Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Danger of Good Intentions

Thanks so much to Julie for the detective work in tracing the ARCH revelations about the e-government agenda behind the Children's Database. It does indeed seem to catch the policy makers in an outright lie, insofar as the formulation of the database does not appear to be any sort of response to the Laming enquiry, as the government claimed, since the format for the database had been framed prior to any report from the enquiry.

Given the fact that these guys seem to have been caught out, how can I possibly say that they can often be essentially well-intentioned? OK, so I cannot read minds, I do not know these people personally, and I cannot know for certain either way, but the reason why I've made the point that good if misguided intentions may be informing their thinking is because I think it may make these people even MORE dangerous to the population. Believing that you are doing the right thing for other people is the easiest form of justification for intrusion and control.

On the other hand, if these people were to have a degree of cynicism about their role, they would realise the limits of their legitimate sphere of action, and would be more likely to be aware of the possibility of being caught out. This would limit their actions and make them less likely to lie. In this case though, I suspect the head honchos actually really believed their own publicity as to the benefits of e-government. They honestly think that it will successfully facilitate the implemention of services or some such bureau-speak. They honestly think they are doing the country a favour by supporting the production of a potential IT export.

So what to do? We need to be part of the movement to demonstrate as widely as possible that good intentions can have evil results and all the while in doing this, we need to be alert, (as Julie and ARCH have been), to the possibility of the existence of underhand good/misguided intentions, so that these may be effectively refuted as well.

Whilst theories of evil intent can whip people up into an essentially anti-statist frenzy, this situation usually only eventually results in a sense of hopeless oppression since what hope could there be for a populace so routinely oppressed by something so intentionally evil? I still therefore think that we are best off taking the apparently well-intentioned arguments seriously, since this way we can show whether these arguments really do stand or fall, and if they do fall, the government then does not have a case. And of course, to dismiss the arguments as the products of evil intent is to risk being peremptorily dismissed from the debate, and also increases the risk of a sense of being hopelessly done over.

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