Magazine article The Spectator

In Praise of Secrecy

Magazine article The Spectator

In Praise of Secrecy

Article excerpt

The word 'transparency' is being bandied around as if there is no greater good; as if the best society would be one in which we all knew exactly what our government was up to and the best relationships completely free and frank. But secrets have their place in private and public life: indeed, the fabric of our civilisation is shot through with them.

A good friendship has at its heart the mutual acknowledgement that confidences given in private will stay that way. The same is true in diplomacy. If a politician can't keep secrets, he cannot negotiate. As Churchill said, it is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war;

and to jaw-jaw requires discretion.

Misplaced transparency can be just as destructive as secrecy. The 'secret' information divulged to the world via the WikiLeaks website has not made the world a better place, but a more dangerous one. …

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