free country. This requires responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions, including when it means something embarrassing, whether to your neighbor or the foreigners who will be horrified or disgusted at our government’s behavior.

In fact, without secrecy, many of those evils would not occur in the first place, just as in our real lives. If the government can’t hide when it bribes a foreign official, or tortures someone, or other evils, then it will face public and international shame, and the threat of voter retaliation, and hopefully not do it in the first place.

By preventing voter retaliation, a government does not make itself more stable…just more tyrannical.

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May 29, 2009 - Posted by | International, Philosophy, Politics, Society | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. […] Secrecy in government, on the other hand, is one of the worst forms of tyranny. […]

    Pingback by Gingrich and Santorum are Enemy Combatants « Pithy Pontifications | December 4, 2010 | Reply

  2. […] Not only do the Obama administration and neocons want to violate the 1st amendment, but they are promoting the tyranny of government secrecy. […]

    Pingback by Who is the Real Traitor: Wikileaks, or Their Attackers? « Pithy Pontifications | November 30, 2010 | Reply

  3. […] warrantless wire tapping, demands that we not criticize foreign policy lest the troops feel bad, secrecy regarding torture and other violations of American principles, et cetera. Oil Prices, Real and […]

    Pingback by How, Exactly, Are They Defending Our Freedom? « But Now You Know | August 20, 2009 | Reply

  4. My personal opinion is that if the media hadn’t deliberately lied for 19 years about how the people we were supporting in Yugoslavia were “goodies” (they were actually consistently unrepentent ex-Nazis publicly committed to genocide) & how all the atrcities were carried out by Serbs (they were actually overwhelmingly carried out by said Nazis or the KLA drug dealers, often in the case of Croatian & Bosnian moslem Nazis, against each other’s people or in the KLA case, killing more albanians than Serbs) the American people would justly have hung most of their leaders for war crimes, genocide & worse.

    Comment by neil craig | August 8, 2009 | Reply

  5. I should emphasize that this applies to both parties, as surely anyone but the most blindered partisans can probably see…for example:

    When a neocon apologist claims “oh no, releasing information about torturing prisoners just undermines our image and lets the terrorists know what we do”, he is ignoring both that the End Does Not Justify the Means (we cannot violate our open society just for their imagined gain of torturing more unsuspecting prisoners in the future) and the Price of Liberty is responsibility…if we did something that undermines our image, we must face the consequences.

    When the Obama administration, on the other hand, conceals the methodology and details of its fraudulent ‘bank stress tests’, because “it is more effective if the details are unknown, and anyway it wouldn’t be fair to the banks who failed”, they are ignoring the same two facts…the End Does Not Justify the Means (it being more effective doesn’t change that we must be an open society) and that the price of liberty is responsibility (including if you’re an incompetent bank).

    Comment by kazvorpal | May 29, 2009 | Reply


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