Re: A modest proposal

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Fri Feb 04 2000 - 21:51:51 MST

On Friday, February 04, 2000 10:34 AM Lee Daniel Crocker
> > I think, however, the best solutions to this "who watches the watchers"
> > problem are 1) to reduce the overall power of government so that the
> > chances for corrupt or wrong behavior are lower...
> ...and its consequences less severe..

Not necessarily. Penalties for breaking the law can still be severe; there
will just be less intrusion of the government into every aspect of life.
Modern governments tend to regulate almost everything we do. Surely, a lot
of these laws are unenforced, but they still exist and selective
enforcement, in itself, is one form corruption takes. E.g., the mayor in
your city doesn't like you and you are an outspoken critic of him and own a
business in town and the various inspectors visit you very often. (I used
this example because it really happened to a friend of mine in Perth Amboy,
NJ several years ago.)

> > 2) to spread the ideals of a free and rational culture so that the
> > people don't tolerate governmental abuses of power...
> Reducing the size/power of government also makes this easier, because
> it makes it harder for the government to out-propagandize the private
> broadcasters and private educators.

Sounds to me like someone would rather wait in a soup line in the old Soviet
Union than shop around in a free economy.:) But seriously, I don't
understand what Lee Daniel is getting at here. Please elaborate.

> There's also Brin's solution #3: "Who watches the watchers? Everyone."

Which is a ridiculous statement, since we _already_ have that. (If Brin
really said this, then he's lost some big points in my rating of him.:) We
can, in most countries, vote the current elite out of power and whoever we
elect can clean house at the various police departments. However, this does
not happen. Why? Because each voter (Brin's "everyone") has little
incentive to investigate ("watch the watchers") these matters or follow
through with political (electoral or protest) or legal (filing lawsuits,
etc.) actions.

If you've (and I'm using the "you" here in the plural sense -- not singling
out Lee Daniel here:) ever been involved in these matters, you would know
how difficult it is to proceed along these lines. I've been involved in a
few such actions. They are very costly. If you have to sit in court or
protest or campaign, it's very high cost. Corrupt or bad police officers do
not face the same costs. After all, going to court is usually part of their
job and the court is often, sadly, on their side.

Daniel Ust
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