Thursday, December 2, 2010

334 / Knowledge Is Power

The phrase "knowledge is power" is attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, though I guess there is some debate about whether he actually said that in exactly that way.

And of course, as is somewhat obvious, it is not strictly accurate to proclaim a statement of direct equivalence (knowledge = power). Knowledge is a necessary component of power, but is not in and of itself sufficient to create power. All that aside, I think it's pretty clear that "knowledge is power," whoever said it, and in whatever way, and however much a strict reading of the statement may not be totally accurate.

Secrecy diminishes power, which brings us to WikiLeaks and the United States diplomatic cables leak that is big news right now.

Democracy, by definition, is supposed to be a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." The powers of the government (including the power inherent in a knowledge about what the government is doing) are reserved to the people, and the people are the "rulers" not "the ruled."

So, what conclusion do we reach if a purportedly democratic government suppresses information about what that government is doing? My conclusion is that such a government is not, in fact, a democratic government.

In a genuine democracy, the people do not need to rely on "leaks" to acquire the knowledge that gives them the power to govern themselves.

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