Ever noticed, whenever someone inconveniences the dominant western power structure, the entire political/media class rapidly becomes very, very interested in letting us know how evil and disgusting that person is? It’s true of the leader of every nation which refuses to allow itself to be absorbed into the blob of the U.S.-centralized power alliance, it’s true of anti-establishment political candidates, and it’s true of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

One of the 21st century's greatest heroines is behind bars again, held in contempt by federal judge Claude M Hilton for refusing to help prosecutors trump up charges against the journalists who published information she paid dearly for giving them.

Without whistleblowers - employees within government and big business, at all levels, who risk their livelihoods and sometimes lives - the American public (and world) would have no knowledge about many of the most outrageous, dangerous, and covert activities perpetrated upon society. This includes everything from fabricating false pretenses for going to war to war crimes (including torture) against prisoners and innocent civilians to lethal environmental abuses to fraudulent financial schemes that have devastated millions of families' life savings. In the past, the exposure of these egregious acts has often (but not always) brought reform, exposed criminality resulting in prosecutions, and perhaps most importantly saved countless lives. Sadly, in today's political environment, it is the whistleblowers who are being penalized for telling Americans the truth.

But for the threat of whistleblowers, ill-intended politicians and bureaucrats and their crony-capitalist private-sector brethren would operate in an oversight vacuum - free to abuse their power and engage in criminal activity at will. The contributions that whistleblowers make to an open and free society cannot be overstated.

How many more thousands of lives would have been lost if it were not for Daniel Ellsberg's infamous Pentagon Papers that exposed the Department of Defense's lies and manipulation that propped up the Vietnam War (MostDangerousMan.org)? How much more abuse would citizens suffer at the hands of corrupt police departments if it were not for Frank Serpico testifying about the rampant corruption inside the New York police department? These are, or should be, just two of the household names in the whistleblower pantheon.

To understand what WikiLeaks has done, we must understand economic cause and effect. Let us begin with a comparable market: the market for gambling.

Governments have laws against gambling. Why? The justification is moral principles. This reason is less persuasive once the government sets up state lotteries and also licenses taxable gambling, such as horse racing. The real reason is the governments want to monopolize the vice. They expect greater tax revenues.

Governments arrest bookies. But bookies are merely providers of the service. The source of demand is the individual gambler, the guy who is placing the bets. The infrastructure that delivers the service is surely basic to the process, but it is the individual citizen who is the prime mover. Why? He is paying for it.

Want to understand the process? Follow the money. It ends with the customer.

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