Sunday, March 16, 2008

More on voting against.

Via PG, here's Right Next Time on The Libertarian Party going for the non-voter vote.

And then there's this.

Let me know. Am I being unfair here? Is this cloying cynicism deeply reactionary, or am I imagining it?

5 comments:

stephen said...

I've always felt that strident libertarianism tends towards infantilism. It's the political philosophy of the stroppy teenager. However the target of Chicken Yoghurt's ire is well chosen. The case for untrammelled data sharing between government departments has not been made. It has not been demonstrated to be in the public interest. When pressed, ministers give us silly off the cuff anecdotal stuff such as the proposterously large numbers of government departments it is claimed that a bereaved person must contact in the event of a death. Or else our concerns are dismissed with the insult 'if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear'. Cynicism in the face of such behaviour seems like a thoroughly sensible response. Unfortunately the libertarians are not the best ones to make the case that the citizen be the owner of his personal data. They are easily dismissed as people to who don't believe in a public interest, don't believe in public services or employment law, though I've yet to see a libertarian calling for the abolition of the police or the repeal of contract law!

Paulie said...

"The case for untrammelled data sharing between government departments has not been made. It has not been demonstrated to be in the public interest."

Yes - I'd agree with that. I think that part of the problem here is that it's a massively complex debate that encompases how government *ought* to be run, how it *actually* is run, how factors outside of the realm of government will create new possibilities or expectations, and how the dialectic between new liberties and new bureaucratic / authoritarian impositions will play out.

It's something that I'd really like to see played out in a well-managed public debate between people who know what they're talking about. People who aren't that bothered about how well-reported their comments are either.

I know that even Conor Gearty had to make is article interesting enough to be read, but I think the point is illustrated in this post I did a while ago - contrasting the styles:

http://nevertrustahippy.blogspot.com/2007/09/compare-and-contrast.html

Almost every commenter on this I read is in the Edward Pearce as opposed to the Conor Gearty mould, and this annoys me.

stephen said...

I don't think it is that complex a debate and one reason for the negative responses is down to the way that the government has introduced these questions into the public domain. In fact, it is several debates. The government's case is incoherent because it consistently fails to recognise them as discrete arguments. There is a debate about entitlement and the efficient delivery of services. There is a debate about security and law enforcement. There is the debate about the citizen may establish his identity securely. And there is the debate about immigration and secure borders. This failure to distinguish very different things, muddies the waters in many ways. We can never be sure what we are talking about; it makes people rightly very anxious as we think the government does not have a secure handle on what it wants to do; and speaking as an IT manager who has delivered large complex database solutions, it makes the implementation of a system that could deliver what the government claims that it wants, almost impossible. The establishment of a secure means of identification does not require data sharing or the National Identity Register. So if David Blunkett is right in the principal aim of the project, why are they central to the programme? We already have a plethora of ID Cards, why do we need a new one? Biometrics? Perhaps so, but why not wait until the technology is mature and functional? A lot of this confusion could probably be cleared up by defining a clear ownership of electronic data that is absolute and inviolable. My data is my data and may not be shared without my express permission, and yes that does include the police and 'security services'. That's muddying the waters again, you see.

But it's the government that is in the driving seat here. And it is failing to take leadership. The National identity Scheme is going to be the most collosal screw up in IT programme history, if is not completely abandoned by a future government. In a way that's a shame as there is a good case for secure identity management however I'd rather have nothing that this dog's breakfast. And hell will freeze over before I register my 59 pieces of data onto the NIR.

Paulie said...

I'd go for most of that Stephen, apart from the first line.

Politically, I think it *is* a complex debate - one where none of the traditional alliances work. Interpretations of personal liberty seem to cut right across the usual political divides.

I'd particularly agree with you on the 'lack of leadership' question, though I must admit, most people don't agree with me on stuff like this. I wish politicians were a bit *more* 'arrogant' than they are at the moment in some ways.

Instead of trying to square a dozen or so powerful lobbies - all with conflicting demands - I think that they could just do things and wait for the judgement of the voters next time. The problem is, the most influential lobby here is the one we hear from the least - the civil service.

I doubt if the outcome would appear as 'authoritarian' as the current proposals either.

stephen said...

Politically, I think it *is* a complex debate - one where none of the traditional alliances work. Interpretations of personal liberty seem to cut right across the usual political divides

You are right. I am a lefty but I find myself making common cause with the libertarians on this one. This project does need to be scrapped.

I'd particularly agree with you on the 'lack of leadership' question, though I must admit, most people don't agree with me on stuff like this. I wish politicians were a bit *more* 'arrogant' than they are at the moment in some ways

I think you may misunderstand what I mean by 'leadership' here. I mean thought leadership, taking responsibility to structure the debate in a coherent way so that the issues may be understood, and solutions may flow from that understanding. The problem *is* government arrogance, fecking bags of it. It continues to push a solution when not understanding what the problem, or the series of problems, are.

Instead of trying to square a dozen or so powerful lobbies - all with conflicting demands

The only lobbies that the government is trying to square are within its own departments. There is no evidence that it is taking notice of anyone outside Westminster. Look at the way it treated the LSE's considered report 3 years ago.

I think that they could just do things and wait for the judgement of the voters next time

But this is what it is doing, but being rather disingenuous about what the scheme is all about. Or perhaps it genuinely does not know.

The problem is, the most influential lobby here is the one we hear from the least - the civil service

The Home Office has wanted ID Cards for decades and has finally found an administration suggestible to the notion. We should remember that ID Cards were proposed by Blunkett two days after September 11th and were an opportunistic response to the terrorist attack.