Government by Secrecy

Government by Secrecy

1. Whenever the powerless have confronted powerful decision makers, the quest for wider knowledge has been among their key demands. Since ignorance of the many is one of the bases upon which rests the power of the few, all democratic movements felt publicity to be intrinsically desirable. Shared knowledge is the precondition of shared action. Without knowledge men are automatically excluded from decision making.

As long as politics were conducted by an elite for an elite, knowledge of the facts and the grounds for action necessarily remained restricted to that elite. As long as sacred knowledge was the property of an elite of priests, members of the religious community remained bound to traditional observance. The demand for the translation of the Bible into the vernacular was linked with the desire of the Reformers to widen the area of religious choice. Similarly, the rising middle class of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries asked for more information and publicity on affairs of state, that is for an end to the upper class monopoly of knowledge, in order to break the traditional political structure and to open the way for political innovation. Restriction of access to new ideas and new facts helped to stabilize the status quo. Newspapers rose in this period to supply the need for widening the circle of those `in the know.’

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