Friday, December 10, 2010

Agents & Principals

Julian Assange and his cohorts at WikiLeaks could probably qualify for listing in the Guinness Book of World Records under some such heading as "Inducing Apoplectic Fit in Greatest Number of Government Hacks" if such a heading existed.

Such luminaries as Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee have weighed in on the controversy by advocating death to the "traitors" or heroes, depending on your point of view.

From the delivery room to the undertaker, most Americans have it hammered into their heads that the people are the sovereign and the government is the servant or agent of the people. Under this arrangement, the government has the relation to the people as the employee does to the employer. No employer would tolerate his employees making secret agreements and telling him he isn't allowed to know what they are because they have been deemed "Classified" or "Top Secret." An exceedingly bizarre aspect of this situation is that many of the people [employers] are outraged that the machinations of the politicians [employees] have been discovered. Similarly, if a person were to grant power of attorney to someone to act in certain enumerated matters, he would not expect the agent to act in areas not delegated to him, or to be told that he isn't allowed to know how the agent has acted. The government is the agent, the people are the principal.

The First Amendment guarantees - among other things - freedom of the press and the right to petition for redress of grievances. How are people to petition for redress of grievances if they don't know that they even have any grievances? The government has furiously attacked the "press" in the form of cyber attacks and threats against servers that hold and disseminate the forbidden information. This is pure silliness when it is considered that all the offending documents can be printed on an actual printing press as in the days of Daniel Ellsberg if the holder so desires. This would be slower and more laborious, but it is a proven method that has been working for about 570 years. In the old days of print journalism, squelching a story would be about like trying to find the fifty-two people who each had a card from a deck; with electronic journalism it's more like trying to reclaim all the feathers from a pillow caught in a hurricane. At this point, the government's only motive can be to prevent the citizens from becoming aware of what is in the documents, since our so-called enemies would have immediately copied them as soon as they appeared. We the People might supposedly be the government, but some of us are more the government than others. In almost any metaphor, evil is associated with darkness because darkness connotes secrecy, whereas good is associated with light because rectitude needs no concealment. Rats, roaches and government abhor exposure and flee when the lights are turned on.

Some of the credit card issuers have joined in the effort to kill the messenger by claiming that WikiLeaks is engaged in some kind of "illegal" activity, thus violating their company rules. I wonder if they apply this same principle to Americans making purchases in Cuba, or violating one of Bloomberg's dietary edicts.  I'm sure it would never dawn on anybody to buy a money order or get a cash advance and send that instead. If a person's purchases are subject to the whim of the credit card companies, it exposes another reason to avoid credit cards.

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