01 December 2010
Why this Wikileaks business may be incredibly important

I have this feeling that this whole Wikileaks business is not only significant for what it is in and of itself but also for what it heralds.

Here is my reasoning:

Wikileaks shows that from now on it will be impossible to keep a secret.

The Crozier theory of organisations states that organisations exist to keep secrets.

Therefore, organisations have had it.

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  1. Or, if keeping secrets is more difficult, organizations become ever more necessary.

    Posted by Matt on 01 December 2010 at 04:42am

  2. Or it comes ever more pressing to find ways of keeping civilisation going without the need for organisations. Or secrets.

    It occurs to me that this sort of breach is becoming something of a commonplace.  The expenses scandal was something similar.  There’s another massive recent example but I can’t think of it at the moment.

    Posted by Patrick Crozier on 01 December 2010 at 11:11pm

  3. On the other hand, there are non-scandalous secrets, such as how to make the best widget. The incentive to leak this sort of secret might not be great enough to make such leaks inevitable. And organisations exist for logistical reasons, too. Or are you talking about specific sorts of organisations?

    Posted by Rob Fisher on 02 December 2010 at 02:50am

  4. Do they exist for logistical reasons?  For division of labour perhaps, but do you need organisations to have a division of labour?  There are plenty of tasks split up between organisations.

    There’s a documentary on the telly at the moment about Rolls Royce - specifically about their production.  The mere fact that it is on suggests that there are few secrets when it comes to production so the organisation in this case exists for a different reason.

    But that part of RR concerned with design most certainly does have secrets.

    I’m rambling.  Perhaps I should have said: “Part of the reason organisations exist...”

    Posted by Patrick Crozier on 02 December 2010 at 04:59am

  5. I also disagree that organisations exist only to keep secrets, and Patrick now seems to disagree with that as well.

    Historically they have done, but as the world becomes awash with information, all of which can be found by any who seriously seek it, organisations now exist, and will go on existing, to interpret all this information, to explain things.

    Law courts actually operate right out in the open, in the sense that the most important thing they do is public.  Courts make decisions about the correctness of arguments all of which have been made publicly.  Yet law courts are highly organised, and have to be.

    Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 03 December 2010 at 04:35am

  6. Yes, I (on reflection) disagree too.

    I am (now) reminded of Ronald Coase’s The Nature of the Firm in which he argues that firms exist to lower transaction costs.

    I am not quite sure if secrecy comes into that or not.

    Posted by Patrick Crozier on 05 December 2010 at 04:14am

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