This thorny topic dovetails nicely with Jeff Tucker’s morning piece about transparency, leaks, and the new Missal…
Bill O’Reilly recently called for the head of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange — or at least life in prison. Sarah Palin says he should be hunted like Bin Laden, and Hilary Clinton says he and his organization have endangered many lives.
Others, however, are asking whether WikiLeaks plays an important role that up until now has been technologically impossible. Transparency and reform are hard to come by in government and large corporations, and some wonder whether WikiLeaks is a giant whistle blower acting in the service of democracy.
Politico‘s Keach Hagey sees the nature of investigative journalism changing with the rise of WikiLeaks and its smaller competitors. The organizations have become a kind of international middle man between citizens and the press, shifting the balance of power. As proof, he highlights the stories the New York Times published based on WikiLeaks’ Iraq war logs.
According to Hagey, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) wants to have WikiLeaks designated as a “foreign terrorist organization.” But why not talk about the real issues involved here? And why is most of the news coverage centered on Julian Assange, and not the revelations coming out of the leaked documents?
In an interview by Andrew Greenberg in Forbes magazine online, Assange made some interesting comments about the philosophy, mission, and upcoming plans of WikiLeaks. Here’s an excerpt:
What do you think WikiLeaks mean for business? How do businesses need to adjust to a world where WikiLeaks exists?
WikiLeaks means it’s easier to run a good business and harder to run a bad business, and all CEOs should be encouraged by this. I think about the case in China where milk powder companies started cutting the protein in milk powder with plastics. That happened at a number of separate manufacturers.
Let’s say you want to run a good company. It’s nice to have an ethical workplace. Your employees are much less likely to screw you over if they’re not screwing other people over.
Then one company starts cutting their milk powder with melamine, and becomes more profitable. You can follow suit, or slowly go bankrupt and the one that’s cutting its milk powder will take you over. That’s the worst of all possible outcomes.
The other possibility is that the first one to cut its milk powder is exposed. Then you don’t have to cut your milk powder. There’s a threat of regulation that produces self-regulation.
It just means that it’s easier for honest CEOs to run an honest business, if the dishonest businesses are more effected negatively by leaks than honest businesses. That’s the whole idea. In the struggle between open and honest companies and dishonest and closed companies, we’re creating a tremendous reputational tax on the unethical companies.
Would you call yourself a free market proponent?
Absolutely. I have mixed attitudes towards capitalism, but I love markets. Having lived and worked in many countries, I can see the tremendous vibrancy in, say, the Malaysian telecom sector compared to U.S. sector. In the U.S. everything is vertically integrated and sewn up, so you don’t have a free market. In Malaysia, you have a broad spectrum of players, and you can see the benefits for all as a result.
How do your leaks fit into that?
To put it simply, in order for there to be a market, there has to be information. A perfect market requires perfect information.
There’s the famous lemon example in the used car market. It’s hard for buyers to tell lemons from good cars, and sellers can’t get a good price, even when they have a good car.
By making it easier to see where the problems are inside of companies, we identify the lemons. That means there’s a better market for good companies. For a market to be free, people have to know who they’re dealing with.
You’ve developed a reputation as anti-establishment and anti-institution.
Not at all… It’s not correct to put me in any one philosophical or economic camp, because I’ve learned from many. But one is American libertarianism, market libertarianism. So as far as markets are concerned I’m a libertarian, but I have enough expertise in politics and history to understand that a free market ends up as monopoly unless you force them to be free.
WikiLeaks is designed to make capitalism more free and ethical.
So where do you stand? Is WikiLeaks akin to a terrorist organization, or is it providing an important service? And what about its efforts to inject transparency into the free market?