Monthly Archives: August 2014

A new Mega State Database?

I recently re-read The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It begins with Arthur Dent discovering his house is about to be destroyed to make way for a bypass, under plans that “have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months”, in a dark basement where they were almost impossible to find:

“But look, you found the notice didn’t you?”

“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”

It seems The Telegraph has turned up some similarly obscure proposals. It ran an article this week, claiming

Details of the financial history, qualifications and property wealth of millions of Britons could be shared across Whitehall for the first time without their consent, the Telegraph can disclose. Information including voters’ driving licences, criminal records, energy use and even whether they use a bus pass could be shared under a radical blueprint to link up thousands of state databases used by schools, councils, police and civil servants.

So, the basic idea is to link databases into one big database. This blog considers that idea Continue reading A new Mega State Database?

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Cameron’s Cabinet – Plato’s Ship of Fools

I observed on twitter that the recent reshuffle reminded me of Plato’s ‘Ship of Fools’ critique of democracy. And that I would blog why…

Philosophy Now had a recent article on why Plato didn’t like democracy:

Imagine a sea-voyage on which all who are travelling feel entitled to claim the helm. Though the captain is a good navigator, he isn’t good at convincing the others that he is, and those who shout the loudest and make the most confident claims, though they know nothing of the skills of navigation, will get a go… Jonathan Wolff in his Introduction to Political Philosophy summarizes Plato’s argument like this: Ruling is a skill, like medicine or navigation. It is rational to leave the exercise of skills to experts. In a democracy, however, the people rule, and the people are not experts…

The reference to experts may make people both nervous and critical. Siegel and Kotkin write with concern about the “clerisy”, an elite comprising academia, the prestige press, and leaders in IT, finance and culture, assuming a superior position and holding the population in contempt. They paint the idea of rule by experts as unattractive, and of course anti-democratic, though this seems to be the position Plato would favour.

The immediate reason for my linking the latest reshuffle in my mind with Plato’s ‘Ship of Fools’ critique was Continue reading Cameron’s Cabinet – Plato’s Ship of Fools