Found this great quote over at Slashdot today:
“The whole point of our post-Enlightenment traditions in the West has been the understanding that Authority, if left unchecked, will naturally tend towards abuse. The Police, in all their forms throughout the ages, have always been the most visible aspect of abusive Authority. The ability of the citizen to make his fellow citizens aware of abuses by Authority is key to the preservation of liberal democratic values. If you give the Authorities any sort of free pass on this, you simply invite them to do their worst. If you catch them doing their worst (ie. we just had the fortieth anniversary of the Kent State Shootings), then there is some capacity to assure some degree of justice, and more importantly for the Authorities to moderate their own behaviors.”
This comment was posted in response to a story about how police were fighting to keep from being recorded by ordinary citizens.
I’ve posted about this before, and apparently this sort of thing even has a name: “Sousveillance.” The idea that if your government has the right to monitor you, then you also should have the right to monitor your government.
This sort of stuff seems like it would be self-evident – I mean, how could you argue against this? But apparently it’s not, and apparently people do argue against it – in many cases successfully.
It surprises me that, generally speaking, most people would not deny the wisdom of the statement “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Yet when put in a position of power, a person who just agreed to that statement would most likely add, “except for me.”
It seems to me that the very definition of corruption is when those in power carve exceptions in the Rule of Law which apply only to themselves.
Vigilance – that is the price we must continually pay. “Who watches the watchers,” and so on.
And, of course: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.“