Privacy or concealment?

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Power corrupts.

The central error of those who put their faith in big government is their assumption that, because the bureaucracy is led by elected officials, the more power government has, the more the people’s wishes will be realized. In this fantasy, private enterprise is always the bogeyman, and “the people” are best served by a government that mandates doing the “right thing” in many, if not all, avenues of life.

Rule by democracy, they’ll tell you, not bank balance.

The point isn’t completely without merit. Big business can be a threat to liberty. When big business can outspend government lawyers trying to prosecute them for environmental infractions, that’s a problem. When big business can develop a near-monopoly, drastically reducing consumer choice, that’s a problem. When big business has protected markets or receives public welfare, that’s a problem.

But the problem isn’t big business, it’s big anything.

A buddy of mine once said that power attracts those who want power. If a society gives business all the power, those who seek power will gravitate to it; likewise if government has all the power. And some of those who seek power will have bad motives.

Ideally, people with bad motives will never have power. But if people with bad motives occupying Wall Street is a problem, it’s an even bigger problem when those in elected office have bad motives. Marry bad motives to broad powers and freedom is threatened.

Think it can’t happen in Canada? Dream on. This kind of control doesn’t require tanks or troops. It just requires a distracted citizenry; people who will line up for a new iPhone but can’t find the time to learn about issues or speak with their elected representative.

How does freedom in Canada disappear? One little step at a time:

Privacy legislation is a powerful tool in the hands of bureaucrats. Under the auspices of protecting citizens, isolation is the new norm. They’re spending our money, policing our communities, regulating every element of our society, but try to get any details on where money is being spent, who is taking what action, and why things are the way they are, and I’ll betcha four times out of five you’ll run into “privacy” restrictions.

Of course, you can always file a Freedom of Information request to get the details you’re seeking. But that’s asking the fox to police the henhouse. We’re trusting the group being investigated will be forthright with handing over information.

And more to the point: Why should we even need to file a request?

Here’s a simple idea. Let’s have total transparency.

If you work for a public agency, we get to know how you spent our money and what you wrote in a work-related email. PR spokespeople? A government agency doesn’t need them. They need a PR person to help direct inquiries the right way, perhaps, but their role should never be to censor what government officials say.

There should be no motive for glossing over bad news. If a ministry has problems, we need to know. If an agency is failing, we need to know. No PR person should ever be instructed to be anything but completely forthright and forthcoming with all the information someone requests. No government agency should ever have an interest in portraying itself in a good light.

National security will occasionally trump a citizen’s right to know, as will some cases involving minors. But these should be the exceptions, not the rule.

Here’s the truth about big government and its advocates: They think we’re stupid. They base their moral right to decide for us on their belief they can make better decisions with our money than we will. And they think they can get away with it because we’re too lazy to care.

Many of us aren’t stupid. Many of us are as smart or smarter than our political masters. And even in the cases where they will make better decisions with our money than we will, that doesn’t give them the moral authority to do so, any more than I have the right to steal $10 from a smoker “cuz he was just gonna spend it on cigarettes.”

As for whether we’re too lazy to care, I guess time will tell. Warm houses, plenty to eat, and shopping, shopping, shopping will keep a lot of people content for a long time. But when indifference from politicians and the bureaucracy gets too institutionalized, it will start having a material impact. Things won’t work well. People will suffer. Corruption will become more visible.

Maybe then – maybe only then – we’ll say “Enough.”

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