The Informational State

Listen to Jack Balkin’s profound talk on the national surveillance state (video here–halfway down page).  As close to required watching as I have seen.

For Balkin, the national surveillance state, the next iteration in government, from and building on the welfare state and the national security state, is itself only one facet of a much greater tectonic paradigm shift (in the true sense of that word): the informational state.

JB argues that government has previously been built around the concept of adjudicating the law and punishing criminals after a crime has been committed. The information society (Minority Report?) will be built around the collection and vetting of information in order to prevent crime before it occurs.

Controlling information flows.

A key point Balkin argues is that how a state deals with outside players (foreign policy) is directly related to its internal dealings (domestic) and vice versa. The national security appartus comes on the scene roughly at the same time as the Welfare State.

The National Surveillance State arises during the GWOT. Or the post Cold War American unilateral moment.

1.Increased data analysis/surveiling to identify problems of governance
2.Increse’d investment in those technologies
3.New bureaucracies of surveilling, private-public interface in surveillance

And holonically, Balkin says that the surveillance state will be layered (enveloping) on the welfare and nat’l security state.

It builds on the technology that arose out of those government paradigms.  (e.g. the Internet comes from Darpa, from the Defense Department).

Once the technology arrives on the scene, the technology while not all-determinative, does set the pace and context for the discussion of rights/laws.  RFID tags originally were designed to be implanted on clothing to prevent shop lifting.  But now are used to track people outside of the store.  Or to get a sense of consumer patterns, etc.

This accords with Wilber’s argument in vol.2 that the lower right quadrant (technology) is the greatest single factor in the average mode of consciousness.  The right-hand quadrants, based more out of cognition (fastest moving line of development) evolves much more quickly than the governmental policies and cultural norms (left hand) that set the ethical standards for the use and misuse of such technology.

And make no mistake, the National Surveillance State is already here.  It is not an evil creation of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush however much I think it is right to say they have abused these technologies (technologies without rule sets=abuse of power).   The features of the NSS pre-exist 9/11 (including some laws under Bill Clinton).  Just like Welfare State and National Security State–both designed/implemented by both political parties.  Nixon created the EPA.  Truman the National Security State.

The question is a democratic-transparent informational state or a authoritarian, oppressive one.  The analogy Balkin uses is that the totalitarian informational state is a simultaneous glutton and hoarder of info.  Glutton in that it gobbles up any data it can.  Hoarder in that it keeps everything, disposing of nothing.  Therefore it gets tons and tons of bad information and therefore is paranoid and consequently makes innumerable self-destructive choices based on “faulty intelligence.”  It is miserly in preventing knowledge of its processes, reach, methods of collection, and informational storage locations.

The obverse is an informational gourmet and philanthropist (lean healthy eater and largess dispenser):  eating the proper amounts of information, jettisoning no longer useful or extraneous information as soon as possible.

Balkin theorizes as to whether this shift to a “preventive” model requires or will (darkly) create a parallel legal system–as we see in the current military detainees/torture issue.  Either the parallel system will route around, as Balkin says, the current one (i.e. Abu Ghraib) or it will modify the current system to fit the needs of the new system (new FISA Amendment?).

All of us give off information. All the time.  There is nothing that we will be able to do to prevent giving off information–DNA, bodily information, etc.

The National Surveillance State is a more or less permanent status of American governance, he says.

Published in: on November 28, 2007 at 10:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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