The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Government For the People Shouldn’t Keep Secrets From the People

This is hard to talk about, because we live in a debased period.

Government’s job, in a democracy, should be to increase the welfare of the people and represent their will.

Because people elect the government, they need to know what the government is doing and has done in order to choose who to elect.

This is fundamental.

When people do not know what the government is doing, they cannot make good decisions.

Further, elected representatives (in principle, not in current practice) are the employees of the population. As employers, the population has a right to know what the representatives are doing. (Or if you prefer another metaphor, perhaps better, they are trustees.) They don’t have the right to know everything, but anything related to the job, including corruption and double dealing, they do.

The only possible exceptions are certain military related issues which would be very useful to enemies, but even there, the span is limited.

The reason for this, because apparently it’s not obvious, is that if electors don’t know what the people they elected and the government those people run are doing, they can’t make good decisions, like choosing to, oh, fire them.

As an aside, this is also why we have a right to know what our government is doing and why they don’t have a right to spy on us: they work for us, we do not work for them. Even so, their personal lives, other than graft and blatant hypocrisy should be off the line. But what they do officially we need to know.

If government doesn’t serve the people, it becomes tyranny.

The current system of classifying virtually everything and then lying and lying and lying is clearly anti-democratic and tyrannical.

What we have right now in most countries (see France, Pensions for a non-American example) is not democracy. It is oligarchical tyranny: the rule of the few over the many.

Nor is this just about “ought”, the problem with endless propaganda is that our elites have been running our countries terribly. They have mishandled the economy repeatedly since 1968 or so, have completely bungled climate change and ecological collapse, have made the middle and working classes poor and the rich richer. They have been running government for the benefit of the few, not the many. The only major notable exception is China, and from what I hear from those on the ground, that’s changing for the worse and has been since after the 2008 financial crisis.

Governments which impoverish the many to benefit the few are tyrannies and need to be overthrown. But one of the ways they get there is by constant lying and saying “we’re lying and concealing for your own good. You’re children, it isn’t safe for you to know.”

Anyone who thinks you don’t deserve or need to know what they claim to be doing on your behalf isn’t your friend or your employee, they are your master and they see you as their slave.

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  1. Ché Pasa

    Government for the people…

    Gee. That’s a nice idea….

  2. Purple Library Guy

    One of the articles from the weekend roundup I believe was mentioning an apparent paradox, that the US classifies way, way too much stuff but then is weirdly cavalier about how many people have access to that classified information. But they didn’t explicitly draw out the reason why. I think that’s actually an inevitable result of overclassifying everything–if you classify so much stuff that nobody can do their job without seeing classified stuff, you have to give everyone access to classified stuff or the government grinds to a halt. Same for various grades of secrecy–if everyone decides, well, everyone can see Totally Extra Top Secret material, so we better classify all our stuff Ultimate Totally Extra Top Secret, then suddenly everyone needs Ultimate Totally Extra Top Secret access and will sooner or later get it.

    Not that it matters much if the media is generally complicit in keeping the secrets.

  3. Purple Library Guy

    I don’t think, in the medium to long term, that government FOR the people can exist that isn’t also government BY the people. It works the same for smaller groups–you’re not going to have government FOR the warrior class that isn’t government BY the warrior class, which is why medieval Europe was generally governed FOR the warrior class, while medieval China, even when it got nominally conquered by nomadic warriors, was generally governed FOR the bureaucracy (and really still is).

    In general, whoever is writing the rules, writes the rules for the benefit of their kind of people. If “their kind of people” isn’t the general public, then the general public will not be the beneficiary.

  4. Willy

    Governments job, in a democracy…

    I tried this argument with a conservative once only to be told that we don’t live in a democracy but a republic. Maybe secrets are better kept in a republic?

    But yeah, I noticed that evil prefers operating in secret, while good prefers being an open book with open discussions and even open book tests.

    Maybe in a republic it’s easier for secret donors and secret machinations to publicly reveal ‘secrets’ about an opposition to try and soil them regardless of whatever the opposition has actually done for their citizens.

    Meanwhile, on a different, conservative blog I’m waiting for a response to my question: “Can anybody explain to me just what is meant by the term ‘woke’, and why it’s so evil’? Nobody’s answering. I think they’re trying to keep it a secret from me.

  5. Feral Finster

    But we can trust these same self-serving mendacious elites when it comes to Ukraine!

    In fact, even questioning the narrative makes you a traitor, if not Literal Hitler.

  6. Purple Library Guy

    Does anybody in the United States actually know what they mean when they talk about Democracy vs. Republic? I sure don’t. My favourite line about that came from Pogo, some kid saying “But which is better, or which is different, I haven’t the remotest idea. Have you?” and completely stumping Deacon Mushrat.

  7. Purple Library Guy

    Oddly, I think right wingers mean almost the same thing by “Woke” as the people who invented the term: The idea that unquestioned supremacy by straight white non-poor males is not a good thing and should be disputed. For the alt-right, that is a catastrophic idea. I mean, they tell themselves various other things about “Woke”, but at core that’s what is making them so upset. They had a good thing going, being top dogs, and “Woke” fundamentally threatens it.

    As a white male myself, I can imagine I might also feel threatened if it weren’t for the fact that I have a large and solid ego; it doesn’t matter to me whether the GROUP I belong to has particular status, because I’m convinced of my INDIVIDUAL superiority–if every group identity is equal, I’ll still believe myself to be one of the smartest individuals around so it’s fine. Sure, I tell myself that I am a person of honour with a sense of justice and that’s why I believe in people getting an equal shake, but the ego probably makes it a lot easier. What if I had little or no feeling of self-worth outside my ethnic/gender group identity? Taking away that one shred of un-earned self-respect would be traumatic.

    I think that’s why so many of the footsoldiers in all the quasi-fascist formations are such fucking losers. Which in turn is why it’s harder to build a fascist movement in a society that isn’t manufacturing losers.

  8. Laura

    According to the first few paragraphs of deep state organ Wikipedia, “woke” began in the mid 1800’s in African American circles. Reduced to its barest form, it simply meant “alert to racial prejudice and discrimination.”

    It has morphed into various meanings since and, “Beginning in the 2010s, it came to encompass a broader awareness of social inequalities such as sexism, and has also been used as shorthand for American Left ideas involving identity politics and social justice, such as the notion of white privilege and slavery reparations for African Americans.

    increasingly, it also meant not only racial consciousness but also that of gender as well as other discriminated identities, originally in the American context.

    Deep state organ Wikipedia then goes on to state that,

    “By 2020, however, members of the political center and right wing in several Western countries were using the term woke in an ironic way, as an insult for various progressive or leftist movements and ideologies perceived as overzealous, performative, or insincere.

    It sounds like something that began with good intentions and continues in some places to have good intent, while in other areas it has gone completely overboard and devolved into self-absorbed narcississm at best. At worst, it’s used as a cudgel to shut down any and all rational debate about the topic at hand. More importantly for many on both the “left, right and center” is it’s obvious use as a distraction from economic issues and its use as a wedge in order to prevent any meaningful economic – and social – solidarity.

    So perhaps the non-answer to the question “what is meant by the term ‘woke’, and why it’s so evil’?” is because the question itself is perceived as a subtle affront. After all, anyone can look things up. And if one chooses to do so, even using a silly source such as Wikipedia, most would come away with a more nuanced understanding that wouldn’t lead to a query as to why “the other” sees it as “so evil.”

  9. Henry Moon Pie

    Purple Library Guy:

    Compare a policy enacted through a popular referendum and one made into law by elected representatives of the citizenry. The former is a democratic process, the latter a republican process.

    So our states are often the combination of the two, though some states have scrambled to limit or eliminate referenda. The federal government is strictly republican.

  10. StewartM

    How can you reconcile this “the people should be in charge” meme with the fascist-like “the capitalist ubermensch” meme of Rand, Friedman, von Hayek, and von Mises?

    This is why the very 1990-ish assumption that “capitalism equals freedom” is false. Inevitably, under the capitalist ubermenschen meme countries get treated the way private equity firms treat companies; they get raped for “stockholder value”. The workers never vote to lay themselves off or slash their own pay and benefits, now do they?

  11. Carborundum

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) For the vast majority of the populace, classification of information is less of a problem than simple obscurity. Your day to day life is much, much more profoundly affected by unnoticed and unremarked policy decisions made on the basis of unclassified information.

    2) I don’t really know how much widespread disclosure would help. Much of the bold type info is publicly available but remains persistently unactioned. People don’t know how to interpret most of it and are massively untrusting of anyone who does anything with it other than confirm their preconceptions.

    3) The vast majority of the population has no idea how government functions. They think they understand politics and equate it with the function of government, but in reality they are very different domains. This significantly limits their ability to apply information effectively.

  12. Bill H.

    A republic is a form of democracy, but it is a “representative democracy” rather than a “direct democracy.” The nation as a whole is not actually a republic, but is a “federation” (of states), governed by a consensus of those states, whose constitution requires the member states to provide a “republican government.” States do often decide issues by referendum, which is an action of direct democracy, but they still have a fundamentally republican form of government.

  13. Eric Anderson

    “Does anybody in the United States actually know what they mean when they talk about Democracy vs. Republic?”

    Sure do. It’s the lack of understanding it that is one of the factors leading to our decline.
    Public = The people
    Res = The thing in between the people. Or, the thing that binds the people.
    That, is a constitution providing for a democratically elected representatives government.

    It’s one of those arguments stupid people use to distract other stupid people from their point. Two things (i) a republic and (ii) a representative democracy, can exist at the same time.

    For example, the idea of “federalism” is the rules that bind together the many states comprising the republic. Or, the balance of power between the thing that binds the states together, and the states themselves. The constitution provides the rough outlines of this balance of power. The Supreme Court fills in the details. Again, for example, see the court’s rulings on interstate commerce and how that impacts the federal ability to meddle in the state powers, which are all the power not set out specifically for the federal government in the constitution.

    That people don’t understand this is a remarkable failure of our educational system.
    The long and short of it? Yes, the U.S. is a republic. Yes, the U.S. is, in principle, a representative democracy. I’m sure someone will chime in on the fact that the electoral college and its elector system puts the lie to any true definition of “democracy.” They’d be mostly right.

  14. Eric Anderson

    Bill H:

    A republic is a republic. Democracy is democracy. One is a noun. One a verb. “A” democracy is an unfortunate misnomer. Democracy is a practice. There are single state systems. And there are federated systems. We call federated systems “republics.” One way to elect leaders to those different systems is called democracy. But, both single state state systems, and republics exist that aren’t democratically governed.

  15. Eric Anderson

    “Compare a policy enacted through a popular referendum and one made into law by elected representatives of the citizenry. The former is a democratic process, the latter a republican process”

    And let’s put this to rest as well.
    A “republican” system of government means nothing more than a “constitutional” form of government. It’s term like “woke.” People used to know what it meant because people used to know that “Res” + “Public” = the “thing” that coheres the public: a constitution. Funny coincidence that within our republic, each state, and the overarching federal structure, has a constitution — that is formed and agreed upon by representatives who are “elected” through a process called democracy.

    Now there are some states, that upon formation, elected representatives who thought it was a good idea to further extend power to the people to make laws organically, w/o going through their representatives. Those states all include the power of “referendum” by the people in their constitutions. But remember, it was those originally democratically elected state representatives who chose to write the referendum provisions into their state constitutions. And that, is both a “democratic”, and a “republican” process. Democratic, in that, elected representatives made laws. Republican, in that, the representatives used a constitutional form of government to do so.

    Again, two propositions that both true, and able to simultaneously exist — not an either/or.

    But, apparently, it’s not important to educate our children on the fundamental structure of our governance system. Much better to mass produce narrowly educated STEM widgets to perpetuate a consumer culture that doesn’t ask important questions because they don’t even know how to ask.

  16. Willy

    Deep state organ Wikipedia

    I used to trust my Encyclopedia Britannica because I imagined the writers as adult versions of the bespectacled geeks who sat in the front row in high school. There had to be real reasons behind jocks paying them to their homework, with other jocks extracting it back during lunch money shakedowns. I’m thinking the geeks were just honest decent folk doing their best in an unfair world. My nephew waited until dad got frail and took ‘my’ old version dad had let me keep in my bedroom (to likely sell on Ebay methinks).

    Anyways, are there more credible alternatives? Everything else seems to have less footnotes. And bespectacled geeks love footnotes.

    anyone can look things up

    Well yes, in theory. But always having to look things up in Conservapedia because that’s the only way I can get arguments through conservative cult filters gets tiresome.

  17. DMC

    The proper response to “Its a republic, not a democracy” is “Oh, you’re one of THOSE morons” and walk away.

  18. Willy


    I developed a compulsion for dumbing things down for THOSE morons, probably because so many of them vote. But then I learned that it was all about the feelings. And so I’d wear a MAGA cap and Trump tee during my progressive persuasions. It took a while but they eventually figured me out. And then they cocooned themselves into well-defended echo chambers. But it was a good run while it lasted.

    I’m considering posting as “Jesus”, or better maybe “The Carpenters Son” or “Humble Servant” and quoting progressive scripture. Lets see how long that lasts.

  19. Mel

    Maybe it’s not even a republic, rather a gaggle of reprivates (res privatae or rerum privatarum or something) given the influence that lobbyists-for-hire and donors have over Congress.

  20. BlizzardOfOzzz

    Willy, if you’d read something other than Reddit, you might know that “democracy” has in all ages been equated with tyranny. A republic is what we have, although we have been inching closer to democracy by for example giving peasants, women and immigrants the right to vote.

    “Woke” as everyone should know refers to the metastasized form of the old political correctness that we see all around us. Can a man give birth to a baby? Careful now … what’s the matter, why are you sweating?

  21. capelin

    What Laura said, though at this point I tend to be less diplomatic.

    Woke had come to be shorthand for “look at me, I’m better and more enlightened than others because I support the current thing floated by the PTB to distract me from what’s really goin’ down”.

    @Blizzard – I hear it’s possible, if the man wears a dress and his picture appears on bud light cans. As if that beer could taste any worse.

    On topic, the Twitter files (radio silence from MSM) reveal how deep and blatent the state censorship was at Twitter 1.0, and undoubtedly still is on other platforms.

  22. Willy

    I do see a lot of those little BLM signs in white liberal white collar worker front yards inside my nearest central city, a city which is pretty liberal. And I do see a lot of TV commercials suggesting far greater percentages of black, brown, mixed, gay and trans people than actually exist in American society. It’s all virtue signaling. I suspect that this is what “woke” means to our Real White Americans.

    I’d think that more accurate American TV commercials selling Real White American (but Chinese made) family home product would be depicting a lot more east Indians and central Americans, with the parents speaking thickly accented English, grandma no English at all, and the kids all the latest in American gamer slang.

    But I’ll stand by the assertion that with most Real White Americans, accusations are confessions. They’d do better quitting with all the projection and all the dog whistling and all the quiet parts and just come clean with what it is they really want. I suspect that they cannot, not because it isn’t PC within their cultural echo chambers, but because deep down they know that they were complicit in all that. They’re the ones who championed big corporate to do as they will.

  23. Willy

    I just reread what I wrote and realized I’m gonna have to dumb it down even more.

    The nearest town in which I can do business is an upper middle exurb. When the local Costco opened 30 years ago 95% of the shoppers were Real White Americans. Today that town is much larger, more suburban and wealthier. Yet I find that while shopping at that same Costco I’m in the distinct minority as a white English speaker. In one generation this has happened. I witnessed all the change.

    30 years ago, I can clearly remember all the Real White Americans barking at me that by deregulating corporations, going full free trade, going full global, going full greed is good… that we’d all be further ahead. And so corporations were allowed to do all that and did so to the fullest of their MBA-addled, think-tanky, and lobbyist-enabler abilities. To Real White America loudly cheering.

    Today Real White Americans are all so very pouty and civil war. A bunch of mindless boo hoo yahoos with guns. The truth is, they did this.

    Whether it was major technological loss to China or Bruce Jenner wearing a dress, they did this. They wanted freedom to reign supreme and so it did, with our PTB taking full advantage and then a culture of “Fuck you I can do whatever I want” trickled down to the masses. They did this. And now Real White Americans can’t handle taking a single ounce of personal responsibility for any of their handiwork. So they project whatever they can onto people like me, who preferred things the way they were back in the days before America had to be Made Great Again,

  24. Willy

    How I (and They) see modern conservatives

    A few native American fisherman filed suit against my county claiming sewage was contaminating their harvest. The county publicly blamed it on septic system owners who weren’t properly maintaining their systems. Word got out they were secretly planning the creation of easements against septic properties which county officials could access at any time without notice for inspections.

    Then information got out that the real reason for 98% of the contamination was actually city storm water and sewer system overflows (both running through the same antiquated system) and unenforced industrial sewage outflows. Several large septic service and environmental companies were publicly in cahoots with the county. It seemed obvious that the county was attempting an unwarranted power and tax cash grab at the expense of what they assumed would be a powerless part of the citizenry.

    I went to the town hall held at a local school. The assumed 50-75 crowd ballooned to over 800 raucous pissed off landowners. I signed up for an email newsletter assuming I’d be getting reports about these proceedings. It turned out to be libertarian agitprop from property rights people. No big deal. Then I got other spam from Trumpist conservative orgs in the runups to the 2016 and 2020 elections but again, no big deal. The stuff eventually quit coming.

    Just this last summer it all suddenly returned along with a bunch of batshit conspiracy newsletters and tons of obvious scam and phishing garbage, all at the same time. All of this crap, every bit of it, seems aimed at cult zombies, the paranoid, and weak-minded or poorly informed suckers.

    My presumption is that this is how they roll. They lure you in by piggybacking on reasonable causes and fights against government overreach, then try to flood your zone with libertarian agitprop assuming you are an idiot then sell your email to nefarious grifters. All that spam coming every single day reminds that this is how they see their own supporters, as paranoid cult zombie suckers to be had. Doing all this crap in secret tells me that these are not good people, not much into a functioning democracy.

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