Democratic Dirty Hands
The last chapter explored and criticised the idea that politics involves, or even requires, a transcendence or violation of ordinary morality, and questioned the assumption that there is something special about politics that justifies applying different evaluative criteria to political actions. This chapter will enlarge on the problems involved in attempting to justify secrecy and deception on consequentialist grounds in a democratic political order. It will first be argued that even if consequentialism is the appropriate morality for politics, it is particularly difficult to justify secrecy and lies in politics on consequentialist grounds because consequentialist considerations themselves often rule out the use of deception for political ends. Second, it will be argued that problems of justification are particularly acute in relation to secrecy and lies in a democratic political order. The chapter will conclude by suggesting that rather than looking for justifications for secrecy and lies, we should critically examine the political contexts in which they arise. We will begin by examining the consequentialist case for deception in politics.
Public officials, political realists and those who concede to their claims justify lies and deception on consequentialist grounds. They claim that these means produce substantial benefits. Democratic accountability is justifiably suspended when national security, the national interest or its analogue, the public interest, is to be protected or promoted. When national security is at stake, lies, secrecy, propaganda, misinformation