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Benthamite Lessons from a Scandal

Sina Odugbemi's picture

It is important not to let a scandal go to waste. If you follow world politics, then you must know about the recent events in Great Britain. According to the Financial Times, 'For the past two weeks, Britain has been in a state of stupefied anger at the ingenious ways in which elected politicians have used their expenses system to milk the taxpayer'. As a result, says the same report, 'public fury over scandalous expenses claims has pushed lawmakers, in fear of losing their jobs and their reputations, towards constitutional reform'. (Financial Times, May 23/May 24 2009.)

Now, I am a student of the constitutional thought of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), the British utilitarian philosopher and jurist. Thus, as I have followed the scandal  Bentham's words have been ringing in my ears. For, one of the great battles of Bentham's long life was the reform of parliament. But Bentham was a universalist. He was confident that his ideas for constructing a form of government that would provide 'securities against misrule' were universally applicable. Bentham believed that government should be as open and as transparent as possible. This is his Panopticon principle, all round transparency with very few exceptions. Note that a request under the Freedom of Information Act got the scandal under discussion going.

Pourquoi il faut augmenter l'aide en faveur de l'Afrique

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Dans les pays riches, lorsque le taux de croissance économique diminue de 3 ou 4 points, les individus perdent leur emploi et, probablement, leur maison, mais ils les retrouvent lorsque la reprise économique intervient. Dans les pays pauvres d’Afrique, les enfants sont retirés de l’école — et sont privés de la possibilité de devenir plus tard des adultes productifs. Dans certains cas, les enfants meurent avant d’avoir eu la chance d’aller à l’école. Si l’effondrement actuel de la

Why aid to Africa must increase

Shanta Devarajan's picture

In rich countries, when economic growth declines by three or four percentage points, people lose their jobs and possibly their houses, but they regain them when the economy rebounds. In poor African countries, children get pulled out of school—and miss out on becoming productive adults. In some cases, children die before they have a chance to go to school. If t

Quote of the Week

Sina Odugbemi's picture

That all authority in the last analysis rests on opinion is never more forcefully demonstrated than when, suddenly and unexpectedly, a universal refusal to obey initiates what then turns into a revolution. To be sure, this moment – perhaps the most dramatic moment in history – opens the doors wide to demagogues of all sorts and colours, but what else does even revolutionary demagogy testify if not to the necessity of all regimes, old and new, ‘to rest on opinion’? Unlike human reason, human power is not only ‘timid and cautious when left alone’, it is simply non-existent unless it can rely on others; the most powerful king and the least scrupulous of all tyrants are helpless if no one obeys them, that is, supports them through obedience; for, in politics, obedience and support are the same.

- Hannah Arendt (1963) On Revolution (p. 228)

The Reading List: May 22

Sameer Vasta's picture

Apologies for the lack of posts this week: I've been at the O'Reilly Where 2.0 Conference learning more about the geo-spatial web. Lots of neat things coming out of the conference, and I'll be posting more about them in the days to come, promise. In the meantime...

Every Friday — well, Saturday this week — I'm going to try and post a selection of the links from our delicious.com account so you can get a quick snapshot of what we're reading this week. Here goes:
 


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