Sunday, November 11, 2007

More on corporate collaboration

Over at The Agitator, Radley Balko has an excellent open letter to people who are outraged by telecommunication companies' open cooperation with government eavesdropping schemes -- but who don't recognize the pressures for such collaboration when government combines the role of intrusive regulator and massive customer.

The federal government is enormous. It has a massive and growing influence over what happens in the private sector. Witness (as I've pointed out many times before) the fact that the richest counties in America today aren't near the country's entrepreneurial epicenters, but in the D.C. suburbs, home to most of the country's federal employees and government contractors. Now as lefties, you may find all of this to be sweet potato pie. But know that a federal government of today's size and scope also gives whoever is controlling it enormous leverage to bend the private sector to his liking. That's great when your party is holding the reins. Not so good when it isn't.

I don't think this excuses corporations of the moral culpability they take on when they act as willing servants of the state -- see my post on this matter in regards to Yahoo's dealings with the Chinese government. But it does ably describe a situation in which even the best-intentioned corporate executives may find morally correct choices to be incompatible with the viability of their companies, which function in a market distorted by overt and covert government pressure. We may wish for corporate executives to refuse to collaborate -- and some will do the right thing -- but that takes a pretty strong backbone when companies and careers may have to sacrificed in the name of moral rectitude.

Anyway, read Radley's letter for the full take.

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