Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Thursday, June 13, 2013


- Edward Snowden and Catholic Social Teaching, Catholic Moral Theology blog

- Secret snakes biting their own tails: secrecy and surveillance, Oxford University's Practical Ethics blog ...

[...] The problem with the view that national security overrides all other considerations is that it makes itself impossible to criticise: evidence and procedure must be secret, why they must be secret is secret, and so on. We cannot know whether the tradeoff is right because we are not allowed to see the effectiveness.

Even in a perfect world this would block the openness of society: open societies work because citizens can criticise any part of the system, demanding accountability, and the system itself can be changed to accommodate this if there is enough support for it. This is how mistakes and corruption get exposed and corrected, this is how the society is reshaped to fit the citizens rather than to fit some minority plan. It might not be quick, neat or easy, but it is a self-repairing and self-modifying system. But if there are aspects of the society that cannot be criticised or changed, then those are excluded from these mechanisms. Since mistakes happens even when people are dedicated and competent, even in the ideal world closed parts of society run the risk of becoming faulty. Add the realistic components of people covering up embarrassment, the possibility of corruption, regulatory capture and the existence of individuals with problematic agendas, and the existence of closed parts of societies become much more problematic. If they are also strongly empowered – legally and technologically – they become potentially very dangerous, no matter how noble the initial intentions were ....


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