Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wikileaks is a Power Shift from the Elite to the Masses but Also Reduces Government Efficacy

The Wikileaks release of 250,000 secret cables exposes the dealings of the world's most powerful people, and in the processs shift power to the masses. The institutions of government grant the political elite and the administrators of said institutions enormous powers through government privileges like secrecy and immunity to privacy laws, as well as the public resources at their disposal.

This political and bureaucratic elite have guarded these privileges jealously, and only with an involuntary leak could the world have learned of how they are used. With this knowledge the masses who form the power base of the governmental/political elite are better able to negotiate and manage their supposed representatives, and ensure they are working for their interests and not their own.

The information in the leaks also reveals to the masses the large strategies in play and tactics used by the various politically connected factions. This expose has the effect of reducing the disparity between the smaller players in the world and those who have attained political power.

The downside to the Wikileaks release is that short term considerations of how a particular action will play to the public will cloud political decisions. With political criticism now an ever present possibility in the minds of government officials, their actions could end up being conducted in a manner primarily motivated by a desire to minimize political risks to themselves.

In some ways, the weakness of democracy, which is that the government is more intent on re-election than doing what's best for the people, becomes more pronounced when officials do not have any secret channels through which to share their views and administer policies. The risk of this is that government action becomes like the election season campaigning of political candidates, where what is said is not what the candidate really believes will improve the situation for the people, but what they believe will gain them support from a public that largely responds to sound-bites.