“…there are different kinds of surveillance states. You can have a democratic surveillance state which collects as little data as possible and tells you as much as possible about what it’s doing. Or you could have an authoritarian surveillance state which collects as much as possible and tells the public as little as possible. And we are kind of on the authoritarian side.”I remain hopeful about all this in this sense: I don't think we're in an Orwellian world in the sense that anyone so far - Bush or Obama - has any desire at all to exercise any kind of fascistic control over the public. What Obama has is a desire to effectively prosecute the war on terrorism. That's a good thing. But it's coming in the context of changing technology that security agencies find incredibly tempting. So where is my sense of hope coming from? There's an iterative process in liberal democracies that corrects these problems. We don't live in a society and under institutions that are constantly trying to grind us down into a state of tyranny. We live in a society where most people and most leaders have good intentions and strong institutions force them to reevaluate and reform when outcomes don't match intentions (indeed that's a good definition of "strong institutions".
The machinery of freedom required for the correction are things like vigorous elections, an independent press, an active judiciary dedicated to the defense of the Constitution, decentralization of power, and decentralization of information through whistleblowers and social media.
I think the next steps are going to be "within the system" which is likely to frustrate a lot of people - we need people to bring suits and have the courts look more closely at this. And we need angry representatives in Congress to hold hearings. Also more exposes in the news. And then we need some elections. History suggests the system works. I don't think there will be some kind of radical change and I think a lot of it will work "within the system" like this and that's going to lead a lot of people to think that people don't really care or nothing's being done, but that's not really true.
Krugman is right - this is the stuff of authoritarian surveillance. Our advantage is that we don't have authoritarian traditions or institutions, and for that reason I think we'll do alright in the end.
Also this from Kieran Healy.