Re: Weasels vs. transparancy / traffic cameras

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Mon May 22 2000 - 02:50:28 MDT

On Sun, May 21, 2000 at 05:45:49PM -0400, Michael S. Lorrey wrote:
> > > > but what about societies with greater surveillance and *less*
> > >repression?
> > > > spike
> > >
> > >no such animal.
> >
> > >From the descriptions of the Brits on the list, sounds like the UK might
> > qualify.
> >
> Depends. Property crime rates 5 times higher than the US? No right to
> privacy on email? Political dissidents (irish) getting assassinated by
> government SAS units? No free press (Official Secrets Act and various
> libel laws)? What are the tax rates now over there? What are the value
> added tax rates? Any country that taxes you on the number of closets you
> have and the number of televisions you have is NOT a free country.

I'm inclined to agree with Mike Lorrey that the UK doesn't qualify on
the "no repression" metric, but for entirely different reasons.

Property crime rates are higher, but the murder rate is much
lower. There's no right to privacy on email ... but that fight's still
being fought in the USA, which has no explicit privacy provision in its
constitution. The SAS aren't shooting IRA members any more, and I hesitate
to call _anyone_ to carries an M-16 a "dissident". The Official Secrets
Act is in the process of being replaced by a Freedom of Information Act,
and the Libel laws aren't censorship by government -- if you want to
censor someone by accusing them of libel, it's a private lawsuit and
it will cost you $$$. As for the tax rates -- income tax is _lower_
than in the USA, although VAT is higher -- they include no-exclusions
healthcare and a level of social security not found in the USA.

Basically, Michael is wrong on _every_ count he cites. But he's right in
his overall assertion that the UK (or at least England/Wales, a distinct
legal entity from Scotland or Northern Ireland) is not free.

The whys and wherefores of this are sufficient to fill a book, but
basically boil down to "first-past-the-post electoral systems with
no constitutional safeguards suck". (Or rather, they only provide
representative government when there's a relatively homogeneous
population. And the UK has been becoming increasingly, radically,
diverse since the end of the 1950's.)

-- Charlie

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