Re: poly: Re: freedom? Or mere survival.

From: Peter C. McCluskey <>
Date: Wed Jun 03 1998 - 19:28:25 PDT (d.brin) writes:
>Secrecy can be a weapon of last result, used by the very skilled and very
>lucky, to SURVIVE in a situation where freedom is already absent. I have

 All societes I know of are missing some freedom. You seem to think there's
some magic threshold beyond which we are free enough that secrecy no longer
matters. I see no sign of such a threshold.

>This emergency use of secrecy is absolutely irrelevant to the question of
>toppling tyranny (rather than just surviving it.) These methods do nothing
>whatsoever to restore or enhance the overall ambiance of freedom. Tell me
>one case of a jew or gay hiding his or her identity, in which that act
>changed the overall picture going on in the nation at large or improved the

 To rephrase this in economic terms, you're complaining about the absence
of free riders. This is very strange. Economists typically assume (sometimes
without reason) that the presence of free riders indicates a tragedy of
the commons type problem.

 For an example of where secrecy changed the overall picture, look at the
underground newsletters in the Soviet Union. Keeping secret the identity
of the people who created the free press was an important means of keeping
the government from eradicating it.

>lot of jews and gays in general. But ONE photo of nazi goons setting fire
>to the Reichstag, in 1933, might have saved 50 million lives.

 More likely the expectation of surveillance would have simply led to
the nazis accomplishing their goals by more honest means.

>What gets me is the utter wimpy passivity and nihilism of the whole nym
>approach. It wants to arm a few individuals (those rich & clever enough to
>use PGP and other tools exactly right

 What is stopping the average person from using PGP? The main obstacle I
see is that people currently lack the motivation to use it.

> (despite the myriad technical flaws I
>list in chapter 8&9 of The Transparent Society) and everybody else can go
>to hell.

 I haven't read those chapters yet, but the second hand reports I've
heard say they're full of misinformation.

>Catching vile or idiotic schemers before they can take over is a helluva
>lot better than waging a guerilla war after they are in power. Disprove
>that. Please.

 You talk as if only dishonest people were dangerous. I'm more concerned
about defending against honest zealots (Allah worshippers, the people who
brought us the French reign of terror, communists, etc.) than against
opportunists. Your method is impotent against the principled tyrant
whose ideas are able to exploit popular emotions.
 Of course, most movements attract some of both kinds of people, and it
is hard to which kind was most responsible for any particular period of
tyranny. (d.brin) writes:
>>In December 1941, the US made use of race information from the 1940 census
>>to round up the Japanese-Americans.
>What's your point? Without the data it would've taken maybe a week more to
>round em up. Tyranny happens. It's been softer here in direct proportion

 Few ethnic roundups are 100% perfect. More people would have been overlooked
if it were harder to track them.

>>Recently, the reading habits of Ms. Lewinsky have come under Mr. Starr's
>>microscope. I don't believe she has benefited thereby. Even if all our
>>book purchases were public knowledge, her transactions would still harm her
>>by being brought to public attention.
>Your lack of understanding of my argument is evident. Starr is a schmuck.
>My prescription is to shine light on his secrets (eg his backers and their
>agenda) and to arm Ms Lewinsky with the power to force Starr & Tripp to
>answer exactly the same kinds of questions before they ask her.

 And suppose Starr's only secret is he wants to maximise his budget or
embarrass Clinton? I don't understand the importance you attach to exposing
secrets because my experience indicates that they tend to be unremarkable.
 Also, I wonder how much your prescription to publicize what prosecutors
are investigating will affect the reputations of innocent people whom
prosecutors suspect at some point of crimes.

Peter McCluskey          | Critmail ( | Accept nothing less to archive your mailing list
Received on Thu Jun 4 02:30:21 1998

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