Thoughts on economics and liberty

Wikileaks – a second opinion from a different classical liberal thinker

Tim Soutphommasane writes a regular column for The Australian, and claims to represent the classical liberal perspective – and often he does (although I sometimes find him veering to the social democrat side, and would keep my critical faculties wide awake while reading his work). On the matter of Wikileaks his article today reinforces the points I've made in my posts on this subject. Here are his views:


"Aspects of the WikiLeaks disclosures are cause for concern, it must be said. The conduct of diplomacy, indeed order, in the world of nation-states depends on a certain level of secrecy.

"There is a big difference between Assange and whistleblowers such as Daniel Ellsberg. In the case of Ellsberg, who was responsible for the release of the Pentagon Papers, there were unambiguous wrongs that demanded exposure: the lies of the Johnson administration about its conduct of the Vietnam War.

"There is as yet no equivalent, identifiable purpose behind the release of this mass of cables (unlike WikiLeaks' previous release of data on Afghanistan and Iraq).

"This wrongly conflates transparency, important though it is, with the public interest. After all, there are occasions when the public interest is served by discretion. It seems inadequate to agree with Greenslade that the public interest in this case concerns citizens having a right to learn that "diplomacy equals hypocrisy."


I trust my good friends who have been blindly supporting everything that Assange does will think through the issues in the light of this well-balanced second opinion. 

In this context it will be useful to hark back to the debates of the French Revolution. In those debates Edmund Burke represents the strong classical liberal tradition. Although one might emotionally agree with Thomas Paine's wild fervour for freedom, it is Burke's balancing of these claims with the requirements of the business of the state that are the hallmark of classical liberalism.

The classical liberal does not divorce himself from the real world and from human nature. Assange has clearly divorced himself from reality, but so have many otherwise sensible advocates of liberty who blindly support his every move. 

Let this be clear: if and when we divorce ourselves from the brutal reality of defence imperatives and ongoing global warfare by the evil forces at work in the world today, we will end up badly harming the interests of our nation/s. 

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2 thoughts on “Wikileaks – a second opinion from a different classical liberal thinker
  1. Jesvin

    Being specific on the cables, The Hindu published detailed articles. Some topics that catch my eye are:
    1. Red Cross reports instituitional torture in Kashmir. They reported this to the Govt  and the US embassy, but not the public, as per policy.
    2. The BJP is ALL noise when it comes to India cosying up to US- between a senior politician and a diplomat
    3. Diplomats saw the suitcases full of cash that will be distributed to the the electorate in their newspapers
    4. While scientists are still speculating on peak oil, the Middle East diplomats KNOW the answer.
    Thats a wealth of information the public deserves to know when developing an informed opinion. We believe the Kasmiris are crazy for calling the Indian state subversive. We believe that parties have a rational, consistent stand on foreign relations when they speak so loud and smart. We believe that candidates who appeal to the intellect of the electorate get their deserved MP post.
    And do you believe that the "identifiable purpose" ( Greenslade's words) behind previous leaks were determined beforehand by the leaker? Arent they identified ex-post?

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